I’m excited, but…

I’m really, really going to miss these faces:


I try not to think about it too much because I know they’ll be fine.  But Italy is a long way away…


And I just really,




Adore them.



Fluctuating Between UberExcited and Totally Freaking Out

We leave for Italy in ten days.  Let me write that again in case you didn’t catch it the first time.


Someone actually asked me a couple of weeks ago if I felt guilty spending the money on such a “lavish” trip when the economy is bad, so many are in need and on and on.  Um…no.  I don’t “feel guilty.”  I am proud and grateful, actually.  Proud of my marriage of ten years.  Grateful to a husband who loves me so much that he wants to do nice things for me and have an adventure with me.  Grateful that God has blessed us with the funds to be able to take this trip (and the wisdom to be wise with our money and budget accordingly so we could save what we needed over the course of this past year).

We are not wealthy people.  Not even close.  But we are blessed.  And we work really hard to be good stewards of those blessings.  We don’t always do a great job at being good stewards.  Sometimes we (ahem…I) make frivolous, unnecessary purchases.  Sometimes we forget to tithe at church.  Not because we don’t want to, but because we just…forget.  We are working on these things (and many other things!).  But we are careful with our money and we do try to use good judgement in how we spend it.

There is nothing I love more than being with my husband.  I think he’s hilarious, fun, sweet, caring and easy on the eyes.  Why would I not want to see the world with this man?!  I can’t wait to spend ten days alone with him, exploring and making memories to last a lifetime.  Memories that we will look back on in fifty years (God willing) and laugh with fondness of the days when we were able to travel the world without a box of depends and a walker…

We won’t regreat doing this in fifty years.  We won’t regret it ten days from now when we step on that plane.  And I have a couple of photos to prove why.

One of the first places we will drive through is Lake Como, Italy:


From there we’ll be driving through southern Switzerland into Austria.  We’re planning on heading to Salzberg, although we have since found this gem of a town and are now contemplating skipping Salzberg, or at least just spending less time there, so we can have more time here:


Hallstatt, Austria.  Did your heart just skip a beat?  Because mine does every time I look at this photo.  I want this very shot on my own camera.  The hair on my arms is literally standing up right now.  Isn’t God’s creation magnificent?!

From Austria, we plan to scoot down to Italy where we will spend four days in Tuscany at a gorgeous resort like this (we’re waiting on confirmation that we will be able to stay here):


We plan on tooling around Tuscany visiting Florence, Sienna, Montepulciano and wherever else the apartment owners tell us to go.  Just me and my man.  Why would I feel guilty about that? 

I will tell you what I do feel…a little nervous.  If I think about us being gone for ten days, driving through foreign countries, too long, I start to panic a little.  What if something happens to us?  What if something happens to one of the kids and we’re so far away.  What if, what if, what if???

So I try not to think about it.  Because the fact of the matter is, something could happen to one of us at the end of the street.  I can’t live my life in fear of the what if’s.  I can think about them and I can even panic momentarily, but then I need to move on and trust that the God of the Universe is in total control.  Our children will be in the loving hands of all four of their grandparents.  They will probably be spoiled mercilessly.  They will likely be watched closer than they are when I’m home.  You know…because I encourage them to play in the street and juggle knives.

I’m kidding.  I never encourage them to play in the street.

And I am praying with full trust and belief that my God will answer my prayer, that Lee and I will be kept safe and we will be reunited with our children as a stronger, more united front in our marriage and parenting.  I think this trip will make us better parents and better partners.  So no, I don’t feel guilty about leaving for ten days to celebrate my marriage. 

I do feel fleeting moments where I’m quite certain I could dissovle into a massive freak out.

But mostly I’m just so excited it’s kind of hard to sleep.

Not that hard, though. 


Post edit #1: I wrote this last night when I was wiped out from a fun but busy weekend.  However, when Lee and I went to bed we started talking about the trip and got so excited we couldn’t fall asleep.  So Lee got up and searched the internet for more places to go and things to see while I tossed and turned, imagining all the fun we’re going to have.  So it turns out we really are so excited we can’t sleep.

Post edit #2: I had the wrong date in my head when I wrote this.  We’re actually leaving in eleven days.  Whic isn’t quite as thrilling as leaving in TEN days.  Re-read this tomorrow and I won’t be a liar…

The Wedding

We ended our vacation with a stop in Mobile, Alabama, where we watched and participated in the wedding of my cousin, Whitney, to her new husband, Jordan.  It was beautiful and emotional and perfect and I’m so glad we got to be there to see this union take place.


Whitney has overcome more hardship and pain than most people will see in two lifetimes.  She is a true picture of beauty from ashes.  She’s not only beautiful on the outside, but on the inside as well.  When she was five, she and her brother and sister spent a year living with my family.  I was thirteen at the time and I adored having a little “sister” to dress up and play with.  I curled her hair, put make up on her and doted on her daily.  I learned her tap dance routines and taught her silly songs to perform in front of others.  I don’t know if it was fun for her, but I enjoyed having a real life baby doll.


 Whitney asked Sloan and Tia if they would serve as flowergirl and ring bearer.  It was an honor for them to take part and after they got over their initial trepidation at standing up in front of a lot of people (and having to watch the bride and groom kiss – Ew!) they had a great time.

And the number of times that they’ve played bride and groom since the wedding?  Five.  And counting.


 I was so proud of how great the kids did before, during and after the wedding.


 Whitney’s mom died in February of 1991 when Whitney was only 5.  I was twelve and I don’t remember much about my Aunt Joy.  There are snippets that come to me periodically, like flashes in time.  I remember her laugh and her smile and I have a CD of her singing, but other than that, the memories are vague.  But my mom and my other aunts and uncles remember well.  And all of them say that Whitney is so much like her mom it’s frightening.

She’s the life of the party. 

She’s got an infectious laugh.

She loves people and she loves Jesus.

I’m so proud of her.


 My cousin Randy’s little girl joined Tia in the role of flowergirl.  Can you tell these two are related?


 I do believe that Sloan developed a bit of a crush on Whitney.  He followed her around like a puppy dog all day long and asked to have no less than fifty pictures taken with her. 

“She is so beautiful, Mom,” he told me. 


 Tia has become enamored with playing “bwide” since we got home.  She puts her fancy shoes on and taps around the house saying “I Do.”  I’ve drawn the line at her and Sloan kissing.  They’ll thank me one day.


 I wish that my aunt could have been there on Saturday.  She would have been brimming with pride at the young woman that Whitney has become.  I know that in heaven there are no more tears of sorrow so I doubt that those who have gone on before us can literally watch and see what’s happening to the loved ones left behind.  Because if they could, then surely they would experience sorrow at the pain that is ever present on this Earth.

I do hope, however, that in moments of joy, such as Saturday’s wedding, those who dwell in heaven experience an extra measure of joy, peace, love and contentment.  And since one day on Earth is like 1,000 years in heaven, I hope that Joy experienced 1,000 years of extra happiness and joy over the union of her daughter to such a wonderful man.


 Sloan was such a little man.


 And Tia was a great helper to little Hayley.


 And Whitney beamed with such force as she walked down the isle that I worried her face might split in two.


 Sloan, of course, got a little bored during the ceremony.  It gave him plenty of time, however, to smell the roses.  And, of course, when the bride and groom kissed he giggled and blushed and shook his head.  Because just…ew.


 Tia got to hold Whitney’s bouquet during the ceremony.  It weighed easily 5 pounds.  She was a real trooper.  Doesn’t she look like she’s having the time of her life?


 Mr. and Mrs. Jordan Van Matre.  They have a rich heritage to uphold and continue.  I have no doubt that they are fully equipped and prepared to carry on the rich legacy of this family.


 My Aunt Tammy made a lot of sacrifices to raise Whitney alongside her own four children.  And she and my Uncle Cletis did a great job making sure that this little girl, who was a broken, scared 9 year old when they got her, grew into a confident woman of God. 


Equally, my mom and dad also made sacrifices, pouring energy, wisdom and hope into Whitney’s life.  They also raised Whitney’s brother and supported Whitney’s older sister as they grew.  My Uncle Dusty, the oldest of the Cooper siblings, was also a pillar of support.  As the male head of the family, he has been a constant for all of us.  I am honored to be a part of such a unique and loving family.


It was a time to reconnect for my cousins and I, and for our kids to begin making memories together.  My cousins’ girls and Tia all lined up for the tossing of the bouquet.  Emerson, my cousin Sean’s daughter, ended up catching it, much to her delight.  Girl shrieks abounded.


 Look closely everyone – this could quite possibly be the future President and First Lady of the United States.


It was the perfect end to our vacation.  Now we’re home and it’s back to reality.  I went to the store this morning and gave them my right arm and right leg for groceries and school supplies.  The house appears to have been hit by a tornado and it smells quite a bit like rotten dog.


To be a newlywed again.

Weekend Favorites

I am in total vacation mode.  I cannot think long enough to put together a coherent sentence most of the time (because I’m relaxed, though I have admittedly had a few Margaritas, an amazing Sweet Tea Mojito and some wine…not all today, of course…Sigh.  Never mind.)

My point is – blogging and writing are not on the top of my list.  That’s a good thing.  I needed the break.  But I feel bad – like I’m letting my readers down (all ten of you).  So I’m sorry.  Not so sorry that I will promise to regale you with witty tales of our beach days, of coures, but sorry nonetheless.


The weekend was fabulous, but went by far too quickly.  Lee arrived Wednesday night.  We celebrated our anniversary on Thursday with our kids.  We went to the beach, we swam in the pool, we ate dinner out with my parents where Sloan got to experience his first grouper sandwich (it was bigger than his head and he managed to finish almost all of it).  Later that night we snuck away to our favorite spot on Clearwater beach where we sat next to the firepit and watched the sun set whilst drinking the aforementioned Margaritas.


We took a boat ride this weekend, we swam a lot, we relaxed, we tried paddle boarding for the first time, we attempted to kayak on the paddle board together only to realize there was no way we were going to make it without becoming shark bait, we played games on my mom’s ipad and proceeded to fight over it because we all wanted to play something different, we took naps – we vacationed.

Then Lee went home and we all cried.  But the kids and I have another week and a half here and we have plenty of fun in store – including a trip to Busch Gardens.  For now I will leave you with a few photos because I’m so tired that my eyelids are waving the white flag and my brain is threatening to implode.

I hereby give you – The Weekend.

The kids played ball with my dad who they call "Boss."

The kids played ball with my dad who they call "Boss."

Lee and I played kissy face on our anniversary, thoroughly grossing Sloan out.

Lee and I played kissy face on our anniversary, thoroughly grossing Sloan out.


We've done a lot of jumping into the pool. They're starting to get crazy.

They are diving, flipping, twisting and turning into the pool. The only thing they haven't tried is a back flip. I'm okay with that.

They are diving, flipping, twisting and turning into the pool. The only thing they haven't tried is a back flip. I'm okay with that.

Lee spent a significant amount of time flinging them into the air.

Lee spent a significant amount of time flinging them into the air.

One of our favorite things to do with the kids is take them to The Sand Pearl at sunset.  Lee and I sit by the fire and the kids run around in the sand with glow sticks.  A massive lightening storm foiled our plans the other night, but after the storm was over we walked down to my parent’s dock to see this spectacular sunset.



Pardon my beach hair. When I'm down here I refuse to dry my hair or wear makeup.

Pardon my beach hair. When I'm down here I refuse to dry my hair or wear makeup.

Since Landon was so little the last time we came here, it’s been fun to watch him rediscover Florida.  He is a fish, refusing to get out of the water every time we swim.  He loves the sand and has found a particular fondness for chasing seagulls.  All around he’s having a blast.  The only glitch is bedtime.  He still sleeps in a crib at home.  Here, he’s on an air mattress in the same room as Sloan and Tia.  He seems to think that bedtime is party time every night.



We spent Lee’s last morning with us at the beach where we made new friends, swam and dove for Sand Dollars.  Sloan and Tia each collected five or six.  They are now sitting in a bucket of bleach so that we can paint them and turn them into Christmas ornaments.

Paddle Boarding.  This is good fun.

Paddle Boarding. This is good fun.


And finally – Lee found this on the ocean floor while diving for Sand Dollars.  It’s not exactly buried treasure, but it gave us all a good laugh.



One more thing – Clearwater is on the Gulf side of the state.  And there is not a drop of oil here.  But their economy is hurting.  It’s very sad.  So if any of you have a trip planned down here that you’re considering cancelling because of oil, please don’t!  It’s gorgeous down here and the water is perfectly clear.  Just wanted to throw that in.

Happy Monday.

Boy and Girl Reach a Decade

First there was a boy:


And a little girl:


Through the carefully woven threads of life’s tapestry, they ended up in the right place at the right time.  Both boy and girl knew, after only a couple of interactions, that they were designed to be life partners.

The boy and girl fell in love. And the girl learned a valuable lesson – you should always put pants on when a boy enters your room late at night.


The boy and girl spent more and more time with one another…sometimes crickets crashed the party (much to the girl’s dismay).  The girl and boy realized how much fun life was when they were together.  They even dressed up in vintage garb and headed out to a fancy restaurant for dinner, just to watch the way others would react.


They finally decided that they wanted to be together permanently.  So the boy proposed.  Eight months later, the boy and girl became man and wife.

In the ten years since we wed, Lee and I have climbed many mountains – some of them literal. We’ve weathered many ups and a few downs.  We’ve survived unemployment, personal heartache and frustration.  We’ve worked hard to establish individual careers.  Lee has been my cheerleader as I’ve pursued my own passions, and I have been his as he’s developed his own dreams and goals.

Along the way we’ve forged sweet, sweet friendships and we are infinately grateful for the way that we have been poured into, loved and encouraged over the years.

We have traveled to the Bahamas (twice), California, Florida (too many times to count) and countless other places in between.  In just two months we will embark on a new adventure as we travel through Italy and Austria together to celebrate our ten year anniversary.  We laugh often, fight little and work hard to appreciate each other every day.  It’s not always easy, but it’s seldom very hard.


In ten years, we’ve become mom and dad – three times.


It’s made being man and wife more of a challenge.  We have to work harder at finding time to be together, but we don’t have to work hard at enjoying one another.  I love to be with Lee as much today as I did ten years ago when I became his wife.

A couple of years ago, I shared the story of Lee’s wedding ring and the engraving on the inside.  We are ten years into that goal.  It is significant and I’m so honored to have spent the last ten years with this man who I love so much.  I can’t wait for the next 50 years, 4 months and 22 days…plus.

See how he adores me?

See how he adores me?

Happy Anniversary, Babe.  Glad you’re here to celebrate!

To read our entire love story, click here.

Girl and Boy become Mom and Dad

With our lovely and eventful honeymoon now over, Lee and I set up house in Frisco, Texas just north of Dallas.  We had a sweet little third floor apartment that I loved not only for its charm but also for the fact that I could vacuum the entire place without once having to unplug the vacuum cleaner.  Big bonus!

When we returned from our honeymoon, the job that we thought was lined up for Lee had fallen through.  But, thankfully, another job opened up immediately as a sales rep for Hewlitt Packard.  He was going to make 36 grand a year and we were certain we were rolling in the dough.

I commenced to freelance writing and editing.  I had a gig as a co-author with Joe White on an upcoming devotional and I also had several contacts who threw ghostwriting opportunities my way.  Because these took a lot of time, I decided to forgo the traditional 9 to 5 job and get something with more flexible hours.

Enter WOGA – the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy.  As a former gymnast, I had the experience needed to work at this high class facility.  As a russian speaker, I had an immediate in with my bosses, Valery Liukin and Evgeny Marchenko.  So every afternoon, I reported to work and while I coached my level four and five girls, I had the unique privilage of watching a then 13 year old Carly Patterson and 10 year old Nastia Liukin train.  They were amazing even as little girls.  Lee and I also forged some wonderful relationships at WOGA and every time I return to Dallas I try to visit and say hello to my dear friends.

In addition to WOGA, Lee and I attended Chuck Swindoll’s Church where, every Sunday, we sat next to Cynthia Swindoll and soaked up the most amazing teaching.  To say those first years of our marriage were blessed is an understatement.  From our friends at church and at work, we have nothing but fond and sweet thoughts of those days.

But, as happens in life, we experienced our first blow in 2002 when Lee was fired from his job.  We were devastated, shocked and scared.  We loved our life in Dallas and didn’t want to leave, but after four months of looking for work, we had to make the difficult decision to pack up and move.  Lee got a job in St. Louis and we moved in with my parents.


In October, 2002, Lee and I had a little marital conversation.  It went something like this:

Kelli: “I’m ready to have a baby.”

Lee: *crickets*

Kelli: “What do you think?”

And thus Lee laid out a long list of reasons why we should, in fact, NOT have a baby.  They included things like – “We aren’t making very much money,” – “We don’t have a place to live,” – “You just started a new job.”

“Let’s talk about this again in six months,” Lee suggested to which I agreed.

One week later I found out I was pregnant.

So I did what any reasonable wife would do with such amazing news.  I called my husband at work and broke the news over the phone.

After the initial shock wore off, we were both very excited…and terrified.  But look how cute we were:


We did find a house in January of 2003 and spent the next seven months gutting and rehabbing it.  Because there’s nothing less stressful than trying to rehab a house when you have a pregnant hormonal wife breathing down your neck…


On July 10, 2003, after five hours of intense labor, Sloan Alexander came screaming into the world.  He was beautiful and fat and sweet and perfect and we could not have been more elated.


We had the house finished enough to bring Sloan home to it a week after he was born.  We’re still in that home today.  It seems to have gotten smaller over the years, but we love it there.

When Sloan was a little over a year old, we decided to give him a sibling.  Little did we know it would take almost a year to get pregnant the second time around.  It was a very discouraging time for me and while I know that many couples struggle for much, much longer than we did, it gave me a small glimpse of the heartache and frustration of infertility.

Finally, though, after much heartache and prayer, we conceived our second child.  When I was pregnant with Sloan, Lee was adamant about finding out the sex before he was born.  I, however, wanted to wait.  So he agreed that we could be surprised the second time around and true to his word, we did not find out the gender.

We just assumed it would be a boy.  There had only been one girl in roughly five generations of Stuarts so we didn’t think we’d change that trend.  I washed up all the baby boy clothes and lovingly placed them in the nursery.  We chose the name Sawyer Brayden and we waited to meet Sloan’s baby brother. (Sloan, incidentally, though only two years old at the time, insisted that he would be getting a sister.)

On my due date, February 2, 2006, my water broke at 4:20 am.  At 6:19 our daughter, Katya Rose, was born.  That was a good day.

Katya Rose 037

After Tia, we agreed to wait a bit before having a third child.  The only snag came when Tia was 13 months old and we deiceded to take our first vacation alone together since our honeymoon.  Four weeks later I held a positive pregnancy test in my trembling hands.

Lee was leaving that afternoon to visit his family in Arkansas for the weekend.  I made the mistake of telling him before he left.  He was shocked and his initial reaction was anger.  In fact, we barely spoke all weekend.  I was sick with worry and felt like somehow I had done something wrong.  It was a bad weekend.

I even called a friend nearly in tears to get a little reassurance that we were going to be okay and we hadn’t detrimentally harmed our older children by forcing another sibling upon them so quickly.

Thankfully, though, Lee came home with a fresh perspective and calmed my anxious heart and, with a little time, we grew excited about this new babe.  Then, at ten weeks, I rushed to the ER, bleeding heavily, sure I was miscarrying.  We discovered the next day that the amniotic sac had torn away from the uterine wall.  The doctor used words like “spontaneous abortion” and “D & C” and I feared like never before.  Because as he said those things I was staring at a tiny, beating heart on the ultrasound machine.  I could see arms and a facial profile and all I could think was that if my body failed, this life would end.

It didn’t end, though.  After a moneth of bedrest, the issue corrected itself and on December 16, 2007, Landon Lee was born after what seemed an unending labor and delivery.  (I was in the hospital a whopping two and a half hours before he was born – my longest stay in the delivery room ever!)


And here we sit – a week away from our tenth anniversary, three children sleeping soundly one room over.  We look a little older than we did the day we walked down the aisle and our lives are definately filled with more crazy.

But I wouldn’t trade that crazy for all the riches in the world.  Especially because these three faces…


Are the product of what began on the Saturday afternoon in July of 2000.  From where I sit, it’s been one heck of a decade.

To read our entire love story – click here.

Girl and Boy Climb a Mountain…Barely

Our wedding reception was a heck of a party.  If I had to do my wedding over again, there are only two things I’d change.  Number one – the videographer.  They edited a bunch of footage out (who edits out footage of someone’s WEDDING!) and included some seriously cheesy background effects.


When Lee and I kissed after cutting the cake, they freeze framed us and the background turns to fireworks with wonky elevater music playing.


Number two – I’d have an evening wedding.  We scheduled our wedding for 2:00, which means that people began leaving the reception way before I was ready to leave.  I wanted to keep dancing, keep partying, keep enjoying all of my very favorite people gathered in one place.

But as the crowd began to dwindle, Lee and I realized we needed to make our grand exit or there would be no one left to see us off.  Except, of course, for our wedding party of eighteen (who were contractually bound to do our bidding for however long we deemed it necessary).

So we prepared to leave.  But not, of course, before deciding to head outside to see what kind of damage had been done to our getaway car.  It was at that moment that my dad pulled us aside and told us to look outside the picture window at the Country Club grounds.

“That’s how you’ll be leaving today,” he said with a wicked little grin.  Our reaction?


Sitting 100 hundred yards out on the expansive green lawn was a helicopter waiting to whisk us around the Arch and drop us off downtown.  That…was a good surprise.

So we prepared to leave.  But I didn’t want to leave.  So instead of running through the crowd of bubble blowing guests, we slowly meandered our way down, hugging everyone along the way, me crying like an ugly gopher…again.  I was terribly, terribly emotional.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about the helicopter ride.  Again because I was crying!  Sheesh.  Poor, sweet Lee.  I managed to pull myself together by the time we got to the Arch though and my new husband no longer had a look of panic on his face as my tears subsided.

We headed out to the San Juan islands the next day for our honeymoon where we kayaked, sailed and hiked for a week.  The hiking would prove to be one of our first memory moments together as man and wife.

Our resort was nestled roughly a mile from the base of Mt. Constitution.  Three days into our trip, we decided to hike Mt. Constitution.  So we called the concierge and set everything up.  They would drop us off at the base and we’d make the trek up the hill moutain.  Our driver asked us, before dropping us off, if we were sure we wanted to hike the mountain.  We smiled and thanked him for his concern and assured him that we were indeed able bodied adults who were capable of climbing a little moutain.

His concern should have been our first red flag.  The second red flag came about twenty minutes into the hike, when we were still making our way to the actual base of the mountain (turns out he dropped us off about a mile away…nice) and a camper asked us what our plans were for the day.

“Oh, we’re going to hike Mt. Constitution,” we replied, all bright eyed.

“Wow,” she said.  “That’s ambitious.”

We rolled our eyes and went on our merry way.  See?  Look how happy I was.


One hour into the hike, I started to get a little tired.  “I didn’t realize we’d be walking at a 90 degree angle the whole time,” I huffed to Lee. 

“It’s a mountain!” he responded.  “What did you think?”

“I dunno.  I guess I just thought it’s be a leisurely stroll.”

Two hours into the hike we ran out of water.  And pretzels.  Because we’d only packed one bottle and a small baggie.  Because we’re from the midwest.  It honestly never occurred to us that climbing a mountain would be difficult.  Not once.


Three hours into the hike we were starting to get angry.  Surely we had to be close to the top.  We finally saw more human life coming down the hill mountain – it was our first human contact since “ambitious” woman.

“Are we close to the top?” I asked, trying not to look like I was dying, though indeed, I was.

The guy laughed.  He laughed.

“You’ve got another mile and a half at least,” he said with a grin, drinking his bottle of Evian.  Punk hiker with his punk water…

And so on we hiked, and we hiked and we hiked.  And just when we didn’t think we could take another step there was a clearing in the trees.  With a surge of energy, we powered forward and burst through as if we were charging the gates of heaven itself.  And we found ourselves looking over a breathtaking scene.  We had done it.  We were 400 yards from the summit. 


We reveled in the beauty for a few minutes before turning and walking to the viewing area at the top of the mountain.  As we rounded the corner, I gasped.

“There is a parking lot up here!” I exclaimed.  “And cars are in it!”

“You can drive up here?” Lee asked.  “Why didn’t anyone tell us this?!”  It took several minutes for us to get over the fact that we could have just had the driver drop us off at the top rather than go through the pain and toil of hiking the 4.5 miles.  I imagine the driver laughed all the way back to the resort.

We looked over the edge of the viewing platform for a few minutes, then I turned to Lee and informed him that I would not be walking back down the hill mountain.  We had dinner plans in three hours and I knew there was no way we’d make it in time.  So Lee did what any respectable new husband would do.

He hitched us a ride.

We hopped in the back of a pick up filled with retirees who were beyond thrilled to help out a couple of naive newlyweds.  And we did indeed make our dinner reservation on time.

And that, my friends, was the last time Lee and I climbed a mountain.

To read the rest of our love story, click here.

Girl and Boy Become Man and Wife


It is time to tell you the rest of the story.  Grab a steaming cup of hot tea, will you.  Sit back, kick up your heels and prepare to swoon.  Get your lungs ready because you’re going to heave a sigh of utter contentment in a few moments…

Okay, this story isn’t that great.  I might be exaggerating slightly.  My wedding was hardly a fairy tale.  There were no fluffy white bunnies who tied bows in my hair.  Tiny sparrows did not flit about my head whistling in perfect harmony.  Clothes-wearing mice did not sew my glistening white wedding gown and my groom did not break out in song when I walked down the isle (just the thought of that makes me laugh).

All of that would have been cool (except the mice part; clothes or no clothes, I don’t like those furry little creatures), but that is not what the day held for me.  It was, however, in the immortal words of Mary Poppins herself, “Practically perfect in every way.”  I was ready to marry the boy.  For eight months I had been his fiancee.  I wanted to be his wife.  I was ready to be a Mrs.  I wanted to walk down the isle on my dad’s arm and say “I do.”

And I did.

I am blessed cursed with plenty of neuroses.  But one thing I am not is a girly girl or a perfectionist.  This makes planning a wedding very, very easy.  I bought the first dress I tried on, because I loved it.  I tried on a few more, but I knew right away that the first one was it.  It was me.  It was simple, elegant and comfortable.  I also knew from past experience that I wanted to look natural.  I’m not a heavy make up person, because I’m well aware of the fact that too much make up makes me look like a child who played in her mama’s bathroom cabinets.  If I attempt the smokey eye I don’t look elegant so much as I strongly resemble a two cent hooker. 

And I’d had enough up-do’s in my school dance days to know that my hair in a French Twist makes me look like an ’80’s era creature from Alienation.

I like Daisy’s and Lilies, and I like photographs…and lots of them.  So the photographer and the florist were easy decisions to nail down.  I didn’t want anything elaborate.  I just wanted comfort and familiarity because as much as I wanted to marry the boy and as excited as I was to become his wife, I also wanted to be surrounded by the comforts of simplicty.  It made the idea of marriage seem less daunting.

So I stuck with my simple hair, my simple make up and my simple dress.  My simple flowers, my lots of pictures, my simple hors de veurs and wedding cake (none of that nasty raspberry filling stuff – nope, white cake, white icing…the way the angels like it).  But I felt anything but simple and ordinary.  I felt as if I had been adorned by woodland creatures and singing cherubs.  I felt…like a Princess.

To be honest, I remember few details about the day of my wedding.  I know I was up early all jittery and happy.  I know I had my hair done and my bridesmaids (all nine of them) had breakfast with me.  I don’t know what time we headed to the church or where everyone got dressed.  I do remember my grandmother making me laugh out loud at some point.

“Kelli,” she said, “I heard that you and all of your bridesmaids are wearing thongs today.”

“Uh…Mimi!  What?!  I…maybe.  I haven’t asked them…”

She stared back at me completely confused.  And my mom burst out laughing.  “They don’t call them thongs anymore, Mom,” she said.  “And yes, all the girls are wearing flip flops.”

Sweet Mimi.

I was a bit of a traditionalist when it came to my wedding.  I didn’t want to see the boy before the ceremony, I wanted the Wedding March played when I walked in and I wanted hymns sung during the ceremony.  Somehow that just seemed right to me.  And it all went off without a hitch.

Well…except for the tears.  I’ve told you about my penchant toward crying.  I don’t get the cute little single tear drop that streams down the cheek like you see in the movies.  Oh no…I cry like an ugly gopher.  And if I try to hold the tears in I end up bursting like the Hoover Dam.

So mid-way through the minister asking who would give this woman to marry this man, I broke.  And I was mic’ed.  Then I tried to laugh to cover it up, which only made me sound a bit like a machine gun filled with snot balls.  A blushing bride, I was not.

But sobby sobberson’s aside, the ceremony itself was beautiful.  My uncle and my high school youth minister, two of the most unorthodox, craziest men in ministry I’ve ever known, led the service and they injected the right amount of humor and sweetness to balance out my crazy.  The music was sweet, the boy was sweet (and terribly, terribly handsome in his tux with tails. Oy!)  And it ended with me becoming Mrs. Lee Stuart.  A name I was happy to take on and I am even more proud to bear today, nearly ten years later.


After what seemed forever in photographs (We had a wedding party of eighteen!  We’re not good at narrowing down…) we hopped in our limo and headed off to the reception where we had one heck of a party and a huge surprise waiting for us.


To be continued…

Read the rest of the story here.

I’m looking for Jiminy Cricket

jiminy_140x143Disney makes it look so easy.  You wish upon a falling star and anything your heart desires will come to you.  But even Jiminy Cricket realized that it took more than wishing for a dream to come true.  You have to listen to your heart and follow.  Let your conscience be your guide.

Of course, I try not to take theological guidance or direction from an animated cricket, but I do believe there is a nugget of truth buried in there.  But from my point of view as a believer, I believe my Jiminy Cricket my conscience to be the Holy Spirit.  It is this still small Voice, the Voice of God Himself, that I must listen to.  And it is this still small Voice that I often ignore, or worse yet, simply don’t hear at all.

Life is noisy.  Bills, responsibilities, work, commitments – all of these contribute to the noise.  And sometimes the noise gets so loud that it’s difficult to hear the Voice.  But there are moments when the Voice breaks through the noise.  Usually these moments are relatively quiet moments – in the still of the morning, or late at night, when the noise of life is in a brief slumber.  It’s in those moments that I’m reminded that wishing upon a star is not really going to get me far.  I might need to get up and start walking toward the star instead.

Lately, Lee and I have felt stirrings within us.  The moments come at different times for each of us, but the thoughts, dreams and ideas are the same.  Some of the stirrings require small, but meaningful, planning and action on our parts.  For those of you that know Lee and I well you know that planning isn’t, ahem, our strong suit.  We tend to fly by the seats of our pants and, while we always have the best of intentions, this means that many big plans get dropped along the way.  We’re working on this.

Other stirrings, however, will require a significant amount of prayer, hard work, diligence and faith.  And the faith part?  It’s a doozy.  I have personally never been much of a skeptic.  Faith, in it’s simplest form, comes fairly easy to me.  I’m not one to question or doubt.  In some ways, this is a very good trait.  But other times I have to remind myself that it’s necessary to think critically and not operate on blind faith.  In other words, I sometimes have to make myself question the concept of faith so that I can better defend my faith.  If that makes any sense at all….

All that to say, some of the stirrings within my own soul require a depth of faith that I haven’t yet grasped.  A complete, life altering, Here Am I Lord type of faith.  It’s the type of faith that may require me to be uncomfortable.  I may have to sacrifice some of my comforts.  I might even need to let go of some dreams and desires.

Can I do it?

I recently read this post from Shawn Groves.  It only further spoke to my already softening heart.  If my life were a home movie, what would it look like?  Hmmm…

So I’m not being totally cryptic, we’re not considering selling all our possessions and moving to far east Siberia to live in a cabin and start a slavic revival.  No need to worry!  We are, however, trying to open ourselves up to the What If’s. 

What if God called us to far east Siberia?

What if God called us to serve in missions?

What if God called us to go serve a meal to the homeless in downtown St. Louis?

What if God called us to adopt a child?

What if God called us to have another child?

What if God called us to rise in the early hours of the morning and pray over our children instead of sleeping in?

What if God called us to move to small town USA simply to minister to our neighbors?

What if God wants us to stay right where we are and continue to serve those around us quietly and effectively?

What if God wants me to drive my smokin’ hot minivan with pride all the while pouring His Truth’s into my children’s hearts as I shuttle them from here to there? 

The bottom line is this: We want to be ready for the What If’s, no matter what they might be.  Lee and I each have hopes, dreams, desires and vision.  Some of them line up and will be easy to implement – some do not match entirely and will require joint prayer.  But we want to stop ignoring the whispers that have grown louder over the past few months.  We want to quit talking and start doing.  Which takes planning.

*sigh* If only Jiminy Cricket could serve as our family manager…

As luck would have it

Part of my Craig’s List money went toward a minor room redecoration.  I never liked the bedding I bought for our king size bed a couple of years ago and last year when we recevied our new furniture it just accented the ugliness of our bedding.  So I bought new bedding.

Here’s the thing – I don’t have a decorator’s bone in my body.  Which makes the fact that I recently started freelancing for a decorator’s blog slightly humorous, wouldn’t you say?  The fact is, I just don’t know how to put together a room.  I don’t know what looks good where, how to hang photos, what pieces to use for accents – it’s just not my strong suit.  So given that knowledge, I’m pretty proud of the minor changes I made to our bedroom.


Obviously, finding the right bedding was my first goal.  As soon as I saw this bedding online, I fell in love with it.  I ordered it two months ago and it just arrived yesterday due to back order issues.  Just in time for my birthday.  Yes, I am 29 AGAIN today.  Lee seems to luck out on birthday gifts wouldn’t you say?  Last year our furniture happened to arrive the day before my birthday as well. 

Remember this?

So here we are, one year later, and my bed is finally outfitted properly. 



I also bought new side table lamps since our old ones didn’t match and were not even remotely cute.  Behold, the glory of a cute side table lamp:


Many thanks to HomeGoods for being the perfect place for non-decorators like me to shop.  And naturally we needed a few accents in the room to pull it all together.  Naturally.


Lee’s not overly crazy about the urn.  “It’s weird,” he keeps saying.  “What’s the purpose?”  And I’m all, “Dude, you obviously know nothing about decorating a room…”

Weird urn aside, I like how things are coming together in there.  I still need to figure out what to do in one naked corner and I need to re-hang a few pictures that don’t look right and, eventually, I’d like to repaint the walls.  But what color?  Those are the types of decisions that stress me out.

For now, however, I’m going to rest my head on some cute pillows and let out a sigh of accomplishment because I conquered my fear of redecorating a room!

Now if I could only get my husband to take the suitcases down to the basement as they are totally messing with my Feng Shui.


I feel like I’m living in an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.

All photos were taken with my new point and shoot, courtesy of my parents.  I love my Pentax and the quality of pictures it takes, but the thing is a mammoth and, to be honest, I wasn’t crazy about hauling it around the Zoo with me.  It made me nervous.  So I’m excited to have a smaller camera that I can stick in my pocket.  Thanks Mom and Dad.