Grandparents are awesome


My kids are blessed to have two sets of grandparents who are involved, fun and who work hard to make special memories with their grandchildren. Whenever we go to Arkansas to visit Lee’s family, his mom organizes scavenger hunts and fun activities for the kids, all of which usually lead to little trinkets or snacks. The kids love it, and so do Lee and I. We all feel special when we visit Papa and Bebe’s.


My parents work equally hard to make memories with the kids. My dad is a big proponent of enjoying life. I can remember him saying more than once when I was younger that he’d rather spend money making memories than hoard it all to give to us after he’s gone. He wants the memories and I love that because my childhood is filled with amazing family memories.

A late night visit to the Lincoln Memorial. So cool.

A late night visit to the Lincoln Memorial. So cool.

A few years ago, my parents asked us if they could take each grandchild on a special trip for their 10th birthday. Lee and I didn’t hesitate to say yes, because we also want our kids to build up a cache of memories that they can draw from for the rest of their lives.

One of the perks of being the firstborn means that Sloan got to go first on this special trip. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and for six months he’s been talking incessantly about his trip. He wanted to go to New York City (most specifically “The Island of Manhattan”) and he also wanted to see Washington D.C.

Last week, my parents took him on a grand adventure catered exactly to him. Sloan is my little history buff. He loves history and museums, and he is fascinated by topics of war and invention. Visiting the nation’s capital could not be more up his alley.

I must confess, I was a bit jealous when they took off. Their trip sounded amazing. They had nighttime tours of D.C. planned, tours through the Smithsonians, Newsies on Broadway, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building – this was all on the docket and it just sounded like so much fun, and now that they’re back and I’ve seen the pictures and heard all the stories I can say with certainty that it was a truly memorable experience for Sloan.

“That was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done in my whole life,” he’s said more than once since his return. He still has a lot of life to live so I’m curious to see if anything will ever top that trip.

I love that my kids have such amazing grandparents who believe in pouring themselves into their grandchildren. Today, my kids and I are taking my grandfather out for lunch to celebrate his 80th birthday – a grandfather who holds special memories that I pull from frequently. He is my only remaining grandparent and as the years pass, I find myself more and more grateful for the memories I have with him, and the others that have gone before him.

Cooling off at the Washington Memorial.

Cooling off in a D.C. fountain.

Grandparents are unique and special and they deserve to be honored and cherished. I’m so thankful that Sloan had the experience he had with my parents last week. Now I just have to put up with Tia and Landon who are both already planning their 10 year trips. I’ve already had to put the smack down on England (Tia) and Hawaii (Landon). I’ve had to redefine the perimeters of the trip to keep it inside the Continental United States. 

Mom and Dad – you’ve set the bar high with this first one. Prepare yourselves. 

Hailing a taxi in his Newsies cap. We may have a future city kid on our hands.

Hailing a taxi in his Newsies cap. We may have a future city kid on our hands.

Watch your back, Peyton Manning

Dear Peyton Manning,

I think you’re great. I mean…well, truthfully, had I not married into a family full of sports nuts, I probably wouldn’t know who you were. I’d likely have only a passing awareness of your name, but I would not be intimately aware of the details of your life, your big moves (Go Denver! Okay, I totally had to pause to go look that fact up and make sure I was right before hitting publish…) and your familial affinity for the game of football.

But my life involves a whole lot of Sports Center, so I do know these things. I know you’re considered one of the greatest Quarterbacks of all time (at least, I think you are. Actually, I don’t really know all that much at all…) Anyway, my point is this – you’re really good. I know you are. But you might want to watch out, because this kid?

He just could de-throne you.

What’s that?

Who am I?

Oh…I’m just this kid’s Mom.

Note to self - We need to invest in one of those giant tents because the Florida sun is intense.

Yes…I know that makes me partial and that my opinion is completely biased and I seem to have very little true knowledge of the ins and outs of your sport but…

What? Why do I think he’s out to take your spot as one of the greats?

Also need one of those water packs. Brilliant!

Oh, you know…only because he threw four perfectly spiraled passes for four touchdowns in his first football game ever after only three practices, one of which he did mere seconds before being sacked.

Watch your back, Peyton. There’s a new kid in town and he’s got quite the swagger.

Oh and by the way…he also has a little brother who happens to be a sports prodigy so you might want to tell Eli to watch out, too. Today it’s the Manning Brothers but give it twenty years…it just might become the Stuart Brothers.

In my totally and completely biased opinion…

PS – I used to think there was nothing cuter than a little boy in a baseball uniform. I was wrong. Little boys in football uniforms take the cake.

Do you have any budding little athletes in your house?

I think my GPS is out to get me

We were two hours to our destination, with fifteen hours of road time firmly tucked behind us. Minus a rather disasterous hotel stay (in which children didn’t sleep, children fought incessantly, children jumped around the room screaming like apes on crack) that resulted in me shedding tears (it’s a long story that has little to do with the children and more to do with lack of coffee…) the trip had been a wild success.





The signs flashed at me as we buzzed through Illinois with St. Louis waiting for us just across the river. Consider alternate route? What alternate route?!

Then I saw the detour sign and, feeling brave and daring, I zipped off the highway and followed the orange arrow that promised to help me bypass whatever horrible traffic lie ahead. I figured going around the traffic would likely not save us time, but as long as we’re moving, the children think we’re making progress and they’re less likely to start throwing things at my head…

A mile into our detour I hit a snag. The sign pointed left, but my GPS firmly directed me to go right. I know this because she said, in her very smug and know it all voice, “At the fork, keep right.” I decided to trust her because she just sounded so confident in her direction.

So I turned right.

In 300 yards, turn right onto County Road 1500, Essex Lane.”

I should have noted the hint of hesitancy in her voice at this point, but I was too busy admiring the scenery. In fact, I believe I congratulated her, and myself, for bringing us along such a scenic path. “Well, done,” I said as we entered an expanse of Illinois farmland.

“Who are you talking to?” Sloan asked.

“Look at the scenery guys!” I called to the backseat where the kids were sitting in a daze due to over consumption of junk food and the hypnotic rhythm of the car. “Isn’t it pretty?”

“When are we going to be there?” they asked.

No appreciation for geography, those three…

“In 200 yards, turn left on County Road 5687214, then keep right.”

It was this momnet when I began to doubt her ability to lead. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the horses that greeted me upon turning. Or perhaps it was the fact that I turned onto a one lane gravel road with nothing in sight on either side but corn and a few run down barns.

“Are you sure?” I asked her as we bumped along the narrow road. She didn’t answer. She’s very passive aggresive sometimes.

When I came to the end of the one lane road, I waited for her instruction. It was at this point that she began to mock me.

“Turn right.”

I turned right.

“You’ve gone  a different way. Tap anywhere for new instructions.”

“Cannot find alternate route. Satelite lost.”

Then she laughed at me. If she had hands, I’m sure they would have been pointed in my direction in a haughty display of boastful glee. I looked before me to see where we were. It was another narrow, graveling road. “What is that noise?” Sloan shouted over the sound of loose rocks pelting the underbelly of our (smokin’ hot) minivan.

I tapped her screen again only to be met with silence. Basically, the GPS gave me a big fat middle finger.

So I turned right at the next intersection, assuming that the highway must be in that general direction. I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it, but I’m fairly certain God forgot to install my inner compass when He formed me. Every time my husband gets impatient with my lack of direction, I like to remind him that that quality of mine is both fearful and wonderful.

Finally, after an eternity of turning and passing rusted pickups and el Caminos, I decided it was time to give up on my beligerant GPS and stop for directions. The outside temperature read 111 degrees and I kind of wondered at what point my tires would begin to melt. Being stranded on a desert island is one thing. Being stranded in Illinois farmland is something completely different. I began looking for a place to stop.

First Unity Free Will Baptist Church of Illinois? Nah…

That shack tucked back inside acres of tall corn?  No…

The house standing next to a run down barn where a handful of cats sat baking in the sun? Definately not…

“We want to get to St. Louis!” the kids began to cry. So I pulled into the driveway of a normal looking home where two men stood in the garage chatting. They stopped and stared as I pulled my van into the driveway and put her in park. I hopped out and I could sense their bewilderment.

Minivan mom in a skirt with pink striped hair. I fit right in.

Turns out I was quite a long way from the highway. They gave me instructions on how to make my way back, their voices laced with amusement. I thanked them, hopped back in the car, backed up and…

Did you have a nice ride?” her voice was sugary sweet, as though she simply had to step out to use the bathroom and had no idea we were terribly lost.

“In 400 yards, keep right, then turn left.”

She has a lot of nerve, I’ll give her that. Suddenly, as quickly as she left me she was back, smugly trying to get us out of the mess in which she’d left us. But I was wise to her wily ways. I clicked the exit button and her voice trailed off. Twenty minutes later we were back on the highway, having bypassed the traffic and seen parts of our country the kids wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

“Well that was an adventure,” Sloan piped.

“Pretty cool, huh?” I said and all three of the shrugged in unison.

“Not really,” he mumbled and I sighed. And deep in the recesses of her metal belly, I heard the GPS cackle grandly. I’m fairly certain she is out to sabatoge me.

On the road again

The kids and I are off on a grand, road-tripping adventure on Friday wherein they will gorge themselves on processed foods and movies (and, don’t tell them this yet, but they will be doing Math on the road…because I don’t feel like eighteen hours in the car together is torturous enough…)

If all goes according to plan (and by plan I mean if we all make it from Point A to Point B in one piece) we should be in St. Louis on Saturday night. My smokin’ hot husband and aging, sweet as pie dog will be holding down the fort here in the Sunshine State, luckies.

While I am away, I plan to post new content when I feel inspired and I will be re-running a few of my favorite posts in the interim as well. I’m always here for ya, sweet friends. Heaven knows I wouldn’t want you to start resenting your minivans or shopping for an SUV simply because I couldn’t give you the frequent reminders needed that you are good enough, you are hot enough and doggon it, your van’s smokin’.

We have to stick together, us minivan rockin’ moms and dads. And to those of you who don’t drive a van, but have found a haven here for your van-shunning ways – we welcome you with open arms. And when the day comes that you are ready to step into the glorious light of double sliding doors, french fry crusted seats and a sound system that would make Snoop Doggy Dog cry, just know that we’ll be here for you. We’ll pat your back and hold your hand as you step away from the glamour of the SUV and we will usher you into the sweet light of the minivan.

Smokin’ hot minivan.

Glory Hallelujah!


This week

I have one girl sandwiched between two boys. This means that most days, she is more tomboy than princess, more frogs and snails than sugar and spice. I love that about her, but I must confess that every once in awhile, when she starts acting like…well, a girl, it kind of takes me by surprise and I find it to be breathtakingly adorable.

This week, two of my cousin’s daughters are staying with us while their parents take a much needed vacation. These are two girls that know exactly what it means to be girly and Tia? Well…she’s kind of eating it all up.

These two are pretty much joined at the hip. If I can’t find them they are either outside roller blading/roller skating, or they are in the bathroom fixing each other’s hair, which you would find hilarious, too, if you lived with Tia and had to suffer the angst of daily just getting her to brush her hair.

We spent some time Father’s Day morning at the beach where the sun shined beautifully, the breeze drifted lazily, the water glistened perfectly and the children all thought they were going to die of starvation. We left after an hour because it seemed we would have had to perform a burial at sea if we didn’t feed them rightthen!

How much do you love that face?!


We’ve made full use of the pool this week, both at my parent’s condo and at our house. So far they have swum multiple hours every day. This works in my favor because it means they’re worn out at the end of the day and go to sleep quickly.


During the morning hours we are doing VBS, which also works out in my favor because it allows me to gather my remaining bits of sanity and ball it all back together for a few hours. When we were preparing for the girls I thought, I’m already outnumbered with the three kids – what’s two more?

Turns out two more is five.

Thankfully, these are two of the sweetest girls on planet Earth, which makes this whole experience a lot more fun and hilarious…and noisy. Three excited girls sounds like fifteen girls when they are gathered in one room.

Last night I took the three girls to an early VIP screening of Brave in 3D. Friends, you haven’t lived until you’ve sat behind three little girls watching a hilarious movie and hearing them roar with laughter. It was seriously the best, particularly listening to Tia because she has a super deep laugh and when she gets going, she cannot stop.

Loved the movie. Love these girls. I also, after seeing Brave, love Scotland. I’m trying to figure out how we could possibly work it out to move there…

We popped the lenses out of our 3D glasses and kept them because, as one of the girls informed me, "These are all the rage right now. They're super trendy." Well, I sure don't want to miss the newest rage...

My advice to you this week is two-fold – First, go see the movie Brave. It’s awesome and so, so funny. (Save yourself some money, though, and skip the 3D).

Second, spend some time with some little girls and see if you don’t find life to be a little more hilarious and a lot more pink. I dare you to spend ten minutes in the same room as three elementary age school girls and not crack up.

What are you up to this first official week of summer?

Rain Dance

Have you danced in the rain lately?

Happy Weekend and Happy Father’s Day to all the great Dad’s out there.

Morphing into summer

All three children are playing quietly in their rooms. Go ahead, you can be impressed if you want. I won’t tell you that they’re in there because they had a massive fight, went all WWF and I walked in to find them screaming and crying and swinging bags of chips at one another, crumbs flying all over my freshly vaccumed carpet.

I’ll just let you go on thinking I’m raising angels.

So hey – got this summer time thing going on. With the pressure of school off my shoulders I have found myself inhaling for the first time in…nine months. NINE MONTHS. And it’s glorious, food fights and all. But there’s got to be some structure or me?

Ima hafta lose my mind.

Our home school schedule consisted of lessons beginning around 9:00 and finishing around 2:00 every day. Just because we are officially on summer break doesn’t mean that all learning stops, though. Every summer, even when Sloan went to public school, I instituted a one hour long “learning time” each morning. I like to do this just to watch them whine and complain.

It’s super fun.

So learning time is back. From 9:00-10:00 each morning the kids are working on reading, math, spelling or Russian. By the time we finish up those lessons, clean up around the house and have a minimum of two fights, it’s already lunch time!

BAM! No lazy summer days here. No siree.

The pool is providing great afternoon entertainment as are neighborhood friends and a bit of TV, because what’s summer without a teeny bit of laziness, yes?

I’ve ordered a ton of books and we will be heading to the library periodically as well. We have offered the two older kids a bribe an incentive to get them reading over the summer. For every book they finish, we will pay them a dollar. Sloan gets two dollars if he reads longer chapter books (at least fourth grade reading level or higher) and I’ve have offered him 5 dollars if he will read an entire book in Russian from front to back.

I did not think about the work all this would be for me as I now have to translate said Russian book to help him with comprehension and I have to read the more advanced books to make sure he is comprehending those as well. That kinda blows because while I want them active and busy, I myself had envisioned a nice, relaxing summer with my feet kicked up beside the pool and a cold iced tea in my hand.


Clearly I am delusional.

So what about you? How do you keep your kids from driving you crazy active during these summer months?

The Day I Talked with Harry Connick Jr.

I love my job.  Have I ever mentioned that?  I get to work from home in my pajamas.  I get to work as often or as little as I want.  And I get to talk to hunky movie stars on the phone.

How fun is my job?

The best thing that ever happened to me career-wise was joining the team over at 5 Minutes for Mom a few years ago.  I love those ladies.  They have great hearts, they are the hardest workers I’ve ever known and they share amazing opportunities with the team of writers they’ve put together.  It’s an honor to be a part of that and I’m constantly grateful for the chance to further hone my craft, use my journalism a little bit and have experiences I would never have otherwise.

Like next week, when I am flying out to Los Angeles for the premiere of The Lion King: 3D.  That is an experience that never would have been possible were it not for the lovely ladies at 5 Minutes for Mom being willing to share the fun with everyone else.  (I won’t tell you that I was supposed to go to Bolivia for them earlier this month but had to back out due to the move.  I won’t mention that because it still stings a little.)

Anyway, last week I had the opportunity to speak with Harry Connick Jr. and his daughter Kate about their partnership with  American Girl benefitting the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in New Orleans.  Here is our conversation.

Harry Connick Jr. and his daughter, Kate.As parents, we all want to instill a sense of heritage into our children. Whether we’re starting from scratch, hoping to create a new story for our kids or we’re drawing from the past and passing history on to them, we all want to send our offspring into adulthood with a sense of identity.

For Harry Connick Jr., the desire to share his love for the city of his youth and the culture that nurtured him into the man he is today only heightened six years ago when Hurricane Katrina wiped out New Orleans in one fell swoop.

“I think [passing on heritage] is paramount,” Connick says, “and that’s why I take my family to New Orleans regularly. Growing up in New Orleans, the culture was so much a part of the fabric [of life] down there. It was so interwoven into everyday life that you didn’t even think of it as heritage and culture. It was just part of the norm.”

Hop on over to 5 Minutes for Mom to read the rest and find out how you can be a part of the continued work in New Orleans.

Scenes from a Summer


Lots of fishing


Kayaking with Daddy

Tia's Catfish

Fun in the sun makes for good naps

Song by the lovely Rebekah Sullivant.

What was important is now a necessity

Three weeks ago Landon wouldn’t put his face under water without a good deal of weeping and gnashing of teeth.  If water splashed even in the vicinity of his eyes, he wailed and stumbled around blindly until he was given a towel to wipe away the unwelcome and foreign liquid from his face.

Then one day he decided he wasn’t scared anymore.  And now I’m the one who is terrified.  Because my cautious baby with a healthy respect for the water has turned into this:

While in the ocean, he is required to leave his swim vest on.  As soon as we enter the pool, though, the vest comes off and he is ninety to nothin’, balls to the walls, kamikaze, I’m-gonna-cause-Mama-to-gray-early scary.  Twice we’ve had to tell him not to do front flips off the side. To which he replies with wide eyes, “Why, Mom?  It’s so fun!”

This is why, starting tomorrow, he will be in swim lessons every day for the next two weeks.  Fun for him, peace of mind for me – everybody wins.  I knew swim lessons were going to be important when we moved to Florida.  Now, however, they have become a necessity.

While the other two were brave in the water, neither were this…um…terrifying.  Here they all are (with my cousin Leslie’s little boy) jumping off the back of the boat together:

You’ll notice the older three are all wearing masks to prevent salt water up the nose.  Not Landon.  Nope.  Salt water doesn’t phase him a bit.  That kid’s gonna have the cleanest sinuses on the block.

He’s a brave one, my little guy.  I have no idea where he gets it from:

What about you?  Do you have a child who is aging you early?