This Brilliant World – Keep Your Eyes Open

Image by Tammy Labuda Photography

Image by Tammy Labuda Photography

I have this habit of constantly watching the world around me. It may be the writer side of my brain that finds human behavior so fascinating, but truth be told, I can hardly get through a day without observing something that makes me laugh, makes me shake my head, makes me sigh or swoon, or just makes me want to keep watching.

I have a particular love for the funny, though.

Take, for example, the time I was at the gym stretching in the hallway, and a man walked into the corridor, stretched his yoga mat out on the floor, then proceeded to try and kick up into a handstand, only to fall flat on his face with a rather loud OOF! He rolled around like a turtle for a minute before calmly standing, rolling up his mat, and walking away as if nothing happened.

I saw you, sir, and it made my day.

There was a rather unfortunate incident in a Target parking lot when a man got out of his car in shorts that were too short and took several…um…exposed steps before he…felt the draft?

That one scarred me.

And let’s not any of us forget Air Butt. *shudder*

Months ago, I saw a woman trip over a crack in the sidewalk as I sat at a stoplight. She then proceeded to turn and berate the sidewalk, finger wagging furiously, for several seconds. That one made me giggle.

Yesterday I watched a man in a wheelchair, with a Radio Flyer wagon tied to the back, push himself furiously across four lanes of busy traffic. It was a most impressive feat, and I watched in awe at his tenacity…and bravery.

And don’t think I’m only laughing at the expense of others. I provide ample laughter, myself. There was the time I tripped over a wire and sprawled belly first onto the sidewalk. That was fun.

Or how ’bout that time last week when I looked back over my shoulder for a split second and plowed into the corner of a grocery aisle. I liked that.

This world, man. It’s full of fun, every turn providing opportunity for a chuckle, a giggle, or a full out guffaw.

Happy Thursday, friends. Look around today, and observe all the happiness this crazy world (and the people in it) have to offer.



Tenting with Shamoo

If anyone ever tells you that sleeping in a tent is comfortable, go ahead and assume that person a liar. If they tell you that having the proper equipment is all that stands between you and a good night’s sleep in a tent, kick them in the shins and flee.

We camped last weekend.

Our friends Kevin and Jenni let us borrow some of their camping gear for this trip, and I foolishly thought that having nice gear would make the entire experience okay. On the second night of no sleep, however, I may or may not have cursed nature and all it’s components.

Here’s how it went down…

We arrived at the campsite and began pitching our tent. Just as we tossed the rain shield over the top of the tent, the rain began to fall. Then the sky sobbed for 45 minutes. I think it was nature’s way of trying to warn us of the consequences of camping in January, but we misinterpreted the storm as “memory making” and “character building.”

My mountain man. Photo courtesy of my friend Karen.

My mountain man. Photo courtesy of my friend Karen.

Who wants to play in the cold rain? These crazy kids, that's who...

Who wants to play in the cold rain? These crazy kids, that’s who…

The rain stopped, we finished setting up (including mopping up a small lake that had developed inside our tent). Super duper…

Then the temperature began to drop plummet. The #1 redeeming quality of camping absolutely must be the fire pit. A crackling fire on a cold night gives you the false sense that this camping thing was a pretty darn good idea.

It also helps if you’re surrounded by good company. Kids running through the trees, breathless and pink cheeked, free from the confines of electronics, while adults laugh and joke adds a luster to the whole “living in the great outdoors” thing. This is the part of camping that I would boldly place under the column labeled FUN.


Then we went to bed.

Jenni had given me her sleeping bag, which just so happened to be named Big Agnes, along with a thermal pad to go under it. The thermal pad actually tucked into Big Agnes and kept me warm from underneath. When I climbed into Big Agnes that first night, I had high expectations. “I will heretofore sleep like a baby,” I thought as I nestled in deep, and indeed, I quickly fell asleep that first night.

I woke up at 2:00 when a raccoon (one of satan’s sidekicks, undoubtably) tossed a metal pan off the picnic table behind us. I heard his evil laugh as he ran back into the trees. It was at this point that the whole sleeping thing eluded me for the rest of the trip.

Lee slept next to me in a different bag – a bag not named Big Agnes, which I think may have been part of the problem. He also slept on a thermal pad that seemed to be made of tin foil, so every time he moved (which was all. night. long.) it sounded as though he were thrashing on a pile of crumply aluminum. After the demon raccoon woke us all up, Lee left the tent to go to the bathroom. It was at this point that I realize the temperature had fallen significantly. My body was toasty warm (thank you Big Agnes) but my eyelashes were icicles.

This sweet girl hung in there with us crazy Americans.

This sweet girl hung in there with us crazy Americans.

Lee came back to the tent and began the process of settling into his sleeping bag. My husband is 6’2″. When you zip him up into a thin body bag, there’s bound to be a few issues with comfort. He pulled the zipper all the way up to his neck to get out of the cold, then I heard him thrashing. I looked over at him, and his gaze was fixed intently on the ceiling as he flopped around like a whale on a beach.

After a couple of minutes, I leaned over and hissed, “What the heck are you doing?! Can you please be quiet??” He looked at me as he continued to flop, his arms pinned to his sides, and the thermal tin foil under him shattering the silence of the campsite. A moment later he squirmed and tugged until his arm broke free of the bag and he thrust it in the air, his pants clutched firmly in his hand.

He looked at me as though he’d just won a prize. “It’s hot in this bag!” he stage whispered.

Then we both started laughing so uncontrollably we couldn’t breathe, and neither one of us slept the rest of the night. Nor did we sleep the second night, which was less comical than the first, but who’s keeping score?


So blessed to call these women friends.


This kid enjoyed the camping experience more than anyone else I think. He slept well and he got to play ball all weekend long. So this was basically his heaven.


A zipline = Good fun


She had such a great attitude all weekend.

In all, it was an awesome weekend, despite the loss of two night’s sleep. The kids had a blast, even “K,” though she wanted to make sure we were definitely planning on returning home to our warm beds on that second day when the temps hovered around the high 30’s and low 40’s.

Will we tent camp again? Definitely. Camping is a bit like childbirth, I’ve decided. Give yourself enough space and time from the experience and you forget just enough of the pain and turmoil to want to do it again. As long as I’ve got Big Agnes, a cup of strong coffee, and my husband to laugh at, I’ll be just fine…

Ghosts of Christmases Past

I took my kids to see Santa yesterday. This is probably our last year with everyone believing, so I wanted to mark it well. As we walked away from the jolly man in red, I asked Landon how the encounter went.

“He smelled like beef and cheese,” he responded. “He sits on a throne of lies.”

And then I fell over laughing. Every family has a “funny one,” right?

And for those of you who are thoroughly confused as to why that’s so funny, I leave you with this clip from the movie ELF, and I order that you go watch the movie in it’s entirety today. Do not go another day without having seen the entire film.


Christmas 2004 – A traumatized Sloan


Sloan and Tia in 2009 with “Dyed Moroz,” the Russian Santa.

Christmas '08 033

Christmas 2008 – A traumatized Landon


Christmas 2013 – the last when they all believe. *sob*

Merry Christmas, everyone. Here’s to one more year of magic and laughter…

A Repost, Because Summer is Crazy

This is, hands down, the craziest summer I’ve experienced thus far as a mother. We are moving from one thing to the next at break neck speed, and it’s all this Mama can do to keep from hyperventilating at ALL THE INSANITY!

See there? See the caps lock? INSANITY!

Today I’m packing Sloan up for his week long adventure to Washington DC and New York. My parents have told each of the kids that they will take them whereever they want to go for a week long trip when they turn ten (in the Continental United States – yes, that had to be defined because a certain child had big ideas about traipsing about Europe for her trip).

When Sloan returns we’ll have a few days at home before we leave for Kanakuk, St. Louis and Conway, Arkansas for two weeks. When we come home we’ll have a week and a half before school starts. Seriously, I feel like I can’t breathe when I try to think about all of it at once.

So while I go bury my face in a paper bag, I’m going to leave you with a repost, because I needed to laugh today, and maybe you did too. Happy Friday, friends! May your weekend be fun, restful and free of panic attacks.



Originally published June 11, 2011


I was on the phone last week, pacing the driveway.  It was a beautiful day and the kids were all napping or resting.  I just needed some air.  As I spoke with my friend, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.  I turned in time to see Sloan marching by with a twelve foot ladder tucked snuggly under his arm.  He didn’t even glance my way as he walked past, his face cool and nonchalant.  As if carrying around a ladder was normal.

I swear, if that kid had a stuffed tiger I would be living with Calvin and Hobbes.

“Um…I think I should probably hang up,” I said to my friend as Sloan set the ladder down next to the corner of the house and popped it open.  He looked up at the roof, his hand shading his eyes slightly.  I managed to reach him just as he stepped on the third rung, the ladder wobbling precariously on the slanted driveway.

“Whatcha doin’?”  I asked, grabbing hold of the base of the ladder.

“Oh, hey Mom,” Sloan said, still playing cool.  “I’m checking out the bird’s nest up here.”

I looked up and sure enough, there was a nest just underneath the roof.

“Can I?” he asked, looking down at me with his penetrating blue eyes.  Then he grinned.  Stinker.

“Yes,” I replied.  “Be careful.”

So up he climbed to the top rung and he peered over the side of the nest.

“There’s a baby bird in there!” he screeched.  Seriously screeched.  My ears are still ringing.  “It’s so cute!  Aw, Mom come see the baby bird!”

So we switched places and I climbed the ladder with him holding it steady.  Inside the nest was a tiny, newly hatched baby, it’s beak pointed upward, waiting for nourishment.

“Can I see it again?” Sloan yelled, shaking the ladder for effect.  Nice.

He climbed back up and looked in again.  “This is so freakin’ cool!” he yelled again.  To which I reminded him that I was only a few feet below and he didn’t need to scream.  Then he reached for the bird.

“Don’t touch it,” I cautioned.  “If the Mama bird comes back and smells you on her baby, she’ll leave him and he’ll die.”

With one last look and a wave, we pulled the ladder back down and headed on with our day.

Fast forward to this afternoon when we’re driving home from church.  Sloan pipes up from the backseat.  “Hey Mom.  I don’t care if it dies, so when we get home can I get the ladder out and pick up the baby bird and keep it?  I’ll get it worms and I’ll take care of it.  Can I raise the baby bird?”

“No,” I said.  “It’s Mama would be sad.  And we really don’t know how to raise a baby bird.  It’s better if we leave it alone.”

“But I can take good care of it,” came the anticipated protest.

“Hey Buddy,” Lee said, glancing into the mirror.  “You don’t need to try and raise that baby bird.”


“Well,” Lee said, and he paused.  “It would be like a bear coming to our house and seeing you and saying ‘I want to take that little boy home and raise him.’  Bears don’t know how to raise little boys.  That bear wouldn’t know how to feed you – he’d probably just give you raw meat or raw fish, like he eats.  And if he tried to hug you or give you a kiss, he’d probably claw your face off or bite off your head with his sharp teeth.  Bears aren’t meant to take care of little boys just like little boys aren’t meant to take care of baby birds.”

This is the part where I begin clutching my sides, I’m laughing so hard.

“And bee’s should take care of bee’s, wight?”  Tia chimes in.

“Right,” Lee replies.  “Bears take care of bears, bee’s take care of bee’s, bird’s take care of bird’s–”

“And people take care of people!”  Sloan interrupts.

“That’s right!”  Lee pumps his fist in the air.  “Homosapiens take care of Homosapiens.”

“Yeah!” Sloan yelled, pumping his fist in the air victoriously. “Wait…what’s a Home-sapien?”

And THAT, folks, is what happens when Daddy decides to explain.

The End.

Dear Mom, Mondays: Make ’em laugh

Do you remember those magical moments as a kid when the stars aligned and you said the perfect thing to send your parents into a fit of laughter? Do you remember how good it felt to know that your parents delighted in you?

Dear Mom,

Laugh a little…or a lot. The sound is magic and I will walk away knowing that you think I’m fun, that you delight in me, that I make you happy.

Raising children is a battle. Each morning I wake up, take a deep breath and prepare for the fight. Some days, the fight begins before my feet even hit the floor. By the time I get to the kitchen people are already arguing and crying and tattling and demanding food and drink.

(My children insist on being fed EVERY DAY! Multiple times, even…)

When I awaken to a battle already being waged, I do not smile much. I’m on edge, I’m frustrated, I’m tired, I just want coffee and thirty minutes of quiet. But I’m not afforded such luxeries, so I push through.

If I can find the strength to muster a smile and even a little laugh, it does wonders toward diffusing the battlefield. If I can throw in a little joke and get them laughing, and we all leap together into delight, suddenly brushing teeth and putting shoes on is no longer akin to torture and the waters smooth just a bit.

The other day, when the arguing was too much, the tattling too far, the smiles too hard to force, I pulled up this video and put it in front of the kids.


Hearty laughter abounds and what were we fighting about again?

Sometimes they’re so silly, and the jokes they tell are so bad that I must bite my lip and swallow the impatient sigh. If I can muster a smile, that’s a nice place to start, but if I can offer a chuckle or a genuine laugh, I’ve made the day of the silly clown of a child.

Because fifteen years from now, the children will remember me, their mother, in some form or another. Will I be remembered as one who delighted in them, who filled the rooms with laughter, or the sour puss who only wanted coffee and alone time?

Dear Mom. Delight in your children. Smile often and laugh every day and never forget that they will, potentially, some day be in charge of choosing your nursing home. You want them to choose wisely…

HAPPY LABOR DAY! Go sit on your tail and do nothing… 

I laughed until I cried

I am eight years old and riding in the backseat of our silver Cougar on the way home from church.  It’s cold but we live in Wisconsin so that’s just par for the course.  My brother stares out the window memorizing every street sign and landmark we pass, as he was known for his astute observations when riding in cars.

I am watching my parents.  I’m seeing their interaction.  I don’t remember what they were talking about on this day – I’m not even sure I could hear them.  But I know they’re happy.  I know this because my dad laughs.

Clearly I, too, am astute in observation, yes?

The sound of my dad’s laugh always made my heart soar.  It was so delightful, so spontaneous.  When Dad laughed, I swore that two more stars popped up in the atmosphere.  It just seemed magical to hear him laugh out loud.

Mom followed suit, adding in her own cackle.  As we drove down the road, they laughed hysterically.  Though Brett and I didn’t have a clue what was funny, we joined in the merriment, because who can sit stoney faced when a delightful joke has been told?  We laughed all the way home, not because anything was spectacularly funny, but because the joy had spread and we bubbled over.

Last night, we went with the kids to a Family Night at the Magic House for Tia’s preschool.  As we drove home, Tia blessed us all with a meltdown of epic proportions.  Her name hadn’t been drawn in the raffle and the world as she knew it was coming to an end.  Couple that with the fact that she hadn’t had a nap that day and she was wickedly overstimulated and it seemed that life as this almost five year old knew it was devastated permanently.

For those who have been trapped in a car with a melting down four year old, you know the insanity that ensues.  It is as if the car will implode with every tear shed, every moan, every groan, every kick of the feet.  In perfect rhythm, Tia moaned.  A deep, gutteral sound that seemed to resonate from her toes and work it’s way out of her mouth like the rumble of motorboat that comes up on you from behind, then roars past.

And I was losing my mind.

I turned and in my sternest mom voice commanded her to stop crying.  Which, in case you’re wondering, commanding someone who’s crying out of control to stop is not effective.  That piece of parenting advice comes to you free of charge.

You’re welcome.

So I tried the next tactic.  I told her to keep crying, but just cry without making sound.

“Aaaaahhhhhhh.”  “Aaaaaaahhhhhh.”  “Aaaaaahhhhh…” came the reply.  Like a sonic wave it repeated over and over and I felt my brain begin the painful process of implosion.  So I resorted to what can only be reffered to as Stellar Parenting 101.

“Tia,” I said, my voice sharp – but loving…of course.  “Stop crying. Now.  Stop making sounds.”  And then, as the next words flowed from my mouth I tried to make them stop.  “Stop making sounds…from your throat.”

As soon as I said that, I heard how ridiculous it sounded.  Lee snorted, I buried my face in my coat and we both lost it.  Painful laughter.  The kind that makes your stomach hurt.  Tears flowing down our cheeks leaving a trail of joy and relief behind.  We laughed out loud, doubled over, clutching our sides.

And then…

Her crying stopped.  “Why are you laughing?” she demanded.  We couldn’t answer.  We were laughing too hard.  And anyway, it was only funny to us – she wouldn’t understand.

Stop making sounds from your throat?

We howled and cackled and every synonym for laughter that you can think of, we did it.  Before long, all three kids joined in.  They didn’t understand.  They didn’t know what was funny.  They just knew that laughter and joy were present.  My brain resolidified into a coherent, usable mass and once again the world was right.  Tia forgot why she was crying and chose laughter instead.

And that was the day we saved the world…one cackle at a time.


I had a wonderful experience at Blissdom this year.  I hope to tell you about it in bits and pieces through my posts.  I was challenged in my writing, in thinking outside the box in business and in expanding my use of multimedia.  Hopefully you will see the results of my time at Blissdom rather than have to read about them.