Category Archives: things i love

Beach Bums

I headed into this summer’s vacation with a tiny bit of apprehension. The boys have been to the beach before, but it’s never been the whole vacation. They talked like they would love it (and they know I love it), so I was hopeful that they wouldn’t get bored.

There was absolutely no need to have been concerned.  These boys were made for the beach. They immediately understood and appreciated how important sunset was to me, and they woke up ready to hit the beach early every single day.

They were pros at helping me set up the canopy every morning, and they dragged our beach gear down from the condo without complaint. They spent their days on boogie boards and skim boards, jumping waves and playing with the sand fleas at the edge of the water, collecting shells and making drip sandcastles and a couple of real sandcastles, and digging countless deep holes in the sand.

Their favorite was digging a hole, gently filling it in so it was a trap, watching me step in said hole, and laughing like maniacs. Happened multiple times. They’re such sweet kids.

About halfway through the trip, they met some friends. A boy and a girl, J&J, who were Bennett and Jack Henry’s ages, and also Midwesterners. Their parents were sweet and fun to hang out with, and the kids just played and played together. Mine were sad one morning when we were at the beach earlier than their friends, and kept begging me to text their mom to see when they’d be there. This was such a fun and unexpected part of our trip!

So ready to go back. 



So vacation was several weeks ago…and I’m just now writing about it. However, it deserves to be documented, as it was fabulous. 

There’s something I can’t even put into words about being at the beach. Matt (who loves the beach, too, but isn’t even remotely as weirdly obsessed as I am) asked me several times, “What is it about being here that makes you happy?” and I honestly don’t fully understand it. All I know is that the ocean and I are a good fit, and it’s a sad, sad thing that I live this far away from it.

{in the process of writing this post, I found the following quote, and, well, it’s just true:

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net forever.” 

Jacques Cousteau 

That sounds about right.}

We spent 8 nights in Siesta Key, in a condo that was a 2-minute walk to the beach. It rained the first day and a half, and I was concerned (read: borderline depressed) that we had brought Missouri’s rainy summer with us. However, it cleared up and the rest of our time there could not have been more perfectly beautiful.


I am afraid I have been completely ruined by this beach. It’s the only place I want to vacation. Ever. I sincerely hope that this becomes at least an every-other-year destination. In the weeks since we have been home, I’ve already started a sales pitch to my family to get them to go back with me next July. 

We drove there, driving through the night on the way down. I have found my gift, thanks in great part to my insomnia: I am a great nighttime driver! I drove from St. Louis, leaving at 5:30pm, to Dalton, GA, about 500 miles, with one stop at 8:30pm. I was so proud of myself! The boys are excellent travelers – seriously, like rockstar amazing – and I don’t think it would take any convincing to get them to do an overnight drive again. Matt was less of a fan, but I think I could talk him into it again, too :)

I mean. With sunsets like these, how could you not be convinced? (Confession: I am majorly obsessed with beach sunsets, and the still of the beach after dark.)

More to come. 

For the Love

You guys. I got invited to Jen Hatmaker‘s house for a huge party. HER HOUSE. This is not a dream I had, it’s real life. Unfortunately, I can’t go and meet 200 of my newest friends, who will be there for the party.

Are you confused yet?

Five-ish months ago, I was chosen to be part of a group of 496 women+4 men (we call them the #bandoffour) who got the privilege of helping Jen launch her newest book, For the Love. The launch team has its own Facebook page, and the craziest thing has happened, far beyond what I ever imagined (and from what Jen has said, far beyond what she could have imagined, either)…this absolutely incredible community has formed. I mean, true, amazing friendships have developed, and the idea of a launch party at Jen’s house came about. So literally, she invited the whole launch team to her house, and around 200 are attending. Isn’t that just so cool?

And how much do I wish I lived closer to Austin, TX, so I could go???

So here’s where I tell you about this book. And why you absolutely must read it. I feel like I won’t be able to do it justice in this one post, but I’m going to try. Some of my favorite quotes have been turned into cute graphics, so I’m going to just stick them in here between paragraphs so you get an extra little sampling of this gem.


(Here’s where I’m totally struggling and have restarted this paragraph several times. I don’t even know where to begin.) This book is for anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by life and what you think is expected of you. It’s for someone who has lived in church and community well, and for those who have been burned by their church and community. It’s for people who want to love others better, parent more effectively, and live out what it means to show Jesus (not religion – and to that end, this quote: “If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.” Curious? You need to read this.) to the world and our families.


There are sections that have been a huge inspiration to me as I figure out this tricky transition from SAHM to wife-and-mom-with-some-kind-of-a-job. (More on that here and here if you’re new here.) It’s been an interesting year for me, and I’ll be writing more about that soon, but in the meantime, know that this quote from the book lodged itself very deeply in my brain:

I don’t like when people minimize their gifts. There is a difference between humility and insecurity, and self-effacement does no one any favors. We teach our watching children to doubt and excuse and diminish themselves. Do we want our kids to reflect on their mothers and have absolutely no idea what we loved? What we were good at? What got our pulses racing and minds spinning? Don’t we want them to see us doing what we do best?


Oh, and it is FREAKING HILARIOUS. If you follow Jen on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you already know how funny she is. This book will make you laugh until you cry several times. She’s invented new words (horsecrappery) and phrases (you’ll be saying “that’s off the beam!” after reading this). There is an entire chapter on fashion concerns (tights are not pants, the whole underwear-with-workout pants debacle, high-waisted jeans…).


And several short Jimmy-Fallon-style Thank You Note chapters.



Have I convinced you yet? Buy this book. You’ll love it and want to share with your friends. Promise.

Pool Day

This boy, who I’m spending the afternoon with (his brothers are at a day camp), invited me to the pool. 

I think he knows his mama is never happier than when she’s in the sunshine. :)

I hope, friends, that you’re soaking up every single minute of summer that you can. And doing things like eating a watermelon-only lunch and drinking copious amounts of QT unsweet mango tea and never doing your hair (thank you, beachy, wavy hair for being in right now) and enjoying not wearing much makeup because you have a little bit of a tan that hides a lot of stuff. Tell me it’s not just me who’s doing these things?

Summer. :)

Five Days. 

That is how far into summer break it took the boys to have a bleeding incident. You guys, I’m declaring this a wild, unprecedented success. Especially because it was a no-biggie busted lip that happened innocently. 


He was fine in 2 minutes’ time.

It’s been a fun first few days. I swear NO ONE on earth loves summer as much as I do. (Except you, teacher and school admin friends. I see you.) A couple of hours at the neighborhood pool yesterday afternoon confirmed my joy…the boys swam/wrestled/nearly killed each other and I read and drank tea and mostly ignored their craziness and all was right with the world. 


one of them is super aggressive in the pool. guess who.

Sorry other moms at the pool with sweet little kids you have to monitor every second…this is your future, and it is glorious here. Yes, you have to trade those cute babies for loud, obnoxious bigger kids like mine, but it’s worth it. Carry on, Warriors. I’m feeling your pain. From over here in this chair. 

In other news, we have put the boys to work a couple of times in the yard, and they are actually helpful! 




cleaning up after edging.


Here’s to cold drinks, pool time, late bedtimes, baseball and time with friends! And a heaping measure of patience. 

also. my theory is that all boys are happy when there’s plenty of room to hit a ball or run. there will be lots of this.

Illini. Forever.

For Christmas, the boys all got new Illini pullovers and tickets to the basketball game against Northwestern. Saturday was finally the day we got to go to Champaign-Urbana!

We left early Saturday morning from STL, so that we could have several hours on campus for shopping and sightseeing before gametime, and also to ensure that we could eat two meals at our favorite Green Street locations. Priorities.

On our way out of town, my friend Kelli texted to see if we’d seen the latest forecast. I hadn’t, but it had changed from the 1″ of snow that I was expecting to 5-7″, on its way midday into the night. Great. But at this point…whatever. We were on the road, so not much we could do about it now.

We got to C-U, and I swear, I smiled all day long. I love being on campus so so much! We had lunch at Zorba’s, followed by shopping at the local bookstores for some new Illini gear.

zorba's entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

zorba’s entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early.

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early. #goodparenting #ftw

I posted this picture to Instagram/Facebook kind of early in the day.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn't wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in '99.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn’t wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in ’99.

My roommate Karen commented on that picture: “Um, not trying to be mean, but are you wearing orange? It looks like something cute and trendy, but it better be orange!”

Hilarious! Because every good Illini fan knows: YOU WEAR ORANGE TO ASSEMBLY HALL. I didn’t have anything to wear (my Illini gear was all old and too big), so part of the plan was for me to find a new tee while shopping and change clothes in the van in a parking garage. Which is exactly what I did (my kids: “Are you serious?” Me: “Totally. There is nothing weird about this.”).

We took the boys by all of our old res halls and apartments, which just made me grin even more…Wardall 6 and 502 w Green #205 were home to three of the greatest years of my life, and just getting to see them made me happy. (Matt did not feel the need to be photographed outside where he lived. Weird, right? ;) )

because you needed to know which rooms were mine.

because you needed to know which rooms were mine. and…there’s my orange!

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

And THEN, we got to spend some time with my other roommate, Kim, her husband Rich, and their daughter Zoe at our other favorite Green Street spot, Murphy’s Pub. Our boys love going there and scratching their names into the tables and benches, and, of course, the food is great. Loved catching up with our friends, and making big plans for a fall reunion!

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

By the time we left Murphy’s, snow had started falling on campus. Oh well. We got to the game about 30 minutes before tip-off, and the boys were so pumped. They just wholeheartedly love Illini basketball, even when the team isn’t that great.

assembly hall with these crazies.

assembly hall with these crazies.

Fortunately, it was an awesome game that saw the Illini hit 14 of 28 three-pointers and result in a 26-point victory. Less fortunately, it had really started snowing by the time the game was over, and our drive towards home got more treacherous the further south we got.

So, we made a decision about 15 miles outside of Effingham that we would take Matt’s parents up on their offer to let us stay there overnight instead of continuing on with horrible visibility and road conditions. They graciously took us in, and the boys crashed immediately.

We woke to a full foot of snow on the ground there, but were happy to hear that STL had only gotten about 4″. And by late morning when we headed out, roads were clear and the snow had nearly stopped, making travel much, much easier.

I think it’s safe to say that none of us will forget this trip soon.

You Never Know…

I wrote earlier this week about having breakfast by myself at the end of my retreat overnight (already a distant memory. Sigh). The restaurant was, of course, really busy late Sunday morning. I brought a book along to read in case I ended up sitting at a table by myself, but I was seated at the bar, which was totally fine with me.

At the same time I sat down, another lady who was also by herself, was seated next to me. As it turned out, she lived close by and was a regular. We started chatting immediately (I know, y’all are shocked that I needed to talk). She shared pictures of her grandsons, told me about her four grown daughters, and we talked about my little retreat and my family, too.

Near the end of breakfast, I asked if all of her daughters lived here in St. Louis. Three did, she said; the fourth lived in their hometown 80 miles east of St. Louis. Since I’m from 120 miles east of here, I was immediately interested in details!

It’s a good time to interject that I LOVE small world stories. So much.

She was from Centralia, a town 60 miles south of Effingham, and I was really only familiar with it because in the mid-1980’s, neighbors moved in backyard kitty-corner to us. The girl who moved in was 6 years older than me, and she became my surrogate big sister. This family that became our neighbors was from Centralia.

Given that it’s a fairly small town, I asked, “By ANY chance, do you know the C family? They moved from Centralia to Effingham in the mid-80’s?”

Aaannddd of course, she not only knew them, but the C family had many years before their move to Effingham bought her parents’ home. And, my breakfast friend ALSO lived on the same street, so her kids played with the C kids when they were young.

Can you believe it? How fun is that?

I was suddenly so glad that I hadn’t been seated at a table by myself, but instead at the bar, where I got to have a nice conversation and make one of those small-world connections that can only happen when you take the time to chat with a stranger. :)