Monday, September 14, 2015


Oh friends. This has been fun--this IS fun. Writing here, meeting all of you, sharing my story and hearing yours.

I started this blog over 5 years ago now, when I was scrambling to make sense of my world and needed to process and feel like I wasn't alone--and to be honest, to share my story with many people at once, because telling it over and over felt impossible. And little by little, it got easier. And better. You let me be vulnerable here. You encouraged me. And by the grace of God, I was able to encourage some of you as well.

My kiddos were little when we started--5, 3, and just a few months old. My goodness, time flies. (Ha! That's some irony there, since I kicked off this blog by saying how much I don't like clichés!)

Now they are... much less little. 10. 8. 5. I'm shaking my head as I type. How did that happen?

They have changed tremendously. And my life has changed. And I have changed--hopefully for the better. :-)

I have been so thankful for this little corner of the blogosphere. But now it is time for that to change as well.

After 5 years, Diary of a Zookeeper will be taking a long hiatus. It won't be taken down--you can come back here and find your favorite posts, look at my sweet babies, and marvel at the fact that we all survived. But it is time to lay this little chapter to rest.

But NEVER FEAR! I am not simply leaving. I am moving on to new things, better things. Thanks to help from a wonderful sister I met through Jen Hatmaker's For the Love launch team, I have a beautiful new site! You can now find me blogging at I will still be sharing my story and my family, but in a new way. You can learn more at my inaugural post, and then stick around to see what I am writing so far. And if some of the posts look familiar, they should. In addition to creating new content, I am also taking some of my Zookeeper posts, improving them, and sharing them again. I hope you will enjoy them with fresh eyes, and then pass it all along to your friends. I'd love to have you all join me on this new journey.

THANK YOU for the last 5 years. But don't go away. Come along for the next phase...

See you soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


So it appears that, in order to do things like publish a blog post, you need this pesky thing called an "internet connection." And also, my personal internet connection is not concerned with things like contests and deadlines and such, and instead just shuts down all willy-nilly whenever it wants.

I'm sorry. I know that you have all been on the edge of your seats. And with good reason. For the Love is probably the best prize I've ever given. For reals.

So without any further ado, the winner is..................

Beth K.!!!!! :-)

Congratulations, Beth!

BUT I don't have a way to contact you through your comment. Please email me (contact info is on the Speaking page) or send me your info through Facebook, so that I can get your book to you ASAP!

And remember, if you didn't win, you can get this fabulous book from Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, BAM!, and many, many other places. And you really, really want to.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

For the Love of a Great Book

For the past 5 months or so, I have had an absolutely amazing opportunity: being a member of a book launch team. And not just any book launch team--this team rallied around the latest writings of Jen Hatmaker, one of my absolute ministry heroines. If that name sounds familiar, it could be for one of many reasons. Maybe you have read one of her many fabulous books, like Interrupted or one of her Modern Girl's Guide bible study books. Perhaps you've seen her speak at Women of Faith. Or maybe you've seen her and the rest of her family in "My Big Family Reno" on HGTV! She is one versatile girl.

Now Jen is sharing her love for people in her newest book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. And it is available TODAY! It's launch day! So let's celebrate!

Honestly, friends, I am struggling to write this post/review, because there are so very many wonderful things to say that I don't even know where to start! I want to share all of my favorite quotes, but that would basically mean retyping the entire book right here, and I think there are some sort of rules against that. I want to post every quote graphic that has been made by my wonderful sisters on the launch team, I want to share every video of Jen, I want you to immersed in the laughter and tears and GRACE that just overflow from this book.


I don't know if I can do all of that in this one post. But I'll do what I can.

Here's what For the Love brought me: freedom. The love that she shared, the offer to just let go and do what I do, was like having a boulder removed from my chest. The encouragement to "bust a move" and own who I am without looking sideways at what anyone else is doing brought me to tears. And that's exactly the intent of this book. In fact, I will let Jen tell you in her own words: "Can I tell you my dream for this book? I hope you close the last page and breathe an enormous sigh of relief. I hope you laugh out loud because you just got free. Then I hope you look with fresh, renewed eyes at all your people--that one you married, those ones you birthed, the ones on your street and in your church and at your work and around the world--and you are released to love them as though it is your job."

And I think that is the true beauty of For the Love: it isn't just freedom for freedom's sake. Jen sets her readers free from the burdens we place on ourselves, and then gives us a gentle little push to use our freedom to love others better. Like a mama bird whose chicks are reluctant to leave the nest for the first time, she doesn't let us stay cuddled up in our own little corner, but tells us to take that step, no matter how small, and share what we have with the people around us.

And she also helps us to process the fashion disaster that is leggings as pants. So there's that.

Really and truly, I am sitting here shaking my head at how marvelous this book is and what a gift it has been to me.

So now I'd like to make it a gift to YOU. Well, to one of you. In honor of the release of For the Love, I am giving away a copy! Here's how to enter:
  • For your first entry, check out and look at her many wonderful books. Then come back here and post a comment, telling me which you would most like to read OR which is your favorite, if you've already read some. (One time per person)
  • For an additional entry, share this blog post on social media, then come back here and post a comment so that I know you have shared it. :-) (One time per media per day--in other words, you can get one entry for posting on Facebook, one for posting on Twitter, one for posting on Pinterest, etc, each day)
Entries can be made until midnight on Thursday, and I will post the winner on Friday morning.

But if you don't want to take your chances--or if you want to go ahead and order a whole bunch of copies for family and friends, like I did--go to and order yours now!

Either way, friends, start sharing and commenting, because you do not want to miss out on this book.

Monday, June 8, 2015

When honesty isn't the best policy

"You guys, I'm so sorry... but we're going to have to run back home."

We were on our way to a family reunion, and I had already made three trips between the van and the house for things I had forgotten. During those lightbulb moments, the van had still been parked conveniently in the garage; this time, though, we were a good mile or two down the road. I had just realized that the watermelon I was contributing to the evening's dinner was still sitting in the fridge.

"We'll get to Nana and Papa's as soon as we can, I swear. But I really need to take that watermelon."

My poor hubby was stuck working late, so it was just me and the kiddos, who were anxious to see their grandparents and cousins. The sooner, the better.

I dashed into the house, grabbed the food, and waddled back out, channeling my inner Jennifer Grey. ("I carried a melon.")

This, I decided, was a teachable moment. Sure, we could be frustrated about the delays. I could be mad at myself. I could be impatient and short with them. But wouldn't it be better to enjoy and have a little fun?

"You kiddos are so lucky," I told them. "You have such an amazing and wonderful mom... If it weren't for me being a little clumsy and forgetful, I would be so perfect that you would feel like it was impossible to live up to my standard. Instead you can just think, 'My mom is so awesome! But you know, she's not perfect, so that helps me to know that I can be awesome too, just like her.' Isn't that great?"

There was a pause as they considered this highly informative revelation. Then Monkey chimed in, "Well, it's OK... but I wouldn't mind if you were just a little less forgetful."

Or, you know, if you were just a little less honest.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Moments of Redemption

OK, I am going to be really honest here, friends. I hate the 4th grade. For real. I hated it when I was in it, and Lamb's 4th grade year really isn't changing my opinion of it at all. The awkwardness, the drama, the I'm-not-a-little-kid-but-I'm-not-a-teenager, the worries over grades that she isn't likely going to remember by this time next year... I could go on, but it's starting to give me heart palpitations, so I'm going to stop there. It's not my favorite year. Or Lamb's either, to be fair.

But just when I think I can't take another eye roll or one more twinge of heartache over seeing her awkwardly trying to become herself, we have a night like tonight. Because tonight, Lamb came to me and said, "Mommy, I would really like for you to give me more responsibility. Could I have more chores or something, please?"

Am I in some sort of alternate universe? Am I being "Punk'd"? Maybe I accidentally took some super-trippy drug. (And if so, what was it and where can I get more?)

Whatever. Tonight I am just going to soak in this little moment of redemption... and try not to make any sudden moves. I definitely do not want to rock this boat.

Friday, May 15, 2015

(Mini) Milestone Alert: Celebrate with me!

I know you have heard me say this before, but celebrating milestones is one of the best parts of this journey because there are just so darn many of them. Parents to typical kids don't realize how easily and quickly their kiddos can do things, and these milestones just pass you all by. But not us. We get downright giddy over

So today we are celebrating.

Today, I fed Roo his lunch. This in itself made me happy because he pulled out his chair and sat down by himself, then I placed a plate (an actual DISH--and he didn't throw it!!!!) in front of him. And on that plate was not just graham crackers and yogurt... but a BANANA. A banana, you guys. Actual, REAL fruit. And he ATE IT. Yesterday he ate TWO of them! What?

Anyway, that's not even why I have called you all here today. So he ate the yogurt and graham crackers and banana (BANANA! OK, sorry...). But here's where the really big thing happened... Without a word, he got up, threw his yogurt container in the trash, put his spoon in the sink, then picked up his plate and put it in the sink, then sat down and said, "Mama? May I be excused, please?"

OH.MY.GOSH!!!!!!!!! I can't even get over this, you guys! He loves to throw things in the trash, but I had no idea that he was that aware of how to clear his spot at the table. And asking to be excused? Full disclosure: I have been working with him on that sentence for weeks, but he has never initiated it or said the full thing by himself. Usually while he is trying to get out of his chair, I put my hand on his knee or shoulder and have him repeat after me, giving him 1-2 words at a time. The awareness of what needed to be done plus the skills to do it plus the words. The beautiful, lovely words all put together in a sentence. And used appropriately. And did I mention that he ate a banana???

So wherever you are and whatever you are doing, go ahead and have a little celebration for us, would you? I know I am getting ready to party it up with a big glass of wine a huge candy bar veggies and hummus. (Gotta love healthy eating... right?...) Three cheers for Roo! (But quiet ones because he's in bed and Mama needs some peace.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Failure to Communicate

Yesterday was Roo's first official field trip: the local zoo. Our family loves trips to the zoo, and we have had a membership there since Lamb was only a year old. It is not a new place for Roo--in fact, the two of us took a spontaneous trip there just last week! I was so excited when I got the paper that his class would be heading there. For Roo, the more familiar the surroundings, the better. Or so I thought.

Let's just say that the trip didn't go quite as planned. Roo was clingy and crying at first, and I finally decided that it wasn't worth the stress--I would just take him home. (We had driven separately and met his class there.) But about the time we got to the exit, I realized that he had been asking to ride the carousel (Apparently he calls it, "ding, ding, ding!" because they ring a bell at the beginning and ending of each ride. Don't ask me how I figured it out. I think an angel was whispering in my ear or something.), and that seemed to solve everything. After the ride, though, he still seemed agitated and became upset easily if I redirected him or walked to a different display than he had expected. It was frustrating and confusing and so very stressful, for both of us. (We ended up spending most of our time on our own and left early.)

Once I was able to get a little distance from the situation, it left just one thought looping in my head: What we have here is a failure to communicate. (It's from "Cool Hand Luke"... and a Guns 'n' Roses song, but I only know that because of Google.)

This. Communication. My goodness, it's complicated, isn't it? In friendships, in families, in marriages. Good communication is hard.

Communication is the source of some of my greatest joy with Roo. And some of my greatest frustration. When Roo learns a new word or says a whole sentence... It's a party at my house! Recently he has launched a mission to coin his own catchphrase: "Wow, pancakes!" He says it randomly and regularly. And it is starting to catch on. So.hilarious.

But when we can't communicate... I can't think of much that is more frustrating. I can't ask him about his day. He can't tell me what he learned in church. I constantly have to infer whether he is disobeying out of orneriness or lack of understanding. When he wakes up in the middle of the night, I don't know if he had a nightmare or if he's too cold or too hot or needs a drink or... what. I just know that we both would rather be asleep.

And when I know that he is trying to communicate something but I just can't figure it out, my heart breaks. At the zoo, I just couldn't make him happy--he didn't want to stay, he didn't want to leave, he didn't want to be put down--until I figured out that "ding, ding, ding!" meant "I want to ride the carousel, please, Mommy dear." It's a rush to figure it out, but the work that it takes to get there is

Mr. Fantastic and I have a regular exchange--call it an "inside joke", maybe, but it's not necessarily meant to be funny. I'll say, "What am I going to do with this boy?" Sometimes as a joke, other times out of frustration. But always, the answer is the same: My wonderful hubby says, "Just love him."

Just love him. When we have a breakthrough. When we're both getting teary out of frustration. When he says something that sounds like "banana", and I give him one, and he actually eats it! When we're up in the night again. (He'll sleep through the night eventually, right? He's only FIVE, after all...) When I ask him a question and he actually gives me an answer. When I ask him a question and he cries. When I can't tell defiance from misunderstanding. Just love him.

Wouldn't it be lovely if we could apply this to all of our communication issues? When your spouse takes your words the wrong way. Just love him. When your daughter rolls her eyes because you dared to suggest that you might actually know something. Just love her. When your friend pulls away because of her own poor life choices. Just love her. When your coworker just.doesn' Just love him.

I've said it before and I will say it again: This Down syndrome journey isn't always easy, but it is so worth it. I am learning so very much... about him, about me, about life.

And also, it's a good thing he's so cute.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Seeking Significance, part 2: Put down the measuring stick

Last week I started a new series on significance, a topic that I am finding really resonates with women right now. (You can find the first post here.) It amazes me how many of us are working ourselves to the point of exhaustion, yet going through life with such a small view of ourselves. I would love to take just a few minutes to encourage you, my reader, that you are so much more than you think you are.

My sweet Lamb is becoming more and more of an artist every day. A few nights ago, as I read to the kids before bedtime (something I still love to do, even though the older two are quite capable of reading by themselves), I glanced over to see her doodling. It was beautiful!

"Wow, Sweetie! That is really impressive! You are such a great artist."

"Well," she replied, "it's really not that good."

I'm used to her preteen negativity, so I decided to let that go and try again. "Well, I think it's beautiful."

Then she turned on her extra-whiny voice. "But everyone else I know can do so much better than meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" (Picture slouched shoulders, hanging head, pouty lips--the whole nine yards. The girl is nothing if not dramatic.)

Oh for the love. I may or may not have threatened to never pay her another compliment ever again.

But honestly... how often do we do the exact same thing? Whatever I do is not good enough, because somebody else can do better.

Comparison has long been an issue for the human race, but the internet and social media have taken it to a whole new level. We have quantifiable measurements of how well "liked" we are--and how well "liked" everyone else is as well. And that is a dangerous rabbit trail.

Here's what we need to know: Comparison at its root is a tool. By comparing similar objects or data, we can make determinations that are helpful to society at large. For example, because doctors have determined that most babies walk between 9 and 18 months of age, parents who have a non-walking 3-year-old know that there might be a bigger issue. You might seem like that seems obvious, but we only KNOW that it is unusual for a 3-year-old to be unable to walk because we have seen when other children start to walk--in other words, by comparison. It's a tool.

Then again, a ruler is a tool, too--and a useful one. But if I give Lamb and Monkey each a yard stick and send them out into the yard, what are they likely to do? Before you know it, they will be using those sticks to beat.each.other.down. They will take that tool and turn it into a weapon.

And that is exactly what we do with comparison. That tool that allows us to make useful observations becomes a weapon that we use against ourselves--and others, depending on who comes out ahead. We compare our clothes, our homes, our cooking, our kids' test scores, even our Facebook friend list and Instagram likes.

But here's what I know: If you measure your success by comparing, you will always fall short. Just when you think you've reached the highest level on your stick, you'll find someone who is doing it better or harder or with more recognition, and your pride will never let you be satisfied with "enough."

If you want to be significant, put the measuring stick down.

Because significance is not about what anyone else is doing. It's about you doing what you do. It's about running the race put before you.

One of my favorite Bible stories comes from the book of John. Jesus has endured the crucifixion and returned to his disciples, including Peter, who denied knowing Jesus three times while Jesus suffered and died. Jesus singles Peter out and gently restores their relationship, letting Peter know that he was aware of Peter's shortfall--but that he loves him and wants to use him. He even tells Peter that he will remain faithful to the point of death. And after this beautiful, tender moment between Lord and disciple, what does Peter do? Does he thank Jesus for the grace and forgiveness that he was shown? Does he walk away in contented peace, knowing that he can handle whatever comes his way, now that he has restored this all-important relationship? No, he glances behind him, sees John, and says, "What about him?"

And I love Jesus' answer, because I can almost feel his frustration: "Jesus answered, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.'" (John 21:22, emphasis added) In other words, "What's your deal, Peter? It doesn't matter what John or anyone else does. You do what you do--and that should be to follow me."

"I'm trying to be a good wife and mom, but my house just isn't as clean as Mary's!" Good for Mary. You run your race, let her run hers.

"I want to be effective for Jesus, but I'm not Billy Graham!" Of course you're not. There are 7 BILLION people in the world, and only ONE of them is Billy Graham. (Also, I'd be willing to bet that many of those 7 billion have never heard of Billy Graham, either. Does that make him less significant?) He is running his race, you run yours.

And speaking of big successful people like Billy Graham, let me just say this... The world of social media and reality TV tells us that in order to be somebody, we have to be KNOWN. We have to be famous and have followers. But this is just such a horrible lie. Take a minute and write down the 10 most influential people in your life. Really. Go ahead--I'll wait.

Now tell me: How many of the people on your list are famous? I'm not saying that people aren't impacted by Billy Graham or Oprah or... I don't know, Bradley Cooper. (What? I am impacted by Bradley Cooper every time I see him!) But I would be willing to bet that AT LEAST 8 people on your list would not be considered "important" by the world's standards. They did not earn their place on your list by speaking to you through a television screen or from their insightful Facebook posts, but by regular and personal contact. Usually the most significant people in our lives are the ones who show up.

My friends, your significance cannot be found in comparison. That is a losing game for every single person who plays. Do you know why? Because there are 7 BILLION people in the world, and only ONE of them is YOU. So put down your measuring stick and be YOU. If you want to be significant, just show up--for the people in your life, for the things you do well, for the cause(s) that are dear to you. Show up. Be significant.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Take a beat

When Roo was just teeny tiny, his disability wasn't necessarily obvious from his looks. (I mean, of course, since no one--including several doctors--didn't notice it for almost the first three months of his life.)

I used to wrestle with whether or not to mention it to the (many, many) strangers who would ooo and aah over him. If I said something, would they think I was being cruel, pointing out the negative about my child? Or maybe they would suddenly stop admiring him and look at him with pity--or worse, walk away? If I didn't say anything, would they notice and think that I was ashamed of it, ashamed of him? I was absolutely riddled with guilt until I could finally come to peace with a decision--that Roo's disability is part of him, but that it doesn't define him. I don't have to make it the identifying factor of who he is to everyone we meet.

And here we are, 5 years later, and he is still adorable. And people still stop us everywhere we go to admire him. But now, his looks are distinctive.

But sometimes I get so used to Roo and his sweet smile and his infectious laugh and his over-the-top orneriness that I forget what his most distinctive feature really is. Not that people don't notice his almond-shaped eyes or his delayed speech or even the braces on his feet... but when they first take note of Roo, they see a beautiful bald head. He totally rocks it, of course. But it is definitely a defining quality. And it is just so him that I forget that it is unusual.

Thus, when someone asks me, "What's wrong with him?", I forget that they are likely inquiring about potential chemo treatments, not a special needs diagnosis.

Friends, I am well aware that my child is different from many, that my family is different. And I truly do not mind questions--I love talking about Roo and raising awareness. I love that I can show people that the journey of Down syndrome is not the scary tragedy that I always assumed special needs parenting would be. So this weekend, when I was asked this question three times in an hour, I was taken aback, but I recovered quickly and answered graciously.

But there is something about the question "What's wrong with him?" that makes me sick to my stomach.

I have learned so many times in life to put myself in the other person's shoes. If it weren't for Roo, I wouldn't know so many of the things I know now. I would say dumb things. I would be well-meaning, but I wouldn't understand. To be honest, I would probably just avoid altogether talking to someone like me--or Roo. So I am not unsympathetic to people who unintentionally say the wrong thing. My goal is not to shame anyone. But I would like to help others gain understanding.

And in that spirit, let me suggest that it is never a good idea to ask a mother "what's wrong with" her child. I think that most people would realize that, if they really thought about it. But often we are in too much of a hurry to say something that we don't take a beat to think about the best thing to say.

So can I just humbly offer a little help in this area? As someone who has been on both ends of the conversation, I'd love to give you just a few ideas of better things to say...

What is his diagnosis? This is a question that I never mind answering. Roo has a diagnosis, and that is clear by observing him. I would much prefer that people talk openly about it than try to pretend it doesn't exist (which makes it seem shameful) or just avoid him altogether. I do realize, though, that some people are more sensitive than others about this. Also, if you ask that question and you are wrong, that can be hugely embarrassing.

I just had to come say hi! I have a [brother, daughter, cousin, neighbor, etc] with Down syndrome and wanted to meet your child! I love this. It makes me feel like we are part of a dearly loved community. Of course, this only works if you know what kind of disability the person has. It also helps if you can follow it up with a compliment, but try to avoid clichés, such as (in the case of Down's), "They are always so happy!" This feels like Roo is being reduced to a stereotype and that his personality is owed entirely to an extra chromosome. (And while he IS a very happy little boy, I invite you to try telling him, "No-no", and see what happens then.)

What a cute little boy you have. Tell me about him! This allows the parent to share to his or her comfort level, and places the emphasis on the child as a human being, not a diagnosis.

What a cutie! Yep, this is similar to the last one, but with one important difference... it doesn't ask anything of the parent. Let me say again that I do not mind answering questions and talking to people about Roo, but sometimes it is nice to feel like people are just admiring him for him and not because he is a novelty to them. This is especially true if you are talking to a complete stranger and someone you will likely never see again. Sometimes it is OK to let your curiosity be unsatisfied and let them be people, not a walking advertisement for diversity. If it's someone with whom you hope to develop some type of friendship/relationship, it is still OK to just make this statement for now, and ask more questions as you earn more space in their lives.

Here's what I can tell you about my sweet little boy. He has an extra chromosome in every cell of his body. And by extra, I mean 1 more than you and me. But not 1 more than he "should" have. He has exactly the number he needs to be HIM. He was created by God to be something phenomenal, exactly as he is. There is absolutely nothing wrong with him, except maybe lack of sleep on any given day. But what preschooler doesn't get cranky now and then?

My friends, life is so beautiful when we can all extend a little grace to each other. But hopefully we can also use our own experiences to help each other grow along the way. Because there are a few things I wish I could go back and teach the Pre-Roo Me. And here's the main one: Regardless of who is on the other end of the conversation, regardless of my own need to fill the air with words of some kind... take a beat before you speak and say the best thing.

What other things would you add to this list? Are there things that you think people shouldn't say to a special needs parent? OR are there things as a special needs parent that you LOVE to hear? Share them in the comments!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Seeking Significance, part 1: It's not what you do

You guys, I love being a mom. I really, really do. Some days I can't even believe that I get to raise these three.

But "mom" is an identity that it's easy to get lost in. It can be all-consuming--and at the same time, it can feel oh so small. Show of hands, my stay-at-home mom friends: How many of you have been asked what you do, and have answered, "Oh, I'm just a mom"? Don't worry, my hand is up. Well, figuratively speaking. I'm not that good at typing with one hand. The point is... just a mom? I'm just a mom?

Many years ago, when my wonderful hubby and I were wondering if we would ever get to have kids, I longed to be a mom. When we finally got pregnant, I could hardly wait to be a mom. And I knew--I just knew--that being a mom would be the most satisfying and fulfilling thing ever, and that I would love every minute of it and never take it for granted.

And then I actually became a mom.

It really is wonderful and amazing and a blessing and all of those other things. But being a mom to an infant can also be hard and exhausting--and yet feel quite inconsequential. I think Lamb was maybe two months old when I wailed to Mr. Fantastic, "A trained monkey could do this job!!!!" Changing diapers and bottle feeding didn't exactly seem to be putting my college education to use. I felt small and insignificant and rather lost in it all.

Fortunately, I found this amazing group of women--my local chapter of MOPS. What a lifeline! I started attending when Lamb was just 6 months old, and within a few months had volunteered to join the Steering Team. Putting together a newsletter, helping to organize events, working with other women to guide the group... now THIS felt like I was really doing something.

But then a funny thing happened: it wasn't enough. I wasn't totally fulfilled--there was still a hole. So I joined a Bible study, so that I would have more spiritual accountability. I started a monthly play date, so that I could connect more with other moms. I stepped up my leadership within the MOPS group and began to lead the whole thing.

Over the next several years, my commitments--and my family--kept growing. More Bible studies, play groups, and book clubs. I joined the worship ministry at church. I started a supper swapping group. I took meals to other families. I planned some bigger women's events. I volunteered more at church. All while being a wife and mom (first to one baby, then two, then three).

And it was never enough.

That's not to say I wasn't stressed. I was stressed and overwhelmed all.of.the.time. There were never enough hours in the day. Mom guilt pressed in on me from all sides. I was exhausted and overloaded. So why did I feel so insignificant?

I remember one particular fight with my husband when an opportunity had come up--I don't even remember what it was. He very gently said, "That sounds like a good thing, but I'm starting to feel like you're stretched a little thin right now."

"I understand what you're saying," I told him, "but I really feel like this is something I NEED to do."


"Because I'm not doing enough. Because I am not enough."

What had started simply as a way to expand my horizons and make some new friends in those early days of motherhood had turned into a search for significance, and I was hopelessly lost.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you have been that young mom who feels so overwhelmed and so inconsequential at the same time. Maybe you are the woman who thinks, "If I just do this one more thing, then I will be content. Then I will be doing enough. Then I will be enough."

My dear friends, my heart aches for those of you who have climbed into this boat with me. Let me assure you, it leads to nowhere. Significance is not waiting at the other port--only more frustration, stress, disappointment.

Let's step out of the boat together. Let's get our feet on dry ground and take a good, hard look at what it is to be significant. Over the next couple of weeks, I would really like to dive into this with you.

Here's what I can tell you today... You will never find your significance in your accomplishments. No matter how busy your schedule, no matter how much good you do, there will always be more. And if there is more to be done, there will be more that you could do. And if there is more you could be doing, your pride will whisper, "How can you be significant when you can't do this one simple thing?" And you will find yourself back at square one, feeling worthless.

(And by the way, when you try to do too much, you end up not doing anything well--and then talk about feeling like a failure! No one needs that kind of guilt. So just make like Elsa and let it go, my friend.)

And here's the real kicker for us moms... When we try do find our value in what we do, we are teaching our kids to do the same. I realized a few years ago how performance-driven my kids had become, and I thought, "Where are they getting this? I have worked so hard to not teach them that they have to earn my love by what they do." And yet, my actions taught them that I thought MY worth came from what I did--and that it was destroyed by my failures. Why wouldn't they apply that to themselves? Have you heard the saying, "Faith is caught, not taught"? Well, the same goes for so much of life. Our kids will hear our words, but they will truly ingest our actions and attitudes. I need to get this right, not just for myself, but for them.

You will never be enough by trying to do enough. How different will our calendars look if we live like we believe that? Would we be free to embrace what we love, what we do well, if we let go of what we are doing out of obligation--especially when those "obligations" are quite possibly all in our own heads? You were made for a unique purpose, but you won't find it by trying to fill everyone else's.

Your significance is not in what you do.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Five years ago today... I had planned a Spring Break Tea Party for Lamb (who was 4 at the time). We had a special, Fancy Nancy-inspired menu...

gem-enhanced silverware...

and friends coming over in their princess-wear finest.

Five years ago today... I still had three weeks left until my due date.

Five years ago today... I decided to get a few last things for Easter baskets. I took my kids to my parents' house before making a quick run to Target... and then my mom noticed (sly detective that she is) that I was having pretty hard contractions about every 7-8 minutes, so she thought maybe she should come with me.

Five years ago today... I woke up looking like this...

(Well, more or less... This was taken about 6 weeks earlier in Vegas... but when your baby comes by surprise, you don't have much time to get those last-minute baby belly shots!)
and ended the day like this...

Five years ago today... I had no idea what a wild and crazy and absolutely wonderful ride I was about to take.



Today... I shake my head at the wonder of it all.


Today... I thank God that He loves me enough to entrust me with this boy (and his big brother and sister).
Today... I celebrate 5 years with this incredible boy.
Today... Roo has something to tell you.

Happy birthday, Roo! I love you!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

State of the Roo Address: What's good, what's bad, what's new, and what's next

OK, my friends, are you sitting down? Take a deep breath and take this in... next week, Roo will be FIVE YEARS OLD! FIVE!!!! I seriously got tears in my eyes as I typed that. Five. I almost said, "I must have slept through a year or two somewhere", but we all know that's not true--I've hardly slept AT ALL in the last 5 (ahem, TEN) years, so I don't know what my excuse is. But I know that it just seems so utterly impossible.

But here we are.

You guys, Roo has grown and changed so very much over the last year, and since I have been especially bad at blogging lately (I just looked back over to my blog history and realized that I was apparently awesome in 2011. That was my big year, I guess. How did I blog so much with a kindergartener, preschooler, and infant? I can't blog like that NOW with everyone in school 3-4 days per week!), I would like to bring you all up to speed on this amazing little boy.

What's Good

  • While Roo continues to be stubborn and ornery, his listening and understanding have improved DRAMATICALLY over the last year. Even simple commands like "Go get your coat!" or "Come here, Buddy!" would be met with a blank stare this time last year. Now he "gets" just about everything I ask him to do. Now, whether or not he chooses to do it... that's a different story. But he's getting better at that too.
  • I absolutely love his school. He currently attends a county-run preschool that is housed in our county DD school. He is incredibly loved there. I'm not in the school very often (he rides the bus), but when I am, I am overwhelmed at the people who call out his name as we walk down the hall.
  • You guys, a little less than five years ago, I mentally circled this Spring on the calendar. THIS is when he was supposed to have heart surgery to repair a hole that the cardiologist said was too big to close on its own. But as you may remember, IT CLOSED ON ITS OWN! So here we are, NOT preparing my baby for heart surgery!
  • Roo's vocabulary is growing by the minute, I swear. He talks so much these days, and is slowly becoming more understandable. He even has several sentences that he says regularly, like "Where did it go?" (usually after he has thrown something), "Layla (our dog) is a good girl", and "Lamby, sit here!" (pointing to the seat next to him).
  • Speaking of Lamb, she is absolutely amazing with him. Both bigs are, but she just has something special with him. They are absolutely inseparable at home.
  • He is eating more food! What? His favorites are still graham crackers and yogurt (and pancakes and ice cream and cookies...), but he is expanding his palate more and more. Most nights we give him a small plate of whatever we are having for dinner, and he'll eat most of that before we pull out the yogurt. He eats chicken and steak really well, and has recently started chowing down scrambled eggs and quiche whenever we have them (which is almost every morning). He's still not wild about fruits or veggies, although he likes raisins, Craisins, and pineapple. He will also eat just about anything if it is in soup form. Even if it's chunky, so it is not necessarily about having it in a smooth texture. Who knows. The kid is a mystery unfolding.
  • He has actually taken on a couple of chores completely on his own (which has me thinking that I need to give him some new ones). When we come home from somewhere, he will let the dog out of her crate and let her outside. Also, any time he hears her barking at the door, he'll let her back in. (We have to monitor these to make sure he doesn't take off! More on that in the next section.) When the big kids clean up after dinner, he grabs a towel to help wipe down the table. And in the mornings, he always takes his dirty PJs and puts them in the laundry room.
  • Some of Roo's current (and continuing) likes: Paw Patrol, Elmo, "Frozen" (still!), fist bumps, singing & dancing, throwing (still!), running, playing outside, and grandparents :-)

What's Bad

  • Roo continues to have no regard for safety. Last summer (I can't remember if I posted this already) we were on vacation in Florida, hanging out with some friends at the rental house on the beach, and we realized that we didn't know where Roo was. He had left the house, walked across the wooden steps that go over the dunes, and was juuuuuuuuust getting ready to set foot on the neverending expanse of beach that is the Florida coastline. I have never been more scared/relieved/drained/panicked/thankful in my life. Then a few weeks ago, my entire family (my crew, my mom and dad, my brothers with their wives and kids) was hanging out at my parents' house, when my hubby looked out the window and said, "Roo is outside." You guys, it was 0 degrees outside. He had on no coat. And when my teenage nephews went out after him (with no shoes on--bless), he ran away, laughing! I also get regular reports from church about how many times he escaped from his classroom. NO REGARD FOR SAFETY.
  • Play dates with Roo are tough. For one thing, his disregard for safety (have I mentioned that?) also manifests itself as an intense curiosity to explore new places, whether it is a park, someone's house, or a "play area" at a restaurant. I know that doesn't sound like a big deal, but it is extremely stressful to try to keep an eye on him every second, while also trying to manage a conversation with a friend. And if there are multiple people there, forget about it. I leave in tears, feeling like I can't connect with anyone. Another contributing factor is that we just don't get invited much. That's really not a plea for pity, just a fact of life right now. Roo is getting ready to turn 5, but he is still at a stage where he plays more by himself, alongside but not really with other kids--not to mention the fact that he doesn't communicate like a typical 3-5 year old, so no one is exactly dying to invite him over.
  • When Roo was a baby, I absolutely LOVED how long that stage lasted. I mean, it was bittersweet, because it was hard that he couldn't do the things that other babies his age were doing, but the prolonged snuggly, cuddly baby stuff was AWESOME. And getting to really enjoy each new phase and milestone? Delicious. But here we are, still in this slightly-above-toddler-but-not-quite-out-of-it stage that involves lots of chasing and saying things a zillion times and playing catch and... it's just not my forte, guys. I am so sad every day that he gets on the bus, but I am overwhelmed with anxiety on the days he is home. I have no idea what to do with him all day. I can only roll the ball back & forth so many times, but I really want to invest in him when I have him home and to myself. I had this same struggle with the older two, but the phase didn't last nearly as long. I'm looking forward to nicer weather, when we can get outside more.
  • Some of Roo's current (and continuing) dislikes: Fruits and veggies, holding hands, being told "no", and bedtime :-)

What's New

  • Roo is now starting to answer questions! This is HUGE! Abstract concepts like that are really tough for him to understand. He has known some basic colors (red, yellow, blue) for months now, but if you would point to something and say, "What color is this?" He would reply, "This." In other words, any question you asked him, he would just repeat the last thing you said. But now he is getting it. He'll answer questions about colors and animals sounds. He'll say "no" (or at least shake his head) if he doesn't want something. He's got another question he can answer, too, but you'll have to wait to hear that one. His ability to answer is still pretty much limited to those areas, but he's making progress. It's exciting!
  • For Christmas we got Roo a balance bike, and he loves it! It is so fun to watch him scooting around--so far it's just been in the living room, but I can't wait to get him outside with it. :-) If you're not familiar with balance bikes, they are a relatively new concept, and they are fantastic! It is a bike with no pedals and no training wheels--he sits on it and scoots with his feet. It teaches him to work on balance first instead of pedaling. The idea is that it is easier for kids to add pedaling later on, after they have learned the balance of coasting without training wheels.
  • He has suddenly started calling me "mama" instead of "mommy." I have know idea where that came from.
  • He is starting to drink (a little) from an open cup instead of a sippy. This has been a tremendous battle with him. Fortunately, one of his favorite things to drink from an open cup is a smoothie. I LOVE this because I make smoothies with fruit, kale or spinach, milk, and a little bit of protein powder. It's a great way to get my non-fruit-and-veggie-eater to gulp down some good stuff!

What's Next

  • Potty training!!!! You may have seen on here or on my Facebook page that I did a short attempt at potty training after he showed some initial interest. It was a big, huge, complete disaster! I sat him on the potty every 30 minutes for 2 days, and he did not successfully use the potty ONE SINGLE TIME. We went through a lot of laundry in those two days. In April, though, I am going to try a similar-but-different approach. Although I want to be consistent and give him every opportunity for success, I am a big believer in not causing undue stress for anyone. If there is one thing that I have learned from this kid, it's that he'll be ready when he's ready. He crawled until he was three, then started RUNNING everywhere. He fought hard to sleep in his crib for months and months, then one day said, "Mommy? In the bed?" and never looked back. When he's ready for something, he's ready. Until then, he is
  • School. Oh, school. Next year, Roo will be moving to a new school. He will NOT, though, be going to kindergarten. By law, he doesn't have to do that until he is 6, so we are going to do one more year of preschool. He will still be in the same program--a county-run preschool housed in another school--but now it will be housed in our local elementary school (where the bigs attend). This has pros and cons, but I think (hope) it's the right choice for us. It will be nice to have him 2 minutes away instead of 20. And it will help him to adjust to the new building/environment before kindergarten. Speaking of kindergarten, I have HUGE reservations about that and have already had sleepless nights trying to figure out the best thing for him. I'm sure I'll be talking more about that as time goes on, but if you want to pray for us, that's a good place to start.
  • Church. In the next year or so, Roo will be at an age where kids are transitioning into some of the "big kid" programs. We have a fabulous kids' ministry director who is working with us on figuring out which things will be a good fit for him and what it will take to make some of those things happen. For instance, there is a Wednesday night program for boys that Monkey absolutely LOVES. (Also, Lamb is in a fantastic program for girls that night, and Mr. Fantastic and I attend a Bible study.) Right now, Roo is still in the nursery, where he just plays. In the fall, he really should move up to the preschool program, and in kindergarten he'd move up to the boys' program with Monkey--but I'm not sure how that will work. These are bigger groups of kids (where Roo can get overwhelmed and/or decide to run off), and unlike school, we're not talking about people who have a college education in working with kids or experience in working with kids with special needs. There are options we are exploring. I am incredibly thankful for yet another group of people who love Roo--and our family--and want to help him grow and learn in the best environment for everyone.

So that is Roo right now in a nutshell. A big nutshell. Maybe a coconut shell. We continue to be just... incredibly, incredibly thankful that God turned our world upside down 5 years ago.

And no, this does not take the place of a typical birthday post. That is coming too. Because, more of this.



Friday, March 20, 2015

Oh, for the love...

I am learning, you guys. I am learning not to say things like, "It has been so busy lately" or "When things calm down..." or "I'll have time for this after..." No. Just NO. Life is ALWAYS busy, and I am never going to just magically stumble on the time to catch up on everything I want to do.

BUT. I'm also learning that the idea of "doing it all" is a big fat lie. I can't. And I shouldn't try. When I overload myself with every good thing, whether I want it or not, whether I'm good at it or not, I am no good to anyone--not any reading audience (real or theoretical), not my friends, not my family, and definitely not myself. I have to unload some of the good--maybe a lot of it--to make space for the best.

I have done this before, shifted priorities, changed or eliminated involvements. It is always hard, but this might be the first time I feel like I am actually doing it well. I am being intentional, not just drifting along. I am making decisions before it is down to the wire. I am considering my own passions and talents, and also what my husband thinks, and through it all seeking God's wisdom. And it feels really good.

Feel free to draw your own conclusions about how this might apply to your life. I have to tell you, though, that this isn't the last time you'll be hearing from me about this topic. In the last 6 months, this is what God has been whispering to me. First He gave me the idea to speak about giving yourself the freedom to say "no." Then He led me to read Lysa TerKeurst's The Best Yes. Then He led me through a 2-month struggle with feeling completely insignificant--in the midst of which I got a request to speak at a moms' group... about struggling to feel significant in our everyday lives. And then... THEN He told me that it might be time for me to step down from women's ministry leadership in my church. And I really didn't see that all of these things were connected... until now.

A few weeks ago, my ministry hero and would-totally-be-BFFs-if-I-moved-to-Austin Jen Hatmaker posted that she needed some women to help launch her next book. I saw a similar post by her last year and applied. For that book, the launch team was comprised of 300 women, and the spots were gone in less than 2 hours. I was not among the elite.

So when I saw Jen's post about her new book (coming out in August)--and realized that it had only been 12 minutes since she posted it AND that this time the team would be 500 strong--I jumped at the chance. I knew my odds weren't great, but I needed to try. Me and 5000 other people. For real. FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLE applied for this. We were told we would hear within 2 weeks.

You guys. THREE DAYS LATER... I got the email. I'm in! I AM PART OF THE LAUNCH TEAM! I don't even have words for this. Short of having something of my own published, I can't imagine being more excited! I received a digital copy of the book immediately, and the hard copy followed about a week later.

And can I just tell you, this is no coincidence. This team. This book. Friends, this book is bringing it all together for me. The power in unloading my life. The search for significance. Some other things that God has been laying on my heart--like growing relationships with the parents of my kids' friends. It is all coming together so beautifully, wrapped up in humor and grace from Jen. (We are in a closed FB group together now--I totally get to call her Jen.)

The book is called For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. You can preorder it on Amazon here. And you need to do it. NOW. Go ahead, I'll wait. And here's the thing... at this point, I can't tell you tons about the book. I will be talking about it a LOT as we approach its release date, but for now I need to mostly keep it to myself. But I am telling you, you need to read this book. It will set you free, because she tells you stuff like this: "We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise." And this: "Wise women know what to hold onto and what to release, and how to walk confidently in their choices--no regrets, no apologies, no guilt." YES. This is what I need, what we need.

This isn't even what I planned to write about when I sat down here today. But it's what I needed to say. God is shifting my priorities, shaping me, and I am still figuring it out--but I am telling you, so very much of it is summed up in For the Love. I can't wait to tell you all about it. (And in the meantime, this whole experience is leading me to be here with you all more. We are going to have so much fun!)

Friday, January 30, 2015

The wonder of Roo

You guys, this kid. Some days I just have to shake my head in amazement. And amusement.

(Also, before you go any further, there's a lot of potty talk in this one. You might want to skip it if you aren't big on oversharing.)

About a month ago, I introduced Roo to the potty. I would NOT say that I started potty training. I simply took off his pants and diaper, he sat on his little potty, we read a book, and then I put his diaper back on. I've been doing that--with little to no consistency, to be honest--a few times a day ever since. Occasionally he'll ask for it, and I'll sit him there. But honestly, he hadn't seemed to make any connection between sitting on the potty and what is actually SUPPOSED to happen on the potty, and I didn't feel ready to push it yet.

Last night, my hubby and I went to a great seminar through our local Down's support group, and the first half of it was all about potty training. When we came home, I told Mr. Wonderful that sometime next month (after he and I take a much-needed grown-ups only weekend away) I will probably keep him home from school for a week and really get started on the whole process.

And then this morning. Oh my goodness. After taking the big kids to school, we came home to just chill out for the day, and Roo said, "Mommy... Potty?"

Well, sure. Let's sit on the potty. Why not? I called my mom to pass the time while I waited for him to be done.

But then I looked down at him, and I saw what looked like... a drip. Of something. What was it? He stood up... And YES! His potty had pee in it! A LOT of pee!


I told my mom I'd call her back, hunted down Roo's treat, and praised him to high heaven. He peed on the potty! Today! Right after the potty training seminar! What are the chances???

Well, since we're on a roll, let's just go with it. Right? I set my timer for 30 minutes.

It went off, I sat him on the potty again... AND HE POOPED! What??????

It was just a tiny bit, but SERIOUSLY. You guys. He pooped on the potty. He went from NOTHING to pee and poop both on the same day.

After that, the rest of the morning was anti-climactic. We sat on the potty every 30 minutes, but no more success--and twice his diaper was wet. But whatever. We're really just trying it out--I wasn't planning on this at all.

So then we went to Panera for lunch with my mother-in-law. (Rest easy, I'm going to give you a break from the potty talk for a few minutes.) She and I each ordered soup and salad, and I said I'd just share my soup with Roo. (That kid will eat just about anything in soup form.)

Share. Right. He ate 2--TWO--bowls of broccoli cheese soup. I ate THREE BITES of soup! Who the heck IS this kid??? And then Gram got him a chocolate chip cookie. He ate that too.

(He absolutely refused to smile for the camera. In fact, as soon as he saw it, he would turn away and shake his head "no." I had to snap this one quick before he realized what was happening.)
Also, a very kind lady who works at Panera took a liking to Roo. This happens everywhere we go--it is just incredible. She must have come over three or four times to talk to him. And then before we left... she brought me another cookie for him--in a bag, so he could have it later. So kind. And so crazy to me how much people just adore this boy!

So after all that, we were gone for almost 2 hours. He was, of course, in a diaper while we were gone (yep, back to the potty talk), so I just assumed that he would be soaking wet, and I was totally unconcerned. I walked him upstairs for his nap... and he asked to sit on the potty again. So I took off his diaper--which was almost totally dry--and sat him on the potty...

(This is fast becoming our official potty activity--it's What Does the Fox Say? You know... like the song. He loves it!

And he PEED and POOPED! What the heck?!?

I have to tell you, the timing of this is absolutely mind-boggling to me. I went to a potty training seminar LAST NIGHT... and now he has suddenly decided that TODAY is the day to potty train???

This boy is a wonder.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Every day, every burden

Praise be to the Lord,
to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
Psalm 68:19

If you have been reading for a while or have heard me speak, you probably know that this is one of my very favorite verses. God bears our burdens daily. Every day. No matter what. He never refuses because they are too big for Him to handle. He never refuses because they are too small and petty for Him to bother with. Every single day, whatever your burden, He is there.

That brought me tremendous comfort when Roo was diagnosed and I thought my world was ending. It got me through days of depression, when I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. It has run through my mind over and over as I have sat with friends who were struggling through various life situations.

And today. Today has been a tough one, friends. Nothing is wrong, really. I am just overwhelmed with life. I got up early to get a few things done, and fell asleep during my quiet time. I can't get caught up on laundry. For every item I put away, Roo throws 10 more across the room. I tried to get something out of the fridge, and a whole shelf fell out--and I can't get it back in. This has been a 1 step forward, 3 steps back kind of day. The kind of day that seems too big for me but too small for God.

But then he reminded me of this verse. Daily. No problem too big or too small. "Remember yesterday?" He asked me.

Yesterday. As I was getting ready to pack my kids' lunches (one of my LEAST favorite chores of all time), I checked the school web site and realized that French toast sticks--their favorite--was being served. Score! I didn't have to pack.

But there's something you need to know: In my house, we have a rule that I pay for their lunches ONLY. If they want something extra--a slushie, chips, etc--they have to take their own spending money to pay for it. (I started this because they were FLYING through their lunch money, buying extra treats every day--sometimes for their friends, too!) And on French toast stick day, you can buy double French toast sticks for a dollar. (It might be 50 cents. There was a brief discussion about this. But really, the amount doesn't matter.) Each of the big kids counted a dollar out of their spending money. Lamb put hers right in her backpack, but Monkey kept playing with his quarters, tossing them, rubbing them together, tossing them, knocking them into each other. I told him to put them in his pocket, and he did... for a good 30 seconds, and then they were back out. I reminded him again, and again he couldn't keep away from them.

As soon as the kids got on the bus, I turned around and saw them: 4 shiny quarters, laying on the floor. My heart groaned inside. My poor sweet Monkey, he is so emotionally fragile lately, and he is so eager to please. He wouldn't realize he had forgotten the money until it was time to use it. He wouldn't know that it would be OK for him to go ahead and buy the extra food on his lunch account just this once.

I considered running the money over to the school, but decided that was silly. It was one thing if he needed the money to eat, but to go to the school and burden someone with going to his class and interrupting his teacher just so that he could have EXTRA food didn't seem wise. It would have to be a life lesson for him.

I know, I know. It's such a small thing. But I worried all day about him and his darn lunch money. My stomach was in knots. And I prayed about it. I prayed about French toast sticks, you guys. OK, not really. Really, I prayed for Monkey and his day and his heart.

And do you know what happened? That kid got in the van after school just as happy as could be. "Mommy, guess what! I asked for double French toast sticks at lunch (which should have been six all together), but they only had 5 left... so they didn't charge me for them!" He never even realized that he didn't have his dollar with him. He got his extra French toast sticks. AND in his mind he got a deal, which to my little business man in training, was the absolute highlight of his day.

Every day. Every burden. No problem too big or too small.

He will bear it. He will provide.