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.