What’s Your Road Trip Routine?


I was in the middle of writing a long, detailed post telling you all about my weekend (AKA, the reason I haven’t posted in several days). It was going to include lots of great photos and some bullet points, a few humorous asides and a deep thought or two.

In short, it was going to be great.

Then I got up to refill my giant cup with ice water and promptly dumped it all over my living room floor.

As I mopped up the mess I glanced at the clock and decided I was done. That post? It’ll wait. My bedtime, though? It will not. So instead, let’s talk about a very important matter: road trips.

What’s your road trip routine?

What do you…

…listen to?

How fast do you drive? Do you use cruise control? Take the back roads? Plan your pit stops?

And do you prefer to road trip alone – or with others? If others, who?

Here’s my Road Trip Rundown:

  • I pretty much always pack the morning of a trip. Partly because I procrastinate and partly because my wardrobe isn’t that big so I’m usually washing the clothes I want to wear and take at the last minute. Because I just wore them.
  • If I’m alone, I like to eat Cheez-Its and M&Ms. And drink Coke. I’m healthy like that. AS YOU KNOW.
  • Because I tend to drive too fast (or, strangely, too slow at night), I definitely use cruise control. Every mile I can.
  • Back roads? Pit stops? Whew – too many possible answers here! It depends on where we’re going and who’s going with me.
  • As for what I listen to, well, I use these things called CDs. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? In a history class? Heh. Seriously, my car doesn’t have a way for me to hook up my phone or iPod, so I really do listen to the radio and CDs. On the way to Arkansas last weekend, I listened to loud, kid-unfriendly pop music on the radio until the stations turned into static. Then I jammed to my Mamma Mia soundtrack and most of Mark’s Guns ‘N’ Roses greatest hits CD. I have confusing taste.
  • Last but not least, these days I really, REALLY enjoy the solo road trip. In the past, however, I’ve had great road trips with Annalyn – and I look forward to the day when Mark and I can hit the open road together, alone, again. (But…yeah…for now? Seven hours all by myself in the car? PURE BLISS.)

So, how about you? What’s your road trip routine?

(And now I’m going to peel off some wet socks that, apparently, absorbed more of that spilled water than the seven towels now sitting next to the washing machine.)

{Photo source}

Let’s All Be Brave :: Book Giveaway


I don’t jump off the high dive.
I don’t ride big roller coasters.
And you’d have to pay me good money to get me on a motorcycle.

I’m not brave.

I didn’t audition for choir in college.
I’ve never lived further than a couple hours away from my hometown.
And one time I thought about starting a business…but didn’t really.

Definitely not brave.

Except . . . what if being brave isn’t about big gestures and reckless acts? What if it’s not skydiving and singing in a ballpark? What if being brave is simply saying yes when you’re called, taking the next step – even when it’s scary?

When I think about it that way, well . . .

I did apply to grad school even when I didn’t know how to pay for it.
I did quit my job without having a new one so I could “follow my dreams.”
I did help plant a new church.
I did go to a blog conference even though I didn’t know anything about it.
I did decide to be a stay-at-home mom even though I didn’t know how.
I did submit a book proposal. Twice.

And I’ve applied for a billion jobs and agreed to marriage counseling {again} and sung karaoke and had that tough conversation and agreed to lead a small group – and so many other big and little steps and yeses.

So maybe I’m a little bit brave after all. I bet you are, too.

Let's All Be Brave

My friend Annie has written a book about being brave. It’s available today, and I want to tell you about it. Here’s the blurb:

How often does fear hold us back from the very things we most want to taste, touch, and experience? The call to be brave isn’t just for one person—it’s for everyone. Let’s All Be Brave is more than a book, it’s a battle cry. Annie challenges us to live boldly, she calls us to step into those places that require courage, and she gives us the help to take the next step forward—even when it’s scary.

This non-fiction, essay-driven book opens the door to many different views of courage—nudging, encouraging, and inspiring readers to be brave whenever given the chance.

Let’s All Be Brave has great stories in Annie’s easy-to-read and always-funny style, but she also includes God’s answers to finding courage and challenging questions for the readers. It’s one of my favorite books of this year, and I’m excited to give away a copy to one of YOU today!

Enter to win Let’s All Be Brave by leaving a comment here by telling us one brave thing you’ve done. I’ll choose a winner randomly after the giveaway closes at midnight (CST) on Friday, July 17.

How have YOU been brave?

Photo source

Best Days Ever

annalyn before vbs program

I had this plan to write about my weekend or whatever’s been going on on my side of the screen every Monday. In my mind it was going to be called Monday Musings, but that’s real corny so I wasn’t going to tell YOU that.

Like this. Or this.

This past weekend wasn’t quite as exciting as the past couple, though, so I can’t guarantee any musings with a capital M. We didn’t do anything much at all. As a matter of fact, we even had some plans and they fell through. It was kind of nice.

Well, not the messed up plans part. That sucked. But having down time was good.

Today is all set to be Annalyn’s Best! Day! Ever! She’s spending the day with a friend from church – also known as being babysat by a girl from church. Annalyn calls Emma her very best friend and doesn’t mind at all their six-year age difference. (She also calls Judiann her very best friend, which is why spending Tuesday with her will make that two of the Best! Days! Ever! in a row.)

The funny thing is that LAST Monday was ALSO her best day ever. It was her first day at Vacation Bible School, and it was, like, totally awesome. I mean, there were crafts and games and songs. OH, the songs! VBS came with its own CD, and we had the privilege of listening to it ON REPEAT all week long.

The worst part of that? The parents weren’t asked to stand up and sing along during the Friday night program! C’mon now! You know I wasn’t the only mom who knew those songs forward and backward!

Of course I wouldn’t have been able to sing on stage anyway, as my other daughter was the definition of fussy. So we watched the cutest Bible school program from the back of the sanctuary.

I’m teasing, of course. The VBS songs are catchy, she had a blast, and I’m so glad she went. This was the first time we’ve done VBS. Our church doesn’t have a Vacation Bible School, and most the churches around here seem to only have VBS at night. So when I saw some friends mention this one on Facebook, I was all over it.

Do your kids go to Vacation Bible School?

I also chose this last week to start making some better food choices. Which did NOT make any day Annalyn’s best ever. As I refused her request for fruit snacks and offered her actual fruit (which, for the record, she likes but okay, fine, we’ve gotten pretty slack about this sort of thing), I said, “Remember, baby? I said we’re making better choices now!”

To which she replied, “No, MOM. You said YOU were making better choices, not me!”

Score one for the sass mouth. Good thing that girl got some extra churchin’. (And in case you’re wondering, no, she did not get her fruit snacks and did enjoy herself a healthy banana.) (So there.)

That’s what we’ve been up to around here. Bible school. Teething. (Did I mention that part? Nah. Nobody wants to talk about that. Blergh.) And best days ever.

{Oh, and Friday Night Lights, which Mark and I are completely hooked on and not sure we can wait for the library to give us Season Two. We might just be purchasing that one next weekend. But I’ll save all that for a separate post, because you know THAT’s coming.}

How was YOUR weekend? Any best days ever lately?

The Most Important Thing?


I’ve gotten hooked on this new TV show called, “Chasing Life.” It’s about a girl in her twenties with leukemia. {I’m pretty sure we can thank John Green for this kid-cancer story trend.} Last week’s episode included a conversation between another young guy with cancer and the main character, who hasn’t yet told her family or co-workers that she’s sick.

When she hushes him, he sarcastically says, “Oh yeah, we wouldn’t want to mention THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT YOU.”

That’s kind of the crux of the show so far. Still in shock from the diagnosis, this woman doesn’t want to admit that her illness is now more important than her career, her family or her love life. In her case choosing what defines her has been taken out of her hands. The choice of what’s most important is no longer hers.

I’m thankful that’s not the case for me, though I’ve certainly gone through seasons when life’s circumstances took that choice away – at least for a while.

Since I watched that episode last week, the phrase “most important thing about you” has been playing in my head in a loop. And I’ve wondered – What is the most important thing about me?

And then I wondered if those who know me would answer that question the same way I would.

And then I started thinking about how “the most important thing” changes as our seasons change.

Sometimes my brain just won’t quit.

Since Adrienne was born I’ve realized that for the last six years, the most important thing about me (according to me) is that I had a preemie. That was especially true the first year after Annalyn was born (seven weeks early) and during my pregnancy last year.

But that isn’t the only thing I’ve declared most important about me. For a long time, though I didn’t admit it to many people, the most important thing about me was that I’d helped plant a church, a church that failed.

Before that the most important thing was that I’d almost been fired.
Oh, and then there was the season when being laid off was the most important.
And for a long time it was my job as a fundraiser that was most important.

During college it was my major.
Or that I went to the Baptist Student Union.
Or that I was friends with that girl who died.
Or that I was from Kansas City.

And earlier than that the most important thing was my class rank…
…or my musical abilities…
…or that I was captain of the academic team…
…or that I dated a senior…

Today if you ask me about the most important thing about me, I’m not sure how I could answer in one word. Maybe I could do it in three:


But I’m also a writer, and I work part-time from home, and I love reading, and I’m a cat person.

I’m kidding. Nobody cares if I like cats.

Maybe my reluctance to pick just one thing to be the most important is why I have such a hard time writing bios. It’s also likely behind my tendency to have too much on my plate at all times – and why, throughout my life, I’ve found myself with many friends but very few I’d call best.

Of course, boiling my entire being down to a word or two is never going to work. It won’t work for anyone, really. We’re too complex for that, most of us. (All of us? I think so.) Still, all this thinking about THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT ME reminded me of two necklaces I love.

One is four-sided and each side is engraved with a word: created, chosen, celebrated, cherished. The other one says, “I am His,” on the back.

Even though bios and profiles always seem to need writing, I don’t think it would hurt to let go of all those other labels and definitions. After all, you can’t sum up a person with a game of Mad Libs. But if I have to answer the question, perhaps the engravings on those necklaces would be a good place to start – and a good place to stop.

This will all probably keep rattling around my head for a while. It’s an intriguing question with lots of layers. What’s the most important thing? According to who? For how long? Which answers change and which stay the same? What do I WANT to be the most important thing about me – and is it? SO MUCH THINKING TO DO.

How would you answer the question today?
What’s the most important thing about YOU?

Photo source

Waffles & Wallabies & Weekend Road Trips

4th of July girls

Last weekend we took our third road trip in about six weeks. If I had any dreams of writing a post called, “How to Travel with a Newborn,” THAT WAS DUMB. Unless the people of the internet have just been waiting for my “take the baby for a drive until she falls asleep and let her sleep in the car seat all night” trick.

We had a lot of fun, sleeping schedule aside. Both the girls are pretty good travelers, at least as far as the drive goes. Omaha is only three hours away, so we got there in time for an early dinner. Which was a good thing, since as it was, we had to wait 30 minutes to get a seat at the Old Market Spaghetti Works.

Now, don’t get me wrong. A 30-minute wait on a Friday night isn’t bad at all. And the weather was gorgeous. But during that 30-minute wait, we had the PLEASURE of a street performer. Also known as The Worst Magician I Have Ever Seen. Also known as The Magician That Annalyn Wanted to Watch for 30 Minutes.

Seriously, you guys. He did do one great trick, though – made my dollar disappear into his tip jar after making my daughter laugh. So there’s that.

There was also really good cheesy garlic bread and a waiter who thought my baby was cute, even though she got baby food all over the table. And he also conveniently brought the extra napkins I asked for RIGHT BEFORE Annalyn dumped orange Hi-C all over me. Me . . . and my brand-new white shorts.

Have I mentioned that I bought myself a pair of white shorts for the 4th of July? And that I have NEVER IN MY LIFE bought or worn a pair of white pants or shorts?


So, after surviving the worst magician ever and a Hi-C shower, we embarked on a journey to find fireworks. As it turned out, our hotel was not the Ritz and the guy at the desk was not a concierge. Or a guy who knew where to find fireworks. Luckily the internet was a bit more reliable than that guy.

We drove all the way across town, walked a good half mile (I don’t know that for sure. But it FELT like a half mile, so that matters, right?), and watched a fantastic fireworks show. That lasted about 10 minutes.

Doesn’t matter how short it was, though, because Annalyn was delighted. DEE-LIGHTED. She squealed and laughed so loud – and thanked us over and over for finding the fireworks. And all of sudden I forgot about my shorts getting tie-dyed with her Hi-C.

4th in Omaha

After all four of us stayed up past our bedtimes, we slept late on Saturday morning. As did every other family in our sold-out hotel with the free hot breakfast.

I know. You’re thinking, “Oh really, Mary? That’s FASCINATING. Tell me more about your very interesting hotel stay and breakfast.”

Look. I have my reasons for bringing this up. I bring this up because, well, there was an incident.


At the waffle maker.

Mark carried Adrienne down to the breakfast room, and I took Annalyn to the buffet line. We got plates and a bowl of sugary cereal for Annalyn (it was VACATION, okay?) (and a banana. I’m not totally irresponsible.). Then I headed over to the waffle maker, where I got in line.

We stood there patiently . . . politely . . . or so I thought. As the woman in front of me pried her waffle out of the iron and I stepped toward the machine, a man and his son walked up. He grabbed the non-stick spray out of my hand and started spraying the waffle maker. Then he asked me if I was next, I said I was, and he said he was after me.

Since he’d come out of nowhere and another woman waiting behind me the whole time I’d been there, I pointed to the lady behind me and said (POLITELY), “Actually, she was waiting.”

Well. That was when he got real riled up. Apparently HE had been waiting (ACROSS THE ROOM AT HIS TABLE), so HE was supposed to be next and now his little boy wasn’t going to get his waffle. But he kept spraying that waffle maker, so he could – and I quote – get me “all set up” for my waffle.

Um. Okay?

Apparently the social contract that I THOUGHT was the accepted norm in buffet lines was no longer in effect in that Omaha hotel. APPARENTLY the people in that room had come up with a pour your batter in a cup, set it on the counter like a placeholder and then sit down all the way across the room system.

But nobody told me that. So apparently . . . I cut in line and kept a little boy from getting his waffle Saturday morning.

You guys! I didn’t KNOW! I felt so bad. But also a little annoyed. I mean. How was I supposed to know? It’s not like his name was on that little cup of batter. Or the spot on the carpet WHERE I WAITED IN LINE. But I did feel bad. And confused. Is this how we do continental breakfast now?

No, really. Is it? I just need to know. If I missed the waffle memo, I need to know so I don’t deprive another little boy (and his angry father) of a timely waffle.

Because even though I’m no expert on road trips with babies, we’ve got another couple of trips planned for this summer. And I don’t want to cause another Waffle Incident!

After we recovered from the incident, we packed up and headed to the zoo. It was about one thousand percent humidity, but not too hot, thankfully. My calves would like me to mention that the Omaha Zoo – while just as awesome as everyone says – is FULL of hills. And somehow they manage to be ALL UPHILL.

But that’s beside the point. The zoo was a lot of fun. We saw tigers and leopards and wallabies and a sloth and lots of monkeys and some penguins. And after I made my whole family hike all the way across the park to see the sea lion training session – and Annalyn complained about how FAR it was and how BORING it was (before it started) and how she wanted to go back to the face painting booth – it ended up being her favorite part of the zoo. (Score one for Mom!)

So, in summary, we had a great Fourth of July weekend with a road trip to Omaha. Not enough sleep and more than enough sass from a certain six-year-old. But big picture, I’m glad we made the last-minute decision to take a mini-vacation. And remember – Magicians and waffle incidents, bad. Cheesy bread and fireworks and wallabies and sea lions and face painting, good.

How was YOUR weekend?