A Grateful Labor Day

We spent our Labor Day weekend at my parents’ lake cabin in Council Grove, Kansas, soaking in the sun and enjoying some much-needed downtime with my family. Year after year I post about spending time at the lake and year after year I spew out all the cliches about watching my kids grow up in a place I loved as a child, but I can’t seem to help myself. They keep getting bigger and the lake pretty much stays the same. They stare out at the stars as the moon rises over the water and I remember nights on the deck watching the constellations overhead. They cry about the seaweed touching their feet and I remember when I would sit on the dock refusing to get in because of the creepy feeling that wet grass gave me. There are goggles lost to the depths of the water, which probably sit next to countless toys, rings and other trinkets I misplaced 20 years ago, never to be seen again.

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Watching my kids (and my niece and nephews) in this place is like watching an old video tape of my own youth, except, of course, they are more beautiful and lovely than I remember being at their ages. Instead of rocking a discman, my niece lays on the boat deck with her ear buds and iPhone. My sister takes photos with her iPhone and texts them to me. The kids ask to make silly videos of themselves “chicken fighting” in the water. It all feels very new, but also very worn, which is probably why I love it so much. It’s like all of my favorite things are colliding and I get to watch and laugh along.

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I can feel the season changing and as the weather changes, so does everything. I guess that is the one continuous thing in my life thus far…change is constant. My little people are growing and changing every day. Lately, Lucy has refused to let me take her photo. When I try, she makes an angry face or sticks out her tongue. Sometimes she tries (very successfully) to look extremely insane. “Moooommmmm, stop!” she yells when I pull out my phone or my camera. So I have to rely on others, like my sister, for whom Lulu will smile genuinely, to capture her as she really is. Lucy Peters, age 8, full of life and laughter, unless her mom has a camera out, in which case she will quickly turn in to a surly teenager. Sigh. Thank goodness for Tater, who at age 3 still thinks I am all things amazing and wonderful, and will beg me to take his picture so he can look at it later. “Mama, take my picture!” he squeals, calming my mama temper tantrum over his sister’s refusal. She was like that once too, and I know one day he will cringe at my camera. I suppose all I can do is enjoy it while it lasts, or come up with good knock knock jokes to catch them off guard when they are refusing to smile.

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I am so grateful for this full, fun life I’m leading today. I know that happiness comes from within, but the people in my life these days have made the joy more robust than I ever could have imagined. The last year has been really, really hard for me personally, but I really do believe, as cliched as it sounds, that I was meant to go through those difficult times. Today I am so thankful for the simple joys of my life, and I know that the person I was before wouldn’t have appreciated all these gifts the way I do now. I would have expected them and been upset if they weren’t as perfect as I wanted. I feel like a little kid again, reborn and seeing the world with brand new eyes. I feel…full of wonder. It feels trite and silly to say I’m grateful for the hardship my family has gone through, but I know without it, there wouldn’t be the serenity there is today.

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So, at least for today, I am extremely grateful…

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Family Goal Night

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There is nothing that makes me more anxious or feel more like a kid pretending to be a grown up than “goal-setting.” Am I right? For a recovering perfectionist like me, setting goals has become one of my most difficult tasks. In the past, setting a goal meant I had to accomplish said goal (in record time, with pizazz and sparklers) or else the whole practice was a total bust. Not achieving my goals equaled failure, which was obviously not an option. So when I decided to change my life, and become someone who is more satisfied with what she has and who she is, instead of what she wants and who she wants to be…well, goal-setting became a bit of a challenge. How was I supposed to have goals, but also be satisfied with where I am right now? Am I complacent? Am I passive?

One book that really helped me move forward and get to a place where I wasn’t asking myself hypothetical questions all day was The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. This book has been recommended to me a zillion times, but this summer I finally picked it up from my local library. I loved it. The way that Ms. Rubin breaks down goals into monthly mini-goals, and also changes the language around goal-setting (calling them “resolutions” instead of goals, as resolutions are something you are continuously working toward, while goals are something you check off your to-do list), which helped me immensely. After reading The Happiness Project and downloading some of the materials of Rubin’s website, I felt ready to move ahead.

Thus entered Family Goal Night! Trent is a huge fan of goals and goal-measurement, so he was thrilled I was finally on-board with the idea of “family goals.” We both did research on the best ways to present and create goals as a family and as individuals, then we scheduled a night for us all to work on the project as a family. We all went to our local craft store and picked up poster board, a million stickers, glitter glue, and anything else that got the kids excited to work on this project. We ended up creating a crazy goal board, which was designed mostly by the kids and is completely nuts and wonderful. Sure, it’s no Martha Stewart creation, but that wasn’t the point! We wanted the kids to have ownership over the board and be excited about it, and by letting them go to town with the glitter glue, we got just that. We hung the board right by our garage door, where we leave the house every day and can see it.

Each of us decided to take on three goals and to work toward them for the next three months. Trent fixed whiteboard calendars to the Goal Board, where we can track our progress. All of our goals are different, but reflect who we are and our level of understanding. For example, my three goals are:

1. Declutter the House
2. More Date Nights with Trent
3. Revamp and Organize the Blog

Tate’s three goals are:

1. Poop and Pee in the Potty
2. Sleep in His Own Bed All Night
3. Play More Golf with Daddy

Obviously, the goals relate to the age of the person setting them!

We also created Family Goals for us to all work on together. These include doing charity work and spending more time together as a family. Whenever we do something that moves us closer to our goals, we mark it on the whiteboard calendar, and each month we plan on having a family meeting where we can talk about where we are with our goals, get help, and ask questions.

We are so excited about this process, but we are sure it will change as we go. What about you? Does your family set goals together? How to do you work toward them? How do you get your kids excited to participate? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Friday Kitchen Dance Par-tay!!!

Because it’s Friday and what’s a blog for if not for dancing around like a doofus for the whole wide Internet to see?

The world has seemed like a scary place, lately. I know that dancing around my kitchen won’t change the world, but I feel like finding the fun when you’re afraid could maybe help, even just a little bit. Dancing when you’re scared, laughing when you’re angry, helping others when you are hurting…I really do believe this can change our world for the better. So find the fun today, friends! Dance and laugh and love. It really is the easier, softer way.

Growing Up Mobile: 4 Ways to Manage Screentime with Small Kids

BFF FaceTime on your birthday is the perfect cure for a little homesickness ❤️ #facetime #ipod #birthday #happy #fun

For the past few months I’ve been lucky to work with Pixelkin.org, a website dedicated to helping techy parents (or parents who want to be more techy) navigate the world of technology and kids. My recent post is up now, and it’s all about managing screen time with small kids.

Managing screentime in the summer can be so difficult, especially when you’re a work-at-home parent like I am. I struggle with needing peace and quiet so I can finish a project or an email, and it’s so easy to turn on a device to get the kids out of my hair. But the more time they seem to spend on the iPod and iPad, the more moody and cranky they tend to be!

Learn how we are dealing with the screentime issues by clicking here and reading the rest of my post on Pixelkin!

CB Reads : David and Goliath + I Am Malala

Pretty good haul for mama at the library too! #johnsoncountylibrary #librariesrule #malala #malcomgladwell #read

During the past few months I’ve turned into a bit of a bookworm. Our open summer schedule meant many, MANY trips to our local library to beat the heat and gather up some new reading material. Lucy is a speed-reader who goes through several chapter books at a time, so we ended up spending A LOT of our summer hours curled up with our stories. Not only does my local library have an amazing selection, it also offers ebooks, which I can download on my iPad. I’m such a nerd-face, you should’ve seen me when I realized I could get books for FREE! It’s like I forgot how libraries work in this land of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I ended up mirroring my daughter, going through a ton of books, and staying up all night reading. It was pretty awesome.

One of my favorites was David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. I had heard about this book from a few people, and had even attended a seminar where the speaker based his argument on stories included in this collection. The book is a series of essays by Gladwell, a New Yorker columnist and author of a ton of other incredible reads (more here), focusing on the underdogs of society and how they overcame adversity. More specifically, it hones in on how underdogs, in reality, are sometimes nothing of the sort. In the titular essay, Gladwell writes about David, the young shepherd boy who slayed the giant Goliath in the famous Bible story. But was David really an underdog? Or was he smarter, faster and more prepared than Goliath? Did his size work for him, instead of against him? Gladwell is a wonderful writer, and this book was no exception. The section on the Civil Rights Era and the Irish-Catholic resistance against the British are both very intriguing and relate very much to what’s happening in the news right now. I highly recommend it for underdogs (and giants) everywhere.

I also recently finished the autobiography, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot By the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai. It tells the story of Malala, who was 15 when her school bus was pulled over by Taliban fighters, who climbed aboard and shot her. Malala was the writer of an online journal for the BBC, which told of her struggles in trying to continue attending school after the Taliban took over her home in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Her story is definitely worth reading. This book reminded me a bit of Anne Frank, the journals and memories of a young girl living thru a war, with stories about fights with friends and being angry at her brothers mixed in with tales of Taliban fighters roaming her town and threats against any girls attending school. It is heartbreaking and uplifting, as Malala continues to fight for education for girls, even after surviving such a terrifying ordeal.

The world is a scary place today. I watch the news and see the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri and Mosul, Iraq. I don’t know what to make of a world where an unarmed boy is shot by police or children are murdered for their religious beliefs. I don’t know how I can help or what I can do. But books like these make me think a better world is possible, and there are people that are working to get us there. When I read, I am growing, and with growth, I believe I can be inspired to find a way to help. Let’s keep learning, friends. Let’s keep growing.

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