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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The Bluffs at Gardners Grove

One of my favorite parts of road-tripping across Kansas was watching the scenery around me. Yes, of course, Kansas can be boring. But just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you’ll come across something surprising. For me, that something was Gardners Grove.

This little gem was in the middle of a pasture, and we had to drive a Jeep through a few wheat fields to get there. Apparently this little grove of cottonwood trees and the bluffs that tower over them were sacred for the Native Americans in the area. They’d run the bison right off the edge of the bluffs in order to kill them for their meat and fur, and to this day you can still find bison skulls there. There are also the elusive shark teeth, which we searched for, but never found. We did come home with a few fossils and some awesome rocks and crystals. The kids had so much fun, we decided to go back with Trent when he got into town. He and Lucy spent ages scouring the bluffs for fossils and other treasures. Next time I’ll bring my big camera, but this time around, I managed to get a few shots with the iPhone, which was much easier to carry on the big hike.

Hiking the bluffs today...pretty incredible. Kansas is beautiful! #kansas #bluffs #grove #gove #nature #rock #sky #plains #beauty #tate #climb

More from the bluffs...like whoa. That's Lucy, Ash and Ace in the distance. #gove #grove #bluffs #kansas #hiking #climb #beauty #nature #horizon

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Had to take dad to the bluffs! He was as amazed as we were. Came home with a bunch of new fossils and lots of good memories ❤️ #kansas #gove #gardnersgrove #bluffs #nature #cliff #climb #fun

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Our Vacation Through the iPhone Lens

My family and I just got back from a wonderful few days away on vacation on the Florida Gulf Coast. We had never (ever!) taken a vacation with just the four of us, so I was so, so excited to get some time away from our daily life with the people I love most in the world. To say things have been chaotic around our home for the past year or so is the greatest understatement of all time, and if I would’ve known the relief a few days of fun and sun would provide, we would have done this months ago! There is something about snuggling in a big hotel bed, with sand between my toes and everyone smelling of sunscreen, that makes everything in my little universe seem okay. I have a ton of photos to go through, but since we just got back, my plate currently full with everything we ignored while we were away. I’ll definitely be sharing in the near future, along with some tips for traveling and activities in the area, but for now, here are of my favorite iPhone photos of our trip. We certainly are the luckiest of ducks!

And we're off! #cbspringbreak #springbreak #365grateful #travel #yay

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A #latergram from dinner last night...what a great night! Oh, an also, we sat next to Hulk Hogan at dinner and I acted like a crazy person. No photographic proof though, because of my aforementioned craziness. Tidbit: He is huge! And his mustache is quite

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Vacation is so exhausting, little dude can't even stay up through one episode of Dinosaur Train! #sleepy #cbspringbreak #springbreak

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Sunset dinner, grown-ups only  #cbspringbreak #carettas #fancypants #sunset #springbreak  #love

Nice to know every once in a while he'll still take a nap on me ❤️❤️❤️ #365grateful #love #son #mother #nap #adorable #poolside

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Big day for our future marine biologist! #cbspringbreak #springbreak #clearwater #clearwateraquarium #dolphin #marinelife #joy

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Goodbye Clearwater Beach! You were awesome! #cbspringbreak #springbreak #clearwaterbeach #clearwater #horizon #blue #viewfinder #binoculars #ocean #gulfofmexico #water #sky

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A Birthday and Donuts

A few weeks ago, we got to celebrate the birthday of one very special Valentine! Our sweet niece, Brooklyn, turned 2-years-old this Valentine’s Day, and we celebrated with her friends and family at Varsity Donuts in Manhattan, Kansas. I think a donut decorating party is definitely one of my favorite party themes of all time! Probably because I’ m a bit of a donut freak, but that being said, I think this party was a hit for everyone who attended. I feel endlessly lucky to have such a fun family! Happy birthday, sweet Brooklyn!

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