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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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.

We May Contribute a Verse

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The other day I was at a restaurant opening with my friend Lane of Missalaneyus and we were chatting about blogging. I was just about to come back from my self-imposed hiatus, and I mentioned how I’d had this silly, little blog for 10 years. It’s been a long time, guys. A really long time. The blog has gone through so many changes, redesigns and directions in those 10 years, evolving as all things must. But especially this past year, I have found blogging to be a difficult, tedious task. There has been so much going on in my life personally this past year and a half, and while in the past, blogging about difficulties in my life was therapeutic, it just wasn’t an option this time. That made blogging really, really hard, because at the heart of it all, this blog is for sharing my life. I’d post here about a cute outfit or photoshoot, and I felt like a fraud, because I was putting on a happy face while my universe was spinning out of control.

A very positive change that has occurred in the past year is I am no longer very good at “putting on a happy face.” This was my go-to mode for dealing with stress or any other negative emotion in the past. I’d pretend it was all okay and stuff all the yucky stuff deep down inside. While I do believe that positive thinking and gratitude can change lives, pretending like is all rainbows and unicorns when it simply ISN’T just doesn’t work for me anymore. Around the time I realized this phenomenon, blogging became impossible. I’d sit in front of my desktop, willing myself to type out something (ANYTHING!), but nothing would come out. Blogging became a chore, something I hated to even think about, let alone a way to spend my free time. I became anxious and irritable whenever I felt I “needed” to write something. Blogging was once a hobby that I loved…now it was just another item on my endless to-do list. I needed a change.

I spent the last month of the summer really thinking about my life. What do I need on a daily basis to feel generally happy, fulfilled and good about my existence? I asked myself this question often, and spent a lot of time testing out new and old activities, trying to find a healthy balance. I am still not sure of all the answers, but I realized a few things:

- I need time to myself on a daily basis to pray or meditate (or both, if possible!)
- I need a good night’s sleep, which for me means 7 to 8 hours
- I need to get up at least an hour before my kids in the morning to get my day started
- I need to spend time reading a book every day
- I need to do something for fun with my kids
- I need to be grateful and write down what I’m thankful for
- I need to show kindness and love to my husband
- I need to move my body
- I need to reach out to supportive people in my life
- I need to do something kind for someone else

Notice a few items missing? Me too! I always assumed watching TV or movies would be at the top of my list, since I enjoy those things so much, but I found on the days I skipped that activity, I didn’t feel any worse for it. Also, blogging? Not on the list. Taking photos? Not on the list. Now, I’m not sure if it will stay this way, but for now, those activities aren’t making me happy, just stressing me out. I need to fall in love with them again, before they are a daily necessity.

This is a first step. When I started this blog, it was just to write. To write because my life and my experience on this earth are of value. To write because maybe something that I have gone thru may help someone else in the same position. To write so my kids can read this one day and know me as a person, instead of just their mom. To write because writing is how I understand the world around me. Horrible things are happening in our world, and while I may not be able to write about all of them, I have my own life experiences, and writing them down and sharing them is a service. All of our voices are worthy. We all have stories to tell. I am lucky to have this space and these words. I am going to try and not take that for granted.

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering…these are noble pursuits, necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love…these are what we stay alive for! To quote from Whitman,

‘Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.

That you are here—that life exists and identity.
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.’”

- Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society

Old Friends and New Places

When one returns from 13 days either in a car with two small humans or bunking at someone else’s home, one has a few choices.

1. Throw the entire contents of one’s suitcase into the washing machine and pass out
2. Make everyone go to bed early so you can finally get a moment alone
3. Revel in how easy it is to sleep in one’s own bed WITHOUT a three-year-old’s feet in your face
4. Attempt to write a blog post about one’s trip

We just returned to Kansas City after about two weeks of driving across our beautiful state of Kansas. I am always amazed when Kansas is described as boring, because I honestly believe it’s one of the most beautiful and diverse places around. We spent a few days in my hometown in the Flint Hills, then headed west, where the trees are scarce and the sky seems like it’s never going to end. Our first stop was in Hays, Kansas, where a great friend of mine from high school lives with her sweet family. There is something really special about watching your kids become friends with children of your own childhood friends. Watching our silly boys make trouble or seeing our girls share a private joke, it makes me wistful for the days when my friends were my whole world. It’s nice to know that even after all these years, grown-up responsibilities and professional living, we can still get together and giggle until our bellies hurt. We visited the Natural History Museum, spotted some bison, ate some great food, attended a neighbor’s surprise birthday party, and even gave Tate a little buzzcut on the front porch. Such a fun time, and I’m feeling especially grateful for old friends these days!

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Cruisin' in Hays, KS, USA...

The Natural History Museum with @hjbieker and family! So fun, and only a tiny bit scary  #museum #hays #kansas #history #fossil #fun #friends

Silly boys! So grateful to watch my kids become friends with my best friends' kids! #365grateful #silly #boys #goof #love

I am mostly posting this because a lifeguard yelled "No photos!" when she saw me taking it and I think that's straight up dumb. Rebel without a cause over here ✌️ #summer #pool #rebel #lazyriver #fun #friends #cantkeepmedown

The magic of @hjbieker is she's able to convince Tate, who screams in terror at the thought of a haircut, to shave his head on the front porch. Magic, I tell you!!! #haircut #friends #yay

I’ll be blogging more about the rest of our trip for the next few days. Next up, what happens when two city kids see a teeter-totter for the first time? Pandemonium.

Top photo taken with the Canon 60D, all other photos taken by my iPhone 4s, edited in Afterlight

Summertime Nostalgia

Summer is here! I can’t believe it. Every year it comes faster and faster, and as the kids get older, each summer seems better than the one that came before. We are taking some time to see family and roadtrip across Kansas for the first few weeks of the summer, so while I’m away, I thought I’d share some of my favorite videos from summers past. Happy summer, friends!



(As always, you can follow our summer adventures on Instagram under the handle @crazy_bananas)

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