Horse Crazy 2.0

When I was about 7-years-old, I took my first horseback riding lesson. I had been a typical horse-crazy girl, but after that first lesson, my love for those giant animals skyrocketed. I would spend every waking moment at the barn, grooming lesson horses, mucking out stalls, riding out to the pasture to gather up the horses and bring them back to the stable…I loved it. I thought I’d end up riding horses for the rest of my life, maybe owning my own stable some day or teaching lessons. Even though that didn’t exactly happen as I’d planned, it’s been pretty wonderful to watch my kids learn how to ride the past few months. For her birthday this summer, Lucy asked for riding lessons, and she got her wish! She spent the summer riding at Peeper Ranch, the same place I rode when I got back into the saddle a few years back. Even Tate got to take a mini-lesson, and while we thought he’d be afraid, he had a ball! It’s a pretty wonderful thing, watching your kids love something you loved so much at their age. We’re taking a break from riding for the fall, but Lucy is already begging to go to horse camps and workshops at the ranch over the holidays and spring break. I might need to make her muck out a stall or two to earn her keep, but I have a feeling I might end up a ranch mom, with a minivan full of dirty boots and smelling of leather saddles. Sounds pretty perfect to me.

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Endless Summer S’mores Bars

At the opening of summer WAY back on Memorial Day, I attended a backyard BBQ with a few friends and their families. Yes, the company was totally fun, but what had my heart racing was the food! I am not what one would call a master chef (or just “a chef” or “someone who can cook”…more like “prime minister of boxed mac and cheese”), but I love having friends who can whip up a good meal, especially when they share with me! One friend not only made an amazing dip that I parked myself by for the entire party, but she also brought these incredible s’mores bars. After some unfortunate and unattractive begging, she passed on the recipe, and I’ve made them several times over the summer. They are easy to make and a huge hit! Even though summer is technically over, I plan on bringing these to a few tailgates this fall, and I will probably have to make extra batches for me to keep in my fridge just in case I’m in need of a s’mores fix!

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S’Mores Bars

2 sleeves of graham crackers
1/3 cup sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
2 sticks of butter melted
1 package milk chocolate chips
1 package mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9×13 with foil, grease foil. Grind crackers in food processor. Mix crumbs, sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl. Set aside about 1⁄2 cup of mixture. Press the rest evenly into pan. Cook in oven for about 12 minutes. While crumb crust is cooling, melt chocolate chips. Pour chocolate over crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle marshmallows over chocolate, press lightly into the chocolate. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mix. Broil for about a minute. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Try not to eat the entire pan in one sitting, but if you do, I won’t tell anyone!

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.

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