If there's anything I consider myself an expert in as I age, it would be my ability to appreciate and notice the smallest of moments, the most simple of occasions, the smallest of joys. More and more I take pride in my desire and ability to live simply -- yet fully. To be deliberate about the life we create for our family - to always be working at making a simple life a joyful one for our kids. Whether it be an ice cream cone with sprinkles for no reason or allowing the boys to stay up later than normal to go throw rocks in the lake. And if I fill myself up with these things - and fill our family up with these things - I believe that's one of the greatest lessons I can give to my children. That the little blessings are what make up a life and that if you can find joy in a summer night's sky filled with stars, you will always be okay. I'm learning more about myself through this parenting journey, and the older my kids get, the more I see our influence as parents molding them into the people they will be. I love that at the ages of three and five, both of our boys get excited over a pretty sunset. I love that they are quick to point out a pink and purple sky, that they find a thrill in counting the stars, that Brandon is happiest in a field of green picking wildflowers and that Jaden is at his happiest when his family is surrounding him. I'm grateful to be married to a man that needs nothing more than a relaxing evening around our personal fire pit and a day off to go fishing at our local pond. When I look back on this particular Summer, we created so many special memories in our own backyard and in our little community, and I am grateful for that. There's so much pretty out there. And when I pause and am intentional about how I go through our days, I realize that I don't have to look hard to find it. We adventured this summer. We didn't get on a plane or drive long distances, but our kids are just as happy finding a frog in our own backyard and casting their fishing poles in a lake 10 minutes from our house. Life is simple when you live simply.
Some of my favorite images and moments that tell the story of our sweet summer...
Park nights. We explored some new parks this summer and found our favorites to be Orchard Hill Elementary, Gateway Park and Lookout Park. It doesn't matter what kind of mood the kids are in, mention Park, and all is well. And on those nights when Daddy had to work late, I greatly looked forward to my one-on-one time with them -- pick up a Happy Meal or Subway --- let the kids choose the park to eat at --- easy joy.
Bike rides (or scooter rides) on the trails and to the park. Jaden is finally comfortable going down hill on his bike (with training wheels), and Brandon's legs are finally long enough to pedal his three-wheeler comfortably. Luckily we live in a community surrounded by bike trails, and I have hopes for many family bike rides as the kids grow.
Community events. The music and bounce houses at Live to 9, the Sturgis Falls parade and carnival, Movies Under the Moon and the 4th of July fireworks. We may not live in a big city, but there is always something going on.
Brandon's green thumb. He's taking after his Daddy and absolutely loves manicuring our plants and lawn. And picking those "flowers."
This surprise on our lawn one morning in June. I'm just glad Cody saw it first.
Family grilling gatherings. The best of summer traditions.
Our days and nights at the Falls. Our kids transformed into fishies this summer, and a seasonal pool pass will be a must-have for many years ahead.
All those nights by the water. Big Woods Lake. George Wyth. The Cedar River. There's just something about being by the water that brings out the good in all of us. (Fishing poles welcome but not necessary).
Exploring new places like the local arboretum, the Dubuque River and Beads Lake.
A 4th of July spent at home. Nothing fancy - just a small pool to splash in, some sparklers, red and blue sprinkled ice cream... and some really yummy strawberries.
Our first picnic basket and our first fire pit. These are new staples to our summer activities, and I know when the next warm season rolls around, I'll be itching to get back to them.
Deck life. We spend so much time in our own backyard and on our deck, and in the last couple of years, I've really tried to create a homey environment on our own back steps - an extension of our home with just a few outdoor touches to make it feel cozy. White lights. Pink flowers. Lit candles. Music on. We eat most of our meals out here in the Summer, I sometimes work on the deck table when it's not too bright and sunny during the day, and our kids can entertain themselves for hours in our driveway - playing basketball - riding their bikes, scooters and tractors - coloring with chalk, playing in their water table and helping Daddy cut the grass. Our next home must have a deck... I've learned it's something I can't live without.
Summer nights at the baseball diamond. Though I've never been a follower of the sport, I wouldn't mind our boys developing a growing interest and skill in it. I could handle more summer nights spent at the ball field... with a hot dog in hand. And I love that Jaden always had the biggest cheering section in the stands for every game. We are so lucky to have our families close.
Little ones of mine... thank you for this special season. There is so much beauty ahead of you and around you. Just keep your eyes open.