Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

Before I go any further, I would like to acknowledge all the men and women who gave their lives for our country.  The true meaning of Memorial Day often gets overshadowed by all the picnics and parties to kick off summer, but my family does remember and we are grateful.

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We kicked off our long weekend with a huge mess. All I'm going to say is that kids are gross at times.  Just keeping it real!

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On Friday evening, we took advantage of the warm, gorgeous weather, and stopped by the stable to visit our horse.   Dylan hasn't visited Cherokee in a while, so he was happy to reunite with him!

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Visiting Cherokee

Leave it to my tween to teach our horse how to take a selfie!

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And just in case Cherokee didn't quite grasp the concept, they needed to try it again.  With duck lips. If Cherokee masters the duck lips, I'm going to be impressed.

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The girls are trying so hard to convince us that we need to adopt this kitten from the barn.  Oh no. That cuteness will NOT win me over!

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On Saturday, we had an amazing stay at home day.  Grant took Dylan into the office for a few hours and Lexie spent the day with her grandparents.  Lily, Liam and I enjoyed the 90+ degree weather in our backyard.

Most people don't enjoy temps that high, but I do!  It was the perfect day for swimsuits, baby pools, water tables and sprinklers while I sat in my comfy chair and read a book!

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Baby Pool Party
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Liam eventually went inside for a nap and Lily curled up in the chair next to me and fell asleep.  I finished my book in the warmth of the sun, listening to lawn mowers run in the background, while the sweet smell of freshly cut grass surrounded me.  It was PERFECTION!

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On Sunday, after a trip to the grocery store and Target, we went to my great niece's 10th birthday party!  (Yep, great niece.  I became an aunt at age 5!)

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I seriously can't believe Aubrey is 10.  I was at the hospital when she was born and she has spent countless hours with my family.  I absolutely adore that little girl and I'm getting weepy just thinking about her hitting double digits already.

Aubrey chose a Mardi Gras theme for her party and we ended up partying until after midnight!

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That evening, Dylan went home with his cousins and Lexie had a sleepover with Aubrey.  Lily and Liam fell asleep the moment we got home, so it was an easy night for us!

That brings us to Memorial Day!

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Unfortunately, I woke up with a migraine so we couldn't go to any parades.  It eventually eased, and I was thrown into a flurry of action.  I had to make food for a picnic and get myself and the little kids ready to go.  Grant and I had to drive around picking the older kids up, then we headed over to a friend's house for a picnic!

The kids are very close and they always have the best time together!

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The food was great, too! (Excuse the fingernails. It was a dare!)

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Although it felt like a summer day, we had to head home fairly early.  The kids still have 5 days of school left, so it was a school night. We spent some time in our backyard before heading inside.  It was hard to convince them to go inside on such a beautiful night.  I think Dylan and Lexie are ready to be done! (I know I am!)

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We had such a wonderful weekend and it definitely felt like the start of Summer! 5 more days and we're FREE!

How did you celebrate Memorial Day?

LET'S CONNECT!

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, my friends! 

We have a 3 day weekend full of fun ahead of us and there's only one more week of school left, so I'm in a great mood!  The end of the school year insanity is always so overwhelming and chaotic. I'm really looking forward to the more relaxed schedule over Summer Break!

Here's what I'm currently loving:

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My new wood watch from JORD! I can't get over how pretty it is! (If you want one of your own or want to buy a Father's Day gift, I have a JORD giveaway going on HERE.)

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{TWO} 

I mentioned I got a lot of good news last week!  Well, I can finally share one thing. Liam was chosen to be a brand rep for Trendy Bubs! I am so grateful that they are taking part in Changing the Face of Beauty!

This week was full of good news! While I can't share all of the news just yet, I am excited to share that Liam was chosen to be a @trendybubs brand rep! (Go check out the adorable team!) Thank you so much for including a little guy who is rocking an extra


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I put a pair of Native Slip-On sneakers in my Amazon cart for Liam weeks ago, but never bought them.  I finally took the plunge and I can't wait for them to get here. Mainly because I am so fed up with tying Liam's shoes repeatedly after he kicks them off.  I sure hope they live up to all the hype!



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Most people have a cat or a dog, but we have a horse!  I shared our story a few days ago and cried as I wrote the entire post!

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{FIVE}

My oldest had his final 5th grade band and chorus concert on Tuesday!  The kids sounded so much better than they did at their very first concert in December.  The improvement was incredible! Chorus is mandatory for 5th and 6th grade, but band is optional. Even so, most of the 5th grade class joins band.  Dylan played trumpet this year, but decided to switch to drums next year.  Bring on the noise!

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{SIX}

I received the SuperMom VoxBox from Influenster! This VoxBox was one of my favorites so far. It included Goody SlideProof Spiky Soft Touch Hair Elastics, Daisy Squeeze Sour Cream, Pilot Acroball Pens, Palmolive Fusion Clean, Suave Kids Purely Fun, Plackers Flossers and Secret Outlast Xtend Invisible Solid. I can't wait to try everything! 


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*I received these products complimentary for testing purposes.

{SEVEN}

It's Lily's first full week of Summer Break!  She spent the first day crying about missing her friends and teachers and wanting to go back to school. Every day she asks if she can go to Kindergarten. I'm trying to convince her to relax and enjoy Summer vacation first!

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{EIGHT}

I have to submit a headshot tomorrow, so I had Lexie quickly take new ones for me.  She has a good eye at such a young age! Hopefully I can share that good news next week!

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 {NINE}

Speaking of Lexie, apparently the hormones kick in at 9 years old. At 7:30 this morning to be exact. One minute Lexie was smiling and the next minute she was slamming doors and screaming about how she hates her new dress and how going to school is stupid. Five minutes later, she was smiling and telling me she loved me. She climbed on the bus and left me standing there wondering what the heck just happened. Thank goodness she's so loving and adorable most of the time!

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I'm going to leave you with a daily dose of happy! He fills my days with favorite moments!

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{OUTFIT-H&M}

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  How will you be celebrating Memorial Day?



LET'S CONNECT!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Blogging 101: The Things I Won't Do

I started blogging nearly 8 years ago and it has been quite a journey!

At first, my blog was just a journal of my life with my two young children. It changed gradually over the years and eventually became what it is today.

Blogging has changed so much since I first started in 2008.  Back then, it was mainly just for recording memories and socializing with other bloggers. Now, it's a major business full of advertising and Pinterest-worthy content.  Blogging really is a lifestyle these days!

Although my blog changed a lot over the years, there are simply some things I just won't do!

I actually hesitated to post this because I didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings.  But the truth is, there are some things that I won't do because they don't feel right, but they work well for other bloggers. It really is just a matter of opinion and I'm a firm believer in to each their own!

Yes, my blog is more business-like these days. But I refuse to let go of the basics: sharing my family and forming connections with other bloggers!

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The Things I Won't Do As A Blogger

1. I won't stop writing about my family!  I work hard to maintain a good balance of personal posts with sponsored posts. I believe that once a blog loses its personal touch, it becomes cold and unwelcoming. And, well, what's the fun in that?

2. I won't take every sponsored opportunity that comes my way. In a typical week, I take on one collaboration and turn one down. Sometimes more. It was difficult at first, but I learned to say that the content is not a good fit for my family. There is absolutely no point in writing about something that I can't genuinely discuss!

3. I won't hire a photographer to follow me around and I won't schedule frequent lifestyle shoots with a photographer for blog content.  Do you want to know who my photographer is when I have to get in the picture?  Lexie! My 9 year old actually has quite a good eye!

4. I won't obsess over stats. I know people that check them daily and post their stats on a weekly basis.  Blogging IS a numbers game, but I only provide my analytics when I'm asked and I just give a quick overview of my social media channels on my Contact page. I don't feel like anybody else needs to read how many page views I have each day!

5. I won't share how many people followed me and how many people unfollowed me each week on social media. That's pointless information to share with my followers!

6. I won't let ads take over my blog. I don't find it visually appealing when I visit a blog and immediately see an ad banner right under the blog title, all over the sidebar, and in between posts.  It's just too much clutter and impersonal. Plus, I recently heard some nightmare stories about how some of those ad companies aren't paying bloggers!

7. I won't join Retweet Groups.  Biggest Twitter Pet Peeve Ever.  They just clog up my feed and I lose interest in what the person has to say.

8. I won't use the words cohesive, aesthetic or organic (for describing something other than food).  I believe those words are completely overused in the blog word and half the time, I'm not even sure the blogger knows what the words actually mean!

9. Speaking of cohesive and aesthetic, my Instagram feed will NEVER be either of those things.  All the experts say it should be, but guess what? My Instagram feed is every bit as chaotic and colorful as my life with 4 kids. It's a good representation of ME and it's doing just fine!

10. I won't pay to boost a Facebook post. Sorry. NOT happening.  Facebook is my least favorite social media platform for blogging. I've earned every follower I have without paying a single cent.

11. I won't post my blog income online.  It's one thing to suggest which media companies pay the most, but I believe it's tacky to share monthly income with my readers.

12. I won't join a post share group to share blog posts on Twitter. I DO share blog posts on Twitter.  I just share posts that I genuinely enjoyed reading instead of posts that I have to share in order to have my content shared.  I also have a 5 share/RT maximum at a time.  I believe any more comes across as spam tweeting. Plus, when you are required to share so much content each day, your own content easily gets hidden within your feed and people tend to ignore it.

13. I won't become a content only blog.  Although Pinterest does drive traffic to your blog, every post is NOT Pin-Worthy!

14. I won't do large roundup-style posts.  Although I do share links here and there, it's a select few.  I get overwhelmed when I see titles like "The 50 Best Crockpot Recipes Ever"  and open up the post to just see a list of links. I want to see pictures, too!  Plus, I hate following links to another blog, then trying to backtrack to the original post.  It's too time-consuming.  I'm a big fan of narrowing it down. More than 10 links is overwhelming!

15. I won't fill up my blog with stock photography.  Almost every picture on my blog, including flatlays and Pinterest graphics, was taken by me.  It's a great way to get creative with photography and improve my skills!

16. I won't create automated Twitter messages to go to each new follower.  They're just not my thing.

17. I won't add pop up follow windows on my blog. Nothing annoys me more when I'm trying read a blog than a window popping up right in the middle of the post.  The ONLY time it isn't annoying is if it pops up after I post a blog comment.

18. I won't do a Friday Follow unless I actually follow the person on Instagram.  I understand social media is all about promotion, but I can't authentically promote a person I don't know.

19. I won't do follow for follow. I like to pick and choose the people I want to follow!

20. I won't stop interacting with other bloggers. It's so important to read content on other blogs and comment on the posts.  That's how connections are formed and that's the fun in blogging! How many blogs do you know that are popular, but have little to no comments? That's a sure sign that the blogger is just in it for the money.  I believe that engagement on your blog is so much more important than page views!

The most important thing I've learned about blogging over the years is to never say never!  Who knows? Maybe one day I will do some of those things. But for now, they aren't a good fit for me! 

I want to hear from you! What's on your list of things you won't do as a blogger?

LET'S CONNECT!





Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Horse and His Girl

I was only 13 years old when my parents gave me the most amazing gift ever. My very own horse!

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I begged for a horse for many years with no luck. I had just given up hope when I received the surprise of a lifetime! Once they realized I was truly dedicated, my parents took the plunge and made a major investment. Even though they sacrificed to make it work, my parents still say buying that horse was the best decision they ever made for me.

My horse was my first love. I fell in love with Cherokee the moment I first met him, and over 20 years later, I still love him fiercely. We truly grew up together.

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Most of my childhood memories involve Cherokee. Countless hours were spent at the stable. When I wasn't riding, I was taking care of him, cleaning the barn, or training for our next show.  Homework was completed every afternoon on horse back. His soft neck absorbed the tears I shed over the many teen woes. I have memories of galloping across hilltops, peaceful trail rides, and playing tag on horseback with friends in the woods. We rode together in the rain, heat, sleet, snow and frigid cold. We made incredible memories together and formed a bond that time and distance can't break.

After 6 years of Cherokee being the most important thing in my world, I met a boy.  That boy stole my heart, and I began to spend less time with Cherokee. But he was always there. Just waiting. And then a baby came into our world and commanded all my attention. I had even less time for Cherokee. But I couldn't...wouldn't...give him up.

Cherokee welcomed that first tiny human into his life.

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And a second one.

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And a third.

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And finally, a fourth. A fourth who just "officially" met his horse and wasn't too impressed yet.

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Cherokee was always patient. Always accepting. Always waiting. And every time I walked away from him, I would glance back and see him watching me. The look on his face broke my heart every single time. It was almost as if he was begging me not to leave him again.

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After Liam joined our family, the time I had to spend with my first love was very minimal.  Months would go by without a visit. There were other horses and other people who spent time with him, but it wasn't the same.  The guilt consumed me on a daily basis, but my time and energy was already spread so thin. Every time I thought of him, I could only imagine how hurt and abandoned he must have felt.

It reached the point where the guilt hit on a daily basis, and I had trouble sleeping at night.

Cherokee is nearly 30. He's an old man in horse years. He's no longer as lean and muscular as he once was. (To be fair, neither am I.) The incredible spirit that once made him a handful is now tamed. He moves much more slowly. His spots have faded. Lately, he seems depressed and I just want that spark to return to his eyes.

A lot can change during the course of two decades. The two of us are nothing like how we used to be, and it breaks my heart at times. I often feel regret. I SHOULD have been there more. But the past is the past, and I can only work on the now. We're still together, and that's what matters.

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I know I'm in denial. Deep in my heart, I know that our time together is limited.  I know I have to make an effort to visit him more often. My kids adore him. It will never be the same for them as it was for me, but I want my kids to make memories with our horse, too!

So that's what we're doing! And truth be told, it's pretty amazing to stand back and watch my girls form a bond with Cherokee. I can only imagine that's how my parents felt when they watched me building a bond with him all those years ago.

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I see my girls look at him the same way I once looked at him.

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I see the joy on their faces when they ride.  

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And as I watch them, I suddenly find myself reliving my past.

That past is just a fond, distant memory. Now we're working on building new memories!

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Countless times over the past 20 years, I desperately wished Cherokee could live at home with me. Leaving him was always the worst. Unfortunately, that never worked out in our favor.  Now my kids say the same thing.  We hate leaving him behind, because he belongs with us. Parting is always so difficult. But now, we make the promise to come back soon. So soon.

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Cherokee is mine forever, and I'll always be his girl. We're both just older versions of what we once were. I have no plans to let him go before his time, but when that impossible time comes when we do have to part, I'm going to hold him as tightly as I possibly can and blanket him with tears full of love and memories of our life together.

It's a good life and we're still writing those pages in our story.

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LET'S CONNECT!