What We’re Doing in 2016

Mike was the first person to notice them. Walking by the printer, he spied them fresh off the press.

“This year I will” he read … “Oh no, are these for us?”

They were indeed! Cute New Year’s resolution printables courtesy of Pinterest, one for each of us. Sigh.

“You’re going to make us do those, aren’t you?” Elena was the next to notice, after I’d cut them out nicely and arranged them on the kitchen counter. Sigh.

Eli lived in New Year’s resolution ignorant bliss, until I whipped them back out later that evening as we waited in a barbecue restaurant for our food to arrive. He stared at the blank page and grimaced, as if we’d told him we were all having the ribs and he could have some tofu. Sigh.

So maybe they don’t enjoy self-reflection as much as I do, but in an attempt to humor me they rallied and reflected. And I have to say, they all put great thought into their resolutions. I’m hit or miss when it comes to making big changes when the new year rolls around. For me, I feel more compelled to make changes when the school year starts. That feels like the beginning of a new year to me. Still, I thought it would be fun for us to try coming up with some resolutions together and to share some individual goals with each other. As an Obliger, I know how important it is to have outer accountability when it comes to meeting inner goals. I suspect I’m not the only Obliger in this little family. Here’s what the members of the Six family would like to accomplish in 2016:

This Year Angie Will:

Start a new habit: Aim to get 10,000 steps at least 5 days a week
Read a good book: Harry Potter (finally!)
Learn a new skill: Periscope
Go on a visit to: My niece’s house. We’re always talking about visiting, but are terrible at making it happen.
Break a bad habit: Failure to floss on a regular basis
Look forward to: Our trip to California
Try something new: Cooking ahead and doing meal prep at the beginning of the week

This Year Mike Will:

Start a new habit: Walk Gus more often
Read a good book: Finish the Harry Potter series with Eli
Learn a new skill: Household DIY projects
Go on a visit to: Hocking Hills, Ohio (Our friends went last fall and it looks like a fun and quick family getaway)
Break a bad habit: Skipping family meetings (we’re all guilty)
Look forward to: Going to see Twenty One Pilots as a family (we have 4 tickets to the Indy show this summer)
Try something new: New food (It’s going swimmingly so far, can’t you tell based on Mike’s helpful editorial comments on my suggestions?)

Getting to Yum seasonal new food suggestions for winter

This Year Elena Will:

Start a new habit: Draw every day
Read a good book: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Learn a new skill: Something art related
Go on a visit to: California
Break a bad habit: Going to Taco Bell (cut down to no more than twice a week)
Look forward to: Hopefully going to a Ryan Ross concert
Try something new: Skydiving (!)

This Year Eli Will:

Start a new habit: Brush teeth in the morning without being asked
Read a good book: Finish Harry Potter with Dad
Learn a new skill: BMX tricks
Go on a visit to: California
Break a bad habit: Leaving lights on (praise Jesus if just one kid could figure this out)
Look forward to: His first concert (Twenty One Pilots in July)
Try something new: The ukulele

This Year Gus Will:

Start a new habit: Letting my owners clip my nails without freaking the freak out
Read a good book: The Ultimate Guide to Dog Training
Learn a new skill: Wipe his own muddy paws before coming in
Go on a visit to: Barkefellers without getting kicked out for “aggressive mounting”
Break a bad habit: Chewing the most expensive socks we own while overlooking the cheapo Target ones
Look forward to: Finally catching those squirrels
Try something new: Watching the nice old lady walk in our cul-de-sac instead of barking as if she’s an ax-murderer

Just kidding, Gus can’t write … yet.

We also came up with a few family resolutions. We’d like to start having family meetings again once a week. We fell out of the habit over the summer, but have missed that valuable connection and opportunity for communication. We want to work on a big jigsaw puzzle – the kind you get started on a table and leave out for people to work on as they please until it’s finished. And finally, we have a goal to play each and every game we own. We’ve amassed quite a collection, some of which the kids have either outgrown or that we don’t enjoy as much as we thought we would. We’re on a game buying hiatus until we complete this fun task.

Did you or your family make New Year’s resolutions this year? If so, do you talk about them together or keep them private? I promise to report back at the end of the year and let you know how we did with ours!


A Vitamin a Day Keeps the Barks Away

White dog with pink nose

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Milk-Bone. Dogs give us so much love that they deserve more than ordinary treats. They deserve treats with benefits. Milk-Bone’s Good Morning Daily Vitamin Treats provide beneficial nutrients not found in most dog foods, with a taste your pup will love. Milk-Bone made Gus’ day with a box full of treats and toys, and while he may be easily swayed with food, all thoughts and opinions here are mine.

As you know from my recent post on working out, I’ve been trying diligently to swap out healthy habits for some of my bad ones. Something I’ve struggled with for years is taking my vitamins. I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve engaged in the wasteful cycle of knowing I need to take vitamins, spending a chunk of change on vitamins, taking vitamins haphazardly, letting vitamins expire, and throwing vitamins away. Time will pass and then I’ll tell myself I need to make taking vitamins a priority and I do it all over again.

Once again, Gretchen Rubin and her fabulous book about habits came to the rescue. Rubin suggests using the Strategy of Pairing to form a desired habit. In this strategy, you couple two activities together: one that you need or want to do, and the one that you have difficulty doing. You don’t do one without the other, and in that way you accomplish two things that you need to do at the same time.

I decided to use my deep and abiding love for a cup of coffee first thing in the morning as the pairing companion for taking my vitamins every day. I moved my vitamins from their usual spot in the pantry (out of sight and out of mind) and instead placed them right next to the coffee maker. Now I have to stare at them while I make my coffee, and it’s working! Ever since I paired my morning cup of coffee with taking vitamins, I haven’t missed a day.

Milk-Bone Good Morning Daily Vitamin Treats

In a study of pet owners, Milk-Bone found that 1 out of 3 owners are concerned that their pets are not getting enough of the nutrients they need in their dog food alone. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but it makes sense. Like most pet owners, I already supplement Gus’ diet with treats. By switching a couple of those daily treats with Milk-Bone’s Good Morning Daily Vitamin Treats I can supply him with nutrients he’s missing, like glucosamine to support healthy joints or DHA to supplement overall wellness.

Unlike his humans, Gus doesn’t need any encouragement to take his vitamins. But I’m using the very same strategy of pairing to remember to give Gus his daily dose! There are two times a day which I have, ahem, some difficulty getting Gus to come inside: first thing in the morning and last thing at night. He’s not much of a barker during the day, and with our invisible fence, I’m often able to let him play outside for long stretches without worrying about him annoying the neighbors. But at the crack of dawn and right when everyone is settling down for the evening? Barky McBarkerson. He runs laps around the house, telling every chipmunk, dog and neighbor that HE IS HERE! BEWARE! We keep a jar of treats at the back door, and during the day, simply calling his name and shaking the treat jar brings him in. For whatever reason, those treats aren’t worth anything for his first and last outing of the day.

Milk-Bone Good Morning Daily Vitamin Treats

The day after his package from Milk-Bone arrived, I tried something different. When he was barking his head off at 6:30 a.m. I opened the back door, shook the container of Good Morning Daily Vitamin Treats, and called, “Gus! Vitamins!” And there he was, at the back door in a jiffy. Works every single time. It’s perfect – he needs two vitamins a day, and I need him to come inside quickly two times a day!

Milk-Bone Good Morning Daily Vitamin Treats

I’d love to hear from you – have you ever used the Strategy of Pairing in your own life to form a healthy habit? If not, can you think of a current situation you might improve by invoking the Strategy of Pairing?

Thanks to Milk-Bone for making Gus a happy pup, but especially for helping me solve a problem that was driving me crazy twice a day! For more fun and interesting information about pets and how they affect our own physical and emotional health, check out the infographic below.

Healthy dog healthy humans Milk-Bone Infographic



Can You KonMari a Blog?

Conner Prairie

So many of the bloggers I read from ye olde days of blogging are no longer around, and the truth is that I miss them. I wonder how their families are doing, if their dog still does those crazy things, if they’ve been on vacation or off to pick apples. And yet in many ways, I’ve closed myself off as well. I’m still here, but sometimes “here” can be a very superficial thing. You have photographic evidence that I’m still alive, that I still have 2 kids and a dog, that I still write. But I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve kept real life buried away from this space.

The bloggers I read who have shuttered their spaces said it got to be too much. Or they just stopped saying things and quietly turned the lights out. The ones who are still here have evolved. Either they don’t post as much or they have fully resigned themselves to the blog as a business, letting the personal details fade to the background.

I understand this conundrum so well. My blog will never be a legit business. I write and take pictures because it makes me feel whole and good. Sometimes it comes with money, but I do it when it doesn’t. At the same time, I’ve slowly come to realize, with some very helpful prodding from Mike, that putting so much of myself in the bucket of blogging while leaving my other buckets unfilled isn’t good. And so this year I started to evolve as well. I’m a late bloomer, I guess.

It started with shuttering The Risky Kids. I thought I would miss it terribly, and was worried that I’d feel as if I’d failed or made a great mistake. Instead, it was a tremendous relief, like I’d shed a heavy and expensive coat that didn’t fit right. I haven’t missed it one bit.

Now I’m taking a hard look at this space. As opposed to shutting windows and doors, I feel like I want to tear everything off the windows and walls and let the place air out. Or maybe I just need to KonMari the place. That’s what everybody’s doing now, right?

The first clutter I’m dealing with is the sponsored content. In the last few months, I’ve gotten very particular about it. As Marie Kondo would say, “Does it spark joy?” Not how easy is the gig, how much does it pay, how badly do I want the free whatever-it-is, but am I excited about it? Would I take my precious time to write about it and feel good about taking your precious time to read about it? No? Then I pass. I have commitments I made before I had this mid-life epiphany that I need to follow through with. But you’ll notice less and less of this kind of writing in the future.

Instead, I’ll write when I feel I have something I want to share. It could be three times a week, it could be three times a month. It could be Pinterest-worthy, or it could be random stuff about family life.

Speaking of random stuff about family life, how about we start with that now?

We are settling in nicely to the school routine. For the first time in a long time, my commitments have been pared way down. I’m not working outside the home. I haven’t signed up to be in charge of anything at school. I’m down a blog, and not committed to writing on a regular basis for any other outlets. I spend my Sunday evenings planning out my week. I used to dread those sessions, because it meant looking at what I hadn’t accomplished the week before, only to turn the weekly page in my planner and see it already full of new things to do. Now I feel like not only can I stay on top of what needs to be done, but that I have margin in my life. I feel so much healthier, both mentally and physically, because of it.

Saugatuck Dune Rides

Elena started 8th grade. I know how time and aging works, and yet it still blows my mind that I have a teenager. And that next year I’ll be the parent of a HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT. Things that she needs to make it worth getting out of bed for: music, band t-shirts, eyeliner, Totino’s Party Pizza, and Taco Bell Baja Blasts Freezes. This month we finally got her a smart phone, which makes her officially the last teenager on earth to get one. She dropped band in school, but she plays her electric guitar every day at home. We were merciful parents and didn’t make her sign up for any kind of sport, instead taking her to art classes once a week. She’s been filling her room with canvases of album covers she’s painted in art class and it’s pretty sweet.

Nerf war birthday party

Eli is in 2nd grade this year. He’s super into music as well, but not at all interested in learning to play it. No, he wants to move to it. He cranks up his Spotify playlist (right now Macklemore’s “Downtown” is on heavy rotation) and practices a combination of dancing, parkour, and ninja moves in the basement. He also started his own YouTube channel. He’s very much into Nerf guns now, so for his 8th birthday party we hosted a gaggle of boys here for a Nerf war. Easiest party ever: just throw the boys outside with an arsenal of guns and bullets. It took them half an hour just to settle on the rules for the battle while I sat in the garage watching with a giant Diet Coke.

Snaggletooth lab pit bull

And Gus? He’s good, too. We’ve had him for just over a year now, and slowly but surely he’s losing some of the less desirable puppy habits. Slowly. He ate his fair share of flip-flops over the summer, but now his tastes have evolved toward the more expensive TV remotes. He also has a taste for mums. Still, there’s hope. We can leave him out of the kennel for shorter errands and he’s much less jumpy and humpy than he was at the beginning of the summer. I hope he never outgrows that snaggletooth, though.

I don’t know how this space will look in the end, with everything stripped down for a bit. But I do know that I’ll be able to see more clearly. I hope when I look out of the window that I’ll still see you there.

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