Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed


#thankfulgratefulblessed Was that all over social media again? It's cliché, believe me I realize. I actually hate the hashtag, but it's also very true. Each Thanksgiving season, I think long and hard about what I'm thankful for. This year I had to pause my thinking and redirect myself numerous times. I wanted to know, what was the one thing that had the biggest impact on me since I last checked my gratefulness?

A lot has happened since last Thanksgiving. Our table was one less special person this year. As much as I wish my grandma was still with us, I am forever thankful for what I was given during my grandma's last days on earth. Our large family gathered together for two weeks, two whole weeks, around her bedside. We shared meals, stories, tears, and laughter. The entire experience was pure, unconditional love. Love for my grandma and each other. As the days turned from winter to spring, I was forever changed by those weeks. 

Then again, the only reason I was able to fully immerse myself in family during that time was due to my business and the flexibility my families gave me. They're always understanding and downright amazing. I wouldn't have my life without them. Surely, I should be most thankful for them and my business. Every bit of it is priceless.

Of course, then there was all of the irreplaceable time I granted myself to have with my children. I took as much time off as I could, making just enough money to cover the bills, and I spent time with my children. I homeschooled them, took them on trips across the country, and learned with them. I can easily say that experience has had a tremendous impact on who I am in this moment (and also my bank account). I will never regret taking that time; it's actually been one of the best things I've done in my entire life.

In truth, I can't pick just one thing to be thankful for. I have a whole, wonderful life that was made up of a gazillion experiences the past year that leads me to be the person typing this. When we went around giving thanks before our meal last Thursday, I think I gave a pretty blanketed answer of 'I'm thankful for family, friends, animals...' I am very thankful to have all of that because they make my life rich with craziness and laughter. But truly, what I'm most thankful for are these experiences in my life that change who I am and who I become. The time with family that reminds me what unconditional love is. The people who show kindness and grace and support, even if it's not easy. The gift of time. So really, I am thankful, grateful, and so incredibly blessed with the good stuff life offers.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Welcome To The Newest Family Members

For this story we need to go all the way back to March 10, 2022. It's the day we put our 16 year old female cat down. She was our hunter. She went after flies, bugs of any kind. She would sit and chitter at the birds as they flew by the window. Never once in our 16 years of owning these cats did we get a bad case of bugs, rodents, or critters. She left behind her (now) 16 1/2 year old brother, who back in the day chased down chipmunks and squirrels, but wasn't much of a hunter. He didn't prowl and protect the house like his sister did.

I find no coincidence in the fact that in August we discovered our first mouse in our house. Now, to be completely fair to the old cat, the kids left our back door open, as in wide open, many nights throughout the summer. I'm actually surprised we didn't have more than a mouse wander in! Since August, we've found mice off and on in the garage and a few in the kitchen. I told my husband we needed kittens. He wasn't convinced. Three weeks ago we captured a mouse under our sink and I told him if I heard another mouse at night we'd be getting kittens.

Well, I swear I heard another mouse scampering along the floor boards, so the weekend before Thanksgiving found us at the Animal Rescue League. I had spent the day before looking at cats and kittens on their website. Even Friday night I wasn't sure I was ready for another round of kittens, so I proposed we go to the ARL just to look. What's the harm in that? Somewhere between the drive there and our arrival, I decided each child needed their own cat. Then, somewhere between looking at cats and getting introduced to them, I chose the three smallest, youngest kittens in their rescue (at the time).

They were meowing, climbing, and unsure as we passed them back and forth. Before we even had the bill paid and the paperwork signed, the kids were discussing names. Now, our older cat is named Doc because he and his litter of sisters were found on a dock next to a river. However, our lab is named Zeus. The kids have been rooting for another puppy and had a list of Greek gods and goddesses names. By the time we reached home all three had their names: Flora (she's the really fluffy one) Goddess of plants, Thor (he's the striped one with spots) God of Thunder, Sky, and Agriculture, and Athena (the smallest, striped one and also the oldest of the three) Goddess of wisdom.

The two females happen to be in the same cage, but are not related at all. Thor was a few cages down, meowing his head off. As we've learned, he LOVES people and cuddles. Being in a cage was a form of torture for him. They range in ages from 11 weeks to 8 weeks. 

We had to use cardboard carriers because we left our cat carriers at home. That's how little we planned on bringing home kittens!

It's interesting to me that without really knowing the cats, the kids managed to pick cats similar to their personalities. Flora, Max's cat, likes to be left alone and is very calm. Thor, Elizabeth's cat, is (as the boys put it) "full of mood swings just like her;" he can go from cute and cuddly to full on terror in a matter of seconds. Athena, Harrison's cat, is known as the fuck around (nice, I know); she's the wild card, never knowing what she's going to throw at you. 

We got the kittens under the conditions that the kids take care of them. They've done a stellar job with the dog, feeding him, walking him daily. So far it's been smooth sailing with the kittens too. I do have to remind them to refill the food dishes and clean the litter twice a day, but there have been zero complaints about it.

We've had them just over a week and they're already perfect for us. And we've been mice free for three weeks and counting. I'm telling my family it's because I talked them into kittens.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Fall Break


My children had two fall breaks this year. Both were four day weekends. The first Fall Break we spent along the North Shore (read about that here). The second Fall Break we took it easy and stayed in Iowa. The minis have wanted to take it easy during their/our free time. I think the long days at school and not home in their pajamas is kicking them a little bit. We still managed to cross off a couple of things off of our bucket lists though.

Sleeping in and lazy mornings are a priority for the minis now. This is also something I approve of; it's like my night owl self is finally being rewarded for all of those early mornings with babies and toddlers. Once we got up and moving, we really drove to West Branch, IA to visit the birthplace of former President Herbert Hoover. At just under two hours from the metro, and a straight shot East on I-80, it was an easy drive. This well kept historical landmark is in the middle of the town's downtown district. I highly recommend taking a stroll not only through the historical park, but the town itself. We also hiked a short prairie trail just for the extra leg stretch.

Not many National Parks are dog friendly, so we always try to look for the Monuments and Historical Parks that are. Zeus enjoyed getting his first BARK Ranger badge (he for sure would have more, but he's a pandemic pup and this program wasn't up and running much during the pandemic), walking along the trails, and whining when one of us went into the buildings.

Visiting the gravesites of President Hoover and his wife.

Two of the minis explored the Presidential Library (onsite) while the other mini, Zeus, and I walked around the downtown area.

Before we hit the interstate on our way home, I decided we needed to get another hike in. Checking AllTrails, I discovered this "cool looking" trail. When we arrived, we realized it was actually a dirt bike course. We weren't completely sure we were supposed to be on it, but it was void of dirt bikes at the time, so I convinced the minis and Hubs to break the rules and run the course with me. It was a muddy blast! Sometimes it's those unexpected stops that turn into the best adventures filled with giggles.

One day adventuring followed by a day of rest on Sunday. Sundays are for walks around the neighborhood, playing with friends, football, and homemade foods. And naps and laundry. Always plenty of both of those.

Our next adventure took us to NE Iowa and the towns of Strawberry Point, McGregor, and Marquette. We stopped at the giant strawberry and the cutest coffee shop in Strawberry Point (although, I got a decent pumpkin pie flavored coffee from Casey's on our way out of town). From there we went to our favorite hiking spot in Iowa: Effigy Mounds National Monument. The views overlooking the Mighty Mississippi are stellar, the spiritual and historical value of the land is priceless, and there are miles of trails to explore.

We've been hiking Effigy Mounds since the youngest could walk. One of my bucket list hikes in this area was the Marching Bear Trail. It's not a long trail, four miles if you just do the Marching Bear Trail and not the little sub-trails off of it. However, it's straight up a cliff, or a river bluff. It's quite a climb and the kid's little legs have been too little to complete the climb. I knew going into it that this would finally be our year to do this hike. It was well worth the wait too!

We paired the Marching Bear Trail with the Yellow River Bridge Trail, which gave us around 6 miles for the day.

We have to get creative when we travel with the dog. We often do take out car dinners since very few places are dog friendly. This taco pizza from Casey's tasted amazing after a long hike.

The rest of break was spent at hair appointments, dental and doctors office visits, and running errands. I took the minis to vote with me in the midterms and made time to treat myself to coffees, and time with friends. We love to travel and be on the go, but this little break was nice. I'm finally getting to a place where I and my family don't feel overrun by life.