The Little Things

I’m going to try to blog more again this year.

I say this always, but lately I have had a legitimate reason not to blog. The shift key on my laptop hasn’t worked for a while. This has been super annoying and somewhat problematic. At first, I didn’t think it was a big deal. But the longer it went on, the less I’d use my laptop.

I don’t love typing long emails or blog posts or anything of significance on my phone. And I don’t do that stuff at work, so it has been only when necessary that I have really done it on my phone.

Life update: Kareem got a new job! We are so pleased. With this new job, he received a new computer set up- laptop, a couple monitors, etc etc. His old monitor from his old job was up for grabs, so I grabbed it. His old work computer was a Mac, which is what my laptop is. So he had a couple Mac accessories like a keyboard and mouse which I also commandeered.

We then adjusted our dining room. When school closed down in spring of 2020, we all worked from the dining room table. Before that, it had been a lovely dining table that I always had decked out for whatever season and sometimes we had dessert or played games on it.

When Covid closed everything down, the dining room became an everything room for everyone. We all had work and school from the dining room table at different points during the day, so there were like seven computers and a bazillon papers and it became like a mega desk.

For one day during the pandemic, it functioned as a dining room. That was our wedding day- aww….

Photo Credit: Ben and Becca Lee Munson

After a few months into the pandemic, Kareem switched jobs and they gave him a stipend for office furniture for his home since he would be working remote. He decided to purchase a desk and chair which was more comfortable and appropriate for his needs. We adjusted the dining room table and made room for the desk.

Since then, our dining table is used mostly when we have company. Or it collects piles of school work, backpacks, projects, gifts, mail, art supplies, and every other kind of thing you can imagine, until I can’t take it anymore and clear it all off. Since the dining room table is usually full of crap, then everybody does art and games on the kitchen table and then THAT has stuff on it until it’s time to eat. The stuff goes on the passover and then I get annoyed. We also all use Kareem’s work desk for our stuff when we need to do a Zoom meeting or something, because my laptop sucks and Rami just has his school Chromebook. So everybody leaves stuff on his desk, puts stuff on his desk, and does stuff at his desk so his work space is not really his. It hasn’t really been efficient for the family.

With the new work set up and my pirating of his old work set up, we decided to just accept what is happening and make the dining room function better according to our use of it- a workspace. It is not really used as a dining room anymore. So I moved the dining room table into my kitchen, took the leaf out of my kitchen table and moved it to the dining room creating a desk table of sorts. We set up two long table tops along the wall to function as a kid/art workspace, and we feel like this is going to function much more nicely for our family.

Really, I’m mostly glad to have a working shift key again. It’s the little things, I tell you.

It’s a Wonderful Life

A month and a half ago, we were feeling pretty worried.  Kareem had lost his job due to circumstances of the business that had nothing to do with him, but it felt so terrible because we were just a few weeks from the most wonderful time of the year.  I remember feeling like I should be freaking out, but I felt pretty calm.  Surely it would take no time to get a job.

Depending on when you talked to me over the past month and a half, I was either feeling very hopeful or during those moments of worry, I was feeling very concerned.  I told Kareem, you’re with me now and we’re a miracle.  It’s going to be okay.  But there were those moments where I was like, oh shoot.

Moving into this season of hope, joy, love, and peace, we have had to accept some realities of our circumstance.  Not just financially, but also being a blended family has raised some challenges, mostly in the scheduling department.  Many people cannot relate to this, but imagine how you schedule your holiday plans around your family and your in-law’s family…. Now add in four additional family schedules and blend with some complicated feelings, and well, your annual traditions just might not be happening the way you always do them.  That is mostly okay with me, but this year, it has been more difficult for me to accept.  I think because of the additional challenges we were facing.  I was like, geez is there something that I can control?  Answer: nope.  Not at this time.  🙂

Now that Christmas is right around the corner, I wanted to pause and reflect.  This has so far been my favorite holiday season to date.  It has been simplified in a sense, and not because we haven’t had the money.  More because of the scheduling aspect.  I have been more intentional about how we are spending our time, prioritizing differently, and spending lots of family time.  We also did gratitude reflections everyday during November, which is something I did while going through my divorce but haven’t done it with such frequency since.  It made all of this into a bit of an It’s a Wonderful Life moment- “Oh look at this wonderful old drafty house, Mary!”  That was us everyday.

I heard my six year old girl singing “Count Your Blessings” on her own, to herself last night.  It brought a tear to my eye.  Here in the midst of our mess, she’s reminding me to count my blessings.  This past month, I told Kareem, we are not going to get down and in our feelings about this.  We are going to serve others, lose ourselves in the service of others.  There were moments when we had opportunities to give time or gifts or of ourselves this past month and either one or both of us thought we couldn’t do it.  So we did it anyway.  And I will tell you what, it has been such a blessing to us in every way.

We experienced so many tender mercies during this trial.  And no, it’s not over yet.  But it is amazing how when you’re expecting something to look a certain way or have one specific solution in mind for a problem, you sometimes don’t see the incredible blessings that are getting you closer to that dream or hope or solving that problem that you are working on.  Our Christmas season has been made so merry through love and care of our family and friends.  Our kids’ dreams are going to come true one way or another, and the season has been simplified through circumstance.  We have had get togethers with friends that cost zero dollars, spent movie nights and fire nights and looked at Christmas lights all for free.  We got invited to do cool things with friends and family, attended family parties, and have just had a merry old time despite thinking we may not be able to.

I have also been so blessed by hearing from people in my life, both past and present, who share such uplifting things.  They remind me of what’s important and what life is all about.  It’s all very “It’s a Wonderful Life,” as I eluded to earlier.  All in all, I am so grateful for this Christmas season, and I am full of hope and peace for this season of our lives and what’s to come, which is really what it’s all about anyway.  

Hiking Goals Recap 2021

This year really looked a lot different than 2020 in all kinds of ways. It was a bit tougher on our family than 2020, to be honest. As a result, we didn’t do as much hiking as we would have liked to. However, we still did a lot of hiking and went on some really cool adventures. I’ve been featuring many of them on my blog page this week.

After today’s hike, we will total 71 hikes for the entire year. That’s not bad! About half from 2020, but more than 2019. This year’s goals included:

10 new trails- achieved and exceeded!

8 camping trips with hikes- individually, we achieved this, but not as a family.

7 waterfalls- achieved!

3 national parks- achieved and exceeded!

1 Bucket List Hike- not met

Many of the hikes we went on totally would have been bucket list hikes, but we did not get one off my big list due to… well, due to a lot of things. Maybe next year!

Ultimately, we learned a lot this year. We went through quite a bit of transition with me getting a new job and Kareem going through some major transition at his company, and ultimately, searching for a new job.

Both Kareem and I got COVID in February. It was very difficult for me, and the recovery took months. I didn’t get to hike for almost two months. I gained some weight at this time as well, so getting back in shape has been a challenge. This directly affected our hiking plans and goals, of course.

We also took some of our favorite trips we’ve ever taken as a family, as you know if you have followed my blog. We did a lot of local hikes as well. I love when my family and I can act as sort of a hiking ambassador, taking people with us who don’t typically get to hike for whatever reason. We were lucky to have several opportunities like that this year.

Sometimes we didn’t want to hike. We were busy, tired, dysregulated. Bad things were happening around us, and we just wanted to skip it.

Luckily, there was always one of us saying that they wanted to do it. Or being an encourager. It’s not because we have our goals, and it’s a to do list and we need to get it done. No! It’s because all of us in our family recognize the value in hiking. It is meditative, it can be challenging and give us a sense of accomplishment, and it is a bonding experience for our family. Kareem and my couples therapy is hiking, haha. And we know that it reduces anxiety and helps us maintain perspective. There’s a reason for the phrase “hike more, worry less.”

I am proud of all we accomplished in our hiking year this year! I can’t wait to plan our goals for the upcoming year this weekend and I will update those next week. We always choose to spend part of Black Friday outside in order to maintain perspective about what’s really important and to remind us that we always have a refuge from the crazy of the world in the outdoors. Please always feel free to join us! Happy Thanksgiving!

Music for Children: Symphony and Pop Punk

There are so many great quotes about music and what it adds to life, but there are a couple I think of when I think of my responsibility to teach my children about music.

  1. Teaching music to children is the most important thing in life, next to parenting, that a person can do. -Jean Asworth Bartle


2. If children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe something fundamental is actually being taken away from them. -Luciano Pavarotti

I take this to heart! That being said, it was our privilege and pleasure to take our kids to the symphony in Forest Park a couple weeks ago. They always do a free concert in Forest Park to kick off their season. It usually has tastes of what they will offer that year. I highly recommend! We take a picnic and make a night of it. I have done it with my kids for several years. They didn’t have it last year due to COVID, so we were even more grateful to be there the other night.

They ended the very fun and exciting show with a fireworks display over the Grand Basin, which my children loved! If you’re worried about it being a weeknight, the show only lasted a little over an hour. If you park strategically, this is not a late evening at all.

We also had the opportunity to introduce our children to LIVE pop punk music at the New Found Glory show at the Factory in Chesterfield.

I was really excited about this. We have listened to this music as a family, but the kids have never actually been to a rock show like this. Experiencing it live like this is a totally different deal.

New Found Glory toured with Less Than Jake, who I haven’t seen live since like 2003. I have seen New Found Glory live well over 20 times. I have traveled to see them. They are very fun live. Less Than Jake was REALLY lively and fun as well!

The kids loved this even more than I thought they would. They both caught guitar picks and just had a blast. Nick told me it was the first day of the rest of his life. I felt that same way after my first punk show too. 🙂

I hope to keep exposing them to lots of different things the world has to offer, and I do consider it my duty to help them learn how to make, listen to, and love music.

Fall Hiking

Fall. Is. Here!

No doubt about it- the air is getting crisp and this weekend I noticed the leaves beginning to change. I love me some summer, but I welcome the gorgeous changes fall brings. This fall, honestly, I’m a little bummed. I have some obligations that have changed around my custody schedule and we don’t have the kids at the same time so our events and calendar have been bumbled around. It’s something that can be hard to adjust to- do we do the thing with just the one child, just the three children, and/or the things we typically do on our own we won’t do because we don’t want to give up a moment with any of the kids. It’s a balancing act and this fall, it feels like there’s no balance.

BUT! There is still hiking, of course. Fall hiking can be the best- some of those nasty bugs are gone, the trees put on quite a show, and the weather is perfect.

I have in the past published some detailed hikes for the fall season- some of my favorite hikes- and you can find them here:

Ha Ha Tonka

Starved Rock

Taum Sauk

World Bird Sanctuary

A few more recommendations that I haven’t fully written up but have lots of opinions on:

Elephant Rocks– the famous state park in Iron County, MO. The giant granite boulders are spectacular any time of year, but the foliage around here is incredible in the fall and the views of the surrounding St. Francois mountains blanketed in oranges and yellows make it even more glorious.

Cuivre River– Close to home, this state park in Troy, MO is like a taste of the Ozarks near St. Louis with those dolomite glades, bluffs, and rivers running through it all. There’s even a lake with a trail around it- beautiful foliage!

Pere Marquette– You wanna talk about bluffs? Let’s talk about Pere Marquette. We always get up there in January for the eagle sightings and festivities, but this Illinois state park is worth the drive in the fall. Take the ferry over, enjoy the sights and sounds, and end with a river-side meal for a fabulous day trip.

Johnson Shut Ins– not just for summer fun, you know! This Black River shut in is breathtaking in the fall, surrounded by an incredible show the old hills put on.

Let me know where your fall hiking takes you and be on the look out for some fall hike write ups from me! Our hiking year ends on Thanksgiving, so I will publish our hiking year recap then as well!