This year, we didn’t meet all our goals for our hiking year. I’m totally good with that.
This year was the definition of life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. We didn’t count on most things that happened to us- our big spring break trip was cancelled due to a huge home repair that cleaned us out, we were engaged in a legal issue for months that we didn’t anticipate at all, and we found out we are expecting a baby! It is a mix of wonderful and weird, but all in all, good things. Each of these things caused some change in plans.
We did not hit our minimum 100 hikes. We got 63- not bad! More than 52 which is how this whole thing began.
We did get 20 new trails in. We traveled to some new places where we hiked. One of our favorites was Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. We also found some new local trails which was part of what this goal was for.
We finally did our wildflower hike which was overdue from the year before. We did a bluebell hike on Easter and it was one of the most memorable hikes of the year.
We did not get our overnight hike in nor did we hit every state that touches Missouri (except Nebraska which we are saving for our future South Dakota). Missouri actually has the most states bordering it of any other state! We did get to hike in Iowa which we hadn’t previously done so that was great. Oklahoma and Illinois as well.
Of course, we hit some of our very favorite Missouri places and local trails too.
And of course, our favorite Missouri waterways. What’s better than a hike that ends in the river?!
I did not feel as much pressure to accomplish these goals this year. As we set goals for the coming year, it’s become more like a wishlist, a hope, a dream. Because we know especially since 2020 that we can plan but our plan doesn’t necessarily survive contact with the enemy. Or in our case, contact with the year ahead. This coming year, we know that the baby will be coming, and we are excited to see how life looks with our new addition. Hope he likes that baby backpack because he has some hikes in his future! 🙂
People say that social media is everybody’s highlight reel. And I certainly post the big things that are happening in our lives, but my highlights are not necessarily just the things I’m posting.
My highlights are the random Wednesday evening dessert and we decide to play a game and share some belly laughs.
Or, alternatively, the “grab some impulse buy from the freezer” Tuesday night treat.
Or watching my kids freely create in the space we have designed for them to do so.
Or when they inspire me and push me to do the same.
Or when the kids decide to have a sibling sleepover in the basement.
Or when the boy and his best friend cuddle on the couch watching a movie.
Or when I’m scared and my husband comforts me.
Or I get reminded who I am through some conversation with someone- a family member, a friend, my man- who popped up with just the right words at just the right time on a random Thursday evening.
Or when the kids want to work together to make our house our home.
Or the silly selfie photos we take with my parents when my dad is making us laugh with his terrible faces.
Or when you are just looking at your child and you realize he’s all of the sudden so grown up and your heart swells with love and pride at the sight of him.
Or my friend and my husband helping me do Girl Scout stuff in the kitchen.
Or we visit family on a random weeknight.
Or when someone has had a hard day and they ask, will you play with me/ will you jump with me/ will you talk with me. Be with me.
Or in the everyday guess what I learned guess what I found out guess what I read watch this look at me.
Or the night we are too exhausted to do another darn thing, so we do a late dinner at the Mexican restaurant across the street even though we totally shouldn’t on many levels.
Or when they celebrate each other’s lives together.
Or driving the kids to their activities.
Or the conversations on the way to and from school.
Or in the relationships collectively but also individually- we witness grow and love each day.
Or hearing them share secrets and tell stories about their day. The best is when they ASK each other. 😀
Or the little lessons we learn and teach- explicitly, by example, and by lived experiences.
Or those Friday night transitions where either we are holding space for our kids’ transition or for our own transition.
Or the FaceTime calls when we are apart.
These moments are the highlight of my life. They are messy, but they are real.
My family has experienced quite a lot of tragedy so far this year. I have been on a weird and wonderful journey career-wise, and otherwise quite honestly. My husband and I have spent years healing and growing from our divorces. Our kids are growing growing growing. Some of it is quiet and slow til it hits you- hey! We grew! We made progress! Some of it hits you like a ton of bricks. But all in all, in between those tragedies and triumphs, we create this fabric of life to treasure and that is truly my highlight.
I have lots of loose ends out there this week… Do I talk about the Paul Simon album, our kids’ school transitions coming up, the absolute misery vs beauty of the world, the book I’m reading, my art journey, I mean so many things I’m thinking about.
May is such a busy month. May-cember, am I right? It’s this spirit day, and this letter day and this celebration or the last concert or the last assembly or field day, graduation, clap out, etc etc. It’s amplified by the fact that we have a 5th grader and an 8th grader, so lots of celebration about their upcoming transitions. I thought this year might be easier because I don’t work in a school anymore, and it has been, but May is S O B U S Y.
Our summer is busy too. Our two big boys both have week long summer camps and the biggest one has two week-long summer camps. Of course, this is all happening on weeks we have the kids, so we are really sad. I mean, excited for them but sad for us somewhat because that’s a lot of time away. These are bookended with the oldest taking a trip with his mom and the other three taking a trip with their dad. Kareem is also going to be on a trip at some point. Last year, we had a similar thing but with only one kid. Now it’s everybody! So we are trying to be really intentional about building in meaningful connection time for our family now and throughout the summer.
I’m so ready for summer. We are not traveling this summer (shock! gasp!) so I don’t really know what to do with myself. I am just working on planning next year’s trip- haha! So I am kind of excited about the space that affords us this summer. We are going to do some camping and probably a Saturday night away, but that’s it. S P A C E. B R E A T H. C O N N E C T I O N. That’s what I’m hoping this summer is about.
In my most recent career iteration in public ed, I was a school principal. And every Friday (with occasional exception), I would send a Friday Memo to the whole staff. This was a practice I inherited from the principal before me and he from the principal before him and so on. I think we all probably got it from hearing Todd Whitaker speak, as it was a cornerstone of his practice. Anyway, the point is that I did this. It was often a point of issue for me. I would take down things to make sure I included over the week. I would languish over the color theme and make sure it was aligned to whatever holiday or season we were in. I would link helpful or just uplifting or fun resources and included memes to make it lighthearted as the world of public ed can be so heavy. Most significantly, I would very intentionally pen an opener in each and every one.
This opener would be specifically and strategically designed. It may be tone setting or a response to something going on in our school community. It may be to share something, celebrate, or help shape a narrative- possibly correct a false one I could see developing. Sometimes it would be to build relationship and camaraderie or to challenge staff to do something. Sometimes it was vulnerability. But always it was written by me.
I left that school mid-year. A very weird thing to do, but I had to make a really hard choice and I chose my family. That’s not really what all of this is about though. In my new job, after ninety days, I had to take a DISC assessment. This is a personality test. I took one in 2017 at the beginning of my admin career. I was curious how much it might change. It didn’t change at all.
Maybe you have taken the DISC before and maybe not, but as a refresher, it ranks where you fall within four personality types- Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. It gives you a “profile” based on how you rank in these areas. My type is the Communicator.
The Communicator has a very high effectiveness in relationship building, persuasion, and influence. They are people-focused and outgoing. That’s all true. I had a meeting with a lady to help guide me with my DISC assessment results. The same day, I read about the tragic loss of the original and queen of mommy bloggers Dooce. (This post is not really about her death. Very very tragic to hear this news and of course, I send prayers, love, and light to all her loved ones grieving this tremendous loss. Certainly not to make her death about me- the connection is just that it got me thinking about that time on the Internet.)
Dooce started blogging in 2002. I have blogged in some capacity pretty much since I was a teenager. I love it. And I remember following many so called “mommy blogs” in the aughts. Dooce was one that I had heard of at that time. Anyway, thinking about Dooce again after all this time, it made me think about all those “mommy blogs” and what happened to them.
They kind of died out a little with the rise of various social media platforms and “influencers.” Some continued to evolve and go with these changes, and some did not. Some continued to blog, some died out. I continue to blog, and back then, I was fairly successful with a few thousand blog followers. I had some blog friends and went to blog conferences and things. It was very fun, but I was not making money. I got some free stuff, but I didn’t really like that very much. And I don’t really love the influencer culture now. So much of social media is about consumerism and buying and I don’t like that very much either.
Anyway, thinking about Dooce and the other blogs and my own blog, I was thinking about what compels me to continue this blog. I found so much value in sharing and in communicating, both producing and receiving. I found so much connection and consideration in reading the words of mostly women sharing their thoughts and their lives. I share pictures on Facebook. But I like to record and reflect and remember. That’s what I like about the blog. But what I miss about my old blog is some of the authenticity, the candor, the sharing. Same as what I miss about the Friday Memo.
It’s funny because sometimes the Friday Memo felt like such a chore, but I felt like it was very very important. Because communication is so important. And I always put a lot into that opener in the Friday Memo. It was a communication tool.
As I considered my DISC assessment and discussed with this lady yesterday, she kept applying it not just to my professional life but my personal life. She was like, this applies to how we relate in our families too and with ourselves or when we are stressed at the workplace or elsewhere. I hadn’t thought about that.
She also talked about what “brings me energy.” I loved how she framed this. I was asking her about how I can make up for my shortcomings on the list of strengths. I was concerned about things that weren’t as developed as my colleagues. She was like, you’re not making up for anything. Those things aren’t weaknesses- it’s just not something that “brings you energy.” She said you just have to be aware of when you have things you have to do that don’t bring you energy so you can put systems in place to be sure you’re doing them in alignment with how you can best accomplish them and spend time doing things that do bring you energy to best contribute and be your best self.
Well guess what. I’m the Communicator. That brings me energy. So I am going to spend time with my blog. I’m going to try to do a Friday Memo- probably not every week, but from time to time. Not about a trip or a hike or a recipe, but just for sake of communicating. For old times sake.
Kareem really wanted to visit Toronto as he has an aunt there and an affinity for the city. So we spent a couple days there.
His aunt was so gracious to us. She provided us lodging and tons of food while we were there! It was my first time meeting her, and she was so very kind to me and all of the kids. As a blended family, I am sensitive to how people treat our kids. I am really fortunate that my family views all these kids as family and treats my stepson the same as any of the others- sometimes even better haha- but not every family is the same. So it was appreciated that she was so welcoming and loving toward our kids.
We had kind of a funny snafu at the hotel. We were supposed to have two beds and a sleeper sofa which is what we will typically do. Trio on the bed and Rami on the sleeper sofa. We had two tiny double beds and a chair. So Kareem asked for a roll-away bed. They brought us a crib. Apparently, they didn’t have any roll-away beds and they were completely sold out so we couldn’t switch rooms. Jimmy was like, I can do the crib. So he did, and we made Rami a pallet on the floor. We enjoyed a huge Egyptian feast provided by Kareem’s aunt which was so welcome as we arrived late and had a stressful drive through some weather on the way there. We ended the evening feeling full, happy, and sleepy. The way it’s meant to be.
We visited downtown and had two priorities- the CN Tower and the Royal Ontario Museum. We were able to visit both and both delivered!
When we arrived in the city, we took the subway which, as you now know if you’ve been following my blog, the kids love. When we emerged from the underground, we just happened to be smack dab in the middle of an outdoor art fair!
So we enjoyed that for a while and took a few pictures with the Toronto sign. These city signs were a feature of our trip- we found them in several of the cities we visited.
We made our way to the CN Tower. This was really fun. We were on the tail end of the trip which had been really really great. We were all feeling the high of being together and in new places together, so the experience at the CN Tower was a bit magical. We took lots of pictures of ourselves and had lots of laughs. The views of the city and the lake were gorgeous, and I really enjoyed the views on the elevator ride.
We explored the city a bit. It has less of a cosmopolitan vibe than Ottawa and Montreal. It felt more like Chicago mixed with a splash of London than the other cities we visited.
We did visit A&W and Tim Hortons on our trip- two of Kareem’s top priorities. 🙂 We also went to an absolutely beautiful Chinese buffet with his aunt.
We had lots of choices of museums and attractions in Ontario and Toronto, but I chose the Royal Ontario Museum. It had really fabulous reviews, and we certainly found out why. It was a vast museum full of amazing artifacts from cultures around the world. We had some really important conversations and the kids had great questions.
The natural history on display was spectacular. Jimmy especially enjoyed the prehistoric creatures!
There were lots of kid-friendly and family-friendly exhibits that were hands on. We all enjoyed these Canada-specific exhibits about ecosystems and seasons.
Kareem enjoyed their very large and detailed Egypt collection. Actually, all of us enjoyed this. One of the best I’ve seen.
Rami’s birthday was at the tail end of our trip, so that was part of the appeal of the ROM- they had a special Harry Potter beasts exhibit that presented the magical beasts comparatively with real beasts and their adaptations. Rami is an HP fan, and all the kids LOVED this!
The museum was beautiful and a really great experience. We spent a long time there and probably could have planned another day there for real. The kids did not tire of it and there was a lot to see.
We also planned a night out at Medieval Times for his bday! I am a sucker for Medieval Times, the Stampede- any kind of show like this. Rami was knighted for officially becoming a teenager!! We all had a blast on our last night in Toronto!