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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!

Tie Dye Tuesday: Boo Edition

We went camping a few weeks ago, and in preparation for spooky season, we did some spooky reverse dye shirts!

They were super easy and really fun to make. I got black t-shirts from Walmart for a buck each on clearance- woo hoo. Then we hit the dollar tree and picked up some wood outlines in Halloween shapes. You can find these with their craft supplies. I guess they are meant to paint. Then we took a spray bottle and filled it with some bleach and water. The ratio was about 2/3 bleach, one third water.

We had the kids design their shirts with the wood pieces and spray with the bleach mixture. The kids experimented with a fine mist and a more splash-like spray. I find the fine mist around the border of the shape gives you a more defined outline, and then we added splashes. Some of us more than others. I think it looks cool! But others in my family prefered the more uniform fine spray look. In the end, it all works and it’s your preference!

Typically, if you’re reverse dying, you’d want to then soak in a hydrogen peroxide/water solution. But we were not adding more color to it, so we rinsed in water and moved on with our lives.

Above is what it looked like at first. We then hung them to dry and voila- beautiful spooky shirts!

If your shirt is not 100% cotton, you may have some variety in the color of your bleach. It may lift more gray than orange. STILL REALLY COOL THOUGH.

Even my parents got in on the fun!

All in all, really easy and really fun dye project that anybody can do.


Thursday Thoughts- A Beautiful World Awaits

“A beautiful world awaits you on the other side of fear.”

Well, ain’t that the truth.  I seriously believe this wholeheartedly.  

This summer, we were traveling to South Carolina by way of Tennessee and North Carolina.  Eastern Tennessee and North Carolina are mountainous with the Appalachian Mountains rolling through there- Great Smoky Mountain National Park is in Eastern Tennessee, and we drove right by.  If you’re not aware yet, I am somewhat anxious driving through mountainous areas.  By somewhat anxious, I mean very anxious.  And by mountainous areas, I mean southern Missouri.  But seriously- not my thing.

When Kareem found this out, he’s like wait but you climbed a mountain this summer.  Well, yeah.  And you drive all over and hike in mountains.  Well, yeah.  So you can’t be that scared!  Well, he found out.  🙂

Do I look scared?? I was terrified!

When we were planning our trip this summer, I almost changed the destination due to anxiety about the route.  Then we found a route that avoided what I anticipated being the worst of it, but it added several hours.  That was okay with Kareem, but while on the road, we kept getting delayed and we had an event and friends to get to.  So I took a deep breath, and said let’s just go through it.

Because at the end of the day, you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you can’t go around it- you have to go THROUGH it.  As the bear hunt song says.  And it’s true.  

It reminded me of my divorce.  I spent lots of time being anxious about what was going to happen during and after.  I spent lots of time trying to prevent it from happening.  At the end of the day, I couldn’t.  I had to go through it.  And I’m way better for it.  I am not grateful it happened, I am not counting it as a blessing, but I learned and grew from it.  And on the other side- or at least further than I was at the beginning- it’s not nearly as scary.  I just had to begin.

These photos are from a trip I took at the time. This is my deep breath moment. When I finally thought, okay. You just have to accept this. You have to go through it. Let’s go.

So often that’s the case, right?  You just have to begin.  Can’t go under it,can’t go over it, can’t go around it- gotta go through it!  So let’s go.  

After we started getting through the mountains, I was amazed by the beauty.  I had moments that took my breath away- both from fear and from the magnificence. 

Sometimes, though, you make the decision to go through it and you lose resolve. You get scared again. Or you aren’t sure of yourself. That’s okay. There were moments in those mountains where I told Kareem he had to stop. He literally could not. There was nowhere to go. I had to take a deep breath and keep going.

It was worth it, in the end.  All the worrying wasn’t worth it.  And now I feel more confident for the next time.  The growth that happens through being courageous- being fearful but doing it anyway- well that growth is special.

That beautiful world awaited me on the other side of my fear.