Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Little Grand Canyon - Pomona, IL

Although I haven't been great about posting about it, we are still trying to do some of the 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of St. Louis. 

There is one in particular that I've had my eye on since we got the book. The description is so lovely and the length was just right (3.8 miles). I've wanted to go for years, but the reality is that it is two hours away from us. Also, with the unknown, that can make for a very miserable day with a child who hates being hot and/or tired.

So, being as today was my first day with Sophia away at Cub Creek Camp, I decided to keep my mind off how much I miss her by finally going on this hike. 

After a pretty lengthy jaunt along a ridge, I was starting to wonder when I was going to see some of the vistas promised in the book.


Finally, I came to this. Now, I've been on several hikes in Illinois that have this same view, so I admit that I was a little disappointed and confused. The "Little Grand Canyon" wasn't seeming very canyony.


Back at the beginning of the trail, there had been a sign that said the lower trails were closed because of flooding. However, since there weren't any actual barriers, and I'm sure the sign was old, I decided to take off on one of the lower trails.



While the trail was lovely and dotted with streams, I was having a hard time understanding the fuss. It just felt like I was in a steep valley more than a canyon.


Then, I happened upon the end of the trail, so to speak. The only way forward was down and through.


This was looking back up a draw after I had descended it. Now we were talking. I was not exactly positive that I was on the right path, but I came across some other hikers at just the moment I was starting to doubt.


After a lengthy hike and splash through lots of canyon like the one above, I emerged into this:


I'm still not sure exactly what that was, but the ground was still soft from flooding. The only way to go was to turn back into the woods. I wasn't sure I was on the right trail because through here it was all flat and cleared out from water. Footprints were helpful, but going many different directions. Then I noticed the diamond. I had seen them earlier but didn't need them. Once I spotted them on this side, I was grateful!


The rest of this lower hike was next to a steep cliff and a little stream. Very nice and peaceful. Then I came to the next sign.


Go back the way you came or up the draw. So, I went up the draw. The picture below is the first of many levels.


It was an incredibly fun hike. However, I won't be taking Sophia back with me. Even if she could make it up and down the draws without slipping or deal with the mosquitos, I'm sure she couldn't deal with the piles of larvae that I had to pass to get out of there.


So glad I took this little adventure! A rigorous hike with lots to see, but really none of the views I was expecting. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

FIFTEEN Years



When I married Erick fifteen years ago, fifteen years sounded like a long time. Now, I realize fifteen years is just the beginning. I don't feel like we have reached some sort of threshold or that we've made it. I am still amazed every day that I get to wake up next to my favorite person - even when I don't want to admit he's my favorite.

Fifteen years ago, we were kids. We're still young and have a lot to learn about each other and ourselves. It's the best part of my life. And I have lots to be grateful for. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Horses!!!!!!

Hey this is Sophia! Today I would like to tell you how my dream came true. Well, almost... Today my mom told me that doing horse back riding for a month is almost as expensive as pasture boarding a horse. ( That means we would get to keep our horse in the pasture. ) So my parents said that if I take a break from lesson, didn't do shows, and no pony club. I could possibly get my very own horse. Now I know you are probably thinking, " Sophia, just wait to get a horse until you can do all that!" But you don't understand, I have wanted a horse ever sense I started horse back riding almost 4 years ago. So the fact that it is possible to get a horse of my own. I would get to ride anytime I wanted to. My mom said I could do practice shows too. So yeah. But my parents said, "We will not be getting a horse in 2017." But 2018 is so far away. :(  But by the time 2018 rolls around I might be a lot better of a horse rider and not need as much work as far as lessons go. Having a horse would be a time commitment, but one I am very ready to take!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Captain Tradition

Every year, the Captain fourth and fifth grade chorus sings either the National Anthem or God Bless America at the beginning of a Cardinals game. We have been to the game to hang out with our school friends most years, but this was Sophia's first year to get onto the field herself. They sang God Bless America and did an amazing job. Sophia was little nervous. She was more nervous about getting back  to her seat than singing the song, but the music teacher has yet to lose a kid on this trip.


I'm putting this picture here because I love it so much. These two people are just the absolute best. And they are at their happiest at a Cardinals game. So I had to take advantage of that.

I am deeply in debt to our friend who taught Sophia to keep score. She always prefers to watch the game to talking or playing, but now she is fully engaged in each play. Far more than I am.



The hardest part for me to believe is that she only has one more year of this tradition. I hate this growing up thing. It really puts a different twist on things. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Grief and Joy

This isn't really going to be a post about grief. I haven't done one of those in a great while, but I'm not going to focus on that part today.

This weekend, Sophia, Erick and I went to his family farm to say goodbye to his grandma. We hadn't seen her in about three years, as she has been living in Oregon, but Erick did get a chance to talk to her occasionally. She would have been 97 this week! What a long, full life she lived.

The weekend was, in turns, heartbreaking and joyous. Sophia and I have not had the chance to get to know Erick's extended family well, with just a few exceptions. When I asked Sophia about her takeaway, she declared that it's a family of "unique individuals." Not a one would disagree with that, nor take it as slander, since that's certainly not how she meant it. There's very little that she values more than individuality. So what a treat to find that she comes from such interesting folk.

As families always do, we ended the weekend by saying that we mustn't wait for the next sad occasion to bring us together. I truly hope we can keep to that as I'd love to get to know these guys and their families!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fishy Field Trip

In fourth grade, Clayton kids get to go fishing in Forest Park. Here's the key. There is one little set of ponds that are not open for public fishing - just fishing by school groups and such - because they stock these ponds with countless fish to ensure these kids have a positive experience.


Sophia's group of five girls caught (and released) probably fourteen fish - bluegill and sunfish, but still! It was quite exciting for them. It was messy work for me and the dad that was with our group because we had to take them all off the hooks. Actually, that's not completely accurate. If I held it still, Sophia would take the hook out of its mouth. And on the final fish, she did the entire thing by herself!

It was a great time. A gorgeous day in Forest Park to hang out with some sweet little girls. I never forget how lucky I am.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pet Drama

We've had Leo for 2 1/2 years. Gabriella has been here almost six. That's weird to think about. Anyway, she's hated him from the first moment she laid eyes on him. He thinks she's awesome. He loves the way she hisses at him and bops him on the nose when he rushes at her. He thinks it's cool the way she keeps him cornered.

It's really too bad she can't understand how much Leo likes her because they could be great friends - or at least cofounders of the Gabriella Fan Club.

Once in a while, when I'm sitting on the couch next to Leo, Gabriella will get in my lap. This happened over the weekend with the following result. Gabriella petted the dog. He was pretty much trembling with excitement and trying not to look at her. He knows from experience that eye contact makes her angry. So they had a moment.



That will have to last for a while, I think. Gabriella has been too busy trying to steal fish from the kitchen counter and blocking the bathroom sink to worry about making friends with the dog.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Litter stinks, LITERALLY

Hey, this is Sophia. I am here to tell you about my new project I am doing. It has to do with cleaning up my neighbor hood. I am very tired of walking by stinky trash 5 times a week to go to school. I am fed up with it. so sense no one did anything about it I took matters into my own hands. Now who wants to go to a national park and see this?No one, thats who. My project is called "Neat And Tidy Neighbor Hood". So please help me, and don't litter. Also maybe even pick up a piece on a family walk or something. THANKS!

The Other Opening Day

Last night was the opening game for the Cardinals. We would have loved to go, but it was 7 p.m. on a school night, so... we'll probably wait for a while. On another note, Sophia's chorus sings the national anthem (or America the Beautiful) before a Cardinal game in May! And a friend of ours is throwing out the first pitch next Sunday for Autism Awareness Month!

Anyway, this isn't about Cardinals games. This year, we decided to fully support the home soccer team (USL) and we bought season tickets. Mostly because Erick has always wanted season tickets to something, and these were very reasonable. We do love the team. I'm just pointing out the obvious.

It was a really great game! Maybe the most impressive we've seen from them so far. We ended up winning with 3 goals to 2, though we did not see the last goal as some college kids stood on the benches in front of us out of excitement.

I enjoy the atmosphere at this little park quite a bit. There is always something fun for the kids to do. Our seats this year are close to the bathroom. I find that a significant bonus. It did end up being quite a bit colder than we thought. We didn't bring mittens, so Sophia improvised.


Sophia got her goalie gloves signed by the STLFC goalie, and she was so inspired that she wanted to practice yesterday. Pretty good form, I'd say. Biased, I know.



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Worked

The only other post I wrote on here about going back to work was entitled "Work", so for this new post, I'll call it "Worked". Get it? I worked. It didn't work out.

I'm not finished, but I am on pause. Long story short: nonprofit doesn't seem to be a great fit for me. What does seem to be a great fit is being in a school building helping people get from point A to B and making people feel welcomed and important. So, I'm going to try to get a job in a school building. I'm on pause because there won't be openings till next school year most likely. So, I'll wait it out and hope for the best.

I learned a lot about myself through this process. Five months on a job. For at least three of them, I was wasting away a little. Not physically, of course, but mentally. So I'll try this other approach and take it slowly and wait for a good fit.

For now, I'll keep volunteering at the school in Normandy where I feel useful and I love the people. So, it's a win-win for now!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring Break

Our Spring Break has been idyllic. We have done some outdoors and some indoors, and we've gotten lots of rest and had fun. I couldn't have asked for a better first week no longer working - that's a different story, but it makes this week that much sweeter.

Erick took Monday off to be with us, so we took full advantage of the nearly hot day we had by going to Laumeier Sculpture Park. We were not the only ones to have the idea, but we were the only ones I saw allowing their kid to dip in the creek. It was warm!



After the creek, she built her own sculpture. Quite lovely, too, I must say.


Sophia had some work to do with her partner on the Science Fair. But, even that took place with quite a bit of play and fun.


Today, we're relaxing. What better way to relax than inside a fort of pillows with a dog and his puppy friend.


Still have a few days left of our lovely week! Nothing on the calendar but fun and hanging out together. I'm so lucky.




Thursday, March 16, 2017

Horsing Around

Oddly, I don't think I've ever used that title before today. I'll probably forget and use it again the next time a horse post comes up, but here it is anyway.

This year, Sophia has been riding a new-to-her horse, and she's been with a new instructor. All is well! She's advancing quite a bit and trying to decide about joining Pony Club and stuff like that. It's the competitive arm of horsing around, I guess. So, she can join now, and then we'll have to see about prioritizing some things next fall/winter.

Sophia and Valentine are great buds already. She misses Buddy the appaloosa and Karoly the percheron, but he's growing on her, and she's building up his trust.



She goes pretty much every week now, which is part of the reason that she's improving so quickly. I love spending time at the farm, and I can't wait for the warm days when I'll get to watch the sunset over the rolling hills.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Sophia's Biscuit Barn

That's not what she'll call it, of course, but Sophia does have a long term plan to make biscuits in Oregon. She practices occasionally here at home. If you have a great biscuit recipe that Oregonians will love in about 15 years, feel free to pass it along.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Humane Society Field Trip

I don't always go on the field trips with Sophia any more, but her teacher said that at the Humane Society, they split the kids up into small groups and parents are very helpful. I'm so glad I went! 

Sophia's class had the chance, not only to tour the facility, but to read to the dogs. The big dog on the right was a barker. He barked most of the time we were in that room, but when Sophia read to him, he calmed down and listened. It was very sweet. 


After reading to the dogs, the kids got to see the whole facility, including the surgery room, where two dogs were being neutered. They were not phased by it at all, though I didn't love the sight.


The hats are because it was Cat in the Hat day at the Humane Society or something. Their communications person videoed each of the girls reading to the cats, too. It was pretty adorable. What a great field trip!


Next stop, Jeff City!! I'll be going on that one too...


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tired but Happy

This weekend, we tried to take full advantage of the strangely warm and beautiful weather. Lots of playing and eating and hiking outdoors.

It was perfect since we had the extra day together to enjoy it, too! Monday, we went to Pere Marquette, a beautiful state park in Illinois, right next to where the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers come together. It's quite beautiful. Leo's face in this picture gives you an idea of exactly how we all felt on our hike.

And here's a picture of Sophia on the horse farm at sunset. Because why not?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Just In Time

The weather this weekend came just in time. Open windows, fresh air, even sunshine. The winter gets oh so long.

It's also true, of course, that weather like that makes it just a pinch harder to stay inside when the cold returns, but live in the moment!!

We took a walk to the zoo. Always a favorite thing to do when we must get outside, but we're not sure what to do. And Sophia climbed on the beetle in front of the bug house. She simply cannot walk past it. I must have hundreds of pictures of her on this thing because it's also one of the few things of which she wants photographic evidence.


Back at home with the windows open in our currently being established game room. We had a chess tournament. I lost.


I love weekends like this one, even if they do make the week feel a little longer.