Thursday, July 28, 2016

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Scenes from Shawnee - Pomona Natural Bridge

Coming home from vacation is bittersweet. On one hand you don't want the vacation to end, and on the other getting back into a routine is nice. I'm happy to be back home this time. It was super hot in both Southern Illinois and Ohio 
which made parts of the trip a bit miserable at times. Luckily we toughed it out while in the Shawnee Forest area in Illinois and were able to get some good hikes in before heading on to pick up the kids from the in-laws in Ohio. 

The first place we stopped on my list of places in Shawnee I had to visit was Pomona Natural Bridge.  The bridge is 90 feet long and about 8 feet wide at it's widest point. It took years for this sandstone marvel to become what it is. It was most definitely worth stopping to see. 

There is a loop trail that takes you from the parking lot, over the natural bridge and back around to the parking lot. I recommend exploring around the natural bridge when you get to it before heading back to the parking lot. It is worth exploring. We went below it and to the sides of it exploring all around. You can see how the water eroded the sandstone to create the bridge. It was raining fairly hard when we visited, so the bridge and surrounding rock enclosures made for good shelter. There is a place to the side of the trail and bridge that is kind of like a shallow cave. We hung out there for a bit waiting for the rain to taper off. 

After the rain slowed, we resumed the trail, passing by the stream that helped carve the bridge. Keith got a closer look as the stream wasn't really flowing much. 

The rest of the hike, if that is what you want to call it, was as easy as the rest, with some incline but that's about it. According to my AllTrails map we did 0.4 miles, and that is including our off the trail exploring. Not what I call a hike, but a short walk. We enjoyed ourselves and that's really what matters. We had also done six miles earlier in the day before we left for Shawnee, so I think we earned the short walk. 

Check out more from our trip to Pamona Natural Bridge below: 

Have you visited this natural bridge before? There are others in the Shawnee area as well, how about them? I'd love more recommendations for some to see. I'm completely fascinated with them! 

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Friday, July 22, 2016

One Day I'll Fly Away

Upon going through my blog drafts I found some art journal pages I had completed and photographed, but not shared. I thought it would be nice to share with you some of my pages here and there. 

I colored the background of this with Pan Pastels in pink and green. (Forgive me, I can't remember the names! ) Washi tape was also added across the back of the page before I used the Pan Pastels. Once they were applied, I set them with water, let it dry and used a stencil and some black paint to create the feathers. I believe the stencil is by The Crafters Workshop. All of the white detail was done using a white pen and white paint pen. Super simple and makes a bold statement on black. 

The simplicity of the page is what I love and why I did it this way to begin with. Sometimes simple is just the way to go. 

I wrote the words, "One day I'll fly away" at the bottom. It's something that when I get down I get stuck in my head. So although the page seems happy, at the time I made it, I was in a darker place. I often feel as though getting away would be best, even if just leaving my life for a while and driving off. Maybe I could get myself together. Maybe my family would be happier for a little while. Of course, this is what I think when I am down. I know this is not the truth. But it needs to be said and documented, which is the entire reason I love art journaling. It's much easier for me than a diary. There are just times where I can't put all I am feeling into words and need to put it on paper with color. 

What do you do when you feel down? If you art journal, paint or love to create, what have you made lately? Link me in the comments, I would love to stop by your blog and take a look! 

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Young Conservation Area - Eureka, MO

For the first time since before Lena has been born, we have zero kids for the start of this week. Yes, you read that right, my kids are not with us the first few days of this week. Can I get a happy dance?! They are currently with my in-laws in Ohio where they are spending some quality time with grandparents and each other. Austin, Serenity AND Lena left for Ohio early Monday morning so Keith and I decided we would take advantage of these kid free days by going on a hiking vacation. 

Our final destination for hiking this short vacation is Shawnee National Forest in Illinois, but that isn't what today's hike share is about. 

After the kids left we decided to go and check out one of the local conservation areas near us that we had not been to yet. Young Conservation Area is located about 5 miles south of Eureka, MO and has two trails, the Labarque Hills Trail and the Taconic Loop Trail. We did both in the same morning. 

Getting to the parking lot of the conservation area is easy. We came from Eureka and parked in the first parking lot on the left.  Finding the trail head was not. The beginning of the conservation area is in a large grassy and overgrown field where a path has been mowed up until you hit the actual trail itself. When we arrived, we were unsure which way to go, so we went straight in front of us. It ended up taking us in a bit of a loop which had some pretty forest and greenery, but was not either one of the actual trails. It wasn't until it kind of looped around and met up with the other choice we could have taken for a lawn path that we realized the trail was there. 

Beautiful spider web we saw by the trail. 
The first trail you come to is the Taconic trail. It is the shorter of the two trails at 2.5 miles. We chose to pass this up and head on to the Labarque Hills trail which is 3.5 miles. While this is not a long trail, it isn't exactly easy. Be prepared for a longish, moderate ascent up the hill that left this pregnant hiker a bit winded. It was also a hot day, so I take that into account as well. The ascent was worth it as there are some beautiful views of the forest below. I should also add we walked through quite a few spider webs across the trail. There were so many Keith carried a stick to help knock them down. 

The descent back down is easy and you walk along the stream on the opposite side for a bit before crossing back over. Once you cross back over the stream, you follow the trail until you run  back into the Taconic trail. At this point we took the Taconic trail loop. 

The trail goes up a hill among some pines. The trail has a different look from the Labarque Hills trail. There are some open areas where you cross fields under electrical towers and then travel back into the woods. This occurs a couple of times. In the hot summer sun, this is not the most fun. We quickly finished this 2.5 trail and headed back out. We took the most direct route back to our car across the path mowed in the field. This is the path we should have taken from the beginning. It was extremely hot and sunny at the end of our hike. Luckily, we had packed a lot of water and made it back to our car before the temperatures got even hotter. 

I look forward to doing this hike some time in the fall or winter when it is much cooler. The spring would be nice as well, so we can see the wildflowers. 

If you are looking for something moderate with some nice views, I recommend Young Conservation area. 

Below are some more shots I took along the trail: 

Have you been on any great adventures recently? See you soon! 

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Castor River Shut-Ins - Fredericktown, MO

Every year on the 4th of July, Keith and I, along with whatever children we have with us take a hike locally, somewhere within a few hours of home. This year we went to Pickle Springs, A Trail through Time and then drove over to Castor River Shut-Insto explore a new place. 

Castor River Shut-Ins, a part of Amidon Memorial Conservation Area is Missouri's only known pink granite shut-ins. They are from an igneous rock formation that is 1.5 billion years old. That is some serious history. You really have to see the rocks to appreciate them. 

Trail to shut-ins
To get to the shut-ins you take a short hike on a trail from the parking lot to get to them. It's not long at all. It's muddy after a good rain, but if you are going to the shut-ins you probably already plan on getting a little wet. We took our old umbrella stroller to push Lena in. It made it through the mud and puddles just fine. The trail is flat and there aren't many rocks or roots that get in the way. 

 Once you make it to the shut-ins you can hang out there and have some fun, or you can continue on the trail. The trail is a loop trail that is a mile long. We didn't do the full trail when we visited, as we had already done some hiking for the day, but would like to go back and complete it as the views appear worth it. 

Trail to shut-ins

Once we made it to the actual shut-ins, we just explored. Lena played in some of the shallow pools or Keith held her in the deep, faster water. I would not classify this as a place safe for toddlers and young children to play. The water moves fast and there are waterfalls. They make for some great photos, but not very safe. There are also some drop offs off of the rocks into the water or shallow pools of water. Many of the larger rocks are slippery, even when dry, so makes sure your footwear has some traction. 

We had a good time while we were there, even though Lena couldn't actually play the way she typically does in water. We saw some other visitors who were floating down the river. They said the water was fast and rough in some areas. Definitely not kid friendly. 

Visiting again is in the cards for the future, but not immediate future. If you haven't been to see this beautiful area, I suggest you take a drive. If anything, pack a lunch, some water shoes and a camera for some afternoon fun on a hot day. 

Below are some of the photos I took of the water and rocks. The pink rocks are very pretty. And some of them were VERY large. 

Have you visited these shut-ins? If so, I'd love to hear about your experience! Also, of any other great places nearby to visit. 

Thanks for stopping by! 

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Nature is Home

Take a moment. Step outside. Breathe in the fresh air. Soak in the sun. Appreciate the other home in your life. Spend some more time in it. 

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Friday, July 15, 2016

A love for nature and the outdoors

"Let's go outside!"I love when I can say those three words to my child and she jumps up at the chance to go outside and play. She has a love of the outdoors and nature that my older two children don't have. There is nothing wrong with this, as each child is different. My older kids get out, not as much as I would like, but they do get outside. I will say, it takes more of an effort on my part to get them to go outside, usually grudgingly, but they do. 

Why do they have less love for nature and outdoors than my youngest? Maybe because I was not at home with them at this young age like I am with Lena? I worked full time and they were at a sitter or daycare. When I wasn't working and had the time with the kids, I wasn't into the outdoors myself. It was a different time and place for me. Austin and Serenity are also different kids. They play sports and have their musical instruments which keep them busy. Oh, and they now have Poke'mon Go. We can't forget that. I will say, it has gotten them out on more evening walks with us. 

Lena is a completely different beast. She LOVES to be outside. She will bring you her shoes and ask to go out. If given the chance, she would play for hours in water, whether it be a pool, creek or puddle. I love that. She enjoys our hikes and being around the other kids in our local Hike it Baby group. (I HIGHLY recommend joining your local HiB group if you have kids and love the outdoors and hiking. It's worth it!) 

Messy doesn't bother this little girl either. I've come to accept it as a part of having kids so I just have myself a good wash routine for stains. We will even wear nicer clothes out and if they get dirty, so be it. Life is too short to waste worrying about my little girl getting her new dress dirty. I want what she wears to be enjoyed and where she loves to be, which is outside. Luckily, the majority of what I put on Lena is pretty casual and simple, so we don't ruin a lot of clothes in the end. 

I'm grateful that I changed my own lifestyle so that I could enjoy nature and the outdoors with my children. I don't even mind that my oldest aren't as into it since I have Lena who will enjoy it all for them. Austin and Serenity will still join us on hikes, and I still urge them to go outside, but I don't push extremely hard. They are good kids and active in other ways. They appreciate nature and the outdoors when they are there and that's good enough for me. 

We will continue teaching our children about nature, what it has to offer and how we can take care of it for the future. Our next little one will be out on walks and hikes with us not long after he gets here. I can't wait. I plan on soaking it all in and making loads of memories. Which reminds me, it's time to see if Lena and the kids want to go outside. 

Do your children have a love of nature? What do you do to encourage it? I'd love to hear some of the things you do! Leave me a comment below. 

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Don't Settle

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Doing it for Me

 As someone who has suffered from depression, I've had to find ways to handle it and handle the anxiety I also can get. It's not easy. In the past I haven't handled it nor myself well. Medicine helped me for a while, talking to someone as well, but nothing fully helped and made me feel, well, normal. As normal as one can get anyway, right? 

On my quest to get healthy before becoming pregnant with my third child, I not only quit smoking (cold turkey) but I started hiking with my husband and taking walks around our neighborhood every morning. My focus moved from wanting that next smoke or wanting to eat to really enjoying being out in nature and taking everything in. I was also healing my body and mind without fully realizing it. 

The more we hiked, the better I felt and less I had anxiety attacks, panic attacks or felt down about, well, anything really. Hiking and spending time outdoors became something I needed to do, almost like a therapy. When I didn't or don't get outside for several hikes a week, or some walks, I get crabby and irritated. Just ask my husband. 

I do it all for me first and foremost. My kids get the benefits and an appreciation as a bonus. Maybe it's selfish, but I feel it's a good kind of selfish in this case. This prevents me from needing medicine or more therapy currently. If I should need it again, I will cross that bridge when I get there. For now, I'm enjoying the ride, the outdoors, hiking, better health, my family, friends I'm meeting on this journey and all that this earth has to offer me while I'm still here. 

Why do you do it? 

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Friday, July 1, 2016

How do you make friends?

I'm at a place in my life that I never thought I would be. I have a wonderful husband, three beautiful children and a fourth on the way. I get to stay at home and be there with my little one and be there for the two oldest when they get home from school. I can pretty much do what I want during the day provided I do get some things done around the house because it would drive me crazy otherwise.

Seems great, right? A man who loves me, great kids and the freedom to do a lot of the things I enjoy. I appreciate this. However, I'm lonely. I have one person I can call a friend, and that is my husband. I'm often unsure if others in my life are actually friends.

I say I am unsure because while we talk when we are with one another at parenting functions, hiking groups, or what not, do they really know me? Do I really know them? Do they even really want to know me? These questions run through my mind. I am socially awkward. I know this. I am loud, stubborn and forceful at times. These traits made me a good manager in the hotel industry, and help being a mother, but they don't make for being a good friend. And changing is hard. I want to be a better person. Maybe I can't change. Maybe I am doomed to not have any real friends.

I suppose I should clarify my thoughts on real friends. Friends that are other parents who want to meet up and let the kids play. Typically I am going to do something with Lena and I invite someone along who I refer to as friend, but do we really know each other? Do they really want to know me? I would love to know them, and their kids. I just really feel more like I am forcing myself upon them. And that's socially awkward. I'm just not good around other adults I guess. I am fine with other kids. And what stinks about all of this is that it's not just me that it hurts. It hurts my kids who don't get invited on play dates or over to other kids houses because their mother is weird, overbearing and awkward. I want better for them. And frankly, I want better for myself.

These thoughts have really been getting to me. To the point of my anxiety and depression creeping in. And that's not good while pregnant. I am a part of a couple of wonderful local mom groups, and a hiking group. Maybe I am too different? I don't know. How do I fix this? Or can I? Can you make friends at age 33 and have them be friends who WANT to spend time with you? Or am I doomed to my adult interactions being those I plan or those I go to because it's on a schedule for a group?

How do YOU make friends?

Even worse are those who just feel bad for you because you made a damn blog post like this. How embarrassing, right?

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