I’ll preface my upcoming blog posts with this – I apologize for the delay in new content. I can summarize the lag in one word - Coronavirus.
Although I have been extremely active and productive during the cleared calendars COVID-19 created, my motivation to write has been non-existent. Days at work have been long and consume most of my brain power. When I get home, all I want to do is forget the day, so I’ve channeled my anxieties into many, many different physical labor projects around our acreage to tucker myself out completely. I’ll write about my experience during this time after I do some reminiscing and sharing of other stuff that has gone on over the past few months outside of the pandemic.
One thing is for certain – I already miss the ability to travel and am worried we won’t be able to travel safely again for a while…
Because we’re pretty much stuck around our home and family cabin right now (I recognize the privilege in being able to say this) I’ve been daydreaming about trips Joel and I have taken recently along with ones I hope we take as soon as it is OK to do so.
I jumped right on sharing resources we used on our trip to New York City over Christmas. But I never did get around to writing about the trip itself!
Since the moment Joel and I connected, our love for New York City has been one thing (of many) we have in common. I remember sitting across from him the first time we formally got together and lighting up when this topic came into the conversation. We had both been when we were younger and yearned to go back. Ever since then, we’ve dreamed about going to New York City during Christmas to experience the magic. 2019 was the year it came true.
You may be wondering how it was to be gone over the holidays. Intending no offense to our families – we really enjoyed it. Here’s why. Instead of cramming so many commitments into one to two days, the holidays felt much more intentional. We opened up our home and invited our family members over to have one-on-one time with us before we left. For those we couldn’t fit in before the holidays, we spent time with after we got back. This allowed for more sincere connections. It took a lot of the “overwhelmed” feelings out of the season which felt better to both of us. Although we were both dreading telling our families our plans, they all took the news extremely well and were very supportive of us taking the trip.
It took us a bit to fully believe this trip was happening! We had been talking about it for years and planning it for months. Everything was reserved and paid for – the only thing out of our control was December weather in Iowa, but thankfully it cooperated fully. It was an unusually warm and not snowy December.
Our adventure began the moment we got off the plane. In an effort to use as much public transportation as possible to save money, we took a bus to the subway to another bus to get to our Airbnb. With all of our luggage in tow. Nothing screams, “I’m not from around here,” more than that. Luckily, everyone we interacted with was super nice and, while we were eyeballed, we were never hassled. I believe if you can survive this process – you can literally survive ANYTHING.
We absolutely loved our little New Jersey Airbnb located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. The view was STUNNING. Especially at night. We’re not super picky when it comes to where we stay as long as it is a convenient place for us to land at the end of the day and the price is right. The interior was nothing fancy, but its location was in a safe, quiet area with easy access to the New Jersey Transit bus line (just a few steps from our door) that we took into the city every day. Our host was very nice and a really good communicator.
We tried to map out our days loosely so that we saw what we wanted to see for sure, but with flexibility so that if we needed to rest we could rest. Which when you are walking 20,000 steps per day on average, was needed! I’ve outlined some of the trip highlights below and at the very end a photo slideshow is provided for your viewing pleasure.
December 21 – After we settled in at the AirBnb and walked around the neighborhood a little bit, even with all of the traveling/commuting we had already done, we couldn’t help going into the city! We chose to walk around the Times Square/Rockefeller Center area. We covered A LOT of ground. We saw Times Square and its street performers. The Rockefeller Center tree and skating rink. The NBC studio that hosts SNL. Radio City Music Hall. A charming little Christmas market in Bryant Park. The New York City Library. And the New York Times building. It felt like every corner we turned held a landmark we were shocked to be seeing in real life!
December 22 – We visited the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It was delightful. So many famous works of art. I discovered that Picasso and Matisse are two of my favorite artists, which was unexpected. There’s nothing better than being moved by art. It’s one of my favorite feelings. We ended the day with a yummy Italian dinner (BEST I’ve ever had) in the city. On our way through the bus depot to head “home,” I bought and enjoyed my first authentic macaroons!
December 23 – Venturing to the southern tip of the island on the subway, we attempted to go to the Statue of Liberty but the wait was several hours long. We decided to return early the next day. Instead, we ended up going to the 911 Memorial site. It was as moving as we imagined. Very hard to believe the events that occurred. Seeing the names of all who lost their lives made it all real. The memorial is absolutely stunning. The perfect way to honor all those connected to the event. One special thing I learned is that on each person’s birthday, a white rose is placed by their name.
It was about lunchtime when we finished and we were so hungry we didn’t want to waste time wandering around, so we went to Burger King. Why is this significant? It was a two-story Burger King that served you like you were at a sit down restaurant. For some reason this really amused us and I thought it was worth noting! Who knew that was even a thing?
We then made our way to the Upper East Side area and took in all of the beautiful architecture. On a whim, we decided to go to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). This was one place that was a must for me solely because of their Costume Institute. We visited that area of the museum first, and although you only get to see limited pieces from the Institute, it was breathtaking. Alexander McQueen is one of my all-time favorite designers and I got to see one of his pieces, along with Chanel, and so many other talented designers. I did cry in this exhibit and I’m not ashamed of it!
The Met is truly unbelievable. It is endless. There is so much to see and do and learn. We did our best to take in everything, but if you took your time, you could probably spend two or more days walking around. They have a little bit of everything. We were there when they had a really neat knight exhibit up. One of the most shocking moments is when we entered a room and were eye to eye with the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware! Wow.
This experience was hands down one of our favorite parts. There is just so much history and variety housed in The Met. Everyone can find something that interests and excites them.
It was dark by the time we left so we cut through Central Park (not as scary as depicted in Home Alone), passing the Museum of Natural History and the site where John Lennon was murdered, on the way to our subway. Not surprisingly, this day clocked in at 20,613 steps!
December 24 – This was Statue of Liberty day! Not a shabby way to spend Christmas Eve. (If you ever want to visit the statue, please see my tips about going to NYC so you don’t get swindled.) We visited both Liberty and Ellis Island on our tour. I recommend going to both.
Coming upon the islands riding the packed ferry, shoulder to shoulder with other visitors, you couldn’t help but put yourselves in the shoes of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island in a very similar way (without the privileges we have, of course). Lady Liberty and the museum just behind her was our first stop. And although seeing her and being so close was moving, visiting Ellis Island was emotional.
If you’ve seen the movie Shutter Island, you will vaguely be able to picture Ellis Island. That’s what it reminded me of. A lot of dilapidated, inaccessible buildings with a museum inside a partially restored main building where all immigrants started their journey back in the day. I felt like the spirits of the immigrants who passed through the building were palpable. It was eerie, but very grounding at the same time. I felt grateful for their strength, determination, and visions for the future.
The educational exhibits were wonderful and we learned so much. The element of our time on the island that added an entirely different layer of meaningfulness is that upon doing research in the museum’s records area, I discovered my great, great grandfather (Dimitr Toneff) and other family members arrived at Ellis Island! So as I walked through each area, I pictured them along the way. I was seeing what they saw. That’s pretty powerful.
This was another big walking day because after we left the Statue of Liberty, we visited Greenwich Village. Definitely my favorite nook in Manhattan. It’s where the artists live, and you get that vibe immediately. Joel had a list of Bob Dylan landmarks to see, so we checked those off the list, ended in Washington Square Park, and called it a day.
December 25 – Christmas Day! Ice skating in Rockefeller Center day! It was surreal waiting in line to ice skate. It was a really beautiful, still day. Warm enough where we were just wearing sweaters and vests. The energy in Rockefeller Center was electric. So much excitement! You are able to purchase a 90 minute skating session. Luckily, we got there just in time so we only had to wait as the session before mine finished.
I’ll tell you this, honestly. It was pure magic and I absolutely loved it. But…I was also terrified and instantly in pain. The moment I launched onto the ice, my body tensed up and I was just focused on not falling. Which is typical I suppose. There are a lot of people watching people skate. I didn’t want to be the one everyone laughed at or God forbid was videotaped as an ice skating fail! I made it around between 3-5 times before quitting. Under 10 minutes total of a 90 minute session. Two successes – I did not fall and I did not grip the wall. I quit while I was ahead.
We spent the rest of the day without a plan. The big department store window displays were nearby so we took a look at those. We hopped on the subway and went to Grand Central Station. Then we went to Central Park. It’s very beautiful and there is a lot of entertainment going on! Talented street performers dancing, singing, playing instruments, making huge bubbles. It was a nice way to experience the area.
Landing in Bryant Park, one of our favorite hubs to stop by, we enjoyed hot chocolate while watching everyone hustle and bustle around us. It was a memorable way to end a very special Christmas Day.
December 26 – This was our last full day in NYC. We took it pretty easy. Joel brought up the idea of going to the Tenement Museum located in the Lower East Side. I bought our tickets online as the bus took us to Manhattan and it was a done deal.
The museum was the perfect addition to the experience we had at the Statue of Liberty. It was focused on immigrants and their lifestyles during peak immigration times. It was so interesting! When you go to this museum, it’s not your typical museum. You choose a “track” to go on. We were able to get tickets for the “Business Owner” track which featured Manhattan immigrant entrepreneurs. The tour included the recreation of an old pub, the living quarters behind the pub, an outline of life living in the tenement building, and information about a family who owned a lingerie business. They had a neat interactive historical activity at the end. You grabbed an item that correlated with different immigrant entrepreneurs (book, stein glass, hat, etc.), put it on your table, and magically a story about them played! Super futuristic.
The Lower East Side has kind of a bad reputation, but we didn’t have any problems. We had authentic New York bagels and schmear at a bakery across the street from the museum and walked around a little bit. Saw the site of what used to be CBGBs, which was cool, and a lot of graffiti.
We did a final wander around Manhattan using the subway (which we were so sad we wouldn’t get to ride anymore) and then headed back to get ready for our flight in the morning. We are strange creatures so we spent our last night at a packed laundromat doing our laundry. We dislike traveling with luggage full of dirty clothes. The night was capped off with a dinner order through Uber Eats!
If you have any questions about traveling to New York/New Jersey, I’d be happy to help! I did a lot of research before going and we learned a lot of good practical tips while we were there.
As promised, here’s a slideshow of our trip. Thanks for reading if you made it this far and enjoy!
Dreams do come true. This summer Joel and I had the privilege and pleasure of seeing THE ROLLING STONES live at Soldier Field in Chicago. Something I never thought would happen, but am so glad it did!
What did I think, you ask? It was one of the best moments of my life that I was completely present for and absorbed every detail of. It was surreal. I was overcome with emotion, crying through the first couple of songs.
We showed up pretty early because we had general admission field tickets and wanted to get a good spot. And boy, did we! We were told not to run, so we power walked to the field after getting through security. I knew right where I wanted us to be, so claimed our spot and didn’t move for the rest of the evening. We ended up front and center, just a few rows of seats in front of us. If the stage runway was just a little longer, Mick could have run right up to me!
It was COLD for June and we were there in short sleeved shirts…so the warmth of the crowd was appreciated! You had to be OK getting cozy with those around you because we were elbow to elbow the whole time. There were some nice people around us and it was so fun to be in a stadium PACKED with people who loved the Stones as much as us. Amazing what an impact the band has on so many people.
The set list was perfect, all hits. Each song was better than the last. Mick was running and dancing around better than I probably could! One of our favorite parts was when the whole band came to the end of the stage runway and played some songs. We could see them better and it felt so intimate. It was hard to catch my breath knowing I was just rows away from some of my musical idols.
We’ve never been to a big concert with that many people and getting out was quite challenging. It was almost the middle of the night and we walked BLOCKS to split away from the (mostly drunk) crowd to get an Uber. So just a heads up – don’t be in a rush and take deep breaths to tolerate the people around you when leaving something like that!
Although the Stones were the highlight and purpose for our trip, we took advantage of the weekend away and stayed for a few extra days so we could explore new parts of the city (including the suburbs). Our Airbnb was on the south side of the city in a quiet neighborhood with street parking so we were able to drive our car to most places we wanted to go, which saved on Uber costs.
The Airbnb was inexpensive, and I knew it wasn’t anything fancy when I booked it, but I was kind of upset when we arrived because it was very run down. But by the end of the weekend, Joel and I had fallen in love with it and miss it from time to time. It was our little hideaway. Friendly reminder – don’t judge a book by its cover. You have the ability to write your own story. We found the humor in the situation and charm of the place and turned our mindset around!
We really went all over the place while we were out exploring! Drove out to the suburbs, walked downtown in Millennium Park and by the lake, drove back out to the suburbs, ventured into the neighborhood we were staying in. Some favorite parts included eating pancakes every day (our favorite place was the Original Pancake House), seeing the movie Booksmart (carries extremely good messages for women – I loved it), and visiting John Belushi’s childhood home, the Home Alone house, and Barack Obama’s Chicago residence.
Here are just a few photos of our adventures:
No plans, just wandering, was our goal. If we were antsy, we went out. If we were tired, we relaxed. Simple as that! We had a great time away in one of our favorite cities. As we’ve pushed ourselves outside our regular routine when we go there, we’ve really come to love it again.
Tell me what your bucket list music concert is! We’ve checked off Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, and soon Bob Dylan. With SO MANY other great concerts in between.
Good golly, we’ve done SO MUCH since February of this year, which I recapped quickly in the beginning of my last post.
We took an awesome family vacation with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and niece to Arizona in February, right when it was terribly cold and snowy here in Iowa. It was good to be removed from it enough to laugh at everyone who was stuck with it while we soaked in the sun! But, you better believe we were paid back upon arriving home.
Every day was a new adventure. We went to so many fun places! Here are a few pictures. If you are interested in anything you see us doing, let me know and I can give you more specific details.
One of the things we really enjoyed was riding horses out in the desert! It was so beautiful. Just Joel and I went, and it was a great time. He’s officially a true cowboy in my eyes because his horse tripped on the way up a rocky hill and Joel just somersaulted right off him like a PRO! He popped up, totally OK. It was scary/amazing/funny, all at the same time. Here we are (as you can tell, Joel's horse was crazy to begin with):
While we were away in Arizona, it got even better. We got a call from our realtor that after being on the market for less than a week, our first home (turned rental property after we moved to the acreage) had an offer! We were thrilled, especially because we went over 12 months the first time around with not one single offer.
From there it was full steam ahead getting the house fixed up and cleaned out for the next owner! The new owner was so excited to get into the house and we couldn’t be happier that someone who truly loves the home is making it their own. We are also very relieved we don’t have this expense hanging over our heads anymore.
It was emotional to let go. I had a pretty tough time, trying to spend as much time there before closing as I could. Appreciating every corner, finish, and flaw for everything it had given us in over 10 years of living there and owning it. First homes are special for so many different reasons, but that house was especially good to us.
Two weeks to the day after closing on the house, I was on a plane to Washington, D.C. for the second time in my role at the nonprofit clinic I work for. We go every year to advocate for community health centers because we depend on federal funding to keep our doors open. There is a “Day on the Hill” portion where we meet with legislators followed by a day or two of conference sessions.
In between the work, we do get to sight see a tiny bit. This year I got to go to Arlington National Cemetery, ride the Metro for the first time, eat lunch in the art museum, and visit the zoo. Arlington was especially moving. You have to see it in person to believe it. It’s an overwhelming experience to physically see the true cost of war. Lives. So many lives. I felt privileged and humbled to be there, wishing I could personally thank each and every one of the people buried there for their commitment and service to our country.
March rolled into April which brought some nasty storms and damage to our acreage. We lost a good chunk of shingles on our roof and a large tree uprooted, falling on the corner of our shed. Definitely could have been worse, but I’m glad it wasn’t. Very thankful for my husband and brother-in-law for busting out some hard tasks to get everything patched and cleaned up. Stuff like this can be fun if you’re in good company, which I was.
In April I also flew a kite with my amazing cousins, did some DIY projects, got our yard set-up for a summer of fires, and had our garden tilled. Although I don’t have any pictures to share yet, we became an aunt and uncle again as well. Welcome, baby Will!
The best highlight for me from April was Joel’s solo show in Des Moines. My heart just burst from pride seeing him shine so bright. He is so, SO talented. A gifted songwriter, guitarist, singer, and more. The attention was all on him. The kind words people shared with me afterwards were beyond complimentary. I felt happy to be surrounded by people who saw his musical talents in the same light I get to see them every day in our living room. I never take for granted the front row seat I have to his musical genius.
We kicked off May in the best way – at the cabin in Lansing! Was so nice to spend a short but sweet weekend there with Joel and the dogs. We’re hoping to get up there as much as possible this summer. It is truly our happy place outside of the acreage.
Although it’s been a whirlwind, I feel super grateful for all of the good and bad things that have happened so far this year. I’m trying harder and harder to be present for it all. Closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and opening them to the sights and sounds of the people and places I love.
I hope you are doing the same. Sending lots of love to you.
Man, it has felt really heavy around here.
Our home has not felt like the sacred, safe space we have strived to create for ourselves. We have allowed a lot of negative energy into our hearts and our home. And it hasn't felt good. It has felt deep. It has felt painful. It has felt unsettling. As I mentioned before, it has felt heavy. So heavy.
I was really starting to feel hopeless. Because instead of choosing to lift ourselves out of it, we both kept spiraling deeper into it. Layering each negative feeling and experience on top of each other to the point where I didn't recognize who we were as individuals and as a team.
I finally got to a point where my body, mind, and heart literally could not take any more. Complete negativity overload. It started to fester, and I became angry. Anger is my least favorite emotion to experience. Because that is not who I want to be.
It all stops TODAY. For both Joel and I. The most wonderful part of our marriage is the open communication we have with each other. We knew the negativity we were experiencing and releasing into our home and onto each others' shoulders was primarily based on struggles we were having with other relationships and current situations in our lives. Instead of continuing to feed into the negativity, we agreed to cancel it out with positivity and rise above it.
He agreed to take part in a little ritual I created to help cleanse ourselves and our home of the loads we've been carrying. Below is what we did, and I have to say, we both felt lighter immediately. I truly hope we can carry this lightness into our week and beyond.
The Sires' Negativity Cleanse Ritual:
If you are going through something similar, you don't need to do everything or anything we did to feel better. I believe simply acknowledging any heaviness you might be feeling and releasing it with loving intention can also help get rid of icky energy. The key is acknowledgement and choosing to move forward. Don't allow yourself to drown if you can help it. Change your perspective on or remove the person/people or situation causing you to suffer on any level. And even better - don't let the person/people or situation get to you in the first place!
Here is an affirmation for you that is really helping me through this moment:
May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be free from suffering.
May they be happy. May they be peaceful. May they be free from suffering.
May all be happy. May all be peaceful. May all be free from suffering.
Remember who you are, what your heart beats for, and don't let anyone or anything from the outside get in the way of that!
Joel and I recently celebrated our NINTH wedding anniversary! We’ve been together almost thirteen years total. I have repeated this fact to myself over and over again the past few days. It seems surreal. Especially since I never thought I’d get married in the first place! But goodness, am I glad I did.
We always take time around our anniversary to stop and reflect. Escaping for a few days to explore, our favorite thing to do together.
This year was one of the best anniversary trips we’ve taken! We traveled around Iowa and Wisconsin over five days, our primary home base being my family’s cabin in Lansing, Iowa.
Before I dive into what we did, I want to tell you how the morning of our vacation started before we left because I think it’s important that some real life gets thrown into this shiny, happy post! We got water in our basement. A LOT of water. The dogs lost their minds at the vet, Madison had to get muzzled. I had a nail in my tire that needed to be fixed before we left. The dogs lost their minds again at home and pushed a glass platter down the stairs, breaking it. Something come up at work that they needed to contact me about. All before noon. After some big breaths and an undying will to continue on as planned, we made it out of the house!
We started out in Madison, Wisconsin. We both love Madison. Great city. College town. Pretty hip. Lots to do. We didn’t have much time to wander around this time because we were in town to see Jeff Tweedy from Wilco perform at an art museum. I had been to a Wilco show before and Joel is constantly listening to them so I had a good idea of what we were getting into. But wow. What a show. I was in tears several times. Jeff is a king lyricist. And for as serious as his lyrics are, he’s actually a pretty funny guy. Time flew and neither of us wanted it to end!
We had to venture home after staying the night in Madison because Twins had a show in Des Moines. So on our way back we hit up Chris Farley’s childhood home in Madison and then the Field of Dreams in Dyersville! I had never been to either, so it was pretty neat.
The following day we traveled to La Crosse, Wisconsin – our favorite Wisconsin city hands down. We hit up our regular haunts, napped in the park (beyond relaxing), and then ended the day taking a walk with “Mark Twain” as he told us about the Mississippi River. This one man, outdoor play was wonderful. I never realized that Mark Twain was a humorist. For a humorist, he was quite an insightful man. Some of the lines spoken were extremely moving and very relevant in our current political state.
We finished the trek where three different rivers intersect at the end of the La Crosse river walk. Mark Twain said this is a sign of a sacred space according to Native Americans. We were in a hidden garden. The sun was setting over the water. Ducks were peacefully swimming nearby. I was with Joel. Mark Twain was standing in front of us. A sacred space indeed.
On our last day before packing up to go home, we went south into Wisconsin. We checked out some spots just outside of and in Prairie du Chien. We stopped by an apple orchard/pumpkin patch, walking away without any fresh fruit, but with a bag of fresh bakery items instead! Then we ventured into an area that we hadn’t been before, off the beaten path. I’ll let the pictures do the talking but essentially we found a large equipment graveyard. I may have broken a couple of rules and committed a minor crime while we were there, but I made it out without being arrested!
We were also excited to find an antique shop we hadn’t seen before. If you are in that area and like reasonably priced antiques, check out Checkers Antiques! Nice people, amazing selection, open for 50 years – so they know what’s up.
Overall, it was a very relaxing trip. In between adventures we made sure to reaffirm our commitment to one another, celebrate victories, learn from challenges (like the five in a row we experienced before leaving!), and look into the future.
I’m lucky for this man and all he brings to my life. We seem to feel happier each year we are together, which I am immensely grateful for. Being by his side is my favorite part of living. We’ve built a simple yet incredible life together that only keeps getting better. Here’s to staying aligned and in love for many more years, J! Glad you’re on my team.
I’ve written recently about “going through instead of around.” This has become my primary mantra for a variety of different reasons.
But you know what? As necessary as it is, going through is TOUGH. My feet have been dragging when I get to the point of having to go through, and because of this, I have a lot of ickiness going on inside. I don’t like it, but I also don’t want to start reflecting out of fear that I’ll hate what I uncover. Along with being tough, going through isn’t always much fun, either.
A lot of my current physical and mental struggles have to do with being way too busy, but not knowing what I can weed out for the personal time I need. Everything seems equally important and the people pleaser in me is out in full force. Social events that I continue to deeply struggle with keep crashing into me, non-stop, forcing me to be “on” all the time (if I can muster the brain energy – sometimes all people get is my physical body in the same space as them, nodding and smiling along). Breathing exercises during car rides to and from commitments are “my time.” And that’s not enough.
My marriage is feeling it. My work is feeling it. My relationships are feeling it.
I need to start going through. UUUGGGHHH! But I don’t want to. But I want to. But I really don’t want to…But I should.
I have a precious five hours to myself one morning this weekend that I’m hoping to take advantage of for a good ol’ self-check-in – reevaluation of my current priorities, and dissection of my physical and mental state. (All while I try to get my garden planted.) I’ve let things go a little too long. I’ve avoided going through one day, one week, one month (or more) too many.
Life is something, isn’t it? Sometimes no amount of gratitude for what we have can relieve the pressure it puts on us. With or without our permission.
It’s the journey through that counts. If you can put things into perspective, the trenches are some of the best places to trudge through because that's where the true strength that each and every one of us possess comes out. Takes care of us. Gets us back on track. Maybe even onto a better track that we didn’t even know we were looking for. Bring it on – let’s go through!
We had a pretty nice holiday at the Sires' household. We soaked in the glow of our Christmas tree, watched lots of holiday movies, snuggled in with our pups, and indulged in too many treats!
To balance out the peaceful calm, we threw some chaos of our own making into the mix. As usual, we were the people out shopping for ALL of our gifts the week before (up to the day before) Christmas. Never fails. We never mean to wait so long and we're not unthoughtful people, it has truly just become a laughable tradition of ours. At least we're experiencing the madness together!
This year was a little different for us because some of our normal traditions with family shifted slightly. The shift meant that we had Christmas Eve completely open, no commitments. (!!!) We tried to be intentional about what we chose to do in hopes of creating one or two new traditions that we could carry into the future.
It was a pretty laid back day. We slept in, rose slowly, had brunch, wrapped the last of our gifts, napped, took a walk, and went to church in the evening. The pace was dreamy. It felt so strange to have such a leisurely day in the middle of the busiest few days of our year, but I think we both welcomed and needed it.
My absolute favorite part of our Christmas Eve together was our walk. We took a walk around our property, taking time to stop, look around, and breathe in the crisp air. We fell in love with our acreage in the winter, so winter always feels an extra kind of special around here. Our dreams for this place took shape in the quiet, cold, and snowy months before we made it our home.
This type of reflection as a couple is undoubtedly the best new tradition that sprouted from our extra eight hours together during the holidays. My love for him, who we've become as individuals and as a couple, and the life we've built together has never felt stronger than in those stolen hours.
I hope you embraced new traditions along with the old this holiday season and were able to be present in both. Wishing you a wonderful holiday and happy new year!
Here are some “family photos” we attempted on Christmas Eve! Attempted being the key word. No amount of treats can persuade our dogs to take a photo!
Joel and I love to spend time in Cedar Rapids. Partially because that's where he comes from, partially because it has so much to offer.
If you haven't been to Cedar Rapids in awhile, I suggest you make the trip. The city is flourishing with so many great public spaces, stores, restaurants, arts facilities and other unique options to take advantage of.
I took a couple of days off to spend time with Joel and we decided to spend one of the days in Cedar Rapids. We visited some of our favorite places and I wanted to share some of those places with you!
Our first stop is always the Newbo City Market.
The city market has a lot to offer. Diverse food options, handmade items, hardy plants, sweet treats, essential oils and more. On this visit, we tried the Mexican food booth and their new crepe booth. Both were DELICIOUS!
We resisted buying anything else this time around, but did some browsing!
I was hoping our next stop would be this new, cute shop that is inside an old farmhouse style home. Unfortunately it wasn't open, but I took a picture of it so perhaps you can stop in next time you are in town. It's called Little House Artifacts. They have a lot of really creative repurposed and upcycled items alongside traditional antique goods.
Before leaving the Newbo area, we stopped by a shop we hadn't been to before. It was called Newbo Mercantile & Vintage Shop.
The shop owner was very nice. She and I chatted the entire time we were in the store. They offered vintage clothing and other items, eco-friendly and natural goods, DIY supplies, tea, and other miscellaneous gifts.
I bought a few things. Eco Bags (four total) that I can use for bulk and fresh foods when shopping, and honey from a local hive. See below for one of the Eco Bags. I was so excited to find some of these! (Plastic is bad. Boo, plastic!)
The final place we stopped in downtown CR was my favorite store - Gooselake Creations. This store has a very unique selection - similar to the Little House - with a mix of repurposed and upcycled items alongside traditional antique goods.
I go here to look at what they have to offer, of course, but my main reason for stopping by is for inspiration. I have never left without a new idea that I can't wait to get home and execute. The shop owner is as colorful as the items he sells, is very kind and makes you feel like you're his only customer.
I walked away with some new ideas and a couple of items. A "Bees & Honey" poster inside a window frame and two rust orange baskets. We already hung the poster, but I'm still thinking about where I want the baskets!
This is just a tiny glimpse into what Cedar Rapids has to offer. I hope you'll take some time to explore this city when you have a chance!
Joel and I had our first sleepover with our sweet, three-year-old nephew, Max, this past weekend. We were mostly excited and a little nervous. We've never babysat a child overnight before, so it was uncharted territory.
We anxiously awaited Saturday morning when we were set to pick him up. We discussed an itinerary full of the fun things we could do together. I bought everything we needed the night before - kid-friendly food and craft supplies.
His parents are great, Joel's brother Harper and his wife, Sara. They do a wonderful job of preparing Max for new adventures he goes on so he knows exactly what to expect. He's a really smart little guy, too, so he understands everything they're telling him.
When we arrived to get him, he had picked out two "Minion" buttons from the store - one for each of us. He had his bags packed and he was ready to go!
We started off the day at Bloomsbury Farm (highly recommended if you're looking for a day trip somewhere that is sure to keep little ones entertained). There were activities galore (some pictured at the end of this post), and Max loved it all. He took a little snooze on the way home and when we got back to our house he settled in with Joel to watch a movie before noticing that I was working outside (I needed to water my flowers). He wanted to "work hard" so he asked to help me, which of course I said "Yes" to! We did a little work and explored our property before coming in for supper.
Bath time and bed time were a breeze - and get this - he actually wanted to go to bed...How much more perfect can this kid get?! Joel read him stories until he fell asleep and he slept like a log all night long.
We enjoyed a pancake breakfast, pumpkin painting, and "band practice" before leaving for a family member's birthday party where we were set to drop Max off. We made a pit stop at the mall to walk around and ride the children's rides, including the cool train that drives around Crossroads Mall. It was the cherry on top of a great weekend with Max.
Throughout our adventures in babysitting, we both made some interesting observations that gave us some insight into what being a parent might be like. The primary observation being we now understand how some couples can become "disconnected" from each other when there are children involved. Obviously, the joyful experiences that children bring outweigh the bad and make everything worth it, but because your focus is so much on the happiness and well-being of the child, it's easy to lose sight of your partner, their happiness and well-being.
We noticed this in two days. In our minds, I know we both multiplied that disconnected feeling by 18 years. That was eye opening for us, who at this point in our lives, are so connected we literally can predict each other's thoughts and actions 99.9% of the time.
I'm happy that we both observed the same things, took time to reflect, and discussed how what we observed made us feel. We both agreed that although we had an absolute blast, returning to our "me and him" normalcy was welcomed.
We treated ourselves to some activities that he and I like to do together to top the weekend off. Library, movie, dinner, Hulu. I think we both had a renewed feeling about how much we mean to each other, how lucky we are to have each other as a best friend, and how happy we are doing our own thing as a two person family right now.
There's nothing wrong with being thirty-somethings with no kids. To each their own. Maybe tomorrow, next week, next month our tune will change - but in this present moment - we have each other and that is enough.
That cute crew pictured with me above is my family. They greet me when I get home and smother me in love. I'm a lucky woman.
Recently, Joel said something that made me feel all the things: "In our family we..." This simple statement really struck me.
I've always believed that we make our own paths. Regardless of what our past was like, we have the choice to make our lives what we want them to be. I'm not a fan of the "blame game": "I'm this way because my parents..."; "I do that because this one time in elementary school..."; "I'll never get anywhere because they told me I couldn't..." There's a certain point in our lives where we need to take ownership for who we are and what we do. The good and the bad. A point when we leave everything behind (as best we can) and move forward. Always moving forward. Taking the good, stepping over the bad, and doing our own thing.
Joel and I come from amazing families (and when I say that I actually mean it). They've all taught us so much and helped us build our foundations both as individuals and as a couple. They've given us the tools to construct our own values and figure out how those values fit in to our own little family.
We get to pick and choose what's important to us. Joel may have observed one thing in his family, I may have observed something different in mine, but we have the choice to select what works best for our family. This allows us to move forward with confidence and binds us closer together as we determine what truly is important to us as a family unit.
What a special privilege to have! I can't describe the feelings this realization gives me. Comfort. Pride. LOVE. Among many others. It definitely feels like a next step. Another milestone reached in our marriage and our family. The creation of a set of values that we'll continue to instill in ourselves and our family as it grows.
I'm so excited to find out what "In our family we..." develops into over time. You better believe I'm writing everything down!