Friday, May 26, 2017

Turpentine Creek Animal Refuge ~ Eureka Springs, Arkansas


I am doing a little Flashback Friday today, as I am seriously behind on blogging our family life. Last month Dawson and I went on a mother/son trip. I had originally purchased him and I tickets to the Game of Thrones live concert, but our event was cancelled. We were seriously bummed! So I started looking for something for us to do together, and came upon a Groupon for Turpentine Creek Animal Refuge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.



Dawson is very much an animal activist so I was hoping this might be something he would really enjoy. We stayed two nights in the Siberian Suite. (If I was going to choose which place to lodge at the Refuge, this would be it again and again.)

This ended up being the trip of a lifetime. Directly outside the window of our suite were two large tigers, Montana and Poncho. Out the front porch was a lion and liger pair. We could see panthers, other tigers, and bears from our suite.


Dawson and I arrived on Sunday evening and settled into our super cool suite. It was amazing, more like a small apartment than a hotel room. It was getting dark so we said "Hi" to the tigers next to our suite and went to get dinner at Amore. If you are ever in Eureka Springs, stop by and see these folks. They make you feel like you have just come into their home for an Italian dinner. Excellent!

We were up bright and early on Monday morning because we were so excited to see all of the other animals. We took off on a little self-guided tour around the perimeter of the compound and read the stories of all of the big cats. (It wasn't until we completed our tour that we learned that we weren't supposed to be on that road without a guide. Ooops!)






It is astonishing the work that Turpentine Creek does for these sweet animals. Without the owners, staff, and volunteers each of them would have been euthanized. Instead, they have created natural habitats for them to live out the rest of their lives ... their "forever homes". They have a vet clinic on site, a geriatric wing, and even a section created especially for a group of cats that were rescued who were traumatized and cannot be around any people.

The caregivers are so amazing, and it was heartwarming to witness their interactions with the animals. They spray perfumes at the cats for scent stimulation, spray water hoses into their cages for them to play in, and meticulously clean and preserve their habitats. We were told that the animals are allowed to do whatever they want while in their habitats. They do not "tell them what to do". They want things to be as natural for them as possible.

Of course none of this is possible without funding which comes, in part, from the admission fee into the refuge, products purchased, and rooms rented. One hundred percent of all proceeds goes back to the care of the animals. We saw a sign thanking those who have donated large sums of money. Ellen DeGeneres was on that list.

It was raining on Monday so Dawson and I took some time roaming around Eureka Springs having coffee (the best Cafe Au Lait I have ever tasted), shopping, and then stopping for dinner at a little Mexican place.




We also took some time to tour Quigley's Castle, the "strangest dwelling in the Ozarks". It was, in fact, the strangest dwelling I have ever seen. The inside was crazy. But it was neat to see the individuality of Mrs. Quigley in creating her home, filling it with those things she loved. God bless Mr. Quigley for being open to her wants and desires. I love seeing places like this, feeling other's lives from the past.



On Tuesday morning we took one more pass through the general public compound spending tons of time watching Bam Bam the bear (spending time watching him play is worth the admission price alone) and saying good-bye to Goober, the only monkey at the refuge.




This trip was magical. Dawson and I had never gone on a trip alone, sans those Boy Scout campouts of his youth, so it was so incredible to spend some time with my adult son. We played cards, ate, and just enjoyed the refuge and the beauty of Arkansas.

If you live in the Midwest and are considering a trip to Florida to go to Animal Kingdom, I highly recommend that you save your tourist bucks and book a weekend at Turpentine Creek. Your money will go to an excellent cause, and you will walk away feeling as though you have spent a weekend with the dearest of friends. Plus, just date your kids, especially when they are adults. It is such special time.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge


What color is prominent in your home? Are you glad about that or wishing you could cover it up or remove it?

I have a few basic colors in my house ... pale gold, red, green, and black (cabinets, leather couch, etc.) I absolutely LOVE my colors! They remind me of fall, which is my favorite season, and make me feel warm and cozy. Even if I was going to be moving into a completely new house, I would choose these colors all over again. Even when they are out of style, I do not think I will be able to part with them.

What's something you'll NEVER do again?

Oh my. There certainly are a few prominent things. I will keep it light, though ... I will never watch a scary movie again. I value my sleep way too much to fill it with something that will keep me awake, especially in fear.

Tell us a couple of ways you fit the stereotypes associated with your gender, and a couple of ways you don't.

I am a nurturer, and I believe a woman's place is at home taking care of her family. I read lists of stereotypes of men and didn't feel like I fit into any of them, really, other than I am a natural leader and not meek and mild and silent and submissive. And, I like to drink beer out of a bottle.

May is Motorcycle Awareness Month. Have you ever owned a motorcycle? Ever ridden a motorcycle? If the opportunity presented itself would you hop on a motorcycle and go for a ride?

I have not owned a motorcycle. I rode on the back of one for a short distance once. I do not like them, hate the idea of a car coming up behind me. This is a "I will never again" item.

If someone wanted to understand you, what should they read, watch, and listen to?

You could read Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, or just this blog. I would watch the show Parenthood. I remind myself a lot of Kristina Braverman. Definitely listen to "The Slow Home Podcast". It is definitely the direction I am heading and what I aspire to become.

Insert your own random thought here.

We have come full circle. Several months ago we bought 17 acres with the dream of building a farmhouse and having a small hobby farm. Kyndal and Collin were planning to build on the property, too. They decided that it would be best for them to just buy a larger home in town instead of to build. We, too, decided that it would be best for our family not to build. So, the property is back on the market. Then we were faced with a decision to either put significant amounts of money into our current house or buy a different one. We put our house on the market and put a contract on a slightly larger 100 year old house that has been remodeled and updated. Since then the kids have expressed an interest in staying in our current home, our roof here has started to leak meaning we need to replace it to even sell it, and I was starting to feel some sadness about leaving this house that I really, really love. We have decided, ultimately, to back out of our contract on the other house and take ours back off the market. We are going to stay put and do some extensive renovations here: replace the roof, tear down our garage that is falling apart and is an eyesore, put up a privacy fence around our back and side yard for privacy away from the trashy houses that are behind us, gut and completely remodel our one bathroom, renovate the cool upstairs attic into a 450 square foot master suite with bathroom and living area, move Brynne into the current master bedroom and out of the "meth" room in the basement (we kid her that her room was previously a meth lab by the previous owners), and put in a new HVAC system. I am so excited about all of this and feel so much more at peace! If I am learning anything at all currently, it's that I need peace in my life, and I do not need one more thing I have to take care of, like a farm. That is just a pipe dream that is going to have to die.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday Coffee Chat





What song reflects your mood right now?

I can't seem to find a song that truly reflects my mood, so I wrote my own lyrics. I am open to collaborating with any musicians who would like to write the music.

I'm so tired I could bawl.
I have absolutely hit a wall.
I'd love to read while curled up in bed,
but we have a late softball game instead.

My grandson who is usually perfection
has been fussy this week with an ear infection.
I care for him, usually, on Thursday and Monday,
but his other caregiver is gone until Sunday.

I am off tomorrow so you think I'd be glad,
but I have to go have a mammogram ... Rad.
The dogs are so needy, they whine and whine,
I can't pee alone because they barge in each time.

Everyone needs something, they push and they push,
and all I want to say to each one is, "Shush!!!"
"Leave me alone, let me have some peace,
or you may find a monster I release."

This, too, shall pass, I know it to be true.
But until then I am likely to act like a shrew.
The weekend is coming, I have nothing planned,
please don't give me anything, that would be grand.

The End.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The End of School


Although I haven't posted about it, we did officially end our school year at the end of April. The last couple of weeks just kind of flatlined as both kids were sick, Eli with an upper respiratory infection and Brynne bookending that with two bouts of stomach flu. It didn't feel like we officially ended anything: we just quit ... hours completed .... done.

Bennett started joining us for school two days a week
while his mama is at work. He liked astronomy.

Brynne did continue to work daily on Study Island in the subjects of math and English because she was going to be sitting for the state MAP test with the public school 6th graders. She did sit for that test starting May 8th, her first standardized test ever. She also got a small taste of school because she got to stay for recess and lunch with the other students. We live in a really small town so she pretty much knows everybody, but it was good for her to be in that environment for a few days. It didn't scare her off so she is all good.

It was obvious we had not been in a school in a long time:
They don't use No. 2 pencils in standardized testing anymore ...
They use computers! LOL!

This summer will be a completely different schooling experience for us. Typically we school part-time in the months of June and July making sure we hit grammar, math, and reading every day. Then we take off the first few weeks of August before we start back full-time. But with Brynne going to public school next year, she doesn't really need to stick with our lessons other than just getting in a good summer of reading.

She has also signed up for summer school with the public school from May 30th to June 30th and will be attending seven different camps for volleyball and basketball. So Eli and I will start back together at the beginning of June to keep him moving in our regular summer studies. Doing school without Brynne will be sad, but I guess I should get used to it.

Overall we had a really great year of school. We did an intensive study of Missouri history, read the Percy Jackson books so studied Greek Mythology and astronomy, and continued on steadily with math, grammar, spelling, and copywork. We had a fun time watching Timeless and researching those times in history, watching The Wheel and studying biomes, and watching The Zoo while learning about the animals and the inner workings of The Bronx Zoo. The kids did a lot of reading, had some enrichment classes at our house with a couple of their friends, and continued with their individual sports activities. Eli also continued with his weekly speech therapy and participated in some educational activities for National Stuttering Awareness Week. It was a well-rounded year, and our last as a little school of three. It was definitely a bittersweet year for me as I watch my two little kiddos blossom into young adults.

Eli's SLP is one of his best friends. And now he's almost
taller than her!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge


May 17th is National Pack Rat Day. (Sidebar-should we be celebrating this? Hmmm ....) Are you a pack rat? Even if you're not a full fledged pack rat, most people have one thing or another they struggle to part with. Tell us what's yours.

Yes, I'm a pack rat. I just can't get rid of things I think I might need in the future. I mean, I held onto a particular pair of shoes for years and then the second I got rid of them they came back in style (or a version of them) and I had to buy brand new again if I was going to wear that style. I am not a hoarder ... yet. No, really, I'm not. I do get rid of lots of things, especially clothes. But I do hold onto lots of things, especially clothes. My problem is when we have too much storage space, I store things.  Having a full basement for storage is not, necessarily, a good thing.

What are two things you know you should know how to do, but you don't?

Change a flat tire. Bake a good homemade chocolate chip cookie.

Do you crave sugar? Do you add sugar to your coffee and/or tea? Do you use artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes? When dining out is dessert a given? Are you someone who has slain the sugar dragon, and if so tell us how you did it.

I do not crave sugar in the traditional sense. I only use liquid stevia for sweetener or honey in a recipe. I do not avoid sugar in cooking, I just do not typically crave it. However, I am a carboholic. I love and crave carbs. And carbs gets converted to sugar in the system. So, really, I probably do crave carbs but in a different way than most.

What's a trend that took you a while to come around to, but now you can't imagine living without?

My iPhone. I fought it and fought it and fought it. I did not want that much technology at my fingertips because I knew I would abuse it. But when Kyndal and I were at a Backstreet Boys concert and I brought out my dumb phone to make a phone call and then a real point and shoot camera to take a photo (gads!), I felt like an old lady. So it was time to break down and get a smart phone. And, of course, I love it. I use it more than I would like, definitely, but I am able to put it away and enjoy my life instead of always staring at my phone (mostly).

What's a song that reminds you of a specific incident in your life? Please elaborate.

Today we are going to an amusement park called Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. When I was in junior high I went on a church trip there. My three friends and I met four super cute boys and hung out with them all day. That evening the park had a dance "club" with a DJ and it was there that I had my first kiss dancing to the song "Heaven" by Bryan Adams. For weeks afterward I would lay on my bed and wait for that song to come on the radio. To this day I think of that night when I hear that song. (And, yes, I was on a church trip, met a boy, and had my first kiss. Oh my. But what a memory!)

Insert your own random thought here.

There is so much randomness going on in my life right now that I could write a book. And I haven't uploaded photos to my computer in at least a month so I don't have a recent photo of any of it as a starting point. So I am going go to my photos and pull the last one I uploaded and write about it. Here I go.


Ahhhh ... that's a good one! These are my two nieces. They are both going to be five this year, three months apart. Ashtyn is the dark-haired one and Bell is the blonde. You will not find two little girls who are more different! But look at how beautiful they are! Bell lives in Oregon so we only get to see her a couple of times a year. Ashtyn lives just a few blocks from me, and I saw her just last night at Brynne's softball game. I love these girls, so full of spunk and sass! Such fun! I am so glad I get to be their Aunt.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday Coffee Chat


My fingers have not touched the keys of my laptop in quite some time. Sickness hit our house, life happened, things got busy, and blogging was the first thing to go. It happens. At the end of the day I have either been too tired to touch the computer or not able to sleep but not wanting to talk about what was keeping me from sleeping.

I am hoping to do some catching up in the next couple of weeks. The kids have been busy doing some great things. And we finished our school year. And we have made some life decisions. I want to be able to look back on these days someday to see what we were up to in the Spring of 2017. Because all of these things are important, no matter how big or how small.

I can't think of a better way to get back into my routing of blogging than to participate in this week's Tuesday Coffee Chat with Ink Interrupted.


Today's topic: I'm not jealous! What gets you turning green?

There was a time when I lived in a constant state of jealousy. Everybody around me seemed to have all of the things I thought I wanted. But I was stubborn and wouldn't admit that I was jealous. Instead, I either tried to keep up or I became indignant about doing that thing the opposite way. It was kind of the "I'll show you the right way to do it" mentality, when really I was seething that I couldn't have it the way they had it. It was vicious, and the direct result of the living environment we had created trying to be people we weren't. As a result, I didn't like anybody. Nearly every person represented what I did not have.

But, deep down, I didn't really want those things anyway. You know, keeping up is exhausting and expensive! The constant competition between others is ugly! I didn't want to be that ugly person, but I was caught in the vacuum of it .. the big house, the right clothes, the appearance of having a perfect marriage and perfect kids, working out how everybody else was working out even if I hated it, landscaping, vacations, activities with the kids, looking perfect at church, etc., etc., etc.

I had to get out of that environment.

And so five years ago I did. We gave up our $400,000 house for a $30,000 one in my childhood hometown. We did some cosmetic work to it to make it homey and adorable. We settled into a routine of significantly less concentrating on family instead of things. Life and expectations slowed WAY down. All of a sudden all of those things that seemed to matter there absolutely did not matter here. We live in a poor community where people are really just trying to make it in the day-to-day. There is no competition to have more than someone else. It's a small community where everybody is just living life, where it's perfectly acceptable to just spend time at home enjoying a quiet evening doing nothing. Our kids are allowed to play sports they love without feeling inadequate because they are not striving at age 11 to go pro. We are surrounded with perfect imperfections. Everything is small and scaled down and minimal.

This life isn't for everybody, I get that. But it's for me. I really realize it's for me when I try to answer the question of what gets me turning green and I realize that I cannot think of one single thing. Five years ago I could have written a large novel on the topic.

Jealousy creates a life of chaos. My soul needs peace. I am so grateful that I have found it.