Birthdays are a big deal to me, and turning thirty-one was no different. If I am going to insist on a year of you then you damn well know I am going to insist on a week of birthday celebrating. When Jason asked what I wanted to do for my birthday this year, I had three objectives: 1.) do something active 2.) be outside (weather permitting) 3.) find something the kids could do and wouldn’t complain about. Knowing that I could only reasonably control the first two requests, hiking it was! The Pere Marquette trails had been on our radar for some time, so we decided to go for it. We got the kids going early that Saturday morning, packed-up the car and made the drive to Grafton. I love Grafton this time of year. Traditionally, we make a trip to Grafton in April with friends, but it just didn’t time out this year. Being in “the Key West of the Midwest” just feels right in April.
We arrived at the Pere Marquette visitor’s center, located maps, sun screened/bug sprayed and just went for it. Like just found a trail and started walking. Anyone who really knows me knows that “just going for it” is not my style when my kids are in tow. I like to know where I am going and how I can get back to safety if needed. Yes, we had a map, but it was not to scale and was printed in black and white BUT referenced color coding! How does that happen? I took a deep breath, and all was okay. Jason took charge of navigation and if Jason is calm, I can eventually get there. He has that calming effect on me.
We set out on a trail that was described as moderately difficult (side note, moderately difficult to Pere Marquette State Park equates to 92 flights of stairs/elevation). The kids were ready for the adventure. It was an absolutely beautiful perfect day: sunny, a decent breeze and not too hot. We also started pretty early and avoided any potential for crowds which we saw coming in as we were leaving that day. We ended up logging four miles on the trails. Chase made the entire trek without a complaint. Shane had to ride on Jason’s shoulders for a bit. Four miles is a lot for little three year-old legs. We finished our hike, picnicked under a tree and the boys played soccer in an open field with Jason. I stayed back, admiring my blessings from a distance on what ended up being a perfect way to celebrate my birthday.
The next day after our hike was Easter Sunday. I am big on birthdays, but I love holidays. I mean LOVE holidays and the traditions and family time that are associated with most holidays. As I looked through the pictures from that day, I can’t help but laugh so I am going to let this amazing collage of pictures tell its own story.
The rest of the week included my actual birthday, finishing the living room design projects, family swim night at the Y, and bowling with my dad’s side of the family. It was a good week.
We ended my birthday week with the Belleville Area Humane Society 5k Race for the Rescues. The entire family including both dogs participated in this race. We decided to go after the race in groups based on speed and activity (walking/running). Jason took Forrest Gump (our dog) and ended up crushing the race. Jason was fourth overall and Forrest was third overall dog. Chase decided he wanted to run, so I pushed Shane in the jogger and Chase completed his second 5k in under 33 minutes! I can’t tell you how proud I was of his determination during that race. Melissa took Lt. Dan (our other dog) and walked the race (not by Melissa’s choice). We had hesitations if Lt could actually finish a 3 mile walk, but with a bit of coaching from Melissa, he crossed the finish line with some pep left in his step. It was a great way to spend a sunny Sunday morning.
When I look back through this thirty-first birthday week, I find a common theme: Family. Being in Australia made me miss out on three weekends worth of family time. It made me realize just how blessed I am to have so many amazing people to love.