In an effort to hold true to all of the above, I took a few minutes to reflect on what I'm most thankful for heading into this holiday weekend. There's so much, and I couldn't possibly list it all. So my top 10 -- in no particular order.
1. 2013. It's been a good year for us -- many firsts - many memories - new places traveled - and health. After what we experienced a couple of years ago, I won't ever take health for granted. It's at the forefront of every prayer. Thankful for the carousel rides, our paddle boat adventure on Beed's Lake and watching my boys in their life jackets brave those crazy water slides in Wisconsin. For Brandon learning to ride a bike, for Jaden starting Kindergarten and for me turning into the "Cat Lady." Never thought I'd see the day.
2. Our families. With Tim and Deanne moving into town in just a few weeks, our entire extended family will be within 10 minutes of us. I know to some, that would sound overwhelming, but we wouldn't want it any other way. Our parents and siblings are our best friends. Jaden and Brandon get to grow up with their cousins. I believe very strongly that having our family close will help keep Jaden and Brandon grounded in their values and morals as they grow older and the outside world meets them with all of its temptations and pressures. We have a tremendous support system around us, and I'm so glad I married a man who values this as much as I do.
3. Our community and the state of Iowa. Both Cody and myself have had an offer during our marriage to move out of the area, but this will always be home for us. It's a beautiful place filled with wonderful people, and you'd never convince me that there's a better place to raise a family. From its bike trails and Hartman Reserve, to the UNI-Dome and the Falls swimming pool, to Cherry Berry and Pepper's, to its storybook Main St. and the Cedar River... this is my Heaven and my haven. I'm proud of my Iowa roots. Give me a sunset over an Iowa cornfield any day.
4. Our humble abode. It's hard to believe we've been in our first house almost six years now. We know this is not our forever-home and the jury is still out on how much longer we will stay put. We know a new house is in our future, but I'm so thankful for the one we're in now. It's cute, it's cozy, and it's my happy place. Wherever we end up in the next year or two, this little corner property on Rainbow Dr. will always hold a very special place in my heart. I'm grateful that whenever we do make the move, our boys will be old enough to have some childhood memories of this place. Of how the Christmas tree looked in the corner of the living room, of all those summer dinners out on the deck, of catching frogs in the creek and helping Daddy mow the lawn with their own John Deere tractor. Of the neighbors that always hung fresh tomatoes on our door in the summer and brought us plated Christmas cookies in December. Of sharing a bunk bed in their little room and learning to pedal their bikes on the driveway. Our foundation was built here, and I'm proud of it.
5. My job. I can't say enough about how God blessed me with this company and my role within it. Across the board and across the country, every individual I get to work with is a wonderful person and professional. I'm with them for the long haul. And of course... working from home is just an added perk! (A big one!)
6. My little family of four (okay -- five. I have to include Lucy). I'm living out my childhood dream. My boys are two unique little individuals -- so different from one another -- but with a special bond, as well. My husband that has kept true to his vows of sticking it out through the good and bad -- the sick and the healthy. The people that make me want to be a better version of me every single day. And Lucy... who has taught me that dogs aren't the only animals deserving of love and cuddles and a warm place to sleep at night. ;)
7. Traditions. One of the best things about having my own family is being able to carry out old traditions while also creating our own. A birthday cake for Jesus every Christmas Eve. Decorating our tree in front of the Macy's Parade on TV every Thanksgiving morning. A UNI carved pumpkin every Halloween. Holiday Hoopla every Black Friday. These things matter... this is what the boys will take with them as they create families of their own. These are the things we can count every year - the moments that fill our photo album and imprint themselves in our memories.
8. Nature. I read this the other day: "The world didn't have to be beautiful. We can and should think about that beauty and be grateful." Every year I seem to appreciate more and more those little secret nooks in unknown parts of the woods. The little corner by the lake that seems that no one knows about but us. The way the sunset looks on the Cedar River. I'm so happy our boys love being outside and that a walk on the trails is a night well spent to them.
9. Athletics. To some, it's nothing more than a game on TV or a story in the paper. To us, it's a way of life. It provides us with entertainment, forges relationships, offers unique ways to spend time with one another and with friends and helps teach valuable life lessons through the ups and downs of it all. So many memories were made for me while growing up through our involvement with athletics, and now those memories are being made for my kids. Not everyone gets to live in a Division I college town. I am grateful for it.
10. My faith. My foundation. We have been through so much in the last five-six years and have seen our families go through so much. We are stronger because of each other and because we believe in His love, in His grace and mercy and in His will and timing. I have 100% trust that He is with us every single day. Without Him, we don't have moments like these.
I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. May your hearts be as full as your tummies!