Tuesday, July 26, 2016

You're Gonna Love it at Adventureland

Written on July 18, 2016...


As I type this post, Mason and I are sitting outside on our patio, drinks in hand, watching the fire dance around our new Target-special fire pit.  (99 bucks right now! Go order it!) We're a little sunburned and our feet are a little achy and we're crazy tired, but these small things were the price we paid for a sweet day at Adventureland.

Today marked our third family excursion at Adventureland, and each year it seems to be better than the year before.  Of course, Charlie's always a little taller-- which seems to help when you're visiting amusement parks.  At this moment in time, the thing he wants most in the world is to be 48 inches tall.  48 inches seems to be the magical height to ride the "big rides" and brave the "big waterslides".  (Unless it's a dreaded 52 or 54 incher-- which seems like an eternity away for Charlie.)  And while he's creeping closer, there's no way he'll get there this summer--- much to his dismay.  Fortunately, three of the four roller coasters at Adventureland are 42" requirements-- meaning, he's been riding them since he was four years old and loves every second of them.

This morning, we surprised Charlie with a little road trip.  We didn't give him any hints and until we were literally entering the Adventureland gates, he thought we might be going to Chuck E. Cheese's.  ("We're going to drive right by Adventureland, Charlie! Look!  There it is on the right!" Finally, Mason clued him in by asking, "Charlie, what does that big sign say?"
Charlie peered around the seat, straining to see the sign and read, "Welcome....to....Adventureland......WHAT!?!?  We're HERE!?! Wa-hoooo!  Yes!"

We proceeded to parking lot 4, applied heavy coats of sunscreen, grabbed waterbottles and extra diapers and some snacks, shoved everything into a bag and jammed it all onto Anna's stroller.  We clicked her in and took off for the gates.  And before you knew it we were standing in line for the Carousel and then The Galleon and then The Sky Wheel....


(Charlie, ever the danger ranger, did NOT think this was a good idea at all.  We saw them boarding the ride from our position in line at the Galleon and Charlie looked at me and said, "Oh Mom, I don't like this at all. I think this is a bad idea.  Daddy better hold on to her with all his might!")  Mason mentioned that Anna loved this ride and was thrilled not to sit on his lap.  Glad I didn't know that before they went on it.  






Dippin' Dots!!  

Anna's favorite ride-- though she wasn't too excited to realize that she was strapped in....



She kept yelling, "Mama! Up!" but couldn't figure out that the lever would make her go up.  Poor thing.  Her plane never got off the ground. :) 



We didn't know how Anna would handle the whole day, especially one that was predicted to be 90+ degrees with humidity that might possibly melt even me-- the biggest lover of Midwest heat and humidity out there.  So we hatched a plan B that involved Sara's house or a long car ride or maybe a trip to Bass Pro Shop.  But surprisingly (why were we surprised?!),  Little Sister took everything in stride--loving every minute, and then stretching out in her stroller for two hours to refresh and take on the afternoon.

This year, we braved AdventureBay-- the waterpark attached to Adventureland-- for the first time.  We were pleasantly surprised with the amount of things to do--and how age-appropriate everything was.  And after having a little reminder chat of what do if you're lost from us (that probably sounded more like, "Thank the good lord in Heaven you're alive!  Now where the hell were you!?  We were scared to death! We thought you drowned!  You could have DIED!  Jesus!  What were you thinking?!? We are so mad!..... Because we love you so much!!!...."--this is all hypothetical of course.)  we had a fantastic time.

After water-parking it, we saved a little time to do a few more rides, grab a bite to eat, and then hit the road.  By the time we reached Bondurant, both kiddies were asleep and their mama was not far behind.  If you're from central Iowa, that catchy little Adventureland jingle (that seems to play constantly on the radio and tv), is one that sticks with you.  And for us, the memories made while there, will be ones that stick with us--like that little jingle-- played on repeat for years to come.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Bucket List: Go to Mindy's 2016

"And you say you never do anything! It seems like you and the kids are always on the go."  A friend of mine recently said this to me as we were standing at the Felix-Grundy celebration, watching our kids risk their lives on ill-looking carnival rides that had to be older than most people in attendance.  I looked at her and laughed.  "Well, summers off--will travel!" I replied.

We had been talking about how summer was going, how quickly it passes, and whether or not we had plans for the upcoming weekend.  I had mentioned that Kelly had been in town for a week, we spent three days in Des Moines, hung out at Holiday lake over the 4th of July weekend, and we were just getting ready to head down to St. Louis the next morning.  I've become accustomed to this look of surprise and sometimes bewilderment that results when people hear about our summer.   But as I explained to Kelly when she was here, summer fills me up.  It's ten weeks of ultra-precious time (and lots of warmth and Vitamin D)-- and I literally imagine my body as a vessel that gets re-charged each summer.  Things like early sunrises and late sunsets and drinking wine on the patio, lightning bugs, pool trips after supper, and even the sticky feeling of humidity all seem to add a bit of energy to my depleted vessel.  Then, school starts, autumn comes (and then the season that shall not be mentioned) and I tap into my charged up energy.  I coast through the next 42 weeks on that stored up goodness that comes from summer. 

And a huge charge comes from traveling.  Right now, we're visiting Mindy in a northern suburb of St. Louis.  This year marks our sixth year-- so it's definitely a tradition and one of my favorite parts of summer. I'm pretty sure I forgot to write a post about it last year so I wanted to make sure to write about it this year.  Here goes...

After a change in plans (Jeremy's work schedule changed and we needed to make a last-minute switch in our planning-- which resulted in us coming with two days notice because sadly, every other week and weekend is spoken for....) we woke up bright and early and hit the road.  The kids were super troopers in the car and we lucked out with beautiful weather--allowing us to take a few pit stops and not be limited by skyrocketing temperatures. 




Of course, we stopped in Donnellson, a town with a population of 899 (according to Google) and managed to kill an hour and a half.  We found the library (took some pictures for The Library Express!) and then played and picnicked at the park. 








After hopping back in the car, I powered up the dvd player for Charlie (Star Wars--"the one with the ewoks") and popped Anna's binkie in her mouth, silently praying for a long summer's nap.  (She did sleep until we hit the evil Hannibal with its numerous stop lights and ability to wake up sleeping babies.  Sigh.  And though we had a few rough minutes, we made it to Mindy's safe and sound by Saturday afternoon.  We surveyed the landscape (rooted through all of their toys), found our bearings (got the Wi-Fi password and broke out the devices), and relaxed (drank some of Jeremy's beer from the garage fridge). 

The next day, we day-tripped to Indian Creek Park, where we enjoyed some creek walking and minnow catching and bucket filling and mud-pie making fun.  Definitely one of my favorite places to visit. 











Later that afternoon, Anna took a signature 90 minute nap and then joined the party-- devices, snacks, and trashing Mindy's house with games and blocks and dolls and random toys. 



That night we bathed the kiddos, I braided the girls hair (I think that's become another tradition...), and we loaded up the minivan for a jammie-clad ice cream trip.  (Oh, and Anna loves Jeremy-- sat by him the whole time with her little hand on his leg, calling him Daddy all night long.  Adorable.)



Anna loved our vacation so much that she chose to wake up early and take in as much of the day as possible (yay!).  She and I enjoyed some quality time together and hit the streets with the stroller for a nice muggy morning walk. (Not her favorite activity)  Later that day, we loaded up the troops and hit the pool and though the water slides weren't operating (Charlie was SO disappointed-- he's been talking about them for weeks!  Weeks!) we ended up having a sweet time.  Oh, except the part where Charlie got stung by a bee and about went into hysterics over it.  Don't worry, eventually he calmed down (with the help of a lifeguard's ice-filled rubber glove and a Milky Way).

We ended our visit with a relaxing evening and our traditional date night-- that's when Mindy and I run to Target or the Gap and use coupons that are about to expire.  It's one of my favorite things of the trip. (This year we hit up Von Maur and NY&Co before Target--good times!)

And while our time with the Carmichael's is always short, it's ever so sweet-- and something that is definitely cherished.  We look forward to it each year and it's become something that is as much a part of summer as watermelon and bomb pops.  We eagerly list things we want to do in the summer-- roast marshmallows, catch lightning bugs, star gaze....  and "go to Mindy's" is always at the top of the list. And since I'm such a sweet and indulging mama, I happily oblige.


We finished our trip with a pit-stop at the Iowa Children's Museum-- always a hit and a great way to get toddlers tuckered out and ready for a nap. :)


Charlie wanted me to take a picture of his Cheese-It "Grooves" crackers.  (ha!)






Signing off from the road~
 The Spahns 












Thursday, June 2, 2016

Let Me Be There; Spark 2016

I feel like we're one of the few families that still owns (and listens to) a regular ol' radio.  Usually, ours is tuned to light rock-- where Fleetwood Mac and Steely Dan provide the background to family sing-a-longs and Pharrell and Justin Timberlake turn our living room into a dance party.  But tonight, the Universe has given me Olivia Newton John & her appropos Let Me Be There lyrics-- the perfect soundtrack to my reflections on a week ago.

Let me be there....

Last week, I returned home from a women's retreat in Ojai, California.  Mason explained it as a conference, but let's be honest here.  It was a retreat.  Upon arriving, we were greeted at the door by the hosts, authors Kelle Hampton and Claire Bidwell Smith-- both of whom made us feel incredibly welcome and an important piece of the whole shebang. We had beautiful accommodations and were nurtured three times a day by an on-site chef, Goyo.

As we gathered that first night together, I listened as 18 women across the country shared their reasons for investing time, energy, and money into this three-day retreat, and also into themselves.  I'm not even sure what my response was, but if I had the chance to articulate it now, it would go something like this:

I have an adventurous soul and am in need of an adventure.  When I heard about a retreat with a writing focus, I was intrigued because I love writing but I'm not sure I really have a story.  I love to write, but I often feel too tired, too overwhelmed, or too uninspired to jot anything down.  I love writing, but have some deep-seeded issues with the quality of my written words and whether or not they are worthy of sharing with others.  I feel so lucky to have amazing friends in my life but lately, I've been seeking some depth to our friendships-- something that extends beyond conversations about youth sports and sangria recipes. (but don't get me wrong, I'm always up for a good sangria recipe) Lately, I feel a little depleted, I feel a little low, I feel a little lack-luster, and I want to recharge my own battery.  I love my family more than life itself, but I take them for granted.  I find myself getting frustrated with the littlest things, annoyed at the slightest movements and I want to loosen my grip on perfection-- just a bit.  I need to miss them, I need a little separation to make my heart grow fonder once again.   I hope to be a little more inspired, a little more engaged, and a little more recharged when I return home.  And if I make a friend or two, that would be the icing on the cake.  

It's hard for me to even write about the 48 hours that followed that initial gathering-- so much transpired in so little time.  We went from a group of strangers wearing hand-written name tags to a group of friends, whose spirits will forever remain tattooed on our hearts.  In thinking about what propelled our relationships forward-- so deeply so quickly-- I can only guess that it was the moments we shared while gathered together.  Each day, we had two opportunities to write and share the words we had written.  We heard about grief and loss, love and heartache, self-love and human betrayal.  We cried tears of understanding when people shared words about the beauty in ordinary days and we cried tears of sadness as we listened to stories of difficult childhoods and relationships that only existed in dreams. Every time a woman shared her writing, whether it was about body image or adopting a child or the rigors of marriage, words resonated throughout the room.  And as I listened, I felt so honored that these women, barely friends, were trusting me with their heartaches and sorrows, joys and celebrations.  I felt humbled by their bravery to read things they had written-- however short or long they may be.  And eventually, I shared too.

Let me be there....

When else in my life have people so freely given themselves?  When have they cracked wide open, lay face up on the floor with arms outstretched-- hearts open-- vulnerable to the core-- and shared stories like this?  Each person had a different voice, everyone had a different story.  But then, as people began to share, I realized-- we're not so different.  Our voices varied; some more sentimental and some more serene than others, some more humorous and some more raw--- but they all were beautiful.  I've never felt sure-footed when it comes to writing and it's probably something that has held me back for years.  But being surrounded by these women helped me feel capable and inspired to go ahead and just....write.

I'm not a quick writer-- it takes me awhile to find the words I'm searching for, and there's nothing I love more about the writing process than the re-writing process. (Crazy, I know.)  So writing for 30-45 minutes and then sharing was especially difficult for me.  The things I shared weren't particularly meaningful, probably not at all impactful, and definitely not deep.   I don't think I even wrote a single metaphor the whole time I was there.  (And besides, that's Mason's specialty not mine)  But eventually, I shared a few things I had written.... and honestly, it was scary and a little nerve-wracking.  And while it was scary, never once did I feel intimidated or discouraged by the sets of eyes upon me.  If anything, the opposite was true.  And I am so thankful.  These women gave me a gift-- the gift of a little confidence, something that I hadn't even realized was missing in a big way. Thank you for letting me be there. 


And now the good stuff... the photos. :)
Hey Lisa, I've never met you before and we're sharing a rental car.
So this is what I look like as I hang out at terminal 7 baggage claim at LAX.
I'm greasy and tired looking and will be one of your forever-friends in 24 hours.
Come find me!  

Adriana taught me how to use my stupid iphone!!! And a quick swipe to the right will show you restaurants nearby! (Who knew?) So we tapped on the one with the dot in the ocean and looked out at the waves as we lunched.)

Lisa, Karah, Adriana..... about an hour into our friendship

When choosing which highway to travel, always go with the one that has an ocean-view.  Always.  

Note to self: Never contain your excitement when you see the ocean.  Throw your arms out, breathe in the salty air, and give thanks for having this opportunity!  (And if you can do a handstand, do that too.) 

Ladies & Gents, let me introduce you to Ojai, California. 

Not sure if they kick you out of stores for browsing too long--- quite possibly could have with this one.  


Our 'living room' gathering space.  Cozy couches, warm blankies, and soft shoulders to snuggle with-- or cry on. 

Crooked smile in the California foothills...

Did I mention that our accommodations were awful? 

Jen captivated us with her written memory...

The cutest used bookstore you ever did see...

Miss Erin & her soft, calm, voice made me instantly wrap my heartstrings all around her. 

Houston ladies & Miss Carol-- who I promise to visit in San Diego. 

Green juice by Goyo...

I honestly could have sat under these vines and inhaled their scent all day long.
Wisteria? Jasmine? Not really sure.... and don't really care.  

Four of six roomies....

Dive bar, Mule Deer, Harley, and Robert. 

And this mug?  It looks cold..... but it's so hot.  Shhhh!  And yes, Ron Ron, I'll share. 

Our amazing spread-- every single meal was more delicious than the one before. 

The fire warmed their backs & these two warmed my heart.  (Do you see what I did there?) 

Oh, and there may have been a full moon that Saturday night.
(Which we may have sang to, and danced under, and made memories that I'll think about until the day I die)

Waking up to the California sunshine.  

So much gratitude for these two ladies-- who had the inspiration and determination to provide us with this opportunity.
(But note to self:  Next time, pack at least one cute outfit for the last day.
And hats! I have so many hats!  Kelle is my hat-soul-sister.)

And this one owes me a makeover.  (Isn't her makeup so good!?) 

Then we did this thing called a cinnamon roll hug-- my new favorite thing ever.  But definitely something I won't try with elementary kids for fear of broken bones and way too much screaming. 

When you meet someone that you know you were destined to be friends with.  Even if they do have the prettiest, naturally white teeth you've ever seen. 

Oh and this one?  She kept her cool when I lost mine-- under the Santa Monica Pier.   My old friend, Anxiety, tried to take the driver's seat and she just kept her hand on the wheel.  Best friend forever.  

Until next time ladies....


Wherever you go
Wherever you may wander in your life
Surely you know
I always wanna be there
Holding you hand
And standing by to catch you when you fall
Seeing you through
In everything you do

Let me be there in your morning
Let me be there in you night
Let me change whatever's wrong and make it right
Let me take you through that wonderland
That only two can share
All I ask you is let me be there

Watching you grow
And going through the changes in your life
That's how I know
I always wanna be there
Whenever you feel you need a friend to lean on, here I am
Whenever you call, you know I'll be there

Let me be there in your morning
Let me be there in you night
Let me change whatever's wrong and make it right
Let me take you through that wonderland
That only two can share
All I ask you is let me be there