Wednesday, July 26, 2017


About two weeks ago, I was lying on the couch after the kids were in bed, watching old Office reruns and trying to read the book that I haven't been quite able to get into.  In an effort to be productive without have to try to keep reading, I sent a random text to a high school friend about the possibility of us getting our families together.  We texted back and forth, but with little success in figuring out logistics...and somehow RAGBRAI came up.  As in, "Are you doing any days of ragbrai?"  And when the answer was "no"....we ended up deciding that riding a day of RAGBRAI might just be the perfect way to catch up--- without the kids.

We knew the route was traveling from Spencer to Algona-- roughly 60 miles and while it would be hard, we could ride 10 miles an hour and still get there before suppertime. Mason thought I was crazy, and I admit that I did too....but I knew I could do it even if it would be a little painful.  So Bess and I decided that we would do day 2 of the ride-- assuming that we could both coordinate childcare and mentally train (because it was really too late to physically train). Over the course of the next week, Bess and I texted back and forth-- mostly reciting our new mantra: "We'll be fine! What could possibly go wrong?!"  (Also, RAGBRAI is known for a lot of pie on the route---and I have been known to like pie.)

By Sunday it was go-time.  We dropped our vehicles off in Algona and then headed to Spencer with my parents.  We drove right to the bike store to get Bess' tires checked and look into a bike rack for me.  While she took her bike in to the store, we left mine on the rack out on my dad's truck.  Meanwhile, I looked at racks and luggage bags and decided it would be easier to have my bike inside so I'd know what would fit.  Dad went out to grab my bike and almost immediately came back in.  His stride was quick and he had a look on his face that I couldn't quite read.
      "Karah.  We have a problem.  You're missing a tire.  We must have lost it on the road on the way here."  I let his words sink in but I couldn't quite comprehend them.  What did that mean? What had happened?  It was lost? Gone? Fell off??  So the four of us scrambled out of the store to check out my bike and sure enough, the wheel was gone.  But we quickly decided that it had been stolen, not just dropped.  After all, rear tires don't just fall off.  My mind raced as I thought about the implications of this....was I done? Not riding? S-O-L?  I was instantly sad, then mad... and Dad was really mad.

Then, something shifted like bike gears in my brain and I accepted the fact that I needed a new wheel.  The only problem was that they don't make the same wheel anymore and the owner of the bike shop wasn't sure the new model would fit my bike.  Ugh.  But long story short: They had a wheel that fit and set me up with a new wheel, a new tire, new tube, and components.  Sweet expensive story!  But here are my positive thoughts about this whole crappy situation:

1.  The whole bike didn't get stolen.  That would have really grinded my gears.  (Get it!?)
2.  A perfectly great replacement wheel fit my bike frame.
3.  If this was the worst thing that we were to experience, then I'd take it!
4.  This made us remember that anything can happen and while trust is great, we might want to not trust too much on this ride.
5.   Someday, we'll look back on this and chuckle.  I'll wonder what happened to that wheel, but I'll still chuckle.
6.   Also, we made a funny IG story about this but I forgot to save it in time.  Just picture my mom giving her best "Mad face" at the camera.  That alone should make you smile.

On Monday morning we woke up and Mom made us a breakfast for champions--even though we were too nervous to eat much.  My parents decided to ride us out of town so we grabbed our bikes and were off!

But not without taking photos first!!

Stopping to let cars pass on Hwy 18 near Dickens. 

Our first stop: About 13.1 miles in and just before the turn to head down the Gillet Grove hill!  Stopped to pour powdered Gatorade in our water and use the porta-pots.

Next stop: Photo opportunity with the "Sorry about Steve King" people.  Near Silver Lake, IA.

First Town: Ayrshire Iowa!!  24 miles in and feeling awesome! Stopped for bathroom break, light yoga in the park, and an egg on a stick which was pretty good.

....oh, and a photo in front of a big ol' tractor!

We didn't have any plans on stopping until we saw a sign that said, "See a Baby Llama!!".  Bess was in front of me as we passed the sign and I yelled, "I kinda want to see the llama!!"  She glanced back and hollered, "Let's stop!"  so we pulled over, saw the baby llama with his mama and bought a monster cookie while we were at it.

Next stop: Curlew, IA.  Never heard of the town before but it was rocking'!  A line three blocks long wound around the park for "Mr. Porkchop" meat.

Bikers dismounting and walking their bikes through Curlew.

Next Stop: Mallard, IA (home of the friendly ducks). Stopped for lunch (soft shell tacos and strawberry smoothies) and a little rest.  Never knew it would feel so good to take off my helmet and bike shoes!

Bess finally found a hose with free water-- thanks to the Mallard Fire Station. :)

Next Stop: West Bend, IA
We loved these people, shouting "Welcome to West Bend!' at the tops of their lungs.  The guy was the best but he was wearing a president Reagan shirt and we didn't know how we felt about that.

We walked around the Grotto for a few minutes, amazed by this place that took 42 years to build--entirely by hand.  We found souvenir rocks for the kids and jumped back on our bikes.  We had 10 miles to Whittemore and then another 10 to Algona.  We were almost there!!

By this time, we were 50 miles into our journey and we had only seen one sign advertising pie-- and by the time we came along, it had been sold out.  I was bummed and discouraged until I saw a tent with a banner reading, "The Pie Lady"!  The kids manning the money set me up with some delicious apple pie that maybe tasted even better because I had to wait for it.   (As it turns out, "The Pie Lady" is actually from Gladbrook and had just been in Grundy at our town festival a few weeks earlier.)

(A note on the pies: After seeing the Pie Lady at mile 50, we saw pie after pie after pie stand for the next 20 miles.  So first 50 miles---no pie.  Last 20 miles--- lots of pie.  But by mile 50 I was starting to only think about sitting barefoot in a camp chair with a cold beer that has an alcohol content of 8.5%.... pie was starting to pale in comparison.

Final town: Whittemore, IA.  We bought cold water and ate shot bloks before beginning our final leg-- straight into the wind on our way to Algona.

About five miles out we saw a slice of watermelon placed on the side of the road.  About a block farther, another watermelon slice.  We kept pedaling and saw another... then another and another and by the time we had reached the tent selling watermelon, we were halfway off our bikes with $2 ready to had over for some of the delicious fruit we never knew we loved so much!

Final town: Algona, IA
The last leg was definitely the hardest-- especially as it ended on a long hill running into town.  Speaking only for myself, this was one of the hardest parts of the trek.  But we had made it-- we were there!!  (And only about two miles away from our destination where we could really sit and relax for the rest of the night.)

Our celebration landed us at Train Wreck Winery where we enjoyed sangria and conversations with random people.  Bess was wearing a KC t-shirt which sparked several conversations-- note to self: Wear something recognizable like S&R or UNI or Loras to get the conversations rolling.

How the day unfolded in an Instragam Story: 

If you've every kinda-wanted to do this ride, I encourage you to do it.  I'm not the hugest bike riding fan but I realized that part of the reason is because I always ride alone.  Riding with a huge group of people, all connected by a common goal, was really magical.  The people we met were amazing.  Iowa nice is a real thing.  So is drafting.  (And that is nerve-wracking but freaking awesome)

This ride was magical in so many ways.
1. It came about from a random text.  The universe knew we needed some time with each other.

2. Bess and I haven't spent this much time together in over 20 years.  Yet we picked up right where we left off and never once were at a loss for words.

3.  Re-connecting with people who know your past is just magical.  There is something so special about the people who were in your life during such formative years--like high school and college-- that they'll never be forgotten.

4.  The physical ride was challenging but achievable.  And now that it's over, it has definitely reignited something inside of me that's been missing for a long time.

5.  We had the perfect weather trifecta: Sunny and 70-80 degrees, no wind, flat terrain.

If I had it to do over again, I would make sure to:
1. Take my bike with me wherever I go and definitely not leave it unattended in a back alley.

2.  Buy an actual legit cargo bag for the back rack.  Untangling bungee cords and rifling through a nylon bag every time I needed chapstick or sunscreen or money was a total drag.

3. Get matching tanks or jerseys with my ride partner(s) because looking cute is important.  But also, I loved seeing the groups or teams of people and knowing they all belonged together.

4. Train more than a few days and probably ride more than 10 miles.  My legs never once hurt (still haven't) but my knees, wrists, and neck are different stories.

5. Have candy or stickers or something fun to toss to the kids along the side of the road who come out to cheer us on.  I have to think about the perfect thing for this....

6. Print a map of the route beforehand.  We had a general idea of the towns and distances between but it would have been nice to have something concrete to refer to.

7. Check ahead for ride highlights.  For instance, we missed the "Swine Cuddles" and "Dunk Tank" in Whittemore and those are two things I would have definitely participate in had I known they were there.

8. Make a music playlist.  People didn't appreciate the Hamilton soundtrack like I had hoped.

9.  Get a kick-stand or figure out how people lean two bikes up against each other without them falling....

10. Lead Yoga for Bikers at one of the towns.  I think I need a banner.....

Thursday, July 20, 2017

30 More Days

Last night the kids and I went to the pool and then drove around town.  They love having the windows down, sunroof open, and Kidz Bop blaring on the radio.  As we drove, the sound of cicadas buzzed in the trees outside our windows, loud enough to hear over the bouncy rhythm of kids singing Justin Timberlake songs.  I glanced over at Charlie, (buckled up in the front seat so that Anna could sit in back on his booster...) and said, "I just love the sound of cicadas.... but I also hate it too."  Charlie looked at me with a knowing sigh and said, "You mean because summer is almost over?"

Didn't we just arrive here?  Wasn't yesterday the last day of school?  How is July almost over?  Every year I start to panic around this time.  The 4th of July has come and gone, the corn is towering above my head, and Target has turned their springy Easter section into a school-supply-haven.  Our summer bucket list is only half-way checked off.  We still haven't gone to Dairy Queen.  We haven't painted outside.  We haven't climbed a tree or gone to a zoo or attended a baseball game.  We haven't even made our annual handprint stepping stone.  Was there some mistake this year?  Did the cicadas hatch and make their homes in our trees and start buzzing a month too early?

Unfortunately, no.  It really is mid summer and the days really are getting shorter every evening.  The sun is slowly heading south and god-dammit, all the usual signs are pointing to fall coming again this year.  There is a knot starting to form in my stomach, anxiety about what comes next (the season that shall NOT be named) but rather than dwell on it, I'm trying to focus on the fact that we still have nearly a month of summer left.  Teachers go back to school on August 18 (which is ridiculous but nobody asked for my opinion) so we have roughly 30 more days of summer.  All of our coming weekends are spoken for but that's not to say that every day is over before it starts.  I'm trying to remember that we have plenty of pool days ahead, plenty evening bike rides and patio fires.  We have time to make a hand print stepping stone and still attend a baseball game. We won't panic when we don't cross off every item on our bucket list-- there will be more zoos and more trees to climb and summer will come again.

A few of my favorite summer pics (that haven't appeared on Instagram).  And btw, Charlie isn't into having his picture taken lately-- thus, the apparent lack of Charlie photos.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Right Now (July 2017)

These are quite possibly my favorite posts.  Little tidbits about our daily life-- things I'm sure would be forgotten if I don't write them down.

Anna:  Anna continues to be what Mason calls our Sour-Patch Kid.  She's so sour and naughty and mischievous one minute and then turns it all around a melts your heart the next.  Just this past weekend she was wrecking the house and then the next second thanking Liz for coming to visit us, and telling her that she's 'gonna miss you guys'.  

Anna loves playing 'Baby" with Charlie.  In this 'game', Charlie is the baby and Anna is his mom-- she's sometimes very caring and sweet and sometimes says things like, "You cry baby!  Stop it! Don't get my flip flop!"

Anna would prefer to sit on Charlie's side of the car-- she hates sitting in her carseat and loves the opportunity to use Charlie's booster instead.  ("I sit on Charlie's side?")  

I need to find new flip flops for her as she wears them all the time.  And she wears mine.  And Charlie's.  And Mason's.  

Anna loves wearing dresses and "turling" around.

She asks to go for walks...but won't sit in a stroller long enough to go for a walk.  And walking around the block with her walking can be an hour long activity.  Great if you need a time killer, not so great if you just want to walk around the block after dinner. 

Loves swinging on her tummy our playset and often sprints from our patio door to the swing, diving into it and giggling hysterically. 

Frozen every morning. "I watch Fro-zeen in yo bee-doom?)

We are trying so hard to work on being kind and using a nice voice, which I have too many mixed feelings to write about now.  (She says things like, "Zip it!" and "Not your attitude!" and "Dat not my choice!" when given two choices.)

Current Phrases: 
"What you said?"
"What him doing?" 
"What her name?"
"Hey Babe"
"You not the boss."
"Check yo' ah-tude"
"I not do any-fing!"
"Oh yeah, I got it. I got it."
"What we havin' fo' lunch?" (Everything is "lunch"-- doesn't matter time of day)

Favorite words: 
Atch-a-lee (Actually)
Skun-squeen (sunscreen)
Swimming' Kool (swimming pool)
Ice Keem

Charlie:  Charlie is still our sweet, rule-abiding, Charlie.  He tries so hard to solve his problems but gets frustrated easily and is working on not shutting down when faced with difficulties.  His laugh is contagious-- prompting lots of dinner giggle fits and giggle contests with Anna.  He still loves to play his "game"-- which involves running back and forth in our house and is not to be watched by anyone.  

He's still obsessed with roller coasters and water slides.  We've done Adventureland and Valleyfair and Lost Island in the past month and he still can't get enough.  He's such a daredevil for things like rollercoasters and waterslides-- definitely something I wouldn't have believed a few years ago!

Charlie is getting so much better on his bike.  He's working on standing up while riding, but isn't quite confident to do it yet.  (But if you ask him, he's super proficient at this already.) 

He has begun collecting the state quarters and is working on filling in a state map that holds all the collector's edition coins. 

Charlie has become such a fantastic reader.  Current favorite is Captain Underpants (Although we can't find #6 anywhere!!) and he has been known to be found reading before getting out of bed in the morning or just relaxing in the afternoon with one of these books. 

Still has a complete and total lack of an inside voice.

Missing front teeth-- watching the adult teeth grow in-- they are SO big and are changing the look of his face so much!

Loves his buzzed haircut and keeps complaining to me that I didn't let Daddy cut it short enough-- meaning another buzz is right around the corner.  I think it might be happening this morning, in fact.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Kelly Visit 2017

At what point does something become a tradition?  Does it have to happen annually or bi-annually or can it just be something that sometimes happens and when it does it kind of feels like Christmas because it's magical in that rare/amazing, happens-only-so-often-feeling way so you want to think of it as a tradition?  This is where I am with Kelly's summer visits to Iowa.  She and her boys came last year and everything fell into place so easily that when she mentioned another possible trip to Iowa this summer, it only made sense to try to duplicate our experience.

After getting the troops back to our house, the big boys settled in right away.  Kelly and I both wondered how they would be with each other-- would the need a little time to warm up? Would they get along? They're both a little quirky in their own little ways-- would they enjoy this or be annoyed with it? But within two minutes, we knew they were going to be just fine.  The two stayed up late catching "dragonflies" (according to Turner), eating snacks on the patio, and slipping deeper and deeper into their shared imaginary world.

When the sun finally set, they continued their game by the LED glow of flashlights--something about being given a mission from the king to defend the castle.  Their final mission was to sleep in a haunted castle overnight-- with Charlie sleeping in the upper level and Turner being assigned the lower level.  :)

The next day was a little rainy, so we resorted to devices and a little playing in the rain.  However, these two aren't exactly known for a lengthy attention span... even though I could have walked around the neighborhood in the chilly thunderstorm all morning.

We also jumped on the slime bandwagon and created some magical potions.  Our slime turned out really well and so far hasn't been embedded into too much carpet or clothing.   Apparently this wasn't the case when we took it to Liz's house....  (I used this recipe to make the slime )

Overall, the kids got along really well but I'm not gonna lie and say that having two two-year olds in the house was easy.  They bickered and fought over toys pretty much constantly.  They screamed and cried and whined and made me super thankful that Mason and I weren't blessed with twins.  And when Jay was sad, I thought maybe a sad selfie would cheer him up.  Guess not.

Kelly had mentioned that Turner was excited to eat ice cream at night because this is what we do in the summer.  It kind of cracked me up because we never have ice cream in the house.... except for three months in the summer.  And then my kids eat it every single night and it's suddenly what we're remembered for. 

On Wednesday, everyone piled into the van and drove to watch Charlie play a T-ball game in Eldora. The littles were entertained by throwing rocks into a drainage tile and Turner ate goldfish and cheered on Charlie.  Afterward, we played at the park until everyone was a huge sweaty mess.

The following day was our date morning!  For the first time, we hired a babysitter and had a little free time to ourselves.  We had four glorious hours to ourselves but it felt like five minutes as we shopped downtown Grundy and ate a local bar/grille.  Never enough time to really catch up, but it was perfect to relax a little without the constant interruptions that come with having four kids around.  The afternoon was hot and sunny and we had decided to head to the pool after the little ones woke up from their naps.  Too bad I hadn't checked to make sure the pool was actually open-- when we arrived they were just closing for swimming lessons.  The kids were bummed (mainly Charlie) but our plan B involved blowing up the waterslide, Kidz Bop Ultimate Hits, and drinking wine.... which turned out even better than the pool. Possibly my most favorite hours of the whole visit.

Kelly's flight left Friday evening which gave us a little bonus time to spend the next morning.  Everyone attended our Toddler Yoga class at the library which was probably either comical or annoying to all those involved.  And before we knew it, we were heading to Des Moines to drop our friends off and say goodbye until next time.  Definitely the worst part of the trip every time.

Already looking forward to next summer.  Kelly, go ahead and book the flights!!