Sunday, October 31, 2021

Daycare Halloween


With a younger crowd at daycare, holiday celebrations are a bit different. A little more laid back, less planning for me, but fun for the kiddos old enough to actually participate. We kept our Halloween celebration simple: pajamas, Halloween movies (yes, this meant we watched Boofest for probably the hundredth time this year), a few rounds of pumpkin bowling, cupcakes, and numerous rounds of the Find It game. My favorite part of it all was when my three, who were contently doing their school work in the homeschool room, caught wind of what was happening suddenly joined in the party too!

Cupcakes and decorations courtesy of the minis.

Nothing like a two year old hulk in a dress looking for clues and a dog, not dressed up, who sleeps through the games.

The pumpkin bowling had cut outs colored by the kids earlier in the week. We used a plastic bat (that has been hanging on the bathroom door all month) for our Find It object. Once again, the Find It game was all the rage.

17 Places Visit Without The Crowds

Overlooking New River Gorge via the Endless Wall Trail. West Virginia, 2019.

Admit it, you're already planning spring break and next summer's vacations (if you haven't already begun the bookings). I know I have our list of places to visit in 2022 down as we settle on dates later this year. Sure we do some touristy things when we travel. Isn't that half of the fun? Seeing all those places that are plastered everywhere? Of course, sometimes the crowds can be too much. The real bread and butter of our epic vacations happen when we chose to go at a less busy time or places off the beaten path.

 We've had entire State and National Parks to ourselves when we go in the off season! We've watched the sunset in Canyonlands National Park with no one else around because we chose to go in the evening. We've hiked trails with deer walking next to us in Voyaguers because we went in the beginning of November, on a drizzly day. We played in the ocean at dusk with wild horses in Assateague National Seashore because we skipped the busy part of the day. We have pages of experiences like this because we did things a little different. Other than visiting during the off season, you can also go to less crowded, less touristy destinations that still pack a punch and quench the travel thirst.

Looking for such places? Here are 17 places that fit the bill:

1.) Olympia, WA. We were there for an afternoon and I instantly fell in love. The city has a laid back vibe that fits somewhere between mountain and rainforest people. The gateway to the Olympic peninsula, Olympia has it all. Big city amenities, small town feel, farmers markets full of fresh produce, hiking both within the city, and easy day trips to the mountains.

2.) Cape Lookout State Park. The entire Oregon coast is one big tourist attraction, but some have more of a tourist feel than others. Cape Lookout State Park features hiking along the cliffs, a beach, and campgrounds. It does not seem to have the same, Instagram enthused tourists that overwhelm Cannon Beach. At the State Park, you'll get the views, you'll have the fun, without being asked to take someone's perfect picture.

3.) Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, ID. Southern Idaho does nothing for me. Excluding this place. Once you begin to see the blackened land you'll feel like you're on another planet! Not only are there hiking trails, but you can climb around in lava tubes (a fun way to say caves formed out of lava), hike up the very volcanos that are responsible for the area, and enjoy the surrounding mountains.

4.) Lake Coeur d'Alene, ID. While I don't understand the current obsession with southern and central Idaho, northern Idaho left me in awe. Lake, mountains, resorts. A week at a relaxing lake house in the mountains is superb.

5.) Turner Falls/Chickasaw National Recreation Area, OK. Chickasaw was once Platt National Park and it's still kept up as though it is one. Campgrounds are well kept, hiking trails, nature preserves, waterfalls, and swimming holes make this recreation area a playground for outdoor enthusiast alike. Nearby Turner Falls is much the same way, but also features cabins and restaurants inside the private grounds. While you're in the area, do yourself a favor and grab a fried pie from Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies. You can thank me later. 

6.) Pisgah National Forest, NC. If you're looking for a Smoky Mountains getaway, but don't want to deal with the millions of people who head there each year, aim for Pisgah National Forest. Settled in the mountains of western North Carolina outside of Asheville, not only is the forest less busy, but it offers chances to slide down waterfalls. Who can pass that adventure up? 

7.) Fenwick Island, DE. Just North of Ocean City, MD, where the boardwalk and beaches are crammed with people, sits Fenwick Island. Quiet, but offering the same fun beaches with half the crowds.

8.) Assateague Island, MD. Again, it you want to skip the tourism of Ocean City, head to Assateague Island National Seashore. You may have the chance to swim, see wild horses, hike, and build sand castles on the beach.

9.) Matthiessen State Park, IL. Starved Rock State Park may be the place to head to, but it can get unbearably crowded. Head (literally) down the highway to Mattheissen State Park. There you can hike a canyon, fish, or enjoy the lake.

10.) Ely, MN. Looking for a quiet lake adventure? Northern Minnesota's Boundary Waters Area is your place. Rent a houseboat on a lake, kayak, take in some beautiful state parks. It has it all.

11.) Bayfield, WI. The same beautiful sites as the Minnesota's North Shore, but just the other side of it. Bayfield has charm, all of the outdoor activities, and then some. Be sure to drive Hwy 13 along Lake Superior and make a stop at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Trail.

12.) Scottsbluff, NE. When you think of geological features, Western Nebraska probably isn't the first place that pops into your head, but it should be. With cool features such as Chimney Rock, Scottsbluff National Monument, North Platte River, and Lake Minatare around the area, it really must be put on travel lists.

13.) Big Sky, MT. Yellowstone, Glacier, and Tetons National Parks usually take the focus in this area, but go off the beaten path a bit and head to Big Sky. Skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer, with lift rides to the top of Lone Mountain make this small mountain town a relaxing getaway.

14.) Ogden, UT. On the edge of the Wasatch Mountains, north of Salt Lake City sits Ogden. An unassuming town that's on a mountain with suburban feels. A vacation in suburbia? Hear me out. It provides easy access to all those fun places in Northern Utah: Park City, Salt Lake City, Provo, Bear Lake, the Great Salt Lake. Plus, it's an outdoor haven with hiking and biking trails all around.

15.) Fredericksburg, TX. In the heart of Texas Hill Country lies Fredericksburg with local wineries, fun shops and restaurants, wildflowers galore, amazing state parks. 

16.) New Mexico: Tularosa, Alamagordo, Taos, Santa Fe. Anywhere in New Mexico is magical, of this I'm convinced. Tularose and Alamagordo provide a great base for adventures to White Sands National Parks, Gila Cliff Dwellings, hiking in Lincoln National Forest, and pistacio farms. Taos and Santa Fe sit in Northern New Mexico and provide excellent hiking, hot springs, delicious food, breweries, plenty of National Monuments, white water rafting, skiing, and so much more. Truly New Mexico is like a little slice of heaven. I don't think you could go wrong with any place in that state.

17.) New River Gorge National Park, WV. Plenty of small towns dot the river that provides endless hiking trails, amazing views, white water rafting, fishing, and so much more. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Inside Details Of "The" Booster Shot


Photo credit to the nine year old.

Based on what you've read on the blog, it's easy to pick up I'm pro vaccination(s), masks, and being Covid conscience. It shoud surprise no one that as soon as booster shots were approved, I was ready to roll up my sleeve. Late last week, booster shots for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson were approved, as well as mixing. This means if you had Moderna the first time, you could get a Pfizer booster dose (J&J isn't recommend for women between certain ages due to blood clots). I had every intention of sticking with Moderna, as I had the first time, however, I did Pfizer for my booster dose.

That's a long winded story, but to make it short: I still needed to get my yearly flu shot, which we get for free through our insurance company as long as we go to a CVS pharmacy. CVS only had Pfizer on hand. To keep things simple and not have me running around all week to different pharmacies, I decided to get both the Pfizer booster and the flu shot at the same time. In the same arm. Busy weekday schedules are no joke.

The actual shot was nothing. Easy peasy, I was in and out in five minutes. I did make an appointment ahead of time, which helped get it done quickly. Otherwise, there was a wait time for those who walked in. An appointment is recommended because there were a lot of people waiting for their booster shots as well. Much like the first and second doses, I was fine the night of. 

The next morning my arm was sore and I was more tired than usual. As the day wore on, I had body aches. Taking Tylenol helped and I woke up the next day (so 36ish hours after the booster) feeling good as new. My arm was still a bit sore, but nothing that kept me down. What surprised me was later that night (48 hours after the booster) I developed a swollen arm pit (on the arm that had the booster). Something similar happened after my second dose, so I wasn't shocked or worried about it. The actual injection site has been completely fine. Zero swelling, no bruising, and no redness this time around.

Nearly 72 hours later, my arm is no longer sore, but my arm pit continues to be slightly swollen. The swelling is causing little to no discomfort, it's only irritating because I can feel that it's swollen. It could be from getting both the Covid booster and flu shot at same time, but I continue to watch it and apply heat/ice when I feel necessary. But that's it. No other issues, no concerns.

I've been asked a few times if I felt it was necessary to get my booster and for me, the answer is a big YES! I work with young kids who will not be eligible yet for a Covid vaccine. We have high risk people we love in our lives. I did this so we can see them, spend time with them, and most importantly enjoy our holidays. Fingers crossed that we're a week away from our entire family being vaccinated. For us, this means we can do things that were once normal to us without worry. We're hopeful it will bring back some normalcy to our lives. That's my biggest reason.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Dancing Through A Pandemic


We have tried as much as possible to use the pandemic to focus on good things. I have always told and shown my children that in order for things to happen, good or bad, you are the one that has to make them happen. The pandemic showed they've been listening to that line. They've used the last 20 months to better themselves, challenge themselves, and do things they've wanted to do. This has involved trying out new hobbies, watching new shows and movies, listening to new music, etc. 

One of their new things is watching Dancing With The Stars. My least favorite thing is reality television, so I rarely watch. However, their dad is the real star and every Monday night, he tunes in with them. This led to the youngest two dreaming of acquiring new dancing skills. They're already in dance classes, so they've upped their TV watching to studying the dances and practicing them. Each and every week.

I've caught them practicing in the backyard, on the playground near our house, in our driveway, while we hike, and on rainy Sundays when they thing no one is watching them.

I feel like the end of this pandemic mess is getting closer and closer. At the end, these two can say they've dance their way through a pandemic and came out better for it. 

9 Tips On How To Handle A Pandemic

Dear Children,

It still amazes me at how many experts there seem to be regarding, well, everything, but specifically the pandemic. Suddenly, everyone knows all there is to know about public health, guidelines, and what's best for the person sitting next to them. It's funny how people are preaching freedom, but want others to think like them. I know you likely won't forget this pandemic any time in your life, but there are certain things that should never be forgotten. The next time you find yourselves in another pandemic or world crisis, please remember and preach these tips:

1.) Hold true to your own beliefs

2.) Always follow science and professionals. Unless you're an expert at whatever pandemic or crisis has hit, listen to those who know more than you. I don't care if that professional is telling you to wear a sock on your head, you listen to them. You'd rather be a fool than foolish in the end.

3.) Help if you can and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

4.) Don't be part of the problem, be part of the solution. Often, doing the right thing is the hardest thing.

5.) No matter how hard it is, show grace, empathy, and compassion to those around you. It's easy to let anger take over, especially when you absolutely cannot understand someone's point of view, but please don't succomb to it. 

6.) Do not, I repeat, do not, hoard things. You will not ever need 500,000 rolls of toilet paper. You'll want to stock up on alcohol, puzzles, and streaming services. Trust me.

7.) Never lose sight of the end goal, if you even know what that is. I can tell you our two weeks of "flatten the curve" has turned into 18+ months of surges. This goes back to #4 now.

8.) If you need masks, Mom and Dad will forever have a healthy stock pile of them. 

9.) Don't be an asshole. Just don't. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not everyone needs to listen to it or make it their own belief. In the matter of public health, your own opinion is trumped by what is best for the good of everyone.

Things We Learned Through Homeschool On The Road

Walking the Oregon Trail in Scottsbluff National Monument.

I have seen firsthand how traveling can impact people. Personally, I've seen how it helps my children make connections to their lives, the world, things they know, have learned, or are learning. When I decided to do a big, cross country homeschool on the road trip, our homeschool teacher encouraged us to use our travels as their studies. I know people do it, we did it at the end of last school year, but on a smaller scale. This time, I went for it. I went all in. I packed us up in our Highlander, grabbed some books for reading/language arts, and using our planned travel route as our lesson plans, we were off on our greatest adventure yet.

Oh, the things they learned! Actually, the things I learned too! I'm 37 years old and still flabbergasted by the amount of things we can learn by simply looking out our windows as we drive through new areas of this beautiful country. You can probably guess the things we learned about just by using our itinerary (read that here), but that only scratches the surface. In fact, what I even remembered to write down, only scratches the surface. I feel like we did and saw it all. We didn't, but that's how it feels. 

I know that one day the minis will look back on our travels and realize what an impact they had on their lives and education. For now, I have this list to remind them what they learned (because if you ask them, they'll tell you they learned nothing):

  • Navigation, drive times, trail maps, taking a wrong turn on a trail and getting back on track.
  • Figuring out miles per gallon and when/where we should stop for gas.
  • Google Maps.
  • Cleaning the windshield at gas stations and pumping gas (the kids, I already knew how to do this).
  • Idaho has boat check stations at you enter the state. They've had issues with boats bringing invasive species into their lakes, so the boats undersides are checked before they even make it to water.
  • Using good old fashioned maps because GPS rarely works on small mountain roads.
  • Chimeny Rock and Scottsbluff's history and importance
  • The Oregon Trail. We've seen the trail ruts, we know the trail, where it passed through, the problems they encountered on the land, the beginning, and now the end. One of my greatest memories will be in November of 2020, standing in the trail ruts at Rock Creek Station in Nebraska, my phone buzzing, and I looked down to see the news of who our next President would be. That's powerful stuff. Standing on history each and every time gets me. This time was no exception.
  • Fort Kearney. For the first time ever, the minis were able to climb into a tower in the fort and see the view soldiers once saw.
  • Geological features of Wyoming. Along I80 this time.
  • The Great Salt Lake is visibly and rapidly shrinking. I stood at it's banks 19 months ago and could see it had  receeded since then. Out of sheer curiosity, the minis picked a few objects to see what would float in the Salt Lake and caught sight of brine shrimp (the only thing that can live in the Lake due to its saltiness).
  • The greatness that is In & Out Burger. It prompted them to rate all of the burger places we've eaten at on the road recently (In & Out, Whataburger, Lotta Burger).
  • How Bonneville Salt Flats were created.
  • How big the Great Basin really is and the area it covers.
  • When Shoshone Falls actually fall (hint: not usually in the fall)
  • Volcanos, craters, calderras, lava, and anything that goes along with these things. Apparently it was on all of our bucket lists to climb a volcano, so we did just that.
  • Hydroplaning...or rather how NOT to on wet, windy mountain roads
  • All the books in North America's largest bookstore.
  • That the Oregon Coast has tsunami areas and evacuation routes. The last tsunami was in 1964, but a good majority of the northern coast sits low enough that they are at risk for tsunamis.
  • Those geological features of the Oregon coast.
  • High tide and low tide.
  • Giant bull kelp, jelly-like creatures, and other oddities that wash up on Oregon's shores.
  • State capitals. We visited quite a few: Lincoln, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Boise, Salem, Olympia.
  • Mount St. Helen's. Anything and everything about it. The most interesting thing (for me) is that 41 years later, the land surrounding the volcano is bare. You can still see the damage left. It packs a punch seeing it up close and personal.
  • Much like tsunami evacuation routes, there are volcano eruption evacuation routes all throughout Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
  • We ate seafood. We are not seafood eaters in the least, but we tried new food and enjoyed it.
  • History of Oktoberfest and how it's celebrated.
  • All about humpback whales and the creatures of the sea found in the waters of the PNW.
  • What fruits and veggies grow in the PNW, followed by taste testing them at Pike Place Market.
  • Wildfires. The visible damage they have done, how to prevent them, scheduled burns, and how it can help the land. We also viewed an Oregon farmer making a poor burning choice and nearly starting a wildfire, as well as a scheduled burn happening in part of the forest by Crater Lake.
  • The 1962 World's Fair (which the Space Needle was built for). On that note, that "iconic" Space Needle...yeah, it's not that impressive. It's small and doesn't offer the views one think it would.
  • Life and works of Dale Chihuly.
  • The reason Mt. Rainier is snowcapped is because it's covered in glaciers! Dozens of them. 
  • The Battle of Little Big Horn. We came across the battlefield in the darkness of night and we still drove through.
  • Wildlife and rock layers in the Badlands. 
  • The trees and plants on the forest floor in Eastern and Western Oregon. 
  • Eastern Oregon is a desert. A real life, dry, brown desert. I'll never forget driving from Eastern Oregon, stopping in Crater Lake, and then driving into Western Oregon and watching the plants change from desert plants, to forest with a floor of desert plants, to forest with the smell of pine filling our car.
  • Weather in the PNW and mountain ranges.
  • Elevation.
  • The severity of droughts and wildfires.
  • Why Iowa's trees are STILL green (when we returned home). Hint: it ties in with our lessons on droughts.

The biggest lessons we got was on independence and letting go. We had our beloved lab with us and that greatly affected what we could and couldn't do. The minis wanted to go to Powell's City of Books and I desperately wanted them to as well. As you can guess, dogs aren't allowed. So, I walked around the block several times while the minis ventured into the biggest independent bookstore alone. They looked, they navigated, they purchased items, all by themselves. This is just one instance they had to do things on their own and I had to let go. Travel is all about gaining experiences and bettering oneself while doing so. I'd say we more than accomplished it on our epic fall road trip.

Remember Today: The Good, The Bad, And All The Challenges

Picture from walking the dog as clouds moved in for our days of rain.

Someday I want to look back on this and remember exactly what we were going through. The good, the bad, and all the challenges that come with it. Life gets crazy and memories get fuzzy. That's how humans repeat the same mistakes, women have more than one child, and the craziness of the seasons of life fall from recollection. 

Thunder shakes the windows, rain pelts the windows. It's another soggy day. We've been in a drought, rainy days few and far between. I forgot what rainy days feel like. We had nonstop rain two days ago too. I took advantage of the rain on Sunday, curling up in my bed and taking a nap. Today I don't have that luxury. 

My coffee is strong though, so hopefully that will keep me going. Ever since we stayed in our Airbnb in Ogden, we've been on a Starbucks Pike Place roast (because that's what our hosts had). By we, I mean the two youngest minis. All through vacation they drank a cup of coffee with me each morning. They've dropped the habit since returning home. Pike Place isn't my favorite, so I quickly replaced it with French Vanilla last night. The aroma is soothing, the taste bringing me calm, warm thoughts. It tricks me into thinking I'll get it all done today. Who knows, maybe I will?

Coffee is a must these days, as I spend my days with little littles. It's been a long time since I had so many littles under two. It's a different ball game that's ruled by naps, eating every two hours, poop, and naps. I stopped counting my steps after realizing I walked miles and miles each day, between walking up and down the stairs to and from the basement homeschool room, where my three have holed themselves up, to the daycare room, nap areas, and everything in between. I'm all Daniel Tiger during the day and Friday the 13th at night with my older kids. I can't tell if this helps keep me young, but it definitely keeps in "in the know." I know what the cool shit is for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kids, preteens, and teens. This might actually be the most I've ever kept tabs on the cool shitz. I've also been informed that saying 'shitz' is not cool.

I went for my Covid booster shot Monday night. I had Moderna for my first two shots. This time I had Pfizer because that's what my pharmacy had. I also got my flu shot at the exact same time, in the exact same arm. My arm was sore yesterday, but nothing a little Tylenol didn't help. The booster was no big deal. I was achy and tired yesterday, yet no more so than if I had gotten little to no sleep. I felt better rolling out of bed this morning, even if the rain wanted to keep me in.

We're being told that children ages 5 - 11 will be eligible for a Covid vaccine at the end of next week. I can't tell you the relief this brings me for my own children. However, I'm disappointed and have been since the end of August, when I realized this wouldn't help daycare in any way. I had thought the next vaccine for kids would include ages 2 and up. I hope I can actually get appropriate guidance about how to handle unvaccinated children and those who can't be vaccinated. Having to come up with my own rules and regulations has been my least favorite part of this pandemic. I have only received unhelpful, conflicting guidance from our city, state, and country. It has made me think about giving up my business altogether more than once. If it weren't for the amazing daycare families I have, I can guarantee I would have walked away. 

And people are wondering why there's a worker shortage at the moment. This. This is why. The lack of support, guidance, and safety. That's my take on it. Along with a workplace shortage, there are still shortages on random items. Cargo ships are piling up at ports. People are placing blame on the President, when in reality, it's a problem of the pandemic. The stupid, shitty pandemic causes more issues because, guess what? The pandemic is a world issue, not just our country or a you issue. It has affected everyone globally. If a factory shuts down across the world, that can affect us here because that delays production, then shipping. The fact that people can't understand this no longer infuriates me, but leaves me wondering, 'how the hell have some of these people made it so far in life???' I've been asking myself this daily for months now.

Now that we're on the brink of our youngest two being vaccinated as well, I feel like I can breathe. As though this will somehow magically "fix" things. I know it won't, but I feel as though we can take them to a movie theater, or out to eat, without worrying. That we can celebrate Christmas with our families and not worry about them getting sick, or passing it to one of our high risked family members. That leaves us with a decision I'm not yet ready to make: keep homeschooling or send them back to their classrooms??? It's not simply our decision either. We're taking the mini's opinions and feelings into consideration. So far, none of us know what to do. I know I'll feel it when I know the answer, but I need to feel it soon, so they can go back at semester. That makes it easier on everyone: them, teachers, the school, their education records, me. 

Despite not knowing when the minis will be back in their schools, I'm making plans for when they do. Whether it's in January or next fall, I'm taking days for myself. I'll wake up, get them ready for school, drop them where they need to be, and then come back home to enjoy a house to myself. Well, I guess the dog will be with me too, so I won't be completely alone, but close. Maybe I'll get my hair done, treat myself to lunches, scrub some random parts of our house that get overlooked. Yes, I'm looking forward to that.

We took that trip this year. It was truly one of those trips that you hear people preach about when they say "take the trip. Do __________. Live life." Yeah, I did it with three kids and a dog in tow. I felt like a badass. It's not easy, but solo travel is so important. Do it with three kids and no one else, you'll be a goddamn superhero. Go for it. Do it. Despite the challenges it presented, I'll never once regret it.

I thought that once we had a dog on the property, squirrels and rabbits would leave us alone, but I was wrong. Apparently they enjoy being chased through the yard multiple times a day. They also really enjoy our pumpkins. We made distrubing pumpkins anyway, courtesy of kids who have been watching horror films, but now we have a faceless pooping pumpkin. They keep setting off our Ring camera in the backyard. I've been greeted by an up close view of squirrel faces on more than one occasion.

As we head into another pandemic holiday season, I laugh at the phrase "two weeks, flatten the curve." Two weeks is turning into nearly two years. The 1918 pandemic lasted two years. I had hoped we could use the knowledge we've gained in the last 100 years to come out of the pandemic sooner, but a whole lotta people are proving their lack of it.

Spending three nights a week driving to and from dance studios is wearing on me. There's still 7 1/2 months left of their dance season, but I'm over this. On Tuesdays, I finish up with work and then have to leave by 5:00 to make it to the dance studio by 5:30. Mondays and Wednesdays aren't as bad, but I don't love the Mom Taxi Service life. I prefer the doing, rather than being the one to sit and watch the world go by. 

That said, I completely understand how parents "get boring." My children have all the plans all weekend long. They have an all day Halloween party on Saturday with neighbor friends. Another neighbor is hosting, but we have to be on call in case they or the kids need help. There's a sleepover Saturday night at two places and we need to be home in case a mini decides to come home to sleep in the middle of the night (it's happened before). The oldest is going to a laser tag event with other teens Friday night. Meanwhile, I'll be at home, sitting, waiting, being slightly envious of my oldest's social life. So there you have it. Big kids make parents boring.

Speaking of big kids, how did we go from the latest animated movie on Disney+ to my kids watching CSI, Big Sky, and Friends?? I'm marveling at how this change seemed to happen overnight. I know it didn't, but it's suddenly apparent to me how much our life has changed now that the kids are older. I don't hate it, it's just different and new to us.

So, that's life. Summed up and in a nutshell. All the thoughts I've been thinking lately in a few short paragraphs. All the good, all the bad, and all the challenges that are brought to us.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Pumpkin Carving Day

Now that the minis are older pumpkin carving sure has changed. No longer do we strive to do fun, cutesy pumpkins, as we constantly say, "watch the knives!" This year I most definitely uttered the words, 

"pick up the knife and help me!" 

Life with bigger kids is definitely different. I'm still getting used to it. At the middle minis insistence, we went dark with pumpkin carving. We have a stabbed in the eye pumpkin and a pooping it's brains out pumpkin. He was sooo proud of his ideas. The other two helped with scooping the pumpkins out, separating the seeds, and dying the guts brown for the poop and red for the eye blood. 

Gone are the days of watching Curious George Boofest during Halloween festivities. Instead, we watch Psycho on repeat, come up with ideas for our very last pumpking (still undecided), and do some painting. 

As the norm these days, the dog is the most eager to help mom.

Hiking In Iowa

I was uber excited to hike this weekend. We hadn't gotten in a good hike since our vacation and it was more than needed. I carefully chose a trail close-ish to our house, away we went, aaannnndddd...that's when I remembered how boring it is to hike in Iowa. Well, in the metro area, that is. We were spoiled for 15 days with countless waterfall hikes, mountains, and ocean scenery. Basically this hike was BORING. Other than the goldendoodle who tried to jump on top of our dog, the little chihuahua who tried to snap at our legs, and our dog falling through a bench during picture time, it was a whole lotta nothing. Mountains, I miss you.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Road Trip Itinerary: From Des Moines to Seattle

Sitting in front of Mount St. Helen's National Monument. One of the many things we learned: 41 years later, the land around the volcano is still bare. If you grew up learning about this volcano (as I did), it's a site to see! This would have been one of many things we would have missed out on seeing if we didn't take make this a road trip.

When we set out on a road trip, we often have a vague itinerary. On lengthy trips, such as the one we just took from Des Moines, IA to Seattle, WA and back, I have an idea of where we want to end up, but it doesn't always work out that way. It's not until we're home and settled that I can look back on our trip to share our itinerary. 

Before we get to the good stuff, here's a few tips I use for our road trips:

  • Pack a cooler, utilize grocery pick ups. Walmart grocery pick ups saved my ass this trip. Since we already have a Walmart account, all I had to do was change the location of where I wanted to pick up from, order, and then show up at my assigned time. It saved me soooo much hassle since I was by myself this trip. We also pack a cooler every time we take a road trip. We fill it with premade sandwiches, wraps, meats, cheese, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables. It saves us thousands on food while traveling! 
  • I book Airbnb for our longer stays (usually two nights or more qualifies for a longer stay). I usually know ahead of time when we'll be in an area longer, due to the activities we want to do in an area or if it's centrally located to places we want to go. For example, our stay in Ogden, UT this trip. We actually did very little in Ogden, but it was nearby places we wanted to visit or could have visited: Park City, Bear Lake, Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, mountain hikes. My requirements for Airbnb's are beds for everyone, washer and dryer, free parking, easy access, and full kitchen. Shorter stays get hotel rooms. Not fancy ones either, mostly Motel 6 since they allow dogs with no questions asked (many hotels have weight limits on dogs and that won't work with a black, 90 lbs. lab who travels with us). We did have an unexpected longer stay in Salem, OR due to unforeseen issues and we wound up in a hotel for 3 nights due to lack of Airbnbs in the area.
  • I plan travel routes as best as possible. This includes as many "what if we go here..." as I can. For this trip, we took I80 out and I90 back home, so we wouldn't travel the same route twice. I booked nothing after Seattle because I didn't want to push the minis if they were done in the car. I'm thrilled I did that because, as noted in an earlier post, our day that we were supposed to make it through the state of Washington had us in Mt. Rainier National Park all day and we only made it two hours outside of Seattle.
Now, for the itinerary:

Day 1: Des Moines, IA to Scottsbluff, NE
  •    Stop at Fort Kearney; Kearney, NE
Day 2: Scottsbluff, NE to Ogden, UT 
  •     Scottsbluff National Monument
  •     Curt Gowdy State Park
  •     Bear River State Park
Day 3: Ogden, UT
  •     Great Salt Lake State Park
  •     In & Out Burger
  •     Hike in Watsatch mountains
  •     Hike Ogden River Parkway
Day 4: Ogden, UT to Twin Falls, ID
  •     Bonneville Salt Flats (we left for Idaho from the salt flats, which has us            driving through Nevada; this was a boring, no stops area, but we did                 research the Great Basin on the way, so there's that)
  •     Shoshone Falls
  •     Snake River
Day 5: Twin Falls, ID to Ontario, OR
  •      Craters of the Moon National Monument (Idaho, Falls)
  •      Dinner at The Habit in Boise, ID
Day 6: Ontario, OR to Salem, OR
  •       Crater Lake National Park
  •       Odell Lake
Day 7: Salem and Portland, OR
  •     Tour state capital area
  •     Powell's City of Books
  •     Voodoo Doughnuts
  •     Columbia River Gorge
  •     Wahclella Falls hike
Day 8: Northern Oregon Coast
  •     Cape Lookout State Park (Cape Lookout Trail)
  •     Haystack Rock
  •     Ecola State Park
  •     Astoria
  •     Sunset Hwy State Park
Day 9: Salem, OR to Seattle, WA
  •      Mount St. Helen's National Monument
  •     Olympia, WA - state capital area, walk in Watershed Park
Day 10: Seattle and Leavenworth, WA
  •      Troll under the bridge
  •      Hike along Wenatchee River
  •      Shopping in town
  •      Oktoberfest
Day 11: Anacortes, WA
  •      Whale watching tour (Islands of Adventures)
  •      Drive through town
  •      Pizza from Village Pizza
  •      Larrabee State Park
  •      Scenic sunset drive on Hwy 11
Day 12: Seattle, WA
  •      Pike Place Market
  •      Space Needle
  •      Green Lake
  •      Phinney Ridge neighborhood (walking, shopping, coffee shops, etc.)
Day 13: Seattle, WA to Moses Lake, WA
  •      Twin Falls hike
  •      Mt. Rainier National Park
Day 14: Moses Lake, WA to Rapid City, SD
  •      Stop in Spokane, WA
  •      Trail of the Coeur d'Alene
  •      Coeur d'Alene Lake
  •      Missoula, MT (hiking)
  •      Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Day 15: Rapid City, SD to Des Moines, IA
  •        Badlands National Park

I would easily do this trip again, but make our drive home longer by scheduling a day or two in Montana. Otherwise, by the time we hit Montana, we were just ready to be home. We changed up our itinerary a bit in the middle due to an unexpected fraud issue (that the bank cleared up right away), but it actually worked out well. Oregon was very much supposed to be a moving trip, with a different hotel stay each night. We had wanted to do the entire coastline, but it was easiest to have my husband book us one hotel while the fraud issue was cleared. That's how Salem became our base for our Oregon adventures and it worked out well. I say Oregon was supposed to be a moving trip, but honestly, this entire trip was one! That meant A LOT of time in the car. We took advantage of all of the day use areas and parking areas along the side of the interstate in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Those were much easier and more entertaining than regular rest areas because they often had playgrounds, hiking trails, or fields to run through. All of that is greatly appreciated when you spend days in the car.

Now that I have the confidence to take cross country tips by myself with three minis and a dog in tow, I'll off planning our next adventures!

Sunday, October 24, 2021

A Day Of Scary Movies


On the agenda for this Halloween season wasn't the cutesy trick or treating events around the city. No no, we're past that. We've moved on to spending an entire Saturday watching scary movies. The funniest part of this is that the oldest two are terrified of scary movies. So much so that the oldest threw his plate of Chinese food (pictured above) in the air at the end of I Know What You Did Last Summer! It's the youngest, the nine year old, who is obsessed with scary movies. That girl can watch scary movies and then walk around in the dark by herself without flinching. It cracks me up because she reminds me of me staying up to watch the X-Files when I was ten years old.

It was a great day lounging around and watching: I Know What You Did Last Summer, Nightmare On Elm Street, Halloween, and Psycho.

As I mentioned above, the oldest threw his plate when he got scared. It was full of food. The dog was thrilled.

We enjoyed a little bit of Seattle for dinner. Well, rather goodies from Seattle. While at Pike Place, we stopped by a pasta booth and left with dark chocolate pasta. Following a recipe on the back, we made a homemade berry sauce and topped the pasta with whipped cream, berries, and chocolate chips. I could take this or leave it, but the minis LOVED it...probably because I was letting them eat sugar for dinner.

We did take a break late in the day and stop by grandma and grandpa Sheaffer's for some time with cousin Nora (before they left for home). I had a haunted house kit, but we couldn't get the house to stick together, so the kids just decorated pieces and then ate them.