Category Archives: Travel

3 Awesome Things – about living in Kansas

We moved to Kansas 15 1/2 years ago. Right after {as in 7 days after} Youngest Son was born. I had been to through Kansas on vacation. And maybe to Wichita once to visit my cousin. But prior to our move we made two trips to Kansas City; one for Hubby’s interview and one for me to visit him {he moved down here 6 weeks before the boys and me}. It wasn’t much of an introduction to the city. And honestly, I just thought Kansas was a big flat expanse of land between me and Colorado. Yes, unenlightened at best.

I guess you could say my view of Kansas was as uninformed and naive as the people recently who took the survey about least scenic states. The problem is I hadn’t given it a chance. As many Kansas have shared in response to the ranking, I hadn’t taken time to look around and notice the beauty. It’s a different kind of beauty. Not the in-your-face kind. My Kansas view was very limited. In fact I used to joke that anything west of I-435 was Western Kansas. I know. Forgive me?

In the last 15 years I have some opportunities to travel around the state. I’ve seen parts of the state {beyond 435} that I previously assumed were vast flatlands. I’ve had my eyes opened. This state is a beautiful place. Photographer Scott Bean has done an incredible job of photographing the amazing beauty of Kansas. I dream of capturing horizons and skies the way he does. Incredibly talented. Just looking at his photos brings me peace, calms my soul and puts a smile on my face. He put together this great video in response to the criticisms of those who have never stepped foot in Kansas or only experienced it from I-70.

This is My Kansas!

Hope you enjoyed the show.

I love living in Kansas! It is very much home for a lot of reasons. But mainly because of the connections I’ve made.

So here are three awesome things about living in Kansas:

  1. The people are friendly and welcoming. Coming from Iowa, I’m used to good-hearted, honest people. But I have lived in places that don’t really welcome “outsiders” to their community. Kansas has a lot of transplants and they fit right in with the native Kansans. The Kansans I know are good, passionate, diverse people.
  2. Sunflower fields! They really have actual fields of giant sunflowers! Planted just like corn in Iowa, growing in even rows. And when you stumble upon one its like the heavens have opened and a chorus of angels is signing! Ok, that’s what it was like for me anyway:). You can check out some pictures of my Sunflower Adventure.
  3. We have great seasons! I don’t think I could live somewhere without 4 distinct seasons. My favorite is always the next one. I love the change it brings.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out Kansas! Come see the beautiful scenery {including the sunflowers}, talk with the great people, and enjoy the variety each season brings.

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Giving in to Peer Pressure…or How I Decided to Take My Family to Disney

I’m old enough I should be immune. And in most respects I am. But not completely. So, when the opportunity finally arose we decided to take our kids to Disney. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And lucky me, I won’t be doing any Princess breakfasts or Character meet and greets! After all, my baby is 15! Maybe this timing isn’t so bad after all?

But as the vacation grows closer I get more and more anxious. Actually, annoyed might be a better word. You see, I’m thinking Disney is a racket! Yes, I said it. What every parent has thought at one time or another. I’m having a really hard time moving past the fact that I’m going to spend $500 to walk in the gate! For 1 day! Just one day for my family of 5. For 500 dollars! You know what else I could do for $500?

  • put 4 new tires on the old mini van
  • Pay 1/8 of a semester’s college tuition
  • buy groceries to last 2 1/2 weeks
  • buy a really nice new pair of shoes for every member of my family
  • Replace a couple of windows in my house
  • expand my wardrobe exponentially

I could go on, but you are getting bored and you get the idea. And that is just for 1 day! No one goes to Disney for just one day. That just wouldn’t be right.

So eventually, I may come to terms with that. But then they will want to eat while we are there. Cha-ching! $75 please, if you only want a lunch counter snack. Park? You want to park your car at Disney? Cha-ching! $25 please! You get the idea. And if you’ve been, you are painfully aware of how it all adds up.

As if that isn’t depressing enough, I can’t tell you how many people have warned me that going in March will mean the parks are all packed! Based on the warnings I’ve received, we will wait in line to get in the gate, wait for hours to ride the “best” rides, nearly starve to death waiting to pay an exorbitant price for lunch and need steel toed shoes for all the strollers that will roll obliviously over our feet. Paints quite the picture doesn’t it?

How could a parent not dream of providing this amazing experience for their dear offspring?

It’s all worth it though. Because everyone I talk to assures me that we will make memories that last a lifetime! (Do they realize they are just telling me what the brochure says? – Marketing genius Disney!) This may be one of our last vacations as a family so it is totally worth it! (Do they know something I don’t?)

I’m beside myself with anticipation and excitement! Or, I’m working on it at least. I have got to find my happy place soon! I refuse to spend this ridiculous amount of money and not enjoy absolutely every puking ride, every smashed toe, every hour spent waiting in a line! It will be awesome! I’m actually having a flashback to National Lampoon’s Vacation. I hope there is no moose out front to tell me the park’s closed. I might break into a Chevy Chase inspired rant about the fun we are going to have even if it kills us all!

So why are we going? Well, I’m pretty sure it was in the parenting handbook somewhere. I think we have to or they take away our parenting card. Right? Or did someone make that up?

So, to get into the parent-of-the-month club, I’m taking my kids to Disney. And I am sure we will make memories to last a lifetime just like we have on every family vacation so far. We will talk about it for years, good or bad. This trip really was my idea. (Is this what buyers remorse feels like?) If you have suggestions on how to survive this racket enhance this awesome family vacation, please share! I would be ever so grateful for the tips:).

P.S. I really do appreciate all the advice and “warnings” friends have given me. I’m hoping this has made me prepare for the worst so I’m pleasantly surprised when I get there:)!

P.P.S. Maybe the US Government should take over Disney! That would solve all the budget problems since that is apparently where the wealth of our country is being spent. Oops! Didn’t mean to go political – just a thought:).

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The Segway and Lessons I Learned

I bought my first Groupon! I’ve looked before, and heard from lots of people that they are great deals. I just hadn’t found the one I couldn’t resist. Until earlier this month while I was making vacation plans. I decided to look at what might be available in Galveston, TX where we were headed. I was shocked to see a Groupon for a Segway tour – Half Off! Let me back up  a bit.

My boys have a bit of an infatuation with Segways. They have talked countless times about how awesome it would be to ride one. They have talked about how they work and how it would feel to ride one. But they are expensive! And I am frugal! I carefully plan our vacations to be fun and frugal. And yes they can be both:).

I called Hubby to see if he agreed that it was a must buy/do. He agreed and I purchased! A one hour Segway tour for five people for half price.  And it was the best $125 I’ve spent in a really long time! Here’s how it went…

We scheduled the tour for Tuesday afternoon. We chose not to tell the kids what we were going to do. We just said there would be an “event” at 3:30 Tuesday. They really wanted to know what it was and did lots of guessing. It was fun and a little scary. Fun to see what they thought it might be and scary because a) they might guess it and I wouldn’t be able to cover or b) they would guess something way better and then this wouldn’t seem like a big deal. So I told them they couldn’t guess anymore, ’cause I’m mean like that. So Tuesday morning we wake up to what? RAIN! It wasn’t a yucky morning, just drizzly. But the longer the day went on, the harder it rained. I was pretty bummed thinking we would be out in the rain cruising the seawall. Not what I had pictured.

We decided we should tell the boys what it was, you know, to let them look forward to it for a little while. But we made them play 20 questions to figure it out. They were stumped for quite a while. I think the clue that tipped them was “does it have two wheels?” When we said it was not a motorcycle they were stumped. Until Middle Son screamed, “Segway?!” When we said yes they all erupted! Pretty happy boys. Which totally made my day as a Mom. I love being able to do things my boys don’t expect – in a good way:).

But it was still raining.

We closed the curtains and watched the first half of the last Harry Potter movie so we would be prepared for the final movie in the theater. When the movie was over, we opened the curtains and {insert singing choirs} the rain was gone! We lucked out. The rain subsided and the clouds parted. And the sun came out! It was a beautiful afternoon.

We had a great time, traveled 12 miles up and down the seawall. It was super fun and scary. I learned a few things in this Segway experience.

  1. My balance isn’t as good as I thought it was. They do a little training inside the store before you go outside on the machine. They demonstrated how to get on and off, go forward and backward, turn, go fast and most importantly how to stop. I watched several people before it was my turn. I took a hold of the handlebars {is that what you call them?} and stepped ever so carefully with my right foot. So far, so good. Then I gingerly lifted my left foot up and set it on the platform. Then I felt a sensation that I can only describe as a convulsion as I wobbled forward and backward, jerking harder each time. I can only imagine what I looked like. Based on the looks on my guys’ faces…hilarious! They were kind enough not to double over with laughter like I’m certain they wanted to do. I appreciate their restraint. Our guide quickly stabilized me with the handlebars and said, “Stop pulling.” To which I replied, “I’m not trying, its instinct. I’m gonna fall.” It was all very glamorous and not at all embarrassing.
  2. I’m not a risk-taking teenager anymore. I distinctly remember having the thought, “what the hell was I thinking?! I have no business doing this!” We hadn’t even left the parking lot. And we had to maneuver out to the street, drive a couple blocks in traffic, cross another intersection and navigate amongst the walkers, cyclists and tourists on the seawall. And then I look up and see my boys flying back and forth in the parking lot, swerving around and screeching to a halt right in front of me. As we started out on the road I seriously thought they should have provided us with gloves, elbow and knee protectors instead of just helmets. Someone could really get hurt doing this. Someone like me! I’m pleased to say, I survived with no injuries and all Segways were returned undamaged. {Thank goodness considering the pages of waivers that we signed before we left!}.
  3. Standing completely balanced on both feet for an hour and a half is exhausting! I didn’t think it would be, but about a mile into the ride {or was it a drive?} the arches of my feet started to cramp. But you can’t just lift a foot and shake it out. {Refer to my first lesson} So you just work thru the pain. And then the calves start to cramp up. And the muscles are really getting fatigued. And I’m still just standing. Not running a marathon, not cycling a hundred miles. Just standing. I was thinking, “I’m a total wimp!” Along with, “are we ever gonna stop?!” I know the boys were not experiencing the same thing. They were way ahead of me, swerving in and out of traffic, making me want to pull out my Mom voice. I think I only said, “you know if you wreck that we have to pay $5000 to replace it!” once during the whole ride. Pretty good if you ask me. I certainly thought it more than once.

Overall, it was an awesome experience. Only once did I truly believe I might die. But I didn’t. And a few hours after I told Oldest Son about it he explained to me how he had figured out what happened. How the Segway had to tilt to accommodate the speed since the motor….blah, blah, blah…science-y words….blah, blah, blah….makes perfect sense. I just smiled, content in knowing I survived and not really caring why.

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Spray Sun Screen…No Thank You!

Our family vacation took us to Galveston Island this year. We love spending time on the beach, but this is the farthest south we have been. It was a great trip, but we learned  a valuable lesson. Spray on sun screen doesn’t work. Not the way I would expect it to anyway. I thought spray sun screen could be sprayed on. Technically, it can. However, you might want to reconsider this if I had pictures I could show you of our family members who used spray on sun screen. Unfortunately, none of them would consent to being photographed {let alone allow me to post a pic here!} You see there is a step involved with spray on sun screen that isn’t obvious from the name. I think you have to rub it all over after you spray it on. It doesn’t say that in the name. It’s called spray on sunscreen. That should mean you spray it on. Shouldn’t it? And before you ask, I don’t know what the directions say. I shouldn’t have to read the directions on sunscreen for crying out loud. It’s not rocket science! {Which by the way is weird to say considering the current state of our country’s space program. Will the meaning of the phrase change? Time will tell. But I digress…} I should be able to put sun screen on my family without having to read the directions. Spray sun screen should be sprayed on.

So that’s what we did. My husband dutifully sprayed it all over Youngest Son’s back chest and down his arms. After we had been at the beach for a while I sprayed it on Hubby and Oldest Son. Middle Son, being the uber-responsible boy he is applied four times during the day. I think this may have been key. We spent four and a half hours at the beach that day. It was beautiful. And oh so hot! We didn’t get an umbrella – umbrellas are for wimps.

As we packed up to go home, I noticed lines on Youngest Son’s back. It looked like he had leaned against something; you know the way a chair back can leave marks on your back? Just three red lines going diagonally down his back. When we got back to the hotel, and I noticed they were still there. Hmm…that’s strange. Then I notice the stripe down the top of his arms. What the heck?!

Oh, no. “Hubby, you suck at applying sunscreen! Look at his sunburn!” Clearly, he didn’t spray it evenly. If you spray it evenly, it would give you good coverage. He must have just done it quickly. And then I looked at him. And I burst out laughing. We all did. Hubby was striped too! And so was Oldest Son! Clearly we both failed at applying. But really? If it’s spray on shouldn’t you be able to spray it on and not end up with stripes?

If I had known that’s how it worked I might have had some fun with it. You know, draw smiley faces on their backs. Maybe a cute little heart?  Something more creative than stripes! So now you know. Have fun with your spray on sun screen, but if you actually want protection from the sun you’ll have to get dirty. Go the old fashioned route and rub the sunscreen on with your hands.

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Mission Trip

In June I had the pleasure of going on the youth mission trip to Dallas, Texas to work with C2K Ministries. There were 52 youth and 9 adults on the trip, including my older two children. On July 11, those who went on the trip led the worship service at St. Paul’s. Here is what I shared that morning.

This was my first mission trip – ever. Our church didn’t take youth on mission trips and I haven’t felt like I could participate in one at St. Paul’s for a variety of reasons. I have always been envious of the experience other parents have had on the trip. And frankly, amazed at how much they enjoyed the experience. When I had the opportunity this year I quickly signed up…and spent the next 8 months wondering if I that was a good move or not. I had a few concerns

  1. I was a little scared of teenage girls- I live in a house full of guys with my husband and three boys Mason 16, Carter 14, and Gage 12. I know about boys; the smells, the sense of humor, the temperament, the beating each other up to settle an arguments. And I think God knew what he was doing when he gave me boys. I don’t know girls; but I’ve heard a lot of scary things about them.
  2. Before I signed up, I asked my boys if they would mind if I went with them. They said, “Yes, as long as you aren’t that Mom.” I didn’t really get a definition of “that Mom” but there were a few times before the trip where I got the look and realized that was what they were talking about.  I would have to be on my best behavior.
  3. I like to be in control. Most everyone who knows me is aware of that; it tends to show. I knew I wouldn’t have much control over anything that week and wasn’t sure I would be ok with that. I think my husband, Dan, was a little concerned about this too. His last words to me as I jumped in the van were, “Just let it go!”

Ultimately, I didn’t change my mind about going and I’m glad! I learned a lot in that short week.

I learned teenage girls are really different from boys. The pitch and volume of a room full of girls is definitely different. The conversations I heard in that room with 24 girls were not like any that take place at my house. But I learned a lot from listening. You Moms of girls have done a wonderful job of raising compassionate, thinking, driven women. They care about each other. They care deeply about the people we were in Dallas to serve. And they care about their faith and their relationship with God. I was impressed. And not so scared anymore.

I learned that being “that Mom” is just one of those things we all do at some point. I decided my best course of action was to do a lot of listening. I saw such leadership in the men and women I worked with. I was in the green group with the juniors. They watched out for each other and for me. They were insightful, introspective when they needed to be and lots of fun to be around. I only pulled out my Mom voice a couple times – primer really is permanent.

The control piece was a little more challenging. When we arrived at the work site the first day, after being certified in lead paint removal, we didn’t have the tools we needed, we didn’t have a plan for bathrooms and our leader wasn’t sure what exactly needed to be done on the site. I’m a checklist person. I envisioned checklists for equipment, a to-do list for the site and a detailed plan for the day. It took me a while to realize not everyone thinks like I do. We got through that first day with two ladders and no paint rags. We were resourceful – we used buckets and chairs as ladders and my nail file for a screwdriver.  We got a lot done and vowed to double check our supplies the next day. The routine changed the next day, we took four ladders, but only about a gallon of primer. Tomorrow, we’ll get it right and get this house finished before we leave. I was very focused on completing the tasks.

By day three, I hit a breaking point.  I had lost my voice, thrown up while brushing my teeth over a sink full of hair, and hit my head on the bus doors for the second time, I sat down alone, in tears (I hit my head really hard) and thought, “What am I doing here? Maybe this was a mistake; this isn’t working like it was supposed to.” As I was lamenting the fact that it’s a little late now to back out, I wondered what I was missing. What was God hoping I would figure out. I think it was to follow my husband’s advice and Let it go! Ultimately, it’s not about me-or any checklist. It really doesn’t matter if I’m afraid of teenage girls, or if I’m “that Mom” or whether everything is done just so. Not everything we did was efficient and highly productive in the way I am used to judging things. But people connected with each other and those we were there to serve. People accepted each other and welcomed each other. It really was about being in the moment with myself, with God and with others. About giving teens the opportunity to express their love of God through helping others. About allowing them to have a place where they are loved and accepted just as they are. If we got the house painted, great; if not, that’s ok too. And that was a big step for me. It really was about being present in the experience.

I learned so many things on this trip. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to be stretched. These kids are awesome and I’m so glad I got the chance to step in to their world for a week. During one of the evening sharing times Heather talked to the teens about how youth group is a safe place where they can be who they are without worries. Where they are loved and accepted for who they are. “I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.” I think we should all belong to youth group. The place where God loves us and there’s nothing we can do to change that.

 Thank you for this experience. Thank you to the youth. Thank you to the other adults that went – it was a great group! And thanks to the members of this congregation for supporting our youth and for giving them this opportunity– it truly is life changing – and not just for the kids!

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Where we live

Why live in a place with mosquitoes? Or tornados? It’s funny how we look differently at the drawbacks for a place when it isn’t our home. We spent part of a week in Minnesota camping this summer. During our stay I made some facebook entries chastising people for choosing to live in a place with so many pesky mosquitoes when there are other places without them. In reality, every place has it’s down side. People ask if we have lots of tornados in Kansas and comment on how scary that must be. I hear Texas has the biggest cockroaches {isn’t everything bigger in Texas?}. LA has the ridiculous housing costs and DC has the traffic. So, why don’t those things seem to bother the people who choose to live there. {I say choose, because in this century it really is a choice for most of us. We could move anywhere in the country if we really wanted to.}

But we don’t. We live with mosquitoes, traffic and $11 gallons of milk {OK so that’s Hawaii and who wouldn’t be willing to put up with expensive milk to live in Hawaii?!}. I think we are really creatures of habit. We crave the familiar. Not many of us would venture out to a new part of the country without a job relocation. We want the familiarity of having a basement in our house, being able to go to the grocery store we’ve always shopped at, and even calling our favorite drink a soda or a pop.

When I was young I thought I would move to the east coast after college. I couldn’t wait to go where the action was. I was going to head off to the city and not look back, except for visits to family of course. I was intrigued by the unknown; by the infinite possibilities. Alas, I didn’t go east. I went a little ways south eventually:). You see I met this guy in college…and the rest is history. My dreams changed a little. Eventually we moved to a city, not the biggest city, but much larger than the community I grew up in. I love living in Kansas City. One of my favorite things when I moved here was to watch the news on Saturday mornings and see what festivals or community events were going on. I would pack up the boys and go on an adventure. And every week there was something new. That’s the key for me; possibilities! There is always a restaurant I haven’t been to or a store I haven’t shopped at or someone I haven’t met. I love the endless opportunities.

But I also love the familiarity of people I know, having a basement in my house, mowing my lawn, shopping at Hy-Vee and the good old Midwest hospitality. Sure we have tornadoes and really high humidity, but it’s home. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

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Vacation

2007 at the Y of the Rockies

We are getting ready for our annual family vacation. We’ve been taking a summer vacation since 1999 when our youngest was just 18 months old. That summer we went to Arizona to visit my brother and his family and took in the Grand Canyon. It was a great trip and gave us the vacation bug. We followed that with trips to Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods and Royal Gorge, Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills, Camping in Wisconsin, lounging in the Lake of the Ozarks, Estes Park Colorado (two years in a row- with extenuating circumstances), San Diego, and last year to Washington DC and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

I’m a little particular about my vacations. We always drive. This started out of necessity. We had 3 small children and not a lot of money. But, more importantly, I don’t want to skip part of the country by flying over it. The midwest is often called the flyover zone and that bugs me! There is so much to see and do; people to meet and experiences to enjoy. I have this secret little goal to visit all 50 states, and I have it for my kids too. I want them to have seen a lot of this great country by the time they head off into the great big world. I want them to have a taste of the flavor of different regions of the country and to understand the people, traditions and values of different regions. I’m proud of the experiences they have had and proud that we’ve done it without spending a fortune.

2008 Nearly the whole family at Estes Park

We do make choices on every vacation. It may be the decision to camp vs. staying in a hotel. Or like in San Diego, choosing our top 4-5 things to do from all the opportunities that are there. We try to do things we can’t do back home; chose the new experience over the much loved. It has made for some really good times. In Wisconsin we watched the boats go through the lock and dam and played horseshoes and lots of cards. In Estes Park we made lots of jewelry and climbed the boulders. We have enjoyed every trip for different reasons. And most locations have left us wanting to return. But we can’t go back. There is entirely to much land to cover in these United States. The one exception we made was to return to Estes Park. We went one year with a group from our church and had a fabulous time at the Y of the Rockies. We went back the following year with nearly all of my family to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Otherwise it’s one and done for our family.

To date Dan and I have been to 31 and 30 states respectively and the kids have been to 23. That’s close to half the states, not too bad for teens.

2009 Atop the light house at Cape Hatteras

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