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Float with Kids in Missouri

**This post has been in draft since August. Thought about saving it, but I’m just going to go ahead and finish it and put it out there.**

We finally were able to check float off our summer bucket list just in time for school to start!

We floated in the Lesterville area on the Black River with Horseshoe Ranch Campground and Floats. They’re a small operation that is family-oriented, which we appreciated. We went on a Sunday and our exposure to drunk, young floaters was minimal. We did not camp the night before or the night of which is an unusual choice. The place we went through does offer camping and most float outfitters do. I think next year we will camp.

We did a six man raft, which was perfect for us. The raft is the least tippable option and while we did lose a few people after an unfortunate run in with a tree stump and Kareem lost his sunglasses, ultimately, we did pretty good.

When we hit that stump, Nick, Rami, and Kareem went flying out the raft. I did not notice because I was trying to stabilize until Nick yelled. I was able to get Nick to grab my oar, but Rami and Kareem were getting swept down. The river is not that deep, so I was telling Rami to touch the bottom. He was getting panicky, so finally I yelled in a deep voice RAMI SWIM TOWARDS THE SHORE AND TOUCH THE BOTTOM. He reacted to that. He had a hard time touching because of the current, but he got there. He did immediately swim sideways which helped a lot more than trying to swim back to me against the current. Then we tried to get Kareem. I was having trouble getting the raft to the side of the river, and I thought for a minute, well we are going to totally leave Kareem and Rami here! But I managed it and I felt very proud. At this point, I noticed another family down from us a little ways. They clapped for us, ha ha. They were in canoes and apparently had gotten it much worse through that point. But we all made it, and it was a fun story to tell later.

Jimmy fell out once, but it was at a slow part and we immediately grabbed him and plucked him out the river and back into the raft. Here he is post incident. Clearly very bothered by the whole situation.

Part of the fun of floating is the people you meet.

The Black River is definitely one of the best rivers in Missouri to float, though we are not without lots and lots of options here in our gorgeous, floatable state. We drug once which is not bad for this time of year.

The Black River is so clear with a rocky bottom! Very typical of the area. Very swimmable. Gorgeous scenery everywhere you look.

I will admit, though I am super adventurous, I was slightly nervous to take four kids and a dude who has floated once or twice as a young man on one of those kinds of floats we were trying to avoid. But we were safe and the kids had a blast. Properly fitting PFDs are an absolute must. We own ours because we do spend a lot of time in and around water with our children. It’s an investment worth making!

I was slightly concerned about the weather. They weren’t calling for rain or storms, but you know you can feel it coming. And I just felt a pop up storm coming. You can see that high cloud there int he above picture. It rained very lightly just for maybe ten minutes while we were out- it was absolutely spectacular. I was worried we might have thunder and lightening- we did, but not until we were out of the river.

It was really cool to see the kids step up and help, and you could tell they felt more and more confident as the day went on.

Beginning and before Kareem lost his sunglasses
The end- no sunglasses, but feeling proud!

We pulled out, the bus pulled up, and we all piled in. Moments later, thunder cracked, the sky opened up, and we were being driven like a bat out of hell down the dirt road on the side of that mountain. My kids (and I) did NOT enjoy this part at all. Lucy was crying, Nicky was praying, and I was doing some kind of holy mix of cussing and laughing while trying to remain calm for the kids.

We got back in one piece but definitely changed after that bus ride! We started home after that, and of course, everybody immediately fell asleep in the car.

All we wanted to do after this float trip was. book another one! Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go again last year, but we are already talking about where we’re floating next summer!

I Love a Challenge

It’s World Watercolor Month this month. July. For me, typically, this would mean that I would look up the prompts, write them all in my day planner, and then do all I could to create AT LEAST thirty-one works of art that match the daily prompts, all in watercolor. I would post them with the hashtag. If I missed a day, I might do two the next day. If I knew I had plans that would get in the way, I would plan (in my day planner) how to make up that prompt.

January. A lovely month. Fresh start, new year, all that. For me, it means the yearly daily yoga challenge. I started a Facebook group of anyone who wants to encourage each other. And I post the calendar, and I do the days, and I love it.

I love a challenge. No spending challenge? I’m down. DIY date challenge? Count me in. That ice bucket challenge? I totally did it! 52 hikes- let me do 146! Daily yoga, daily painting, read the books, take the walks, whatever. I’m in.

This year, it’s July 5. I haven’t even started World Watercolor Month. Today, I looked at the prompts and my calendar. I started to put them in. I whited them out. I made a list of things I want to create myself. When I got home tonight, I knew I should paint. I spent 20 minutes on Tik Tok. (I’m currently doing an indefinite no social media challenge except Facebook and TikTok. It’s completely arbitrary, but it’s going well.). Then I got out my palette and began gathering my supplies. Then I couldn’t find my tracing pad. I couldn’t find my box of new paints I wanted to use. I didn’t have any more paper towels and I couldn’t find my painting towel. So then I sat next to the supplies I gathered, and painting seemed like a chore. It did not feel like what I wanted to do at all.

But the challenge! Today’s prompt? “Welcome.” Today’s plan? A window with a flower box. I grabbed my computer and started to write instead.

Why is a challenge not intriguing me today??

I think it’s just because life has been challenging lately. And I just feel like doing me. At first, I felt a little like a failure, not rising to the challenge. But then I thought, who’s gonna know? Me? And who cares? Me? Do I really care about this? I’ve risen to lots of other challenges this year. How bout the my husband lost his job with the holidays around the corner challenge? How about the got Covid for the second time challenge? How about the my kid’s having trouble at school challenge? How about the we’re blending our families challenge? How about the career challenges? The life challenges? And were these fun? I mean, sometimes. There was definitely a lot of fun to be had amongst these challenges, whether they themselves were fun or not. And did I learn a lot? Heck yes. But maybe there’s not room for these other challenges right now when I’ve got other challenges to tend to.

Or maybe there is, but I’m filling that up with other stuff. Maybe it’s time to enjoy that invincible summer inside me for a while. Maybe these little not-so-little moments that make up the fabric of our lives, the weeknight ordinary evenings amongst the challenging times- the trips to the library, the walks around the neighborhood, a quiet evening hike, a couple hours volunteering at the food pantry, a fire in our backyard, a selfie stolen between moments watching our kids play in the park, friends tie dying in the backyard with us, a snuggle, a reading session outside together, tending the garden, making a new recipe for dinner- maybe those are the things I want and need to focus on right now. Or maybe I just want to hike however many times I want, do yoga as often as I want, paint however many paintings I want. And maybe I’m just going to do them on Wednesday. World Watercolor Month, I’ll see ya when I see ya.

Homebody// Love at Home

In February, we wanted to go away for Valentines Day. We were saving money for it. And when it came down to it, it felt burdensome to even attempt. Kareem thought, well for the amount of money we were going to spend, we could buy our own inflatable hot tub! And that’s what he did. If you’re rolling your eyes right now, I was too. It sat in parts until my birthday in late April. Finally we assembled it, filled it, and let it heat up. The first night in the hot tub was truly blissful. I could not believe how much relief I felt.

Last year for my birthday, Kareem got me a treepod. Have you seen these? It’s ridiculous, kind of expensive, and incredible. It’s a “hanging cabana.” So he got this for me against my will and then it just sat around. Kareem and a friend were going to build a contraption to hang it from. Anyway, this year for my birthday, he got a stand together for it. And it is amazing!

My backyard is an oasis. My backyard dreams have really been coming together over the past few years. I got these ridiculous pieces, but I also wanted string lights since we moved in. Check. Trampoline. Check. Swing set. Check. Raised beds. Check. It is becoming my favorite place. And between every busy thing we have going on, I just want to hang out in my backyard!

We have been traveling less. Not only because it seems like our time is not ours and stuff is happening constantly, but also because pandemic and the joy of my perfect backyard. (jokes) But seriously, I am itchy to travel. It’s really the T I M E that is holding me back. I have no idea how I used to do it!

I guess one could say that I made time for it, but also I think the circumstances of life have changed. My job has changed and the commitments of my children have changed. Another huge change is sharing my kids with their dad and my stepson with his mom. There are just a lot of moving parts.

I flew twice in 2020, which I didn’t share much about at the time because it was somewhat a controversial choice. I flew to Utah and Orlando in the fall. Since then, we have mostly driven, though I did fly a few times last year. But I have not been out of the country since pre-pandemic. I had two international trips planned for 2020, but did not get to go of course. Now the world is opening up, but my schedule is not.

In the meantime, we are making things happen and at the end of the day, I have my backyard paradise. Adventure is out there, but it’s also right here. The kids are always singing the song Love at Home (sometimes by choice, sometimes by force). They’re right- there is beauty all around when there’s love at home. <3

KC on the Cheap

So President’s Day weekend was calling my name, and we are just coming off a bit of a financial slump with Kareem having lost his job etc. Too cold to camp, we were racking our brains to find a fun getaway we could treat our kids to…. after throwing around LOTS of ideas (and now generating lots of fun long-weekend getaways to try out some other time!), we landed on Kansas City. Mostly due to a deal on lodging that I got for there- I have said it many times, but flexibility is key when trying to travel on a budget! Be open to the deals.

I have been to Kansas City a handful of times, but never was super enthralled with it. Had a good time each time, but was never really compelled to return. I was usually there because of an event happening, not as a destination. Well, this time it was a destination and I was determined to find some fun- and as close to free as possible!- things to do there.

We arrived late- later than I wanted to- Friday night. We got some food and got to the hotel to get some sleep- I knew we were going to be busy!

Being Presidents Day weekend, I wanted to include some presidential stuff, so on Saturday we hit up Independence, MO. Truman Home National Historic Site includes multiple sites that were significant to President Truman’s life, and guess what- it’s all free! Some of it was still closed due to COVID, but we had a nice home tour and saw some other sites as well.

We hit up the Presidential Library and Museum. We spent much more time here than I thought we would. The kids were very engaged, and it was awesome. The tickets for this were $12 a piece, but all the kids were free, so total was $24. Pretty great!

We hit up Clinton’s soda fountain for ice cream, which was super affordable. This was the spot where President Truman worked as a kid.

We walked around some other sites in Independence including the Community of Christ Temple which will reopen to visitors on March 1. We also visited the Visitors Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We did the (free!) tour and watched the (free!) films and did the (free!) exhibits and playroom. The kids really enjoyed this stop.

We also stopped by the National Frontier Trails Museum. I don’t remember the breakdown in ticket prices, but it cost us about $24 total for our family of six. We really loved this museum. And afterward, we hiked out to see the swales (ruts leftover from the wagons on the Oregon, California, Mormon, and Santa Fe Trails) which was one of the kids’ favorite parts of the whole trip. And that was free, of course.

When doing places like this where we know that evening entertainment may be limited, if we are staying in a hotel, we try to get a hotel with an indoor pool for some (free!) wear you out type of evening activity. We also like a hot breakfast provided. 😀

On Sunday, we visited two art museums. At the Nelson-Atkins, we did the outdoor sculpture park trail. We did not do the interior of the museum this time, but it is free. We also visited the Kemper Contemporary Art Museum which is much smaller than the Nelson-Atkins which was a contributing factor to our choice of bringing small-ish kids with us. This museum also had free entry and free parking. There was also an area for the kids (or any visitors, it was not just for kids) to create art.

After that, the biggest ticket item we did was the science museum. The tickets were $14 each. However, we had FIVE HOURS of fun there and could have stayed even longer. It was definitely worth it.

The science museum is located in Union Station which is still a working train station. We walked around there and enjoyed the beautiful architecture. We walked across the freight bridge over the tracks, and they have a model train exhibit which stole Jimmy’s heart. All the kids really enjoyed it. And this was all- you guess it- free!

We ate at Fritz’s restaurant and walked around Crown Center. Fritz’s is very reasonably priced, and the kids loved seeing the trains deliver the meals. It was very fun.

We did an evening sunset at the Liberty Memorial high atop a hill in the middle of the city. Which, of course, was also free. And a really lovely memory together.

On the way home, we went out of our way to visit St. Joseph, MO and the Pony Express Museum. This Museum charged $8/adult and $2-$3 per child, depending on age. Kareem wasn’t able to join us, so we did this very cheaply as well. This was very neat, but it was the only site we really enjoyed in St. Joseph, so I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to go there again.

We hit up Let’s Make Art. If you’ve followed me for long, you know that we are big fans of LMA and their YouTube channel. We got to see the store and the kids got to go in the back and see their filming studio. They loved this! We let them pick something out from the store, but my cousin had given them each $25 to spend on the trip, so it was free for me. 😀

We needed some outdoor time- it was so gorgeous out! So we went hiking at one of the four remaining covered bridges in Missouri. (More about that here.) This wasn’t a long or strenuous hike, so we lingered and had a lovely time.

We also stopped in Marceline to see Disney’s boyhood home and dreaming tree and barn. My stepson is a HUGE Disney fan, so I knew he would love this. And so we enjoyed the sunset from the barn.

So. A very FULL weekend that did not empty our pockets! Attractions for six of us altogether was about $150. Can’t beat that! We used some Christmas money we had gotten and a tank of gas, and it was really worth it. None of the kids wanted to leave, and they all had lots of great things to say about the trip. A success!

Solo Hiking, Travel, and Selfies

**post warning: lots of pictures of ME in this post**

I used to hate selfies.

I thought they were dumb. This may really surprise you, since I now not only post tons of selfies both solo and with a group, but I also own a selfie stick. It was a gift, but an inspired one.

I didn’t really develop any selfie game until I was on my own a lot. I wasn’t yet a single mom, but my ex-husband was traveling a lot, and I was alone with the kids a lot. And I began taking pics of us via selfie. I’d love for my kids to know that mom was there too. 🙂 Once I was a single mom, then it was on. I also did a lot of solo travel and solo hiking at this time, so I would take selfies to document my travels.

Looking back at travel photos, I had tons of pictures of artifacts in museums or gorgeous landscapes, but my mom would be like, where are you? And I was like, she’s right! When I look at friends’ photos of trips and things, I’m looking for pictures of them, not of stuff I could go see myself. So I started taking more pics with me in it.

I also sometimes am somewhere by myself and see something weird and I’m like, okay I need photographic proof that me and this thing were in contact! 😀

I have had largely positive experiences with solo hiking and solo travel, though I have to say that in the past year, I have had a couple weird solo hiking experiences that have made me even more safety conscious.

I always advise that you bring the ten essentials on every hike you take. Recently, I was on a hike with another family and a kid scraped their knee. I left my pack in my car because it was only like a two mile hike. I never do this, but I did it. I wish I had my things! It’s always best to be prepared. And when you’re solo, it’s even more important.

I love solo travel. I’ve done domestic and international travel by myself and I enjoy it. Not too long after I got divorced, I went on a trip to Iceland, Wales, and England solo in summer of 2018. Often when I plan these solo trips, people will offer to come with me or come with for part of it. I declined these offers for this particular, mostly because I had already made my plans, gotten my tickets, etc and didn’t want to change plans around or cause undue cost to my potential travel partner. But I also knew that I would learn a lot doing this trip by myself, given what I had been through. Being completely by myself and responsible for myself on a trip like this teaches you a lot about yourself. And it reminded me of my own value and strength. I had a really great trip solo. I was able to be very flexible. After a particularly difficult hike climbing a mountain, I changed my plans and left Wales early and included a new stop in England. I also met some really cool people which I may not have been as open to had I been with others. Had a great trip!

Solo hiking is a little different. I don’t usually want to meet cool people on a solo hike, ha ha. I go for the solitude, peace and quiet, or I’m looking for something in particular. For whatever reason, I feel more cautious hiking solo than traveling solo. Not sure why. But I will say that I have had more negative experiences solo hiking than solo traveling. Being aware of your surroundings is very important in both settings. Choose your trails wisely. Let someone know where you’re going. Here are some of my tips for solo hikes.

At this point in my life, solo travel is not something I do often. I try to plan all of my trips with my kids. If I’m going to spend the money, I want them to come with me! And I’m remarried, so the kids can’t come, then the husband will! And I love it this way. But solo hiking does still happen. Or hiking with my non-human hiking buddy Jeff. He’s a pretty good pal. 🙂

I’m also totally open to hiking pals if you want to be one! Requirements- can’t be in a hurry and must appreciate really cool rocks. Litterbugs need not apply. 🙂