Adventures

My Apologies to Every Single Person in the West Side Starbucks Last Saturday

Sometimes I feel like I’m really rocking the motherhood thing. Then my toddler, dressed like a fluffy white snow owl, trips a lady carrying a laptop computer and a cup of coffee. Just like that, I’m one of those people. You know, the kind of people letting their kids run mad in a public place.

Last Saturday while my husband was working, I tried to take our four-year-old and 18-month-old trick-o-treating in downtown Rapid City. It was cold, windy, crowded, and not worth it for three or four Tootsie Rolls, so I decided to abort that mission and take the girls for hot chocolate and cookies. The nearest place with easy parking and a public restroom was Starbucks on the west side of town.

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I got the girls settled at a table with the most adorable owl-shaped cookies and their Starbucks beverages of choice: Hot chocolate for the eldest, white milk for the youngest. Everything was going so great. I was sipping my vanilla latte and patting myself on the back for raising such little angels who can go out for an afternoon coffee break without losing their stuff.

Then my youngest got restless. She started to climb around on her seat, throw her cookie, and then run around the Starbucks seating area. The more I tried to rein her in, the wilder she became. My oldest picked that precise moment to spill her hot chocolate so as I scrambled to clean up that mess, I turned my head for just a moment. (Classic mom mistake). I heard a crash, then hysterical crying. My little one had run into a young woman carrying a laptop. The woman dropped her laptop and my daughter hit the floor, where she immediately started sobbing.

The young woman was incredibly gracious. Apologizing (it totally was not her fault) and trying to make sure my little one was OK (she was). Fortunately her laptop was, too, I think. I quickly gathered my crew and booked it to the car, apologizing desperately as I high-tailed it out of the building.

I was embarrassed. I was mad at myself for taking my young children to a place where others were trying to have a quiet afternoon, and, above all, I doubted my ability as a mom. In the days following, I realized that the only person judging me that day was me.

In most circumstances, this one included, we as mothers are our own toughest critics. Everyone in the coffee shop was kind. In fact, there were two other moms enjoying a coffee date with their school-age children who were behaving a little on the wild-side, too, and no one seemed to mind. It made me realize that these interactions are an important part of teaching our little ones social skills.

So I’ll probably still take my little ones out in public by myself sometimes. I’ll probably still tear my hair out occasionally when doing so. And I’ll probably be embarrassed again at least a time or two.

To the kind young woman my toddler tripped, thank you for being so gracious to this frazzled mom. I owe you a Starbucks. And maybe a new laptop.

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Adventures

All 50 by 40: Tennessee and Arkansas

Some of my favorite trips are the ones I go into with no expectations. My expectations for Memphis were fairly simple: Visit Sun Studio, stop at Graceland, sleep in past 6:30 a.m., eat some barbecue, and enjoy a romantic anniversary date with my husband. It met all those expectations and then some.

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Sun Studio was my favorite place in Memphis. There’s something about setting foot in such sacred ground where Elvis, Johnny Cash, and others began creating the music that I love and that would influence pretty much every rock musician from that day forward. Our tour guide was super cool, entertaining, and informative so that certainly didn’t hurt.

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Throughout Sun Studio are pieces of original recording equipment, records, radios, and of course a lot of photos. The tour guide played a lot of original music as he explained the history of this magical place. It was so cool.

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We also toured Graceland. While not as inspiring to me as Sun Studio, it was definitely cool seeing Elvis’ home. I learned a lot more about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

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We toured Elvis’ living room, dining room, airplanes, and even the Jungle Room. Sadly, I forgot to photograph the latter. I think I was just distracted by that much green shag carpet.

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Graceland was built in the 1930s. Elvis purchased it when he was in his early 20s and already an international star. The inside of the home is oh-so-1970s which was tacky and cool at the same time.

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Elvis was only 42 at the time of his death. He had achieved such over-the-top stardom, yet seemed to long only for spending time at home with his family. The tour definitely sparked a lot of conversation between my husband and I about what his life must have been like.

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Memphis was a great, laid-back place to take in a little history and a lot of barbecue. On our last night, we toasted our fifth anniversary at High Cotton Brewing Company. Then we took in some great live music on Beale Street.

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We stayed at the Sheraton in downtown Memphis, a short walk or trolley ride to Beale Street and other area attractions. Notable meals we ate were ribs and catfish at Westy’s, to-die-for barbecued pork shoulder at Rendezvous, and some yummy steaks and oysters at 117 Prime. The food scene in Memphis was great and my barbecue-fan hubby definitely enjoyed.

Beale Street

As far as Arkansas goes, we merely drove across the Mississippi River to look around, so I don’t have much to say about that state. Sorry for the lame review, Arkansas. Maybe we’ll meet again another day. This end this trip with just four more states to visit before I turn 40 and almost five years to do that. I’m feeling confident that I will accomplish this goal.

The Updated List

Alaska

Michigan (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Adventures

The Lost Sock

A few nights ago, I got upset with my husband for losing one of my socks in the laundry. In my defense, he has a history of losing my socks when he does a load of laundry. In his defense, he was helping with laundry so why was I being so high-strung? In both our defense, it’s pretty awesome that the only thing we had to fight about that week was a lost sock.

After telling him he needs to pay more attention and insisting he help me look for the sock for nearly an hour, I found it. I didn’t want to tell him where because it was in my closet, tucked in a pair of my pants, completely my fault and not his at all. Embarrassed and humbled, I swallowed my pride and admitted my mistake.

In nearly five years of marriage I have learned that life is not always going to be perfect and that’s OK. Even as I was losing my mind over this dumb sock, I could tell how ridiculous I was being. Isn’t that the worst? When you’re being ridiculous and you know you’re being ridiculous, but you can’t turn it off?

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There are some things that just don’t matter. Read: Lost socks. I was clearly taking my stressful work week and parenthood-induced exhaustion and pouring all of that emotion into an epic search for that sock. Seriously. It wasn’t even a new sock.

In quite a few of my blog posts, I write about cutting ourselves some slack. That message is a reminder to myself as much as it is to any of you, readers. Sometimes I have it together. Sometimes I’m throwing a toddler-style tantrum because of something as inconsequential as a sock.

Fortunately, most of the time I don’t mind admitting I made a mistake and, most of the time, my husband is quick to forgive. We could laugh about this situation almost immediately. I’m thankful for that. Almost as thankful as I am to have my sock back.

Adventures

Elements of a Strategically Organized Trip to Build-a-Bear

Last month on our girls’ trip to Phoenix, my lovely bestie had the idea to take our daughters to Build-a-Bear Workshop at a nearby mall. Mind you, this was during Build-a-Bear’s “Pay Your Age” campaign so the place was busy. Couple that fact with the endless decisions to be made (princess or ballerina outfit? cupcake-scented or strawberry-scented? bear’s name?) and it could get intense. A strategically organized game plan was the only thing that would help us get out alive.

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Here are the tactics we employed.

INTELL: Prior to the voyage, my bestie and I conducted a high-stakes intelligence gathering summit which involved the two of us meeting in the hotel room bathroom while our girls played Enchantimals in the other room. We sat on the edge of the tub and scrolled through data on our phones obtaining such critical knowledge as mall hours of operation, Build-a-Bear pricing, and, perhaps most importantly, the nearest location for us to get post-shopping margaritas.

UNIFICATION: This being my first trip to Build-a-Bear I was horrified to discover that children can have their bear equipped with a voice and even have them sing specific annoying pop songs. We agreed that under no circumstances would we be allowing either of the girls to select this option. We would remain firm, strong, and united. If you allow one of them to elect the bear-voice option, you have to allow both of them to, and then the terrorists have won.

FISCAL CONSERVATION: Although the “Pay Your Age” campaign meant each bear only cost a few dollars, the abundance of accessory choices makes staying on budget a true challenge. Just so we didn’t wind up having to take out a second mortgage on our homes after buying light-up fairy wings and a red convertible for stuffed animals, we made a budget. Each girl got a bear, an outfit, a brush, and a toy hair dryer for the bear. Still sounds ridiculous, but I was happy when my daughter’s bill came to less than $50.

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT: As you might imagine, little girls can be horribly indecisive when presented with thousands of teddy bear clothing options. I thought I was home free when my daughter finally decided her bear would be a ballerina, only to find there were at least six different bear tutus from which to choose. Just when I was about to tear my hair out from the agony of a four-year-old’s decision making, a little pep talk from my bestie put me right back in the game.

EXIT STRATEGY: The bear is selected, stuffed, dressed, and beautifully accessorized. Time to leave, right? Not just yet. Now your child gets to use a computer to name her bear and print a birth certificate. The concept is at the same time adorably sweet and mentally draining. I could sense frustration mounting as my friend’s daughter struggled to choose the perfect name for her bear. I intervened, throwing out as many cute names I could think of at the time all while easing my own daughter to the door. She named the bear Sprinkles, printed the certificate, we paid, and we left, the sweet sight of the mall’s Mexican restaurant (there are margaritas there) in our crosshairs. Victory is ours.

 

Adventures

Girls’ Weekend: Phoenix

I was aching for some time with my bestie, who lives far, far away, so when we had the idea to meet up in the desert for a weekend of relaxation, it seemed to be the perfect plan. Because her daughter and my oldest daughter have birthdays within two days of each other, it also seemed like a great idea to take them along to celebrate their seventh and fourth birthdays, respectfully. The weekend was divine.

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Yes, it was Phoenix in July. Yes, it was more than 100 degrees out the entire time we were there, but since pool time was the number one item on the agenda, the heat was fine with us. We stayed at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass. The resort caters to families, but also has plenty for the adults, including great food and yummy margaritas. S’mores night was also a hit among all four of us.

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We took a jewelry-making class, a canvas-painting class, and a class on dream catchers, all included in our resort fee. Another major highlight for all four of us was movie night in the pool. The service was impeccable and every time we turned around the girls were being treated to free smoothies or a decadent slice of birthday cake. We dined at Ko’Sin several times and the chipotle beignets and quinoa breakfast bowl were absolutely stellar.

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The best thing about the resort was that everything we needed to enjoy a relaxing and fun-filled weekend was right on-site. Aside from a morning at a local mall for a Build-a-Bear and ear-piercing outing, we stayed put and enjoyed everything the resort had to offer. The quality time and watching our daughters get to know one another was so special and I can’t wait to do it all again!

Adventures

Holding onto Three

Any parent will tell you how quickly time flies. Any grandparent will tell you if you blink, suddenly your little ones are grown and starting families of their own. And great-grandparents? Don’t even get them started on the swift passage of time.

I was excited to celebrate my daughters’ transitions to age one and my oldest turning two, and then three. Each of those milestones meant new experiences, as the personality of this sweet little thing bloomed and flourished. While I’m looking forward to the fun that age four will bring, I am feeling the need to dig my nails into time and tell it to SLOW DOWN! Slow down and let me absorb each and every wonderful moment that having a three-year-old daughter brings.

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Three is downright magical. It’s the perfect balance of capability, enthusiasm, and innocence. A three-year-old makes everything exciting. Mine in particular is sensitive, sweet, funny, and unapologetically girly.

So while bidding age three adieu is bittersweet, I look forward to the joy that age four will bring. The really beautiful thing is we get to anticipate the experience of age three again as this delightful girl’s precious baby sister grows.

I recently read a blog post written by a mother of a boy who passed away suddenly at a young age. She urged us as parents not to mourn our children getting older, but to be thankful for every one of those birthday celebrations because nothing is certain. Getting to know our children at every unique and beautiful age is truly a blessing, even if we don’t think we’re quite ready for them to grow up.

 

Adventures

The Good, The Bad, The Beefarino: Why We Travel with Small Children

I think this picture is about the most accurate depiction of what it is like to travel with a one-year-old and a three-year-old. My oldest daughter is having the time of her life, basking in the glory that is a pink, sparkly horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of San Antonio, her new stuffed purple shark from Sea World within arm’s reach. My one-year-old is having a complete, nap-deprived tantrum. Did I mention it is Mother’s Day? Did I mention the horse had just eaten an entire can of Beefarino? I’m kidding on that last part of course (Seinfeld-reference) but traveling with small children, whether by car or plane, is no joke!

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So why do we do it?

I love traveling. There is something about getting away and exploring a new place that completely fills my soul. I think the best part of taking family vacations, even if they’re a modest trip to a hotel (with a pool…always with a pool) in a nearby city, is the time we get to focus only on our little family of four. I’m not thinking about laundry or groceries, I try to keep work thoughts to a minimum, and I’m able to really just be with the ones I love the most.

As chaotic as it can be, I find that almost immediately after returning from a trip with the girls, I only remember the good things. If I think hard enough I can conjure up the images of my one-year-old screaming her lungs out on the airplane or my three-year-old’s disgusting love of using any and all drinking fountains she encounters. Instead I remember their laughter at the sea lions at Sea World, my baby swimming for the first time, and my oldest daughter smiling through every moment of her princess carriage ride. The happy memories always overshadow the inconveniences of traveling with littles ones and make it oh so worth it.

I want to instill this love of exploring in my daughters, and give them memories of fun times during which I was entirely and completely focused on them. And I don’t even want a stuffed purple shark. The only souvenir I need is the happy memories and the fun, focus, and willingness to go with the flow that I hope will linger into our everyday life long after we return.