“You got this, Mom!”

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Last weekend we made a family trip to the Columbus Zoo, on what will forever be known as one of the hottest zoo trips EVER. Adding to that fun, 3-year-old little man is potty training, so we made multiple pit stops in the various “continents.” (I know for sure he peed in North America, pooped in Africa, and did a little bit of both along the “Shores” region, among others.)

Potty training sucks. Taking young kids to the bathroom also sucks. Taking both of them at the same time in 90+ degree heat in a large stall in a public bathroom…. “Off the charts” on the Suck-O-Meter.

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So there I was, sitting on the pot myself (moms pee too; who knew?!) and trying to wrangle both kids to just hold still for one friggin’ minute and do not touch the door latch while I did my business.

I ask for so little.

It’s almost like, in their brains, they heard me say “definitely unlock the door and let it swing wide open for me to bare my mom-butt to the public.” 

Not only am I sweating from the heat, I’m also sweating in fear of what is inevitably going to happen:  One kid (can’t remember which, but does it really matter? They were both being hellions) undid the latch as the other leaned back against the door, forcing the outward-swinging partition to open to the bathroom crowd.

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WITHOUT. MISSING. A. BEAT. Some other mom – henceforth known as Super Hero Ninja Mom – turned with one swooping motion from her hand-washing position at the sink and pushed the door shut so I could latch it. #legendary #teamwork

Cherry on top:  On her way out the door, Super Hero Ninja Mom yelled,

“You got this, Mom!”

I think she was wearing a cape. Yeah, I definitely saw a cape. (Might have been hallucinating from the combo of heat & panic though.)

My daughter heard Super Hero Ninja Mom’s supportive solidarity and said, “Who was what?” That, my dear girl, is a legend.

Super Hero Ninja Mom, if you’re out there (and if you were in the bathroom adjacent to the food court in the Congo region this past weekend and caught a glimpse of something you’d rather not have), thanks for being you. Next drink is on me.

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The Mothership

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My Mom. Family matriarch and Mother of Dragons. She is the yin to my dad’s yang (though that sounds kinda icky), and gave birth to a daughter so amazing, you would have thought she would stop there, but nooooooo. They went on to have that stinky little brother of mine who wanted to take all my toys and doesn’t need sunscreen like his sister, Powder. (Kidding, Bro. Love ya.)

As promised, I am embracing my basic and looking around at all the amazing people who helped shaped me over these 30+ trips around the sun. First up, my amazing mother. Like me, she too had what would be considered a pretty traditional life, although, being born in the 50’s, having a working mom wasn’t quite the norm it is today. She was born in Pennsylvania to my grandparents, Lou & Grace. She was the middle child between two boys and is a self-described “Daddy’s Girl.” Everything they needed and much of what they wanted in life was provided to them by their two hard-working parents.

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but we always had what we needed and never went hungry.”

From a young age, my mom knew she wanted to be a teacher. She can recall a time when her great Aunt Beanie would let her pretend to be her teacher. (Fun fact:  My Great-Great Aunt Beanie lived to be 106 years old! At her funeral, the priest got choked up on something, and my pristine-mannered mother AND grandmother proceeded to laugh so hard about it that the entire pew shook during the service.) At one point, she had a college professor deign to tell her she wouldn’t make it through college, but that just lit her fire more to prove him wrong. [The women in our family are known for their stubbornness. My daughter can make you shudder in your shoes. The force is strong.] I can speak from years of being exposed to students of my mother that she was an amazing educator. She is one of the ones that you want your child to have every year of their schooling. She was dedicated to the profession, passionate about her kids, and truly put 100% into every day. I am always amazed at how teachers function and the heavy responsibility that falls on them each day. It has to be exhausting. And yet she still came home every day to me, my brother, and my dad and put 100% into us as well. My dad, also a fantastic educator, did the same. My brother and I were fortunate growing up that we had both parents home during the summer and during holidays since they were both teachers. If school was closed, we were all together. Almost always a blessing, except during the blizzard of 1993, when school was closed for a month and we were all snowed in together. Yikes. We could have been our own reality show that month.

As I’m raising my kids, I often beat myself up over the “am I doing enough” thing. Are they learning enough? Are they learning about different cultures and to be interested in other people who are different than them? Are they respectful and kind about differences and eager to gain knowledge about the world around them? Are they maintaining curiosity about this amazing and beautiful planet we inhabit? Momming is exhausting. I recently watched a video wherein these parents of 7 kids ended a video full of a chaotic recap of their daily routine with these words,

“Did they feel loved today? Because that’s all kids care about.”

As I recall my mom’s interview, I asked her about fond memories from her childhood, and what is awesome to hear from her is that she really does remember the little things as being special. She recalls family reunions where kids had to dig change out of a pile of sawdust. They did egg and balloon tosses and had races. She also had (and still has, I believe) a fascination with dry ice, which they would use at these reunions to keep the Popsicles cold. Brilliant! (Probably my Pap-Pap’s idea because he was a genius.)

My mom had two brothers; one older and one younger. They are no longer with us in this life, and that is sad because they were pretty amazing and talented men and I hate that my kids never knew them. My Uncle Bob, her older brother, was blinded at birth as a preemie (before it was known by medicine that too much oxygen could be damaging to preemies), and was a musical savant. He could play things by ear and just had a knack for anything musical. Mom recalled that at one particular family reunion, a young Bob was swinging pretty high on an old metal swing set and thought he could spit out his chewing gum on one swing forward, and then on the next swing forward tried to jump off the swing and catch it in his mouth. As you can imagine, the laws of physics prevented that, and he got the wind knocked out of him. Her younger brother, David, was the joker of the family. I obviously only knew him in his adult years, but I imagine he was an ornery kid. He also had musical talents and smarts. I remember as a kid that he took a trip to Florida with us once and he made it fun for us with his jokes and teasing; he had a fun soul.

Looking back, mom recalls some pretty cool and special events. She got to go to the Pittsburgh airport to watch The Beatles land! As a little girl, her aunt would take just her into the city to window shop and have a meal out “like ladies.” She remembers yummy pancakes her grandma made, cozy sleepovers in beds with way too many blankets, and family camping trips around the fire. One day, she found a doll hidden away and cried and cried because she thought that maybe her daddy had another little girl that he loved who lived somewhere else. “Oh, how I cried!” she said. Turns out, her father had bought that doll and put it away for the next time she was sick to cheer her up. Certain diseases were more common back then than today thanks to vaccinations. (Takeaway: VACCINATE your kids, people. That’s me talking now. It’s one of my soapboxes. I’ll step down now.)

Mom is most proud of her 40-year marriage to my dad, and my brother and I and the successes we have had in life. As her daughter, I hope she realizes that our successes are a direct result of her and dad’s stellar parenting. She is the proud grandma of four grandkids (2 boys; 2 girls), and they are the apple of her eye. She says that she hopes they know how much she loves them, and that they have fun making  memories with and learning from her. (I can assure you, they absolutely are. Mom gives 100% to her grandkids, too. Those kids are straight-up #blessed.) She has a volunteer’s heart; always willing to help and give the shirt off her back.  Family is her priority and making sure everyone feels and knows they are loved (sound familiar?).

Regrets in her life? Not really many. She wishes she had cared less about her weight through the years and says if she knew then what she knows now, she wouldn’t have obsessed about it so much. That’s a good takeaway for women my age, I think. In a time where images and perfection are everywhere, don’t sweat it so much.  Her final advice in this interview is poignant, and it’s something I strive to be more conscious about:

“I would like to tell all mothers (fathers, too) to pay attention to your children. Put your electronics down, look your children in their eyes and talk to them. Use complete sentences, carry on a conversation, ask them about their day, read to them, be interested in who their friends are, know where they are going and with whom. They are only young once and you don’t get a do-over!”

Mom, you are at the center of everything that is wonderful about our family.

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Embracing the “Basic”

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Basic, adj.: Used to describe someone devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or just simply worth devoting time or attention to.

Writing is harder than I thought.  I was chatting with a friend the other day and we were discussing writing. I told him that I think he should write a book because I think he is one of the most interesting people I know and has a great story to tell. He told me I needed to write one, too, but my response was “about what?” My writing is basic. This blog experience has been humbling because I felt like I had so much to say, but then the well went dry nearly immediately. I often feel like I have no original view or angle, and that aside from some humor and wit and quick comebacks, I don’t really have anything interesting or new to talk about that’s not already out there in the Webiverse. After all, the self-depreciating, tired, working mom angle is a little played out, amiright? My friend admonished me, as any good friend would, and told me that all those things about the basic-ness of my life were what made me, in his words, relatable. I guess the takeaway is to embrace the basic and run with it.

Relatable, sure, but people want to be entertained and inspired. You know that saying “Normal is boring?” Well, if that is the case, I am SOOOO boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. I love the general predictability of it all. I like the traditions and the family and the hectic routine that kids and a growing family can bring. I look at people who opted not to have this same kind of life with curiosity and awe as they travel the world and do crazy and amazing things (and I sometimes admittedly look at them with jealousy during a Threenager Rage-a-thon). I wouldn’t have my life any other way, but these differences among us are what make the world go around and keep it interesting. I cannot imagine if everyone was like me. The world would be quite dull (but sarcastic and endearing with great legs). I LOVE learning about different people and hearing their stories. I love to travel and experience different cultures. I am so excited for the day that I can take my kids on faraway adventures and teach them things to shape their lives.

That’s what has inspired me to continue this blog down a different path for a little while, because I think to look forward, I want to also look backward and around.

The way I was raised makes me relatable I think. Heck, the way we are all raised is what shapes us into who we are and what we do in life. I was raised traditionally, which probably made me lean toward that style of life. But I was also raised surrounded by strong women. Women who worked and raised and cared for children all their lives. Women who helped pave the way for me to be so “traditional and relatable” in today’s society. I am a full-time working mother of two young kids. Anytime anyone says those same words to me, or some permutation of them, I want to throw up the Hunger Games sign and scream May the odds be ever in your favor!” I’m a believer that there needs to be a kind of gang hand-sign that we can make at each other in Target when our kids are acting a-fool as a symbol of solidarity as though to say, “I understand. I was in your position yesterday. Go home and drink a bottle of wine. You deserve it. They won’t always be like this.” #solidarity

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All of this – the way I was raised, why I am so relatable, where my humor comes from – made me look back at the people I have been surrounded and influenced by these past 37 years. I was born in the 80’s and had my formidable years in the 90’s; went to college before iPhones and social media existed (can I get a Hallelujah on that one?!?) and am now raising kids in this fast-paced world in years that start with “20–” where everything and everyone is constantly in your face. It’s exhausting, but I love it because I feel as though throughout my life I have been influenced by strong people and intelligent people who have helped prepare me for anything that life can throw at me.

To wrap up all this rambling (bless you if you are still here at this point), I am going to start featuring some of these people in my life and tell their story. I have interviewed some of them already, and I have been around them most (if not all) of my life. I’m hoping it will kind of be a gentle mix of “Humans of New York” meets “Scary Mommy,” so let’s all bow our heads and pray that I can accomplish that. Amen.

Stay tuned! Interesting people and stories coming your way soon!

Raising Ferdinand

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Remember Ferdinand? No, not the new version that just came out. Kids might not realize, but we adults know, that story has a wayyyyyyy longer history than that. I’m not even talking about the book. If you were raised on The Disney Channel like my brother and I were, you may remember a little short film called “Ferdinand the Bull,” which actually was released in 1938!? Anyways, it took a few decades and a viewing of the “new” Ferdinand to 1) Make me question eating a burger again (this resolution lasted all of 12 hours) and 2) I might be raising a Ferdinand. ❤️🐂

We often joke about the very chill and laid back nature of our 3-year-old son. In fact, based on vacation experiences with the little man, he has earned himself the moniker of “Island L.” The kid fell asleep in a wagon, for crying out loud. Vacations and disruptions in routine can totally slaughter (no pun intended) a kid’s day. It’s one of the reasons that parents with little kids will laugh after vacation when someone asks if they feel rested and rejuvenated. That’s a big HELL-TO-THE-NO, people. Vacationing with kids is fun and adventuresome, and it is the opposite of resting or rejuvenating (or any of those fun words associated with relaxation).

But not Island L. He can meld right into any situation. His older sister has the characteristics and tenacity to become a great leader (or evil genius; jury’s still out) some day, but don’t dare mess with her shut-eye. L is….. content. I admire him for it, and I envy it immensely. After all, I have a blog with the word “worrier” in the title. Definitely no sense of “chill” in this soul too often. Motherhood definitely didn’t help me unclench, so there’s that. He definitely gets this from his dad. Just like his sister, L could do anything he wants, including be a great leader, but if he is he will probably teach surfing on the side just to maintain some balance and Zen. 🏄

We have the kids in soccer right now (an American requirement for anyone whose mom drives a fly minivan), and while I really thought he would love it and be all about it, turns out he is not at this point in time. I thought perhaps he just didn’t enjoy the first practice, because to be honest I didn’t either. (It was cold and our feet got wet. Yuck!) But then the first game came and he was just not having it. My son is clutch at exercising his right to peaceably protest. His favorite method? The Sit-in. At one point, he professed his love for the clouds (“I wuv clouds”) and literally stopped to look at some flowers.

My sweet Island L is like Ferdinand. He doesn’t have time for conflict or stress (or the bureaucracy of organized sports, apparently) . He just wants to sit and smell the flowers. He wants to watch the clouds go by. He wants to smile and laugh and sleep in a wagon if the mood hits him. He is …. content. Oh, that sweet, sweet boy. Make no mistake, the child is every bit the definition of a Threenager right now, but in comparing this stage of life between the two kids, he is different. He’s enjoying the Island Life everywhere he goes. What a lucky guy!

It can be difficult as a parent to allow your little ones the proverbial time to “stop and smell the flowers.” Lord knows I’ve let out my share of exasperated sighs and hurried him along. But now I realize that this characteristic is something I want him to hold onto. Sure, there are times when we have to hustle for some reason for another, but I am making the conscious effort to be mindful of this beautiful trait he possesses as this fast-paced world will surely try to beat it out of him as he grows. So for now, just like Ferdinand’s mother, I’m going to embrace it. Maybe I’ll even manifest my own inner Island Holly and go with the Island L flow.

Beating “The Blahs” – Cincy Style

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As a family, one of our favorite places to visit is Cincinnati. It’s a quick trip for us and there are so many things to do for both family/kid and adult entertainment. We have been there so many times that I cannot possibly describe in detail all that we have done or recommend there, but I will give some highlights for anyone wanting to check it out!

But, first and foremost, I have to give a HUGE shout-out to my husband, Jeremy, for his stellar driving in the treacherous winter conditions we encountered. He handled our F-150 like a boss, and also managed to put up with my incessant paranoid backseat driving and squealing. Well done, Babe. Well done.  The kids were in the backseat with their iPads and awesome new headphones, therefore making them ideal travel buddies (translation: occupied and quiet!).

Last weekend, our itinerary included the Newport Aquarium and Great Wolf Lodge. It was my first time at Great Wolf Lodge, but I love that aquarium and was so excited to see they have added to it.

During the winter months, the Newport Aquarium runs a great ticket special where you get a free kid ticket with any adult ticket purchase. That was almost a $40 savings for us! (Which I promptly spent on a private penguin encounter for Jeremy and C.) Jeremy and C both love penguins (who doesn’t, though?), and C had just finished a study on these adorable creatures at school the previous week, so it was well-timed. C’s favorite fact:  Penguins poop every 10 minutes! Hence, we will never own a penguin as a pet.

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They have a coat check for winter time, and adjusted hours. I always recommend buying tickets in advance (coupons at the bottom of them!), but that’s because I’m a worrier and worry it will sell out on our day of arrival. Plus, I hate waiting in lines. At first glance, I think the ticket price can seem steep, but there are so many interactive and hands-on activities that I truly feel we all got an “experience” out of it. Our favorite part was Sting Ray Bay. I think these creatures are fascinating. Years ago (before kids), Jeremy and I went swimming with sting rays in Grand Cayman and it is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Jeremy even got a hickey from one of them; a fact that he will NEVER live down. LOL! (Sorry, Babe.) We spent the bulk of our time with the sting rays, partially because there is a very tropical vibe in that area – reggae music, sunlight, and a warmer temp than other areas. The only thing I was missing was a margarita.

There is a little cafe’ in the aquarium. Overpriced as hell, of course, but we were able to score a little snack there to keep the kids’ Hangry Instinct from taking over. I just love aquariums, and Newport is impressive. In fact, if I ever hit a MAJOR lottery, mark my words that Huntington, WV, will have its own aquarium. I HEART FISHES (and other aquatic creatures)! Last tip:  Take a dry shirt for the kiddos. Between the touch tank and the sting rays (yes you can touch them!!), my kids were soaked, and since it was 5 degrees outside, we ended up buying crappy clearance sweatshirts.

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Lodging:  If you are planning to do just the Aquarium/Newport area, there is a brand new Hampton Inn right across the street. It is very walkable, and the hotel has a little pool and clean, spacious rooms. Great property!

After a day at the aquarium and a night in at the Hampton Inn, we ventured up to Mason, OH, to Great Wolf Lodge. (It is literally right next to King’s Island.) All I can say is WOW! I wish we would have had more days there, because I honestly don’t even feel like I can give very good info about it after just one night. I’m sure there are other experts on that place, but I can tell you it is overwhelmingly fun. We sprung for the room upgrade so the kids could stay in a little tent with bunk beds, which I think added to the experience and it also gave a little separation. The water park is clean (thank God), and the lifeguards there mean business. As a perpetual worrier who really goes psycho around water, I appreciated their diligence and commitment to water safety. Oh, and I was able to use my (Super Hip & Cool Mom) Sunny Tag waterproof pouch!

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Life jackets and (crappy) towels are provided, and there dozens of ways to spend hundreds of your hard-earned dollars at the various games in the arcade, mini golf, shops, etc. They have restaurants on-property too, but we only had pizza during a swim break. Parents:  There is a well-stocked bar! Hallelujah.  And they carried one of my favorite beers, Kona. Due to my recent surgery, I really couldn’t do much, so I spent a lot of time in the “little kid” area with L. I loved this area because he could splash and climb the stairs to the mini-slides while I kept an eye on him. It was nice not feeling like I had to hover. I’m excited to go back another time when I can be more active with the kids because I love water parks and water slides, but just could not do that stuff this time. Check Groupon for specials, and also check with your workplace to see if any discounts are offered. Most important:  The kids had a blast! And the smiles on their faces are all I wanted. (Oh, and have I mentioned that penguins poop every 10 minutes?)

There is SO much to do in the Cincinnati area. We go several times a year and do something different every time. I am trying not to be too lengthy, but I want to highlight some fun stuff we have done in the past in the Queen City, therefore I will fail at that attempt. Bear with me.

Duke Energy Children’s Museum:  Wow! Worth the small entry fee and definitely a great way for kids to run off steam. It’s clean, and things work. There are several different play areas, and a special gated area for little kids with stroller parking. It is well-staffed, and a quick little drive from downtown. Last time we were there, the kids’ claimed their favorite part was riding in the golf cart (shuttle) from the back of the parking lot to the entrance, but I know they also enjoyed the water tables, tree-house, and little village. NOTE: Right now their website has notice that they are closed through Spring 2018 due to construction, so check before you go! I’m excited to see what this new construction brings, because it was pretty awesome to begin with.

EnterTRAINment Junction:  Now this place is just a little gem of an experience! Located north of the city, it is the WORLD’S Largest Indoor Train display. Basically, it is a huge model train that is laid out chronologically by period and historically accurate. One nice little touch they offer:  Small step stools as you enter so our little shorties can see the display and carry with them throughout. There is also a little indoor play area and a funhouse. They do have a little concession area and a gift shop. When the weather is nice, they also offer some outdoor train rides/activities, but we have not been there when those were available. L absolutely flips out over trains, so we were bummed to miss out on that, but both kids just absolutely loved this place. Tickets are very reasonable, and kids 2 and under are free. If you’re looking for something to fill a few hours in the Cincy area, check this place out!! You’ll be impressed, I promise. Like I said, it’s a little gem!

Cincinnati Reds Game:  Just like Great Wolf Lodge, I’m hardly an expert on this place, but what I love about this experience is Great American Ballpark itself. First of all, I love baseball:  Any sport that allows day drinking in broad daylight without judgement is A-OK in my book. Plus, the whole atmosphere of a baseball game just feels so American and hearkens back to a simpler time. This stadium though: Breastfeeding suite; clean bathrooms; lots of activities for the kids including an awesome roped off playgound…. Yes! Plus, it is very walkable from the downtown hotels and across the street from a brewery (Yay!). You can get tickets for a reasonable price, and if it is your little one’s first time, the customer service desk will make you a little certificate to commemorate the event. It is definitely a very family-friendly environment and a great spring/summer activity in Cincy.

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Cincinnati Zoo: I admit, I was on Fiona-Watch because nothing can be cuter than this baby hippo! While I didn’t get to see her, I did see her parents Bibi and Henry (RIP!), and this zoo was just awesome. Easy to navigate and lots of great exhibits. It was hot when we were there last summer, but the animals were still out and about. We paid the extra few bucks to feed the giraffes and it was absolutely worth the money (and waiting in a little line). The kids just squealed and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Fun fact: Giraffes have black tongues! We rode the train and watched a great bird show (a parrot flew right over our heads!), and we were able to beat the heat in a couple indoor exhibits along the way. We rented a 2-kiddo stroller, which I think was a smart move because it kept me from having to pack ours and drag it around.

OMG this is getting way too long and I’m sorry, but one other thing I want to mention is Rhinegeist Brewery. Again, I’m not an expert on this place, but I know someone who is (my bestie!) and I want to encourage you to check our her blog, Wild and Wonderful Me, to learn more about this cool beer-drinkers destination. While you’re at her blog, check out the other awesome stuff she gets into. She’s one cool cat! (Love you, Michele!)

99 pounds of kid

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“99” rolls off the tongue. I graduated in 1999…. 99 bottles of beer on the wall….. C weighed 9lb 9oz….. when she was little, her classmates called her “Nine-Nine” when they couldn’t pronounce her real name. And last week, my kids were playing with the scale and they realized, through some seriously choppy math, that their combined weight is 99lbs. 99. If I held both of them, that’s what I’d carry, and I’d do so happily when necessary. We snuggle and love and carry them for as long as we possibly can, right?

There’s a [super depressing] saying that goes something like “one day you will put him down, and never pick him up again.” It’s a haunting reminder of how quickly they grow. Many folks don’t realize when that day is; it’s not exactly something you put on the baby calendar, but for me, I probably know.

Last week, I made the decision to have a procedure that, while elective in nature, will certainly positively impact my quality of life. I had things made, ummmmmm, smaller that were too big, and had some tissue removed that was just plain-old “in the way” and not conducive to what I wanted to do. Vanity? Maybe a tad, but I did it for me, and so that I could get a reset back to levels of activity from days of “yore” (before two large babies stretched, yanked, and tugged their way into this world). So really for me, it was about quality of life. *I will not get graphic, but if you have questions about these procedures, feel free to contact me. I’m a pretty open book who wants everyone to live their best life, and this procedure is part of my journey.

Knowing this is major surgery, with lots of abdominal/chest work, I knew it would be limiting on my lifting of the babes. So last Wednesday night, on the eve of the surgery, I lifted both my “babies” (all 99lbs of them) into bed and tucked them in, knowing very well it could probably be the last time I could physically do so, at least for a while. Healing takes time, and during that time, they will continue to grow, so I set that expectation with myself and the quiet room unceremoniously that there will be other ways I can “lift”or hold them up, if not physically. Prayer…. encouragement…. guidance…. accountability…. positivity…. setting a good example…. independence.

So while I’m not physically lifting them these days, they aren’t missing out on much, except for maybe a couple grunts and groans from mommy that “ohhhhh you’re growing up too fast” ❤️

Get the Funk Outta Here: Carolina BalloonFest

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Even after all the trips and flights I’ve taken in my life, I still want the window seat, and I still look out the window in pure awe. At the risk of looking like a newbie flier (heaven forbid), I just cannot help taking the occasional picture. But it never fails that the picture doesn’t do it justice anyways. Maybe it’s the cold meds I’m on right now, but how can we img_8032not look at this beautiful, amazing, world and not gasp sometimes?  It can affirm or maybe even make you question everything you know and believe all at the same time. Regardless of beliefs on how this universe and all of us came to be, can we all agree what a beautiful world this truly is!?  (But Lord help the jerk who tries to take my window seat; I’m here for the scenery, not the opportunity to give you a lap dance should I need to use the lav. Namaste and Amen. 🙏🏼) This was a pic from this morning. Again, the pictures never do it justice but the sun had lit up the clouds in a stunning array of colors over our beautiful state of WV as we departed.

I know travel doesn’t entice everyone, and there are many influencing factors such as cost, anxiety, fear of unknown, in a funk, etc. But some of our own most memorable trips have been mini-adventures that haven’t required much money, setting foot on an airplane, or going anywhere remotely glamorous or getting crazy. And there are some folks who fear flying or are just afraid or paranoid to travel in general. I get it. Sometimes the news does not paint the most beautiful picture that would entice one to travel, but we have to do it anyways. We have to get out of that bubble. We just have to expose ourselves and our kids to all the awesomeness that is out there.

So I shall say it as nicely as possible: Get the funk outta here. See what this amazing world, or your state or region have to offer. Go off the beaten path and try new things. Even if it turns out to be a flop of an experience, at least you gave it a shot. Eat a weird food (i.e. Canadian Poutine), hike some lakeside paths, kayak a local lake as smooth as glass before the fog even lifts and embrace the total silence, snorkel somewhere with water that is clear for miles, or scoop your first born out of a dolphin tank in the Bahamas (ok that last one I don’t recommend, but you get my drift). Watch for local or regional events that spark your interest, and just go for it. As the cliche says, life is too short.

The very same happened to me recently. Facebook “suggested” (in the creepy way it knows everything) that I would be interested in an event coming up in North Carolina. Creeper Facebook was RIGHT! So we loaded up the family truckster and embarked on a quick little turnaround trip to the Carolina BalloonFest in Statesville, NC. It was everything we hoped for and more, not to mention budget-friendly and easy. (A few years back, some of my best buds and I took a hot air balloon ride in Napa, CA, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve done, and I wanted my family to experience that as well, but perhaps closer to the ground and without having to fly cross-country.) After a quick MapQuest to see how far away it was – about 4 hours from Huntington, WV, and a little hotel research, we decided this could be a fun and unique little weekend trip for all of us to experience.

Knowing that the balloons would not fly in any kind of inclement weather, we waited until a handful of days out to purchase our tickets while watching the forecast for that area. Adults were $20 each; kids under 12 free admission. We also sprung for VIP parking (another $20), and I would have paid double for it, maybe even triple. If you take only one nugget away from this post, let it be that VIP parking is the way to go. Otherwise, there after shuttles and lines and waits involved. The weather ending up looking pretty good in the days leading up to the event, so tickets were booked! They warn you ahead to take cash, and that was wise advice as only a couple vendors took cards, and ATM’s were hit or miss. Cell service is also splotchy (the event takes place in a massive field near the Statesville airport).

The festival was basically a fair/bazaar on steroids, but the balloons made it just magical. As I’ve said, pictures just don’t do it justice, so do yourself and favor and check it out personally next year! The balloons fly in the mornings and evenings, so we were sure to get there early to see the morning ascension. It’s a 3-day long festival, and we made it to Saturday/Sunday. We originally booked a Hampton Inn, but got “walked” (hotel-speak for “bumped”), but it worked out hugely in our favor. We were moved around the corner to a newer Hilton Garden Inn, and our whole stay was paid for. Breakfasts too. Woo hooooooo!

They had Kid Zone with several inflatables for kids, mostly free. Some things charged extra (i.e. Bungee jumping trampoline thing and balloon animals). There were tons of food selections (not free, but very yummy), and GREAT live music! We loved the bagpiping, didgerigdoo-playing group from Scotland called Albannach. We stayed to watch them twice! Adults: fear not…. there is a wine and beer garden. $20 got you unlimited sampling from some of my favorite NC area wineries and breweries.

And then there are actual hot-air balloon rides. Jeremy and the kids did the tethered ride. If I was gonna put all my eggs in one basket, literally, they were only going up about 40 feet. It cost $10 for adults and $5 friends for kids. And for shorter kiddos, like my son, they had a peep hole to look out of toward the bottom of the basket, so no need to lift over the edge of the balloon so he can see (whew!). The kids were enthralled, and now we are 4/4 as a family for having ridden in a hot-air balloon, and it was close and affordable and FUN! You can also do an actual balloon ride (untethered and floating around in the sky), but those were about $250 and you had to make separate arrangements with the pilots.

Major takeaways/advice:

  • Take cash
  • Take sunblock
  • VIP Parking = MUST!!!
  • Take chairs and a blanket (maybe even a wagon for kiddos) so you can get comfortable.
  • Check the weather before you commit! Without the balloons it would have still been fun, but the balloons were the main attraction and kinda the main reason we made the trip.
  • Get there EARLY! You do NOT want to miss the balloon races and games. Awesome!
  • And if you want to take a tethered balloon ride, get in line for it FIRST thing.

They do offer a VIP Experience, but it ran $300 for our family, and even after scoping it out this year, I’m not 100% sure that juice is worth the squeeze. Hmmmmm…. we’ll see. They had a tent and food and beverages, and they also provided “upgraded” port-a-potties. I need to know more about this; seems steep. And to me, a port-a-potty is a port-a-potty. Not too many ways to upgrade that experience in my book.

The Carolina BalloonFest is always the 3rd weekend in October, so mark your calendars and watch the weather! Maybe next year, we will see some familiar faces! It was certainly a highlight of the fall for our family, and overall just the perfect “festival” for a family. We definitely want to go back.  At the end of Saturday evening, they did what is called an “All-Burn” and a “Twinkle-Burn” with the balloons where they all light up together or twinkle, respectively, in the middle of the vast field. This spectacle alone was definitely worth sticking around through the evening hours. To see dozens of massive and colorful hot-air balloons lighting up right in front of you was an amazing sight to see, but again, the pictures just don’t do it justice, so I guess you’ll have to go check it out for yourself!