Long Holiday Weekends

I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come!

Er, or went.

I mentioned in my wrap up of May goals that we had snuck away for a 3 day vacay to Kansas City over the Memorial Day weekend. I love holiday weekends, particularly when I can stretch it out even longer by taking a couple extra days off!

It was a much different trip than the one we took around this time last year, when we drove to Michigan to visit family and then made an extended road trip out of it.

It’s amazing to me how much less stuff Isabella needed than she did only a year ago. She’s sleeping in a big girl bed so we didn’t need a Pack-n-play. She can eat out of a high chair or booster seat so no travel seat necessary. We broke her of the pacifier habit so there was no time spent frantically searching for dropped oobies. She needs less stuff in general so we could get by with a smaller diaper bag and stroller, instead of the honking massive one we used before, and we didn’t need to dedicate a whole suitcase to “entertainment items”. We simply packed our travel DVD player, some new movies and few new coloring books.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

It was nice to NOT have a car this full…


…and instead we had only about 1/3 of that amount of stuff. Helps with gas mileage too!

We hit the road at 9 a.m. Thursday morning (after dropping Samson off at my parent’s house) and arrived in KC around 12:45 p.m. (with only one stop for potty breaks and snacks). We drove straight to Country Club Plaza where we wandered around until we found a good lunch spot.

Along our wanders we found this boar statue.


Legend has it that rubbing its nose is good luck so Isabella was all over that. We also found this other fountain.


Finally we decided on a lunch spot – Classic Cup Sidewalk Café. It wasn’t exactly kid friendly – as in no kids menu – though they did at least have high chairs so I guess that’s something.


I ordered the mac n’cheese (like, duh) and CJ got a bison burger. We split these with Isabella. All the food was great and after chilling for a bit, we headed out again to explore. However, it was a very hot day and Isabella was refusing to ride in the stroller, yet she was obviously tired. Anyone who has kids can do the math on that one.

Hot day + tired kid = crabby pants

She literally threw such a fit in one of the toy stores when I told her we had to change her poopy diaper that the clerk let us use the employee restroom in the very depths of the storeroom – far away from paying customers that might be bothered by screaming toddlers. Then again, if they’re in a toy store, they’re probably used to screaming kids.

Due to that, we didn’t wander around for very long. We decided to cut it short and just head to the hotel. Not before buying Munchkin this cute little yellow hat though, which she was totally working by the way.


We checked in to our hotel, the Drury Inn which we LOVE because they have an awesome free hot breakfast every morning AND free happy hour every evening, which includes hot food. We totally made that our dinner Thursday night. They had hot dogs, chicken tenders, nachos, soup, salad, and a baked potato bar. Done and done.

Isabella had a lot of fun pulling her own suitcase and pushing the elevator buttons. That became the fun game of the whole trip.



Our room was a suite which meant CJ and I had a bedroom that was separated from the living space, where we had Isabella sleep on the fold out couch. Worked beautifully!


Friday was LEGOland day! I had purchased our tickets ahead of time online (which I strongly encourage you to do should you ever decide to visit. They were nearly $10 cheaper per ticket and we were able to jump to the front of the line) and our scheduled entrance time was 11 a.m. We got there a bit early but they let us right in.

After being admitted, you wait in line as they send up groups of 10 or so at a time. While you wait there are these cool girl and boy statues made all out of LEGOS! Isabella thought they were pretty awesome.


The first area to visit is a room with 4 or 5 activities for the kids and everyone gets a free commemorative Lego piece. You exit there and head to the “Kingdom’s Quest” which is actually a ride during which you shoot LEGO zombies with laser guns!

Cool, right? We thought so. Isabella, not so much. To be honest, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves in to. We were just standing in this line, a girl told us to get in the next car and off we went! Munchkin covered her ears the whole time while CJ and I killed some zombies.

She was so traumatized that she whimpered the whole time we were in the miniatures room, which was super freakin’ awesome! They basically used LEGOs to build many of Kansas City’s cityscape and monuments, including downtown:


Arrowhead Stadium (which we’ve frequented a couple times!)


Kansas Speedway:


The Plaza:


And even scenes from the Wizard of Oz!




(all the scenes are lighted too and every 5 minutes or so they dim the lights so you can see the buildings all lit up!)

No need to worry about Isabella, the next stop on our tour was a big area dedicated to fun and playtime for kids – including these –


A pit of giant foamy LEGO blocks. Isabella got to work building a tower that was taller than she is!


She was mighty proud of it too, until some reckless little punk knocked it down and told her she shouldn’t build things so big. I was about to give him a piece of my mind when I realized that picking a fight with a 6 year old probably wasn’t in the spirit of LEGOland, so we moved on…


We stayed there for a while, making things and eating lunch, and then wandered to the cupcake building factory (there was also a race track area. Kid you not; it was filled with dads and their sons building cars while the moms/wives stood around looking bored).


After a few minutes there, we exited and did some shopping in the LEGO store.

Next stop: Sea Life Aquarium – which happened to be adjacent to LEGOland. Again, because we had purchased tix online, we walked right in, past the line of about 50 people. So long suckas!

Now, being as how we’re from Omaha, home to the *cough cough* #1 zoo in America *cough cough*, with an awesome aquarium, we weren’t expecting much. The Sea Life Aquarium is not as big as ours but it is nice and we enjoyed it. Definitely worth a visit. Isabella had a partial meltdown at the beginning but we were able to get her through it.

Seeing daddy in this bubble helped.


As did this tunnel.


And this one.


We had to leave in a hurry as she started screaming again when I reprimanded her for throwing sand out of a sandbox they had. We were free and clear until I realized we had left the stroller inside. CJ went in and found it all the way back at the bubble. At least we got it!

Isabella was asleep before we even pulled the car out of the spot.


She’ll thank me for that picture one day.

Once back at the hotel, CJ stayed in the car with her and snoozed while I went inside and crashed in the bed. After we all awoke, we snuggled up and watched “Despicable Me” which was on HBO. Turned out to be a really cute movie.

Then we ventured out for some good ole KC BBQ, which we found at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue.


Isabella was getting antsy while we waited for our food to come out, so in desperation I downloaded a free app to my phone called Doodle Buddy.

Best download I’ve ever made.

It’s an app that allows you to paint/draw on varied backgrounds or pictures. They have stamps too, which are silly and make sounds. That little app kept her entertained for quite a while (and still does).

We stayed in that night and watched “The Lion King”, which I had purchased for the trip and she loved it, and then hit the sack. We were all beat from a long day.

Saturday was our last day there and as such we checked out of the hotel and headed to the Powell Botanical Gardens for the “Fairy Houses and Forts” exhibition.

I have been to my fair share of Botanical Gardens. We have a decent one in Omaha, I spent many a day in the New York one when I lived there, and CJ and I visited the Missouri gardens in St. Louis many years ago. All are gorgeous. You really can’t go wrong with being outside surrounded by beautiful landscaping. Of those 3, New York takes the cake as it’s freakin’ huge and awesome.

But I think the Powell Gardens might be my new favorite. It was well laid out, with fun and surprising things around every corner, and the Fairy Houses and Forts were uber cool. I know those aren’t a permanent fixture but they sure made us happy!


It was a hot day so we kept our visit to about 2 hours. That was plenty of time to walk around and see each of the Fairy Houses and Forts.


They were all so different and unique.


Some were whimsical.


Some were adventurous.


Some were just plain cool.


After seeing them all, we headed inside to grab some lunch. The cafeteria there was really nice. It had simple food (burgers and sandwiches) but they were all prepared to order with fresh garden ingredients. Definitely hit the spot after a couple hours of walking and sweating!

From there we hit the road back home.

The best part about a 3 day trip at the beginning of a long holiday weekend? We still had 2 days left to relax once we got home!

Sunday was spent at the beach….


…and Memorial Day was spent chilling with family at our place.


What a great start to the summer! Here’s to many more adventures to come in the months ahead!


Random Thought Wednesday

Feels like it’s been forever since I wrote anything. I suppose it has been if forever is 5 days. A lot has happened since my last real life entry.

1. I went to Texas. I had never been to Texas before. It’s a pretty big state. You’d think I’d have crossed its borders at some point before last week, but you would be wrong. I was sent to Forth Worth for work. 

Leaving Omaha:




Arriving in DFW:


The flight out was fine but the cabbie I got to take me in to the office was a jackhole. He made me load my own bag, enter my the address in the GPS, applied deodorant while driving and then had me unload my own bags. Really dude?

My stay was decent. Generally, work trips involve working hard all day and drinking all night. Not this one. No one involved in the meetings wanted to go out so I had to make my own party. I called upon a co-worker who’s based out of FW and he shuttled me around, showing off the highlights (if by highlights you count a Mexican restaurant in Roanoke, a sports bar in one of the suburbs and a pub in downtown). But we had fun chatting, drinking and watching the Rangers kick some Tiger butt so it was all good.



Turns out Fort Worth isn’t all that different from Omaha. They’re both spread out, built around the slaughterhouses, and have a lot of construction going on. FW is just twice as big. And for the record, I didn’t see any cowboy hats – not one!

The drive back to the airport I was able to get a car service and that driver was awesome. In his spare time he works security for Cowboy Stadium so we had a LOT to talk about. He’s originally from Kansas City and is a huge Chiefs fan. CJ and I plan to go down to KC in November for the Chiefs/Steelers game so I told Willy we’d look him up. He invited us to his families tailgating party. I guess they do it up right with all kinds of BBQ and what not. Count me in Willy! Just don’t get mad when the Steelers kick some KC butt!

2. We finally got all our stuff from storage. For the record DO NOT EVER HIRE MAYFLOWER SELECT VAN AND STORAGE TO DO YOUR MOVE! They cheated and stole from us. So, we hired Two Men and a Truck to do the storage move. They showed up 5 hours late. Poor CJ was parked out at the storage place that whole time waiting for them. But at least they apologized and gave us a break on the cost. That was appreciated.

3. I’m pretty sure our little child genius did subtraction the other night. It was time for bed and she told me she was going to bring 3 of her stuffed animals with her. When she got to the stairs and looked up she realized it might be challenging to climb up all those steps with her 3 friends in tow. So she handed me one and said, “Here mommy, you take one. That leaves me with 2.” I just stared at her for a minute while I did the math on my fingers and realized she was right.

4. Tonight we hung Halloween lights in the front windows – ghosts, bats, pumpkins and skulls. She was helping and when we were all done, I turned off the lights and when she saw them all lit up she said, “Wow! That’s perfect!” I love how in awe kids are of the little things. Things we take for granted.

5. I bought a boot camp package today – it’s a one month trial thing. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I need a challenge. All my workout gear is still packed up and so need something different to energize me. I think this just might do the trick. Plus it includes a pre and post fitness assessment. I’m really curious for my results!!!

6. My Fantasy Football team is totally tanking this year. Oddly, I’m not all that upset about it. We started bad and never got any better so I’ve accepted it and moved on.

Well, time to head down and chillax for a bit until bed. 5 am comes awfully fast!

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Trader Family Road Trip – Day 7: Capital M

Our day in Madison was the most low key of the trip, which was good since we were all tired and getting homesick. Our first stop was the Capitol building itself and then we were going to head out to Ella’s Deli before hitting the road to home.

Before I continue, let’s settle the heated debate once and for all over the difference between “capitol” and “capital”. I for one don’t know when to use which version! According to this source, “capitol” is a  U.S. state legislature building or the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. A “capital” is a city that serves as a seat of government. So….state capitols are located in the capital cities of U.S. states, and the U.S. Capitol is located in the capital city of the U.S. There – clear as mud!

Now back to the show!

We got to the downtown area just fine but trying to find parking was a whole other matter. The capitol is in the center of the “wheel” and the streets come out from it both going around in a circle and as straight lines (like spokes). If you get on the circular streets, you literally just go around in a circle if you’re not careful because only the outside lanes can turn off. Yet, those lanes are reserved for buses. So you can see our predicament. Eventually I said “screw it”, veered over in to the bus lane and was able to turn off the merry go round we were on.

Once we parked, we hoofed it to the capitol. The building itself pretty typical of most capitols that we’ve seen.


As a general rule, capitol buildings tend to mimic the U.S. Capitol in D.C. The few exceptions have been Ohio, Nebraska and Iowa (this one’s my fav so far). But all are unique in the sense that they are designed to reflect their state and all that it represents.

We walked around the outside, seeing all the statues and sculptures, then ventured in.


Normally we try to take a guided tour, but this tour was an hour long and we knew Isabella wouldn’t last. So we walked around on our own.


You can take an elevator up and then climb some stairs out on to the roof, just under the dome, and get a nice view of the city.




As we were leaving, we ran in to a group of protestors in the main lobby area who were singing songs. Not sure what issue/person they were protesting but the song sounded nice.


By this time we were ready for lunch and decided to try an Irish Pub across the street. We sat outside and enjoyed some ale while waiting for our food. Gumby even joined in!


Isabella was in a feisty mood and did NOT want to sit still. After I finished eating, she and I went next door to a fancy chocolate shop called Candinas. When I walked in, I seriously thought it was an art gallery. The whole place was empty and stark except for one glass case that had chocolate boxes in it. The gal helping me offered us a sample and presented it to us on a fancy platter. We bought a box of 2 pieces and paid $5.

From there we walked through the Farmer’s Market to a building we had seen on the drive in. Turns out it was the Monona Terrace done in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright (who we love). It was very pretty and had great views of the Lake.


We didn’t linger long though because we were hot and tired. Once we found the car, we headed to Ella’s Deli for an ice cream sundae!

Ella’s is famous for all their animatronic figures. And they didn’t disappoint! The place was so chalked full of them, Isabella was in awe and couldn’t even take it all in!



They even had a working carousel out front that we rode! Isabella and CJ sat on a bench while I rode on a horse. I almost fell over trying to get off of it. The guy manning the ride got a kick out of that.


(Look! It’s CJ’s hand wave!)


(and mine too!)

Then it was time to head out of town and mosey toward home. The plan was to get as far as Cedar Rapids (so I could see some old peeps!) but we had to stop in Dubuque for gas and decided to just stay there for the night. More on that to come!

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Trader Family Road Trip – Day 6: Mil-WALK-ee

Waking up on Tuesday morning I had a plan in my head for the day. We had a list of things to see and some of them had time constraints. Here was the schedule:

Busy, but doable, right? Well, sure if everything lined up. And of course, it didn’t.

We got off to a late start and didn’t leave the hotel until around 11 a.m. The breakfast there (Courtyard by Marriott) was FAB.U.LOUS! The only thing that would have made it better is if it had been continental. But alas it was not. Still, very yummy and the wait staff was top-notch. It cost $30 for the 3 of us, which was a little pricey, but not the most expensive breakie I’ve ever had on vacation. That honor goes to our hotel breakfast in NYC a few years ago. They had a buffet and we thought, great, that’ll be easy. When the bill came for $75 (for 2 of us), I peed all over myself! You better believe we went back for 3rds and 4ths to get our money’s worth. I even stuffed fruit in my purse.  Lesson learned I guess!

Anywho, we got downtown around 11:30 and parked. That gave us 15 min. to find the Fonz, take pics, and find the ladybug building. We found Fonzie first:


“Like oh my God, Fonzie is so dreamie!” I love how I’m standing on my tip toes and then slouching over. I look like a giant…or a ragdoll!


“Eeeyyyy” CJ looks really thrilled here. I think he was trying not to look drunk and then ended up looking bored.


“Um, who’s this guy? Can we go now?” She didn’t quite get it but that’s ok. Someday she’ll look back at this picture and be thankful we brought her here! Or maybe not. Whatevs.

After that we started to walk in search of the ladybug building until we realized it was 11:45 and we had to get to the museum, park and be at the BBS building in 15 minutes! Eek! So we raced back to the car and sped away. We actually got to the BBS like 5 minutes early and had time to walk a bit. I had told CJ in the car that the only other time I was in Milwaukee was with a college friend who brought me home for Thanksgiving. As we were walking to the museum I saw 3 people walking toward us. I swear to you it was that college friend with her mom and hubbie. But in my head I was thinking it couldn’t be because she lives down south now. I almost shouted out to her but stopped myself because I didn’t want to look like an idiot. Now I wish I would have said something as I’m 99% sure it was her. (Sara – if that was you – doh!)

Anyway, at noon on the dot, the roof of the BBS started to close. It slowly lowered its wings down, down, down.

Here’s what it looks like fully opened:


Here’s the halfway point as it’s closing:


And here’s when it’s all the way closed:


It then opened back up again. The whole process took about 15 minutes. It was pretty cool. They play music during it too which was a nice surprise.

We were starving by that point and set out to find a place for lunch. Now, you’d think that in downtown Milwaukee, right off the lake, there would be a ton of restaurants. You would be wrong. We walked. And walked. And walked. For 90 MINUTES! There was nothing! No vendors, no fast food, no nothing. Just apartments and parks. Finally we said screw it and went back to the car. Turns out there is a cafe inside the science museum that is next door to the art museum. We ate in there. It was about 1:45 by now, I had blisters all over my feet, we were all hungry and tired and hot and therefore cranky. But dammit we had more to see!

We opted to forgo anything that involved walking so we drove to Jelly Belly as their tour was all done on a train.


The tour was a bit disappointing. You basically rode around the warehouse and watched videos on how they make the candy. We didn’t get to go in the factory itself, which is what I had hoped for. Still, it was free and we got Jelly Belly samples at the end so, all in all, not too bad!


We were tempted to head to Madison from there but it looked like Gambrinus might be on the way so we went in search of that. Turns out he is in the beer garden of a bar that was closed. But that didn’t stop us from sneaking a pic through the gate!


And of course we had to get one of CJ posing with him, er sort of.


I particularly like that CJ’s wearing an X-Men shirt. Looks like Wolverine could use a beer!

After that it was straight on to Madison, with a stop for dinner. After the lunch fiasco, we weren’t about to take chances on that one!

We got to Madison around 7 which gave us time to get Isabella to bed, soak in the hot tub and watch a movie. We got a suite complete with kitchenette and sitting area, which Munchkin thought was so cool. She had fun jumping on the bed (we only allow that on vacation… ;)), running around and pretending to talk on the phone.


That’s it for day 6! Only 1(ish) more days to go until this vacation is over and I stop boring you all with my pics and stories!

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Trader Family Road Trip–Day 5: To the Land of Cheese!

Day 5 did not go nearly according to plan. Originally, we had hoped to take a ferry from Muskegon, MI to Milwaukee, WI (the 3 of us and our car!). It would take a couple hours and we’d be there by noon. However, I didn’t realize that we needed to make reservations in advance. Thinking back I should have known but for some reason it never crossed my mind. Unfortunately, because we didn’t make a reservation, they didn’t have any openings for a car. So we had a few options: 1) stay in Manistee longer, 2) go home early, 3) drive up and over Lake Michigan or 4) drive down and around Lake Michigan. After much research and discussion, we decided to go down and around. It was a 5 1/2 hour drive so we’d be in Milwaukee by dinner. We thought that was the best way to go!

But first we wanted to meet up with CJ’s sister and dad for breakfast and to shop around their downtown. We had a nice morning and I got some sassy red shoes for 60% off!

We were on the road by 11 and ready for adventure!

And it wasn’t long before we found it. After driving for a while (after stopping for lunch and then hitting the road again) Isabella was starting to get antsy. We needed a place to stop and play so I pulled off in to the next town that came along. Surely this town would have a park. We drove around for a while and finally found it. Turns out it was a pretty sweet park AND it was connected to a beach!


We played on the equipment for a while and then wandered down to the beach, which stretched for miles. The sand was so soft and fine and there were hardly any people there. It was a perfect place to stretch our legs!


Isabella enjoyed digging and walking in the sand. There was a dog there that she enjoyed watching. She found some cool rocks and shells too!


But eventually we had to get back on the road or we’d never get to Wisconsin!

We finally pulled in to Milwaukee around 6:30 pm. On the way in we saw the Allen-Bradley Clock tower at the Rockwell Automation headquarters (which is the largest 4-faced clock in the world – yes even bigger than Big Ben):


We also saw Miller Park, home of the Brewers.


We really wanted to get to our hotel at a decent time so we could all get to bed. Every night prior it had been nearly 9 p.m. before Isabella got to sleep and we didn’t want to disrupt her schedule too much. So we found a hotel and settled in. CJ went down to the bar and relaxed with a beer while I hung back in the room and caught up on emails. I caught a little TV too and then crashed.

It wasn’t a super exciting day as it was mostly driving but we still had fun. And we were looking forward to tomorrow’s adventure!

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