Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Trip to Texas Hill Country

For Aaron's Thirtieth Birthday, I wanted to plan a surprise trip. With everything going on in the world, plus the fact that we had two little kids, it wasn't going to be anything too crazy. But still, our first getaway since our Babymoon trip back in October of 2019 sounded pretty great to me. Initially, I was thinking we'd go back to Napa Valley. But when I asked a couple of friends about being a part of the surprise, they threw out the idea of visiting a different wine region in the states: Texas Hill Country! 


Knowing that this meant flying into Austin, Texas, which is special to us for a variety of reasons, really sealed the deal for me. I was able to set up surprise meetings with some really incredible folks who have been a huge part of The Brim, and I knew Aaron would DIE when he found out he was getting to meet with each of them. We did have our non-stop flight get changed to one stop, but other than that, everything came together perfectly. He had no idea where we were going until we got into the airport to go through security, and then I didn't tell him anything on our itinerary! 

I'll share the details of where we went and what we did. If you are looking for an easy, in the States getaway that allows for social distancing and driving, then this itinerary may be right up your alley! 


DAY ONE:

We flew into Austin and rented a car. We ended up getting an upgrade to this red Jeep Wrangler since our car wasn't ready yet. Texas Hill Country is to the west of Austin, so you actually don't have to spend any time in the big city at all if you don't want. That being said, there is some AMAZING food in Austin, so you could definitely try carry-out or eat outdoors at a place or two in town. 

We had our first meeting at Loro for lunch. It is an incredible blend of Asian Smokehouse and Texas Barbecue, and we were treated to a ton of delicious menu items. We sat outside with lots of space and it was definitely a place we'd go back. 


From there, we drove out to Chapel Dulcinea and the Wizard Academy, where I had set up a surprise meeting with the amazing couple from Austin who helped us get The Brim going. Aaron was so touched, and our last visit to Austin was so special, that he cried when I told him we had a meeting. We were treated to wine, conversation, and even given a couple of paintings and a sculpture, which Aaron carried back home on the plane. 

After this meeting, we continued driving West so that we could make a stop at Marble Falls. We still are big fans of IHG hotels, so I used points to book our hotel there that evening. Aaron didn't know this, but it was the city where our architect who designed our chapel lived, so we were set to meet with him the next morning. For dinner, I had found a little place called The Real New Orleans Style Restaurant, and it was both delicious and affordable. Highly recommend. You could also easily drive right into wine country this day and get things started, I just had some more personal things I set up for Aaron instead. Or you could spend a little time in Austin to start your trip if you've never been!


DAY TWO:

After packing all of that into our first day/night (we arrived in Austin around noon), Aaron was already blown away and didn't know how it could get any better. But he had no idea what else I had up my sleeves! 

We grabbed a to go breakfast from the hotel (their version of free breakfast minus the buffet with COVID precautions), and then headed out to meet our architect at his office. Aaron didn't know this, and we had to drive around a bit, but once we saw him Aaron freaked out! We were able to go up and tour his own wedding chapel and venue he is building, which is set to open in April: Hozhoni on the Hill. It is a whole campus offering glamping in tents and it is AMAZING. He is so creative and such a dreamer. 

They took us to an early lunch at a yummy Mexican restaurant, and then they actually took us to their home where we were able to meet the little boys they are currently taking care of. We also got to see their home, which he had completely redesigned and it was so beautiful.

From here, we headed off to Wine Country! The first winery we visited was Perissos Vineyards. They have the most gorgeous property, and you truly feel like you are in the middle of Napa or something, but you're closer to home in Texas! It's so beautiful out there, with tons of wineries all around. Perissos had a tasting- our go to- and we sat outside at picnic tables, spaced, walking up masked for our next tasting. 



What Aaron didn't know was that two of our good friends were going to surprise him and meet us here- driving down to join us for part of the trip. We were able to pull off the surprise flawlessly and it was so great! I had other people "join us" for Aaron's 30th by sending a "toast" to him- little videos I showed him here and there while we were tasting. He loved it.


Next, we drove to Torr Na Lochs Vineyard. They have a breathtaking view up on a hill with a lake down below, and they even had some Texas Longhorns roaming in the hills. They had an event going on where you could order from a food truck or buy some decor. They had outdoor seating overlooking the hill and they gave us our tastings in little plastic cups that we poured into our wine glasses when we were ready for the next one. Definitely visit here! 


From there, we decided to drive on to our destination for the evening, Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg is the cute small town with great food and the cutest little downtown area. I had no idea at the time, but apparently it is rated one of the top small towns in the US! We briefly checked into our Airbnb, which was so cute and had a little backyard with a fire pit so we could hang out and be outdoors. It was also within walking distance of downtown if we wanted to walk. 

After that, we hit one more winery before we headed to dinner. In general, I was following this wine tasting itinerary, but of course we also wanted to leave room for spontaneity and there were some places that had different operating hours with COVID.  We hit the Texas Heritage Vineyard on a whim. It was family owned and they were so kind, with the most beautiful deck and a perfect sunset that evening. You can actually see us in this Instagram post ha! 


For dinner, we drove 20 minutes out into the middle of nowhere for the best burgers we've ever had in our lives at the Alamo Springs Cafe. Seriously, this is a MUST visit. They have a ton of outdoor seating with string lights and live music. Aaron even got to go up and play a song and sing! 

A major unexpected bonus was that they had JUST set up the Christmas decorations for the season in downtown, so driving down Main Street was a delight. 


DAY THREE:

After two really full days, we decided to take it a little bit easier this day. I had a couple of places I wanted to try for breakfast, but they were super crowded so we ended up at a little Mexican restaurant. Then we headed off to try Grape Creek Vineyards. They were definitely the largest, most expensive tasting we tried, more like what you would see in lots of places in Napa. Texas is definitely a more affordable wine region to visit, and still delicious! Their gorgeous property reminded me of Tuscany! 


From here, we had a few more places on the list, but we decided we were a little wined out. So we went out and visited a little wildflower farm called Wildseed Farms. We went back downtown for some delicious pizza at Social Haus, then grabbed coffee and walked around for a while. From there, we hung out in the Airbnb and played some cards. You can find more Fredericksburg Winery options here

DAY FOUR:

This day we were heading back into Austin to get ready for our flight and to tour part of Wizard Academy. For reference, Fredericksburg is an hour and a half from the Austin airport, and we broke up the trip into chunks so it was super easy. We hit a yummy taco truck and got a donut on our way back into town, and then I got my nails done (a special treat Aaron spoils me with on vacay). We then grabbed one more Mexican lunch, and then headed home to KC. 

All in all, it was an amazing trip. I would highly recommend a visit to the Texas Hill Wine Country if you like wine, but want something closer to home in the Midwest. You could even drive here if you didn't want to fly- and there are plenty of options to be outdoors and distanced. If you fly, you can really fit in a lot in a short amount of time. We went in November, and I was wearing tank tops and shorts many of the days, so it's warmer than home and the perfect getaway! 

Currently,

Kelsie

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

My Word for 2021

I used to do New Year's Resolutions. One year mine was to not eat donuts, which was actually very challenging because our Sunday School Class had them every single week. (Guess what- I made it!) But then I grew up a little, and in 2018, I decided to start choosing words of the year. I liked having something to focus on and tie back to in a variety of different areas of my life. In 2018, I chose cultivate, which ended up being way more applicable than I would've ever guessed. In 2019, I chose listen, which was also very very fitting- and is still a work in progress for me. In 2020, I chose trust, which was scarily accurate in a year where I went on sabbatical, started a business, had a new baby, and navigated a pandemic alongside the rest of the world. It was my riskiest year yet, and it has honestly blown me way. Which leads to my word for this year: remember.


As a verb, remember has a couple of different meanings, all largely landing on things like "to bring to mind or think of again" or "to keep in mind for attending or consideration". 

Remember. Recall. Think back on.

This may seem like a strange choice coming out of a year that was arguably everyone's least favorite. Things like lockdowns, health scares, and more were obviously not light and easy- and with a potty-training three year old, a newborn, and two of us teaching from home, there were days I didn't know if we'd make it. But for us, 2020 was actually a pretty incredible year. 

We welcomed Addie Jo into the world on a joy-filled January morning, the sweetest surprise: a daughter. The world shut down and I was able to "come back" virtually from maternity leave early, making money again but still being home with my baby. I never had to leave her, as I went right into Summer and then into my Sabbatical. In March, we had our first Brim wedding and then we went on to have 38 more, ending November 1st, a crazy first season that somehow was more successful because of our unplanned, COVID friendly option for people: affordable, outdoors, and available. The timing of it all is almost scary, and definitely not luck. Throw in the additional financial blessings of stimulus checks when I had just cut our overall take home finances in more than half, and we had so much to be grateful for. Not to mention the amazing and generous support of so many who believe in us. 

I don't say this to brag or to make light of any of the hurt and devastation that has come to many during this time. I say it to focus on specific good we experienced and to be grateful for the silver linings. There were hard things the year brought too- new stresses and new worries, but they do pale in comparison to the struggles of many. I say this to remember.

 “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. Psalm 77:11-12

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 
 

Why? Because I not only want to remember these little bright spots of 2020, but I want to forever remember a year when I went all in on what I felt like I was being called to in this specific season, no matter how terrifying it was or how risky it felt. So much unknown, so many what ifs that weren't answered and yet I had to make decisions and go with it. 

I want to remember that God delivered and provided. He was faithful. I want to remember that being called doesn't mean it will be easy- to just keep walking in faith, waiting for just enough light to take the next step. I want to remember the way that I felt when I watched our first Brim bride walk down our ceremony aisle to say "I do" on a breezy March Monday afternoon. To remember where we came from and why we started all of this in the first place.

Why? How does this move me forward rather than just keeping me nostalgic?


I want to remember because I never want to take for granted how blessed I am to be where I am right now,  even when it is stressful or difficult. I want to remember because I want to slow down and make time for what is most important: faith, family, and friends, even if it means letting things sit undone for a while. I want to remember because I want to rest in knowing that God has a plan that is for my good, that He is with me, and that He has never failed me yet.

I want to remember because I want to trust, I want to rest, I want to listen and learn and grow and so much more. I'm still a work in progress, and I always will be. There is so SO much up ahead that is incredibly daunting (like building a wedding chapel and planning for more), and there is a lot of stress and a lot of potential worry that can creep in. So when that does, when I long for control and I start to spiral into anxiety, I want to remember that I have already been given much much more than I could ever have expected or asked for. And I want to make it count by blessing others as much as I can.

Happy New Year to you all! 

Currently,
Kelsie

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Where You Water It

I think it is always easy to see another scenario, another situation, and compare it to ours. To wish or long for what others have, even to be jealous of elements of it. The grass must be greener over there, we tell ourselves. They must have it so much easier, so much better: "If only I had more time, more money, a better personality, the chance to be home, a better marriage, a better body, the chance to work a job I love"... insert jealous item here. But the thing is, that never really gets us anywhere. It leaves us feeling unhappy, discontent, and maybe even a little guilty. And we ultimately have changed nothing, other than suddenly feeling bad about the little plot of land we've been given, a beautiful plot with lots of potential. 


Last year, before we put 300 pounds of grass seed down at The Brim and prayed it wouldn't wash away, Aaron built and installed an irrigation system. We didn't have a building, no fancy getting ready room- heck, we didn't even have long term bathrooms yet. We definitely weren't offering everything other venues could offer at this point. But we had some poles, a dream, a story, and (hopefully) would have some nice grass. So we watered it like crazy. Each month, we pumped hundreds of dollars into keeping the ceremony space and tent area watered. And you know what? It grew. It grew, and it stayed green. We let other areas of our 16.6 acres go wild, but, where it mattered, we committed to making sure it stayed green. 

Now that I am a couple of months into my sabbatical, and we are in more of our "off-season" with The Brim, I've actually had a little time to breathe and a little time to reflect. And I've realized more and more, that it's true: the grass is greener where you water it. There are things about working full-time (outside of just the home) that I miss. I miss co-workers. I (strangely) miss dressing up and getting ready and feeling a little bit put together. I miss uninterrupted time to get work done and to use my brain in another way that doesn't involve making PBJs, corraling toddler breakdowns, and constantly folding loads of laundry. 

But on the other side, I sure don't miss other things. I don't miss grading essays. I don't miss having to get a kiddo up and ready and packed and to daycare before I even made it to school to start my day. I don't miss all the extra pumping, or missing my babies during the day. I don't miss feeling like I've ran a marathon even before 8 am. 

I can completely resonate with what we "miss", what we long for as a working mom, or as a stay at home mom, because I've now had my toes in a little bit of each. Quite honestly, y'all, there is always someone who wishes they had what you do now. If you are longing for what someone else has, there is probably another out there longing for what you have. But none of us, not a single one, has it all perfect- despite what Instagram may say. 

Although my stay at home experience is a bit different because I'm running our business from home at the same time, I see the loneliness that exists there. I see the longing to find value and worth in a society that often doesn't offer that to the mom who is home, completing the daily grind and keeping the home running. Who is tired of the never-ending cycle of dishes and laundry and cleaning the same messes. In comparison, I spent more time (3 years) as a working mom, and I remember the guilt I felt handing off my baby to someone else each day, how hard it was to drive away from a crying kiddo that I didn't really want to leave. How much I felt like I was missing out. 


People say the grass is always greener on the other side, but here's the thing: the grass is greener where you water it. I can choose to sit and think about what I no longer have (even though there are things I now have that I once longed for). OR, I can choose to think about how to water where I'm at now. How to make it the greenest and best that I can, making the most of my current plot of land.

So how do I do this? I am learning that it starts with self-reflection (hello, blog post and writing things down). It starts with realizing what makes me stressed and what makes me passive aggressive or upset- finding the root of that and figuring out how to re-frame my views on it. With a pandemic, a new baby, and a new business, it hasn't just been an easy breezy year (for anyone- many have had it much much worse). When I choose to recognize what keeps me mentally and emotionally at my best in my current world, my current field of grass, I start to advocate for and rearrange my routines to make it happen. I choose to turn my eyes away from someone else's grass and get out the hose to water my own. 

For me, personally, I have (HAVE) to work out basically every day or I am stressed out and short with people. So I will fit that in, whether that's waiting for Aaron to get home, seeing if I can find a friend or family member to pop by so I can sprint over to 9Round, or just running on the treadmill for even 20 minutes while both kids are napping. And though I don't often choose to do it, even working out after they've gone to bed or before they are up is worth it to me. And each time I choose to make this a priority, I open the spigot, and the sprinklers turn on. And the grass perks up. It's not perfect. But it's better.


Another thing that I'm finding works for me is reaching out to others for a little bit of help once a week with the kids. In my scenario, my mom and my mother in law are within 15 minutes of me, along with a couple of fabulous sister in laws and some very dear friends. It may not always be long, but having a couple of hours, or even a whole day to get things done for our business, our home, and myself is keeping me sane and helping me feel like I'm not having to neglect the kids, doing everything at once but none of it well. I recognize that not everyone is lucky enough to have family so close who can watch your kids without a price tag, but I would even consider finding another mama who is home that you could alternate dropping your kiddos with and getting a little time to yourself. Or, if it is a possibility and reality for you, maybe even paying someone once a week or part of a day so you can have a little time to get things done. The to-do list gets crossed off, you have a little time away, and you're a better mama when you're back with your kids again. And so, the sprinkler turns on. 

Lastly, I am trying to build in social time for myself- a major extrovert who can get a little crazy when I'm with only kids ages four and under all day. On the days I "work" without my kids, I try to build community with other wedding vendors. I try to be intentional about reaching out via text to friends, and Marco Polo has been a lifesaver lately because I can see and hear people and they can get back to me when it is convenient (and I can do the same with them). Although COVID has restricted some of the in-person possibilities, my best scenario would be having a park or play date with another mama at least once a week, and leaving the house at least once a day (even if it's just for a walk, a trip to the store, or even to fill our gas tank). These little "getaways" disrupt a long day at home and give me just a little bit of sanity. And each time I go on them, the water droplets start to rain down, giving me a little life and greening things up a bit. 

So the next time you start to compare, start to peek around and see who's got the greenest grass on the block, remember this. We are all in different seasons, different scenarios with different struggles and with different joys. What we have now could look much different in the blink of an eye. So rather than sadly looking at our brown blades of grass and wishing for more somewhere else, let's choose to do the work. Let's plant the seeds; let's put in the irrigation; let's do the work to see the beauty that our own situation possesses. Myself definitely included. Let's water our own grass, and be a part of helping others do the same. The grass is greener where you water it, and I'm striving to get the hose going this year and to do the best I can with what I've been given. Because it truly is a gift. 

Currently,

Kelsie


Sunday, November 22, 2020

Real Estate 101: Pros of Building a House

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Currently, Kelsie.

Although time will tell if it will ever happen, right now it is a goal of ours to build our own house on our land out at The Brim someday. Just like us, many people dream of owning a brand new, custom-made house that speaks to their personality, tastes, and preferences. However, many people battle with the question of whether to build or purchase their "perfect house" or "forever home". The path towards homeownership can be confusing and often unexpected, and each option requires careful consideration.



Building a house is a momentous decision and fulfilling adventure with substantial financial implications and several benefits. The following are the pros of building a house you should consider before breaking ground and putting your money where your mouth is:

A Clean Slate


Building a house from the ground up means starting with a clean slate! Woot woot. You don't have to worry about the foundation or the durability and esthetics of interior decorations and landscaping. The total control you have means that you get to choose everything that goes into the new house. Every corner, every paint color, and every room is customized to your taste and preference. In the end, you get to live in your dream house with flooring, layout, finishes, and furnishings that resonate with your personality.

Minimal Maintenance


A custom-made home allows you to opt for specific materials that are durable and environmentally friendly. You get the chance to own a house that meets the current energy and ventilation codes and standards. Therefore, you won't have to worry about municipal building standards, including water and sewage, because the authorities approved your plan. Working with professional contractors ensures that your building is properly inspected (although the process isn't always easy or quick)! The functionality of the house is updated. Quality is a guarantee with every layer of bricks or coat of paint. Less time and money will go into maintenance, renovations, and functional upgrades.

Satisfaction


The feeling of satisfaction that comes with building your house is unbeatable. Seeing your unique taste manifest throughout the house and listening to people compliment your work is lovely. Waking every day with the knowledge that you actively participated in every step of the project is heart-warming. You also get to learn new skills- and there is sure a lot to learn. From working with architects on the design and layout to landscaping, every process of building a house is a learning opportunity. While the learning curve may be steep mentally, physically, and financially, the result will be unbearably satisfying. You feel emotionally connected to every inch of the house, and get to enjoy the fruits of your labor! 

Cost-Saving


While the upfront cost of building a house can be off-putting, you will save a great deal in the long run. From maintenance cost to high resale value and energy efficiency, there are countless ways you can recoup your investment. The longer lifespan and customized feel will earn you competitive bids when reselling the house.

Freedom to Choose the Location


Building a house instead of buying gives you the freedom to choose the location (my favorite part because I want some land to BREATHE). If you dream of a house overlooking the beach, find vacant land in the location, make payments, and turn your dream into a reality. Building a house is a profoundly satisfying experience that gives you the freedom to customize every aspect of your living space. Before beginning this journey, share ideas for your dream home with experts to avoid costly mistakes.

Have an amazing time turning your dream home into your real home. I hope we're able to do the same someday! 

Currently,
Kelsie

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Eli's Big Boy Room Reveal

Well, it's been almost a year. But hey, turns out that having a baby, navigating a world-wide pandemic, teaching online, and starting/running a business can give you a run for your money! Anyways, it has been a long time coming, but I'm finally sharing Eli's Big Boy Room today on the blog. Check it out! 

Little man needed to move over to a big boy room before his little sis made her way into the world. Last Thanksgiving, we decided to have Eli vacate the crib and get used to his new room a couple of months before my due date. Turned out to be a good idea, because Addie joined us 10 days early, just like Eli did! 

We started with naps in the big bed (a full), and then transitioned to full time sleeping in there. Eli was nearly three at this point, but he had never really been a crib climber so we rode out the crib as long as we could. We had a full bed in our guest room anyways, with a reversible navy comforter, so I took that and ran with it. I did buy a "bumper" online from Amazon, which I love because it just goes underneath the fitted sheet and is soft and easy to slide in or out and take along with us if needed. Honestly, on trips, we have just put pillows underneath the fitted sheet and it has accomplished a similar effect. Here's the link to our bumper! 


Eli is a HUGE dinosaur fan (cue the THREE REX Bday Party), so I wanted to run with that, and tie in pops of navy with the bedspread. I also wanted to lighten up the walls, and change up the white trim. We redid our own bedroom a couple of years ago, so we went with the same trim color (Bistro White), along with a gray that was on the same paint strip as our master bathroom, but was a shade lighter: Valspar's Seashell Gray. I LOVE it so much and it really makes the room feel light and airy. Plus, I don't want to re-do E's room a million times when he changes his mind on what he likes. So I figured if we did a pale gray then we could change out bed sheets and other decor, but we wouldn't be constantly re-painting the room. And it's great for a guest room or future re-sale if needed! 


I wanted the decor to be simple and affordable, yet all about Eli. So we went with a few different E pieces that I found at Hobby Lobby on sale, along with some of Eli's own decor. There are canvases of bulldozers that both he and Aaron painted (can you guess whose is whose ha?). There is also a framed coloring page he made the summer I was pregnant, which is pretty crazy because he somehow always knew that he was getting a baby sister even though she was a surprise to us! (We didn't find out the gender of our babies before they were born- best surprise ever.)

BEFORE:

AFTER:



From there, I found some curtains I liked from Kohl's that weren't nuts expensive. I ended up loving the simple navy stripes, and I liked how it both a little color into the room. We also had a couple of awesome Royals paintings that we got from a Wine and Design shop one time when we were there for a Valentine's Day Date. Turns out that they often sell their sample paintings they make while teaching classes, and they were really affordable- like five bucks! 

We pulled all of our books off of the old bookshelf we already had in the room from when it was our "guest room" and found new homes for them. Then I purchased a couple of cute, simple bins from Kohl's so I would have a place to dump Eli's toys and have it look organized without spending a bunch. I love them so much and Eli can pull them out and play, then pick up after himself. It's the best. 

We finished up the decor with a few photo frames and family pictures out at The Brim with Eli. They were our fall family photos, as well as our last photos as a family of three, so they are extra special to us and I don't know that I'll replace them anytime soon. I also moved over a few of the hospital photos with E from the nursery. We don't have a door on the closet still, but I honestly don't know that we'll worry about it for a while. I keep it pretty organized, and found a couple of Dollar Store Bins that make it look decent without a door. Who knows.




All in all, E is thrilled with his room and is happy to show it off to anyone who comes to visit or play. We are so grateful that he is such a great sleeper and that he loves his room and had no problems moving over before Baby Sis joined us. He was happy to let the nursery be Addie's room, and we're glad he has his own amazing space! 

Currently,

Kelsie


Monday, November 2, 2020

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, I zipped my black coat up over my very pregnant belly and drove with Aaron out to The Brim. It was the first time we were letting people in on our story- one that had been going on for nearly two years at that point. We had worked diligently on the back end, preparing a website, an LLC, special use permit and more. And now, finally, it was time to let others in. One year ago today. 


We had used most of our Babymoon to finalize things in preparation for our November 2nd event. We wrote a letter and mailed out invites, and hoped and prayed that the right people would show up. And then we stood in our gravel parking lot and waited. Cars started rolling in. We walked across the dirt ground and shared the back story of The Brim: how we had written a letter to get the land, why we wanted to buy it in the first place, and our hearts for the space. We told them of crazy circumstances that led to us being given more land, and a driveway. The meeting in Austin, the check, and the architect. The fact that we had to do this.

Then we stepped into the ceremony space: no sod there yet, just dirt. Dirt, and a half finished paver aisle walkway. Even if no one else did, we believed brides and grooms would walk down that aisle and say, "I Do". But we truly had no idea what the next year would bring.

We'd bring more people out to hear our story and our hearts for marriage. And little by little, they'd jump in to make it matter too. We'd get supporters who believed in our dream and our mission, who wanted to be a part of helping turn the chapel we talked of into a reality. We'd plant sod and seed and hope and pray for the best. 

We'd bring a baby girl (a beautiful surprise) into this world in January. I'd answer emails about inquiries in the hospital. And the day after we got home, I'd throw on real clothes and makeup and go over to Starbucks to sign a contract. Then the Chiefs would win the Super Bowl. I'd book a few more weddings.

Then a world-wide pandemic would hit. We'd keep working, keep pushing. Buy chairs and a storage unit and try not to lose our minds while staying at home teaching with two kids ages three and under. We'd see a need as COVID rocked the wedding world, and we'd open early. On March 23rd, we would watch from our truck as our first couple said their vows- 10 or fewer total people allowed, on a chilly Monday with half green sod behind them.


And then, we'd continue to make sure people knew about our free ceremony options, and we'd offer them affordable cake and toast and other reception options too. Suddenly, bookings would start flying in. Ten, twenty, thirty. Until we reached thirty-nine. Thirty-nine. 

We'd watch couple after couple commit themselves to one another between the rows of poles that Aaron painted white and put in the ground. We'd rent and then purchase a tent, and a dance floor, and lighting, as suddenly we found longer, bigger receptions happening- still outside and still COVID friendly. We'd see couples who had to plan their weddings two or three times finally feel the joy of being married. We'd tear up time and time again as we watched first dances underneath the soft glow of Edison lights. 


We (mainly me) would stress out over and over again watching the weather and hoping and praying that the wind or the rain or the snow or the temperature would cooperate. And somehow, they always would. We'd get fantastic interns who helped with set up and tear down, and we'd spend week after week watching amazing families and friends fill our space to cheer on the sweetest couples. 

We'd invite people out for Full Fridays, and dance and sing while sharing laughs and drinks and tacos together. We'd tell our story again and again to anyone who would hear it. And we'd leap. 

I'd go on sabbatical after months and months of deliberation, then wonder how I would have ever survived working full time plus working three or more weddings every weekend in the fall. We would get closer and closer to our chapel goal. And then one day, four days ago, we'd drive up the road to Jamesport and sign our contract with the very pen that Aaron loaned so many couples to sign their own marriage licenses. 

One year ago today, we didn't know what we didn't know. It hasn't all been easy and it hasn't all been perfect, but it has certainly all been worth it. Marriage matters. This season, this year has mattered. And we can't wait to see what the next year brings. 

Currently,

Kelsie

Friday, August 28, 2020

Flying Southwest Airlines During COVID

 A few weeks ago, my family made it out to Colorado for a nice little socially distanced getaway in the mountains. Aaron and Eli drove, so that we could have our car and all of the belongings packed into it. But we had some Southwest credit to use, and I was also not super excited about the idea of riding in the back seat of our Toyota Camry for 10 hours with a three year old and a seven month old. So Addie and I flew! I took a few photos and videos, and wanted to share a bit about my experience. Of course not everyone is ready to fly just yet, but some people have been waiting to see their family for months and months, some may be ready to get (safely) out of the house, and others may have to travel for work or other business. So here is a bit about my experience flying Southwest during COVID-19.


First of all, since Aaron was driving and had our larger items, I decided to just wear Addie and carry only her diaper bag and my small carry-on purse. I didn't check any bags. Because Addie is a lap child, I still had to check in at the Southwest Counter in order to show them her birth certificate. At KCI, it was completely dead, as you can see in this video. Everyone is doing online boarding passes on your phone, and even checking bags in at the self-service counters. They are also practicing spacing and social distancing.


I was met with another largely non-existent line at the security area. They had one side shut down, and then Xs marked on the ground for you to stand and distance. I was wearing Addie, so they had me go through the separate Xray scanner. Easy peasey. 


The gate area was the first time I actually saw any other people. Everyone was masked (as required), and then most people were able to leave seats in between each other in the gate area if they weren't traveling together. Southwest has also revamped their boarding process, so they only call ten people up at a time and have them socially distance when boarding. (So A 1-10, then 11-20, etc). I got on with the family boarding after the A group was done. 


All middle seats are open on Southwest right now, unless you are traveling with someone and would like to sit right next to them. Basically, you won't have more than two people in a row. This is set to continue through 10/31 as of now. Masks are required unless you are taking a drink or grabbing a quick bite to eat. I always saw everyone masked. I grabbed an aisle seat and had a nice masked convo with a very sweet lady who was going to visit her grandkids.


They did not do their typical service, but instead offered lidded water cups and a snack bag if you wanted it. People who were uncomfortable with that just declined the offer. I should also mention that Southwest is using an air recirculation system that "introduces fresh air into the cabin every second while inflight, resulting in a complete exchange of cabin air every two to three minutes. We use HEPA filters onboard that remove 99.97% of airborne particles*—similar to the technology found in hospitals." (Southwest.com). They are also taking extraordinary measures in their cleaning, which you can read more about here on their website. 


There has been more and more research lately on how air travel (when done well like Southwest is doing) is actually safer than ever. I have read a few articles about how COVID-19 did not pass from an infected passengers to others while on board, even during the sustained time together, because everyone was masked and because of the air filtration being provided. I certainly felt like they were taking great care of us all, and I was pleasantly surprised that most of the experience felt fairly normal, other than the extra pre-cautions of course.

Again, I completely understand that not everyone may be ready to fly right now, but I wanted to provide some details and information for those of you who are considering it or wondering what it was like! Let me know if you have any questions or if I can help you with anything travel-related! 

Currently,
Kelsie











Tuesday, July 28, 2020

31.

30 has come and gone. I may only be changing digits and not decades this year, but it has been one of growth and being stretched in ways I never anticipated. 30 brought our sweet baby girl. It brought bump pics and potty training and cheesin after church. It brought the launch of The Brim, and learning how to be business partners with your spouse (and somehow still like each other). It brought questions and dreams, risks and leaps. Being stretched in more ways than I knew possible, and yet somehow feeling invigorated by the change I typically hate. It brought learning how to be a mom of two, working online from home, and never “going back” in person from my maternity leave. It brought a global pandemic, anxiety, and a season of waiting and longing while also holding on to hope and trust. It brought the decision to step away from teaching for a season, to follow my heart and my current calling, even through it’s risky and unknown. 



I may not be reflecting on an entire decade today, but somehow I feel like this year has grown me in similar ways to that of all my twenties combined. Just when you think you’ve figured out a good chunk of your life, things seems to be shaken up and rearranged with more questions than answers. And yet, there is beauty in the journey and joy in the unveiling of the next step ahead- with just enough light to find footing on a path that is largely dark. 

I know I will be here until my purpose is fulfilled, and I am grateful that it seems God has more up His sleeves for my life than I could have dreamed. I’ve realized that it is a blessing to grow older, and so today I march forward with a little more gray in my hair, a little more pep in my step, and a little more confidence that 31 will be a year of growth, hope, and striving to make a difference with the days that I’m given. Here we go! 

Currently,
Kelsie

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Sabbatical

The school year ended May 22nd, and it didn’t even feel like it. I was at home with my kids, not on a sun-soaked football field signing yearbooks for the sweet students I spent the last year, or two, or three years with. There was a unique beauty in online teaching. Being home with Eli and Addie, not having to “go back” from maternity leave, having freedom in my days. But of course there were also struggles: balancing two kids and two teachers working from home, missing the in person interaction of students, co-workers, and friends. One of the weirdest things about it all is this: I walked out of school on January 8, 2020 not knowing that Addie would be born the next morning, that COVID-19 would force online learning, or that I would never get the chance to say goodbye to my students in person. Not knowing that I wouldn’t be back.


For the 2020-2021 school year, I will be taking a leave of absence, or "sabbatical" from teaching. I am both thrilled to be home with my babies, and also a little bit terrified. This is a decision that was not made lightly or easily. I knew that being away from Eli while teaching full-time had been more difficult for me than I anticipated, but I had done it. We had a great sitter, amazing grandmas, and a fairly good routine down. But with Addie joining us, I feel my heart calling me to my own kids for a season. Knowing that I would be teaching full time, adding another kid to the crazy morning mix, and managing a busier season with The Brim left me feeling like I would be doing everything and yet doing none of it well. I wrestled and wrestled with this decision, mainly because I recognize that I have it so good. My poor husband, family, and friends have listened to me talk about whether or not to do this a million times, and even after I finally made my decision, I second-guessed myself. I mourned all of the good things about teaching that I knew that I would be letting go of. It’s a blessing to have a job that you feel torn about stepping away from, even if it's just for a year, and a crazy year at that. 

In May of 2011, I graduated from the University of Missouri and walked the halls of Liberty High School for the first time as a teacher that August. For the last nine years, I have known nothing other than putting on LHS gear and heading across 152 to the school, home of the Blue Jays, to spend my days with pretty incredible kiddos and some really wonderful co-workers. I came in as a 22 year old, freshly out of college, and since then I've had two classrooms, got married, earned my Master's Degree, and had two babies- along with countless other big life moments. I have grown as an adult and have seen the journey of life take different roads than I would ever have anticipated. Teaching AP and Gifted ELA has meant teaching some of the most brilliant, capable, and creative students. And it is very difficult to give that up, knowing that I may never be back in the same place.  


For now, I am basically a "frozen" employee. During my leave, I can put my name in to be “reinstated” and I would be able to get the next open teaching job in my certification (9-12 ELA or Gifted K-12) within the school district. Obviously, this means I am not guaranteed to be back at LHS, which has made all of this much, much harder as I step out of a year where there was certainly no closure. I literally went into my room for one two-hour period and took nine years worth of things off the walls and out of the file cabinets. It felt strange, emotional, and anti-climactic. Surreal really. Normally I would've had weeks of packing things up, slowly navigating through files while still seeing my students and treasuring these last memories with them. My neighbor teacher would have come in with a mug of coffee and we would have laughed about a crazy kid story. I would have shared senior superlatives and read my annual Letter to My Students. Instead, I teared up, took off my mask to take one last selfie outside my room, and walked down an empty hallway by myself, carrying the weight of the fact that I may never be back as a teacher at LHS again. It was like ripping off a bandaid. I cried when I left my keys on a desk in the normally bustling, empty office. That being said, there is also a sense of freedom in knowing that I’m making the right decision for right now, even though there’s so much unknown. Even though it’s scary. 

When people ask, “What do you do?”, I normally say I'm a teacher. For this next year, I’m not really sure yet how I will respond to that question. Honestly, I know this school year will look different for all of the teachers. Not having a typical "first day of school" will feel extra strange for us all; we'll miss the normalcy of our days, the pre-COVID school climate that was better than we realized at the time. My heart goes out to all the teachers in the trenches this year (whether online or virtual), including my own husband. I’m realizing that teaching has been a really huge part of my identity, and the only job that I felt sure I would ever do: potentially at the only school I would ever teach at for 30+ years. But while I find out what the Lord has for the future, I know that I am going to cherish this year with my children, and trust that He will take me right where I should be (and it seems that this sabbatical proved to be pretty timely). He has never failed me yet. 



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It’s hard to believe that over a thousand students have filled the desks in my classroom over the last eight years. 👩🏽‍🏫 A thousand futures, a thousand smiles, a thousand precious lives that have crossed paths with my own. They are my absolute favorite part of teaching: the students. If you were one of my previous students OR YL friends (who'll forever be some of "my kids"), comment below with what you’re up to these days! In honor of all the incredible kiddos I've seen over the years (some who aren’t “kiddos” at all anymore), click @currentlykelsie and the #linkinbio to see my "letter to my students”- my most popular blog post EVER. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to all the amazing educators I had, taught with, and still learn from! You make a difference! 💕#teachersofinstagram #teacherappreciationweek #teach
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Whatever the next chapter looks like, I am forever grateful for what this one has been. There have been thousands of amazing kids that I've had the pleasure of teaching and have connected with through years of Liberty YoungLife, and I would not have traded a single second of that. I've worked football games and proms, coached softball, attended Senior girls lock ins and amazing musicals, judged Mr. Liberty and taken kids to national NHD competitions and even overseas to Greece. I have been a part of winning faculty basketball teams and choreographed Staffires dances, dressed crazy for spirit weeks, and made a fool of myself on numerous occasions in front of my class of chuckling kids. These high school students have made my job fun and given it purpose, and I am so grateful for all of the relationships made in the hours, days, and years we've shared. My students are forever "my kids", and I'm so excited to see all the amazing things they'll go on to do. If you're one of them reading this, know that I care about you and am so proud of you.

I may be back at LHS. I may not. Time will tell. But one thing is for sure, I am so grateful to be a Bluejay, and I will miss it this school year, COVID and all. Now it's time to go make some memories with my babies. 

Currently,
Kelsie

Monday, June 29, 2020

A Quick Trip to Columbia, MO (with Kids)

After trying to figure out how to spend our 7th wedding anniversary, we ended up jumping in the car and going on a short trip to a place that's special to us both: Columbia, MO. With everything going on right now, and with the age of our kids, going somewhere far away or overnight alone wasn't really an option. Even though we didn't technically attend Mizzou at the same time, we both went to and graduated from MU, so a trip to Columbia means visits to our favorite restaurants and sentimental memories of our college days. If you're going to make a little road trip to Columbia, here are a few places you can't miss, as well as some tips for navigating the trip with little kids. 

A Quick Trip to Columbia, MO with Kids

The Food


This place is amazing, and if you go to Columbia and you don't stop here to try the Nachos Bianco, you're missing out! They recently added another location, but we love the downtown one. We stopped in here for a delicious dinner on our second night. 


This is THE pizza place you hear about when you're in Columbia. They actually just opened their "dine in" options again (with precautions of course) on the night of our anniversary, so this was our fancy anniversary dinner ha! I personally love the Darwin, and Aaron is a big fan of their meat pizza. We actually prefer the South location just because it has so much space and isn't usually quite as crowded as the recently remodeled downtown option.

Say what you will, but when it comes to late night, Gumby's Pokey Stix take the prize! We ordered them one night before heading back to our hotel to get the kids to bed. Their pepperoni rolls are also delicious. 

This place is normally so so busy (we're talking a 90 min wait that you stood around and waited for on special weekend), but with COVID we were able to walk right in! I personally love the Hobgobbler with their delicious mashed potatoes, and they also have their own brewery if you're interested in a flight. 

This is a kind of a hidden gem downtown, but it is delicious! I had the Pulled Chicken Club and Aaron enjoyed the Buffalo Chicken Wrap. My side of Mac and Cheese was amazing- and Eli gave a big thumbs up! They also have their own brewery and lots of special theme nights. 

We have recently gained (and are gaining) Andy's in the KC area, but during our college days it held special memories of late night concretes and sweet YoungLife friends. 

Shockingly, Columbia isn't just about food, although I could go on with other options. But these are the ones that we were most excited to have again, especially in light of COVID and what all was open for either dine in or carry-out. Also, a small shout out to Trops, which sadly closed earlier than we expected. Until next time!


Activities

Obviously, we had a 3 year old and 5 month old with us, so we weren't going too crazy with activities. But we did find a few fun things to do together. 

First of all, we had to go on a nostalgic couple of walks around the Mizzou Campus. This may not mean as much to you if you didn't actually attend the University of Missouri, but it is still a gorgeous campus and worth a visit. Since there are not currently any in-person classes occurring, the campus was pretty much dead, which was weird but also kind of nice. We of course had to make some special visits to both the Quad/Columns, and also to Greek Town to see the Theta house where I lived for three years! 


The view across the street from Theta is crazy these days, as the dorm I lived in during my freshmen year no longer exists! Just trees there now, and you can see the football stadium. 


I remember coming to Stephen's Lake to go on runs or to study outside with friends in college. I was excited to come here with our kids, as they have a great playground, a couple of different options for walking paths, and a spray park! We were excited to have an option at the spray park, as the pool in our hotel was currently closed, and many spray parks in Kansas City are also closed right now. 


Located in the Columbia Mall, Level Up was our answer to finding something fun that Eli could enjoy for an hour or two. Aaron paid for the two hour pass, and then he and E could play as many games (almost like a Chuck E. Cheese) as they wanted during that time. Poor Addie was a little over-stimulated by the bright lights and loud sounds, but E had the time of his life. Level Up also had a bowling alley and a ropes course inside. 

Tips for Traveling with Kids

One of our little life hacks for traveling with kids is making sure we anticipate their need for naps, and then ensure that our room will provide for that option while also giving us a place to hang out without having to be completely silent for hours. Enter, the suite. 

Stay in a Suite 
This time around, we stayed at Staybridge Suites, a recently remodeled hotel located where 63 meets 70. They had individually packed breakfast we got for free each morning. It was quiet and comfy, and we had a huge room. The bedroom was separate and had two queen beds, and then a door shut to separate from our full kitchen, desk, barstools, couch, TV, and chairs. It was a perfect space to hang out and watch TV or get some work done while the kids napped.

Call Ahead
I called our hotel ahead and they had a crib on site, so we didn't have to bring our pack and play along for Addie. They also were able to confirm early check in for us so we didn't miss nap time.


Be Flexible
Eli sleeps in a full at home with a bumper under his bed. Since we had two queens in our hotel, I put one of his big pillows under the fitted sheet of his queen, and it created a similar bumper type feel so that he wouldn't roll out of bed. I also realized that our room didn't have a bathtub for bathing the kids, so E took a shower with Aaron and I gave Addie her bath in our room's kitchen sink! 

Have Low Expectations
Set the bar of your expectations low...and then lower it some more. I had a hard time initially transitioning from our old travel experiences to those with kids. But once I reminded myself that we would have to be back in the room for nap time, and earlier for bedtime, it got easier. This time around, I brought books and work, or went to work out during nap time so that I wouldn't feel "locked in the room". I also planned things for us in the morning and in the evening, and then saw what all we could fit in. 

At the end of the day, it's about having fun and making sweet memories together- even if that has to look a little slower or less exciting than you're used to. We were initially planing to have a kid free date day on our anniversary, but I had multiple moments where I watched our kids laugh on this trip and I felt like I couldn't have come up with a better way to celebrate seven years together. Cheers to a fun family getaway! 

Currently,
Kelsie