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


Sunday, May 31, 2020

Our Wildflower Family Photos

As Aaron and I have started to share more of our story and hearts behind The Brim, we've been absolutely blown away by the amazing support of those who don't even know us. From videographers jumping into make a short video at no cost, to people following along and sharing things on social media, we have truly felt so loved and blessed by those who choose to be a part of this journey with us. One such person is the amazing Kristen of Kristen Cline Photography. After seeing that we were offering free wedding ceremonies for brides affected by COVID-19, Kristen reached out with her own little thank you. She was doing photo sessions in a gorgeous wildflower field in Weston, and she offered us a complimentary session as a way of supporting us and saying thanks. For this mama, it was the perfect gift, and just in time for Mother's Day! 



Holy smokes, did Kristen ever deliver!! She was so fun and sweet to work with, and we just love her heart for brides and grooms. She was so kind, and was able to wrangle our little family of four with ease, while capturing these precious memories. And that field! All the heart eyes. 




What I love most about these photos and that they are real, and raw, and totally us. The way Addie stares up at her big brother and smiles. The clingy tendencies of E and the way in which he cheeses way too hard in many photos. The sweet, innocent, side-tilted head that is so his personality right now. A sweet kiss on the cheek for his mama, who he asks for just one more hug and one more kiss each night before bed.




If you're a mama, there is not doubt that you are aware of just how crazy fast your kiddos grow and change. Time is flying, and although we do have Addie's newborn photos of the four of us, she is already so much different. And so is Eli! Gosh, I just can't even handle these photos of them. And that fact that we got E to hold Addie for just long enough to capture that sweet photo? You go, Kristen! 




These babies are the sweetest blessing and most precious gift. I love them so so much. Can they just stay little forever?



Of course, I had to sneak in a couple of photos with my main man. Even though COVID-19 meant neither one of us had haircuts before these photos, I love that Kristen captured a little reminder of where this whole thing started. We hadn't taken photos together just the two of us since we were the "bride and groom" in the Tuscan Villa Styled Shoot back in fall of 2018. I think this may be the only time that my vineyard-tending hubby had a deeper tan than me (it was early May and I certainly had not seen much sun ha)! I love this guy and am thankful for this special Mother's Day adventure, which we followed with some delicious Tin Kitchen




I will cherish these sweet photos of our family forever. No I just have to decide which one to make my new profile picture (which I rarely change). It will be a hard choice since I love them all! 

Currently,
Kelsie


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

"Do I Pay You to Book My Trip?"

Since the start of CK Travel and my journey into the travel agent world, I have been asked some questions about how payment works. Honestly, I had some of the same questions in the past when I was booking with an agency. No one likes feeling like they're paying more than they need to, or are being charged some hidden fee. In an effort to be transparent, and help clear up some common misconceptions, here are some answers!


1. Do I pay you to book my trip?

Nope! You don't. I book your trip at no additional cost to you.

2. Will I pay more to book with you than to book on my own?

No. You will not pay a dime more to book with me. If you've found a trip deal that is cheaper than a quote I've provided, send it my way and we can provide added value for the same price, or find a way to save you money! Often times, I can check a variety of vendors and carriers, and can even save you more than what you've found on your own. If there was ever a situation where we truly would be unable to save you money (for instance, if you were booking Southwest flights only with points), I would let you know that! I won't ever add hidden fees.


3. How does an agency (and you) make any money then?

Commission is a big part of the travel agency world. When you book your own travel using a large travel site like Expedia or Travelocity, they will make a commission from the hotel and airline after your trip (which happens, even though you don't see it listed as part of the price). In our situation, after you travel, the travel commission portion being paid out either way from the hotels/airlines/vendors goes to our agency for helping get the client booked, so you are supporting people you actually know, rather than an huge online booking engine! Plus you have a face and a name (and a great, award winning company) that actually knows you to personally help with things.


4. Why should I consider booking with you versus on my own?

Trip planning can be very overwhelming for a lot of people. When you book with me, you will be able to provide some basic information like desired destination, length of stay, budget, and hopes for the trip. Then I take it and run with it, doing the searching and the research to find the best possible fit for your vacation. I'll look into current specials, use my own travel experiences, and even provide you with some ideas of great itineraries and things to see and do while you're there. If you're someone who likes doing the basic research, that's great too. You can do that, then I'll step in for the details, and our agency will handle the customer experience, reminders, and last minute specifics for you! We work as a great team to help you and make your trip as easy and stress-free as possible, even when some unexpected challenges come up. We've got your back!

5. Is there anything else I should know? 

I'm here to clarify the confusion that can arise from doing an overwhelming amount of research on your own. I'll use my own wide-range of experience traveling (everything from European tours to all-inclusives, cruises, and more) to help provide you with amazing costumer service. I will be up front and transparent with you throughout the booking process. Sit back and let your vacation planning be they way it should: stress-free!



Ready to start planning?
Shoot me an email at kelsie@cruiseholidayskc.com or contact me here so we can get you packing!

Currently,
Kelsie

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Introducing: CK Travel

If you've been around or have known me for a while, you know just how much I LOVE travel. It has been a passion of mine for years, and I've regularly shared about our amazing adventures on the blog. Whether it was figuring out the million details of our 17 day trip across Europe, or ironing out the small stops of our little getaway to Hermann, trip planning is something I love doing- both for myself, and for others. Which is why I'm excited to announce a new adventure: CK Travel!


Back in December, I decided to take my passion for travel to the next level, and in early March I signed on as an Independent Contractor with Cruise Holidays, a thirty year, award-winning travel agency in Kansas City!

Now I have all of the tools and tricks at my fingertips to help plan the most amazing vacations for all of you! From all-inclusive resorts to European adventures, ocean and river cruises, tours, and everything in between- I'm ready to help send you on the trip of your dreams! I specialize in leisure vacation travel: nothing is too big or too small. We do not charge any additional fees to book, and we will either help you save money, or provide additional value if the price of the trip is the same. I'll have your back if there is a problem, will help eliminate stress, and will provide options you may not have even thought of- personalizing your trip to be the absolute best fit for you. Families, groups, couples, solo trips- I can do it all!

Along the way, I'll keep sharing some helpful tips and fun recaps here on the blog, but I can plan for you even if you aren't local to Kansas City! When you're ready to get out and explore, click here to book a trip! You can also shoot me an email at kelsie@cruiseholidayskc.com. I can't wait to get you planned and packing!

Currently,
Kelsie


Thursday, April 9, 2020

March Recap

My how life can change in a month. Last month I was worried about how much time I had left at home on maternity leave. And then in a matter of a few weeks, life changed a whole bunch. We settled into quarantine and all things COVID-19, I went "back to work" three weeks early, and we figured out how to work full time from home with a three year old and a two month old. It has been a hard, weird, but also strangely joyful time for everyone. Here's what we were up to in March, complete with Addie's updates, blogging recaps, and some fun photos!




Addie's Three Month Update

Addie Jo is growing like a weed! We didn't have an official doctor's appointment this month, but she is a little over 13 pounds according to me, our scale, and some simple subtraction. She is in the weird stage where some sleep sacks are too big for her, but her others are too small. She has really been smiley and even a little giggly most days. Though she does have her occasional fussy moments, she sure is a sweetie.

Addie is in size two diapers and just venturing into 3-6 months clothes, although she can still wear some of her 3 month stuff. This month she settled into regularly sleeping 8+ hours at night (praise the Lord), went on a million quarantine walks, and let Mama play dress up with some of her old outfits (like the one pictured). Addie loves watching her big brother play toys, kicking her feet, and sucking on her hands.  🎀 We can't imagine life without our sweet girl! (And she did get a little tired of Mama's photo shoots after a while!)



Unexpected Silver Linings

In the midst of an incredibly trying time for our world, I have been trying to focus on the sweet silver linings that have unexpectedly come my way. One of these is the fact that I would have been on unpaid maternity leave for three more works, but instead I am able to work from home and be fully paid while still getting to love on my babies. Sure, this has its challenged on a daily basis, but mainly it has been such a gift. We also got to host our first wedding at The Brim, which was pretty amazing and just kind of fell into place with the Stay at Home order going into effect. Our first Brim Bride was absolutely incredible, and I am so excited for all that is to come there.

I also have been able to be outside all the time, which is a HUGE difference from my classroom where I don't even have a window. That has made this spring pretty amazing so far. Of course there have been a million other blessings, like Aaron cooking amazing meals all of the time, technology allowing for online church and friendship connections, and being able to sleep in a bit more without having to get up and dressed and off to work with two kids.


Choose Grace

The only real blog post I wrote this month was called Choose Grace. It was all about choosing alll the grace in every aspect of our lives right now, and for everyone around us. My students, their parents, my spouse, myself, my babies- there are so many ways that all of us are learning and adapting right now. No one's struggles are invalid. I'd encourage you (and myself) to continue to choose grace daily. Check out the post for more!


Otherwise, this month was all about this new normal and figuring out how to navigate things with both productive routine and joyful spontaneity. We are at home at least through April 27th, and we will see if we end up going "back to school" this school year or not. We are done for the year on May 22nd. Lots of other things are going on that I will be able to recap a bit more at the end of the month! Happy April!

Currently,
Kelsie



Thursday, March 19, 2020

Choose Grace

Today I popped into my school to prepare for the extended flexible learning that’s starting. While other teachers had done some precautionary packing prior to the start of Spring Break, I had to run back into the eerily quiet, regularly bustling building. Most of my teaching materials are online anyways, but I’ve been on maternity leave since January 8th and wasn't planning to be back yet, so there were a few books and binders I needed to grab to make sure I can make it though. Potentially through the rest of the year. And when I got there, I was caught so off guard.


My room was completely empty. So were nearly all of the other rooms I saw. Desks and chairs littered the hallways. I had to search to find my bookshelves near some lockers. Books were in boxes, but pens and sticky notes still scattered the top of my desk like remnants that weren't intended to be left behind. It was weird. It left me in a bad head space. Emotions and worries started to bubble up. But then a sweet conversation with my janitor, who was there doing the deep cleaning, made my mind shift.

As we venture into this new "normal" for as long as we have to, I am realizing that I must again and again choose grace. Grace for myself as a teacher, and the expectations I have for my Gifted and AP kiddos (especially with a 3 yr old and 2 month old at home with me). Grace for my students, many of whom are now babysitting their siblings on top of their own high school studies- proms, graduations, so many things up in the air. Grace for the parents of these students, who are likely trying to help their kids navigate this new world while dealing with their own work, or lack of it. And I sure hope they'll give us teachers grace too.


Grace for my own babies, as they have absolutely no idea what's going on or why we're stressed or we can't do certain things we used to outside of our house. Grace for my husband, as we enter this season of both of us working from home, caring for two little ones, and not really seeing any other adults but one another. 

This is what so many of us, really all of us have to choose in this moment. Grace for our government leaders who are making choices they never dreamt they'd be making. Grace for bosses and administrators who are doing their best to keep things afloat while caring deeply about our health and safety. Grace for people who have breakdowns or need support with tough job situations. And honestly, grace for ourselves. Our world has changed A TON in about a week, and we're all having to let go of selfish desires, to do lists, and our plans- all for the greater good. It is challenging and yet, oddly purifying. We will make it through, and in the end, I certainly believe we will come out stronger and more appreciative of all we typically take for granted. There is little we can control right now, but we do get to control how we choose to deal with our current challenges.

Choose grace.

Currently,
Kelsie


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

February Recap

February has come and gone, and March is already moving right along! I've only got about a month left of maternity leave- it is certainly flying by and I'm nervous to see what working full time with two kiddos looks like. Here's what we were up to this February, complete with Addie's updates, blogging recaps, and some fun photos!


Addie's Two Month Update

Addie Jo is growing like a weed! Our official doctor's appointment was today, and she's already 12 pounds 3 ounces. She feels long to me at 22 inches, as she is already busting out of her Newborn Sleepsack with all of the kicking she loves to do. Although she's mean mugging in in most of these photos, she has been gracing us with some adorable smiles and the occasional sleepy giggle.


Addie is in size one diapers and wearing 0-3 months clothes. I think she'll be moving on to 3-6 month clothes before long. This month she celebrated her first Valentine’s Day, slept through the night, went on lots of walks, and celebrated her big brother’s birthday. She loves snoozing on Daddy’s chest, riding in her car seat, and playing with E! 🎀 We love our Addie so much!

There is Still Good

This month I wrote a blog post sharing about my crazy experience at Target and how it made me remember and be thankful that there are still good people in this world. Check it out here.


Free Mama Moments

Because when your kids both nap at the same time, and give you a minute to sit on your bed and soak up the silence, you document the moment. Gosh they're both so great. But, I've certainly been grateful for the breaks my amazing mama has given me so I can run, shower, and get things done!



I'm loving these new hipster hoop earrings from Giving Tree Gallery! They're lightweight, stylish, and they go with everything- whether my hair is up or down. Silver is my jam, and these are so fun!  Check out their website for beautiful handcrafted jewelry and home decor.

THREE Rex Birthday Party 

We had a great time celebrating Eli's Third Birthday with a fun THREE Rex Party. We weren't sure we were going to do a big birthday party for Eli this year (especially with a six week old, but we went for it and we are SO glad that we did!)  You can check out all of the fun details and photos here.



Otherwise, this month was all about getting into our groove with our little lady and soaking up sweet time with E. I'll be back to work on April 14th to finish out the school year, but I'm certainly in no hurry for that time to be here. I'm looking forward to a great rest of maternity leave, and of this month- which will include Spring Break time with Daddy. Happy March!

Currently,
Kelsie

Thursday, March 5, 2020

THREE Rex Birthday Party

We've been blessed with another whole year of Eli! Although we considered skipping a birthday party this year with the birth of our sweet Addie in January, we decided we really wanted to give our sweet boy a chance to be celebrated, especially since he has been navigating his new role as big brother so well. We had such a great time with his ONEsie First Birthday Party and Taco TWOsday Party that I wanted to find another fun theme. And since he's obsessed with dinosaurs right now (and was one for Halloween), a THREE Rex party was the perfect fit! Here are all of the details in case you'd like to throw your own!


Decor and Theme Apparel 

I love to find fun decor that is not only cute but also cost efficient. Eli loves dinosaurs so much that he has dinosaur bedding, so I switched out his sheets and hung up his dino sheet as a backdrop. His were from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and are discontinued now, but you can find a bunch of ideas here.


With his sheets as inspiration, I went with green, blue, and silver as his main colors, with a gold accent. I purchased his THREE Rex balloon set on Amazon: it came with the big number three, the rex balloons, and a dino balloon. The three and the dino balloon can be filled with helium, but considering that the helium shortage meant spending $26 on helium to fill them, we just inflated them and hung them or set them on the floor. I spent less than $10 on all of them. I also picked up balloons, streamers, and dino plates from our local Dollar Tree.


I made a simple twine banner for downstairs, designed and printed off some fun things on Canva, and did a birthday party online evite for invitations. I also printed off these dinosaur footprints, had E color them, and then cut them out and put them around the house! I love these fun, free ways to accent the theme.


I was going to put Eli in his Halloween dino costume, but it was actually quite warm on the day of his birthday and the costume was fleece, so instead he wore a little dino t-shirt I found on clearance at Carter's a long time ago. You can find a bunch of similar options here for your little dino. We didn't ask people to dress in theme, but some did if they had dinosaur options!


Food and Drinks 

After some research getting ideas online, I decided to play up the dino theme and have some fun with our food and drinks. We had Dino Nuggets of course, along with Pepperoni and Three Meat Pizza Rolls for our "carnivores". For our "herbivores", we had a large veggie tray. We also had "Dinosaur Bone" pretzels. I made "Lava Juice", which was really just Crystal Light Fruit Punch (which was quite delicious). Here's my document if you're interested in printing the little place card labels.


The real show stealer for the "sweetivores" were the amazing desserts from Hailey the Cake Lady. She not only made delicious Oreo cupcakes and the cutest dinosaur cookies, but she made the most incredible dinosaur cake! That dinosaur on top was actually edible and made out of fondant. Such talent! The top layer of the cake was the most delicious strawberry cake ever, and the lower layer was vanilla. If you're local to Kansas City, definitely use her for a delicious, affordable option for all of your dessert needs! Here's her Facebook page!




Activities 

Although we didn't attempt many crazy activities this time around (I mean, we did have a six week old), we had a few fun things for people to do. We had some printed dinosaur coloring sheets and crayons for the kiddos, along with a "what's your dinosaur name" sheet. We also had some dino hats out (from Dollar Tree) for people to wear and take photos with our backdrop. Of course, blowing out the candles on his cake was a highlight. It was probably my favorite part of the night- he was all smiley and so adorable!



Although I missed some days, I did manage to keep up with most of Eli's third year, so I put together another One Second Everyday video, and then Airplayed it and looped it downstairs on the TV along with his first and second year videos. Pretty crazy to see a second of nearly every day since he was born!


I also printed off and filled out another time capsule sheet, and made lists of Eli's stats and favorite things to toss in as well. All in all, it was an amazing time celebrating our not-so-little guy with friends and family who love him (and us) so well. We're excited to see what year four brings.


Happy Party Planning!

Currently,
Kelsie