Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tour of Missouri: Elephant Rock State Park

Two days after the graduation party, barely enough time to clean the house, my work sent me on a week long road trip around the state of Missouri. I have traveled from Kansas City to Springfield; Springfield to Farmington: Farmington to Ironton to Festus; From Festus to Jefferson City. That is a 
total of 731 miles in five days!


It has been a long week but it has also been a great week. I have met so many great people. It is honestly true when they say Missouri's people are nice. Everywhere I have been from hotels to restaurants from work meetings even at gas stations, people have been so friendly!

It has not been all work and no play. I met up with friends along the way. I even spent a lunch hour hiking at a state park I had never been to before. I found myself less than 10 miles from Elephant Rock State Park in the southeast corner of Missouri. 

The family and I actually plan to visit this park this summer. I hope they won't mind that I took a sneak peak. It was kind of like being a young child on Christmas morning. I was so close and I just had to go and see!  Elephant Rock State Park is considered one of the most curious geologic formations in Missouri. Giant granite boulders that are 1.5 billion-years-old stand end to end on a seven acre park. It is said that the giant boulders look like  a train of circus elephants lined up.

The park has a mile long paved path that is actually a Braille Trail. I honestly felt like I was in a scene from the movie Frozen. Remember when the trolls are introduced? All you see is round boulders and then they start rolling and become trolls?  Everywhere I looked I could see boulders.

Right outside the park is the oldest recorded commercial granite quarry in the state of Missouri.  Evidence of mining was found throughout the park. Circular holes were cut into the rocks so that the quality of the rocks core could be determined. I was able to find many perfect circles on my hike. I also could find half circle lines cut into the rock as well as anchors used to tantalize cranes.  Of course, being exposed to the elements the rocks are being weathered and eroding naturally.

Occasionally when hiking, it makes sense to leave the safety of the hiking path and explore beyond the norm. When I left the path at this park I found some gems. One gem was the ruins of an old railroad engine house. The tracks are still present and the stone walls were amazing! I spent many minutes admiring the craftsmanship of the stone work.  Does anyone else find parallels to hiking off-path and exploring life in general? Don't be afraid to venture off the path!

The second gem I found was a quarry full of water hidden in the rocks. It was peaceful and beautiful and maybe had it been a little warmer I would have sat and meditated in the spot for a while.  Instead I lingered and then moved on. I did stop and enjoy the flowers I found when I was off-.path walking. The morning rain was still present on their pedals and leaves. Drops of water that were lingering. Kinda like my time at Elephant Rock State Park. I wanted to soak it all in so I kept re-tracing my tracks and doubling back just giving my mind the opportunity to connect with the environment. 
After exploring off-path I headed back on the trail. I found a second quarry full of water. At this quarry there were actually a couple of young men cliff jumping into the quarry. There spirit and adventure made me smile. Then I realized one of the young men was on a bicycle and it was loaded with gear.  He told me that he was biking from the New Jersey shore to the west coast. Last summer when we started biking The Katy Trail we met other coast to coast bikers. I so admire their dedication and determination! If you happen to be interested, you can actually follow his journey here!

I am looking forward to returning here this summer. I expect it will not be the same. I imagine it will be crowded and busy. I think the kids will love it. I plan to pack a picnic lunch and linger some more. There are so many amazing rock formations, it was nice to take a break from the world of public child welfare and explore.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Date That Came....And Went

I can't say I never thought the day would come. I, of course, always did.  I mean you can dread a date as it approaches but you can't deny the fact that time always passes in the same manner; twenty-four hours and a new day starts. It is a constant in this life we can count on.  It's just, when I put the date on our calendar it seemed so far off. Something I would have to deal with in the future. Then the future becomes the present and before you are fully prepared you are dealing with something that maybe you just were not ready to deal with.

My son graduated from high school. I am still trying to get use to the reality of that sentence. My son graduated from high school and will be going away to college this fall. Another not so elusive date on the calendar. When the school year started the end seemed so far away. But slowly as the school year has progressed and with it came many last dates. Last football game, last home basketball game, last school dance, last day of school. Then the final, final date. Graduation.

It has been a whirlwind. Baccalaureate, Honors Night, Graduation Ceremony, and finally a graduation party. More than a few tears have been shed over the past week. Some alone, some publicly. Some were a silent lonely tear while others have been hard sobbing ones. When I was not crying, I put my energy into preparing and planning for his graduation party.

The Boy wanted a purple and white themed party to celebrate his future college. I felt like the party needed to be connected to his high school. We settled on a "Past and Future" themed party and used both school colors.  Our home does not have an open floor plan conducive to large gatherings so our hope was for a backyard party. We put a new deck on the house last year and we hoped  to use it. A local party supply business was able to rent me tables, chairs, and table cloths  to polish everything off.

The Boy and The Husband were pretty insistent on BBQ for the menu. I advocated hard for Walking Taco's but in the end, they won and we made plans to smoke brisket and a whole pig for the party. Smoking a whole pig is not an easy task and I think if you ask The Husband if he would do it again, his vote would be for Walking Tacos! The Short Chic has jumped on board, her seven year old self, already promised me she would want tacos for her graduation party. We will see if she changes her mind in eleven years.

Mother Nature threatened us and even gave us rain all morning of the party, but an hour before our start time, she dried up and gave us a perfect Missouri afternoon free of rain. The Husband has been actively growing grass all spring. I think the graduation party might have ruined his new grass. The yard was just a muddy mess in places.

The Boy was not the only graduates at his party. Two of his cousins also graduated and they attended our party. It was great having them together one last time. One of them will move away this week, another leaves next month. Our little birds are leaving the nest.

I have come to terms that my style is very rustic chic. The Boy does not like the chic part of that! He thinks it is too girly. I kept reminding him that he won the whole pig fight. I get a little chic. I used a lot of rustic details. Mason jar beverage dispensers, wooden crates, galvanized metal, chalkboards,  even twine.  I found purple and white flamingo's and added them to the yard. I planted purple flowers in flower beds. I wanted a photo booth but The Boy said that was too girly. Instead I made foam board numbers and covered them with tinted senior photos.  It made a perfect stage for photos.

I found myself not wanting the day to end. I am so thankful I have great friends and one amazing cousin who worked their hind-ends off so that I could mingle and be present in the moment. Thank you all for that.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Bittersweetness {Graduation Video To My Son}

Life is so bittersweet.

The sweetness is mixed with the salty. The joy with the sorrow.  Pleasure with pain. The good with the bad. The yin and the yang.  Obviously, we know life is bittersweet or we would not have so many ways of describing it.

Bittersweet is how I have come to describe The Boy's high school graduation.  It is honestly a very happy time. To see your child accomplishment a goal  is a wonderful feeling. He earned his A+ diploma. He has been accepted into his dream college. It is a wonderful time for him.

He is not the only one celebrating. We all are. As parents, we accomplished a goal as well. Sometimes you just don't want to become a statistic. You don't want you child to become involved in drugs and alcohol, you don't want them to become teen parents, you don't want them to get involved in the criminal justice world. You don't want them to take the hardest path they can find.  I can honestly say, we made it through (bumpy at times!) without becoming a statistic.

It is a time to celebrate. To be excited. We are busy making party plans to celebrate this large milestone.  But all of that does not stop me from feeling sad. Melancholy. Reflective. Maybe even a bit scared.

I have spent the last 18 years and change with The Boy right next to me. What will next year be like when I will go weeks or even months without seeing him. I have to wonder and hope that he will make good decisions when not under his mother's watchful eye. Or her social media stalking. I hope but you never know. That is the scary part.

Yesterday was his last formal high school class. He has two more days of school activities. Four days until graduation. I am trying to hold back the sadness and focus on the excitement. It is all bittersweet.

I made a video for him. It is a part of a larger video that we will present to him at his party. I am ready to share my part.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Greatest Show on Earth

This post is silly.

I need a little humor in my life. It will help balance all the serious stuff that is happening. {Last night was the Mother's Tea. Five days until Baccalaureate. Six days until Honors Night. Ten days till the last day of school for Seniors. Thirteen days until graduation.}

A few weeks ago we had a Sunday lunch at Red Robin. The Short Chic is at the age where she loves the child friendly place-mats that have the kids menu printed on them at restaurants. She has become a great Waldo finder, plays a mean game of tick tack toe and has even sharpened her coloring skills.

Back to Red Robin. Their place-mat has a funny Find Your Circus Name that brought us all lots of chuckles. Since all of our last names where the same, we changed it to first name and middle name.

My circus name is: The Magnificent Sword Swallower!


The Short Chic is: The Benevolent Human Cannonball


The Husband is: The Amazing Sideshow Star!


The Boy is: The Unbelievable Crying Mime! 



Won't you join me in some stress-relieving silliness? What is your circus name?

First Name:                                                              Middle or Last Name:

A: The Incredible                                                        A: Dancing Seal
B: The Two-Headed                                                    B. Laughing Clown
C: The Amazing                                                          C. Soaring Acrobat
D: The Unthinkable                                                     D. Sword Swallower
E: The Superhuman                                                     E. Ball Juggler
F: The Flying                                                               F: Painted Horse
G: The Dazzling                                                          G: Crying Mime
H: The Fantastic                                                          H: Cannon Blaster
I: The Glow-in-the-dark                                               I: Fire Breather
J: The Unbelievable                                                     J: Ringmaster
K: The Twirling                                                           K: Mustached Zookeeper
L: The Wonderful                                                        L: Plate Spinner
M: The Impressive                                                       M: Snake Charmer
N: The Atrocious                                                          N: Trapeze/Artist
O: The Benevolent                                                       O: Siamese Twins
P: The Magnificent                                                       P: Human Cannonball
Q: The Formidable                                                       Q: Stilt Walker
R: The Make-believer                                                   R: Magic Elephant
S: The Purple                                                                 S: Spooky Magician
T: The Astounding                                                         T: Colorful Unicycle
U: The Backwards                                                          U: Talking Monkey
V: The Great                                                                   V: Tightrope Walker
W: The Spectacular                                                        W: Sideshow Star
X: The Invisible                                                              X: Singing Lady
Y: The Terrific                                                               Y: Lion Tamer
Z: The Upside-down                                                       Z: Top Hat

Price Matching Nightmare

Okay, so I might be under a little bit of stress these days. Both of my kids are involved in spring sports. The Short Chic is winding down year long sports. In addition to prom festivities and graduation preparations.  I would say that yes, I am a bit stressed.

I will also admit to not feeling the best. In a rush to finish projects I grabbed the curling iron heating element and not the handle. I seriously seared the palm of my hand and spent the entire day in major pain.  But my price matching nightmare I do not believe is attributed to my not feeling well or my stress level. Although it did not do much to aid with either one!

As I popped into my local Wal Mart store to pick up some needed photos for one of  my graduation projects,  I decided to pick up some groceries for our After Prom Breakfast. I can tell you that when I enter Wal Mart on a Saturday, or any day between Thanksgiving and New Year's,  I usually put on my extra patience outfit.

I can always expect that the lines will be long. That the other customers will be quick tempered. That the children will be tired and cranky. But this past weekend I nearly lost my damned mind right there at checkout line number 16.

I was actually quite pleased with myself for being patient enough to walk down to station 16 because I found only one person in that line. Bonus was that she was in the middle of her checkout process. I thought for sure I would be in/out of Wal Mart in a few short moments. In my book that is an accomplishment on a Saturday.

Until the lady in front of me tried to price match the items she was buying at Wal Mart. She literally told the cashier, "I am not sure where but these items are on sale somewhere."  I might be crazy but that is absolutely where this story should end. The clerk should have said, "I am sorry, unless you have the sale ad's to show me where, I can not price match these items."

But you all know that is not what happened. No instead the customer pulls out here smartphone and asks Siri to "locate a place that has this product on sale this week". When Siri was unable to help her, the Customer Service Manager on duty went and scrounged up all the weekly sale ads she could find.

She brought them to the register and they proceeded to go through every single advertisement. And I waited. And waited.

And when they could not find them in any of the advertisements, the Customer Service Manager just gave her a price match anyway. I guess Coke products are on sale....somewhere. Right?

Sadly I waited about a half an hour to check out. Yes, I probably should have taken my items off the belt and put them back into the cart and went and found another line to stand in.  I should have. But I did not. Instead I witnessed a horrible case of negative reinforcement.

Do any of  you  really believe that the customer listened when the CSM said, "next time bring your advertisements?"  WHY WOULD SHE? You just showed her that you will go to great lengths to find and even give away a price match. Heck, maybe I will just start claiming a price match in order to save myself a few dollars?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Much Needed Reprieve

The weekend is winding down. There are only a few more hours left in this day meaning a new week will start momentarily. Time is running out. We are only two weekends away from The Boy's high school graduation.

Graduation preparations have taken over our lives. My living room has become one giant party planning craft room. I have project after project in multiple stages of completion. My technology skills have been put to the test as I try to create a graduation video. I find myself exhausted but sleepless as I run through to-do list and budgets nonstop in my head!

With all of that said, the past two weekends have brought a small reprieve. They have been prom weekends.  I found myself immersed in tuxedo's, gowns, flowers, photographs, and dancing if only for a few moments! One last high school tradition before graduation.

This years prom festivities were so different from last. Last year he attended two proms. One he went with a group of friends and the other a blind date. One of my wishes was that he would find someone special to share a prom moment with.  A few months ago The Boy met a girl.  I would love to share more on the two of them but I have to keep reminding myself that some stories are not mine to share.  But, I will say this: The girl has since rocked his world! It is a nice feeling when you see your child learn to share his world with another person. Well, someone other than his sister or his brother.

Since they do not attend the same school, he got to experience two proms again this year. One date for each of them. Two nights of dancing. Two nights for making memories.

The first prom was hers. She attends a small private school and the dance is student organized and ran. Ironically we found ourselves right back at the place we visited last year for prom photos.  I would imagine this waterfall has seen many prom goers!  There was a small, well dress group that went to dinner and the dance together. Although it was small, The Boy reported that he had a great time and it was actually fun.

Our second prom was for his school. There was no large group to organize. It was just The Boy and his girl.  Last summer I completed a Kansas City Fountains Tour and I visited parts of the city I had never been in. One of the places I stumbled upon was called The Colonnade in Northeast Kansas City. The Boy requested we take prom photos there. Knowing it was a beautiful location I thought it was perfect. Mostly because I doubted any other prom goers would be there. It is a quiet location, forgotten by the masses and it worked perfectly for us.

Little did we know when we selected The Colonnade that his girlfriend's mom grew up in this part of the city. She told us a lovely family story about her grandparents eloping and the only photo they had was taken in front of The Colonnade.  the old fountain in her Grandma and Grandpa's photo has been removed but the structure is still there. And looks amazing.

 I am such a sap for meaningful moments and places. I certainty do not know this couples future but it does feel as if the stars aligned themselves to share this moment.

We experienced rain all day. Luckily that dried up but what lingered was really unseasonable cold weather.  I am not going to lie to you all, it was downright cold! As I sat at home looking at prom photos that other proud parents posted on social media I saw many girls with goosebumps on their arms as they fought through the cold for the sake of a perfect prom photo.

Getting a boy and a girl ready for prom could not be the further apart on the spectrum. The girlfriend spent most of the afternoon getting her hair done (I believe three hours was the exact time commitment). Then there are the nails. And the makeup.

The Boy on the other hand,  spent the entire afternoon at the Kansas State University Spring Fling out at Sporting KC Park. His Wildcats played in a spring exhibition game that his family got tickets for. Instead of working on his hair, he was most excited to meet and wish Tyler Lockett best wishes in the 2015 NFL Draft this week.

He got home thirty minutes before we were schedule to arrive at his dates home. Thirty minutes to get ready.  Sorry to all the mom's of girls out there ! I promise my time is coming. The Short Chic is already planning for her future prom.

We were fortunate enough to surround these two with loved ones before prom. Their entire families came to wish them well. Even Aunt Tracy and Darren were able to swing by and see the couple before they departed for the evening.

The kids were driven to dinner and to the prom by a local service. Their driver actually asked them if they had just gotten married! He was not the only person, someone else drove past The Colonnade and honked their horn at them. They were home from prom by 11:15. I think they had a good time. But I feel like they had a better time at the first prom.

The focus on public school prom in our area is on the photos and the party bus. So many people stay at prom for less than a half an hour.

Another prom season has come to an end. The tux was returned this afternoon. The dress is headed to the cleaners. The flowers have wilted. All that remains is the memories and the photos.

Sadly, my small reprieve from graduation planning is over. If I were the drinking kind of girl, I might need some cocktails to help me forget that in just a few short weeks my little boy, who is no longer a boy, will be graduated. And before I am ready, he will move away to go to college.

And the next time I see him this dressed up will likely be when he or his friends start creating families of their own. But, seriously, we do not need to rush into anything!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Senior Skip Day

Senior Skip Day.

A tradition I am familiar with. One that has not gone by wayside and, as I found out this week, is still being celebrated by seniors across the county. The Boy had his Senior Skip Day this week.

I remember my Senior Skip Day. Let's just say there was alcohol, sex, and drugs involved. (Not that this blogger was involved in those activities but they were present.) So, to say that The Boy's Senior Skip Day caused me a lot of anxiety is not an understatement!

The Seniors planned their skip day to coincide with home opener of baseball here in Kansas City. In case you outsiders forgot our Kansas City Royals are the 2014 American League Champions and this city loves their boys in blue! For those that could not get tickets to the home opener, tailgating in the parking lot was a better option than watching the game from home or a local drinking establishment.

Part of me was excited at the location for Senior Skip Day. I do not condone teen drinking and I spend a lot of time talking about that with my son. I was very concerned about how easy teen drinkers would be to get the attention of undercover and uniformed police officers.

I was also concerned with driving to and from the stadium. Yesterday alone, 40,000 people attended the game. That does not include all those extra's who drove out just to tailgate. That is a lot of people navigating the roadways at one time.  While two years of driving makes The Boy an expert in his head, it clearly does not in mine!

I am happy to say, he made it safely to and from Senior Skip Day. And while he never got tickets to the game, he did help cheer our Kansas City Royals to their first official victory of the season!