Our time in Kansas is winding down and sadly blogging has taken a back seat during this PCS-season. I miss writing and taking pictures, but packing this house has been a top priority. Everyday there’s a new truck in our neighborhood being loaded—another family headed out—and ours will be joining the fun shortly. Last night as I tucked the boys into bed and read their bed-time story, my youngest whispered “I’m really going to miss my friends mommy.” Me too son…me too. We’ve met great people out here, and while Leavenworth is charming, the locals are beyond friendly, and there is more to do here than I could have ever imagined, what I’ll miss most is the time spent with the other military families, who will soon be dispersed across the globe.
This year here has certainly shifted my paradigm of what moving to a new place can be like. Without doubt, “bloom where you are planted” became my 2018 mantra, and as I reflect on my experience, Leavenworth forced me to step out of my comfort zone, take risks, and meet new people. Having a social tribe of other military spouses was key to thriving in this environment, and waiting for that to magically happen on its own was not an option. I’m really going to miss all the military spouses I’ve met here, but will cherish the fun memories we made!!!
When I first started this blog, the intention was to share small-town Leavenworth with the incoming CGSC spouses. Over the past five months however, it yielded opportunities for me to connect with spouses living where we are moving. It also helped me network with other women who share a heart for advocacy on behalf of military families. I was equipped with resources for military families that I had never heard of, and I found myself supporting local businesses more than ever. I’ve always loved adventure, but this experience really sprouted the courage for exploration. I won’t lie, I sort of felt like Lewis and Clark out here 😊. Allowing myself to be curious about others and this wonderful town helped me make positive meaning from this experience and memories that my family and I can take with us. Kansas, however dreaded it was a year ago, turned into a source of inspiration, and creating this blog helped me enjoy this year while doing a little growth of my own.
If you’ve thought about blogging, writing, photography, or if you have anything on your bucket list that you have yet to try…do it friends! If I’ll maintain a blog after leaving Kansas is unknown right now, but I hope the information shared about Leavenworth will be helpful to someone headed this way!
Thank you for reading and sharing your own fancy findings with me this past year!
p.s. Driving home this week, I passed some old country garages, and my eyes spotted a couple of horse rings around town that I’d previously missed. The horse rings were used to tie down a horse and park one’s carriage back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Just love all the fun facts and neat sites this little historic town has offered me!
A tea, or coffee, is known to military spouses as a social gathering where friendships are made and information is exchanged. I learned this at a recent spouse seminar and while I haven’t had to host one of these yet, I now know where to go to equip myself for the occasion! Queen’s Pantry Teas. Friends, this Leavenworth jewel is filled with British goods, gifts, and high-quality teas.
Last week when I had five minutes to kill, the British flags hanging across the store-front lured me in. I had the honor to sit for tea time with military spouse and co-owner, Kathy Gentzler, and hear about the store’s history. Kathy was beyond warm and friendly! Not because we share the same name, but as unannounced and rushed as I was, she still made time for me and spoke faster than an auctioneer so that I wouldn’t be late to parent pick-up.
This tea store was such a surprise. One of my college roommates was a barista and tea connoisseur and had the continuous aroma of fresh tea or coffee in our home. Something about walking through the shop, smelling the fragrance of the raspberry tea-of-the-day felt familiar.
The store will celebrate its 20th anniversary this coming October. Kathy and her husband, Kevin Gentzler, a retired military veteran, purchased Queen’s Pantry Teas 6 years ago after moving to Leavenworth. Their oldest daughter had been working at the shop when she learned the previous owner was going to sell. She encouraged her parents to buy and within days they had moved the shop to the new location on Delaware and opened their doors to the public. Kathy shared a bit about her homeschooling years and the joys of raising 4 children. She spoke of the challenges of PCS moves (to which I could certainly relate these days), and the couple’s continued dreams to someday open a small business together. I love family success stories like theirs. My husband and I have a list of ideas going, and I am counting the days (ok, years).
I had to ask about the British-theme. Wouldn’t you? Apparently, the previous owner’s father was in the U.S. Air Force and married her British mum, and there you have it. More fun facts… The store carries teas from the British market and a handful of German chocolate candies (for those of you missing your days overseas). They also have the largest selection of loose teas in the greater Kansas City area–about 165 to choose from y’all!!!
I couldn’t take it all in during one visit, so I headed back this week and got to try England’s #1 pantry tea–YUM! While snapping pics, I also got to watch another boy-mom wander in and sit for tea-time with her little guy. Moms can be so compassionate, loving, and selfless. In that moment, as she made a memory with her son, I was able to capture another mom graciously rockin’ her mom-role. I left encouraged. Being a boy mom makes for some pretty wild and tiring days, but my heart is mush with my two boys and moments like that are fuel for this momma’s soul. Much like my tea-time with Kathy, these little Leavenworth finds and moments with other military spouses who have trudged the roads before me are priceless.
Need a tea pot or mugs for your next tea or coffee event? Check out their collection! Want to visit Queen’s Pantry Teas? Visit their website at http://www.qptea.com/ or like them on Facebook at Queen’s Pantry Teas.
Don’t miss them tomorrow, as they participate in Leavenworth’s Alive After Five’s Cinco De Mayo event downtown. Click HERE for more information.
Can’t make it this time? Join the tea shop on May 10th from 6pm-8pm for their 4th Annual, Iced Tea Extravaganza, as they release their summer tea line.
Also, if you want an interactive day with Queen’s Pantry Teas and other local merchants, join the Mother’s Day Build-A-Bouquet event on May 12th from 10am-4pm, presented by Leavenworth Main Street.
Now go, find a friend, and have yourself a cuppa!
This week I finally wandered around the Riverfront Community Center in Leavenworth, KS, learning its history and current function. If you didn’t already know, the building was a Union Pacific Train Station in the 1800’s, specifically for passengers.
The freight train stop was over at The Depot (which has amazing cinnamon rolls I might add). When you step in through the front doors of Riverfront, you’re walking up towards what used to be the station’s ticket booth. To your left you have the women’s waiting room and to the right the men’s waiting room. They kept us separated back then. Today, those rooms are used for meetings, community events, weddings, and more. Y’all might know by now that I’m curious and like to find hidden gems…and that’s exactly what I got to do!
I’d been wondering where there was an indoor pool off-post for swimming lessons, and I found it. The center offers indoor swimming lessons from Labor Day through Memorial Day. They also have racquetball courts, basketball courts, an indoor running track, and a gym on the lower level.
The venue hosts ballroom dancing, taekwondo, toddler time, yoga, dog obedience, and additional fitness classes. Community wide events include Breakfast with Santa in December, a Valentine’s Father/Daughter Dance, and a Super-Hero Mother/Son Dance in October.
During my visit, I found more murals! Having lived in Charlotte County, FL, I have an appreciation for historic murals—they are everywhere down there, and apparently here too. Friends, Riverfront is a great stop for anyone wanting to know more about local and nearby events, museums, businesses, etc. They have the latest brochures for visitors, and I’m told residents of Fort Leavenworth are also welcome to use the facilities. In my opinion, this would be a great locale for a military spouse coffee 😊 They have rooms that can accommodate up to 300 individuals, but also cozier rooms for more intimate gatherings.
Before I adventured back in time through this piece of history, I joined a really encouraging group of Stroller Strong Moms at the basketball courts for a SLAM session. I may not be able to walk tomorrow, but those ladies really motivated me and reminded me that we CAN stretch ourselves to DO the things we don’t think we’re capable of. No more excuses!
Want to know more about Leavenworth’s Riverfront Community Center? Visit them here: Riverfront Community Center
Want to join the sweaty fun with Stroller Strong Moms Leavenworth? Check them out on Facebook at Stroller Strong Moms.
If you’re not local and want to find a Stroller Strong Moms group near you, visit their main website at http://www.strollerstrongmoms.com/
It’s PCS season. In what ways are you enjoying what’s left of your time wherever you may be? How are you staying physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy to survive the wave? It’s easy to get overwhelmed when we have packing, babies, jobs, to-do’s, etc. Fellow spouses, don’t forget to take care of YOU too and have a little fun!
The weather in Kansas has been reliably unstable this past week, going from sunny 70-degree weather to lightening, snow, and tornado watches. Needless to say, I’ve had to get creative with indoor activities for the boys. Last week we learned about Spring (and stayed stuck in winter), and this week we are revisiting our favorite farm unit. The local farms were a big hit in our family last year, so we are eagerly awaiting May’s strawberry season at Salt Creek Valley Farm. This momma is especially excited to learn there is such a thing as goat-yoga at the farm. Leavenworth, you surprise me every day! Come on y’all, when was the last time YOU did goat-yoga?! Sounds like wild fun to me! Check it out on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/SaltCreekValleyFarms/
Last year as we prepped for our PCS to Leavenworth, we were living in Alabama near several local farms. This made the unit especially fun for our family and I’m hoping this year’s activities will keep the boys from feeling the PCS stress this time around!
Here’s a look at our activity table set-up:
Below are some of the sensory and fine-motor activities I have adapted and implemented with our boys. Their favorite is washing all the farm animals and getting wet and soapy in the process 😊
Washing Farm Animal Sensory Bin from Coffee Cups and Crayons
I had the boys use old toothbrushes, to scrub down their farm animals with dish soap and water.
Farm Sensory Play Bin from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls
For this activity, I filled a bin with a variety of sunflower seeds and used scoops of different sizes to help the boys learn about small, medium, and large sizes. I also used a funnel to help them learn about gravity as they poured the seeds down the funnel into a jar.
Tot School: Milk the Cow Activity from Mrs. Plemon’s Kindergarten blog.
I went outside for this one! I filled two rubber gloves with water and hung them above 2 pails. The boys had watched a children’s video about cow farms and pretended to milk a cow, while determining which pail had more “milk” and which had less. It helped me teach them opposites. In the background, you’re seeing my attempt to teach them to hand wash and hang-dry their clothes.
How Many Spots on the Cow Activity from The Preschool Experiment
We used pom poms and plastic children’s tweezers to place the number of cow spots indicated on the number card. This was a fun fine-motor activity followed by messy coloring.
Other activities we’ve used for this unit include: Melissa and Doug’s farm dominoes, farm magnets, farm animal lacing, farm-themed puzzles, farm animal blocks, ice-cream set, and farm sticker pads. All can be found on Mellisa and Doug’s website.
We used the dominoes to play a matching game, and then later had a domino-game/ice cream date at the boys’ farm. I try to incorporate real-world activities across our units. In this case, we picked blueberries at a local farm, we rinsed veggies and fruits back home, then the boys pretended to own a farm and sell their products. We use felt money for payment and I try to have them go through the motions of the farm-to-table process so they understand how it all works.
On our Blueberry-themed day, the boys also completed a finger-painting activity adapted from Inspiration Made Simple and a blue and purple sorting fine motor activity. Friends, the Pinay Homeschooler has great preschool farm-themed sorting cards and activities. I use sorting cards a lot, and during this unit, our boys really enjoyed learning about different farm families and later visiting them at the farms.
I’ve decided to start a Rocky Roads and Rainbows Pinterest and have shared all the above mentioned blog posts, as well as other farm activities we’ve used on my Farm Activities for Preschoolers board for anyone interested in having some farm fun with their little ones. Feel free to tag me on any other farm finds 😊
Stay warm this week friends!
Happy Monday everyone!
Over the past couple of months my 5-year-old son has been reminding me to pause and observe the beauty around me. He has a special way of finding little flowers for me everywhere we go. He’s the one to catch the sun rise or sun set while everyone else is busy, and has a way of spying greatness in the people he meets. While running errands, he’s also pointed to the stunning historic homes in the area. Here’s a sneak peek of some we’ve discovered on our Leavenworth adventures:
If you haven’t visited the City of Leavenworth, KS web-page, it’s a great resource! They have a visitor’s page with the top things to do in town, one of which is the Historic Wayside Tours. These past few weeks my boys and I have been slowly completing both the driving and walking tours. Go check them out and download the tour map! It’s well-worth it, and a great way to learn about the history of this first little Kansas town.
Local military families, if you aren’t already tracking, the Fort Leavenworth Tour of Historic Homes event takes place on April 29th. Tickets can be purchased at The Friends of The Frontier Army Museum. Here are more historic homes I’ve found while out and about:
Below are the famous Carroll House and Harvey House:
If you know of others in the area, do share 😊
Here’s to making the best out of everywhere the military takes us!
p.s. Where will you find beauty this week?
p.s.s. I had read Leavenworth ran a trolley tour downtown and was disappointed to learn the trolley had retired. My boys were pretty bummed out, because who wouldn’t want to ride on Daniel the Tiger’s Trolley? However, they about sprung out of their seats when we drove by this hidden find. We vote to have the Trolley Tours started again!
If you haven’t visited PYUR Eats in Leavenworth, KS, this is a MUST-do!
This veteran-owned business opened 8 weeks ago and is amazing friends! I’ve driven by the quaint building for months and was so glad to stop and get grading done in a quiet homey environment. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Spanish empanadas on their menu, and even more impressed by the hospitality of the owners. I first met co-owner Morgan Bean, who has lived in the Leavenworth area for 40 years.
He and his wife, Mary, decided to join forces with Elena Gann (aka “Star”), after Morgan’s retirement from the state. Elena, a military veteran, who is well known in town for selling homemade jams at the Farmer’s Market joined shortly after my arrival and shared their diverse menu and meal kit options with me. She was such a pleasure to chat with (in multiple languages I might add!) and everyone was so friendly! If I gained nothing more from my visit, I got to practice my Spanish and the little Italian I know. Elena speaks too many languages for me to keep track of and has such a neat background! I’ll say, if I didn’t love to cook my own meals, their meal kits are as close to a Miami-cantina as it gets here in Kansas. For those of you who prefer vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or dairy free menus, PYUR Eats can prepare special daily meals and snacks just for you.
As I worked that morning, I brought my appetite with me and went for a non-traditional breakfast, trying their Thai zucchini-carrot salad and black bean tart. I also had to taste the opera cake Andrea Gass was perfecting while I people-watched.
The opera cake bite was delicious and watching sisters, Gass and Gann cook together, made me miss my own sisters on this calm morning. Moving with the military can certainly give us newfound appreciation for the family and loved ones we have back home! Morgan insisted I try their homemade chorizo next time, along with their zucchini brownies—one of their best sellers. Their Mediterranean and Spanish options are also wonderful y’all! I will need to return for their Forbidden Rice Bowl, just because it’s forbidden 😊
Here’s a quick glance at their menu:
If you’re traveling through the area, or getting stationed at Fort Leavenworth, you have to visit these military-friendly locals and spend some time filling your bellies with their delicious meals. Don’t forget to take one of Elena’s famous Kansas jams with you!
I wish I could move this snug little space and its owners with me to our next “home.” PYUR Eats is open early Monday though Friday, 7am-5pm, and is closed on weekends. The owners participate in local parades, Main Street’s Alive After 5, and are sponsors for the annual A Taste of Leavenworth. If you want to learn more about them, check them out on-line at pyureats.com, or on Facebook at PYUR Eats.
Now that spring break is over, and my carpets are dry, I’ll have to adventure into town to meet more locals and explore their businesses. I feel like our time here is escaping me! Where are your adventures taking you this week?
p.s. Not sure why my carpets are dry? Read about the flood here: The Flood’s Purpose
Self-Care. Such an inviting concept, and yet most of us make little time to care for our health and well-being. After a week of cross-country drives with the boys and house hunting with my soldier, we found a home, trekked on back to Kansas, and were welcomed by gallons of water flooding our rental. Insert song and dance.
This week has reminded me to slow down. I took a pause from blogging to breathe, snuggle with my boys, journal, and regroup—it’s PCS season and that alone has me in full throttle these days. The flood had purpose…I needed the pause. It forced me to hit the breaks, loosen my grip, and roll with everything life was throwing our way…more like roll with the waves of water in my house, but you get where I’m going.
I will say, this slower week also has me reflecting on the team work between my husband and I. We rocked this house hunt y’all! After the last 6 moves, I think we have finally mastered a navigation plan and devised a spreadsheet that works for us and helps narrow the search down to the right home for our family. We also had an AMAZING realtor working with us—what are the chances she’s a military spouse/mom, Miami native, and fellow high school alumni? Me encanta when things line up beautifully!
This week also helped me appreciate people in my life. The in-laws willing to spend their vacation babysitting for us, the mom-neighbor with jokes and a word of encouragement, the fellow military spouse who “gets it” and can be flexible with me and my schedule, the check-ins from loved ones miles away. I can’t wait to be closer to them, and yet I’m equally sad to be moving far from those we’ve met and bonded with here. I’ve said it before, but moving with the military is bittersweet. It’s purging, packing, and planning. It’s sad goodbyes, awkward hellos, and new friends. It’s unknowns and stress, coupled with excitement, future dreams, and memories to be made. Amid all the moving fun, it’s easy to forget one very important thing…ourselves!
In the hustle and bustle of getting everything situated, it’s too easy to use the time we have to plan, plan and plan some more, especially when your spouse is a previous logistician. I had to laugh today when I shared the various school options I’d reviewed and his response?
“Did you create a spreadsheet for all this information?”
Wait a second now! This momma will NOT be creating a spreadsheet for schools. Friends, my spreadsheet efforts are limited to budgeting, grading, and house hunting. My time will however be spent enjoying the wonderful friends we’ve made in Leavenworth, while packing for a DITY move (why a DITY???). This week is also helping me get back on track with my elliptical and gratitude journal–I will need those these next few months. House hunting and moving are emotional! I needed this week at home to flip my attitude, envision this next season, and be intentional about what I do with my time. I also sort of needed that flood to remind me of what matters most: the people I love and my health and well-being. I can’t take care of my family if I’m not taking care of myself. I needed a lifeline and I got it!
When you feel flooded, how do you decompress? What helps you and your military family ride the waves in a healthy and resilient way? Don’t be shy! Share what works—I’m open eyes over here 😊
Happy Easter weekend friends!
p.s. We visited several historic spots and downtown shops during our trip to NC and will blog about some later, but here are a few pics from our adventure.
**Update** I created the spreadsheet. Apparently I write in hieroglyphics. Harmonious marriage friends…doesn’t always have to be about the win.
Out of the Barn…what a great opportunity to support local artists!
I had stopped in recently after Thaddeus from Dad’s Toys recommended I visit. Amy Coon, owner and marine spouse, was behind the desk homeschooling one of her daughters as I curiously
approached. She was friendly and shared a bit about her sign-painting classes with me. What a wonderful space to gather a group of spouses and have us a day focused on self-care and community! Who wants in?
As I looked around I thought back to the one DIY sign project my husband and I made 6 years ago and the promise we made as newlyweds to have fun garage project-dates, then kids happened…ask me if we’ve painted any signs recently. However, that is about to change. Between Amy’s sign encouragement, and Moving with the Military’s recent blog on a DIY blanket ladder, I am ready to build and paint AND get those garage dates started!
I decided I hadn’t spent enough time with Amy during my first visit and returned to devote more time to her and this vibrant store. As I walked around, I learned of the various local vendors: Knot too Shabby, Funky Junque Boutique, and Rocking S Wood Shack Designs. One artist caught my eye, a service member near retirement. Amy chatted with me about her goal to provide a platform for local vendors, like him, to showcase their creative talents. I loved the farm style décor across the store and painted glass windows. I was especially attracted to the words of encouragement that pervaded her showroom. The Easter bunnies seemed to have propagated, because they were everywhere!
Amy also has an eye for decorating and I will need to return for new ideas, because I have no décor talents in my DNA friends.
Kansas City is home for Amy and her family. She started painting signs out of her garage and then transitioned to West Bottoms and the Painted Sofa in Kansas City before opening her own doors in Leavenworth. She was excited to chat about her daughters’ artistic talents with me on this visit, sharing how one daughter paints and her youngest recently showed interest in her craft–I briefly day dreamed about painting something soon. I wouldn’t know where to begin, but why not try something new? As we walked around the large showroom, Amy stopped, surprised to see some art work had fallen off the walls. She explains the building is said to have ghosts and I about froze in my tracks y’all! I wish I knew more about its history and regret not asking. I was having too much fun perusing–look at her beautiful collection 😊
As I type, we are driving through West Virginia on a mission to find our next home. This has been the best family trip yet. No crying or cranky kiddos, no backseat driving from yours truly, and no road rage from the driver. Fun music to jance to. Oh, you haven’t heard? According to my husband “jance or jancing” is when you can’t fully dance, but you’re jamming out and semi-dancing in your car…so we we’ve been “jancing” our way to the south east. We are literally above the clouds high in the mountains and I can’t wait to be on the other side (although, I won’t lie, the idea of driving these snake turns myself in a few months with 2 kids in tow is not appealing at all)! I’m reflective today, and thankful for the new opportunities that lie ahead. Excited to explore and adventure new parts of this beautiful country over the next couple of years. Grateful for my time in Leavenworth and this transitional season. Visiting Out of the Barn, and spending time with a seasoned spouse who found a way to do what she loves while navigating the military lifestyle before her husband’s retirement was another dose of encouragement for this military spouse and momma. Seeing her dedicating time to her daughter, teaching her in a loving and patient way, reminded me to pause and think of how I approach my own boys. This parenting season is challenging and sweet and I can only hope their memories of me are filled with love and adventure.
I found our first farm-style house-warming gift at Out of the Barn for our next home and am so excited to hang it in our kitchen (the heart of our home). House hunting is both stressful and fun for my husband and I, and I’m looking forward to finding the kitchen we will gather and make new memories in. If you want to find local art for your home, go visit Amy and let her help you find it! You can also visit Out of the Barn online at: Out of The Barn’s Facebook Page.
Hope you’re all having a great week friends!
p.s.s. If you see any orbs in my pics, let me know 😊
Want to start at beginning of my Leavenworth Series and learn how it got started? Visit Leavenworth: Hello, Buffalo!
Perhaps you’ve seen their name on my blog recently and even raised an eyebrow because of the controversy behind the name, but #TheDependas is more than a name friends, and spending the time to sit and chat with the two military spouses behind the comical videos has helped me check my own assumptions. Initially I was thrown off by their name, given its negative history among military spouses. I wasn’t interested to be honest, but then I saw their efforts to bring women together, to equip women with the resources that could help them be successful and physically and mentally healthy…and THAT spoke to me.
When I first met with Lauren Lomsdale, I was just curious, wanting to know more about what her and Michelle Haleck were starting and how they were supporting military spouses. When I started Rocky Roads and Rainbows, that was my initial desire—to support other spouses by getting them connected once they arrived in this small Kansas town. As I’ve lived this year’s experience and learned more about #TheDependas, their approach has been refreshing–different to the dozens of how-to blogs for military family survival. As a military spouse myself, I found myself scrolling for their videos, to end my evening with a good belly laugh, or an extra local resource.
Both Lauren and Michelle met on base after learning they were neighbors. Lauren, a marine-spouse from northern Virginia, and Michelle, an air force-spouse from Whichita Falls, TX. Being on base helped them connect and depend on their quick-budding friendship to get through this one-year experience. As I’ve learned more about these two women, I’ve realized they have a genuine desire to empower other women and help all spouses feel connected. They are passionate about giving spouses a voice, while also being strong role-models for their daughters—they have five girls between the two! I thought my schedule was busy, and then I hear about Michelle’s background as a dietitian the past eight years, and now a labor and delivery nurse.
Y’all, I wish she’d been my labor and delivery nurse, especially the time my husband was deployed—I could have used a little laughter in my life that day! During our chat, it’s evident she is one passionate nurse who loves taking care of others. I love when people love what they do for a living! Then there’s Lauren, another powerful momma who owns her own branding company, is a photographer, and writes for Daily Mom and Military Spouse. She is also spear-heading the first Daily Mom metro-site, Daily Mom Military. I am so excited for this launch 😊
If you’re a military spouse, maybe you’ve witnessed other spouses step forward to help and advocate for other spouses. Perhaps over the years and now being a seasoned spouse, you’ve learned to be the voice and advocate for our military community. In my own observations of other military spouses, who, by the way I’m incredibly inspired by, there is a common thread of commitment, advocacy, strength, thrive, and community. Lauren and Michelle are no exception. After meeting again with both of them and hearing more about their story, I can’t help but want to share them with all spouses regardless of branch. Whether they are chatting about PCS moves, military acronyms, or spotlighting other military spouses that are serving military families, these two ladies have a common goal of helping us feel connected. It’s easy to feel alone at times, especially during deployments, or other military related transitions, and having a forum in which you can relate to other spouses, and laugh about the issues that can feel so burdensome at times, is genius in my opinion. Having a platform for our military family/spouse audience really helps them cater to the unique circumstances our families face and helps remind us that we too can ride the waves with a little laughter and support from each other.
After my interview with both Lauren and Michelle, one thing was crystal clear, they are not in the business to make fun of people. Their hope is actually to encourage other military spouses and help them overcome whatever challenges they are facing because of the military lifestyle. As I ended our interview, Michelle explained how she would “hope that people would laugh when they see us” and before she could breath another word Lauren added “not at us, but with us!” Friends, if you haven’t stopped by and visited them yet, check them out: #TheDependas Facebook Page
Hope you experience what I did, and feel a little more connected and supported in your experience as a military spouse—we’re in this together 😊
Cheers to the military spouses out there who are finding innovative ways to serve our tribe!
Last week, after spending some time chatting with The Dependas (Check them out!), they recommended I take my boys to Dad’s Toys, in downtown Leavenworth. I’d window shopped there before, but never walked inside thanks to the many “what-ifs” running through my mom-mind. I am SO glad that I stepped foot into this fabulous hobby and toy store!
I immediately received a friendly greeting from Dora, the store’s pup. Then I met Thaddeus Moulden, who manages the store. He was so friendly y’all. He shared the store’s history, explaining his grandfather’s love for trains and how the store had once been a family flower shop. After only a few moments of chatting with Mr. Moulden, I know two things: 1. He LOVES trains (as much as my boys do) and 2. He is proud of his Kansas town. As we chat, I learn he is seventh-generation working the family business and he knows the ins and outs of little ‘ol Leavenworth. Apparently, there are more underground tunnels here than I knew of…he has my attention! Don’t get me wrong, I love the Melissa and Doug variety, and my boys will love the legos, cars, and trains in this hobby shop, but learning more about local families and buildings like his, that have been here practically since this town’s birth, is exciting. Thaddeus shares about his support for local schools and the children in this community, military included, before showing me the train exhibit that covers the main floor space.
We have a mini Union Station exhibit right here folks! I am off exploring all 3 stories, and am thrilled to stumble over several train tables and activity tables set out for children upstairs.
Before I leave on this first visit, I’m intrigued by two characters that reside in the shop, Annie and Pup (aka Billingsly)—they look oddly real friends, and I’d say they kept a good eye on me! You should stop by and visit with them 😊
I’m also surprised to learn of the old-school soda fountain in the shop—how fun! As I walk out, Dora bids me farewell, as Thaddeus reminds me that I have to return for Alive After 5, a Leavenworth must-do. Check out these fun downtown events on FB at Alive After Five Facebook Page
If you want to learn more about the items Dad’s Toys carries, you can visit them on FB at Dad’s Toys Facebook Page
What did I do next you ask? Return to Dad’s Toys for a play date —it was perfect. Some may not agree, but my 3 and 5-year-old boys do chores in our home and were excited to also purchase their own hot wheels cars (cheaper than the dollar store, I might add).
For those who aren’t tracking—we are a military family and we move a lot! Lately, my heart continues to grow for this local community and I have a feeling it will do the same at our next “home.” It’s taken a shift in perspective friends, and if you’re a military spouse stationed here, you haven’t explored much, or connected with others, I want to chat with you for a moment. I’ve been there. It is hard, especially if you’re a new mom, or have multiple kids. I can imagine it’s even more challenging for the international CGSC spouses whose first language may not be English. Sometimes, I don’t want to go anywhere—parenting can be exhausting in and of its own! The idea of leaving the house can be accompanied with a lot of “what-ifs.” What if the kids get hungry or have to go potty as soon as we get in the car? What if they act out? What if things don’t go as planned? What if, what if, what if? Mommas, I’m learning it’s okay. All will be well. A little planning and reassurance from other moms has helped! After leaving the toy store, I venture over to Out of the Barn for a peek inside, and am encouraged by their inspirational art: “Be Afraid, and Do It Anyway!”
I can’t wait to return to this artsy and inspiring store. I hear they hold group classes too. Take a look for yourself: Out of the Barn’s Facebook page
I leave you with something to ponder:
What are you afraid to do, and why aren’t you doing it?
The idea of taking my boys to a toy store, does not sound like fun. Prior to today, I couldn’t understand why any parent would want to do that to themselves. Dad’s Toys had people like me in mind though—my boys did not destroy the store. They played, they explored, and they loved it! As for me, I got to connect with a military spouse, observe a military mom braving it with 3 of her own, and loved the store experience 😊
May the wind always be at your back friends!
p.s. Recently, I received my DNA results and wouldntchaknow…I’m 16% Irish! Here’s a fun downtown Shamrock Hunt to get you in the Irish spirit this month. Have fun finding these, and be sure to step inside and say hi to the locals!
p.s.s. Want to learn more about my Leavenworth Series? Here’s the the blog post that started it all: Link to “Leavenworth: Hello Buffalo!”
I first ventured into this intimate coffee shop a couple of months ago when I needed strong coffee beans to get me through a patch of busy work days. Last week I returned to learn more about the sweet couple that runs it and get some work done in a fresh environment on this foggy day. Michael and Susan Garner have owned Harbor Lights Coffee House and Café for 22 years after opening their doors in March of 1996.
I love light houses (they remind me of family trips from my childhood) and was initially attracted by the name alone, but once I walked in, a few things captured my attention. For one, they are kid-friendly and offer high chairs and a small play area for children. They also have a game library—I may need to return with my husband and have us a chess challenge! I peruse around, circling back to the front of the store, when I see them…colorful, mouth-watering cheese cakes.
Michael is passionate about baking and beat his 2016 record this past year after baking 600 cheese cakes. That’s a lot of cheese cakes for one person to bake friends! His wife Susan explains that they do cater, but close shop early to minister to their community, through Life Connections Ministries.
It’s heartwarming seeing local shop owners like these also giving back to this small town. I’m not sure what I’m drawn more to—the music, the fireplace, the game table in the back, the collection of lighthouses, or the whip cream on my peanut butter chocolate shake.
I love the dim lighting and warm atmosphere in this little ray of light in small-town Leavenworth. I wish I’d brought a good book instead of work today, but I won’t lie, I secretly love what I do for a living, so to work it is! As I quietly step out of the Café, Mrs. Garner calls me by name and gives me a friendly smile and wave–I need to get better at doing the same (I will remember names. I will remember names. I will remember…)!
After leaving the shop, I pick up NY bagels for a play date…you know where (McDevitt and Duffy’s 😊), then I wander into the Heritage Center across from the Riverfront Community Center. They’re not sure why I’m there, and quite frankly, neither am I, but I’m curious and this momma has a few minutes to kill, so I strike up a conversation and get a tour. For Leavenworth newcomers, the Heritage Center schedules live performances and meals for the community, but you do need a reservation. They also host large functions such as weddings and military retirement ceremonies, as well as smaller scale events for various community groups.
I say my thanks and continue on, driving by Candles Queen Candles’ wall-art inspiration: “Sparkle and Shine!” (a week later, and I’m still humming “Shimmer and Shine” instead). I need to stop by and visit after learning about their underground tunnel tours, but my adulting time has come to an end, and it’s time to mommy again. Next time!
Want to visit Harbor Lights Coffee House and Café? Check them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HarborLightsCoffeehouse/
Here is their full website: http://www.harborlightscoffeehouse.com/
Have another great place in town for me to visit? Please share in the comments—I so appreciate recommendations (seriously)!
p.s. Found me another Kansas sunflower in town 😊 Told you it was foggy out there!
Last week, as I left Meriwether’s and wandered past Soul’s store-front inspiration, “Bloom Where You Are Planted,” I caught a glimpse of more sunflowers, leading me into the Kansas Country Store.
I must have looked hungry and lost because the kind lady that greeted me walked me straight back to the fudge booth, where I had the pleasure of meeting Sherry Brown, the store owner and Leavenworth’s sweet “Fudge Lady.” Shelly and her husband Don raised paint horses, beef cattle, and chickens before opening their shop back in 2000. In 2005 the store survived a flood with water levels about 4 feet high, and what had been a horse tack store, started from nothing and evolved into the family and pet one-stop shop it is today. It’s home to a large collection of Midwestern gifts, farm animal feed and more. The store history and story of resiliency is pretty amazing and with a proud smile, Sherry shares “We are survivors! We love this community!” As we chat and walk around the store together, she points to all the American-made gifts and shares how she is a proud supporter of the Midwest and other local small “mom and pop” shops and artists.
Sherry also explains how she is part of a military family and has a heart for the service members and families that come through this small town. She pauses for a moment to reflect on her gratitude for the folks from Fort Leavenworth who worked hard to help her and her husband clean-up after the 2005 flood.
I look around the store for a bit, and as I’m perusing the local fox art and jewelry, Sherry introduces me to Grace Hawley, another military spouse whose family was previously stationed here for CGSC and PCS’d back here this summer around the same time as our family. Lucky for me, Grace has lived where we are headed next, and openly shares a bit about the community, housing, schools, and vacation day-trips we will be able to take. It’s SO nice to hear positive things about our future home! She reminds me that our next home will be “what you make of it.” Agreed!
I love it when people are friendly and open and just willing to share and care about those who walk through their doors. I also love when spouses reach out and serve as a resource to other military spouses. I have met several new spouses these last couple of weeks and talked much about the need for bridges to the resources that are available to our families. I am so encouraged by their commitment to serve other military families and grateful for the courage they’ve had to step-up, join hands, and build a bridge to existing resources for veterans, children, and fellow military spouses.
I left the Kansas Country Store with the most delicious chocolate fudge I’ve ever tasted in my life—YUM! Y’all, I won’t lie, lately I’ve been feeling a bit like Bernie in an old childhood book I had titled The Do-Something Day, by Joe Lasker. As if I don’t already have enough to do, I could walk around town visiting with the locals, learning the town’s history, and supporting small businesses every day. I may need to do like Bernie and volunteer some time with each visit, because I feel so much reward just listening to the locals’ stories and learning from my Leavenworth neighbors.
We have new orders. The idea of leaving Kansas is bitter sweet, but meeting ladies like Sherry and Grace, reminds me that there are beautiful people and amazing military spouses everywhere we will PCS to…I just have to find them 😊
Friends, if you’re in need of horse tack, pet food and supplies, or good ‘ol Midwestern goods, you can find the Kansas Country Store on-line at: http://www.kansascountry.com/
You can also visit their Facebook page at:
Why not also stop by and say hi to Sherry, grab a seat and enjoy some fudge?!
Ciao for now!
p.s. I spied with my little eye…yup, you guessed it—I see the Kansas state animal everywhere I go these days!