Leavenworth Series: Dad’s Toys

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!Dads Toys Building

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 Thaddeus Moultenstore’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.Dads Toys 3rd floorDads Toys Shop

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 DoraAfter 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!”

Leavenworth Series: Harbor Lights Coffee House and Cafe

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/

Harbor Lights Coffee HouseHave another great place in town for me to visit? Please share in the comments—I so appreciate recommendations (seriously)!

Thanks friends,


p.s. Found me another Kansas sunflower in town 😊 Told you it was foggy out there!Clover and Sunflower Windmill


Leavenworth Series: Kansas Country Store

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, Kansas Country Store Fudgeand 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!Be Happy

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 Fudgechildhood 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?!

Kansas Country Store 2

Kansas Country Store

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!Buffalo.jpg

Leavenworth Series: Parks and Recreation

Happy weekend everyone!

Now that we’ve been having warmer and brighter days in Leavenworth, I figured I would drive around and scope out the off-post parks in the area. My boys had fallen asleep in the car and I wasn’t about to wake them up! Maybe other parents can relate, but when these boys get on their public silly-coaster, things go downhill quick. That was the case earlier when I apologized to the family sitting across from us, desperately asked for to-go boxes, and practically ran out of Pullman Place, a family restaurant downtown.

I’d heard great things about their home-cooked meals and truly enjoyed a tasty fish sandwich while observing the bustling atmosphere! Pullman Fish SandwichWe had a room in the back all to ourselves and things were going well until another family was seated near us—>all aboard the silly coaster! The boys did however enjoy all the train décor at this railroad-themed eatery, so we will visit again soon and attempt a do-over. Friends, Pullman’s also has a little train table for your kiddos, a children’s coloring menu, and the manager and staff are very friendly and accommodating.

Now, for those of you like us, who are itching to get outside this weekend, you should visit the City of Leavenworth Kansas, park amenities web page: http://www.lvks.org/department/division.php?structureid=97

All local parks are listed on the website along with picnic shelter rental information, an event schedule, and many more pictures than I was able to capture. I found the detailed list of amenities especially helpful!

Here are a few of my drive-by finds. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list of parks in Leavenworth, KS.

North Esplanade Park. 500 Esplanade St.


This park has a nice side-walk that follows the river bend and historic markers for visitors out for a stroll. They have a small swing set on the south end of the park and a sheltered area with picnic tables on the north end. What I love about this park is the Missouri River view and top-down view of the train tracks. The train goes by about every 15 minutes. For my history buffs, this is also the oldest park in the state of Kansas, established in 1854.

Bob Dougherty Park. 800 N. 2nd St.

Dougherty Park

Dougherty Park in Leavenworth KS



Dougherty park has basketball courts, a playground, views of the Missouri River, and picnic tables nearby.




Buffalo Bill Cody Park. 3003 Shrine Park Rd

This popular park is a great spot for a play date and has shaded areas, tennis courts, a small creek, and a walking trail.

Cody Park in Leavenworth KS 2Cody Park in Leavenworth KS

David Brewer Park. 1801 Ottawa St

This was a great find! The park has volleyball nets, tennis courts, sitting areas and a playground for children.

Hawthorn Park. 1100 Ohio St

Hawthorn park has two playgrounds. I don’t like taking pictures of children without their parents’ permission and I probably choose the worst time to go take drive-by pics because I received interesting stares from other adults. That said, I had fun playing private investigator, and tried to take a decent pic or two of kid-free playgrounds for you.

Hawthorn Park in Leavenworth KS.jpg

Sportsfield Park. 2100 Ottawa St.

Sportsfield has picnic tables, baseball fields, a skate park and is located on the north west side of town right off 20th.

Leavenworth SportsfieldLeavenworth Sportsfield 2

Stubby Park. 1501 S. Fourth St.

This park is closer to those of you on the south east end of Leavenworth or north end of Lansing. It has a playground, and sits right across from the Abeles Athletic Field arch. It also has a sledding hill 😊

Stubby Park in Leavenworth KS.jpg

Wollman Park. 1300 Shawnee St.

Wollman is a great park with a playground, picnic tables, walking trails, and pool with slides. You also get a skyline glimpse of the U.S. Penitentiary from the hilltop.

Wollman Park in Leavenworth KS

There you have it folks! Plenty of outdoor spaces in this little town for you to enjoy during your time here 😊

Enjoy the warmth!


p.s. If you head out to North Esplanade Park, don’t miss the row of older homes across the street. Some were built in the late 1800’s! Try finding these friendly guards while you’re out and about too.



Leavenworth Series: Historic Courthouse

The weather has been nicer this week and we’ve taken short local field trips to learn more about historic Leavenworth and the surrounding areas. Earlier in the week we ventured over to the Court House. Yes, you read correctly.Historic Courthouse in Leavenworth

I know that doesn’t sound like the best field trip for preschoolers, but I will say my boys loved it. We didn’t go to the district courthouse, but instead explored the historic courthouse downtown. I learned they had three murals there and decided to go on a quick scavenger hunt with the boys while learning about different court-themed careers. Kansas City’s Funville really got my boys talking about different jobs this past week (my oldest now wants to be a race car driver, while my youngest wants to be a Daddy). The boys were so excited to find two of the three murals, Struggle for Freedom, by Michael Young and Bleeding Kansas by Ernst Ulmer. My sons had so many questions about the detailed stories the murals told. It gave me an opportunity to briefly sit and chat with them about slavery, the underground railroad, buffalo soldiers, our American flag, and women’s equality. Historic Courthouse in Leavenworth 6Young and Ulmer have done such a beautiful job sharing Leavenworth’s rich history on the courthouse walls. There are guides posted by the murals to help visitors better understand the stories behind the illustrations. I won’t pretend I knew the people in all the portraits, so I’m glad those were there to help me!

As we strolled around the courthouse, we stopped to learn about different presidents depicted in paintings across the walls, the antique courthouse furniture, the stained-glass artwork above us, and the various historic pictures of this first city in Kansas.


For military families heading this way, the Leavenworth Library hosts their annual Halloween Trick or Treating event at the Historic Courthouse. It is such a wonderful family-friendly day-time event—we loved it this past year and highly recommend it!


If you’ve discovered a hidden gem in Leavenworth, share the gold friends!

Hope you’re having a bright week 😊


Sharing Spouses’ Stories: Friendship through CrossFit

Leavenworth has been a different experience for our family, given the educational environment and rural military community. For the first time, there are hundreds of other families, a lot like ours, going through this one to two-year experience. We’re in it together—long study nights, 100-degree-summers, icy winters, holidays away from our families, and the anticipation of the many places around the globe to where we will be dispersed after graduation. I heard it at CGSC orientation and after 8 months in, I see it, “you can make friends to last a lifetime here.”

As a military spouse, I’m amazed by the courage, compassion, and resiliency that I observe in other military spouses. I wish more of their stories were shared, and more of their voices heard.  For years now, I’ve been curious about what helps other spouses, couples, and families thrive in this military life given the unique stressors and constant changes that affect our community. Lately, I’ve put the shy behind me and I’ve started to ask.

Among the amazing ladies I’ve crossed paths with here, I recently got to hang out with Marine spouses, Julia Petronzio and Sierra Dunaway.

I met Sierra during the CGSC spouse’s orientation, randomly crossed paths again at a Strong Bonds retreat, then spent Thanksgiving with her wonderful family.  Being away from family during the holidays can be hard on military families—it’s difficult for our family (who can relate?). When those doors are open, and a family we barely know invites us into their space, I’m quickly reminded that there are great people out there with truly generous hearts. I first met Julia in what’s known as “the bubble” — a CrossFit gym on base.3 During this visit, both Sierra and Julia volunteer to show me what CrossFit is and chat with me about how exercise has helped them cope and bond during their time in Kansas.

One of the first things I got to know about Sierra was her dedication to CrossFit and background in the fitness industry. Sierra began her fitness adventure nine years ago, after she and her husband decided they wanted to start their own gym. While he was deployed, her husband discovered CrossFit and shared his newfound passion with Sierra. They shared workouts and personal record (“PR”) achievements over Skype and months after he returned, they opened a CrossFit affiliate. 6.jpgAfter years of leading fitness boot camps and personal training sessions at more traditional gyms, she says CrossFit changed the way she approaches fitness. It’s no longer a chore for her, and she says “it helps me keep mental balance, especially with 3 kids. You feel so good afterwards.” I had to laugh when Sierra shared that she once ran 6 miles in Florence, Italy just to find a CrossFit “box” to exercise at. That’s what I call commitment!  Italy…I wouldn’t mind running 6 miles there either—I digress.

Something about this visit with Julia and Sierra stood out to me: Their support and encouragement of one another to push through the pain and sweat together. I asked Julia about her journey, and she tells me she is from Germany and started CrossFit 8 years ago in North Carolina and is also a Level 1 CrossFit Trainer (I’m thinking I should have brought my sneakers and gotten a good work out!). I clearly have never participated, but both Julia and Sierra tell me CrossFit is life changing. Julia explains that no matter where the military has moved her and her husband, she’s “always made friends through CrossFit.”  8She goes on to explain, “you sweat together, you laugh together, and you bond.” Julia shares that exercise has changed her perspective on health, stating “I grew up thinking skinny means healthy, but I’ve learned to love my muscles.”  She adds, “I like that I look and feel strong where I used to feel frail and couldn’t pick up something heavy because my knees hurt from barely working out. Personally, I love seeing people grow to love CrossFit. Many newcomers first think they will never be able to lift heavy weights or do strenuous workouts, until they see that all workouts can be scaled to their need.”

Both women explain that CrossFit can be intimidating to someone like me, who has never tried it, but they agree that it can be fun if you ease into it and take things at your own pace. Sierra explains that “CrossFit isn’t for everybody, and that’s okay.” I ask her what she might say to a new military spouse on post looking for a way to connect with others and she responds, “people have to find what works for THEM.” As they end their work out, Sierra reminds me to just, “come in. Find your groove, don’t be shy, and ask questions.” Julia adds, “nobody will judge, and we welcome newcomers!”

It’s inspiring to see two military spouses working to sharpen each other and support one another during these transitional times.4 It’s also interesting to see how we each find different ways to cope with change and create a sense of belonging and community wherever the military takes us.

What helps you thrive as a military spouse? How do you connect with others when you PCS? How do you get through the stress of moving, leaving friends behind, and starting over in each new “home?”

Please feel free to share in the comments, or continue the conversation on Facebook @rockyroadsandrainbows 😊


Thanks for visiting today!


Disclaimer: I am not a physical trainer. I am a military spouse and mom, learning what works for others and sharing their stories, while also being inspired by military spouses and veterans that I meet along this journey. Injuries of all types can occur when participating in exercise, physical fitness and training programs. Please obtain a physical examination by your physician prior to undertaking any exercise or training demonstrated on this website, and/or any photographs offered on this website. You fully assume the risk of any resulting injury. Capisce?


Indoor Fun for Preschoolers: Solar Systems and Shapes

These cold winter days are for the birds! It was too cold to even ride bikes in the garage this weekend, so I was brainstorming every quick and easy preschool activity table I could put together for “calm time.” After my last post, I realized I needed to include a parenting and activity disclaimer, so here it is:

Disclaimer–> I am not a preschool educator. I’m a mom, far from perfect, trying to figure it all out like the rest of them. I get ideas off Pinterest, or simply wing it with whatever I can find around the house. Some activities get messy! Some include small arts and crafts that can be easily swallowed. Children need supervision. Capisce?

After having my first-born, I immersed myself in Montessori literature and reviewed dozens upon dozens of activities for toddlers and preschoolers. I felt societal pressures to be this perfect parent and military spouse who had it all together. Not to mention, I have phenomenal friends who do an amazing job raising their kids while managing careers. Admittingly, I was also afraid to let my boys down, especially with all the change and stressors they might experience as military children. I’ve been on a personal mission to create an environment that promotes love, learning, creativity, and responsibility, except  I’m not so hard on myself these days. My wonderful tribe of moms and dads have reminded me that my little army brats will be just fine. I’ve realized that my hugs and kisses, undivided attention, and interactive play are just as important, if not more than those old learning activities I invested so much in. I’ve learned that my boys are happy and healthy even when I don’t set-up activity tables. To be honest, there are times when using sheets for a tent yields more creativity in this home than any activity table I can set up. So, for you moms and dads reading…do NOT beat yourselves up if you are not into doing these types of activities with your kids. If something else works for you and your family and you want to share—please do 😊 Also, I will say, children are all different. My oldest loves these indoor learning activities, whereas my youngest would much rather be outside. If he’s inside, he’s likely to jump on the bed, do cartwheels down the hall, and fly off our staircase (think future airborne ranger). That boy gives me tachycardia!

Here’s how we stayed entertained, and avoided breaking anything this frigid weekend:

  1. We focused on the solar system, shapes, colors, and winter. The boys colored on this Melissa and Doug solar system drawing pad (later used to set the table for lunch).Solar System.jpg
  2. They learned letters while completing a Moon and Sun spelling activity.Spelling Activity
  3. Each created their own solar system with stickers, beads, buttons, and pipe cleaners (required supervision).
  4. We learned about shapes and colors using learning cards.Shapes Cards
  5. They used handy tweezers to work on shape puzzles. We made a house, since we were stuck at home.
  6. The boys smashed, cut, and stamped out shapes with playdough (triangle pizza was a big hit).playdough
  7. We read books about night time and day time. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is a family favorite!Books
  8. Finally, their favorite activity (because I love rainbows): Ice Rainbows. I found this activity at PreKinders.com, where I also found free weather printables 😊. I set up cups with different food colors and gave the boys cups with crushed ice. They LOVED dispensing colorful water onto their ice, mixing colors, transferring liquids from one container to another and then (the messy part) squirting each other with the syringes.Ice Rainbow Activity

I’m hoping for warmer days this week! I keep finding fun new things to do in Leavenworth and its surrounding areas, and will keep sharing for those headed this way 😊

If you’re local to Leavenworth, KS and have recommendations on places to visit or things to do indoors with children, please post in the comments section!

Have a great week friends!


p.s. Here’s one more Solar System arts and crafts activity the boys LOVED doing during last year’s eclipse. The local Family Dollar Tree had everything I needed in their flower/garden section and teacher’s corner.



Indoor Fun for Preschoolers: Snow Day

Hi friends! Snow day here…more like ice day really. The roads in Leavenworth are pretty icy after last night’s winter storm, so the boys are home this morning and I feel like it should be much later than 11:00—we have had one busy morning! For other stay-at-home or work-from-home parents, these ice days make for some energy-filled kids! My boys are in full superhero gear this week, jumping and running around this entire house, chasing the dog, and squealing and laughing at a pitch Mariah Carey would envy. My ears hurt y’all!

Being home most of the time with my boys can be simultaneously wonderful and exhausting. I love to teach and am constantly searching for new ideas for arts/crafts, toddler/preschool learning, and creating environments where they can thrive. I really like Montessori and have mainly taken her approach with the boys, but I’m also flexible and integrate other learning approaches at times. We play A LOT. We are outdoors A LOT and this icy winter has thrown me off in my planning of winter-themed learning activities.

This morning was unplanned, but I wanted the boys to do more than chase our poor fur baby around, so I put together a quick activity table. Most importantly, I sat with them and interacted, talked, and encouraged critical thinking. Then I let them be and the table kept them engaged for a solid hour (YES!).

Here’s what we did:

  1. Learned the letter W and W-words (i.e., Watch, World, Warm, Winter), Winter words (i.e., mitten, coat, scarf, boots, snowman), and forest animals (i.e., bears, deer, owls, squirrels, moose).5
  2. Dug for snowflakes and snowmen erasers, sorted them, and used a scooper, funnel and jar to learn about gravity—messy, but the boys’ favorite activity!9
  3. Reviewed the world globe, a map of the United States, and a handful of states where our friends will be PCSing to. We talked about moving, visiting, cold winters that some will have, and international travels we can hope for.11
  4. Learned the number 3. We did simple math puzzles and used miniature Moose to count to 3, while chatting about a veteran friend who is living in Alaska and recently posted pictures of Moose and snow (thank you for that!). We also did a fine motor activity and the boys used plastic tweezers to select the moose from a variety bowl of animals.
  5. We read winter-themed books and chatted about bears and hibernation, and how squirrels bury nuts and seeds to survive harsh winters. They are regular backyard visitors these days.4
  6. We discussed the concept of time, and learned about watches, clocks, and colors while completing a clock puzzle.8
  7. We baked warm muffins and did clean-up chores for some real-world activities.12

My boys are free-playing while I type, but soon I will hear “Mommy! Mommy!” and I will be throwing my cape on and joining their adventure. Freezing them is my special superhero power 😊 Later, some exercise, warm tea, and quite time will be just what this momma needs to keep up with the long evening ahead of us while dad’s at school.tea.jpg

What are your snow-day go-to’s? What super-hero parent power do you have? 😊 How do you fill your cup at the end of your day?

From my cuppa to yours, cheers!


Leavenworth Series: Sunflower Sisters Vintage

Sunflower Sisters Vintage…where do I begin?

I hadn’t heard of this vintage/re-purpose store until I was handed one of their business cards over at Sis’ Sweets. I am so glad I heeded their recommendation and drove over. I’m not sure I have the correct door, but I open it anyway and walk right into a room of bright blossoming sunflowers (my favorite), and am greeted by Carol, one of the 3 sisters and owners.

After introducing myself, Carol asks that I cover my ears as she hollers across the warehouse for her sister, Connie, to join us. I already like her. I come from a loud vibrant family and grew up with two younger sisters myself. As we wait for Connie to meet us, Carol tells me they’ve been in business for 5 years, sharing the location with a plumbing wholesale store that’s occupied the space for the past 32 years. Connie introduces herself and remembers their start date, March 13th, to be exact. She explains that the structure was built in 1879 and became home to the Great Western Store Manufacturing Company and later C & H Supply, a plumbing wholesale store.

Connie and Carol are both retired teachers and Connie and her husband Rick (both life-long residents of Leavenworth) opened shop before Connie’s sisters, Carol and Vickie joined the fun. Five expansions later, they have treasures spread across 3,000 square feet. There is such great history in this building! Carol eagerly shares how it was once home to pot belly stoves and wood burning cooks, as well as tank turrets for WWII and hems (aka punch tools) for the railroad a block away. Her excitement about the building’s history, coupled with her passion for re-purposing furniture, is contagious and it doesn’t take much to get us going. She really enjoys her work and finding exactly what folks are searching for.  She tells me the sisters pride themselves on making items “low cost, so that people can find treasures AND take them home.”

At some point in our conversation, I identify myself as a military spouse and learn that I’m not alone in the room. Carol’s husband is a Vietnam War veteran and she nods as I explain how hard moving to new places can be and chat about my desire to help newcomers feel more at home here. Perhaps it was her subtle milspouse nod or the way her eyes filled with compassion…my voice cracks and my eye lids sweat for a split second. Phew, glad I held it together—motherhood has had this odd effect on my eyeballs–that was a close one! I decide to tour the building, while Carol has grabbed a seat and started sanding a whatnot shelf. Friends, as I journey through the doors to the warehouse, I feel like I’ve just stepped into Narnia. I have the whole place to myself and every step is a new find! I explore deeper into this vintage forest, trinkets and upcycled gems grabbing my attention, when I hear her.

From the other side of the wall, I can hear Connie going about her business singing and humming to herself joyfully. I giggle to myself, because in my giddiness the tone of her song reminds me of Cinderella’s Fairy God Mothers. I feel like a child in awe in this store, where I also kind of feel at home. See, when you’re far away from your tribe–your people, connecting with others is like chicken soup for the milspouse soul. Individuals like those of this friendly family remind me of those I love and miss back home. My gosh do I miss my sisters making fun of me for x, y, z in this very moment. I miss my grandmas and the warm fuzzies that I get when I’m with them. My parents…nope, can’t go there. I finish taking pics and walk back through the closet door into reality.

Carol is waiting for me and hands me a beautiful sunflower bag for my new 5B&Co sunflower candle and a little Kansas home décor to remind us of this short season of our military adventure. She also throws in a couple of girl scout cookies. Earlier she joked that Connie always has surprises like this for customers—I love it! On my way out, I spot more sunflowers and Carol explains her sister Vickie made them. She does needle points and embroideries for the shop and I’m bummed I missed meeting her. If the 3 sisters are anything like my sisters and I, you don’t quite get the full effect of our sisterhood unless sister #3 is present 😊

As I wrap up this blog post, I’m talking my husband’s ear off about these sisters and how awesome I thought they were. I’m reminded of Connie’s words: “We like to give our customers an experience.” An experience indeed! What a fun visit. I see a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law junking date in my near future.

For my Fort Leavenworth military families, the sisters do ship! Here is a link to their Facebook page. Check them out!


I hope you all enjoy some quality time and hugs this weekend with those you love!


Leavenworth Series: Sis’ Sweets

I have the day off today and somehow, I can think of 100 things to do when I’m too busy to do them but give me a kid-free day off and I don’t know what to do with myself. I grab my camera and drive downtown for more Leavenworth discovering, swinging by Sis Sweets this time. I heard their cookies are too tempting for any kind of diet, and my curiosity peaks.  I also want to surprise the boys during parent-pick-up. Back when the army took us to Columbus, GA, there was a strong presence of vintage signs across the area and pulling up to Sis’ and Sweets takes me back there, as they display their own side-walk inspiration: “Be Your Best Self”. Noted, and I will surely try to do just THAT.


I walk inside on this misty fogged day and am immediately drawn to the history displayed across the shop. Holy cow batman! I was not expecting such a rich collection of Kansas knick knacks… and I’m off, snapping pictures and chatting with the friendly employees. They tell me about the shop’s owner, Dawn Monroe, a baker, and KU fan. She has lived here for over 20 years and collects anything “Leavenworth, Kansas” that she can get her hands on. The employees speak highly of her hard work and giving heart, sharing how she was awarded a certificate of appreciation just yesterday for generously donating delectable cookies for veterans and their families during the Wreaths Across America event at the Leavenworth National Cemetery this past December. Want to know more about this event or how to volunteer? Click here: http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/

This just warms my heart. How can I not pay it forward when I see so many good people doing great things in this world? I continue to explore the bakery and find an old piano parked near the back. I want to sit and play, but I won’t, but I must, but I don’t. Oh, I just want a piano! I continue to snap away.


Hidden behind some of the KU memorabilia, I spy Judy Garland, and smile.


Kansas is growing on me y’all. I see Wizard of Oz-ness everywhere I turn. Every time I step foot into a new small business downtown, I’m also taken aback by the hospitality of this town’s people and the love they have for this rural community. I have a heart for locally-owned businesses and as I stroll around, my mind is brainstorming ways to share these sweet treasures with newcomers.

Sis’ Sweets is known for their cookies and deserts, so I grab two sugar cookies with chocolate sprinkles for the boys and a coffee to-go. They have large tables for family lunches, but one catches my attention as I exit—I love window seats where I can people watch and dine. I will have to return with my 3 favorite boys for sandwiches and a window view.


If you want to know more about Sis’ Sweets, you can visit them at: http://sissweets.wixsite.com/sissweets

or check them out on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Sis-Sweets-Cookies-and-Cafe-108315919221294/

The clock is ticking, but I keep finding interesting history and little treasures as I inch towards the door.


My husband would be pulling on my camera by now! His mom got me into loving everything vintage. It’s our thing when she visits. We try to tackle as many stores as we can in one day. I leave the shop and drive around for a bit trying to scope out all thrift and antique shops downtown, prepping for her next visit. I sort of feel like a private investigator today, with my quick drive-by pics. Hubby would say I’m more like a paparazzi…I wish he was exploring with me this morning!


For those who know me, you know I love sunflowers. I decide to hunt some down on my way home and am introduced to Sunflower Sisters Vintage. I will be back on the blog to share that fun experience pronto!


Until then friends, be your best self wherever you are!


p.s. Fun facts for newcomers: Kansas is known as the Wheat State. I would have thought Tornado State, but I stand corrected. Also, the Kansas State motto is “Ad Astra per Aspera,” meaning “To the Stars through Difficulties.” This has me thinking of military families and how beautiful the night sky looks when it’s clear of pollution…and I’m grateful for our family’s time in America’s Midwest.


p.s.s. I spied another Buffalo! Woot!


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