I tried. I really tried to capture the roaming buffalo for this blog. I tried to outrun the gate guards, after trespassing on federal property, and sprinted for dear life before being stumbled over by those giant beasts. OK, not the last sentence, but I tried, and was told I couldn’t, so–>U-turn! The last thing this military wife wants is trouble for my soldier-man. They are here, and you will see them as you drive past the grassy area next to the U.S. Penitentiary (aka The Big House), across from the Metropolitan Steak House (lunch date for you couples).
They will tell you at the CGSC Spouse’s orientation that this year is a time to reconnect with your spouse (since they aren’t busy working in the field). Let me give it to your straight: Your spouse will spend the morning in class, the afternoon in the library, and the evening studying in the basement or getting a graduate degree nearby. It is what it is. That said, there are fun and creative ways to connect and make time for each other and your family (I’ll save the detailed list for another day). We have attended Strong Bonds retreats with friends (free full-day child care, hotel, meals, and date night—woohoo!), found babysitters for date nights, and camped at a nearby site for a weekend getaway with our fabulous neighbors. Together, you CAN make fun new memories here. Talk about it, plan, and maintain realistic expectations.
So, no buffalo picture yet, but I did run on post to capture the popular Buffalo Soldier Monument.
Want to know more about the history of Buffalo Soldiers? Check out the Kansas Sampler Foundation website here:
I also snapped a shot of the Combined Arms Research Library for you. They have a children’s library inside too.
It took some serious self-control and some healthy fear to keep me off that ice!
Charming Leavenworth is rich in history, after all, it’s Kansas’ first city and one of the starting points of the Oregon Trail. Downtown is lively too with sandwich and coffee chops, specialty stores, thrifts and antique shops, churches, health providers and other small businesses.
Parents, there are historic murals across the downtown area for a fun fall-time scavenger hunt. Below are some I’ve come across:
For future CGSC spouses curious about your initial days in Kansas, let me pause, and rewind to our summer 2017 move. We arrived at the housing office, thinking we were way ahead of most, only to be listed 55 on a first come, first serve wait-list (you read correctly and no, the 6 months prior housing application did nothing for us). Fun times indeed. We considered living in our trailer with two dogs, a cat, and 2 wild boys, but the campground was going to flood over the weekend, so we secured a room at the Lansing Econo Lodge. Everything else within the required 30-minute drive to secure housing was booked. We lived there for 5 days too long. Talk about being irritable!!! By day 5, we were ready for a rental home. We saw two houses, and BOOM we were moved in that afternoon. Good thing we did because we didn’t hear from the housing office until a month and a half later. While waiting for our belongings to be delivered, we gathered for family dinners around a storage bin, and ran around an empty house with our boys and fur babies (I know some of you can relate!).
Here’s the thing, we didn’t have anyone to prepare us for the unexpected. We thought we were ahead of most by moving at the end of June. We thought we would move right into a house on post day 1. Then we thought we could travel a bit and camp out while we waited for something to open…wrong. There are other non-army families and international students that arrive earlier than others and there IS a wait list for housing. Plan and get connected before your move, then be flexible. Visit the various Fort Leavenworth face book spouses’ pages to learn tricks of the trade from spouses who have already gone through the obstacles. They share housing ideas, child care resources, hospital information, and their own experiences so that it’s less painful when it’s your turn to make the big move.
Let’s talk about living in small-town Leavenworth for a minute. Deep breath…Kansas City is a 20-40-minute drive away. Being from Miami, FL, I need my big city fix occasionally, so we spend a Saturday in the city once a month. There are a lot of things to do there–I will need to devote a separate blog for those. As far as what to do in Leavenworth, it’s slim pickings. I had to shift my perspective and expectations a bit. Some of you will be pleased to know that yes, we do have sushi here! Sushi Garden has been our go-to for local date nights (Yes, the one in the I-HOP plaza. That’s right, next to the Econo Lodge). While we’re on the topic of food, The Depot is another finger lickin’ meet-up. We met there for breakfast with other CGSC families in the old “cigar room” of the historic train station downtown. I’m big into genealogy and history, and finding historic gems like this, re-purposed vintage, or renovated-anything makes my heart smile big.
What else is there to do? There is an old movie theater nestled downtown, mini golf on post, and bowling allies on and off post. My boys get a kick out of this big dinosaur outside of Crown Lanes.
The historic C.W. Parker Carousel Museum is unique to Leavenworth and riding their 10mph speedster is a must-do. Excuse the laughter in the pic below, we were so dizzy, it was laugh vs. vomit.
Fort Leavenworth does a great job at hosting family events on post, especially during the summer and fall seasons (winter and spring for another blog). We joined their 4th of July celebrations our first week here—think live band, bounce houses, food, and vendors. This community also holds several family friendly events downtown, to include the Summer Concert Series, Alive After 5, the farmers’ market, parades, and Christmas tree lighting event. Check out the Leavenworth Main Street web page here: http://leavenworthmainstreet.com/
We arrived right in time for the Amelia Earhart Annual Festival in neighboring Atchison, KS. For those who love funnel cakes and planes, 2018 dates are July 20th and 21st.
Excuse my eldest, he is such a clown…gets it from his daddy!
We also had fun petting dozens of farm animals and riding carnival rides at the Leavenworth County Fair in Tonganoxie, KS. There are a few back to back fairs in this area, but we enjoyed the rural drive to Tonganoxie and the sunflowers. There are quite a few small towns to visit in the area, Weston, Platte City, Smithville, Lansing, and Bonner Springs are among these. By the way, best ribs in the area can be found at All Slabbed-Up BBQ, just up the road from, you got it… the Econo Lodge. Can you tell I’m a foodie yet?
For those with energized toddlers and preschoolers, there is Play, Bounce, & Jump Family Entertainment Center off 20th and Spruce with great deals and birthday party options for the kiddos. Winters here are cold!
There are also farms off Santa Fe Rd, northwest of post, for the warmer months. Salt Creek Valley Farms has weekly events for families during the fall–Big hit for our family! This city girl was diggin’ the farm-life and cooking the fresh stuff.
Picking fresh flowers from their flower garden also made me one happy momma!
Need another to-do? The Leavenworth Public Library is AWESOME. It’s right off 4th and Spruce.
As we waited for our items to be shipped, we took our boys to wiggle time and story time, both of which they loved. If your passionate about genealogy like I am, you gain free access to some genealogy sites while visiting (you can also do this from home with your spouse’s library card). The Family History Center is another local resource on Limit St. and the Leavenworth Historical Society is on 5th. Their web page lists all Leavenworth county museums and has information on the Leavenworth Candlelight Vintage Home Tours. Check them out here: http://leavenworthhistory.org/
Back to the Library, as I need to mention, this was where we made our first friends. Other military spouses find their way to the Libraries on and off post—say hi and meet someone new! I was somewhat shy but met two lively boy moms and clicked right away.
Let me talk to the spouses who are a bit introverted. I’m with ya! I get it. It’s hard to even make eye contact sometimes, so you avoid. Don’t. Not here. You can make Leavenworth your best or worst experience. I have forced myself to step outside my comfort zone to invite other spouses with toddlers over, whether the nasty rug in this rental home is vacuumed or not. I also set up a park play date right away to get to know other parents. It felt weird asking random women I had merely introduced myself to, to spend a few hours with me and my family. I invited others over for walks, and we grabbed our strollers and talked (Y’all know who you are…THANK YOU!). Their willingness to join, connect, and share has made this move easier and easier.
There is something to be said about the transparent heart-to-heart conversations that ripple over a gathering of military spouses. I have wanted to make this my best move yet and that has meant being me, being honest, making the effort, and being curious about others here. I’ve asked about others’ moves. I’ve asked about their challenges. I’ve asked about what’s helped. We help. Being in community with each other and sharing ideas and resources helps. In this one to two-year PCS (for you SAMS folks), you can choose to connect, or isolate. Be courageous and put yourself out there—it will make the skies seem bluer while you’re here 😊
Ciao for now!
p.s. This blog is not all inclusive. If you’ve trudged these roads, post your favorite memories and suggestions in the comments below. I’ll circle back with more seasonal activities later. Let’s share our knowledge and experiences with one another!
Update: I did it! Took me 3 attempts, but I got a pic of the Buffalo for you…see? Told ya we had buffalo here!