Tilden Regional Park // Berkeley, CA

While we were in California last month we explored a lot of the local area where we stayed, which was right in Berkeley. The hills in Berkeley are just nuts, driving was an adventure.

One of the places I had researched ahead of time was Tilden Regional Park, from what I could tell there was great hiking, a fun steam train (for the kids, but honestly – it was so much fun), gardens and much more.

Our favorite way to travel is to just get lost. Know enough, but then just go, and this trip was without kids so we had a lot more freedom to spend time day-tripping and getting lost without people losing their marbles.

Tilden Regional Park

I remember places by their public spaces. The parks, the gardens, the greenhouses. Detroit? Belle Isle. Holland, Mi? Windmill Island and the greenhouse in the middle of the city. Oregon? The International Test Rose Garden.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

So Tilden was a must-do on my list, her Botanical Gardens a prize winning first place for me.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

We spent the most time “forest bathing” as we walked around the Botanical Gardens from habitat to habitat. Desert, to hillside, to giant sequoia grove, to forest, to bridges and lawn, to pond life and prairie.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

It was magical, what can I say? I loved it so hard. The parking was free and there was no admission to get in to the park. After we spent a couple hours at the garden we went to the Steam Train for a ride. Tickets were $3 each – the ride was a good ten minutes through the trees and little tunnels. It was like riding on the set of Thomas the Train with miniature buildings and working water towers for the train. You could buy 5 or 6 rides for cheaper, like a “pass”, which multiple parties did because once you ride the train you just don’t want it to ever stop. Many people got off and right back on again.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Every so often the conductor would ring the bell and blow the steam and we’d see this beautiful smoke stack rise through the trees.

Magic, I tell you.

Don’t miss it 🙂 On our way out we stopped at a couple of the lookouts off the road and grabbed some great views. The fog moved in almost every day we were there and it was as if a blanket was being gently laid over the city.

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Berkeley, CA trip 2018

Later this same day we road-tripped to Highway 1, another winery in a small town called “Russian River” and meandered through some beautiful hillside as we made our way back to Berkeley which I’ll cover in the next post soon!

Our first ‘Airbnb Experience’ // Napa, Ca

We’ve had a busy summer traveling all over the PNW. I’ll write a few more posts about the other things we did and where we traveled but for this one, I wanted to tell you how awesome our Airbnb Experience was in California. And nope, this is not an ad.

We’ve been traveling and using Airbnb as our wayfinder for housing for just over 5 years now and we LOVE Airbnb. So much. So so much. Immersion travel is our bag. This past year Airbnb launched (or maybe it’s older than a year, I don’t know, I’m not the spokesperson, just super excited) “Experiences” and, I don’t know, maybe I’ve been trying to travel to places BECAUSE OF THE EXPERIENCES THEY OFFER.

I. Am. So. Jazzed. About. This.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

When it became clear that our kids would actually get into their respective sleep-away camps the same week it meant we could get away together. Alone. Our anniversary isn’t until the end of August but we used this week in July as our excuse to celebrate 15 years of marriage.

I had no idea where I wanted to go but I’ve never been to Napa so I looked at a map, picked Berkeley as our home base, and booked the Airbnb Experience of a Winery-hop in a vintage VW bus all over Napa.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

The tour took us to 3 different wineries with another couple who had signed up for the same day as us. I think there’s room for a total of 6, but the day we went there were only four reservations. We met and quickly made friends with this other couple, celebrating her birthday all the way from Minneapolis.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

We had a ton of fun, she’s my kind of girl.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

Turns out wine tasting in California is much more expensive than in little ol’ Northern Michigan. When we go to Traverse City and Lelanau it’s $5 a pop for a tasting. In Napa? $40. Per person. So you know. Uh. Be aware that your adorable “anniversary trip excursion” will look like that really pretty necklace you were hoping for. But you have all the photos instead of a shiny rock. Some how it doesn’t feel the same.

Airbnb Experience: Napa Valley by VW Bus Tour

But it was so worth it.

In the middle of Target

I have vivid dreams at night and almost daily I end up telling Aaron, at one point or another, “I had the weirdest dream last night.”

It’s kind of expected at this point, it happens so often. Yesterday my dream was that I finally put my foot down and we had 3 more kids. He waited about 12 hours before he gingerly asked me, so … is that what you’re doing? Putting your foot down?

I howled. But then for a hot second I wavered. And then quickly rounded out to: um, no. It took me a long time to be ok with being done having kids. You might remember the vasectomy story I told here years ago, but what I didn’t tell you is that in the middle of all of that, I was being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and my endocrinologist told me not to have any more babies. I needed to be done, it wasn’t safe for me any more. Being on the way to that decision on your own is one thing, being told to finalize it and it was over, period, is a much different thing.

Mourning the motherhood stage of newborns was a weird and awfully long season for me. As friends continued to have babies we would go back to the drawing board and ask ourselves (and my doctors, repeatedly) if it was ok, now? Could we do this, again, now? We had some hopeful answers along the way but they all ended with “high risk pregnancy” no matter what.

Clearly, we haven’t gone that route. When our youngest went to school my ovaries were white hot with wonder, I wasn’t ready to be done. I wanted more. When our oldest entered middle school, I freaked out and prayed for a miracle. Maybe I could just get better?

Each stage has brought it’s own bittersweet beginning and a very definite ending. And the white hot need is gone, the fever has passed. We now own furniture that will last beyond spit up, walkers, crayons and food stains. We’ve leaped to the other side, which has never been more apparent than on my trips to Target this week.

I can walk into a store and tell my children to meet me somewhere in 15 minutes. They are earning their own money, making (laborious) decisions about how and what to spend it on, and they are stewarding their small wages on their own. Learning. I don’t need to hover. If they spend $6 on something that breaks, they learn that waiting for something is always more satisfying than impulse buying, and they’re out their hard-earned cash. Which we talk about in terms of how long it takes to earn it. So a remote control toy might cost $50 but to our son, that’s mowing the lawn 7 times.

But that’s not the point here, while I was walking around Target giving my kids the time it takes to ponder and decide over something magnificent … all I heard was crying.

Other peoples children were throwing fits, mothers were often just deaf to it – because, sanity, but I had a flashback to being in their shoes. I hated going to stores when my kids were little like that, especially if we were primed for a meltdown. Around lunch or nap time or just before dinner. I don’t have to think about those things anymore. We go to the store whenever we need to, no big deal.

And it got me thinking about allllllll of this. Mourning the stages, but also being so grateful to be over some of those insurmountable humps. My kids throw tantrums still, don’t get me wrong, just not in public. And when they’re being unreasonable I can actually reason with them and tell them to knock it off or we can have a conversation and decide together.

I walked around Target listening to all the complaining of other kids, the crying from the toddlers, the whining from the not-quite-big kids and I listened to the moms, out of their minds. They just needed a shower curtain, or a birthday gift, or the happiness of Target to get them through their day. They just needed a break. To put their kid in cart and wander the aisles of a place they don’t have to clean, where problems don’t pop out of the leaky faucet and you can stand still in a row of pretty lamps.

The standing still, you guys. The not being needed because your kid is otherwise engaged (trapped in a cart) possibly with a small screen and you can use your brain to look at something other than the wall at home.

I remembered.

I remember.

Summer is a weird time no matter the age of your kids, I’m learning. Or is it just different as they get older? But still heavy handed on the needs? I’m still deciding.

What really hit me was realizing I had moved passed something.

And being ok with knowing it was over, and excited for the next part.

Fifteen

The vibe

Those kids? They had zero chill about getting married. We celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary this summer and I’ve been thinking about this milestone for a while. There’s some fun stats I could outline, we could walk down memory lane … or I could just write about what it’s meant to be married to Aaron for 15 years straight.

Consecutively.

All together.

So far.

Little did I know as the Bambi child I was that getting married meant staying married. I mean, of course it means this … but in reality … in the doing … I had no idea. You can’t know what you don’t know. And I, simply, just didn’t know. My version of commitment was short. I was a teenager when I met the guy, the only reference to “10 years ago” I could give to anyone was to the first grade.

But I have to be honest with you, being married and staying married and working at marriage and getting to be Aaron’s wife and partner in life – has been one of the most rewarding things in my life so far. And now when I reference 10 years ago, it’s to our beginning. The hard part. It’s looking back and knowing we came through it, together. It’s knowing he’s always been there for me, he’s never wavered. He has waited for me and chosen me and he is my first safe place.

It will not surprise you, dear reader, to hear that I am a romantic. Somewhat of a poet about love or life. I can have rose colored glasses for almost anything, including pain. I’m here for the experience of life and man, has she thrown some at me. But everywhere I turn in my quest to know something or discover myself or become who I’ve always been becoming, there is Aaron. He’s kept pace with me, has often pushed me to be better and find my voice. He’s gifted me with his care, his love, his support.

When I look back, it’s his arm I see around me first before I can even glance at the past. When I look ahead, it’s his stride leading us toward our future hand in hand. And when I stop and just look around? He’s next to me.

How beautiful it is to have him next to me.

Mr and Mrs Schaap

I’m kind of a fan of those letters you write to your younger self, the lessons from the future you wish you could have given your perfect skin and flat stomach to ENJOY IT NOW. Not because it’s fleeting but because now I just know. I know how fast life changes, how little it takes to topple our expectations and plans. How often we claim control over things that simply aren’t ours to mess around with and how worth it this has been to keep trying at.

One of the things I absolutely love about Jen Hatmaker is how unapologetic she is about being obsessed with her big extended family. The love letter she wrote to her parents in her most recent book, Of Mess and Moxie? And a recent tidbit she posted on social media about how their summer days start with coffee on the porch with her siblings … this is not my experience. Certainly not my reality – but damn it if I don’t fist pump every time she regales the happiness this brings her … and to me as a fan, a reader, a hopeful lover of life. That this exists in the world. It might not exist for me personally, and thats ok. I don’t need all the wins … but this one small thing, this relationship that is evergreen … Aaron. This is my win. It’s less than perfect but we’re a beautiful and imperfect mess.

And I’m so thankful for our adventure in life together.

Happy Anniversary, babe.

15 years of learning to trust in love and you haven’t given up on us, yet. I like that about you.

Chicago Feb 2016

Clear the clutter

It’s that time of year when we see garage sale signs popping up and flea markets start to happen every weekend and it’s very exciting. I subscribe to this membership of purging. I love it.

Just this last week I re-painted our daughters room and repurposed some household items in her room to better fit her needs. I stole a rug from our living room for her bedroom, used up extra paint we had for her walls and updated her bedding with money I had made from selling some pieces in our house that just don’t work for us any more.

However, I noticed another place in my life, specifically, where I could clear the clutter … digitally. Subscriptions, free trials, email lists, to-dos.

Like a lot of families these days we no longer pay for cable but have subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu. I had a free trial going for Amazon Prime (for the free shipping), and after listening to one of my favorite podcasts, started another free trail for a budgeting tool, You Need A Budget.

All well intentioned. Signing up for something for free to test it out is always a great way to see if I can really use something long term, but the kicker for me is, this generally means I have to add something else to my list of things to do or try to even begin making the decision about if I want it or not.

Case of the Monday's

And it works like a charm because suddenly the free trial turns into a paid subscription and I generally feel guilt over not using it enough, or “getting my monies worth”, if I don’t order from amazon frequently enough to cover the cost. Anyone else?

So I signed up for this budget tool and signed in, and got 3 more confirmation emails immediately. My inbox was flooded with “helpful tips to get started” and “remember your passwords” and all the things to go along with starting something new. But you guys, the entry (free or not) into this new budgeting tool was costing me time and energy I don’t have. We already use another free budgeting tool (Mint.com) and I love it. Everything is already synched up and it works just fine. WHY WOULD I TRY ANOTHER?

It might be nicer, more progressive, from what I’ve heard, it’s a great tool for budgeting. But the system I have in place works well for us. So why does a free trial sound like I’m missing out?

I had too many of these mind-cluttering systems holding me hostage. I even checked our Netflix and Hulu subscriptions knowing along the way I bumped up one of the subscriptions from the most basic to the next level for convenience. I canceled all the trials (pro tip, when you do this within your free trail period, you still have access to the membership until the end of your trail period and you won’t get billed accidentally beyond it.) and I downgraded the subscriptions I know we used and wanted to keep and suddenly the mental space I was occupying trying to get the best deal just vanished. Because I’m already getting the best deal for us by not buying in to the free trap on everything that sounds remotely interesting.

I follow AndreaDekker.com and love her mindset on so many of these organizational tools and systems. Often what we’re buying is the idea, not the ability to keep it all organized. We think we need more systems, more boxes, more labels to actually be organized when really – we often need so much less to stay organized. Less stuff, less things to have to clean or label or keep track of. Less.

Any way, it’s Monday and it’s Springtime and most of the time the lure to “save money” is actually spending it. Which is totally fine, I spend money and you should definitely spend the your money however you see fit. It was just really helpful the past few days to realize what it is I find helpful about what I’m spending money (and time, or energy – all equally valuable to me) on.

Free trials, I’ve found out, aren’t valuable to me. But buying flowers at the Farmers Market and spending a lot of time in our yard and on our yard – is extremely valuable to me, so I just won’t say no to perennials. Yet.

What would you add to the list of things to clear the clutter?