But let me rewind first. Last week, we purchased a mini-van. Yes, this girl who once swore up and down to never be a mini-van driving soccer mom no matter how many kids she had... is still swooning over her big purchase seven days later. Earlier this year Cody was given a company vehicle, and his red Jeep had been sitting parked in front of our house ever since. It had sat in one place for so long that it ended up developing a flat tire in its parked position... or what I refer to it as... its bed sore. For months we couldn't decide what to do with it. Sell it ourselves? Trade it in? Trade both of our vehicles in for a nicer used vehicle? Trade both vehicles in for a brand new really nice vehicle? It's these kinds of decisions that make me long for childhood and regret the moment I became an adult. I drag my feet on things like this, but what I'm learning is that sometimes the long process of trying to make up my mind... helps me to know when the right decision is staring me in the face. I'm one of those people who could take forever to make a decision but once I know what the right decision is, I waste absolutely no time going after what I want and making it happen. When we bought our first house, we had been looking for houses for months. 15 minutes after we saw this one, we put an offer down. When we decided to have a second baby, I was pregnant a week later. And when I agreed to look at my first mini-van last Monday? I signed the papers for it that night. So here we are with a brand spankin' new 2014 mini-van that we absolutely love and what better way to initiate it into our family than with a road-trip?!
Named one of the 20 best small towns to visit in 2014 by the Smithsonian Magazine, Decorah, Iowa was on my bucket list. Only an hour and a half from home, it seemed like an easy choice, and after visiting its tourism website, I knew it would be a place that Cody would like to take the boys. So two days ahead of time, I made a list of a few things that I knew we would want to see, I typed up addresses and jotted down restaurant names. And then... I deleted it all and decided to completely fly by the seat of our pants. We didn't look at a map of how to get there until two minutes before we left the house, and we had absolutely no plans on where we were going to stop once we got there. The only thing we did plan ahead of time was our picnic lunch that we packed the morning of.
"Life is about using up the whole box of crayons." I want my boys to learn this, and live it. Try every color there is, create a multitude of color combinations, go on adventures from time to time and try things and see things you haven't tried or seen before. And when things don't go as planned... laugh your way through it. Which... we did. It was kind of an epic day. One of those days we'll look back on and say, "Remember that day in Decorah when...?!"
We had fun in an unconventional way. We walked a lot. We climbed a lot. We got lost a lot. We used porta-potties for bathrooms, drove down gravel dead-end roads thinking we were on the way to something and listened to Cassi and Cody bicker like brother and sister over navigation routes. We saw new things. Like an ice cave and a waterfall and those famous Decorah Eagles that everyone watches on the Internet. We adventured. Who says you can't do so in Iowa?
The images of our day...
Little did we know the famous Decorah eagle's nest was right across the road. And the road was lined with photographers. It was pretty neat to see these famous birds and their giant nest in person. We even got to see them take flight!
Jaden started reaching his hands in and petting the fish.
We picnicked for lunch. We found picnic tables near Pulpit Rock... although the story of how we got there is not nearly that simple. What happened in Decorah will stay in Decorah. ;)
And right after lunch, we climbed. This was Cassi's idea, and I'm glad we did it because this climb... and the trek back down... was half the adventure of our day. But I'm still feeling a little guilty that we allowed a pregnant lady to do what we did! This was not a well-established trail like what we're used to here in town. This was quite the treacherous trek, especially coming back down, and I definitely did not wear the right shoes! At one point, James could be heard saying, "Nicole, if you fall - please save yourself - not your camera."
And this is when I had to tell the boys NOT to climb over the edge...
The point of the decline that Cody and James had to help the children and women one by one reach flatter footing. I will think twice next time my husband suggests we take the road less traveled. ;)
We finally reached a clearing and decided to leave the trail and walk down the incredibly steep grassy slope. We figured if we fell, at least we wouldn't be falling on jagged rock. ;)
...and this would be Cody climbing back up to help me after I had indeed slipped and stumbled! (Yet notice I never stopped taking pictures. Not sure if that's talent, determination or just plain crazy. I'm okay with all of them).
We visited the ice cave. Brandon had been begging to go ever since we passed it a couple of hours earlier on the way to lunch. This sign was awesome on the way in! ;)
It was pretty neat once you got inside. The temperature immediately dropped once you stepped one foot in, and the opening to the cave was so narrow, we weren't even sure we could all squeeze through. And then once we got inside, we couldn't see a thing. We stumbled around for the flashlight app on our phones just to be able to see the ice on the ground and long enough to snap this picture with my flash. The boys thought this was the highlight of the day.
The waterfall... oh boy.
We were bound and determined we were going to find one of the waterfalls but we had absolutely no clue where it was. And there were no signs anywhere! We once again ventured down a very narrow "trail" through the woods that started behind a closed gate we had to climb around right off of a very little "parking" area. We walked and walked and walked and almost turned around to go back to the car until another group walked towards us and assured us we were heading in the right direction. At one point, Jaden was worried about falling down a steep slope and getting hurt by the weeds. We told him the weeds weren't what he needed to be afraid of. ;)
By this point the kids had definitely earned shoulder rides on the way back and Whippy Dip for a treat. They were troopers!
What a day it was. One for the