Kansas Day Trips: Council Grove


More small town Kansas exploring. This time it was Council Grove. The only thing we knew about this town was that there was a cave. So off we went!

First stop: climbing on the garden tank. That’s what Brian calls them. I’d never heard that before. But it makes sense…



Then we hit up the tree General Custer slept under during the Civil War. We were expecting a tree. It’s a stump they put a roof over. 

But right beside it was the oldest old school playground we’ve ever been to!

This thing could teeter so far I thought we would tip. It’s on this concrete circle, but not attached. I wasn’t convinced we wouldn’t flip. 

Once we realized that we had to scare the kids.




Old school merry-go-round!


Real see-saws. IMG_3999

I’m all about real see-saws, but honestly, someone cries when we play on them. every. single. time. 

The swings had wood seats and were wicked tall. Meaning you could swing incredibly high. IMG_4018

And this slide. You can tell how I feel about it. You get air, and there’s no sides!


I went down. Once.


There’s an old bell labeled “Old Bell”


And we found the cave! It looks like you can go in in this pic, but in reality Brian’s standing at the back. It was more of a cove. 

This tin man in front of the Ray’s Apple Market topped the list for me! That’s just cool. IMG_4077

So this town loves putting tree stumps under pavilions. Here’s another one! IMG_4081

And no joke, a third tree stump they put a roof over. To put this in perspective, this town is only 2 square miles! IMG_4084

Really fun town to explore, not a repeat, but definitely worth hitting up for the afternoon!

That escalated quickly…

Eating dinner the day before picture day at school, I asked the kids what their picture day smiles look like.

I got these:







Which then turned into Brian saying if any of them would actually make one of those faces in their picture he would take them to ice cream.

Here’s the gold we got on picture day!

Backs said the photographer told him to not bite his lip. I asked what he said. “I said ‘OK’ and did it again!” His teacher asked him if his mom wanted to take off his hoodie. He told her he didn’t think I cared! 



And this Little One asked if she could still get ice cream “cause I’m so cute?”


Brian kept his word and delivered the ice cream! “Make the smile that scored you ice cream!!”
Funny school photo prize


Owning it.

Brian and I worked for a summer in the library at A&M. We worked with other students and we moved books. So thousands of books, 5 at a time handing them from person to person across the aisles. There were two “teams”: the one that Brian and I were in, and the other group that we all agreed were cooler than us. So we became the self proclaimed “nerd group.”

But I’m pretty sure we had more fun moving books than the cool kids! We made some great friends and great memories and we are all ourselves, not trying to make anyone think we were more than just dorks enjoying college life!

So since then we’ve embraced being nerds. We aren’t cool, and we aren’t going to (unsuccessfully for sure!) try be! This attitude has rubbed off on our kids too!

Sadie Piper drew this:

Sadie is a dork

And this was Beckham’s breakdown when he was asked to describe himself:



Social Media vs Reality

Hammocks and books.

Laura is running the Book Fair at Lee this week so I got to take Berkley to her dance class. When we got home she and I climbed into the hammock to read books. I snapped this photo and put it on Instagram because I thought it looked so peaceful. It made me want to be sitting in a hammock reading a book which is weird since technically I was the one sitting in a hammock reading a book.

We all know social media isn’t the same as reality, but here’s a little video of what “reading” in a hammock really was like to help you really know that social media isn’t the same as reality. I think I read one paragraph. I couldn’t tell you what was in the paragraph. I did have a fun time with Boozer, but it wasn’t as relaxing as it looked in a still image.

Pondering the Astros 2015 Season

So some guy brings a stuffed moose to the games, not a moose head, but the whole moose. It just reminds me that I need to step up my game in life.

I received a text on Tuesday evening before what would be the last game of the 2015 Houston Astros season. It said, “I ended up with an extra ticket to tomorrow nights game. I realize it’s a long shot, but wanted to know if you might be interested in going with me.” Well, let me think about…YES!  I never dreamed I’d get to attend an Astros playoff game, especially a final game in a series game.

My peoples at the game. #Astros #crushcity

Honestly, I hoped to win, but expected to lose. Two nights earlier my Astros melted down late in a game that would have won the series. That event swung momentum away from the Astros.

The environment for the game was electric. Oceans of blue shirts in every direction, a few scattered orange shirts, most of which were actual roaming concession men and women. I think we did all agree that the silver lining on this this evening was that no matter the result, it wouldn’t be the Yankees moving on having already slayed them.


The seats were amazing. So amazing that Paul Rudd (Clueless, Ant Man) was sitting in front of us. The Astros lost and even so it was one of the best sports experiences I’ve ever had. Thank you Charles for giving me this memory.

The last few years I’ve watched a least a few innings of most Astros games due to MLB.tv. I’ve seen us lose so many games that this year made me uncomfortable. Early on when we were in first place in the West I took a screenshot thinking those days were numbered, but the guys kept that lead most of the year.


While on vacation this summer we realized the Astros were in Cleveland and we were somewhere near there so we drove to watch a game. That evening Javier Brackamonte the Astros Bullpen catcher tossed balls to Sadie Piper and Berkley, made their day. Sadie Piper later autographed her ball with Spring and Altuve’s names while Berkley personified her’s giving it a name and taking care of it.

In the summer John Vandewater moved here via the Army and upon coming to church I learned he too was an Astros fan. It’s been a long time since I’ve been anywhere near another Astros fan.

The lone bad news with the Astros this year is that Tal’s Hill is slated for removal. I know it’s quirky. I know it’s strange and makes our field seem like a putt putt course, but it’s ours. It’s Houston and to remove it makes me so sad. You know, Keep Minute Maid Weird! Our new owner has given us a great group of players, but it’s been at the cost of no longer playing in the National League and removing the most interesting part of the stadium.

There were some great moments this year. Biggio became the first player to enter the Hall of Fame as an Astros (Nolan Ryan foolishly went in as a Ranger). Also this year Mike Fiers pitched a No Hitter, Altuve had 200 hits, Keuchel put together a string of games that might win him the Cy Young Award. McHugh won 19 games and just about everyone hit at least 10 home runs.

The Players we have are amazing, they performed like pros and celebrated like children.


George Springer started “Club Astros” after victories. Club Astro eventually had a smoke machine, mirror ball and strobe light. He also instituted karate chops in place of high fives and some weird bowing thing with the outfielders.

Jose Altuve has proven to be the little engine that can hit 200 hits every year. The guy is so consistent and shows that he can play this game at the top level even though he’s the smallest in the league.

evan gattis

Evan Gattis makes me feel like we’re all being had. Like a bear wandered out of the woods and brought a stick with him and we’re like sure, bears can play. They call him El Oso Blanco (The White Bear). He does not use batting gloves, no tape on his bat, huge beard. At some point in the season the team was feeding gummy bears to anyone who hit a homerun (this is why this team so fantastic!), well he hit one and after he ate a white gummy bear they accused him of cannibalism.

Dallas Keuchel has this strangely clean cut mountain man beard. Colby Rasmus looks like he should be in a garage band, Carlos Correa turned 21 during the season and should win the rookie of the year. He said when he got his apartment in town that the realtor showed him that he could see Minute Maid Park out the window so he can wake up in the morning and if the stadium isn’t on fire he knows he has to go to work. He says every morning he looks out his window and when he sees the stadium isn’t on fire, he gets to go play baseball.

So 2015 is over and I got to say after suffering so many losing seasons it was an absolute blast to watch these guys and can’t wait to see watch them play again next Spring.

This little team called the Astros

Some people are fair weather fans. You can call Brian a lot of things, but he’s a legit Astros fan. Here are his hats:

Astros hats

AND he continued to wear them even the three straight seasons the Astros lost over 100 games (which is hard to do guys). He claims each one of these hats is “totally” different than the others…

This was what he requested I make last year for his birthday “cake”



And we have re-created Tal’s Hill in both of our yards…

Why, yes that is Minute Maid Park, Tal's Hill, a toy train on fence to right and a flag pole on the hill. #astros

We made the #Wiffleball field #Texas style, with a flag pole on the field. #astros #MHK #ManhattanKS

He stuck by the boys and their new plan to use analytics and young guys and hits to win. Here’s a good article from a few years ago explaining the strategy of the Astros. And claiming it will work eventually: “There’s no reason the Astros can’t be competitive next year, at .500 by 2015, and then become legitimate contenders in the AL West in 2016 and beyond.”

So when the Astros made it to the playoffs this year, it was sooner than expected (cause we totally would have taken winning half our games this year as a victory!!). This is how we felt about that:

Astros Playoffs Photoshoot

Astros Playoffs Photoshoot

Most people supported the Astros with us when they played the Yankees (of course!)

Astros Playoffs Photoshoot

But we ran into opposition when the team we played next was the “hometown” Royals. So we were the outsiders, but it’s cool cause we are used to that. Sadie’s class had a “blue out” to support the Royals. She was the one in orange that day! And Becks wore his jersey to school 4 of 5 days last week.

Sadie's class had blue out today to support the Royals. Of course we filed a discrimination case. #astros #CrushCity

Beckham and his sweet teacher had a no talking to each other thing going on, but that didn’t stop him from showing his Astros support on his school work:


(I’m just impressed with his correct use of the apostrophe!!)


We picked up the kids from school a little early for the Friday game and had them “earn” their Astros money for a ticket inside and concessions (can’t have them free-loading!). Pick up sticks, get $400 Astros money!

Astros Concessions Cropped

Astros Concessions CroppedHere’s the money Brian made:

Astros Money KeuchelAstros Money AltuveAstros Money SpringerAstros Money Correa

Astros Money Gattis

We sold concessions: drinks, popcorn, candy

Astros Concessions Cropped

Astros Concessions Cropped

The “problem” with fun events is that now it’s expected that they have concessions when we would watch the Astros (they even saved their money to use again)…and our boys went further than I planned, so we had to get creative.

The Astros dug out is young. And immature and really fun and one of the many reasons we love them so! One game they celebrated home runs with gummy bears! So we ran with that and threw gummy bears when we scored!

Astros gummy bears 2015

Astros gummy bears 2015

Astros gummy bears 2015

Berkley eventually got smart and just collected them from the ground while the bigs tried to catch them

Astros gummy bears 2015

Mr. Casteel invited Brian to game 5 in KC so he got to go root on his ‘Stros!! (you can see his rally cap, which didn’t work, shocker, but always worth a try!)


More importantly, he talked to Paul Rudd!! Him and I go way back: I’ve had a crush on him since Clueless!! (swoon…)


So we didn’t win, and now we will back the Royals, but we also had the best time rooting on our team! Yay for a really fun season! Now we wait impatiently for them to be back in the Spring!

And I leave you with SP’s drawing of Dallas Keuchel: 

Sadie Piper drew a picture of Dallas #keuchel #astros #cyyoung

Empty Trailers

field o trailers

We live on a hill. On the backside of the hill is a road so steep that I have never been able to ride my bike up it. I can barely walk up it most days. At the bottom of the hill is an out of place gravel road that goes by the creek and through the woods. Along the way to civilization is a small field with a huge oak tree in it. It could be a scene in a Nicolas Sparks movie or something by Tolkien and as yes I know those names should never appear in the same sentence.

Anyway, it’s beautiful except for a collection of about a dozen abandoned 18 wheeler trailers. At first it was the ugliness of the trailers that bothered me when I would drive past this field, but eventually I saw it differently. It was the fact that these trailers were no longer being used that saddened my heart. They’ve been clothed in graffiti and the doors have been pried open by vandals or bored teenagers.

They’re empty at this point, but they weren’t meant to be that way. They are supposed to connected to a power source outside themselves. They are supposed to be taking their cargo to destinations which need their delivery. But yet here they are, severed from the engine and wasting away in a field. Another name for an 18 wheeler is a “semi” (as in, Semi-Trailers.) Semi because they aren’t complete on their own, they only have some of the wheels they need to be functional.

I found it interesting that in Australia and other parts of the world the front half of the semi-truck, the part the driver sits in is called a “Prime Mover.” Which I guess explains the name Optimus Prime, but really I found it interesting because people, like trailers, are incomplete. We don’t have all the wheels we need to move forward in our purpose, we need to be connected to the Prime Mover. To the LORD.

In John 15:4 Jesus makes the same point with the image of a vine. He says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

When I see these trailers I can’t help but see people who have walked out of serving in their churches, walked away from living missionally and carrying the gospel into their offices and classrooms and social circles. Maybe, like the trailer, they were worn out from a difficult trip or had something that needed to be repaired, maybe they thought it was just a temporary place to park, and yet here they are still empty sitting in a beautiful field, but not being used like they were designed.

When I see people in that place it makes me sad. I see these “trailers” and want to paint them and replace the tires and fix the hinges and to pray that they might be united with the Prime Mover, that they might be made whole and complete and put back into the service they were designed for. Maybe the world would still see ugly trailers, but what a glorious image it would be to see them on the road again.

Snap Shots

Good thing we aren’t scared of lice…

September 2015

September 2015

The time Chris so sweetly came out to play home run derby with Brian and Brian hit him with a ball.  September 2015

One of the moms in Berkley’s class draws on her son’s napkin every day…but these aren’t quick little sketches. (So now Berkley expects a drawn on napkin too!)
September 2015

Beckham’s favorite day is the one where he gets to serve community dinner (a meal for those in need in town). When he got home this night his prayer was “please help 5 weeks to go by fast so I can see my friend again.” I asked what he meant and he was referring to the next community meal and his friend? The lady standing next to him here! 


Girls ran in a kid fun run (1/4 and 1/2 mile…gotta start somewhere tho!)upload


Enjoying the ride of life…Enjoying the ride of life

They look like little creepers…

September 2015Cemetery snack time! 
September 2015

September 2015

SP making Brian an egg by herself!

September 2015

Gotta love it when they figure this trick out!

September 2015

We have this great book, but Brian didn’t like that the people look sad…

September 2015

So he busts out a Sharpie and fixed it. It seriously changes the entire look of the book!

September 2015

Our first “permanent” church sign! Exciting for us! 
September 2015

First day of school picture fail. 
September 2015
We love us some biking to school

We are townies now!

Now that we’ve lived in Manhattan two years, we feel like it’s home. And that means we are locals. And that means we need to embrace being “townies” and support local businesses. Honestly, that’s a breeze here cause they are some of our favorite places!! Here are some of the gems we’ve discovered so far:

Taco Lucha- Brian’s favorite restaurant! Every single one of their tacos is the best! He loves their “tinga sauce” too! Their bean dip is our fav!

Supreme Automotive- This one came recommended to us by the Hiltons, and he’s really great!! Oil changes are only $30 and John is just a great guy (who was also born and raised in Houston, so we have that bond!)! I took the van in once because it wasn’t leaking oil, but was somehow losing it. We were sure it was going to be a big one. $27 later it was refilled with oil and the problem fixed! Brian asked me “are you sure they didn’t leave a zero off that total?” You know how most places will charge you like $40 just to “run diagnostics?” We took both cars in this week cause they had the check engine lights on and we were just planning on dropping one off. Instead, he comes out, hooks up the wires, and tells us what the problems were (one was just bad gas!). All totally free. He’s seriously the best: honest, hard working, no nonsense.


MVP Glass- We’ve taken the van here a few times for chip fills from rocks hitting windshield. They have gone above and beyond to make sure it’s perfect!!

Big Poppis- We’ve raved about them before, but they can’t be left off! Aaron is awesome and so is his bike shop! (Update: they are closing, we are super sad.)

The Chef- We just recently discovered this one; it’s breakfast food. Neither Brian nor I would consider ourselves huge breakfast food fans…until we ate here. Now we are sold! (And I researched how to make poached eggs and hollandaise sauce! 🙂 )

Varsity Donuts- I mean, best donuts on the planet. In the Little Apple, go figure!

Manhattan Mercury- We love our local newspaper! Wednesdays are our favorite day of the week now cause we get to check the “snap shots” section!

Radina’s Coffeehouse- Few things are more quaint than a local coffee shop. They also recently opened a Bakehouse and it’s some of the best food and cutest atmosphere in town!

Tease Hair Studio- Chelsea cuts all of our hair. Super cute shop and she’s great with the kids and Brian likes it cause she remembers how she cut it last time and he doesn’t have to do anything but sit down!



Sad news.

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 6.30.30 AM

We’ve gone through the stages of mourning Blue Bell:

  • “Well, maybe it will just be temporary”- nope, Blue Bell has “no plans” to come back.
  • “We can just take a road trip and get some” – nope, we live in the middle of Kansas. No state is close.
  • “We can bring it back with us when we go to Texas” – nope, it’s frozen.
  • “We can have it shipped” – nope, the cost is outrageous.

So we’ve just had to accept it. It’s worse having had it and now not. Brian and I even bargained- what would we trade Blue Bell back for. He said he wouldn’t trade the Astros winning the World Series…

(Tour of Blue Bell factory, look how happy we are?!)

Blue Bell made fresh on site!  #worldsbesticecream