The ramblings of a woman,
wife, & mother, who loves:
Jesus / my man / the three,
learning about parenting /
mamahood / childbirth,
cooking foods healthy /
international / yummy,
pretending to garden /
write / design,
attempting to run /
exercise / lift weights,
enjoying traveling /
camping / adventures,
finding ways to love /
serve / sacrifice for others.

It is not to say she does these things
with style or grace, or even skill.

Northern Minnesota Adventure

Mon Sep 1 07:58:00 CDT 2014 - Mon Sep 1 07:58:00 CDT 2014

Travel Log: Thanksgiving 2011

In 2008, my father-in-law bought a cabin home in Northern Minnesota. The drive in perfect conditions could take a little over 8 hours, but with the age of our children and our old van, it would always take a minimum of 11 hours. Though we love our extended family, it was a drive that we tried to limit to once a year.

In 2011, we had no more excuses. We had our amazing Volvo and the kids were older and had proven themselves worthy road trippers for the long hauls. We planned our Cramer Family Thanksgiving to be up in Northern Minnesota with Josh's dad and his sister's family. The lake was already frozen out to 60'+ from shore and there was a fresh scattering of snow on the ground. It was a beautiful backdrop for a wonderful time of reconnecting with family.


From skeet shooting to playing on the frozen ice, the warmth of family aided our forgetting the freezing temperatures. Our daughter's dreams were made by getting to spend countless hours playing with her girl cousins, Grandpa got to be surrounded by his kids and grandchildren AND shoot guns (a favorite hobby of his), Josh and Karl took the Go-Pro, the boys, the frozen lake, and iMovie and got creative, and Maren and I got to catch up on all things life. It was sweetly memorable and is ranked as one of our best trips to the cabin.

Crooked Lake on Ice from Josh Cramer on Vimeo.

The winter brought countless swim activities by our boys. Between driving to practices, driving to meets, sitting in meets, and driving to more practices, all our free time seemed to disappear and the old normal taking over. In the midst of it all, our new normal was schemeing our next big adventure, as our subtle goal was to try to escape every 3-4 months. Sitting around joking one night, a group of us, another family and a couple, decided to go to Moab over spring break. Moab had cast its spell on our family during our big adventure and we could not wait to get back there and see what wild rides it would take us on.  


Reflections on Our First Big Adventure

Sun Aug 31 10:24:00 CDT 2014 - Sun Aug 31 10:24:00 CDT 2014

We made it. Late on a Saturday night, we made it home. Tears of joy upon seeing our home. Tears of joy from the surprise sweet signs of "Welcome Home!" and food for dinner and breakfast in our fridge brought by dear friends. Lots of tears.

I never thought we'd see this home again. I mentally prepared to either die or end up settling down in a new home along our journey. But we returned. Almost 11 months to the day I got the bright idea to leave town and my husband said, "Yes." After almost 1.5 years of insanity, I had been pulled out of the seemingly never-ending funnel.  


Our time in CA was far from perfect, there were ridiculous things that happened I can't even write about, but thanks to it all I could talk to God again. I know that may sound weird to some but when I think about where my life was headed before Jesus entered my life and how it was forever changed by the love of God... goodness, I am forever, deeply thankful for His never stopping love while I was spinning out of control.

Our time in CA helped me to see clearly through the bad advice I had been given, both past and present, and it also helped me see all the bad advice I had given over the years. Since our CA return, I have been on a quest to individually apologize to dear, old friends that I know I hurt, judged, mislead, etc, because I was/am an idiot, ignorant, and misguided. It has been a painful process and I am so thankful for the grace and forgiveness they have shown me so far. 

I am three years into doing this and I still need to come face to face with a few more people. I am reminded of the Seinfeld when a guy is doing his 12 step AA program and didn't apologize to George, though George thought he was owed an apology. If I owe you an apology and I don't do it, please tell me. I take full responsibility. I am certain I hurt more people than I realize. I would love to make things right.

Our time in CA was genuinely a time for our family to heal. Kids can tell when their parents are going through struggles and it impacts them emotionally, too. Because we spend so much time together, our kids are scarily perceptive of my emotions specifically. They usually join forces and take great pains to ease my load and encourage me. It is truly humbling yet a blessing to have your children minister to your soul. Thanks to our bonding time out west and back, we were once again closer in our relationships to one another, especially for Josh and the kids spending extended time together. And Josh and I were able to were able to think and talk through things as "just us." We were now ready to begin the process of finding a place for our family to fit in, helping our children find kids to grow with, helping us meet new people, and figuring out how we can be a part of our community.

Our time in CA left me my heaviest I've ever been. That was unfortunate. It wouldn't be until after Thanksgiving that I finally started back at the gym doing fitness classes, attempting to run, and getting my 30 Day Shred on. Carving out time to get back in shape was restorative thanks to the beauty of the positive influence of exercise induced endorphins, as well as, that I was able to listen to my favorite podcast, where, it seemed at the time, each one was catered to build upon things I had been learning throughout the previous months.

We had made it. We were all prepared to tackle the new challenges life would throw at us with renewed hearts and minds. We were all excited to see where our next big adventure would take us. We were not dead, yet. 


The Days All Blend Together Now

Thu Aug 28 06:11:00 CDT 2014 - Thu Aug 28 06:11:00 CDT 2014

Our return trip was a no-frills-push-for-home built around my husband's work schedule. The first day was a Wednesday so we didn't start driving until after 3pm PST. He took phone calls off on Thursday since we would be in no man's land, but still worked while I drove. Friday, he made calls and worked in the morning while I drove and then we scheduled an early stop so he could work from the hotel for the rest of the day. Saturday, we made the long stretch for home.

Travel Log: 10 November 2011

Second Stop: Grand Junction, CO

Total driving time: 12 hours, 751 miles (Plus, add an hour for time zone.)

When we were first laying out our return trip I proposed to Josh several options, all of which DID NOT include driving on the lonliest highway, Highway 50. Subconsciously, I was trying to avoid it and Josh was quick to point that out. He convinced me I would enjoy it the second time and wo/man, was he right! Maybe it was the intense traffic I drove through to get from Reno to SF, but once we got onto Highway 50, I immediately felt relaxed and fell in love. It was a complete 180 for me, going from depressed to utter joy. The road I loathed was now my most favorite road in the world. I couldn't stop exclaiming, "You were right! I love this road!"

highway 50


At one point a cop car came barreling down the highway, sirens blarring, and told us to pull as far over to the right, off the road, as we could because there was a WIDE load coming. We did so and within 15 minutes, well exceeding the 85mph speed limit mind you, were two more cop cars, a pickup truck, and a flat bed truck hauling a massive mining dump truck that was as wide as both lanes of the highway, followed by two more cop cars. What a sight! Aside from the freshly fallen snow on the 17 mountain passes in Nevada and thin scattering of snow across the red sandstone buttes and mesas of Utah, our drive was completely uneventful.


Once to Grand Junction we stayed at the biggest dive of a hotel. A place that, I am sure, in its hey-day was a fine establishment. Now after 50 years, the majority of which allowed smoking and pets without care, time had taken its toll. We've stayed in many a choice hotels and this one ranked up there, but as long as there are no bugs, I will sleep anywhere. In CJ we also learned that one city's 4.5-star establishment on Yelp is another city's 2-star establishment. Our only guess was that the hundred people who commented on this place had no tastebuds. However, it did have a nice and cheap wine selection and I can completely understand if that pulled them to the top.  

Travel Log: 11 November 2011

Third Stop: Denver, CO

Total Driving Time: 4 hours, 243 miles

While we still were in love with the beauty that is driving on the west side of the Rockies, we were on a mission (from God, ha!) to get my husband to an office space and get these wiggly kids to a hotel pool, where they would play, for the next 6 hours straight. Whoa. 


Travel Log: 12 November 2011

Fourth Stop: Home

Total Driving Time: 12 hours, 748 miles (Plus, add an hour for time zone.)

In all the years I have driven this drive, I have never been as happy to see our home state. Crossing the border brought tears to 8/10 of our eyes. We were home. We did not die. 

Complete drive: 34 hours, 2000 miles

By the time I did the final math, we had driven 5,900 miles over the course of our first big adventure. :)!


The Worst Birthday Ever / Driving Home

Wed Aug 27 09:27:00 CDT 2014 - Wed Aug 27 09:27:00 CDT 2014

Our time in California was over. It was time to hit the road and return home.

Travel Log: 9 November 2011

First Stop: Reno, Nevada

This day, her 7th birthday, has continued to be our daughter's deemed, "Worst Birthday Ever." She calls it the worst because family and friends weren't with her on this day. Truth be told, we made it as fun as possible! She got a delicious chocolate cake with a requested purple butterfly on top, she got a cute new outfit and Lalaloopsy, she got to go roller skating, eat pizza for lunch, and ended it by swimming at a hotel pool. 





But it didn't have family, oh!, how she missed them like crazy. What she would've given to have her grandparents and cousins there! Poor girl! And it just so happened that our first day of driving back to home was this day, there was no getting out of that one. Stuck in a massive rush hour traffic jam on your birthday? Poor girl! Thankfully, even for all the negative, she still went to bed with a smile on her face. I consider that a win! :)!

First Day of Driving: 6 hours, 250 miles (Yep, should have been 4 hours without traffic.) 


Taking Kids to Wine Country

Tue Aug 26 13:06:00 CDT 2014 - Tue Aug 26 13:06:00 CDT 2014

The French Laundry is a world renowned restaurant, ranked one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, and is located in Napa Valley in the city of Yontville. The last day Josh was attending the Web 2.0 Conference in downtown San Francisco, one of our employees had mentioned the French Laundry. Having previously worked as a chef before working for us, he told a story of how his friend worked as a newbie chef at the French Laundry for a period of time. (I also heard that the newbie chefs who work at the French Laundry don't get paid. The experience is their payment. Crazy!)

Shortly after having this conversation with our employee, Josh walked out onto the city streets of downtown SF. As he walked down the sidewalk, a large piece of worn paper caught his eye, he picked it up and read, "The French Laundry... October... 2009." And of all things, when Josh talked to our employee again he learned that was the time his friend worked there. The crazy coincidence of having a conversation about the French Laundry, finding a two year old restaurant menu on a city street, and knowing a person who worked there during that time frame baffled us. But, it also made a trip to Napa imminent.  


For our last weekend in the bay area we decided that taking our kids to Napa was a perfect idea. Napa isn't necessarily a kid friendly place, but our kids are great about going along for the ride and we tried to make it enjoyable for them and us. We found an amazing restaurant for lunch (best salad ever!), a fun park to get some wiggles out at, a castle vineyard (complete with portcullis, sheep, chickens, and draw bridge), a 125 year old winery (and learned about old winemaking techniques), and ended the day at a delicious tasting room that gave huge pours (that even offered grape juice, crackers, and chocolate for the kids).





The above photo I found online, but imagine this space PACKED with people, Josh and I standing to the far left with our children huddled/hidden between us eating mounds of crackers and chocolate. 

By the time we left Napa, me having a hilarious tipsy text conversation with my friend, driving through an insane traffic jam, and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, it was late and we were starving. We ended up visiting a hip and modern Thai place in downtown SF that, with its 9pm on a Friday night dining crowd, felt like a discoteche restaurant. Once again, the kids loved it and it was the perfect cap to a very posh day in our normally low maintenance lives.

To contrast, the next day my sister, sister-in-law, and I went to a massive flea market in Alameda (on the same location Mythbusters does their car experiments!). From antiques to handmade tables to curious characters wearing full fur suits with top hats and canes, this place was a stark opposite from Napa. For all my talk of being alone, we truly weren't. Having my sister and family nearby was so much fun, and we did meet genuine people at church, and we had a family of old friends that lived nearby and our boys loved swimming with, etc. This wonderful day; however, closed out our last weekend in the area.


Our time in California was over. We had been away from our home for over 5 weeks. We were packing and mentally psyching ourselves for getting back to "normal" but with a twist. Our adventure out west taught us that we could create a "new normal," a new reality for our family. We had successfully taught our children on the road, my husband could work remotely like our employees did, our business was successful while my husband was physically out of town, we could manage bills and logistics, and we could find communities of people to interact with.

We were going home to a place of normal, a city we loved, a community of people we loved, but we now had the entire country as our playground, no longer confined to city limits or state lines.


More Results


Welcome! I am glad you're here! If you are new and would like to get caught up on what's going on, check out these quick links to get you started:

About Me and This Blog...

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2012 to CA, MN, CO
   Ladies Trip to Napa Valley
   My Parents Rode in a Plane!

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2012 to MN and CO
   Vacation to the North Shore and Cabin
   Boulder for the Summer
   Life in Boulder

Begin Our Adventures of Winter/Spring 2012 to UT
   The Drive to CO/UT Begins
   Vacation in Moab
   Living in Moab / Denver

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2011 to CA
   The Drive to CA Begins
   Living in the SF
   Living in the Suburbs
   Coming Home to IC

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2010 to Eastern Europe
   Life at Czech English Camp
   Travels in Germany & Austria
   Travels in Czech & Poland


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