Sunday Hike #3

Date: June 22, 2014

Location: Lake Keomah State Park

Distance: 3.6 miles

Critters Spotted: Insects, frogs, bunnies, snails and cicadas.

Additional Info: There was a brief downpour as we were getting ready to leave for our hike, but thankfully it wasn’t enough to stop us.  It ended up raining quite hard about an hour after our hike was complete, so our timing was great! We had a picnic lunch before our walk, and after our hike we took some back roads to Grandpa Van Utrecht’s house and almost got lost.

DSCN0677At lunch, we saw an ant trying to pull a spider up a post. Not sure who was going to eat who in that scenario.

DSCN0647After lunch, we ventured down a path to the official trail that goes around Lake Keomah. Dad told us about the days as a kid when the beach area was fairly popular.

DSCN0649Now, there are signs warning of e-coli and some sort of algae, so we stayed out.

DSCN0650The trail was very nice, and we appreciated it being mostly in the shade, as it was a hot and muggy day.

DSCN0651We did run into a few obstacles.

DSCN0652We were a bit too early for these berries. Bummer!

DSCN0653The trail in this area was just beautiful with the very tall trees. The pictures never do it justice.

DSCN0654And while it’s fun to look up at the trees, looking down at the ground is fun, too!

DSCN0655And finding a spot to rest for a bit is good for those with shorter legs. 😉



DSCN0661The sky was beautiful. I should learn Photoshop to make it look better. 😉 Below we are walking along the dam of the man-made lake.

DSCN0662Then we spotted some ripe berries!


DSCN0664A little mid-hike snack … Don’t mind if I do!

DSCN0666Sweat doesn’t show up too well in the picture below, but the crew was feeling a bit warm here.

DSCN0665We think this means the dam was built in 1934.



DSCN0669On one side of the lake is Keomah Village, with some nice lake houses. The trail wasn’t really marked, and it appeared like it went through people’s backyards, so we opted to walk on the street for a while.

DSCN0673If you notice in the picture above, the boys were in matching blue. The girls were all in Cardinal shirts. We didn’t plan that, I promise.

DSCN0675We eventually decided to walk through the backyards so we didn’t miss the end of the trail, and we saw some “boundary marker” signs, so apparently the property owners don’t own right up to the lake. It was still kind of awkward, but oh well! Mom may or may not have been partially dragging a couple girls along with her in the picture above. It was warm, and we had all been out until midnight the night before to see some races, so we congratulated them on a good hike!







Sunday Hike #2

Our Father’s Day hike included a larger adventure, and much more time spent driving than hiking. It was worth the drive to explore more of our state!

Date: June 15, 2014

Location: Winterset City Park (Madison County)

Distance: Approx. 1 mile total walking (including the hike and other exploring).

Critters Spotted: Cicadas, cicadas and more cicadas, snail, caterpillar, butterflies and cicadas.

Additional Info: We drove about 260 miles, heading West to Winterset, then south to Morgan, and then looping some back roads back to Oskaloosa.

We went to the City Park in Winterset to visit the Clark Tower we had stopped at on a past fall drive. (One I apparently didn’t blog about. Oops!)

Here’s our favorite Dad!

DSCN0602Some kids quickly got to the top of the tower while Mom & Dad scouted a picnic spot. Can you spot three heads?

DSCN0604We enjoyed our picnic lunch while being serenaded by cicadas. I actually took some video of the noise the cicadas were making, but apparently the file type is not supported by WordPress. Just imagine a very, very loud noise!


DSCN0607Then we all took in the views from the top of the tower, which was placed there in honor of some early settlers of Madison County.




Next, we hit a nearby trail for a short hike.

DSCN0619We enjoyed a few fellow travelers.



The trail was not very well marked, so we ended up on a road to head back to the tower, which was probably the best way back anyway.


Still smiling at the top of the hill! Andrew was pretending to be worn out.

DSCN0623The blue-shirt crew was up ahead.

DSCN0624We spent some time at a playground and then headed to a hedge maze in the park (a new discovery!!)

photo 1 (3)

DSCN0627Some contestants may have had an advantage with the maze.





The goal was to find the sundial at the center of the maze. The sundial said it was about 12:30, and it was really 1:30 because I guess sundials don’t adjust for Daylight Savings. 😉

DSCN0631We temporarily lost Paige in the maze. She was just waiting for us by the entrance. Then we checked out an old covered bridge that is in the park. The kids were upset about all the writing on both the tower and the bridge. “Why are people idiots?” one of them asked. So, we’re making an impact on not doing graffiti, but maybe we  need to work on being slightly less harsh in our descriptions of those who participate in graffit. 😉

photo 2 (3)

DSCN0634Our next goal was to find the town of Morgan, Iowa. We spotted it on a weather radar showing some bad storms one night, and sure enough, it shows up on Google maps. It is, however, not really a town. At some point in the past it was a town, but now it is not. We saw one house and a couple chickens, so we drove a long way for nothing much. We didn’t even take a picture. It is very close to Missouri, and we actually got to see a “Welcome to Iowa” sign, but we don’t think we ever officially crossed the border.

We tried to make the most of our journey home by catching another courthouse. This is the Decatur County Courthouse in Leon, Iowa.

DSCN0636When you are done at the courthouse, feel free to go across the street to the naked store. 😉



Just down the street, we stopped for Founder’s Park, a quaint little space between two buildings that was painted like an old town and included some history of the town.




We ventured further down the road to the town of Cambria. Their town sign wins best motto, as all the streets are gravel.


Our final funny picture was of this cemetery. I guess you can go there if you want to kill your confidence. 😉


It was a fun Father’s Day adventure! We love exploring our state!









Fall Drive 2013

One of my favorite family traditions is our annual Fall Drive! This year we ventured north along the Mississippi River. It was our least researched trip ever, but maybe winging it is more fun!

We started on a Friday night with plans to stay at a hotel in Clinton. Why Clinton, you ask? Because we were using hotel reward points of Ben’s, and we always look for the stops that require the least amount of points. We’re cheap like that.

We typically are on the lookout for courthouses (we want to get a picture of each one in Iowa), fall color and historic sites. Sometimes, though, we have to stop for the colorful human-made attractions, such as this house outside of Davenport that had the most Halloween decorations we have ever seen.




009It was dark by the time we got into Davenport and started venturing north. We went through LeClaire, home to the guys from the American Picker’s TV show. We found their shop. It’s behind a gas station. Great picture, eh? 😉

012We were super stoked to find out our hotel was right next to a casino! We were tempted to scrap our drive and just gamble all day Saturday. (Not really.)

We did swim at the hotel, and the kids did their usual jump-on-the-hotel-beds routine. Saturday morning we had breakfast in the hotel before taking off. There was a group of Michigan State fans on their way to Iowa City for a football game. Ben happened to be wearing a Hawkeye shirt (What?!?), and I was wearing green, so the MSU fans wondered if we were a “house divided.” Well, we are, apparently. Just with Iowa and Iowa State, not Michigan State.

photo (1)We headed out and jumped on the Great River Road heading north. We were surprised how much land is in the middle of the Mississippi north of Clinton. We went through Sabula, Iowa, an island community and then ended up in Illinois.023Water, marsh and trees are on both sides of the road/bridge here.

024Which way to go. which way to go?

028 We didn’t really intend to be in Illinois, so we turned north and decided to turn around at our first opportunity. The first chance ended up being the entrance to Mississippi Palisades State Park. After consulting a map, we decided that maybe we’d see more of the river on the Illinois side. We also decided to check out the park. Good choice! It ended up being one of our highlights of the trip! We drove to the top of a bluff and checked out the overlook trail.

029Dad pretended he was going to throw Paige over the cliff.

030 We found a cool lookout spot.

035It was so nice of a train to go by.

037Our Morgan is not the only Morgan to visit this spot.

038Dad and the kids. Paige had just gotten some weird bug bite. It was a nasty thing, I must say.

042Mom and the kids, too.

043There was some fun artwork in the “deck.”

044And some artwork from God on the path.

045 And this is how Paige’s friend got to travel.

049 Photos just do not do justice to the beauty of the rolling hills. The cloudy skies didn’t help the picture taking, either.

050We ended up at a scenic overlook. Some other visitors said there used to be a tower. Now there is just a swing.

053And some funky fungi.

055We eventually got to Galena, Ill., and the home of Ulysses S. Grant.

056He had a nice view.

058We then went back to Iowa, via Dubuque, and then left Dubuque to enter Wisconsin.


067We lost one kid for a while.


071The trees were pretty, despite the raindrops.

076 We grabbed Subway in Wisconsin, and we remembered stopping there on a previous Fall Drive. We ended up back in Iowa — Marquette, to be specific — for our picnic lunch. (See the picnic table in the background above?)

077This was the view from our near our picnic table.

082The sun came out just long enough for us to truly enjoy the beautiful fall colors nearby.


086We kept driving north until we got to the location of the Battle of Bad Axe. I’m going to make a little plug for the History Here app from the History Channel. It’s totally cool if you like to find historical spots. Even historical sites that are not so fun to read about, such as battles in the Black Hawk War.

089We kept going into Minnesota. Figured we might as well hit our fourth state for the day. That, and it was the best option for getting back across the Mississippi. Bridges are not in high commodity.

090Once we got back into Iowa, we were on a mission to find some more courthouses. Ben had recently read about a county that wanted to get rid of their historic courthouse because of the cost of upkeep. It just so happens to be in northern Iowa. Bonus!

091Another breathtaking view not quite captured in a photo.

097We lost this one for the second time. We eventually ended up in Osage, got a picture of the courthouse and stopped at a park to play. Much needed energy burning took place. It was the city park and school all-in-one. There was a football game going on next door. We wondered if it had gotten postponed from the night before?






119Our last stop was a drive-thru for supper, where we noticed the mileage on the van.

120She’s been a lot of places in her 126,000 miles. We hope she gets to many more.

The rest of our drive home was in the dark. It was another fun and memorable trip!


Summer Fun List Check-In

School starts two weeks from today! I started writing this post when there was still three weeks left, but adding pictures made it wonky. Hopefully attempt two will work better.

I’m not sure how summer has flown by so quickly, but alas, it has. I thought I better check-in on the old Summer Fun List to see what we need to accomplish in the next few days. (And, technically only two kids start on Aug. 20. Paige starts on Aug. 21, because half of her class will start the 20th and half on the 21st. They alternate days the first week and all go together on the following Monday. We will have to re-visit Goof-Off Day! <—–You can click on “Goof Off Day” over there and it will take you to an old post that just possibly made the author of this post shed a few tears. Sigh. They grow up so fast.)

Our list:

  • Go to a hotel. (Paige)

Completed! We spent a weekend in St. Louis and stayed at a hotel we’ve stayed at before. We loved a couple morning swims where we had the pool to ourselves.


  • Go to the park in Ottumwa. (Paige)

Check! We went to Ottumwa one day to help our friend from Rwanda obtain a Social Security card. Unfortunately, the office closed early that day. [Insert snarky comment about government hours here.] Fortunately, we still went to the park Paige wanted to go to for a little bit. Unfortunately, the park did not have restroom facilities, so we didn’t get to stay long.

014 020

 Looks can be deceiving. The kids aren’t that tall, as proven when Mom steps up. She’s only 5′ 3″.

016 017

  • Get a pool pass. (Morgan)

Check. Check. We really need to get to the pool a couple more times this summer to make it worth our money, so here’s hoping that it warms up again! It has been well worth the money to see the kids’ swimming skills improve! I don’t bring a camera to the pool, but here’s the kiddos in their goggles. 🙂


  • Get SnoBiz at least 3 times. (Morgan)

Hmmm. I think we’ve gotten SnoBiz twice, so we better go one more time. I know one time was after we did Relay for Life on a super hot day. And I’m positive we went one other time, but I cannot remember when.

  • Go on a hike somewhere not in Iowa. (Andrew)

This was also fulfilled on our St. Louis trip. We ventured into Illinois to Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville. It was a fascinating place that was home to an estimated 20,000 people in 1250 A.D., making it larger than London at the time. There are several mounds in the area, all constructed by the people for various reasons. We hiked up Monks  Mound, which is the largest man-made earthen mound in North America. It was very hot, and our kids were great hikers!

Ready to hike up the mound … This angle makes it look a lot shorter than it is.

Ready to hike up the mound.



At the top of the mound! You can barely see the St. Louis skyline to the left of Ben’s head. 🙂024

Go to the Fun Factory on a rainy day. (Andrew)

This one has not happened. We had lots of rainy days early in the summer, but we never made it to the Fun Factory (an indoor play area). I suspect this will not happen.

  • Play in the sprinkler. (Paige)

There have been a couple sprinkler fun times, but I did not take any pictures. I’m pretty sure we broke out the sprinkler early this summer and Paige had a couple friends over for her birthday, and they played in the sprinkler.

  • Go to Paige’s preschool playground. (Paige)

Oh my. We have not done this. We better get a move on!

  • Go to every park in Oskaloosa and surrounding “suburbs” of University Park and Beacon. (Mom)

This one has not happened either. Wow. We have just been too busy to go to many parks in town.

  • Go to Adventureland.

We had a perfect day at Adventureland. There were NO LINES the entire day, and we often could just stay on rides if we wanted to! The kids are getting braver on their ride choices. Morgan rode all the roller coasters, even the upside down one! Mom forgets every year that she is too old for all those rides and did not feel well on the drive home. She must make note next year. 😉

Waiting with cousins for the gates to open:


Andrew and Will went on the “Log Ride” 18 times, or something. They love making funny poses and faces on the way down the big hill so they can get captured by the camera that snaps pictures.



The girls on their motorcycles:


Mom and some kids on the Raging River:


  • Go to the Zoo.

We made it to Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines with some Drost cousins and then again for a Musco family picnic.



  • Go to St. Louis.

This was accomplished! And we had such a fun weekend!!

Pictured: Baseball, City Museum and The Magic House:


  • Go to Chicago.

Coming soon!

  • Go to McDonald’s. (Paige)

We don’t go to McDonald’s very often, which is why I suppose it made our Summer Fun List. We have gone enough times to get a few Minions. We did not win $1 million (or anything but a free fry) in the Monopoly game.


  • Perform a circus. (Kids)

I think the kids gave up on this one. They wanted to include several friends and create this elaborate circus, but I think their ideas were bigger than reality. I’m not sure their performance from last year can be topped. 😉

  • Go to Frosty Udder at least 5 times (Andrew, Morgan)

We have not been to Frosty Udder much since the kids were done with baseball and softball in June. Yikes! I don’t think we’re even close to five times.

  • Participate in the Summer Reading Program at the Library.

We did a ton with the Summer Reading Program in June, but since then … uh … hello? We’ve been busy having too much other fun! Maybe that’s why the program in the past didn’t last all summer like it does this year. ha!

  • Visit the Science Center. (Mom)

We did this on Andrew’s birthday with Grandma & Grandpa Baumer! It was a fun time!

Can you guess whose face that is?



Playing with the green screen in the weather lab:



Morgan’s floating head doing the weather:



Andrew was proud of his arch building skills:


  • Do half of the activities on the Library “activity sheet.” (Mom)

I will first have to find one of the library activity sheets and get back to you. (Ahem. Cough. Cough.) I think we’ve inadvertently done half of them, probably. We’ll see. 🙂

  • Do some of the craft kids collecting dust in the closet. (Mom)

Nope. Nada. Not at all. Maybe that’s a good idea for a WINTER fun list when we need to stay inside more. 😉

Well, that is a little peak into our summer, the Summer Fun List, anyway. Maybe, since all three kids will soon be in school, Mom will have gobs of free time to blog. And maybe she should get a job so we can pay for all these fun things to continue. 😉 ha ha! Time will tell.

Fall Fun in Pella

I was getting photos off Dad’s phone and found some from last fall that I thought would make a fun post. We ventured over to Pella to see Aunt Jamie and try out the disc golf course near Central College. Here are some photos!

Ooops! I think Mom missed.

Paige goes for the slam dunk.

Morgan prepares for take off!

There are lots of tree obstacles!

Or tree playgrounds, depending on how you look at it.

We didn’t complete the whole course, because it was getting dark. That happens in the fall. Jamie will be in Pella this month, so we hope to get there to try the course again soon! (You’ve been warned, Jamie!)

Our Summer Fun List

I started the summer fun list last year in an effort to make sure we had a memorable summer. I also had failed to do a bunch of things I had wanted the summer before. A few friends made summer fun lists for 2011! Go you! (You know who you are!)

I think our list was a little longer this year, and maybe a bit unrealistic. Although, looking back at our list from 2010, we didn’t get everything crossed off that year either. I guess it’s all about perspective. We had a very fun and memorable summer, so we’ll call it a success!

Here was our list, the person who suggested each idea, and how we fared on that item:

1. Color a flower. (Paige)

Hmmm … I know we color a lot around here, but I can’t say for sure that we colored a flower during the summer. I would bet we did, but I have no proof. I do have a couple pictures of Paige after she colored on herself while wearing a flower dress …

2. Play on the swing set while the sprinkler is on. (Morgan)

This was a winner, although there is no picture. We put the sprinkler near the swing set and everyone had fun! I think it was most popular to get sprinkled while on the slide.

3. Go to Russell Wildlife. (Andrew)

Unless you count the school field trips, (which you shouldn’t) we failed at this one.

4. Swim in the pool. (Morgan)

I know there was quite a bit of swimming in our little kiddie pool in our yard. I, once again, don’t seem to have any photos. I guess I’m slacking off in the photo department. I do have a picture of Penny (the Panda) and Lenny (the Leopard) lounging by the pool. There is a very long story behind this photo, all in good fun with some friends who like to  dump their junk play pranks on us.

5. Go on a nature hike. (Andrew)

Fail. Probably partly because of failing #3.

6. Have a big ice cream sundae for the whole family. (Andrew)

Cha-ching. Hello, sugar!

7. Swim at the public swimming pool. (Morgan)

We went swimming at the public pool in Muscatine and Pella, but strangely never made it to our local pool. And I have no photos because it’s hard to take a camera to the pool.

8. Go to Muscatine. (Mom)

We tagged along with Dad when he had to work in Muscatine for a couple days. We had fun swimming in the local pool (see above) and our hotel pool, visiting parks and having a picnic supper by the Mississippi River.

9. Go to Florida. (Everyone)

What a fun trip we had!! More to come on this in the future.

10. Go to Disney World! (Mom — and I must say, it was fun to put that one on the list!)

More incredible, amazing, fun days! We got to go to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios!

11. Camp outside in our yard. (Morgan)

Thanks to borrowing a tent from Grandma & Grandpa Baumer, this was a success! Dad didn’t join us, because he had to get up for work the next morning. Morgan said, “That’s so unfair for Dad!” Yep, poor Dad! He missed out! 😉 It actually wasn’t too bad, I must say. Paige must not have gotten enough beauty sleep, because she wasn’t up for a photo in the morning.

12. Camp inside in our living room. (Andrew)

This one was fun! It’s always a little risky. And Mom has a tendency to get grumpy when it’s time to settle down. I think everyone did pretty good this time.

13. Do an obstacle course. (Andrew)

Nope. We never did this. 

14. Make something out of marshmallows. (Andrew)

I’m not really sure what this one was supposed to be. We did make s’mores (see #19), but I don’t think that is what Andrew had in mind.

15. Dance the ballet. (Paige)

I’m pretty sure not a day goes by without the girls dancing. It’s just a staple in our house. 🙂

16. Go to the library at least once a week. (Mom, Andrew)

We did very good with going to the library at the beginning of the summer because of the Summer Reading Program. For six weeks, there were various activities to participate in. This was the first year we were really gung-ho about the programs. It’s a little hard because there are programs for school age and non-school age kids. So, only Andrew can go to the really fun ones. There were programs most days, so we usually picked one for Andrew and then the girls went for story time for age 3-6. We got lots of books, of course, too. The kids act like they are at a toy store, which is too fun! Andrew delved into a Star Wars chapter book that was quite above his reading level. Our library visits dropped off later in the summer. We usually made it every-other week, when our books were due. 🙂

17. Have a science day. (Mom)

Nice idea, Mom. Maybe next year.

18. Read! Read! Read! (Andrew)

See #16. We did plenty of reading. I’m sure the Summer Reading Program “bucks” were an incentive for Andrew to put this on the list, but he really does love to read. We’ve been enjoying the Box Car Children books and then a variety of other books the kids pick out at the library and from our bookshelves.

19. Make s’mores. (Morgan)

We did this as part of our camp out. We used our gas grill to toast the marshmallows. 

20. Plant Evergreen trees. (Andrew)

This on almost had me stumped, because I couldn’t remember why Andrew wanted to plant Evergreen trees. Then, I remembered that I had a conversation with him one time about how I’d like to remove two ugly bushes we have and replace them with slender Evergreens. Apparently, Andrew thought that would be a fun idea. Bless his heart! Truth be told, I’m not sure I want to invest in trees in a house we don’t plan to live in forever. So, we’ll just keep dealing with our ugly bushes. 😉

21. Go to Edmundson Park. (Morgan)

Edmundson is the largest park in town. We go there often, it seems, for various reasons. Here’s a picture from a Van Utrecht family picnic of the kids doing the limbo at Edmundson. That picnic was the only time I took photos at Edmundson, so I’ll throw in some other park photos, too. 

22. Try the disc golf course in Pella. (Dad)

We put this on the list for Dad. And we haven’t gotten it done, yet. Maybe before it gets cold.

23. Go to Adventureland. (Mom)

We went to Adventureland … twice! I’m sure we’ll have another post about that coming soon.

24. Go to the zoo. (Andrew)

We went to the zoo three times! Thank you Groupon season pass! Watch for more zoo photos in the future, too.

25. Learn math! (Andrew)

Andrew is a math wiz. I think we must have made our list before school was out for summer, so math was still on his brain! ha ha! He really is always learning math, so we did this one! 

26. Build a rocket. (Mom)

Um, I’m not sure this one was even age appropriate?! We didn’t get to this. I think I should do a little research before adding it to next year’s list. 😉

So, that was our Summer Fun List 2011! And thanks to an insanely long World Series game, I was able to finish the post all in one sitting! (Go Cardinals!)

Field Trips & Fun

Waaaay back towards the end of last school year, Mom got the fun chance to go with Morgan’s and Andrew’s class on field trips. They both went to the same places: Russel Wildlife and Edmundson Park.

Morgan started with a bus ride from preschool to Russel Wildlife. (It’s a place we’ve enjoyed before.)

We found some new friends.

Morgan revised her role as snake charmer!

She participated in a little listening game.

And cheered on a turtle race!

We hunted for some fossils.

And played games.

Not much later, Andrew took a trip to the same place!

We looked at some snakes.

And examined some animal parts.

Andrew standing in the black coat, ready to play a game.

With  his buddy, Khydin.

Fossil hunting.

And fishing! Watch out! No one caught anything, and thankfully no one snagged anyone else, either. 😉

Next, his class headed to the park for lunch and playtime. And a little pile-making. 🙂

Morgan also went to the park with her class, although on a different day than her field trip. It was her last day celebration. Dad and Paige got to come along, too.

Morgan likes to swing. Wait, she LOVES to swing.

Dad and Paige like to swing, too.

A little merry-go-round action.

And a nice class picture of some cute kids!

The end.