I know that I am behind on my blog series about places to go in Loudoun County, and I promise that I will be getting back to that, but I wanted to share some personal updates first.
Have you ever seen or read A Series of Unfortunate Events? Well, recently we have been living something similar but since I am working to focus on the positive, I will also be sharing the silver linings of our recent misadventures. So, let's start at the beginning.
One of the most recent parts of my Picture Perfect Adventures in Loudoun County series was about Sleeter Lake in Round Hill. I mentioned that it's a perfect spot for a picnic and my 15 year old and his friend decided to do just that a few days before we were set to leave for Minnesota. I drove out there to pick Levi up and while I was sitting in the parking lot, I noticed that I was getting really warm in my car. Now, if you have lived in Northern Virginia for any period of time in the summer you know that mid-day in July can be BRUTALLY hot and humid and since I grew up here, I wasn't surprised by it. What I WAS surprised by was how hot it was INSIDE my car. As you can see, I was wholly unimpressed when I figured out that the a/c in my car had died....again. That's right! It had been about 2 weeks shy of a year since the last time that our a/c had died in our trusty mini-van and we had gotten it fixed.
Background? Still perfectly picturesque. Me? Not so much.
One thing about Sleeter Lake is that the cell signal is not the best (which is fine until it's 4:30pm and you need to get in touch with your mechanic), so I had my husband call them and thankfully, they said that they would squeeze us in before they closed. The silver lining to this is that I got to hang out with Levi for awhile (who is seriously the coolest 15 year old that I know) while we waited for the diagnosis.
Long story short, a part that had been replaced last year had failed even though it was under a 3 year warranty which meant that the part was covered (yay!), but the labor was not (cue sad bank account). But we love small businesses and this particular small business has always been good to us, so we stick with them. (Shoutout to Purcellville Auto Service for taking care of us!)
With a fresh a/c ready to go, it was time to pack everyone up and head to Minnesota! Since we do this trip every year, we are familiar with the ways to get there, what we need on the road and our favorite places to stop along the way. This year the universe decided that we needed to shake things up a bit....
We usually do this trip over two days usually having anywhere from Ohio to Illinois being our overnight stop, depending on how tired we all are from driving/being in the car. Having older children means that they usually travel really well and there is very little arguing along the way. Truly, the one thing that they fight over the most is who has to pick up Ashley's blanket that she's dropped between her carseat and the door for the 8 millionth time in the past hour. Typically, we leave in the morning but this trip ended up starting in the evening and since it's summertime, the sun was still up when we left. A few hours into our trip was when the universe decided to start speaking up about how boring things were being because we hit a road gator. No, not a live animal, but a chunk of tractor trailer tire that was in the road. It ripped the engine splash guard off of the car, got stuck in the wheel well, made an awful amount of noise and finally popped out to continue its journey down the highway. We, in the meantime, had already booked a hotel for the night and were pulling up to said hotel right after this happened. I ordered a new splash guard for my car on Amazon (crazy, I know) while Seth went to check us in.
Travelling as a family of 6 plus a dog can make finding suitable hotel rooms a tricky business, but we usually make it work relatively easily. (Hot tip: If you use the RoadTrippers app, it is extremely useful for finding things along your travel route!) Even though we can usually find a hotel room, the booking process can be tricky. Why? Because I'm usually on my phone booking a hotel room at 12:30am through a website. The tricky part about that is that the website is confused as to when I want to check in since I need to check in during the wee hours of the morning and not stay until the next calendar day. This is what made it so that our first hotel room was unavailable since I had technically booked us to stay there the following evening, and what finally taught me that I should just call to book hotel rooms on our trips. After a heart pumping evening, we made it to a different hotel and all fell asleep for a few hours.
After a full day of driving, I was sitting in the passenger seat admiring the view of the setting sun, singing along to the music and sending updates to my sister-in-law about our ETA. One minute my view looked like this:
And the next minute, my view looked like this:
I was all of the sudden covered in glass and we were pulling over. A deer had decided to play frogger with our car and lost. We think what happened is that she made it *almost* all the way in front of the car, but her butt got hit by the passenger side headlight area which swung her body around the car making her shoulder hit the door and her head hit my window. I have never been more thankful for safety glass in my entire life. Tyler was sitting directly behind me, so after making sure that I was okay, he was the first person that I checked in on. Thankfully, not one of us had a single scratch, including our dog, Nina. Glass was everywhere, however, and we found it repeatedly over the next few days in several places.
As the kids all huddled together in the backseat, Seth called the police and insurance, while I updated his family about what had just happened. The bright side of being in Cameron, Wisconsin (population of just under 1,900) is that there is a definite small town vibe and the Sherriff's office shows up within 10 minutes. The downside is that the only thing that's open while you wait 2 hours for your AMAZING father-in-law to come pick you up, is the Sherriff's office. So, we sat in a little lobby with access to bathrooms, ordered some Dominio's and hung out for two hours. The Odyssey was towed and we ended up making it to our destination at around 4am.
Our time in Minnesota was wonderful, as always. We got to spend time with some of our favorite people, relax by the lake and, of course, take pictures! There was a day where the water was so calm that it looked like glass. In all of my years of going to this lake, that was the first time that I had ever seen it this still.
One of my favorite parts of this trip was being able to photograph two of my very favorite people as they enjoy the last few months of it being just them before their baby makes their arrival!
There was fishing done, cousins helping baby cousins learn to walk, Ashley worked hard on a wiggly tooth and macros shot, but overall I spent more time being in the moment than being behind the camera this year.
Our time was great, but we did have to wait to hear from our insurance about the car. We needed a way to get home but wanted to be 100% sure that our car was totaled before we invested in a new one. Now, if you've looked for a car the past few years, you know that the choices are limited and buying a used car is almost as expensive as buying a new one. We looked allllll over Minnesota to try to find an Odyssey but literally every single one was sold before we could look at it or had 100,000+ miles and was still $30k. Ultimately, we ended up going to a Kia dealership to look at an Odyssey that they had. Unfortunately, the one that they had was not in good shape but the sales guy we were working with (who was awesome) told us that he might have something that would work for us: the 2024 Kia Carnival SX Prestige. It had the room we needed, the features we wanted and we could drive it home that day. That last one was important because we had about 72 hours until we were meant to start our trip home.
I have never loved Kia's, but they seem to have really stepped up their game recently. This car has all kinds of awesome technology: LED panels, wi-fi hotspot, parking assist, lane assist, two moonroofs, super adjustable seats, USB ports for every seat, front seats that heat AND cool, BOSE speakers, etc. All of this combined with our timeline made us decide that this was the car for us!
Although I don't love the orange and wish that it had a tiny bit more space for Nina, I do love everything else about this car. The last full day of our trip, Seth's OneWheel fried and one of the younger cousins fell off of the other OneWheel, breaking his arm (both the ulna and the radius). Two more things to add to our list from the universe!
The next day, we headed back onto the highway after many wishes for a deer-free trip home! Ashley was so sad to leave her cousins, but it is so sweet to watch their bond!
Thanks to TikTok I was able to stumble upon the largest candy store in North America, B.A. Sweeties Candy Shop, in Cleveland, Ohio, which happened to be a city that we pass through on the way home! This made it an easy decision to stop by and purchase some sweets (none of which were being eaten in the car, by the way). This is a stop that also has a putt-putt course and a soda shoppe, so you can make it a stop that lasts for a few hours but we really wanted to get back home, so we only stayed for about an hour. It's a great little detour, though!
This is their "cowch" and I am obsessed with it....
Don't mind Tyler and Elena's faces, they had just eaten super sour candy.....that they LOVED.
After our stop we got back on the road and had a pretty uneventful trip home. However, once we got home the universe decided that we weren't quite finished with the unexpected.
Our water main had a leak and was spraying water all over our little utility room. Luckily, some of the water had gone down into the sump pump, but we were still left with about an inch of water on the floor. Thankfully Seth knew to turn off the water at the street (and how to do it), so while we waited for the plumber to come out, we turned off the water and cleaned up what we could. Now the studio's kitchen space is covered in fans and dehumidifiers, waiting to dry out and then it will have new floors put in and a freshly cleaned carpet and trim. So, for the immediate future, the studio is going to be somewhat of a work in progress. The silver lining is that I'm going to be able to do some updates!
In the midst of the plumbers visit, Ashley's tooth was making its grand exit and she was DETERMINED to pull it out herself. Who wouldn't love this gap tooth smile?!
So now that everything has settled down, I've decided to turn things around and do something positive with it!
Returning to 90+ degree weather after spending a week hovering around 72 during the day made me really appreciate the ability to cool off. So let's do some mini-sessions to beat the heat! The best part is that you get to pick which type of mini-session you want! You get to choose between the following:
- Bubbles! This option is ideal for younger kids and can be done either in a kiddie pool or in the grass with bubbles.
- Water Balloons! This is really best for older kids who are able to anticipate it coming so that we get to watch their facial expressions change!
- Playing in the Stream! This option is good for all ages!
The minis will be on three separate days so that you have more options to choose from! I'm keeping an eye on the weather in order to nail down the dates, but let me know if you're interested in booking one of these fun minis to beat the heat!