Family adventures + simple fashion + other lovely things

the grotto of the redemption

adventure, travelkelsey williams1 Comment

On our way to Okoboji last summer, we took a spontaneous detour to West Bend, Iowa, to visit the Grotto of the Redemption. I really had no idea what it was, but once we got there, I was AMAZED.


The Grotto was created by Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein, who was born in Germany and later immigrated to the United States. He was very artistic. While he was in seminary in Milwaukee, he became ill with pneumonia. He prayed to Mary (the mother of Jesus) to intercede for him, and promised to build a shrine to her if he lived. Well, he did live, and moved to West Bend, Iowa, to be a priest. He gathered rocks and stones for over a decade from all around the world, and began building the shrine in 1912 with one co-worker. They worked on the grotto for 42 years - right until the day he died at age 82. It's very fascinating! You can read the full story here.


It was definitely a welcomed break in our drive. Rooney and Finch appreciated being able to get out of the van and run around, although Finch didn't understand that you weren't supposed to touch the stones. I was stunned by the beauty in the individual stones and the creativity in the design. There are little rooms and stairs and balconies and all sorts of creative walkways.


The Grotto of the Redemption is the largest man-made grotto in the world. To some, it is considered the Eighth Wonder of the World and a "miracle in stone." There are actually nine separate grottos, each portraying a scene in the life of Christ. It attracts 100,000 visitors each year. I definitely want to go back!


a mini trip to Minneapolis

travel, adventure, familykelsey williams4 Comments

I was going through my Camera Roll recently trying to delete some of my 5,000 photos (face palm emoji) and came across our trip to Minneapolis last summer, and I wanted to share them because we had SUCH a great time! So if you don't mind pretending like it's August instead of January, then come away with us to one of our favorite cities...

I think this was our first ever family trip with just the four of us and was definitely a very fun bonding experience. Eric had a work conference in Minneapolis so the rest of us went along for a couple days because 1) we love it up there and 2) it was a good excuse to go visit my friend Joa and meet her new baby, Rex! We seriously had the best time. Eric and I decided a couple days before we left that we would have way more fun if we threw out our rigid sleep schedule for a few days and just roll with it (Finch was going to bed at 5:00 back then, and we knew we did not want to be stuck in a hotel room all evening!). The kids did great with it, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions we made.

Des Moines to Minneapolis is 3.5 hours via car. We drove up on a Wednesday, and Rooney didn't ask even once if we were "there yet," thanks to the VBS videos we had just put on her iPad. We drove straight to the Mall of America - which is the largest mall in America, and just so happens to have the largest indoor theme park in the United States, Nickelodeon Universe, right in the middle of it.


We were on our way to buy ONE amusement park ticket for Rooney when a young gal walked up and handed us a pass loaded with 96 points (that's a $75+ value). What a HUGE blessing! It definitely made Rooney's day to go on several rides (we actually all went on a few).


Eric hung out with Rooney in the amusement park while Finch and I snuck off to some stores. The mall has 520 stores (crazy!) and somehow it's still enjoyable to walk around. We walked around most of the mall, but if I'm in a hurry, my hot spots are H&M, Madewell and Urban Outfitters (UO has a photo booth!). Zara has opened since we were there, too!


Shake Shack had just recently opened; I can never resist their burgers and shakes! YUM. We ended up eating there two days in a row :-) I super loved the Mall of America Concrete.


The next day - Thursday - Eric had his conference. My friend Joa - the one who designed this blog - lives in Minneapolis and I don't get to see her enough, so I was so excited to get to spend time with her. She welcomed us into her home, served us warm banana bread, didn't care that my kids made huge messes, cooked us lunch, gave us homemade popsicles, and let us hold her very chubby new baby boy. We had wanted to go to Lake Calhoun but it rained all day so we just cozied in, nursed our babies and enjoyed each other's company. She's such a good friend. One of the very very BEST. Our boys are almost exactly one year apart!


Joa gave us the awesome recommendation to check out Hi-Lo Diner the next day for breakfast. A 1957 dining car was driven from Pennsylvania to Minneapolis and it's now open for business! We got seated right away, and it was really yummy! Definitely would recommend.




Eric made a quick pitstop at the Surly Brewing Co. to get some glassware (hopefully we can spend more time there on our next adults-only trip), and then we headed to Como Zoo for a couple hours! The weather was perfect and we got there right as they opened so it wasn't too busy yet. I remember going there when I was younger, so it was fun to bring my family. It's a really good zoo, especially for being FREE! I was so excited to see the polar bears because our local zoo doesn't have them. They also have zebras!


Then it was time to say goodbye. Minneapolis, we love you. We can never stay away for too long. I already have a list of things I want to do next time! If you live in Minneapolis or St. Paul, I would love any recommendations you have!


P.S. This trip went so well that we even discussed driving to South Carolina next year to visit our friends. Eek! Not sure we are ready for a 17-hour road trip, but I'm SURE it would be memorable :-)

Finch, 19 months

Finchkelsey williams2 Comments


  • Height: 33.2" (71%)
  • Weight: 29 lbs 4 oz (95%)
  • Head: 18.3" (24%)
  • Clothing size: 18 months - 2T
  • Shoe size: 6-7
  • Diaper size: 4/5
  • Teeth: 16






  • Bedtime: 6:30-7:00 pm
  • Wake time: 6:30-7:00 am
  • Nap: 1-1.5 hrs

We have been wanting to move his bedtime to 7:00 pm for months, and he was finally able to make the shift (he doesn't get overtired and will sleep in til 7:00 am). I love that he and Rooney are on a more similar schedule now (don't get me wrong, there was also a time when I loved his early bedtime, but we're in a really good spot right now). Eric puts him to bed most nights, because he cries less for him (usually no crying at all).

He can also happily be awake during the day until 1:20ish before he needs a nap, which has been nice.

A rare car nap!

A rare car nap!


  • He goes to the chiropractor once a month to get adjusted
  • Had diarrhea, vomiting and terrible diaper rash
  • Had his 18-month well child checkup
  • Has eczema
  • Was diagnosed with reflux (he will occasionally spit up/throw up after meals)
  • Grew 4 new teeth!


We are still nursing! He calls it "mama." I gladly nurse him in the morning (I love that peaceful time of connection with him), but then I find myself trying to avoid it the rest of the day. Mostly because during daytime feeds he will try to do gymnastics while latched, and I know it will be more sustainable for me to nurse longer if I don't get burnt out. He usually does fine with redirection, but sometimes he needs it throughout they day, so then we do it. Some days we nurse for three minutes total and some days it's more than an hour. He still very much prefers the left side. Sometimes he will nurse for one minute on the right and then say "Uh oh, mama" and switch to the left.


  • He has taken an interest in the TV. Mother Goose Club is a bunch of songs and rhymes, and he is captivated by it and it's fun to see him watching as he learns (if he sees a horse, he can say "neigh," etc.)
  • Can walk backwards
  • Uses his left hand quite often while eating


  • Baby
  • Boo
  • Tree
  • Banana
  • Granola bar
  • Nana
  • Elmo
  • Cheese
  • Santa
  • K (OK)
  • Garbage
  • Cracker
  • Show (doe)
  • Teeth
  • Hat
  • Snow
  • Snowing
  • Kaysie
  • Whoa
  • Ball
  • Yeah
  • My my (his cousin Myah)
  • Duba duba duba (this means's hilarious)
  • Mama (mommy, grandma or nursing)
  • Dada
  • Sissy
  • Mine
  • Nooooo (it's still cute; I forget when that ends?)
  • Bite
  • Uh oh
  • Eye
  • Cracker
  • Mouth 
  • Nigh nigh
  • Hi
  • Dog
  • Book
  • Bubble
  • Bye
  • Dink (drink)
  • More
  • Bath
  • Cookie
  • Spoon
  • Bright
  • Ba-bye
  • Apple

He's very verbal! He can say (or will try to say) 45+ words. It's so fun being able to communicate with him.

shirt / socks


  • When he can play with Rooney even more (although this month was a huge step in that direction)
  • Honestly, our kids are both at awesome ages and I am loving being a parent now more than ever <3
The many faces of Finch.

The many faces of Finch.

Finch, you brighten our days so much. You are absolutely fearless, walking off couches and climbing up on tables. You are incredibly sweet, giving kisses and arms-tucked-in hugs. You are funny, smart, kind and handsome. You are so curious to learn how things work - I wonder if you'll be a mechanic or an engineer? Your favorite spot is sitting (or standing) on my lap. I love giving you horsey rides on my back. I would do anything for that giggle!

xoxo, Mama

P.S. Your soft little chubby feet are my absolute favorite thing.

snappy new year!

blogging, holidayskelsey williamsComment

Happy new year! Can you believe it's almost 2017? I still feel like I just graduated high school, but my 15-year reunion is coming up this summer. (Whoa.)

During our annual family meeting, Eric and I were able to review our past year. 2016 was hard, but good. (Is that true for you, too?) I really think it's remarkable to look back at all that was accomplished in a year, so here we go!


  1. Fall family photos
  2. 2016 style goals
  3. The best jeans you've never heard of
  4. Going from 1 to 2 kids
  5. Our first trip to the ER
  6. On sleep training
  7. 2017 family meeting
  8. 3 is...
  9. Remember me?
  10. Planning a donut birthday party


  • 4 day dates (Eric and I try to do these every quarter and they are our FAVORITE)
  • 3 summer trips to Okoboji
  • 56 blog posts published! This is my happy place, and I appreciate every single person who reads. It was super fun to collaborate with Copper Pearl, Minted (2x), Boon, Hy-Vee, Mainstream Boutique and Whole Foods this year!
  • Finch sleeping through the night!
  • Family trip to Minneapolis (blog post to come)
  • 10th wedding anniversary & weekend trip to Omaha (blog post to come)
  • Surprising Eric with Garth Brooks tickets
  • A day at the Iowa State Fair
  • Visiting the Grotto of the Redemption (blog post to come)
  • Making progress on our basement project (update coming soon)
  • Discovering our love for pancake breakfasts
  • Rooney's bedtime routine making huge improvement
  • Finch turning 1 & becoming more independent
  • Eric and I giving each other "time off" from parenting (I hope to write a separate post about this soon)
  • Eric passing the Series 65 exam!

We also felt like we did a good job with date nights this year, although I can only count a handful of them on my calendar. But that is definitely still better than we've done in the past few years!


  • Finch's ER visit & two-day hospital stay (and the fact that we are still paying the bill...)
  • The unexpected cost of our washer going out (although I love our new one!)
  • My grandparents' declining health


  • Publish 60 blog posts
  • Continue reading one chapter of the Bible every morning (at this rate I won't finish the Bible until next year, though!)
  • Have adventures and make lots of family memories. YOLO!