Sparkles by Ashlee: faith, funny, + fulfilling dreams

Welcome to Sparkles by Ashlee, a Christian lifestyle blog over faith, funny, and fulfilling dreams. I'm Ashlee Staerk, and I'm a teenager in love with Jesus and writing stories for His glory in Iowa. Grab your fave drink (I'll take a Dr. Pepper), and peruse my blog, where I document what God is teaching me, encouragement He lays on my heart, the good and the bad in life (always keeping it real), and my journey of trusting God with my dreams!

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Summer 2k14 in Review Link Up

A lot of people have already started school, and now my turn is coming up. It's the day before school starts! I definitely have mixed emotions, but I also have faith so I know in the end I'll be okay.

So yes, I said this was a link up. Uh, what the heck is that? For those of you who don't know, it's where the person doing the link up (me) will have a specific post and then other bloggers can also do a post on that topic and then you link up the posts. Does that make sense? Ha I'm kind of new to it too.

So how does this link up work? For those who want to join me in this - regardless of your age, all you have to do is list 10 of your favorite things that happened this summer. Include pictures, a title for each, and of course a description! They do not have to be in a top 10 favorites order, just list them as you go. The link up is at the bottom of this post. Okay, here I go. :)

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1. The Zoo

Because my brother has a lung disease and is associated with Blank Children's Hospital, he and the rest of our family gets an invitation to the Blank Park Zoo. We always have a lot of fun, and we get to see some pretty awesome animals! They also provide a free supper and when we leave we get to take a {once again free} stuffed animal! They usually have 2 to choose from, he chose a red panda and I got a snow cheetah. A snow cheetah? Or jaguar? I forget which it is. Something in the snow family. Every year they usually add something new so it's always fun to go. 

2. My Cousins in MN

Lately, this has been something my family does every year. Last year, we all went but this time it was just Hunter and me.

You probably know that I live in Iowa, and my cousins are in Minnesota. So, it's about a 5 hour drive. Loooong, but worth it. My mom met my Grandpa and Grandma at the halfway mark. We stopped at some awesome rest area in Minnesota to take a break and then my mom headed back as we continued to go up there. 

A few years later, we arrived in the Cities. You think it's over? Yeah not really. The traffic is INSANE. But besides all that, when we got there we all gave hugs 'n' stuff (I mean duh). My cousins are Amanda and Jacob. They also have a black lab, named Tootsie. Jacob, me, my brother, and my G-ma go on these "exercise walks." We walk around Jacob's neighborhood for exercise basically, lol. We did this every day at least once. I also hung out with my older cousin Amanda. We read a lot of books and even stopped at Barnes & Noble and bought MORE. Rule of life: you can never have too many books. NEVER. We stayed up late and played on Instagram, or YouTube. Then there was Jacob and Amanda's birthday party. That's the whole reason we go up there. My other cousins Kirsten and Lilly came too. It was a pretty nice vacation! On the way back our Grandpa and Grandma let us stop at Cabela's. The ride home was bleh. But I was so happy to see my parents and puppy again, so it worked out. 

I hope we can do it again next year, because we NEED to pay a visit to "The Big Dipper," a place where you can try a sample of tons of different ice cream flavors.

Gotta love the Cities!

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3. Adventureland

I think Adventureland was my favorite thing we did this year. We went to the Adventureland in Altoona, IA. 

I rode the Space Shot for the first time with my dad, which I loved (although I was scared to death at first). That was the first thing we did, and then we took my brother and mom on The Falling Star. You sat in this ride with a whole bunch of other people and and you spin in a circle up and then down, except you don't go upside down. We also went on a balloon carousel, bumper cars, and chair lifts as a family. Then I went on 2 more rollercoasters with my dad. The first was the Tornado, which was on a wooden track and was super bumpy AND you were barely strapped in. I HATED IT.

Then there was the Dragon. Oh my gosh. Whenever I talk about this one, I always remember my miniature panic attack which was SUPERembarrassing. I couldn't buckle myself in and no one was coming over to help me, so hopefully I didn't yell too loud because I was screaming things like "Wait! Stop!" A guy came over a little later and helped me. I know. How embarrassing for me. But my adrenaline was already going because the roller coaster goes straight down and upside down twice. And uh, I'd be dead in 3 seconds if I didn't get buckled in. ANYWAY. Moving on from this. 

At the end I went on some other littler rides with my brother and then when we were about to leave, we looked around just a little more. I wanted to go on one of the water rides so my dad made this deal with me: if I go on the Space Shot again, he would take me on one of them. 

You'd think after I went on the thing once I'd be okay. Sort of true. I was still kind of freaking out. At least I didn't scream the whole way up like the last time. Then we went on the log ride and I got SOAKED while my dad laughed like a maniac behind me. It was fun. I definitely went out of my comfort zone.

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4. Okoboji Fun

My family was going up to my Grandpa and Grandma's for a weekend because of a special event (see #5) and if you don't where Okoboji is (it's in Iowa) then you are desperately missing out. They have all kinds of shops, diners, they even have an amusement park! It is actually right by Spirit Lake, and I have been there multiple times usually shopping. 

This time I went with my grandma and mom. My mom was going to eat with her friends at a restaurant there and so it was just me and Grandma. 

First we did a little looking around, and then took some pics by the lake. Well then, we took a 2 year break sitting on the bench while Grandma talked on her phone. SHE IS WORSE THAN A TEENAGER. SHE IS ALWAYS ON HER PHONE. After she finally hung up - a miracle - we kind of explored for awhile. Some of the stuff in the amusement park were free. We went through a mirror maze - so much fun! - and then... *Dun Dun Dun* The Tipsy House! How do I even describe it? It's like a house only lopsided. You felt so weird walking in there, like you were spinning. If you get dizzy easily, DO NOT GO IN. You might pass out. Otherwise, it is soo much fun! When everything was done, I also got to go down to the beach for a minute, AND I got a new Okoboji tee and silver sandals. Yaaay!

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5. Hall of Fame

My other grandpa on my dad's side of the family, who passed away a couple years ago, was getting inducted into The Hall of Fame. He used to be a sprint car racer and that is what it is for. So we went up to Jackson, not too far away from where my grandparents are, and we hung out there for his induction and then we had a few hours before the races. The fair was there and my brother and I went on a few things, like the bouncy house and these slides that you can slide down on. Then we decided to go on this one ride where you sit in a cart and you spin around while going up and down. Oh, and the cart moves so it's like spinning on top of spinning. It wasn't that I got dizzy, but for some reason it SCARED me. And yes, I did go on the space shot twice. I felt sick the whole rest of the time unfortunately, but thankfully I started feeling somewhat decent for the races and I was able to say. One of my dad's friends was racing a car that had our number on it, my dad used to have a sprint car. So, that was pretty cool. The fireworks at the very end were also AMAZING. 

6. Cousins Come Here

Well, just Jacob came down to my house. He got to meet our puppy Willy for the first time. We also got to go to Bass Pro and bowl, and swim at our public pool too. Then there was the late nights playing The Game of Life.. (: We had a great time AND when he was there I got my iPhone!! Talk about a dream come true! Lol I think I've had that dream for 2 years. But it's here now and I love it! It definitely comes in handy when I am watching my brother and Willy. That gets intense. :|

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7. On the Lake

Another awesome time I had was when a friend of my dad's invited me, Hunter, and Dad to go out on his boat. We were on a huge lake and it was SO fun when we went fast! I also got to fish, which I got the biggest fish (girl power!). 

Afterwards, we ate at an Italian restaurant and they had THE BEST spaghetti. The. Best.

And I definitely fell asleep right away that night. Which is great, because I usually don't go to bed after 2 hours of staring at the ceiling.

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8. Getting to Know Willy

In late April/early May, we went and picked up our yellow (really he's white) lab puppy named Willy. He's such a great dog, and during the summertime we got to have so much fun with him. He went to the lake five minutes from our house; and swam and retrieved his toy duck. We took him for tons of walks. He got in trouble plenty. It is just so fun having my 2nd little brother around and I'm grateful for all the memories we've had.

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9. SUMMER!

I just love summer. Maybe that was the best memory - just enjoying it. The fresh grass. The pool trips. The colorful wardrobe. The storms. The humid warm days. The wasps. The dandelions. The clouds. The blue sky. The freedom.

All in all, I had a GREAT summer. I'm going to stop at 9, I think you all get the idea of how this works. So here is the link-up. 

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Starts RIGHT NOW & Ends August 23, '14 | at 9 am central time

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Thank you so much for reading and I hope you all had a great summer! :)