A Girls' Road Trip to Calgary & Banff, AB #1: All the Views & Bonding

Simply amazing, is how I would describe what was already a week ago. Already over a week ago, I got home from a fun, mostly easygoing road trip with my mom, cousin Kirsten, and my aunt Corrine. They are lots of fun to be with, and Kirsten and Corrine are basically travel agents, and they scored us some amazing deals on hotels as well as found some great places for us to explore both on our road trip and in our main destination, Calgary, Alberta. Yes, I went back to Canada. But this experience was radically different from my experiences in Ontario, which you can read about here.

Before I get in to recapping this, some background information. First off, I’ve blogged numerous times about my cousin Kir on this blog, with the most recent post being here. I’m grateful I have her and that we have so many common interests, including driving our moms insane by taking ten thousand photos of us. Thanks so much, Corrine and Candi!!! Really, most of the photos you see here will be because of them, and Kir took some for me, also. I appreciate it so much. On that note, I literally probably have a good 500 some photos I want to share here on this blog, so instead of breaking my website and writing you all one big book to read, I’ve decided I think it will work best if I break this trip recap into four parts. The first part, which you’re reading now, will recap the road trip portion of our trip on the way up to Calgary, where we spent three nights. We spent two full days and a half driving up to Calgary. That is what this post is going to recap—our first two days. Then the second part will be about arriving at our hotel and going to see Banff, which was an amazing tourist town only a little over an hour away from Calgary. We spent two days checking out that place. The third part will be all about Calgary, from getting back from Banff to the full day we spent exploring the city. The last part will cover our trip back and hit hard on everything this amazing trip taught me.

I have always tried to learn something from my vacations because I think anytime you experience a different part of the world or take in new experiences, there is such a potential for you to grow as a person and become wiser if you let God speak to you through the experience. I also learned rather quickly that you can’t expect a vacation to go perfect, and you can’t expect it to be an escape. If you have crap thoughts at home, you’re going to have crap thoughts on vacation. I’ll write more on this throughout this post, but there were definitely some overall major takeaways I learned from this trip that I’ll share once I’ve recapped all of it. So stay tuned! We were so blessed by God to witness so many parts of His beautiful creation, and so many things worked out great. While of course there were still some hiccups because a vacation can never be perfect, as is true of life, God worked them all out, and I can look back on this trip with wonderful memories and thankfulness to Him for it.

Kirsten had been wanting to go on a trip for awhile, and when she invited my mom and me, I was ecstatic. We bounced ideas off each other for awhile and, at first, I didn’t think this trip was going to work out. I think it was something we all definitely needed, though, to bond with each other after our extended family had been hit hard with trials, and I think God blessed this time for us as a result. Sometimes it’s hard planning for four people who all have slightly different interests, and there were a couple times I didn’t think things would work out, but of course God is faithful, and everything had a way of falling into place. One thing I really appreciated about this trip was how it combined both nature and the city. My mom is definitely more of a nature person and loves things having to do with the outdoors or with history, and this trip had that. This trip also had the city, which was a dream come true for me, so it truly was the best of both worlds. I only feel a bit overwhelmed on recapping this as there is so much to share, so hopefully I haven’t missed any information.

Now, without further ado, let’s get straight into recapping this because there’s a lot, and I’m so excited to share it all with you!


The Day Before


Driving Up to Corrine’s House

We live about four hours away from their house up in Minnesota, which is also not too far from the Twin Cities. This is where our road trip was going to start. I didn’t mind the extra drive with my mom at all because we talk so much, and it seems there’s never enough time for that. We left later in the evening, after my dad had gotten off work. I was going to miss my boys, so we made sure we talked to them and said goodbye and made plans to be in touch throughout the trip. One of our cars doesn’t have air conditioning, either, which makes things brutal in the summertime, so that’s another reason why we left later. I know I’ve said this before, but I truly do love my state, so I enjoyed our mini road trip through Iowa as it was the last I would be seeing of it for a week.

Mom and I decided to have our supper at Wendy’s. We ate inside, at a Wendy’s off the interstate in Clear Lake, also home of the Surf Ballroom, which I’ve had the privilege of seeing when I attended a Hairball concert there with my family. Yeah, that was an experience in and of itself I need to write about eventually…

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What can I say, I love Wendy’s. We wanted to eat somewhere where we couldn’t easily at other times, and we don’t have too many Wendy’s around us, so I’m glad we ate there. One of the wonderful but dangerous things about this trip was all the eating out we did. I absolutely loved it. I’ll make sure I recap everything we ate, don’t worry!

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Target

The weather was mostly nice on the way up, but it started raining as we got closer to their house. I was so thrilled to see Kirsten again, even though it had only been a month since I’d seen her last. We had lots of fun talking to each other the night before on the phone as we packed. What we packed is a whole other story, haha. As we arrived, Mom realized that of everything she packed, she forgot a coat. There were a couple other things, so we wanted to make a run to Target, especially since we don’t have too many Targets nearby except for in our “cities” like Des Moines, Ames, or Iowa City. Kirsten adores Target, so I knew she’d come with us. Theirs closes earlier, like around ten, so by the time we arrived we basically had to pick her up and then head over.

And of course we got distracted right away. Right away, they had the cutest swimwear. I’d been wanting a Fourth of July bikini for awhile. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’ve always had a thing for the Fourth of July and it’s one of my favorite holidays, or maybe it’s because I still have my fantasies of being on a boat in Okoboji for the Fourth if that ever happens… Either way, they had the cutest bikini top but no bottoms left. But I bought it anyway. Kirsten got a new one piece there, too, that she ended up liking.

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It was also pouring rain while we were in Target. Mom ended up getting a denim jacket as her coat, but another thing about this trip we were so blessed with was nice weather. It was never too hot or too cold. I mean, there were a couple times I felt it was chilly, but I’m always cold so what’s new. We didn’t really have much rain, which would have basically ruined all our plans if we had since most of what we did on this trip involved being outside. I am so thankful to God for that.

While heading back, we stopped at a gas station to fill up our truck so it was ready for when my mom and I drove back home, and there was a guy in the gas station who dresses up like Johnny Depp in those pirate movies, so we just went on in there to get a picture with him. Kirsten had known who he was, and Mom is evidently not afraid of just walking up to people and asking for a photo, so that’s what we did. He was great, haha.

At the House

Once we were back, we talked with her family for awhile and carried our luggage inside. Thankfully the rain had let up by then. It was fun because we had gotten them some little gifts for our trip—my mom got Kir and me these adorable custom made notebooks—and Kir got us some things, too, like a hat for me we wore for one of our pictures you’ll see in the next post.

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It was also fun because we were down in their basement where Kir’s room is that my mom and I slept in, and her computer was down there, so she and her mom booked our first two hotels on the way up. We’d had our hotel booked in Calgary for awhile. They go through some awesome sites that find hotels for really cheap. I don’t think we ever spent more than a hundred bucks on any hotel, except for the one in Calgary, and even that one had a good deal. There was also not a bad hotel we stayed in, either. Some were better than others, but I couldn’t say I didn’t like any of them. But I love hotels!! It was heaven for me getting to be in that many different hotels in the span of a week. I’ll write on all of those, too. We had decided to break up our road trip into a couple different parts. For the first night, we were staying at a hotel in Dickinson, North Dakota. On the second night, we were staying in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and then we would drive the remaining distance after that to Calgary.

We went to bed somewhat early because we had to. To get our rental car, we had to be up at such an ungodly time in the morning. I don’t even remember what, I know it was before seven, and that’s too early for me.


Day One: Road Tripping to North Dakota

Getting the Rental Car

Yeah, so I don’t remember much about what I did in the morning because it was too early. All I remember doing is getting myself dressed and washing my face and making sure I didn’t forget any of my closet I brought with me, haha. All of us drove up to the place near the Cities in Kirsten’s car. Once we got that car, which we were thankful was a size small enough to be cheap yet a mid size car so there was room for all our luggage—which we each had a full suitcase just of our own clothes and then some, so it was a miracle everything fit in the trunk haha—Corrine and my mom drove it home with Kirsten and me following them. Kirsten and I enjoyed jamming to the radio. It also is worth mentioning that it cracked me up because I took a video of one of the songs on the radio, and Kirsten made the comment about making sure she recorded on this trip because she always regrets not doing that. Meanwhile, by the end of the trip, Corrine had driven Kirsten up a tree about everything she wanted her to record. It was hilarious.

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Breakfast and Leaving

It was also funny because we stopped at Target another two times before leaving as Corrine had to pick something up, so Kirsten joked that a couple hours later we would be on the road. Everything worked out really well, though, and we weren’t really in a hurry, which is nice. We picked up breakfast at some gas station. I had the breakfast of champions of course, a lovely donut, while the rest of them tried to be healthy, but I’m not about that life even though one of these days I really need to be.

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As we left the Cities, I admired all of their glass buildings and how one of them is a college. And I let everyone know about my dreams of having a career where they send me off to different cities around the country, haha. If anyone knows where to find these careers specifically with communication or writing or design, it’s not too early for you to give me much appreciated advice!!

See, like look at this. They’re rose gold buildings.

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Mom was really good about helping Corrine with directions, and Corrine was very gracious about doing most of the driving, especially in the city, which Mom can’t do. Once we got on the road, we started plotting our route and the things we could check out along the way.

Stopping for Lunch

I don’t know what town we stopped in to eat lunch, but we had KFC inside. And we were so rowdy, oh my gosh. That’s what being in a car for that long will do to you. Like we couldn’t stop laughing about things. Mom said there was this one cute guy sitting by himself Kir and I noticed that seemed quite amused by us… We kept poking fun at Kirsten because Mom said there was some pyramid attraction thing, and then we drove by one of those big piles of dirt that forms a pyramid shape, and Mom joked to Kirsten, “There’s the pyramid!” And Kirsten was like, “Is it really?” But then I had a moment at KFC when we got this biscuit with frosting or something like that, and I go, “It tastes different. It’s like…a biscuit.” Well, what summer does to your brain, anyways.

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Well, KFC didn’t really work out for one half of us as we found out a couple hours later, and that’s all I’ll say about that, so we didn’t have that on the trip again.

“WHERE DA OTTER AT?” or Fergus Falls, Minnesota

My parents used to live here, so Mom asked if we could stop there for a trip down Memory Lane since we went right by it on our route. They had this giant otter structure by a scenic pond, so we had to get pictures. Kirsten is the author of that wonderful quote, by the way.

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I’m not huge on this photo of me below because I look wide for whatever reason, which reminds me of one of the most hilarious moments on this trip—to me, at least, because I don’t think Kirsten is going to appreciate this—but we were having issues with how we looked in the photos, and Kirsten made some comment about looking 500 pounds, and Corrine was flustered and said, “Well, you are what you are!” I about fell off the picnic table I was laughing so hard.

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I thought Fergus Falls was a nice little town, and I know my parents appreciated the memories because my mom was texting my dad about it.

Driving Through North Dakota

We stopped at some gas station in Fargo, North Dakota. Mom was looking at shirts, and at first North Dakota didn’t look much different than Minnesota, but that eventually changed.

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We had bags of snacks for the road, and Corrine and Kir introduced me to these little chocolates you can eat about ten of.

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Kirsten was our pro at taking selfies with all of us in them, and it was hilarious as we tried to get one in the car. I remember all the laughing the most, which is what is so special. Life isn’t meant to be stress, pain, stress, etc. Pain is part of life, but it doesn’t have to kill you. God wants us to have an abundant life, and you can know for sure that joy and laughter is part of that. Don’t take everything so seriously, that’s one thing I learned on this trip. Just relax and enjoy the moments of being with each other.

Jamestown, North Dakota and a Buffalo

Our first stop we made and decided to check out and that was free was this cute little town called Jamestown, and this hit on the history that my mom enjoys. They had this old town set up where you could walk around and read about past buildings and such, and this is where the “World’s Largest Buffalo” is. We enjoyed stopping to walk around and check out all of those things.

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This was our view of the interstate we had been on:

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More Driving Through North Dakota

For supper I had way too many Mike and Ike’s. I had way too many of these on the trip, but they were wonderful for the car rides…

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North Dakota could be extremely flat at times…

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I always enjoyed the radio playing, too, and we heard so much Kenny Chesney and Shawn Mendes from listening to Kir’s and my stations, and then Mom played some of her and Corrine’s music, too. We had a good variety, and I found quite a few new songs I liked. We got lost a bit in Bismarck, but it was okay because I enjoyed seeing one of their “cities.”

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Eventually, as our drive continued and we got closer to our hotel, it got a lot more hilly, and that was cool to see. I actually really enjoyed the scenery of North Dakota.

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I found it cool how they would put a bunch of power lines or towers on top of the hills. It reminded us all of communicating with aliens haha.

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Dickinson, North Dakota

I was very excited to finally arrive at the hotel. The hotel we stayed at in Dickinson was a Ramada and my favorite we stayed in on our road trip. It had a lodge theme and was very nice. I loved the style of the rooms, and all of the beds in the hotels we stayed at were heavenly. Dickinson was also a fairly good sized town, so it was nice to be around civilization haha.

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We really didn’t have trouble finding things too much thanks to Mom’s GPS on her phone, so it wasn’t too far of a drive to our hotel.

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We had to bring all of our luggage into the hotel because we needed mostly everything but then later figured out to condense some stuff, but in the meantime Kirsten and I had quite the time trying to figure out these carrier things and find our room. We only got lost like three times… I’m sure the people at the reception desk were like there they go again!

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We made a run to Walmart that night to get more snacks, and then while Kirsten and I wanted to eat at a restaurant, it got to be super late by that time, so we decided to just have fast food for supper. We ate at Burger King! It was wonderful to me of course.

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When we got back, Kirsten and I wanted to check out the hot tub. We didn’t stay too long, especially because it was packed with kids even though it was so late, but it was relaxing while it lasted.

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We got to see a lot of the lights while driving around from Walmart back to the hotel. The town reminded me of the size of Ames, so there was a considerable amount of city lights, my favorite thing.

The main thing I learned from this first day was to just let go of negative thinking. If I’m not careful, thoughts of how I should look or how things should be and other things I think I need right now can steal my joy out of moments like these. I typed lots of notes to myself on my phone for this reason. I knew I didn’t want to be thinking negatively on my trip, but you can’t just rely on the trip itself to fix that. You have to be intentional and seek God, which can also be hard to do when you’re so busy like we were on this trip. But remember it’s as simple as just telling Him your thoughts. Or taking some time while everyone is laying there in the hotel room falling asleep to stay up a couple more minutes and share what’s on your heart. And you’ll be amazed at how much that makes a difference.


Day Two: Road Tripping Through Montana and Alberta

Once we had our first day of driving down, it made things easier as we knew what to expect. We had to find a route, however, that had a station where we could cross the border into Canada. In the meantime, we were going to continue our road trip by going through Montana and then up to Canada.

Breakfast

Things were slightly more laidback in the hotel. We had free breakfast at this one, so we got dressed and ready and headed down. I tried eating eggs and sausage for protein, but once again the only thing that really impressed me were the chocolate chip muffins… #ineedhelp

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And as far as packing for this trip goes…I think all of us agreed we overpacked a little bit. But you never know, and Kirsten and I think it’s better to be safe than sorry, so we take our closets with us basically!

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On the Road

Before we got on the road, we stopped for gas. We didn’t have too far to go before we would cross into Montana. I was excited to see Montana because I’d heard it has beautiful views, but another thing I found interesting to see in North Dakota that you’ll all probably think is ridiculous were the oil rigs. The reason why is because of my favorite movie Twister, and if you’ve seen the opening scene where it shows all the clips of storms brewing, there’s an oil rig in one of them… Well, I’ve never seen one of those in real life, and I got to see tons, so I was quite happy about that.

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We made one last stop before leaving North Dakota. This park looks like just a rest stop off the main road, but it gives an absolutely surreal view of the Badlands. We definitely stopped for a million photos here and took some for other people as well, since it was fairly popular. Mom cracked us up because Kirsten and I were first to discover the views—our moms were busy in the gift shop, and my mom bought a buffalo stuffed animal! His name is Buff. We did see a buffalo, by the way! It was laying down way out there, but it probably can’t be seen good in photos, and I don’t have the photos of it, but I’m sure my mom took some. These views are what we’d been hoping to see, and talk about humbling. It’s just amazing to know God created this and to take it all in and just wonder how He formed all of it.

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They had an awesome overlook perfect for photos! Kirsten is a photographer and was hoping to get photos of views like these, so she took a lot, and then we got some altogether, too!

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On the Way to Montana

After those views, we were all super pumped for the rest of the trip, as it was truly only the beginning. I ate more crap food and brought my favorite pop with of course.

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The Montana Sign

Yes, I’m not kidding when I said we were all pumped. So pumped we had to pull over to get a bunch of photos with the Montana sign. There’s even a little path along the side of the road for it. And we had quite a few people honk at us as they went by on both sides of the divided highway. I have such fond memories of this! It sure is fun being tourists, haha.

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Driving Through Montana

The pretty views extended into Montana for quite aways, too.

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Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum

This was the first stop we made early on in Montana. I LOVED THIS PLACE. We didn’t have the time to actually pay the fee to see all of this museum, but we perused the gift shop, where they had lots of neat items, from jewelry to other artifacts. They also had so many books I wanted. Why? Because this place has a distinctly Christian and biblical view on the creation of the world, aka the truth you never hear about in public schools… I’ve always despised learning about evolution in school. If they were going to teach it as a theory and also share these other views, that would be one thing, but instead this manmade idea of creation is considered and taught as a fact. It’s very reassuring to see places like this that accept the truth and share it. I wanted honestly like five books, but I just got one to start with, and I’m definitely excited to begin educating myself on the truth.

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Driving in Montana Some More…

Okay, here’s the thing about Montana: it is absolutely gorgeous in some areas and so very dull in others, haha. As our drive stretched on, there was basically a whole lot of nothing, and at some points we were the only car on the main road. But those speed limits though!!! You wonder why, haha. I remember we were all about to die because we were getting so hungry for lunch, but all of the towns we would pass through were so small and run down we couldn’t fathom them being a town, so we kept waiting and eating whatever crap food we had left. Finally we stumbled on a town that was more populated, and they had a Subway! We also found people who were very nice at a gas station and helped us with directions because we were trying to figure out if we were on the right track to cross the border. I don’t know what you would do if you ran out of gas there. It was also the beginning of the end of our phone reception. In more populated towns, you would have data, but way out in the middle of nowhere you didn’t get much of anything.

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However, we had so many funny moments and just times to talk with each other. My mom had said she’d always wanted to go on a road trip, so I’m very thankful we were able to do all of this together. There were points where it felt drug out, but really, everything went quickly in the scheme of things because of that. We were still able to contact our boys back home for awhile, too, which was nice. I couldn’t believe the amount of ranches out in Montana. Yeehaw, haha. It started looking more and more like the mountains…

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I mean, look how flat this is. But hey, it’s still beautiful. All of God’s creation is beautiful, and Mom kept telling us to imagine life as a cowboy and that’s what you saw. Kir and I were more like please find us a cutie cowboy but anyways, I probably shouldn’t because I don’t think I could do that life personally, haha. I did enjoy seeing and imagining what it would be like, though.

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Driving in Alberta

Oh, my gosh. So we thought Montana was bad. Alberta was absolutely nothing for MILES. And the speed limit made a rather steep drop. We couldn’t figure it out at first thanks to the lovely metric system and our rental car didn’t have conversions to kilometers, but Mom finally found a photo of our speedometer she had for some reason, and then we got to go a little faster. But we were going at a turtle’s pace for awhile and thought we were going to die. That final stretch did get long. We had aways to get up to Medicine Hat, where our second hotel would be. It did get hillier at some points, though, and at another point, I saw those trees that are littered abundantly throughout Ontario.

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Arriving in Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat was another fairly good sized town. It was my first time seeing a “normal” Canadian town because you don’t see too many of them in Ontario, that’s for sure. Corrine spotted a Dollarama there, which is their version of a Dollar Store or something, and she is in love with those the way I’m in love with a lot of my stores. We saw like three of them throughout our trip, and we stopped at most of them except one was closed. Kirsten was thankful. But the first time we went, Kirsten got a Canada t-shirt, and I got one, too, which we wore in photos I’ll recap in a later post. The hotel we stayed at here was still nice but probably one of my lesser favorites of the trip. It was a lot older, but for the price, it still was nice, had a comfy bed, had a hot tub, and we got free breakfast, so no complaints from us. This is one of the structures Medicine Hat had, and actually we had a funny moment later that night at the hotel because Kirsten said, “I don’t really know what people would stay in this town for,” since we quickly figured out it wasn’t a destination for tourists primarily. And Corrine goes, “They can go see that teepee!” We all cracked up, including her, and she ended up spitting out her water, which just added to the humor. It was neat looking, though.

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Corrine and Kirsten took a pass on the hot tub, but my mom wanted to go to relax our muscles, so her and I went while they went to pick up some things, and we ordered pizza, so they were going to stay for its delivery. Those hot tubs were the perfect thing to look forward to after a long, full day of being cramped up in a car. This hot tub was much more tame compared to the other pool. There weren’t as many people with their kids.

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We ordered pizza from Papa John’s, and it was delicious, especially after being in the hot tub. It was such a great feeling to come back from that, get dressed in comfy pajamas, and then eat pizza on the bed with Kir.

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This time at night to just relax and talk with each other was also fun because we started generating ideas for what we wanted to do in Calgary. Kirsten had seen pictures of the mountains and lakes in Banff, which wasn’t far from Calgary, so she wanted to go there and get pictures. We also wanted to go shopping, I was dying to go up in a skyscraper so we saw the Calgary Tower was something we could do, there was this awesome bridge that went over a river by the skyscrapers we wanted to get pictures at, Mom wanted to see the Saddledome and get a picture for Hunter (home of the Calgary Flames!), and so on. We started browsing through ideas of things to do both in Calgary and Banff, and it was a lot of fun looking at photos of all the attractions and getting excited to soon be doing those things.

This is Buff. His full name is Buff Shawn Trip because we heard Shawn Mendes constantly, so now we named him after Shawn, but it only seemed fitting because Shawn is from Canada.

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And here’s all of us with Buff!

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All my energy and excitement must have finally gotten to me, proven by like five different things I wrote down on my phone that I thought were funny. I was driving my mom nuts because we shared one bed while Corrine and Kir had the other, and Mom goes to bed too early just like my grandma and I kept laughing, and it’s hilarious because I took a selfie of us where she’s, like, about knocked out, and you can tell she’s just about ready to strangle me, and then there’s me, wide awake and loving life. I’d post the selfie, but it’s really not that flattering of either of us.

And that’s about how I feel now about being able to share this first recap post! These days were truly just a glimpse of what was in store for us. I was so thankful for all God blessed us with and also for helping us through other times in the trip when some things didn’t go as smoothly. I’m so thrilled to share all of it! Stay tuned for the next post that should be out soon! I don’t know if I’ve ever had this much fun writing blog posts, even though I was irate with my photo app because evidently uploading 500 photos at one time is too much to ask. But it’s all coming together! The next post will recap driving to Calgary, our wonderful hotel there, and both our days in Banff! Thanks so much for reading about our adventures and the thoughts I have along the way as well as how God is continuing to grow me. There’s much more to come!!

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Bailing on Canada | Estherville & Okoboji 2k18

Long time with no writing! I was hoping to update my blog as much as possible over my vacation spent with family when my parents went to Canada, but we got to be so busy that it made it a lot harder. But I took tons of pictures, so I'm thrilled to recap this now!

I got home yesterday and just finished unpacking a little bit ago (as of 3:44 from June 23, 2018). I had quite the amount of bags to unpack: when I left, I had brought five bags. Yeah, I know that sounds like a lot, but since my mom was bringing her huge suitcase that I normally take for all of my clothes, I ended up bringing three bags of clothes. Yes, I brought the whole summer portion of my closet, and I'm glad I did: I was able to wear a new outfit everyday, haha! And I made Grandma take a picture of me everyday so I can post them all like the wannabe fashion blogger I am! Haha just kidding, but I am saving them for a future blog post on modesty.

I did only end up bringing one bag for my entertainment type things, and for once I brought only the bare minimum for those. So it all balanced out. And then my fifth bag was just my purse, so I don't know if that really counts. I ended up coming home with NINE bags though, but that's because they were smaller bags of things I bought that wouldn't fit anywhere else. I got a lot of good deals and things I bought that I'll go over, too!

First things first, my parents and brother went up to Canada with some friends, and it sounds like they had a good time! I already recapped our first trip to Canada as a family here, here, and here. I never did post our second trip, which was last year, and honestly that's because it wasn't too interesting on my end at least. I determined the fishing life isn't my life, so I mainly stayed at the cabin and read. Canada was still beautiful, though, and I did have pictures that I never posted, so I'll show you them below here:

*we went to Cabela's on the way up, Tobie's with amazing donuts, and attempted to feed deer
**Hunter caught a huge fish right off our dock when our parents were out fishing, so I helped him but he had most of it done himself, and then these guys in the cabin next to us had just come back from fishing and helped us store the fish—it's mounted in his room now
***on the way home, I got Arby's and went by the Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild


I already miss everyone and Estherville so much I could cry. It's always a blast, and I'm already making plans to go up again. I blogged some images of my first day there here. I went up to Estherville to stay with my grandparents a couple days before my family left for Canada. They were spending the night at my uncle's house, also, so I would have a few days to talk to them before they had to battle finding an internet connection. I had fun just hanging out with my grandparents and making the rounds at ShopKo and Dollar General.

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I had ordered some jeans from American Eagle that (finally!) came back in stock, so as soon as Mom and I saw that, we jumped on them and bought them and had them shipped up to Estherville because I would be up there when they came. Also about that swimsuit, that didn't get shipped until after we left to see our relatives up in the Cities, so I hope nobody has stolen it or the elements haven't destroyed it...because I guess Estherville is drowning right now with all the rain...

That night we made it a goal to walk down on their recreational trail everyday, so we headed down.

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This is random, but I was kind of proud of myself because I made it a goal to shower every single day I was up there (because normally when I'm up there I slack off and then always regret it because I have greasy hair in all of my pictures), and so I actually did that, AND I actually rotated through both of my shampoos I'm supposed to be using every other day, so yeah, now if I can just get that disciplined with my writing, Bible study, and fitness routines we'll be good.... I also had had horrible drainage for the majority of my time up there, but it got better with each day, and I had to take these horrible pills that tasted disgusting on your tongue, and they were so big that I about gagged on one of them each time I took them. Ugh. Good memories.

The next day, I went for a bike ride with my Gramps. It was cool in the mornings with a faint breeze, and since I wore an airy top it was bearable. We didn't get to ride bikes much later though due to the humidity and high temperatures. But we went on an extensive ride that day, clear down by the hospital and then headed south down by this church that always greets us upon coming into town. Then we had to find a place to cross the busy highway that goes through downtown, and it was uphill from there. We were definitely shot after that, but I loved it.

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He also took me for our truck ride!! No visit to Estherville is complete without one of those.

Grams also took me on some rides out to Fort Defiance, and I love being able to talk with her on those.

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My older cousin Kirsten who I'm super close to and who feels like more of an older sister than a cousin called us frequently, which is always fun getting to talk to her, especially past midnight when Grams is ready to kill us both. ;D

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We also went to their VFW to talk with some extended relatives. I enjoyed the company of everyone and was glad I put on that long-sleeved shirt, which Grandma nagged me to change into because it was freezing.

Hey look... It's me with Grandma in her signature pose, on the phone. ;) <3

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All the small town vibes <3

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My family also recently introduced me to Forrest Gump, and oh my gosh, that just may be one of my next favorite movies. So Grams and I watched it at night and only finished it in three days, haha. That's because she was too tired the one night and then too busy on the phone the next, haha.

The next day, we headed over to Spencer because Gramps got his windshield destroyed when a rock hit it when he was going to pick up Grandma after her trip. It turns out they ordered the wrong one, which he was not at all happy about, but we at least got to go shopping down at their little strip mall. It had rained heavily the night before, and thankfully we got back before more storms came, because Grandpa said that if it hailed on his car with all of the damage it already had he was going to drive it off a cliff... ;D

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I went into JCPenney with Grandma, and I found two new summer tops that were both up to 70% off! The material also felt really nice, too, and not at all cheap. Then we went to Hobby Lobby, a store Grandpa and Grandma love that I do also now, and their girly room decor took my breath away! I think it was supposed to be marketed at five year old girls, so I guess I'm still five...? I don't know, but I absolutely loved it.

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Then at Hobby Lobby, I got this frame for my room. It's hard to see completely what it says because I haven't taken the packaging off of it yet, but it says "Live big little girl." I liked that a lot, even though I don't know if I'm so little anymore, but I probably act like one with all of my far fetched dreams and fantasies. ;)

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We did our nightly walk again, and I believe we also went to the Dollar General again. I can't remember what day this was, but on one day Grandma had to go to the Dollar Store so many times—I think five, no lie—and Gramps was so exasperated, he was like, we should move it to our front yard. ;D

Here I'm under the bridge that goes over the trail downtown. It has a weird echo, and every time we walk underneath it I morbidly wonder about it collapsing on us... I'm sure it's fine though, and it is definitely different to walk underneath it, but I like it. The trail is a blast to walk on and so is the Swinging Bridge.

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The next morning I bought six donuts at Casey's because they had some deal going for that. And I ate all six of them over the span of two days. My diet is so good, you guys. I don't even know what to do about it, except keep eating. :D

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I actually did do some sporadic writing on my book, and there were some times just driving around the town, under the perfect sunset, that my heart seemed to just swell with the story and the themes and the thoughts I had that I just can't get over until I write about. If that's not motivation to write, I don't know what is. So I am going to seriously start working on it.

We went to the library later just to look around. I wanted to get a feel for the young adult books, to get an idea of any I might want to buy. I am SO picky about the books I read anymore because they are all so redundant—especially YA. As if teenagers can't handle any deep things of substance. And sometimes they will put deep problems in the books, but you know what is always missing? DEEP THEMES. I don't know if I was in the best of moods after reading all the summaries, haha. I have such a deep desire to make my stories different from the norms, but who knows if that even sells? Even most of Christian fiction is repetitive and fluffy: sure, they give their characters problems—that are all miraculously solved. It's annoying because it's not authentic.

But anyway, enough on that rant. I LOVE their library. While ours is more modern and sleek, theirs is more classic and timeless. I think I like their look more to be honest.

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They also have the best furniture and these cute tables that I loved. I also like how theirs is two stories. The library gives such a fancy addition to the downtown.

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I got to go eat out with Grams at Godfather's again, and then we hurried home to see company and had some nice chats. I always love being able to talk deep with her though. 

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Their town is so pretty, I love committing it to memory. <3

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I did stay up late working on the draft of a letter to you know who that I've been promising on here, but it got late and you know how Grandma gets when it's "too late," and then we went to meet my cousin Kirsten the next day (yay!!!) so I never got time to finish it up there. I will eventually, though.

For a year, Kirsten and I had been planning to go jet skiing over at Okoboji, and we had set money aside to rent one. We also had other plans to do things, and we got mostly everything we wanted to done. Both of us had just recently bought leather jackets, so we wanted to get tons of pictures together. We made poor Grams come out with us to the Swinging Bridge where we bossed her around with different photography commands. I'm sure she was close to throwing us off the bridge, but we made sure to thank her profusely, especially since she actually got quite the batch of good pics haha!

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Then we made Grams take us out to Fort Defiance, too. :)

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We had some downright hilarious photos as we attempted to get this one:

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Kirsten requested that we eat at Godfather's, which of course I wasn't going to deny just because I ate out the night before. We were rowdy when we arrived—we were the only ones there—haha. And then when we went to ShopKo, Kirsten yelled "I gotta go pee!" a little too loud, right by a worker, haha. Memories. Since I'd gotten pizza the night before at Godfather's, I decided to try their chicken. It was so much better than what I remembered it to be; I loved it.

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Kirsten and I also went for a bike ride around the neighborhood.

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We brought Kirsten with on our nightly walks and of course made Grams take more pictures.

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That night we did our nails, and I finally used some of my polish from my large collection of nail polish I've neglected since 6th grade (right Mom?). It was a blast, except I'm so slow and messy when it comes to doing my nails. I need to do it more often.

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We stayed up until three something talking about everything: guys we like and our types of guys, inside jokes, deep questions that are going into my book, psychology, creepy stories, our memories, etc. I love having someone like her to talk to.

The next day was going to be the day we had planned for: jet skiing at 'Boji and all the fun things around there! There was a place to rent a jet ski just off of Arnold's Park. We wanted that so we could have something as a landmark so we didn't get lost out in the lake haha.

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Jet skiing was so awesome. Seriously. It affirmed my dreams to live on a lake and get a bunch of toys for the water, a jet ski now being top of the list. We didn't venture too far away, but we did go out to the center of West Lake Okoboji. Maybe if we're braver next time we'll go under the bridge that we drive over coming into Spirit Lake like we saw some other people on jet skis do. :) We also couldn't have asked for better weather. It was a blistering hot day, but honestly, those are the days you want because the water is cold if not, and the coolness of the water on your skin is that much more refreshing when you're out there. Plus, you do get WET, as we found out, so if it's hotter outside you dry off faster.

We rented a jet ski for half an hour, and I made Kirsten drive. ;) I think she was worried about it, but she did a great job. We rode it as fast as we could (only like 7 mph...for some reason I thought they could go up to 70 like a car and I have no idea why I thought that haha). She was also smart about her driving, too, though, because the last thing we wanted was to tip over! And there were some solid waves out there because it's a very populated lake. We made sure to slow down for those, but I absolutely loved each second of it. I let my arms dangle around Kirsten's waist and made sure I stayed snug against her so that I wouldn't fly off, but I really think that's harder than one imagines. Both of us agreed we would do it again, and hopefully we can! We didn't think we would get as wet as we did but wore a spare change of clothes just in case, and I'm glad we did. The water temperature was just right: my bare feet were getting scorched as we walked down to the jet ski, but letting my feet rest on the sides of it where the water collected felt amazing. Kirsten took the brunt of the splashing waves, haha, while I ducked behind her. But being the back, water would spray up from behind and splash me, too. I absolutely loved it. I wish we would have gotten more pictures of us on it, or that we had a Go Pro. We both agreed that if we ever become rich like a lot of the people over here, the first investment we're going to make is a photographer who can follow us around and take pictures, haha. :D

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At first we didn't know if we'd be able to get to go jet skiing but had a backup plan of going canoeing if not. I'm so thankful we got to go jet skiing though. I'm very thankful that God blessed us with those moments together. For years we've driven over the lakes, and I've watched as all of the people had their fun on the lakes, and so it was really special to finally be able to get to be a part of that. I hope we can do something like that again next year, and who knows, maybe one day I will make my dream come true of having a lake house on 'Boji. ;)

Okay, then there were these pictures when we were done that Grams took. They crack me up. I just love how our movements are completely identical to each other—in this picture we look like zombies or something, and then Kirsten has an even better one of us where we're looking over to the side and we LITERALLY look like the real BigFoot. Yeah, I can see that one: two BigFoots spotted live in action on the coast of Arnold's Park.

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The lake life in 'Boji? Heck yes. Canada? Sorry, but I had my two years and was more than ready for this change of pace. ;)

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We went into a nearby restroom to change into drier, fancier clothes. And then got pictures!!! Duh.

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They've been making some new changes to the park, which look awesome. I thought it would've changed in appearance a lot more than it has, but I'm okay with that because I wouldn't want the look to be unrecognizable. But Kirsten and I went walking through all of the shops, and there was this new museum for rock and roll and a new fun area with this huge slide we might try one day haha. Then up at the Emporium, they have a brand new Lilly Pulitzer store. OH, MY GOSH. I died, because I've always admired Lilly Pulitzer from afar and wish I had the budget to splurge on their clothes. The shop was so cute, and I found two tops easily I would've loved, each only $100! Not. I totally don't have a budget for that right now, but maybe one day... Nonetheless, I'm glad they have the store; it's adorable.

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We also did the free Mirror Maze and Tipsy House inside the park, which are always fun. We got gum balls from the golf course I've always wanted to golf at and even won a yellow gum ball, which means a free round for one person to golf there! So then we made Grams take this picture, too:

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We went to go eat at the Spirit Lake Dairy Queen (it never fails). Originally we had wanted to eat at a restaurant on the lake, but they were unbelievably crowded. Kirsten and I tried to check out one, and you could barely walk.

We actually got Gramps to go mini golfing in the park with us! Since it was Father's Day, he got to go free. It was actually way cheaper than I expected it to be but very crowded. It wasn't horrible though. I really enjoyed it, except it got a bit long after awhile especially with the heat. Every once in awhile there was a breeze. Ha, actually there was a breeze a lot, because our balls kept going all over the place, and Kirsten's and my hair kept flying everywhere during pictures. It was fun though, and I'm glad we got to do it. Grams kept score for us; I don't think golf is her thing. We always joke with Gramps about mini golf because a long time ago he went mini golfing, got mad, and hit the ball clear over the highway! Normally that's how I feel because we went mini golfing the year before, and I did absolutely horrible. Gramps beat us by a lot, and Kirsten and I almost tied for last, but Kirsten lost by a couple more points. Kirsten's ball really liked her: it kept coming back down the hill to the starting point hahaha.

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Gramps also took us for truck rides, too, which we enjoy. We went on the Swinging Bridge again, too.

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On a ride around town, the sunlight peeking through the clouds was an awesome sight:

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Kirsten wanted to watch Forrest Gump with me since it had been years since she'd seen it, so I was more than happy to because I'm obsessed with it! We stole some of Grandma's M&M's from her food she was saving for circle at church the next day, and I sprinkled them on my popcorn. We paused the movie for awhile though to talk with Grams, which I loved. Kir and I had some honest talks that I loved getting to talk with her over, like our unfiltered, raw thoughts on different types of people. It felt good to be able to connect like that. You know, the more I think about how lonely I feel, what God has lain on my heart is that I'm not as alone as I thought. At school, yes, and in my faith, yes. But He knows how to send just the right people, like my cousins. Getting to talk with Kirsten is like getting to talk with the older sister I wish I had or the best friend I've been wanting. I appreciate that so much. I also love that we can have our own inside jokes, jokes that are better off not told with Grams in the room...haha. :)

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The next day, Grandma had to lead circle for church. We were planning to go to Spirit Lake afterwards just to check out Walmart. Kir and I went for a bike ride while we were waiting. Grams had to be at church early to get ready, and the route we took led us by the church, and we saw her car. So we were like, let's stop and say hi! So we did. The church was quiet and black, with hardly any lights on. Kirsten and I were trying to find her, but we couldn't. Evidently she was outside and then tried to hide from us with one of her friends. It was funny. Their church is decorated really nice. What was even FUNNIER, though, is what happened a half hour after Grams said it would be over. We wanted to hurry and get over to Spirit Lake because Kirsten wanted to check out a consignment shop that would be closing soon, so we decided to walk down to the church since it wasn't that far away. On our way over there, I made the comment that what if Grams drives right by us? We were hoping we could find her and then just get a ride back.

We got down by where the church was, and then Kirsten and I couldn't remember which road it was we took that led us to the front of the church. We started down one road, but then we realized that it would probably take us by the back of the church, so we'd have to walk around. I told her to keep her eyes peeled for Grandma, just in case. Then all of a sudden from the road over a block, I see her driving by. I quickly yell to Kirsten that that's her, so we actually RAN to the end of our road to go meet her. Mind you, Kirsten and I do not RUN, and we were certainly not dressed in running attire. We must have been a sight: running as fast as we possibly could right down the middle of the road, waving our arms and yelling. And Grandma? We watch as she drives right by us, not even slowing down. Kir and I were exhausted, and then we had to walk all the way home. Haha, good times...

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Shortly after we made our way over to Walmart in Spirit Lake. I sucked on gum balls that we got from trying to get a bunch of yellow ones for mini golfing, haha. Mom says this looks like my tongue. Yeah, I wish I had a pink tongue, that'd be interesting.

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I think Kir was kind of disappointed in their Okoboji clothing selection. I stayed by her to help her pick something out, but she couldn't find anything really. Then we went to the makeup section together and talked about some of our fave makeup brands and which ones we haven't found to be the best. We really waned to look at the nail polish in particular. When we did our nails, I had let Kirsten borrow a gold color I had, and so she wanted to find one like mine. We also wanted to find a rose gold color, and I wanted a bright neon pink color. She found her gold, and I found my colors, too. Then we did self checkout, which I just LOVE.

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It was our last night to walk, so we enjoyed doing that together. Grandpa would always drive us down and drop us off by the Rock Garden, where the trail begins, and then he parks down by the Swinging Bridge.

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We finished watching our movie, and Kirsten and I got preoccupied making food Instagram accounts. It was her idea; we decided that since we have so many pictures of our food, we should make accounts for them, haha. You can follow mine here!

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After that we had to take Kirsten back. :( The time with her flew; I wish we had a lot more. The three of us, my grandparents and me, were headed to the Twin Cities to see relatives. My other older cousin, Amanda, just graduated this year, so we were going to help them get ready for her graduation party. I am also very close to Amanda like I am Kirsten. I love getting to talk with her, too. We had a blast together and got to do everything we wanted to do. On the way up, Kirsten wanted a donut from Casey's, so we got an awesome breakfast.

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When we made it up there, Amanda and I convinced Grandpa to take us to Marshall's. Kirsten introduced me to that store last year, which is a store with expensive stuff for really cheap. I got this plain black tee I'd been needing from Ralph Lauren for half its original price.

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We had Wendy's for supper, one of Gramps' faves. He also likes Hardee's, and when we were back in Estherville, I introduced him to their shakes, which he didn't even know they had.

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Amanda and I had fun going on Pinterest looking up pins of hot guys, looking through her collection of books, and bugging Grams by keeping her up until two thirty. On our first full day, we decided to go to Barnes and Noble, our favorite.

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Afterwards we went to a nearby mall and checked out some stores. I got a few things there that were on sale from my fave store, though not as much as I thought. So I had a lot of money left over, even after buying three books. They also had the cutest puppies there in a pet store!! We had been to this mall last year, and I fell in love with them then. I wish they would let you hold them...

Two out of three books I got I liked. One was from a series I had already read and loved, but I wanted to buy it for myself. Another was the first book in a series by an author I loved because of their other previous series. And that series is actually being made into a movie on Netflix, and I'm already cringing over it. I've never read books first and then had movies made after them. Usually I see movies first, and then I go read the books. I know some people think that's weird, but my reasoning is that I can't stand it to go to all that work visualizing people in my head and having everything ruined by the movie. Which is happening with this! I was telling one of my older friends this clear back in December when I saw who they had got casted for all the people. They're, like, slaughtering everyone in my head. There's supposed to be this boy in the books who's like your stereotypical hot guy, right? And the actor they got to play him, oh my gosh, I just can't. I love his hair, but that's it. It just goes downhill from there. And then there's supposed to be this nerdy guy who's also supposed to be cute that the girl likes, and the actor they got for him literally looks like he has the face of a five year old. I know that sounds awful, but I'm serious. I had to do a double take when I saw him, like what character is he even playing?! And then there's supposed to be your boy next door guy who's supposed to just be average looking...and he's hotter than all of them combined. It's a mess. But I'm going to watch it anyway, and probably cry over the fact that the boy next door is cuter than supposed hot guy. You just don't make that mistake. It's unforgivable.

Anyway, that's super off topic. The last book was a new one I had bought, over a girl with mental illness and who meets this cute neighbor. I already had my concerns about it because I absolutely hate it when there's someone with a ton of problems and then someone else comes in to save the day. It actually wasn't like that though, it was way too slow and almost didn't even have a plot I thought. But you know, being a writer, I don't think reading a book is ever wasted, even if I didn't like it. A) It still helps that I'm reading, no matter if I like it or not. It's good practice. B) If I don't like a story, that helps me narrow down what I want to write about. Like okay, I wanted to read this book about forgiveness, but I felt they didn't dig in deep enough, so in my book I'll go way deeper, for example. The more I read, the more I want to write. This sounds bad, but I think it's because I honestly don't like the way books are wrote anymore. Like I mentioned earlier, they are all the same thing practically. It inspires me to write my own books, books that are diverse and interesting and authentic and deep. I really do need to get writing, I miss it so much.

I still have a blast reading, though. Amanda and I were holed up in her room, me sitting on the bed or floor with a blanket and her on the opposite end reading on her phone. I finished all three books in the two full days we were there. It was so much fun; it gives me so much joy. Then with my leftover money (and her family gave me money as a late birthday gift, thank you!!!), I bought five+ new books on Amazon last night because they're much cheaper on there, so you can buy more. I can't wait. I wish they would come sooner.

We also went with Grandma to the store, and Amanda and I were just a little embarrassed when we were checking out, and they tell us that you can get another box of donut holes free since we bought one. We were already done checking out, so Amanda and I said to just forget it, but Grams goes running back to get one, and then we're just left standing there when someone is supposed to pay... The guy behind us made some joke about how he would have bought them too or something. It was amusing.

On our last full day, we went to Target. I bought this planner I needed for next year, for $16... It was pretty and thick with lots of space to take notes and places to record specific times, which my old planner didn't have. However, I'm that girl who uses a planner diligently for the first few months until gradually by the end of the year I don't use it at all. So I hope this doesn't happen with this one. But $16, that may be motivation to not slack off...

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That night we went walking down to Walgreens together with Grams. By their busy road and everything...

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That night, Kirsten called Grandma, and Amanda and I put her on speaker so that all three of us could talk. Honestly, how do you even describe the warm feelings you get in your heart from moments like that? From being understood and just getting to goof around over inside jokes and everything? They're like the best friends I don't have, and I'm so thankful God has put them in my life.

The last day, my family came home from Canada and was going to stop and visit with their family for awhile. The visit was really nice, and I enjoyed getting to see everyone. The week flew by, but it was a great start to my summer.

On the way home, I was heading back with my family. Going through the Cities, we passed this big, sleek building that had to do with neuroscience. Sometimes I am filled with a sense of longing as I contemplate where I'll be in my future. I don't know why, but sometimes I think of myself dressing professionally, working in a big city in a pristine building like that. It's probably a shallow desire—after all, that's the American dream, and I hate to be one of those people who wants the cliche things everyone else does. But only God knows, and if I can give Him glory through a position like that, then I'll do it. More Christians need to be in positions like that, and I'd be more than willing to do it.

Here is back in Iowa... Man, I do love my state, though. I have a hard time thinking that I'll move away from it, but I know that all depends on jobs, my future family, etc. But no matter where I end up, I'll be thankful I was raised here.

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My dad picked out a souvenir for me from Canada. I never did get a souvenir from Canada when I was up there because I never found anything that really caught my eye. However, what Dad got me far exceeded my expectations. I don't think I could've asked for anything better. This pretty dreamcatcher is a representation of the Native American culture up there, and it's so gorgeous that it will definitely be used as a decoration in my room.

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I am so thankful for these memories. It has been the perfect boost to my mood after freshman year. I regret spending the better half of freshman year being such a baby about things and letting myself develop mindsets I never wanted to have. But I am so thankful that God is faithful and that He never gives up on me. I hope I can get right with Him this summer, too, back into the healthy thought patterns He's helped me have. And I know He will. I had to do a lot of growing up during 9th grade, but I'm thankful for that. Looking back on it all, it was worth it.

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