One Weekend In Louisville: Toddler Included

Let us cut to two weekends ago…

The coronavirus was not rapidly spreading throughout the US and the world felt a little more normal. (By the way, Mila and I are doing okay here! We’re just staying at home and to ourselves.) Since I was on spring break from school, I thought it would be a nice weekend to getaway. After a little research, I settled on Louisville, Kentucky!

Not your average and usual spring break spot and maybe not the first place you’d think about taking your toddler, you know…the birthplace of bourbon. BUT it’s less than a five hour drive for me, there’s a TON of museums with a wide variety that anyone could enjoy, and GIANTS.

After booking the hotel room, packing up the car, and getting all the snacks for Mila and I, we headed out midday Friday.

Let me tell you, I was nervous for the drive to Louisville. Mila still really dislikes being in the car to the point where the only way she doesn’t cry is if it’s twenty minutes in the car OR I can use an iPad to distract her. Honestly, we only had to stop once on the way there. Disney+ and Pets 2 on Netflix (better known to Mila as ‘Dog, Cat, Baby’) really saved me with nap time.

Mila fell asleep looking at her Gigi and Papa.

We didn’t end up to the hotel (which was downtown, so easy to get to, and the staff was friendly) until like seven. If you don’t know anything about Louisville, just know almost everything closes at five. So, Mila and I ordered Chinese in and went swimming in the pool. Honestly, I think we could’ve went to any hotel with a pool and Mila would have been a happy camper.

The next morning, we sort of slept through breakfast… oops. The pool really tired her out. But, we woke up, got ready, and started our little adventure.

Kentucky Derby Museum

We started out at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. This wasn’t originally planned until I got to the hotel. I’m not a huge fan or horses (I literally call them land sharks), but Mila is really into animals. After looking at their website, I found that their museum was super interactive and we could see one of their horses too.

I let Mila wear her fancy dress and she had an absolute blast. There was so much there to learn for me, but even more to play with for her. She was obsessed with this game where you sat on a fake horse and did a virtual race. There were three horses that could race against each other and somehow all she had to do was sit there and she only didn’t come in first place once? It was really weird and funny. Maybe her yelling, ‘GO, GO, HORSE, GO!’ helped. We spent a good while there and I had to promise her there were more horses for her to see.

Honestly, Mila loved looking at the hats and outfits they had displayed, wanted to sit on every fake horse we saw, danced through their 360 movie, and was shocked when she saw their horse and pony. I am SO glad I decided to take her to this specific museum. She really loved stand I got to learn a few things too. We were there for about two hours, maybe a little more. It was definitely worth the price of the tickets for as much as we did, and we didn’t even do the included walking tour.

You can check out the website, here.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

One of the big draws to go to Louisville was the giants at Bernheim. I don’t really remember how I found out about them, but they’re made from recycled materials and they’re really neat. The forest has a lot of walking paths, playgrounds, and information throughout. Mila loves being outside, so anytime I can incorporate that, I’m all for.

We actually went straight to the forest after being at Churchill Downs. Mila napped on the way down there and as I got changed to hike through a forest. I woke her up, got her changed, and we were so hungry. They have a little café called Isaac’s Café in the visitor center. A really cool fact is they grow their vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers a stones throw away. Everything tasted really fresh and Mila ate all of the sandwich.

Everyone who was in the forest and the people who worked in the visitor center were kind and helpful. Interacting with everyone there really made our time at Bernheim special. I would 100% recommend anyone who is visiting the Louisville area to check out the forest. As an adult, I know most people that way are going to the Bourbon Trail, but this is a good way to escape that. The giants were amazing to see in person and I loved the stories that went with them.

I know the giants won’t be around forever, so I’m glad we got to see them. If I had another day in Louisville, I would have spent the whole day there. Maybe another time!

To learn more information about Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, click here.

After a few hours, we went back to the hotel, and again, we were beat. We ended up napping and my mom and dad surprised us by meeting us in the city. When they got there, we, again, ordered in so we could spend some time in the pool.

The pool was probably the most fun of everything. Mila was singing and stomping her foot to make noises. She jumped in the pool… all by herself, after throwing the ball across the pool. It was scary, but she wanted to keep doing it. Summer should be a joy to try to keep her out of the pool.

I think everyone fell asleep pretty quick after the day Mila and I had AND after my mom and dad drove all day. We did wake up for breakfast the next morning, so score one for us.

Another big thing I wanted to take Mila to was the Louisville Zoo. We drove out there and were about to talk in when we realized a lot of people were leaving after the zoo was only open for forty minutes. A lot of the animals aren’t out because of the time of the year. Mila also fell asleep in the car on the way there. We made the executive decision not to even go to the zoo and change our plans…

Muhammad Ali Center

I had heard so many good things about the Ali Center and I knew there we interactive parts for Mila. Honestly, there was so much infomraiton. I learned a lot about Ali, historical racial issues in the US, and about boxing. All the exhibits let you be interactive and if Mila wasn’t so tired or if she was a little older, I think I could’ve spent a lot more time there. But with a tired, almost two year old, you do what you can.

We played a lot with their boxing area. There was a boxing ring, shadow boxing, and speed bag. I low key feel bad for how much time we spent there, but Mila was all for it. It was fun to like have little competitions between the three adults too.

By the time we got done playing, Mila seriously needed food and a nap. Again, I wish I had more time to go through, but again, I can always go back when Mila is older and she can appreciate the education too.

Learn more about the center here.

Troll Pub Under the Bridge

At this point in the trip, Mila and I had only been to one sit down restaurant and I hadn’t had any bourbon. I don’t drink frequently, but I really wanted bourbon since I was in Louisville. Anyways, after looking on Pinterest for child-friendly restaurants and something that was unique, I found the Troll Pub Under the Bridge.

Honestly, I LOVED this little pub. It’s aesthetic was perfect and the theme was spot on. The food was delicious. I got the burger with beer cheese and it was delicious. My dad got the chicken and waffle sandwich, that made me jealous I didn’t get it. The berry, bourbon drink I got was fantastic. Seriously, just an overall positive experience for me. Mila liked her food, but was a tiny bit afraid of the troll that she called ‘beast.’

If you’re Louisville definitely check Troll Pub Under the Bridge. Their website is here.

After going back and forth of whether we should leave or not, we walked around downtown for a little bit. Louisville is such a walkable city. We did notice all the home plates and bats commemorating different baseball players and the bats they used. I went back and forth of whether I should take Mila to the Louisville Slugger museum. Well, we thought what the heck and decided to go!

Louisville Slugger Museum

So I fibbed a little bit. We technically went to the museum and saw the biggest bat and glove there is in the world, but we didn’t go through the museum. I had a bat custom made for Mila. Of course it’s pink and mini and perfect for her to chase me around the house with. It only took around twenty minutes for it to be done. In that twenty minutes, Mila played a game of hide and seek without letting anyone know… Panic ensued. One minute she was in front of us and the next she was gone. My mom and I just like instantly searched the store, then my dad said something to let us know she was okay. She decided it’d be fun to hide in the clothes rack… not fun, but she was safe so I didn’t care.

Again, we didn’t go and see how the bats were actually made and this history of it. We did go to the batting cages and Mila played in their little area. We actually put Mila in their kids tball batting cage… she liked hitting, maybe needs to work on her aim. But it’ll all come together.

Louisville Slugger Museum (or what we saw) was a hit. Pun fully intended. I can imagine the full tour was informative and the building was beautiful.

If you’ve never been there, check out their website here.

Mila and I had such a blast exploring Louisville and were happy that my mom and dad could join along too. It was so nice to get out before the coronavirus hit. A mini vacation before our quarantine.

I can’t wait to start exploring with Mila more this summer and as she grows older no.

For now, I just keep looking back at pictures and am so thankful for everything in my life. In less than a month, Jensen will be four and Mila two. Through all the craziness, there is so much to be happy about.

One Weekend In Cincinnati: Toddler Included.

It’s my birthday week and to celebrate early, my family treated me to a weekend in Cincinnati! To be completely honest, I have no idea why they’re so encouraging in my celebration this year since I’m just turning twenty-six… but I’m loving every moment of it.

So why Cincy, especially with a toddler?

Three reasons, which will make for great bullet points for this post. Two of them checked off items off the bucket list and the other, well, it was just all for me. Plus, it’s only about a four hour drive from where we live, which makes it a great weekend escape.

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

I have been patiently waiting for the right moment to take Mila back to the zoo. We went a couple months ago to the Akron Zoo and she really enjoyed it. Now she’s even more into animals so I was excited to see how she reacted.

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is the second oldest zoo in the United States. It houses 1,896 animals and there is so much plant life as well. Some facts or bits of information you might recall about the zoo is the death of the gorilla Harambe and the birth of Fiona the hippo. Both have made national news in the last five years. There’s also a ton of other information you might want to look up if you’re in surrounding states before you’d want to go. You know, incase my recommendation of the zoo isn’t enough.

Anyways, we drove over Saturday morning and went directly to the zoo. We got there around 12:30 and didn’t leave until 7. It was a HOT day and I’m so thankful we got some rain on us to cool us down. They did have fans with mist throughout the park, which Mila was obsessed with. There was a lot of shade throughout the zoo too and great indoor exhibits that got us out of the sun as well. They had awesome food and such a wide range of animals to see. I was really impressed with how big the enclosures were. I always feel bad they’re stuck there, but the animals seemed really content with their surroundings.

The best part of the zoo for me was seeing Mila react to her surroundings. After we first walked in, we went to see reptiles. She was shocked when she saw the alligators and snakes. Her mouth was wide open and she kept looking at me like, “Mom, do you see that huge animal right there. It’s not fluffy like our cats.” She would point to every animals she saw and loved watching the birds. When we got to the mountain lion part of the zoo, they were doing an ‘encounter,’ which meant they were testing the animals instincts and treating them with meat. Mila realized the mountain lion was going to be right in front of the glass, so she just took off and pushed her way in front of everyone. She smashed her face on the glass to get a closer look and everyone was laughing at her because she was so intently watching. Thankfully she smiled and laughed at the people… there.

Even though she loved seeing all the animals and watching us interact with some of the educational games the zoo had set up, Mila had her toddler moments. The whole entire time, she did not want to sit in her stroller. She wanted to push it herself with NO help. When we would try to help her steer or grab the handle, she would yell “NO” or “DON’T.” Eventually she gave up and let herself sit for a while. She had to be tired, but didn’t nap until we got back to the car. Then, in the gorilla exhibit, she pushed a little girl down and yelled at a little boy. For no reason really, just because they were close to her and she didn’t want them to be. What can you even say though? I’m constantly trying to tell her to be nice, but she has a mind of her own.

Thankfully those were only minor incidents with her. She loved watching all the animals and smiled every chance she got. I can’t wait until the next time we go back to the zoo and she’ll know what sounds the animals make and maybe won’t be a little bully too.

King’s Island: Soak City

When I put ‘waterpark’ on our bucket list, I just thought we’d go to our local one. This one though… way better. There were different attractions for all ages to do. Mila loved playing in one particular area, but also ventured out in other areas that might have been a little advanced. She went down this ship slide a few times and then decided she was queen of it. During this time, she directed all the other kids to go down the slide and would tap on their backs when they weren’t going fast enough. Have I raised a strong willed child? Yes. Do I regret it? No, maybe at times now, but when she grows up, she won’t let anyone push her around.

She loved that our whole family was in the water playing with her. We splashed her in the kiddie pool and threw her back and forth in the big wave pool. On the kid slides, we attempted her to go down as many as we could do. She was a little afraid of a few of them, but I’m glad she got to experience what she thought she was ready for. The grownups, had fun playing with Mila and riding different rides. I think everyone enjoyed their time there, even though it completely wore us out.

Something memorable I did was take a waterproof, disposable camera with me. I take a TON of pictures and I wanted to make sure I didn’t hurt my phone and was able to get up and close with Mila in the water. I’m pretty sure she held the camera more saying “cheeeeeeese,” than I actually had it in my hands. No matter what though, I’m so thankful for what we captured on camera, but more happy about the lasting memories we made together.

Watching Mila discover the world and travel is everything I ever wanted for her. I’m so thankful we are able to go to different places and do things that aren’t always easy to do. These are the days that are so special to me and it truly made my birthday week, even though it’s not even over yet.

Rhinegeist Brewery

I know this post has gotten entirely long, so I’m keeping this short and simple. Rhinegeist holds my beer of the summer and it’s called Bubbles. This brewery is probably one of my favorite places in the world and I’d recommend it to anyone. Definitely check it out if you’re in the area. You will not be disappointed.

Plus it had a pretty amazing rooftop too.

So, there’s a few more bucket list items checked off. We’ll be working diligently to get the rest off as well. Fingers crossed. It’s going to be a busy next few days.

Thirty-Three Weeks.

There’s a point in everyone’s’ life where they have to decide what direction they want to go in. As much as everyone wants to keep moving forward, there’s always turns in the road. Whether you can ease into them or they’re sharp, you have to make that turn. Then there’s other times when you get lost, and have to turn around. It feels like your backtracking and nowhere near the right path.

Today it doesn’t even feel like I’m on the road. It feels like I’m pulled over and trying to figure out where I’m going  with a huge map on my hood. But at the moment, the map is incomplete.

I haven’t posted it on here, but this weekend Poe, my black cat, got outside and hasn’t come home. It’s triggered a lot of those beginning feelings of guilt, of losing Jensen and now Poe. I keep questioning what more I could have done and why does this season of grief keep getting darker? Sometimes I don’t feel like I deserve anything or that I’m the common denominator in all the negative things that have happened this past thirty-three weeks.

That probably sounds dramatic, but this day last year was completely opposite to today.

On this day last year, I was eagerly waiting for tomorrow. It would be the day I would find out Jensen was a little boy. I was so excited and it would paint a clearer picture of how the rest of our lives would go. As I look back now, I’m so jealous of me then. The road in front of me had unexpected turns, but I felt like I was going forward. There was no looking back. The little life inside of me kept encouraging me to go full speed ahead.

Since Jensen’s been born, I’ve kept saying over and over how love leads the way. Even when today makes me feel completely void of happiness and consumed with the frigid air, love touches and warms me. When I wonder why I should keep going on, I think of Jensen. I take a minute to breathe and look at this face. In it (when everyone would see his chubby cheeks, mama’s nose, and his little pout) I see my world. Even when it breaks me to know he was taken away from me, this motherly instinct keeps telling me to get back in the car and just drive.

To follow Jensen through all the turns and seasons.

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Taken by Mariah’s mama, Nicole, in Las Vegas.

For thirty-eight weeks, the roads on the map of my life were highlighted, then one day it all went black. With each step I take, the world around me becomes lit up again. I’m rediscovering and making a new map everyday. Love is my compass, even though sometimes it spins and spins and spins. There are streets without names, but I know I can always find my way back by looking for Jensen. It’s so hard to feel lost and wondering where the road is going to lead, but I’m still following it.

I’m still surviving. I’m still breathing. I’m still doing the very best I can.


Happy thirty-three weeks in heaven, Jensen. I hope you’re watching over Poe and making sure he’s safe wherever he is. Guide him, as you guide me, back home. Thank you for teaching me love and knowing it’s okay to pull over when I feel lost. You are my favorite person in all the universe. I miss you. I love you.

 

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