Expanding Young Minds: Weekend Programs for Kids

Learning doesn’t have to stop at end of school week (although kids might want it to). Many places in the Joplin area offer weekend programs and activities that are so inventive and engaging that your kids will be having too much fun to realize that they’re actually learning something – on the weekend.

 

EXPLORE

George Washington Carver National Monument646 Carver Road, Diamond, MO

Known as the “Peanut Man” and the “Plant Doctor,” George Washington Carver grew up exploring nature around his home in Diamond, Missouri, where a national monument was later built in honor of his scientific and agricultural contributions to society, which include the discovery of over 300 uses of the peanut. On weekend lab demo days, kids can recreate some of Carver’s experiments, such as making milk out of peanuts (read more here). At the Agricultural School on Wheels program, they can learn about Carver’s Jesup Wagon which carried agricultural tools to area farmers. Other weekend programs here include Raptors of Prey, where kids (and adults) can learn about and see live raptors. For upcoming programs, click here.

 

gwc-beaker

Making peanut milk at Carver National Monument

Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

Kids can have hands-on learning experiences at this garden center. They can plant seeds and transplant flowers and veggies to take home at the Little Seedlings in the Garden program, and learn about one of the most intriguing plants (and take one home) at the Kids Venus Flytrap Workshop. For upcoming programs, click here.

 

Joplin Public Library1901 E. 20th Street, Joplin

There’s something entertaining and educational for kids of all ages at the Joplin Public Library. Little ones, ages 1 to 5 years, are invited to the monthly Saturday Explore & Play program, where they will learn early literacy skills through play at exploration stations. Older kids and teens, in grades 6 to 12, are welcome to socialize and create at the Give it a Shot programs, where they can construct objects using different materials like Legos and littleBits electronic pieces (for building Droids). For upcoming programs, click here.

 

Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center201 Riviera Drive, Joplin

Kids love to visit this center to explore the interactive nature discovery area, and to pet the center’s beloved bunny Trevor. Formerly known as Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, it offers a variety of nature programming geared toward different age groups. The Preschool Nature Connections series introduces children, ages 3 to 6, to topics like What Lives in the Water? and Jeepers, Spring Peepers. Other programs include Let’s Be Tree Heroes with Dr. Seuss and the Lorax (ages 4 to 10), and the annual Christmas Bird Count (ages 7 and up). For upcoming programs, click here.

 

Southeast Kansas Nature Center3511 South Main Street, Galena, KS

Kansas! Why is something in Kansas on this list? Because this gem of a nature center is only 15 minutes from downtown Joplin. The center offers occasional weekend programs, like Bat Saturday, where kids can learn about these creatures through interactive displays, crafts, and activities. Afterward, take a walk on the trails outside and peek into Schermerhorn cave to see if you can spy any bats yourself. For upcoming programs, click here.

 

sek-jenn

Learning about snakes at the Southeast Kansas Nature Center

 

CREATE

Crackpot Pottery & Art Studio3820 East 20th Street, Joplin

Kids ages 10 and up are welcome to participate in a 2-hour drop-in session at this pottery studio where they will receive personalized instruction. The session fee includes materials, plus firing and glazing of the pottery. For more information, click here.

 

Firehouse Pottery112 South Main Street, Joplin

Little ones can listen to a story, then paint a piece of pottery based on that story at Firehouse’s monthly Storytime Pottery program. Other children’s programs at Firehouse include the Superhero Event, the Trolls Pajama Party, and Kid-Parent Date Day. For upcoming programs, click here.

 

Firehouse-tile

Painting pottery at Firehouse

Phoenix Fired Art, 1603 South Main Street, Joplin

The Saturday Morning Drop-In Class at this pottery studio is geared toward kids ages 8 and older. The class runs from 9:30 am to noon, and no appointment is necessary. Clay, tools, firing, and instruction are included in the cost. For more information, click here.

 

phoenix-wheel-m

Making pottery at Phoenix Fired Art

RSVPaint, 223 Third Street, Joplin

This paint-and-sip studio is known for offering evening painting classes (and cocktails) to adults, but on Saturday afternoons, it closes the bar and welcomes children of all ages at the Family Paint class (they must have an adult with them, though). Depending on the nature of the class, there may be a minimum age requirement; for instance, the minimum age for the Wooden Sign Painting class is 8 years old. All classes are taught step-by-step, so no experience is necessary. For upcoming sessions, click here.

 

Spiva Center for the Arts223 West Third Street, Joplin

There are a variety of classes for kids to choose from at this art hub of the Four States. Saturday classes include Mini Makers (ages 3 to 5), and the Tween Workshop (ages 12 to 14). (The class for ages 6 to 11, Creation Station, is offered during the week on Tuesday afternoons). Other programs include Wand Making (ages 7 and older), and photography classes (divided into three age groups). For upcoming programs, click here.

 

So, the next weekend that you hear your kids say, “I’m bored,” you can refer to this list and find something constructive, educational, and fun to keep their growing minds stimulated.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com

Get Creative: Weekend Fun Isn’t Just for Kids!

To me, the arrival of the weekend is like savoring a piece of rich, dark chocolate after a day of drinking green smoothies and eating salmon and vegetables. It’s a treat, a reward for all the hard work we adults do at our professional and parenting jobs during the week.

 

We celebrate our weekend time in a variety of ways. We watch movies, meet friends for dinner, go on trail runs or, conversely, sit on our bums and scroll through Facebook for hours. All of these ways to unwind from the workweek have merit, but we often find ourselves repeating the same activities over and over again.

 

Then we get in a rut. And somehow the weekend is just not that rewarding anymore.

 

That’s when it’s time to try something new, something that challenges us and enables us to discover skills and talents that we didn’t know we had. That’s when it’s time to learn.

 

There are many area organizations that offer weekend programs for adults in art, history, gardening, nature, yoga, and more. Look over this list and see if something stirs your soul to learn, create, and move.

 

 

LEARN

gwc-mortar

Making peanut milk in the lab at Carver

 

George Washington Carver National Monument, 646 Carver Road, Diamond, MO

Just a 20-minute drive south of Joplin, this national park celebrates the life of George Washington Carver, a former slave who became an accomplished scientist, teacher, and philanthropist. The visitor center here offers programs which honor Carver’s passion for nature and learning. Channel your inner scientist at a lab demonstration (I made peanut milk at the one I went to), attend a special program such as Wonders of the Night Sky or the Plant-Based Cooking Workshop, or listen and learn at special presentations such as Women in Carver’s Life or Encouraging the Next Generation. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

More than just a great place to buy healthy plants (it’s where I buy mine every spring!), Joplin Greenhouse is also a learning center, offering workshops such as Beginning Beekeeping and Hipster Houseplants. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center, 201 Riviera Drive, Joplin

Surrounded by some of the area’s most scenic hiking trails, this center (formerly known as Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center) contains a nature discovery area and classrooms for special programming. Learn about local nature at Discover Winter Birds or Ozark Chinquapin: A Lost Treasure, or hone your nature photography skills at the Behind the Lens workshop. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

 

CREATE

rsvp-people-painting

Painting pet portraits at RSVPaint

 

Crackpot Pottery & Art Studio, 3820 East 20th Street, Joplin

This laid-back studio invites you to learn how to make pottery at your own leisure at the Saturday drop-in class (read about my experience here), or attend scheduled programs in a variety of mediums, like the Birdhouse Workshop, Watercolor Painting, or Jewelry-Making Basics. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Firehouse Pottery, 112 South Main Street, Joplin

This paint-your-own pottery studio makes it easy to individualize a piece of art. Drop in during studio hours, select an unfinished piece of pottery and paint colors, then personalize your creation. The staff at Firehouse will guide you along the way. Bring your special someone for Friday night Date Night, or your BFF for Girls’ Night (which is on Tuesdays, but I’m including this so you can plan a weekday escape, too! Read about my experience here.) Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

Yes, Joplin Greenhouse makes the list again! This time, it’s for hands-on workshops where you can create things like Fairy Gardens, Macramé Hangers, and Christmas Wreaths. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Phoenix Fired Art, 1603 South Main Street, Joplin

This clay studio also offers a Saturday morning drop-in class for those who want to learn to make pottery (read about my experience here). For a unique learning and socializing event, come to the Friday Film, where a potluck meal is served, followed by a viewing of an arts-related documentary film, and then a discussion. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

RSVPaint, 223 Third Street, Joplin

Here’s another studio where you can create and socialize. Also, at RSVPaint you can imbibe in your favorite drink as you create (bring your own, or purchase one at the studio’s bar). RSVPaint offers a variety of class theme. I’ve been to one where my friends and I painted designs on wine glasses, one where I painted a portrait of my dog (click here to read about it), and a Date Night class where my husband and I each painted a panel that, when put next to the other, made a complete picture (read about it here). Click here (then scroll down) for upcoming classes.

 

Spiva Center for the Arts, 223 West Third Street, Joplin

Since 1947, Spiva has served as the art hub of the Four States, thanks to the many classes and programs its offers the community. Try Basic Drawing, Fun & Funky Upcycled Hats, Pysanky Egg Decorating, or the Fused Glass Tray class (read about my experience here). Click here for upcoming programs.

 

 

MOVE

 

 

soar open jump

Play on trampolines at Soar’s ExSOARcise class

4 States Yoga and Restoration Center, 2615 North Range Line Road, Joplin

In addition to a weekend Vinyasa Yoga class, 4 States Yoga offers Barre and Tai Chi classes, as well as special workshops, like Aerial Yoga and Self-Defense. Click here for classes and programs.

 

 

Soar Trampoline Park, 1502 South Madison Street, Webb City, MO

Get a cardio workout while jumping on trampolines! Soar’s 45-minute Saturday morning ExSOARcise class includes jumping and floor exercises, and is open to all experience levels. Click here for more information.

 

If you’re content with your current weekend plans, kudos to you. But if you ever find yourself in a rut, come back to this list. There’s sure to be something at one of these locations that will beckon you to learn, create, or move.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Soar Trampoline Park

Her eyes are fierce and focused as she aims for the netted enclosure. She steps inside and stares fixedly at the padded mechanical arm making its way toward her, facing it like a warrior. Seconds before it reaches her, she bends her legs and gains air from the trampoline below, sending her soaring above the unyielding arm. A triumphant grin spreads across her face.

 

She faced the machine and won.

 

soar wipeout jumping

This machine is called Wipeout, and it’s my daughter’s favorite attraction at Soar Trampoline Park. At least for now, that is. Maybe next time it will be dodgeball, or the ninja area (coming soon). After all, there are many activities to entertain both kids at adults at this trampoline park – the only one of its kind in the Joplin area.

 

soar exterior (1)

Soar is housed in a large grey building tucked behind a strip mall in Webb City, just north of Joplin. It’s the brainchild of Leigh and Danny Schroer, who moved to the area from Louisiana. There, their kids spent a lot of time jumping at the local trampoline parks, and never grew tired of them. Seeing the opportunity to bring a trampoline park to Joplin (Danny’s hometown), they opened the 26,000-square-foot facility in March 2017.

 

It’s been a hit with the community, especially on the weekends when around 800 jumpers check in to catch some air. My kids have been to the park many times, and my youngest recently had her birthday party here.

 

soar sign (1)

So, what does a typical visit to Soar look like?

 

Check In

All jumpers must check in at the front desk and complete a waiver (this can also be done online ahead of time). Jumping sessions can be purchased in 30-minute increments, either on site or online. Also, all jumpers must purchase Soar socks (which you can bring back to use for future visits, like we’ve done).

 

Activities

After you check in, you’re free to soar!

 

soar open jump

Try out some tricks in the open jump area, where there are 40 trampolines to choose from.

 

soar wipeout

Or test your timing in my daughter’s beloved Wipeout area.

 

soar basketball

Have you always dreamed of making a slam dunk? The trampolines in the basketball area can propel you to make that dream a reality.

 

If you come with a group of friends, have some team fun in the dodgeball area, the most popular attraction at Soar. At some point, you may need a break from jumping. That’s when you can dive into Soar’s foam pit!

 

Coming soon to Soar is a ninja course which will include a foam pit, fidget ladders, and six obstacles.

 

Parents, you can rest assured knowing that there are employees walking around and watching the jumpers at all times. During busy times, a court monitor is stationed at each activity, too.

 

soar toddler area

If you have little ones and you don’t want them jumping with the big kids, don’t worry. There’s a designated toddler area for kids under age five where they can jump, and also play in a foam pit.

 

Other Stuff About Soar

If your exercise routine has grown stale, try an ExSOARcise class! Each class is 45 minutes long, and the first one is free.

 

The park also sets aside time for jumpers with special needs. Contact Soar for more info.

 

Jumping isn’t just for kids. Many area professional groups book times at Soar for team-building exercises. The park is available for private parties on Mondays and Tuesdays.

 

Birthday Parties

There is a party coordinator (aka a birthday party fairy) assigned to each party to ensure that things run smoothly.

 

soar birthday tables

You can opt for a birthday table in the midst of the action if you want to watch your kids jump, or you can choose a private room in the back of the building. We booked a private room for my daughter’s birthday, and it was nice having a quiet place for kids to rest (and hydrate), and for the adults to talk.

 

The kids jumped for the first hour, then they returned to the room for pizza (included in the package). We then opened gifts and ate cake (which I brought in) for the second hour of the party.

 

If you’re interested in booking a party at Soar, click here.

 

I’m glad the Schroers brought this park to the Joplin area, giving kids and adults a chance to work off some energy, challenge themselves, and feel the exhilaration that comes with being able to soar.

 

 

Soar Trampoline Park is located at 1502 S. Madison Street in Webb City. Click here for Soar’s website, and click here to follow Soar on Facebook.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

What to Do in Joplin After 5 p.m.

Did you know that the population of Joplin swells to 250,000 during the day? Our city streets hum with cars carrying people from all over the region to their jobs, to our restaurants, and to our stores. Joplin is the hub of the Four States during the day, but what happens after 5 p.m.?

 

A lot.

 

There are happy hours, live music, comedy, open mics, karaoke, painting, and even a hookah lounge to tempt residents, visitors, and commuters to linger in Joplin long after the sun goes down.

 

Get Happy

 
Known for its happy hour and casual fine dining, Club 609 is the place where professionals flock to after work. A staple in downtown since 1990, Club 609 has established itself as an urban gathering place. Unwind with a Key Lime Martini (or two – during happy hour) and try the flavorful Chicken Bijan for dinner. 609 S. Main Street

 

609-martini

Key Lime Martinis at Club 609

 
Appreciate the art of the cocktail at Infuxn Vodka Bar. New concoctions are featured each week at this upscale lounge. With its ultra-cool, Vegas-like vibe, you’ll want to stay past happy hour, so order a few items from the small plates menu and you’ve got yourself dinner (dessert, too, if you’d like). My favorites here include the Last Summer cocktail and the Crab Stuffed Mushrooms. 530 S. Main Street

 

infuxn-lounge

Hear it Live

 

Sure, you can hear music anytime you want thanks to the magic of cell phones, but there’s something special about listening to it live. Here are some places in Joplin where you can do just that, plus venues where you can sing your own songs along with a karaoke machine.

 

Open Thursday through Saturday nights, JB’s Downtown offers live music every weekend. Check the calendar for karaoke and improv nights, too. Order the Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza to share with friends. 112 S. Main Street

 

siblings-ladies

Siblings Improv performs at JB’s Downtown

 

More live music can be heard downtown at Blackthorn Pizza & Pub. In addition to live music performances, there are comedy and trivia nights at this Irish pub. Grab a beer on tap, sit back, and be entertained. 510 S. Joplin Avenue

 

Me-Like-Bees-full-band-

Me Like Bees performs at Blackthorn

 

There’s nothing like listening to music while sitting outside on a patio on a warm summer night. Add some juicy burgers and beer on tap, and you’ve got the ultimate setup at Tropicana Bar & Grill. Try the Buddha Gouda burger here: it’s life-changing. 2402 S. Main Street

 

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Two stories of outdoor dining await you at Tropicana

 
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The Buddha Gouda at Tropicana

 
Where do you go when the live music has ended but you still want to have fun? Whiskey Dick’s, of course. The friendly, relaxed atmosphere here welcomes a mix of age groups, with everyone being united by one thing: karaoke. Whether you’re belting out your favorite songs next to your buddies on stage, or sitting in the audience and watching others channel their inner Beyonce or Jay Z, you’re bound to have a good time at this easygoing bar. 516 S. Joplin Avenue

 

Get Creative

 
Maybe you’ve had your share of live music and bars and are seeking a recreational outlet where you can express your creativity. Well, Joplin’s got something for you, too.

 

Gather a group of friends, or just your special someone, and go paint. You can even sip your favorite adult beverage while you color your canvas at RSVPaint. Bring your own refreshments or purchase some at the studio’s bar. Loosen up and let RSVPaint’s teachers guide you through the process. You’ll leave feeling relaxed and proud of your new artwork. Click here for RSVPaint’s schedule. 223 Third Street

 

rsvpaint-date-couple

 

Ladies, do you want a night out with your friends? Firehouse Pottery welcomes you every Tuesday night for Ladies’ Night. Here, you can choose a piece of pottery to decorate – a mug, plate, figurine – and add your own flair to it. You don’t have to be crafty to make something artistic here; the staff at Firehouse will demonstrate different painting techniques for you. 112 S. Main Street, Suite A

 

ladies-night-firehouse-amazement

 

Do Something Different

 
How about spending the evening at a hipster hangout? The back room at Joplin Avenue Coffee Company is a dedicated gathering place for open mic nights, poetry readings, and live music performances. Click here to see JACC’s upcoming schedule. 506 S. Joplin Avenue

 

coffee-bar

Bites & Pipes, Joplin’s only hookah lounge, offers a bit of everything: tasty American and Middle Eastern food (fried mac and cheese, falafel, kofta), alcoholic beverages, board games, a pool table, and hookahs. A hookah is a small water pipe used to smoke flavored tobacco. Bites & Pipes’ air filtration system is top notch, so even if you’re not a hookah smoker, you can still have fun hanging out with your friends – and making new ones – at this unique recreational spot. 110 N. Range Line Road
 
There’s another one-of-a-kind night spot in Joplin: El Guapo’s Cigar & Pipe Lounge. Choose from a variety of cigars and tobacco flavors, then settle into the lounge area to enjoy the experience. Looking for more action? Visit El Guapo’s on Poker Night or Comedy Night. 532 S. Joplin Avenue

 

Now that you know what happens in Joplin after the sun goes down, stick around and be a part of it.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Enlight Inn

We all could use some pampering every now and then, taking a time-out from the stressors in our fast-paced lives in order to catch our breath. This pampering may involve a massage or pedicure at the spa, allowing others to take care of us for a few hours so we can relax before being thrust back into our normal routines again.

 

But what if there were a place where you could not only get pampered, but you could also be inspired to live a life of wellness and self-care?

 

I discovered such a place, right here in Joplin, called Enlight Inn. I spent two days sampling the many services offered here (rough, huh?), and the experience not only left me feeling amazing, but it also introduced me to news ways of approaching self-care and stress reduction. It was like my reset button had been pressed, prompting me to become more mindful in my everyday habits.

 

enlight inn sign

Located in a complex of quaint white cottages that once comprised a Route 66 motor inn decades ago, Enlight Inn is the brainchild of Joplinite Christa Tullis. With over 20 years of experience in the wellness industry, Christa wanted to create a center where she could share the tools that she found most beneficial in the journey to restore her own health (which you can read about in her book). In 2017, Christa opened the doors of Enlight Inn, ushering in a novel approach to wellness in the Joplin area.

 

enlight inn cottages

The Enlight Inn complex reminds me of a college campus (but one where you get to attend your favorite classes and automatically pass just for showing up). There are the “classrooms” of experiential learning, which are the spa rooms where you learn about new techniques while getting pampered (a total win); the drive-through “cafeteria” which offers smoothies and healthy snacks; and the “dorms,” whimsical individual cottages where you can spend the night (which is a good idea if you feel like jelly after the spa services, like I did).

 

SPA SERVICES

Here’s an overview of the services I received:

 

Whole body vibration

Far infrared sauna session

Mind spa

Flotation therapy

Fascia blasting

Halotherapy

 

I really didn’t know what to expect from any of these since they were all new to me. Now that I’ve experienced them, I’ll describe what they’re like.

 

Whole Body Vibration

When I first saw the Zaaz machine, I panicked.

 

enlight inn zaaz

Did they want me to exercise? Thankfully, no. All I had to do was stand on the machine and it started vibrating. Before long, I was shaking like J.Lo (or was it jello?), and the unexpected sensation made me giddy. Why make your body shake like a leaf? To increase metabolism and improve lymphatic flow (which helps the body detox).

 

Far Infrared Sauna

My idea of a sauna used to be a small wooden room filled with heat so dry and hot that it’s nearly impossible to breathe. But there are new types of saunas, like this far infrared sauna which heats the body from inside a zippered dome, leaving your head exposed to (blessedly cool) room-temperature air.

 

enlight inn sauna

Before you climb inside, you’ll need to strip down to your birthday suit. Then, you perch your hiney on the towel-covered chair, place your feet on the designated cool plates, set the timer, then zip up the dome from the inside. There are openings for your hands so that you can read, or use your phone, or turn on the portable fan when your body starts getting toasty (I was so grateful for that little fan).

 

enlight inn chris sauna

It’s getting hot in here!

By the end of my session, I was as as soggy as a swamp monster, which is a good thing because the sauna aids your body in detoxifying and improving circulation. Bonus: My skin felt so supple afterward and my daughter even said that it was glowing hours later.

 

Mind Spa

This one really surprised me – in a good way. The mental vacation created by the combination of tools used in the mind spa was downright psychedelic, and it was one vacation from which I didn’t want to return.

 

enlight inn osaki chair

First, I got settled in the zero-gravity Osaki massage chair (aka my new best friend), then I put on brainwave entrainment glasses, which use pulsing lights to stimulate the brain to align to the same frequency as a certain stimulus (faster pulsing to elevate your mood, or slower pulsing for relaxation). Your eyes remain closed while the wearing the glasses so you don’t look directly at the light.

 

enlight inn meditations

Finally, I chose a meditation which would guide me to a twilight state in which I would receive positive suggestions for an area that I wanted to work on. When these three tools were set up, my session began. (Don’t worry, you won’t have to figure all of this out on your own. Someone from Enlight Inn will be there to walk you through the process and get you settled.)

 

Now, I’ve sat in massage chairs before, but they were nothing like this Osaki, which used a variety of techniques to knead my tight muscles. When the arm compartment activated, it felt like someone was giving me a warm hug. The rhythmic kneading of the chair, combined with the pulsating lights and soothing meditation made me feel like I was in a cocoon. I never wanted to emerge.

 

Across the room from the Osaki chair is an area where you can put on a headset and try out a virtual reality meditation, which will make you feel as though you are physically immersed in whichever setting you choose. This is a fun way for beginners to ease into the practice of meditation.

 

Flotation Therapy

What happens when you enter a tub filled with 1000 pounds of Epsom salt? You float. Why is that a good thing? When you float, stress melts away and the magnesium sulfite in the water eases muscle aches and pains.

 

The first part of my session in the private flotation therapy room involved taking a pre-float rinse in the shower to help make sure that the tank’s Epsom salt water stays as free as possible from outside contaminants (you float without clothes on, as well). I also grabbed a pair of earplugs to keep the water out, a neck pillow, and a washcloth to wipe off the salt water that would inevitably sting my eyes when I touched my face (which happened several times).

 

Here’s what it looks like going into the tank:

 

enlight inn tank door

enlight inn tank opening
enlight inn tank tub sky 2

 

enlight inn tank tub

 

enlight inn tank starry sky

The tank itself was bigger than I expected. There are three buttons on the wall to the right that control the starry lights on the ceiling, the tub lights, and the music.

 

enlight inn tank buttons

Next to those is an intercom button. Once I was settled into the tank, I pressed this to let the person at the front desk know that I was ready for my session to begin (I could also press this at any time during the session if I needed anything).

 

For the first few minutes, I played around with the buttons to experience the different sensory options. I quickly decided that I preferred to float in silence, and in complete darkness.

 

The most difficult part of floating for me was trying to quiet my monkey mind. But I think this is something that will get easier with each float; the more I get accustomed to the experience, the more I’ll be able to let go.

 

For those of you who may be anxious about staying in a tank for an extended period of time, I want to point out that I was able to get out at any time to take a break or use the restroom. I knew my session was over when I heard the water pumps turn on. I then showered to rinse off the salt residue (shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are provided).

 

I felt deeply relaxed after my flotation therapy session, and I desperately wanted to check into one of the cottages and sleep the rest of the afternoon, but reality dictated that I must pick up my children from school. Knowing that I’d be back the following day for more spa services made the transition easier.

 

Fascia Blasting

The following day I returned for a fascia blasting session. Fascia blasting is a technique developed by Ashley Black which uses hard-noduled plastic tools to help break up the connective tissue (fascia) that surrounds our muscles which can sometimes become so tight that muscle movement is restricted.

 

enlight inn fascia tools

Breaking up the fascia allows for ease of movement, reduced pain, and – bonus – a smoother appearance of the skin (see you later, cellulite!).

 

Because fascia is more malleable when it’s warm, each blasting session at Enlight Inn begins with a 15-minute sit in the far infrared sauna. After that, it’s time for blasting on the massage table.

 

enlight inn massage room

Fascia blasting involves moving the plastic tools vigorously across the skin, applying more pressure as needed in areas that are more bound. I wouldn’t say this is a relaxing technique, but it certainly is an effective one. Think of it like deep tissue massage work: it hurts so good (but never to the point of pain).

 

I was so intrigued by this technique that I immediately booked a second session and then went on Amazon and bought a fascia blasting tool to use at home for maintenance. Using it has helped loosen my neck and hip – the areas where I tend to hold tension.

 

Halotherapy

A few friends of mine joined me in the afternoon for a halotherapy session. This service uses a halogenerator to dispense a fine aerosol of salt particles throughout the room in order to recreate the climate of natural salt caves. (The halogenerator is located behind this door.)

 

enlight inn halotherapy

When inhaled, the particles act like a gentle brush, moving mucus and bacteria through the airways and improving respiration.

 

enlight inn halotherapy group

What I liked about our halotherapy session is that I got to catch up with my friends in a relaxing environment while doing something beneficial for my body.

 

THE CAFE

After our session, we stopped at the Cafe and I ordered a Bulletproof Coffee (made with Bulletproof beans, MCT oil, and grass-fed butter), and my friend Carrie ordered snacks which included veggies and Zummus (hummus made with zucchini), and Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding.

 

enlight inn food

Christa’s experience as a raw foodist has influenced the selection of healthy menu items, which also includes a variety of smoothies.

 

enlight inn drive through

With Enlight Inn’s convenient drive-through window, it’s easy to eat clean while on the go.

 

PRIVATE COTTAGES

These cozy cottages provide a convenient crash pad when you’ve had a day filled with spa services and don’t want to drive anywhere. They’re also a unique option for out-of-towners who can take advantage of Enlight Inn’s services while visiting Joplin (overnight guests receive discounts on spa services, too).

 

enlight inn guest room

The beds in each cottage are also equipped with grounding mats, which have a negative charge. As we go throughout our day, we build up a positive charge in our bodies, and having contact with a grounding mat can even out this positive charge and return our bodies to a neutral state. When you sleep at Enlight Inn, your body is restored in more ways than one!

 

Not only did I receive pampering during my visit to Enlighten Inn, but I also earned my degree in self-care. I learned that the things that I do for self-care shouldn’t be departures from my daily routine; they’re essential to the foundation of a life lived to the fullest.

 

I guess you could say I’ve become enlightened.

 

Enlight Inn is located at 3817 North Main Street in Joplin. Click here to visit its website, or click here to follow it on Facebook. Christa Tullis is also an instructor at Precision Pilates.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

The Top 5 Picnic Spots in Joplin

My husband Travis and I have a tradition where we plan a weekday picnic lunch date once our kids are back in school, then again in early May before the kids get out for summer break. It’s our way to relax, reconnect, and secretly gloat that we get recess while our kids are busy learning.

 

There are some perks to being a grown-up.

 

picnic mcindoe bench

Our favorite spot.

 

Last week, we finally had the chance to have our back-to-school picnic, and while we were resting on our blanket looking up at the blue September sky at our favorite picnic spot, I began to wonder where else in Joplin other magical picnic spots might exist – ones where we might even bring the children to on a nice weekend day.

 

So, I hopped in my car to do some field research. For a picnic spot to be ideal, it had to be naturally shaded – in other words, not in a shelter or pavilion. If I’m going to be eating outside, I want to be able to see the sky above me. (If you’re a pavilion-seeking picnic person, don’t worry; I’ve included some options for you, too.)

 

I found five outstanding picnic spots, which I’ve detailed below. At the end of each description, I’ve listed a summary of amenities, including nearby restaurants where you can pick up food for your picnic instead of having to make it yourself.

 

THE TOP 5 PICNIC SPOTS IN JOPLIN

 

  1. McIndoe Park (Glendale Road and Jackson Avenue)

When I told my friend where Travis and I had our back-to-school picnic, she said, “McIndoe Park? Never heard of it.” Not many people know the name of this park, which is perched on the banks of sparkling Shoal Creek. Most people assume that this park is an extension of Wildcat Park just to the south, but it’s actually a Joplin city park.

 

Travis and I found a spot just to the south of the historic one-lane low-water bridge, built in 1919. Driving over this bridge is a mind-bending experience; since you can’t see the pavement next to you, it feels like you’re gliding across the creek in a boat.

 

picnic mcindoe creek

McIndoe Park is our favorite Joplin picnic spot because here we can eat at a shaded picnic table while enjoying a creekside view, then rest on a blanket in the nearby grass.

 

picnic mcindoe t

So sorry the kids couldn’t be here. Hee, hee.

Sometimes we play cards, and sometimes we watch the wildlife. Last week, we saw a stealthy blue heron perched on a log across the creek, scanning the water for his lunch, as well as several vibrant bluebirds singing their cheerful songs.

 

Natural shade: Yes

Pavilions: No

Playground: No

Restrooms: No

Nearby restaurants: Eagle Drive-In (1.5 miles)

 

 

  1. McClelland Park (4568 McClelland Park Road)

This large, wooded park is located on a hilltop on Joplin’s southwest side. There are parking lots near the entrance, which is where I found this cute green picnic table. It’s located right next to the playground, making it a great spot for a family picnic.

 

picnic mcclelland park

If you’re seeking solitude and tranquility away from the busy playground and shelter area, follow McClelland Park Road along the eastern edge of the park.

 

picnic mcclelland course

Here you’ll find several pull-off areas leading to secluded picnic tables surrounded by trees on one side and the 18-hole disc golf course on the other.

 

Natural shade: Yes

Pavilions: 2

Playground: Yes

Restrooms: Yes

Nearby restaurants: Sakura Sushi & Grill Japanese Restaurant, Del Rio Grill & Cantina, Subway (all 1.5 miles)

 

 

  1. Leonard Park (4th Street and Turk Avenue)

This is my go-to park if I’m shopping on North Range Line Road and need a quick nature fix. Located just west of North Point Shopping Center (the one with Toys ‘R’ Us), Leonard Park was one of my favorite parks to take my kids when they were little. In addition to a playground, there’s a little creek that runs through the park, making it a magical place for kids to explore.

 

While there are a few picnic tables outside of the pavilion here, none are shaded, so my favorite place to picnic here is on the grass right next to the creek.

 

picnic leonard

Looks like a scene from a fairy tale, doesn’t it?

 

Natural shade: Yes

Pavilions: 1

Playground: Yes

Restrooms: Yes

Nearby restaurants: A variety of fast-food options on Range Line Road, plus Habaneros Mexican Grill and Lalo’s Taqueria (both .4 miles).

 

 

  1. Cunningham Park (26th Street and Maiden Lane)

Our family has known this park through its two incarnations: as a shaded park where my little ones pointed excitedly when they spied the medical helicopter taking off from the hospital across the street (pre-tornado), and as a spacious, open park with areas for quiet reflection (post-tornado).

 

Cunningham Park’s landscape may have changed since May 22, 2001, but its popularity hasn’t. It’s beautiful in a new way now, and the colorful blooming plants and tranquil water features in the Butterfly Garden exemplify this.

 

picnic cunningham pagoda

That’s the bench under a pergola in the background.

While there are picnic tables in other areas of Cunningham Park, there aren’t any in the garden. However, there are a couple of benches (one is partially shaded by a pergola) that are situated on either side of the “Hope” water feature which traces the path of the Joplin tornado. Either one provides a peaceful for enjoying a meal.

 

picnic cunningham angled bench

Natural shade: No (but the tranquility of the Butterfly Garden makes it worth visiting)

Pavilions: 3

Playground: Yes

Restrooms: Yes

Nearby restaurants: A Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market is just across the street from the park (on the west side) if you want to pick up a deli meal; Tropicana Bar & Grill, and El Vaquero (both 1 mile).

 

 

  1. Bluff Trail (see below for the slightly complicated directions, but I promise it’s totally worth visiting)

To enjoy a picnic with the best view in Joplin, be prepared to take a short hike through the woods (by short, I mean all of two minutes; the trail is somewhat rocky and steep so don’t wear stilettos).

 

There are two picnic tables just off Wildcat Park’s Bluff Trail (see  southernmost trails on the map here), which runs along the bluff above the west side of Shoal Creek and offers breathtaking views. While hiking up from creek level is an option (a strenuous one), so is parking your car on Castle Drive and walking down to the tables (much easier).

 

However, the easier option is also the trickier one, as the trail from Castle Drive to the tables is not marked. In fact, after looking around for 15 minutes by myself, I had Travis come help me (he found it right away, of course, which was a bit infuriating). So, we decided to drive from each direction and record the distance, so that we (okay, I) could find it easily next time.

 

Here’s what we found. If you’re coming from Main Street (Highway 86), turn west on Castle Drive and follow it for one mile. If you’re coming from McIndoe Park, take the low-water bridge across to the south side of Shoal Creek and turn east on Murphy Boulevard (which becomes Castle Drive) and drive for .7 miles.

 

At this point you will be on top of a hill and there will be gravel parking areas on either side of the road. Park here and walk on the east side of the road (just south of the gravel parking area – confused yet?) and you will see this trail head.

 

picnic bluff trail entrance

This will take you to the closest picnic table (the other one is farther south), and to this amazing view.

 

picnic bluff trail

See that dark thing in the sky? That’s actually a leaf falling from a tree on the first day of autumn. So poetic.

Please, please, please do me a favor and bring a bag for trash, as there are no trash cans nearby and you’ll need to carry it out with you. This is probably also a good time to mention using the restroom before your picnic, too.

 

Natural shade: Yes

Pavilions: No

Playground: No

Restrooms: No

Nearby restaurants: All Aboard Ice Cream (and burgers!) (1 mile).

 

 

Honorable Mention: Garvin Park (28th Street & Virginia Avenue)

This tiny park may not offer any natural shade, but its location is fundamental to its appeal. It’s situated right next to McDonald’s, causing me to often wonder why people would eat inside the restaurant (or even in their cars, for that matter) when this pretty outdoor space is literally just a few feet away.

 

picnic garvin 1 (1)

The building in the background on the right (behind the lion) is McDonald’s.

 

Having a picnic at this park offers a double win: kids can eat their Happy Meals and then run around the playground, giving parents a good 30-60 minutes of quiet time.

 

picnic garvin 2

Bonus: The lion water fountain. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen in Joplin. I guess it doesn’t take much to impress me.

 

Natural shade: No, but letting mommy have some quiet time is worth the sacrifice.

Pavilions: 2

Playground: Yes

Restrooms: No, but use the restrooms in McDonald’s when you’re buying the Happy Meals.

Nearby restaurants: Obviously, you’re aware that McDonald’s is literally a few steps away; Tropicana Bar & Grill, and El Vaquero (both .3 miles).

 

So, now that you know where the best picnic spots are in Joplin, grab your lunch and head outdoors.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Grown-Up Fun at Tilt Studio

“Last one!” my husband Travis announced as he emerged from the dressing room to show me the button-down shirt he was trying on. “Well?” he asked, looking at me expectantly.

 

“Looks good,” I said.

 

“Great! Then let’s get out of here!”

 

Travis and I were at Macy’s for our semi-annual “freshen up the hubby’s wardrobe” excursion, something that neither one of us particularly looked forward to, but which was necessary to keep him stylish, and keeping him stylish meant that he wouldn’t have to bear any criticism from our teens about his fashion choices.

 

We all do what we can to survive.

 

As we walked to our car, I thought about what a good sport he was; being the lone male in a household of females must be tough, and dutifully modeling clothes for your wife at Macy’s on a Wednesday night must be tougher.

 

“I have an idea!” I said. “Since we have a few hours before we have to pick the kids up from your mom’s house, let’s go back inside the mall and have some fun!”

 

Travis tilted his head and looked at me like I had just stepped out of a UFO. “Fun?” he asked, his forehead crinkling. “What kind of fun can you possibly have at the mall.”

 

“Trust me,” I said, grabbing his hand and pulling him toward the mall entrance.

 

And, amazingly, he did.

 

tilt prizes

My spur-of-the-moment idea was to go to Tilt Studio, the mall’s ultimate family entertainment destination, offering arcade games, mini-golf, lazer tag, and bowling. It’s a place that I’ve taken the kids to many times – often as a reward for being patient while we shopped for school clothes for them.

 

Hmm, I wonder why it crossed my mind to bring Travis here today?

 

tilt fruitscamp

As we entered Tilt, the neon colors and blinking lights from the sea of arcade games welcomed us. We saw another adult couple there by themselves, and I felt an instant kinship with them. We were like those couples who return to visit Disneyland without their kids so they could experience the park without the responsibilities of parenting.

 

“You brought me to Tilt?” Travis asked, still confused by my carpe diem decision. He’s normally the playful one of the two of us, while I’m Mrs. Taskmaster.

 

tilt travis near carousel

“Every time we’re here, we follow the kids and watch them have fun,” I explained. “Tonight we get to play.”

 

“Okay,” Travis said, shrugging his shoulders.

 

Did I mention that he’s a good sport?

 

“Where do you want to start?” he asked.

 

“Here,” I said, dropping my purse in front of Lazer Frenzy, a game where you go inside a foggy, black-lit room and have to navigate through a grid of laser beams without touching them. I’d wanted to do this for years but I didn’t want to leave the kids alone while I did it.

 

But tonight there were no kids.

 

Tonight was the night.

 

Move over, Tom Cruise. I’m taking over this mission.

 

tilt chris mission squat

I crawled under and climbed over the neon green laser beams, breaking only one – or so I thought; when I emerged from the mission room, my report indicated that I had actually broken 9 beams.

 

I guess you can have your mission back, Tom.

 

We left Lazer Frenzy and explored the area behind it next.

 

There was skee ball (check out where that ball is about to land – woohoo!)

 

tilt chris skee ball

And mini-bowling. With the surprisingly heavy mini ball, I got a strike and beat Travis.

 

tilt travis bowling

I was on a roll, feeling pretty lucky at that point.

 

Then came air hockey. I adore air hockey. If we had a place for an air hockey table at our house, I would have one. And I would play it every single day.

 

I mentally prepared myself to take on my husband (as you can tell from my game face).

 

tilt chris air hockey

Meanwhile, Travis looked like he didn’t have a care in the world.

 

tilt travis air hockey

 

Why wasn’t he taking me seriously as a competitor? I’d show him.

 

I fiercely defended my goal, whacking the puck so hard that I thought it would jump the edge of the table. I scored the first goal.

 

But then Travis tied the game, then I tied the game, and we continued this competitive pattern until I got careless and the puck entered my goal – twice.

 

I tried not to let that get me down. After all, I did beat Travis at skee ball and bowling, I reminded myself.

 

I shook off my air hockey loss as we walked to the next area. To commemorate our date night, we decided to take a couple’s selfie the old-school way – in a photo booth. Still, there was advanced technology in this booth, and we were slightly challenged (as you can see from the last two pictures).

 

tilt photo booth2-2

We went on to play a water gun race, which Travis let me win (I guess he felt bad about beating me at air hockey); then we tested our driving skills on the NASCAR game.

 

tilt nascar travis

It came as no surprise that Travis’ driving skills excelled above my own. I kept crashing my race car going a conservative 86 mph while Travis kept his under control going 175 mph.

 

Fun fact:  Travis tried to teach me how to drive a car with a stick-shift when I was a teenager.

 

Fun fact:  I still don’t know how to drive a car with a stick-shift.

 

But what I can do is dance, so when I saw Tilt’s Dance Revolution game, I thought, “I can do this!”

 

All I had to do was to move my feet according to the arrows on the screen. Easy peasy, right?

 

Wrong. It’s actually a lot harder than it sounds, and there was a major delay between what my eyes were seeing on the screen and how quickly my brain commanded my feet to move.

 

tilt dance revolution

I’ll just stick to freestyle dancing.

 

“Want to play laser tag?” Travis asked, trying to distract me from the awkward Dance Revolution situation.

 

I checked the time on my phone. “Oh, my gosh! It’s already time to pick up the kids,” I said, disappointed that our play time had come to an end. “I guess you and I will have to come back to play laser tag.”

 

And air hockey, I mentally added.

 

 

Tilt Studio is located at the north end of Northpark Mall, located at 101 North Rangeline Road. Click here to visit its website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

 

 

Yoga in Nature

I like nature.

 

And I like yoga.

 

So it made sense for me to try the monthly Yoga in Nature class offered at Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center.

 

What doesn’t make sense is that I picked a freezing rainy day in December on which to try it out.

 

But there you go.

 

I was curious to see how connected to nature I would feel on a day when I was tempted to stay curled up in bed inside my electric-heated home, with insulated walls protecting me from the miserable weather outside.

 

Plus, I had signed up for the class weeks ago, and I don’t like breaking my commitments.

 

So I grabbed my yoga mat, bundled up, and went to class.

Because of the inclement weather, the class was being held inside the nature center in one of the classrooms, rather than outside under the pavilion, thus making the class Yoga Next to Nature rather than Yoga in Nature.

 
yoga-pavilion

View from the pavilion (which I took on a previous, sunny visit to Wildcat)

 
Still, the atmosphere was much more tranquil than that of my usual yoga practice in my living room. Here, there were no kids asking me for anything as I attempted to find inner peace while following an instructor on a YouTube video.

 

At Wildcat, I had a clear view of the busy bird feeders just outside the classroom window. One of the windows was cracked open, allowing the cheerful bird songs to drift inside. That, along with the chirping of the crickets housed temporarily (unbeknownst to them…) in the classroom’s turtle habitat, created a peaceful ambient background for the yoga class.

 

yoga-feeder

 

While rolling out my mat on the floor, I started asking the instructor, Donna Bowman, some questions. It turns out that, in addition to teaching yoga, she also teaches special education to young children in Carl Junction. After a few minutes of class, I could see how Donna’s clearly articulated instructions, delivered in a patient and calm tone, would work equally well on her young special education students and with her yoga clients.

 

Her voice was as smooth as melted chocolate.

 

Donna began class with simple directions – simple, that is, if you don’t have a frenzied mind like I do, with thoughts bouncing around like a bored spider monkey inside a zoo exhibit:

 

“Take what you need to do today and clear it off your mat. Focus only on your breath.”

 

My monkey brain needed to hear that. Obediently, I mentally tucked away my list of Saturday morning errands and zeroed in on the sound of fresh, pure air filling up my lungs.

 

The first pose we did was Cat-Cow, which is a gentle warm-up done on the hands and knees, and it prepares the body for the rest of class. Donna said to think of this pose as “dental floss for the spine,” which I thought was brilliant. Every day since taking Donna’s class, I’ve been trying to remember to do Cat-Cow in order to keep my spine limber but, like flossing, I sometimes forget…

 

yoga-warrior

Instructor Donna Bowman

 

The pace of Donna’s class was mindfully slow, but that doesn’t imply that it wasn’t challenging. Moving at a slower pace means having to hold positions – like plank position – longer, and I felt my arm muscles quivering at several points during class.

 

When we resting in Child’s Pose after doing Sun Salutations, Donna came over to adjust me and to ensure that I was executing the pose correctly. As she gently pressed on my back, she said, “The rest is just as important as the work.”

 

I tossed that statement around in my mind for a while. I’m constantly guilty of pressing my nose to the grindstone and forgetting to schedule time for rest and play. I know that I’m a better mother/wife/friend/writer/human when I carve out time to rest, and Donna’s words validated this for me.

 

I had found my new mantra.

 

By the end of class, the ever-present tautness in my upper back had given way to fluidity. I felt refreshed and renewed, like I’d just spent the day at a spa.

 

I plan on making this a regular monthly experience.

 

yoga-triangle

 

Donna’s final words echoed what I was already feeling:

 

“Be grateful. Be grateful for the body that you’ve been given, and for the time that you’ve given yourself.”

 

Going to Yoga in Nature that day was like an early Christmas present – to me, from me. And not only did I benefit from going, but so did my family, because I came home relaxed and happy.

 

Because I took time for myself.

 

Because I took time to rest.

 

yoga-bird-in-bush

This sweet bird surprised me as I was leaving class. I thought it was a decoy at first because it didn’t move, even though I was only about a foot away from it. It must have sensed my zen-like yoga afterglow. Namaste, birdie.

 

Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center is located at 201 W. Riviera Drive. Click here to visit its website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Geocaching in Joplin

My husband Travis and I both work at home.

 

Somehow, our marriage has survived 7 years of this arrangement.

 

Maybe it’s because every day I sequester myself in my daughter’s bedroom with my laptop to write while she’s at school, and her room is on the opposite side of the house from where my husband is talking on the phone with his clients.

 

And that’s how my husband and I are able to both work at home together and still enjoy wedded bliss.

 

Each of us also makes sure to take sanity breaks during the day. Travis and I love to be outdoors, so we make sure to leave our house/office at least once during the workday and take a walk, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

 

We generally take our sanity breaks in solitude because, hey, that’s the point. But sometimes we take our breaks together.

 

Gasp!

 

Like we need more togetherness, right?

 

geo-couple

 

But there’s a lot of value in disconnecting from work and home responsibilities in order to reconnect with your partner. Sometimes, Travis and I will pack a picnic lunch and dine al fresco at a local park. Sometimes we’ll grab our hiking boots and hit some nearby trails.

 

Sometimes we’ll play games.

 

Specifically, I’m talking about a game that can be played outdoors – anywhere, anytime.

 

It’s called geocaching.

 

Geocaching is basically an outdoor scavenger hunt that combines adventure with technology. It involves searching for an object that is hidden outside by using GPS coordinates which are posted online.

 

You’d be surprised at how many caches are hidden all over the Joplin area – or anywhere, for that matter, as geocaching is a game that’s played all over the world.

 

On a recent lunch break, Travis and I decided to combine a short hike at Wildcat Park with a game of geocaching.

 

Before we left our house, I checked for local caches on my smartphone’s geocaching app. Cachebot offers a free app which allows you to view nearby caches on a map, as well as detailed descriptions of, and coordinates for, up to three caches per day; if you want to research more, then you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version.

 

Travis has the classic version of the Groundspeak Navigation app on his phone, which he downloaded several years ago. When I recently signed up for the free version of the app, I found it to be very limited; I could see nearby caches, but had to upgrade to a monthly or yearly membership in order to retrieve the details and coordinates of the caches.

 

Regardless of which app you choose, you’ll need to create an account on a cache listing site (geocaching.com) and link it to your app. This sounds like a complicated process, but it’s a one-time deal that will allow you to track your finds forever. And it’s free!

 

If you want to go old-school, you can use a handheld GPS navigator, such as those made by Garmin. But since most people have smartphones on them these days, it’s more convenient to use a phone app.

 

After looking for nearby caches on my app, I selected one located on a bluff trail at Wildcat Park. The cache is called Love Hollow at Mother Nature’s Crack, which sounds both romantic and crass at the same time.

 

But knowing that Mother Nature’s Crack refers to a fissure in a particular rock outcropping on the trail rather than a part of the human anatomy, I focused on the enticing “Love Hollow” part of the cache name instead. The person who hid the cache did so as a gift for his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day to mark the spot where they and their friends had gathered for years and created happy memories.

 

I thought that sounded sweet when I first read it, but then I thought how disappointed I would be if my guy got me a Valentine’s Day gift and then immediately hid it.

 

Forever.

 

It’s a romantic gesture, nonetheless, and it made for a nice backstory for my geocaching lunch date adventure with Travis.

 

When Travis and I reached Mother Nature’s Crack on the hiking trail, he pulled out his phone and read the hint that was given about where to find the cache: Look for the dead trees.

 

Hmm. There were several dead trees lying on the forest floor on the hill above us, but my attention was drawn to a group of them several feet up from the cliff. As I circled around them, I saw what I thought was a piece of trash tucked between the tree and a pile of leaves.

 

Upon closer inspection, I saw that there was writing on this “trash” which indicated that it was, indeed, the Love Hollow cache.

 

geo-bag

I felt giddy that I found the treasure on our scavenger hunt, but also a bit disappointed at the state of the cache itself. This weathered plastic Ziploc bag with a hole in one end was not was I was expecting.

 

Typically, caches are protected in metal boxes which can withstand the elements, like these that my kids have found on previous geocaching outings:

 

geo-shoal

 

geo-big-boxBut there was nothing inside of the partially disintegrated baggie at Love Hollow.

 

Usually, there’s a log to sign when you find a cache. I like to glance through these logs to see who else has found them, and when they found them. Granted, I can read cache logs online (plus add our own find to the log), but it’s more personal to see different people’s writing on a piece of paper.

 

Also, there weren’t any trackables in the bag. Trackables are items that move from one cache to another, and you can follow their movements online, which is another fun part of the geocaching experience.

 

Although there were no trackables or log entries for me to read about, I was still satisfied because I had found the cache (as you can tell from my smug posture).

 

geo-lounge

 

What did Travis find?

 

geo-glove

Well, he found a glove on the ground. It was totally unrelated to our mission, but he seemed pleased with himself. Considering the glove blended in with the rocks on the ground like an object in an I Spy book, finding it was definitely an accomplishment.

 

The best part of hunting for the Love Hollow cache was its location. I know you have been curious about this since the beginning of the post, so here you go: This is Mother Nature’s Crack.

 

geo-crack-view

Even when the trees are bare, this is a beautiful view.

 

geo-standing-on-crack

 

Travis and I decided to take a selfie to commemorate our Love Hollow lunch date. As I was struggling to position my smartphone to take the photo, Travis showed me how to use the photo timer for the selfie.

 

The what?

 

This was a game-changer for me.

 

Up to this point, the few selfies that I’ve taken have been blurry, a result of me trying to look into the lens while simultaneously looking for the camera button.

 

I’m sure this timer thing is common knowledge to the majority of smartphone wielding population, but I’ve arrived a bit late to the selfie culture.

 

geo-selfie

Here I am just after processing this new knowledge. Travis is looking at me like I’m a crazy person, but that’s okay. I learned something new!

 

We left Mother Nature’s Crack behind us and hiked back to the car. I had seen another cache that I wanted to stop at before our lunch break was over. This cache is called Winged Cross, and it marks the edge of the area where an EF5 tornado touched down on May 22, 2011.

 

Unlike traditional caches, which are hidden, this cache is in the open, and is considered a landmark cache. Located on a corner in a residential area, the Winged Cross stands over 5 feet tall and was carved from a tree that was several hundred years old.

 

geo-cross

 

I thought I’d seen all of the commemorative works that have popped up in Joplin after the tornado, but I had never seen this – nor had I heard about it until Travis and I decided to go geocaching.

 

So here you have it, the secret to being able to work at home with your spouse: Be sure to take sanity breaks during the day, and make sure you add a little adventure together every now and then.

 

 

To learn more about geocaching, click here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

RSVPaint Date Night

My husband Travis and I love our occasional, and much-needed, date nights. Once the kids are shipped off to grandma’s house, here’s what we typically do:

 

Date Night Option #1: Stay in and binge-watch some Netflix.

 

Date Night Option #2: Go out for a nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

 

Date Night Option #3: Go out for nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, then come home and binge-watch some Netflix.

 

Aren’t we exciting?

 

Sometimes even we bore ourselves. That’s when we know that it’s time to look for some new activities to shake things up on date night.

 

Recently, I signed us up for the Date Night session at RSVPaint, a paint-and-sip art studio in downtown Joplin. Since neither one of us is really good at painting, I knew there would be no danger of intra-couple competition (unlike the time we played laser tag; I beat him at that, by the way).

 

So if neither of us is a painter, why did I sign us up for RSVPaint’s Date Night? First, so we could learn something new together. Second, so we could encourage one another in the process (just kidding – I did it so we could laugh at each other).

 

rsvpaint-date-group-sitting

The studio was packed when we got there, and I was glad that I signed up ahead of time online, although walk-ins are always welcome, if there are still easels available.

 

We started sipping some wine – to get our creative juices going, of course. There’s a bar in the back of the studio where you can purchase beer, wine, mixed drinks, soda, water, and snacks. You can also bring your own beverages; we brought a bottle of our favorite Merlot which the bartender uncorked for a small fee.

 

Then we got settled in front of our easels. Our supplies included four paintbrushes, a palate of five paint colors, and an apron to protect our clothes.

 

The theme for our Date Night session was “Under My Umbrella,” and we were going to create a diptych. A diptych consists of two paintings that, when placed side by side, make one scene.

 

rsvpaint-date-example-painting

I chose to paint the male figure and Travis painted the female, although some of the other couples did the opposite.

 

rsvpaint-date-instructor

Jordan was our instructor that night, leading us through the process stroke by stroke, and color by color. She was laid-back in her teaching style and supportive of everyone’s creative expression. She made me feel like Picasso.

 

Or maybe that was the vino…

 

rsvpaint-date-white-trees

We started painting our backgrounds, then added our trees. I do admit that Travis’ trees were better than mine.

 

rsvpaint-date-colored-trees

Then it came time to paint our male and female figures. If Travis were a wise man, he would have painted a dainty feminine figure like everyone else in the class did.

 

rsvpaint-date-group-standing

But, no.

 

My renegade husband chose that particular moment to “express his individuality.” While everyone else’s figure was black, his female was bright yellow.

 

rsvpaint-date-our-painting

That, combined with its, um, interesting shape resulted in something of a cross between Mrs. Doubtfire and the Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George.

 

rsvpaint-date-curious

Thanks, honey.

 

Did you notice how slim I made my male figure?

 

Did you?

 

rsvpaint-date-couple

I guess I’ll forgive him because spending a few hours creating a one-of-a-kind diptych at RSVPaint was a welcome break from our usual date night routine.

 

Plus, it gives us something to chuckle about for the rest of our lives.

 

 

Group photo courtesy of RSVPaint’s Facebook page. RSVPaint is located at 223 Third Street. Click here to visit its website. 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.