Where I’m Donating to Support Ukraine, and a Little Bit of Life Lately

Life continues to be heavy, friends, and I know we’re all feeling it. Around the world it seems like we’re going about our daily lives — sending kids to school, getting dinner on the table, meeting work deadlines (or trying to) — while emotionally, we’re all dying a little bit inside.

The stories and photos out of Ukraine are heartbreaking, and what the kids are going through … it will be with them their entire lives. It feels wrong that this is happening, while I’m over here typing up a blog post, including photos of how we’ve spent our “carefree” time over the past few months since the holiday. It doesn’t just feel wrong, it is wrong.

And yet … here we are. In 2022, we live in a world where one insane leader has enough power (and money) to force an entire country of people into an unwarranted war, while we sit idly by and watch. All the donations in the world can’t stop us from feeling lost, but it’s all we have. Today I donated to World Central Kitchen (and TripAdvisor is matching my donation). This organization is currently working at a 24-hour pedestrian border crossing in southern Poland and has expanded to provide meals to refugees as they flee to the neighboring countries of Romania, Hungary, Moldova, and Slovakia. If you can, consider donating here, or at any number of organizations doing amazing work.

I can’t stop reading and thinking about and praying for the people for Ukraine, even as I try to keep a normal face for my kids. We’re so incredibly lucky to live where we live — despite the issues we put up with — and I hope we never, ever forget that.

Bis bald, friends — I hope you’re doing well. Here’s a little bit of what we’ve been up to lately.

Grace and Chris have gone skiing most weekends since we got back from Christmas, and it’s the definition of adorable. He brings them to Eldora, which is the perfect little mountain for kids.
She’s getting so good at it, too!
Meanwhile, Lotte started ski lessons this past weekend as well, and she is, as you can see, too cool for school 😉
I cannot wait for us all to get on the mountain together <3
Besides skiing, the girls have also been in swim classes at the YMCA, which has been so much fun.
Sledding at the girls’ school for the first time was an experience. (Hint: Everyone goes really fast!)
Chris ran a race a few weeks back to raise money for the victims of the Boulder fire. As usual he was very impressive, coming in 8th out of more than 800 people!
Tiny supporter <3
This one keeps us on our toes and smiling!
Meeting up with Lotte’s kindergarten class at Urban Air Adventure was a highlight for both Lotte & Grace.
The coolest!
Drinks with a friend at the new Mexican restaurant Lady Nomada in Olde Town Arvada was quite restoring.
Lotte seems to have a birthday party every other weekend to attend, and I’m not mad that after 2+ years of hibernating, she’s finally able to socialize the way kids should. It’s the most fun to watch her flourish.
We made a REAL thing out of Valentine’s Day this year because we’ve decided that there’s just not enough to celebrate in life anymore, so why not celebrate where we can <3
There were a lot of hearts in our day <3
And smiles <3
Coffee and treats at Kneaders after school and before Lotte had ballet was a highlight.
We’ve had lots of awesome-weather days during these past few months, and when that happens we always try to take advantage.
Majestic View Park is never not one of my favorite spots.
<3
<3<3
The Denver Zoo is another of our fave nice-weather activities.
Especially when it involves merry-go-round rides!

And that’s about it, my friends. Hug those loved ones tight, be grateful for the good things … and help out where you can. It’s the least we can do.

2021: A Year in Review

They can’t all be good photos, right?!

Welp, friends … there goes another year. As the photo above indicates, we’ve had our highs and lows. I think the year didn’t quite pan out the way most of us were hoping it would, but still, there were bright spots to be found.

Here’s hoping 2022 brings you and your family all the happiness and cheer that you deserve! And here’s what we were able to get up to in 2021 …

April

We dusted off our travel boots for the first time in more than a year (!) this past April for a trip to the mountains. We headed to one of our favorite low-key spots — Granby Ranch — and the older girls even tried their hand at skiing for the first time.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Lotte, Grace & Emilia cuddled up on our couch in the cabin.
Chris and the big girls posing on frozen Grand Lake.
They look a little weathered here because this was after their lessons … but I HAD to get a pic of the two of them with their adorable little set of skis!
We wrangled the kids to take a quick selfie when we got out on the lake in Grand Lake.

June

By the time June rolled around, Chris and I were fully vaccinated, and we were able to start hosting some of our favorite people at our house again. We also went on a fun mountain/lake hike, Lotte continued her adventures in skiing and started running (well, that was pre-June, but I blogged about it in June!) and we continued to find adventures everywhere we could in the great Colorado outdoors. We also spent Father’s Day in one of Chris’ favorite places.

Grandpa came for his first visit in more than a year!
Lotte started track!
Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Me and my JMU girls 😉
We sure do love a good splash pad!
Just a dad and his trio of ladies.

July

The end of June and beginning of July was a busy time for us, as we packed up the car and hit the road for our trip out East! We started in Colorado and made out way out to New Jersey and New York and then back, stopping in a number of states along the way. (You can find all the gritty details here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Cody Park, Nebraska
Cody Park, Nebraska
The Bean in Chicago!
Brigantine Beach, NJ
These cutie cousins <3
With Atlantic City in the background
Staying at a real, working farm in Pennsylvania was … interesting!
One of the best stops on our trip home!
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
entering Colorado on the way home
Colorado State Line

Then, at the end of July, our firstborn turned FIVE!

August

We hosted more of our besties in August, Lotte started kindergarten, Grace returned to preschool and we managed to make it to Frisco for one final summer mountain visit.

Frisco, Colorado
Frisco, Colorado
Em’s first Frisco visit!

September

We hosted one of Chris’ good friends in September, and they hiked a 14er (a tradition they started years ago). We also spent Labor Day at Standley Lake with friends.

Kayaking on Standley Lake
Kayaking on Standley Lake
Standley Lake, Arvada
Standley Lake, Arvada

October

We spent October in our traditionally favorite way … with all the fall activities!

December

As the holidays rolled around, we were really looking forward to spending Christmas and New Years with family back in New York. Unfortunately, Covid had different plans for us. Perhaps we’ll have better luck next year. Still, we managed to get a day in Manhattan, and we did get to spend actual Christmas Day with family, which was an upgrade from last year, so we’ll call it a win.

Times Square is never not entertaining!
Grace was very taken with the Rockefeller tree 😉
Snow on Christmas Eve was a perk!
Christmas Day cuties
Merry Christmas to you and yours!

And that’s 2021, my friends. We’re looking forward to a quiet New Years Eve (and wedding anniversary, for myself and Chris <3) and planning for (hopefully) some fun travels to come in the New Year.

But until then … bis bald, friends!

Life Recently: Hello, Fall! How I’ve Missed You …

Just a dad and his daughter, ready for a fall run!

I’ve never pretended to be a lover of the summer, but this year I feel like we definitely made the most of it! (See posts about our cross-country drive and trip to the beach, visits from east coast besties and water activities out on the lake for proof!) Still, I’m never sad to see summer go.

Blasphemy, I know 😉

Now that fall is officially here, and the weather (for the most part) is changing, I’m looking forward to all things fall and cold-weather related. I’ve already got this this fall festival booked for us for next weekend, along with a trip out Paint Maines Interpretive Park to celebrate Chris’ birthday. We’ve had our Halloween costumes planned since the beginning of September (there’s no shame in my game), Lotte has a season ski pass and lessons awaiting her, and our flights back east for the Christmas season were booked months ago.

In other words, we’re ready!

Grace and I started decorating the house for the fall last weekend. These little trinkets — which were my Mom’s — make me so happy.

I won’t lie, there is a small part of me that feels an inkling of sadness when I compare this year to last. As Halloween and Thanksgiving rolled around last year, I was very pregnant and we were very excited to meet our little nugget (and find out whether she was a boy or a girl!) at the end of the year. There is no excitement that can equal that of waiting for a baby to arrive.

But this year … she is here! She can celebrate with us, and that, I have to remind myself, is even more fun.

This little smooshkin will be adorable at Halloween, I can promise you that much!
Outdoor birthday movies are even better with blankets in the chilly fall air!
The joy that is Grace twirling. Luckily, this happiness is not contained to one season.
Fall is just THE BEST season for clothes!
Our first figs from our new fig tree!
I am probably one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t mind the sun going down earlier at night. More snuggle time, if you want my opinion!

I hope you guys are all gearing up for a super fun (and super safe!) fall and winter season, as well. I don’t know you personally, but I can say without a doubt … we all deserve it <3

Bis bald, friends!

P.S. I started an Instagram account for Chris’ culinary shenanigans — if you’re interested, check it out @the_au_chef !

Labor Day Weekend Starts at the Lake

Taking canoes out on Standley Lake is an annual tradition of ours that we missed last year because of the pandemic.

Happy Labor Day weekend, loves! I hope you were all able to find some kind of rest and relaxation over the past few days.

Chris had a friend visiting from New York and the two of them hiked a couple of 14ers over the week (more on that, later!), then came back to hang with us for a couple of days before Gavin flew back. On his last day, we all headed over to our local lake — Standley Lake — to rent some canoes and take them out on the water. We had been making this a tradition of ours each summer, but last summer they were closed because of the pandemic.

This summer, however, they were back open for business, and it was better than ever! We met some other friends of ours over at the lake and got one canoe and one kayak and spent two hours out on the water. The big girls loved it, while Em loved hanging out and supervising.

Supervisor extraordinaire 😉

Rentals were $40 each for life jackets and the kayak and the canoe, and you get two hours out on the water. It was time well spent, friends!

Little Grace tucked between Chris’s legs here … let’s just say she had more fun once we trusted her enough to sit in an actual seat!
Mira holding court. So grateful for friends with amazing kids.
This one <3 Never not smiling.
Chris and Grace paddling on Standley Lake.
Chris and Grace paddling on Standley Lake.

Happy Labor Day, friends! Sending all the sunshiney, mellow vibes your way!

Bis bald!

Saying “So Long” to Summer 2021

The smoke from wildfires in the West have made it pretty gross outside in Colorado, but we still made the most of it when we had some besties visit from New York last weekend.

I used to think that it was preposterous to even think about school/fall/the end of the year before Labor Day, but as Instagram has taught me, it’s actually fairly common for schools around the country to start before then. Here in our little slice of Colorado heaven, Lotte will be starting kindergarten (SOB) and Grace will be back to preschool starting next Tuesday.

Le sigh. Summer, where did you go?

Besides our big ole’ road trip and Lotte’s 5th birthday, this summer has been but a blink. We’re looking forward to the girls getting back to school (even though they loved summer camp!) and seeing all their old friends, and we’re hopeful that this school year will see some semblance of normalcy. There will be masks, of course, but if we can just keep the kids in school, that would be such a blessing.

Again, le sigh. The world we live in these days.

Anyway, we had one of my good friends and her daughter — Lotte’s best NYC friend, she informed me — visit last weekend, and today was the girls’ last day at summer camp. We’re soaking it in, and keeping our fingers crossed for the fall future.

Bis bald, friends!

Lotte had the best time trying out track this summer, and we had the best time watching her!
2nd and 3rd place in her races … wahoo!
We didn’t get around to our annual paddle out on Standley Lake yet, but we did pal around the lake quite a bit, which is always a delight.
There were a lot of porch hangs, as well <3
And a LOT of cuddles with this treasure…
Peak summer vibes right here.
We went to a children’s concert in Boulder when our NYC friends visited, and it was so stinkin’ cute!
Taking it all in while avoiding the crowds, something I’m sure you’ve all come to excel at, as well.
Smokey mountain views.
Someone thoroughly enjoyed her first concert experience!
Dad and daughter <3
Our “strolley” (as Chris lovingly refers to the collapsible Radio Flyer we have) is such a game-changer every single place we go. Fine, Chris, I admit here, in public, that it was a great purchase!
Fiona brought flower crowns for Lotte’s birthday!
The sweetest!
Nothing says summer quite like a run through the backyard sprinklers.
We headed into Golden and hit up the Golden Mill one of the days that Carla and Fiona were here. This place is quickly becoming one of our must-hit spots for guests.
The ice cream there is a must!
This trio agreed …
These guys were just the sweetest … even given the occasional complete meltdown 😉
Carla and I were roommates our freshman year of college, then worked one street away when we both started our careers in Manhattan. Now her daughter is five months older than Lotte and her son is two months younger than Grace. Love her to stinkin’ bits!
I don’t know what they were judging here, but something about this photo is very sweet to me.
We saw so many people tubing down the river while in Golden. It was very fun to sit in the park and shovel ice cream into our faces while watching other people exercise.
Last day of summer camp calls for cute summer dresses!
G sure does love a chocolate treat.
This one <3

Life Recently: Returning to “Normal”

Living that post-vaccine life … or getting there, at least!

Happy almost summer, friends! This year we have … plans?! For things to do?! And how crazy does that feel after the year and a half we’ve all just had? I mean honestly, a friend of mine mentioned that after she got her first shot she expected balloons to fall from the ceiling and a marching band to play. Obviously that didn’t happen, but what did happen was that we’ve started, slowly, to return to what our life looked like pre-Covid.

Lunch at an outdoor restaurant in Golden when my stepdad came to visit a few weeks ago. It was the first time we had physically been to a restaurant in more than a year, and man oh MAN did it feel good!

It definitely took me a while to get into the swing of things, but I’ve now gotten my hair done, we’ve had dinner at an indoor restaurant and guests and playdates at our home. We’ve started to open our lives back up, and while that’s awesome and amazing and wonderful, there’s a small part of me that still longs for the quiet days. The older girls are in summer camp from now until school starts in the fall, Lotte has started track and we have a monster road trip planned from Colorado out to New York (and back!) to see family we haven’t seen in more than a year, to head to the beach for a couple of days and to attend a wedding.

All of this feels … almost too good to be true. And while I’m grateful to be able to do these things — see our family, most importantly — I’m also staring at our (overfilled) calendar and remembering the days when there was nothing on it but to hang.

So I propose a challenge, dear friends, to bring back the things that give you joy in your life when you feel comfortable doing so, but to also say NO to more things that don’t. That’s a tough thing to do — especially when it involves keeping your littles from doing things — but for me, at least, I think that’s the only way I’ll stay sane as we dip our toes back into life.

Bis bald, friends … and stay safe out there!

My birthday celebration back in April … I felt the same way the girls did about the cake, I just hid it better than they did 😉
Real Simple helped me with our Easter table this year, and I could not have been more pleased. Was it just me, or has anyone else out there become obsessed with home goods during lockdown, as well?
Two of my three Easter bunnies <3
Outdoor parks and playgrounds continue to be our preferred places to hang, but we’re slowly opening up to indoor playdates and dinner parties, too, which feels oh-so-lovely.
Lotte went spring skiing with her dad again at A-Basin, and we even got her a season pass for next year. I love that she’s loving this sport, and I can’t wait until we can all go together as a family!
We honored my Mom on the 5th anniversary of her death with a family Zoom and, of course, making her (in)famous cinnamon buns.
The girls continue to find happiness in everything they do, which is truly the most inspiring.
This crew has become very good at finding new playgrounds to enjoy … and Em is just along for the ride.
My stepdad came to visit! We surprised the girls and they were SO EXCITED! It was truly adorable. Not to mention that Grandpa was the first grandparent that Em got to meet. It was a happy, happy time.
We headed to Golden with Grandpa, which is one of our favorite spots to bring guests. It truly never disappoints.
And we ate at a RESTAURANT! The Golden Mill just opened up along the creek, and it was so lovely to be out and about in a way that we hadn’t in so long.
That outdoor beer life <3
Emilia, taking in those mountain views.
These girls are picnic pros at this point!
Our little preschool graduate! Lotte is off to kindergarten in the fall, and honestly, I cannot talk about it …
Lotte has also started track! Which of course makes Chris endlessly proud …
Track star.
Chris & I dressed the girls in their best purple for a little “hike” around Evergreen Lake this past weekend as part of an event that my alma mater — JMU — was sponsoring. It was so nice getting outside with them and sporting those JMU colors!
Evergreen Lake views are pretty magnificent.
Ever-the-rebel.
The majestic mountain/water combo.
Evergreen Lake
The perfect day for a lake walk.
We also got family photos taken recently to celebrate adding little Em to our family, and I am SO HAPPY with how they all came out!
Big & Middle, always being monkeys <3
And our newest angel, who is truly just the sweetest child in all the world.
Our trio <3 <3 <3
Bis bald, friends! Hope your summer(ish) season is off to a great start!

Life Recently: The 2020 Edition

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Oh, friends, where to begin. I certainly hope this blog post finds you … well?? Who even knows what to say anymore. I hope this blog post finds you … sane? The answer to that probably depends on a number of factors, including where you live. Who you live with. What your work situation is. And any number of other things that we could have never known would have such an impact on us for such an extended period of time.

For my own part, 2020 has been, like most people, a series of highs and lows. (But, let’s be honest, mostly lows.) My last trip was in February, and while I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to take that trip — and with Lotte, no less — I sure do miss travel. And my family. And regular life. We had to postpone indefinitely a trip to Spain with Chris’ parents that we had all really been looking forward to, not to mention all the other little trips throughout the year that we likely would have taken, back to New York to see friends and family, to the mountains, to other states. Who knows. What 2020 could have been isn’t worth contemplating. In the meantime, besides travel, my grandmother passed away from Covid, and because I live in Colorado, I had to miss her memorial. I missed my nieces baptism. I missed my Mom’s annual MS fundraiser. We’ve missed holidays (and probably will continue to miss holidays) with friends and family. We’ve had low moments at home, moments of exhaustion and frustration and sadness. We’ve cried. Lotte has missed out on a year’s worth of preschool experiences, learning and making friends. My heart broke the other day when she leaned in before bed and whispered, “Mom, I’m lonely.”

Amidst the sadness, we’ve managed to have some of the most amazing moments, as well. With Chris working from home, he’s spent way more time with the girls than he ever was able to in the past, and he’s home for dinner every single night. (Hell, he makes dinner every single night 😉 We’ve gone out of our way to find new, fun, hopefully empty places to explore. I met two big career milestones (you can read them here and here), all while trying to keep my kids entertained and ignore a worldwide pandemic. Plus, above all else, I’m pregnant. Pregnant with our third and final child, in a world that has forced me to attend every doctor’s appointment by myself (with Chris on Facetime) and in a mask. Throughout the lows and highs, we’ve tried hard to keep breathing, and to focus on the here and now, the things that we can control, whatever little that might be. The girls are healthy. We are healthy. We are incredibly lucky to be in a position where Chris and I can both work from home, and keep the girls home until we feel safe enough to send them back to school.

And for now, that’s all that really matters. I’m thinking of all of you, and livin’ on a prayer that this will all be a memory in the near future.

Bis bald, friends.

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^^Pretending to be ballerinas and dancing to scenes from the Nutcracker have become a pandemic activity favorite.

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^^ So incredibly thankful that we moved before the pandemic, and that we have this amazing play area in the backyard for the girls to get their energy out on!

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^^ Also thankful for all of the wide open spaces that Colorado provides.

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^^ Not gonna lie — we haven’t minded having Chris around more to cook, either …

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^^ We are such huge fans of the zoo, so we were so happy when they finally opened back up, allowing only small groups of people in at once, all of whom must be wearing masks.

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^^ We’ve met up twice with friends and their kids, which was glorious for the kids, and only somewhat nerve-racking for the adults.

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