Our Firstborn is Five

This gorgeous little girl is no longer so little …

What is it exactly that you feel when your firstborn child turns five? Is it wonder at the amazing little person she is becoming? Is it sadness for missing the baby that was so sweet and cuddly?

Whatever the feelings are that you’re supposed to have when your first child turns five …. I’ve got ’em! I have all the feelings, friends! Lotte turned five this past Tuesday, and while she’ll probably never, ever read this, I just want to say … it’s not possible to love someone more, little muffin. You are sweet and sensitive, smart and silly. I cannot wait to see everything you have in store for this world.

Lotte had a “no rules” night on Monday night — aka a campout in the basement with Dad! — while we set up her bedroom for her birthday surprise. She got a big-girl bed for her birthday, and I set up all the gifts from family and friends in her room, as well. It was the most fun to see her come in and have everything laid out, and I dare say we’ve created a new birthday tradition.

We hit up the Denver Botanic Gardens — and the accompanying Mordecai Children’s Garden across the street — that morning, and it was so much fun. I had been to the children’s garden with Lotte and Grace years ago, but heading back with them at these ages was great. I think there’s probably a limited amount of time that I have left before Lotte starts to grow out of these things (or perhaps not … what do I know?!), so I’ll be soaking it all in as much as I can!

Bis bald, friends — I hope you’re all having amazing summers!

The fact that we can all fit together on Lotte’s big-girl bed is such a perk!
Everyone knows that little sisters get some gifts on big sister’s birthday, as well 😉
I still have one more print to get, but those Trailblazer on the wall behind Lotte’s headboard are my favorite. They’re from a sweet little company called Piccolina, and I am obsessed.
The traditional balloon pose is a must!
Pancakes with strawberry ice cream for breakfast … it must be a birthday!
The rooftop children’s section is so sweet, with plenty of spaces for the littles to run and play, things to touch and small, and even a small stream to splash in.
I can’t even imagine the upkeep for a place like this, and they do SUCH an amazing job!
May you always stop to smell the flowers, my love.
It was super busy on a Tuesday morning, but still a lot of fun!
Cutest sisters <3
We brought a picnic as well, of course! Having a picnic in a garden is just about the best summer activity there is.
See … we all enjoyed it!
The regular, adult section of the Gardens was looking so good this year, too!
I love how curious these girls are. I never want this phase to end.
Halfway through, I remembered that I had taken a photo in this entrance when I was quite pregnant with Lotte, so we had to get a cuddle photo in the same spot on her fifth birthday, obviously.
A little baby Lotte, all ready to come out and take on the world!
Chris’s birthday cake tradition continues! Lotte requested a strawberry Owlette cake from PJ Masks, even though she hasn’t watched the show in about two years.

The Drive Back: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado

On the road again!

After a glorious farm wedding on July 3rd, we were back in the car on the 4th to start our trip home!

As you can see from that first photo, most of us were unhappy about this …

Actually, Chris and I went back and forth quite a bit about extending our trip. We had booked refundable places to stay on the trip back, exactly for this reason. Ultimately, though, we decided to keep things as they were. We had jobs and summer camp and track practice and a home to get back to, as much as we would have liked to have stayed for longer.

It was Em’s first Fourth of July, and she spent it in the car! She didn’t seem to mind 😉

The Long Road Home

Rather than driving straight through — like we did on the way out — we planned for three stops on the way back home. We stopped at a Comfort Suites in DuBois, PA, an Airbnb in Vandalia, Ohio and a Sleep Inn in Oakley, Kansas. We would also be making some touristy stops throughout, to break the trip up even more.

After saying goodbye to our family (we hope to see you soon!), it was a “short” four-hour trip to our hotel in Pennsylvania. Even though we arrived late, a super-wired Grace caught some fireworks at the end of the night with Chris. The next day we took advantage of the awesome indoor pool and grabbed some breakfast before heading out.

One of my favorite photos from the trip was taken at a gas station on our way to a hotel … go figure.
This random pic at another quick rest stop was another gem <3
We love hotels! (And are also very excited to be out of the car!)
I mean, look at this awesome pool!
So fun!
Naturally, I enjoyed from afar 😉
Fun with luggage trolleys.

After pool time and breakfast in PA, we loaded up the car again and headed to our next stop — a playground/picnic and then a splash pad, both in Ohio.

This playground in Ohio was so cute, and totally empty!
We only stayed here for a quick run-around and to have a picnic, but Emilia approved.
We drove about an hour from the playground to this random splash pad in Ohio. It was on the smaller side, but on a 90+-degree day, it definitely got the job done!
Splash pads and playgrounds really take it out of ya!
And we were off … again!
Thanks Ohio … we’ll see ya later!

World’s Biggest Things — The Stop We Never Knew We Needed

The rest of the trip — about four hours — to our Airbnb in Vandalia — was a bit rough, if I’m being honest. We were all pretty over the car, somehow both tired and wired, at the same time. Luckily, about an hour outside of Vandalia, we saw a sign for some of the Big Things in the Small Town of Casey, Illinois, and made the split-second decision to pull over.

Man, oh man am I glad we did … because how much fun are these?!

Who knew big things could be so much fun?!
It was late, and starting to get dark, so we couldn’t see everything, but what we did see was so. much. fun!
World’s biggest rocking chair! (Allegedly …)
This is the world’s biggest wind chime!
Next was the world’s biggest golf tee!
Then onto the world’s biggest mouse trap?! I don’t know, but we loved it all!
What would it be like to write with the world’s biggest pencil?
I don’t think this was part of the actual attractions, but at this point in our trip I sure didn’t mind seeing my kids contained somewhere I wasn’t 😉
Checking out the world’s biggest mailbox!
There was a fountain behind the mailbox where you could throw in coins and make wishes. Bet you could guess what my wish was! (Hint: Getting to our next destination quietly was involved …)
Such an adorable town, and definitely worth a stop on your way by it!

Coffee, Dragons and Arches

After our pit stop in Casey, we still had a couple hours to our Airbnb in Vandalia, but luckily the stop did what it was meant to do — wear the kids out! They all fell asleep on the ride to Vandalia and, luckily, this Airbnb was glorious. Three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a fully stocked kitchen with drinks and snacks. It was exactly what we all needed after a full day of travel.

This cutest little drive-through coffee shop — Shimoji Coffee — on the way out of Vandalia was so lovely!
The Kaskaskia Dragon is easy to visit on your way out of Vandalia! You can grab some coins at the store across the street to make him actually breathe fire!
About an hour later, we were at The Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Chris and I visited the Arch on our drive out to Denver from New York when we moved here, but it has since gotten an upgrade to National Park status. The museum is amazing now, and the grounds have even gotten an upgrade. It’s definitely worth revisiting if you haven’t been back in a while!
The museum is so much fun!
There are a lot of fun things for kids to do and see, too.

After our Arch pit stop, it was back in the car for a few hours, until we stopped for gas and went for a quick detour for treats at the Ozarkland General Store

One of each, please!
After Ozarkland it was on to Topeka, Kansas, where we stopped for dinner at The Pennant. This restaurant was perfect, because it had games and bowling and plenty of run-around space for the girls. Plus, it was right downtown, which was fun to check out!

Downtown Topeka, Kansas fun!

After dinner we had a couple hours to our hotel in Oakley. We picked that particular hotel because it was just a few hours from there to our home in Colorado, and we needed to leave early Wednesday to get back.

Grace, exhibiting perfectly how we all felt waking up early on Wednesday to head home after our whirlwind trip.

And that, as they say, was that, friends! After countless miles, five hotels/Airbnbs and 11 states, we were back where we started! Being home felt lovely and completely odd, all at once. We are so grateful that we were able to have this experience, to see our people and to check out so much of the U.S.

At the end of the day, we wouldn’t have done anything differently … except maybe pay more attention to the rules of Dramamine earlier on in the trip. Sorry, Grace!

The Details

Here’s a quick look at all the places we stayed, visited and ate at during this leg of our trip:

The Finances

Now for the super fun part … the money! We likely would have spent less money on this trip had we flown, even factoring in the cost of the flights. Gas is incredibly expensive right now, which was one factor. We also decided ahead of time that we didn’t want to scrimp on this trip. After not traveling for more than a year, we wanted to stop where we wanted to stop, eat what we wanted to eat, and stay where we wanted to stay.

And it worked out because, like I said, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Here’s how our finances broke down. We spent:

  • Hotels: $1581
  • Gas/Tolls/Parking: $770
  • Food/Groceries/Entertainment: $1112
  • Miscellaneous: $250

The grand total on this trip was almost $4,000 which, of course, is a lot of cash. Considering everything we did, though — including places stayed, food ate, things visited — for five people, it really wasn’t all that bad.

Plus, as the kids say, YOLO, my friends … YOLO.

And that was our trip! I hope each and every one of you — who has made it this far in this post! — has something equally as adventurous and amazing planned for the summer. Until next time, friends … bis bald!

The Sweetest Farm Wedding in Upstate New York

This was the gorgeous view from the hilltop at the wedding we attending on July 3rd.

The night before we started our trip home, we attended my brother-in-law’s sister’s wedding at her fiancee’s family farm.

Wright’s Farm is the sweetest little family run farm in Gardiner, New York. They don’t typically hold weddings there, but they do have a brewery, apple and pumpkin picking and a farmer’s market. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Cute as it is normally, attending a wedding there is next level! Unfortunately they don’t normally do events, but fortunately for us, we were able to attend this one because the bride just happened to be my brother-in-law’s sister. Lucky us!

The cocktail hour started at the bottom of the farm in the brewery, which is run by the groom (and his now-bride!). They had live music throughout the day, which was very on-brand 😉
After the cocktail hour, guests were sent up the hill to the tent for the ceremony. Although the forecast for the day was dreary, the afternoon/evening ended up being gorgeous, with no rain and, maybe even better, no beating sun. It was a perfectly lovely, overcast evening for a perfectly lovely wedding.
Wrights Farm wedding view
There’s nothing like a beautiful wedding with some of my favorite people.
Every last detail of this wedding was so pretty, from the location and music on down to the table settings and the food.
I love a good tractor picture!
My younger sister was in the wedding, and my older one attended as a guest, as well.
Grandpa Robert was there, too!
We loved the venue, what can I say?!
Andddddd … we like to party!
The perfect ending to a wedding that takes place the night before the Fourth of July? Fireworks, naturally!

That, my friends, was the farm wedding in a nutshell. There were so many more amazing details I could have captured, if I weren’t too busy having fun 😉

Bis bald, friends! I’ll be back tomorrow with this road trip finale … our 3-day car ride back home!

Our Road Trip Continued: The Pennsylvania and Upstate New York Edition

Paddle boats on the lake behind our Airbnb in Pennsylvania were definitely a perk.

Welcome back, friends! After our delightful stay in Brigantine, we were ready to hit up our next destination — an Airbnb attached to Billy’s New Hope Barn in Honesdale, PA.

I should start by saying that the ride out to the farm was less than optimal. (Think lots of things going wrong, including traffic and car sickness … it wasn’t our best ride …) So by the time we arrived, we had all about had it. The farm itself was very sweet, with lots of rescued animals for the girls to fawn over and fall in love with. I, however, was ready for a delightfully decadent shower, or perhaps even a lovely bath.

That wasn’t going to happen here.

Staying on the farm is a unique (and ultimately worthwhile) experience, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into. I’d liken this stay to “glamping,” since there was a roof over our heads and running water, but it wasn’t fancy by any means (nor is it advertised as such … that’s just what I was hoping for at that particular moment in my life.)

Once we started to get over the effects of our gross ride, things got better. It was actually very sweet to see the girls react to the animals, to eat a picnic dinner on the table by the lake, to watch the fireflies outside next to a campfire and to fall asleep to the sound of bullfrogs, and all the other nature surrounding us.

The farm is right next to the cabins on the property, so we walked over pretty much as soon as we arrived.
After this trip Grace won’t stop asking for a cat, while Lotte has her heart set on a dog. Either way, I’m not ready for a new pet, so here’s hoping they forget soon!
I do love a cute barn scene.
There are a ton of animals on the farm that are being rehabilitated from less-than-optimal settings. The girls loved being able to feed and pet them all.
Too cute.
This was the view right outside our cabin, and the girls couldn’t wait to get out on the water with Chris the next day!
That quiet life.
Taking it all in.
I made Chris stay near the cabin on his run that night (hah!), but this view wasn’t too shabby!
Like I said, the girls were ready to go the next morning!

In all honesty, we decided to stop off in Pennsylvania — and in this area in particular — because my sister and I are considering getting a lake house together and we’re scouting spots. We love the idea of getting a place together where our kids can grow up and visit throughout the year. Living far away from family is hard, but if we had a place like that — and a trip like that — to look forward to every year, it might be just a little bit easier.

After our one-night stay in the cabins, we decided to check out Hawley, PA and the cute zoo — Claws “N” Paws Wild Animal Park — in the area. We only got to spend a couple hours in Hawley, but I can tell it’s a very cute area, so we definitely plan to be back!

Livin’ her best life, always!
Lotte was thrilled they had lions, as they are her favorite animal 😉
These cuties <3
So much to explore!

After the zoo, we were finally on our way to upstate New York, where we would be spending the rest of our trip. That included a stay at Grandpa Robert’s in Newburgh, one night at my sister’s in Middletown and one night at my aunt and uncle’s in Goshen. My aunt and uncle were kind enough to watch the girls for us while we attended a wedding, and we were forever grateful!

I’ll post separately about the wedding — because the beauty of it deserves a post all its own — but for now, here’s a bit of what we got up to in New York …

No visit to New York is complete without a stop in Equilibrium, Chris’s favorite brewery.
Our stay with Grandpa Robert was delightfully chill, filled with barbecues and walks with Ranger.
It was love at first sight for Emilia … not so much for Ranger!
Me and my girl <3
Grace and Ranger, on the other hand, had a love affair going on!
Our last morning before leaving Grandpa’s.
The girls had THE BEST time at my Aunt and Uncle’s!
It was so sweet seeing them together, especially with Em, who they were meeting for the first time!
Seeing Em with my sister for the first time on this trip was pretty special, too <3
Cousin love.
These photos were actually taken on the night Chris and I went to the wedding and my aunt and uncle watched the girls. I mean … look at that face!
My aunt and uncle planned such a fun night for the girls — including cooking and campouts! — and we were so grateful.
Taking fabulous care of our kids AND making homemade scones for us the next day? I mean … why did we ever leave?!

We always have the best time when we head back to New York, but it’s usually really hard to fit in seeing everyone who we want to see. Even though this was a quick trip, we got lucky and were able to cram a whole heck of a lot of visiting in. I am so grateful for all the memories we made with so many people we love. This was one amazing trip that we won’t soon forget.

The Details

Most of this portion of our trip included stays with family, but we did visit a few noteworthy places:

I’ll be back tomorrow with one of the most beautiful weddings we’ve been to. Until then … bis bald, friends!

Brigantine Beach and a Big Reunion

A kind stranger offered to take this photo of our whole family after she saw me snapping away, and it’s one of the cutest photos from our trip!

Do you know that amazing feeling you get after you’ve accomplished something that you’ve been planning for a long, long time? And on top of accomplishing it, it actually went well?!

Well that was me and Chris the Friday we arrived in Brigantine!

The beach was about two blocks from our Airbnb in Brigantine, which was amazing since we were eager and tired after our travels!

After our monster road trip across the U.S., we were ready to relax on the beach, eat some good seafood and, more importantly, reunite with some family members that we hadn’t seen since early 2020. It was an emotional trip, to be sure, but I was prepared, and seeing my sister, brother-in-law and niece in person for the first time in 1.5 years was everything I thought it would be and more.

SISTER! YOU’RE ACTUALLY HERE!
Sweetest beach kiddos!
This collapsable Radio Flyer has been amazing ever since we bought, even on the beach. Would highly recommend!
Em was clearly very excited to meet her Aunt Stephie for the first time 😉
Our cute crew. Yes, it took forever for us to all get out the door, but it was very worth it when we finally did.
Steph’s house was close to a beach that had more relaxed waves, and a glorious view of Atlantic City right across the water.
Two men and three ladies.
Grandpa came to visit one day, too!
So naturally we dressed all four girls in matching outfits for a photo opp <3
Cutest cousins!
We had a big ole’ seafood night for dinner the day grandpa came to visit, and it was everything I had dreamed of and more. (Em was thrilled by it, as well !)
Delight!
Rosalie’s love for Em was too much for my heart to handle.
Of course it went by way too quickly, but we managed to make the BEST memories.
Beachcombers … in theory.
Rosalie was just turning one the last time I saw her, and now she is a tiny human, running and talking. Seeing her this way, after so long, was just the best.
We sure do love Aunt Stephie <3
Ladies in yellow.
Don’t ask how long it took to get this picture!
The bunk beds are our Airbnb were a big hit!
These two snuck away one night for some gambling in Atlantic City which, we didn’t realize, was only a few minutes away from Brigantine. They really played up the part, wouldn’t ya say?
Ro and Grace have a dueling Boss Baby thing going on, but at the end of the day, they sure do love each other.
Family <3

Besides the awesomeness of seeing family, this was also our first family trip to the beach since we were in Australia, and Em’s first trip to the beach in general. The two older girls loved it so much, I have a feeling we might need to make regular beach trips a thing in our future, as well.

Always leading the way on adventures.
But really, what’s not to love about the beach?
This one slept most of the time, but when she was awake, she loved to take it all in.
Many-a-shell made it back home with us.
In his element.
Our traditional in-the-air photo with Lotte, the beach version.
Sand castles for the win.
Everything about this one is 100%.
Em wasn’t quite sure how she felt about the actual water, but she was happy to partake from the shore.
My sister and I even managed to get away for a solo lunch, just the two of us. This was my first of many lobster rolls, and it was everything I want in life.
Food just tastes better at the beach, am I right?
Especially ice cream!
And watermelon!
Sweetest little ray of light.

The Details

This was the Airbnb where we stayed which, like I mentioned, was about two blocks from the beach. It had two rooms, and the girls loved staying in bunk beds together. There wasn’t a pack and play, so we did have to bring our own. That was fine, since we were planning on doing that anyway, but it’s something to keep in mind if you are traveling with your own little ones.

Some food spots I would recommend include:

Brigantine Bagels: A MUST for bagels and coffee, if you want my opinion

Laguna Grill & Rum Bar: Steph and I ate here for lunch when we escaped, and it was just the delightful beach scene we were looking for. There were places to eat both inside and outside, live music and lots of delicious seafood to pick from.

Crab Shack Seafood: We picked up the seafood for our seafood night from here — lobster rolls, crab legs, muscles, clams, corn and Caesar salad — and it was all so good!

Aunt B’s: Stop here for ice cream at some point in your trip … it’s delish!

The last time I was in Brigantine I was in high school, and while it was a great trip then, this visit really topped the charts. We stayed until Tuesday, so for three full days, and it was the perfect way to start our whirlwind trip. It was so nice to have some time with just Steph and her family, and to start off with a relaxing (is anything relaxing with kids?) first leg.

And that was our beach trip, friends! Until next time … bis bald!

The Long Road Ahead …

Happiness is Grace at a splash pad!

Welcome to Friday, friends! This week felt … long! As I mentioned in this post about returning to normal, the more things we tack on to our calendar, the more time just flies by. Seriously. End of June, where did you come from? Summer? What happened to Spring?! But I digress.

Drinks and dinner at a new-to-me restaurant — American Elm, in Denver — with a friend earlier this week felt surprisingly normal and refreshingly wonderful.

The biggest thing we have coming up — other than Father’s Day this weekend … happy early Dad’s Day to all your wonder fathers and father-figures out there! — is our road trip out east, which commences next Thursday. I will be using this weekend to do all. the. things. That includes making approximately 1,000 lists and ticking each and every thing off methodically as I go along. Any other list-makers out there? It’s the only way I can seem to get everything done these days! (This Smarter Travel packing list is a good place to start …) I’ll head back over here soon to list out our actual plan for the trip — kid-friendly (hopefully!) stops we’ll be making on the way out and back, what we actually packed, etc. — but for now I wanted to hop on and say happy Friday/happy weekend/happy Father’s Day/happy Summer/and happy Juneteenth! However and whatever you’re celebrating this weekend, I hope you make it a great one.

Last weekend we tried out Westminster Center Park — also referred to as Peter Pan Park — for its playground area and splashpad. Even though the splashpad was smaller than we were expecting, the girls had THE BEST time, and the playground — modeled after the movie Peter Pan — was so adorable!
Em enjoyed it, too!
That itty, bitty face … gets me every time <3
It’s been 90+ degrees here all week, which has meant lots of backyard, blow-up pool time for us!
Chris planted two rose bushes the other weekend — one for my Grandma and one for my mom — and they are starting to bloom.
Somewhere along the way, this little one turned six months old.
It was Dads and Donuts morning at Lotte & G’s summer camp this morning … no better way to celebrate, if you ask me!

Bis bald, friends!

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.