Royal Gorge and CaΓ±on City, Colorado With Kiddos

The secret to smiling faces? Skittle bribes, all dang day long.

Happy August, friends! The month started out on not such a great foot for us, so we weren’t in our normal headspace when heading out on this quick getaway. (Well okay, I wasn’t!) At the end of the day I’m so glad we did go. It’s always a good idea to take some time to get out of your own head, recognize what’s so special about your life, bond with your kids, show them new things and, as one friend put it, nature is always healing πŸ˜‰

The Details

Lodging (Price: $692 for 3 nights)

We stayed at this Airbnb in CaΓ±on City, which was a sweet little three-bedroom place with a large dining area and kitchen. It might have been a tad overpriced for the location (it was about 20 minutes from the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, which was our main point of interest for this trip), but we still had a blast. It was all one floor (no scary stairs for littles!), and the layout actually allowed us to put Emilia in her Pack and Play at the back of the house so Lotte and Grace could have separate rooms if they needed them (which one night they did).

The backyard was cute, too, with a grill and little table area under a covered patio, where we grilled out and had dinner on our final night.

Entertainment

The kids have a book called Good Night Colorado, and the Royal Gorge Bridge makes an appearance as one of the MUST SEE places in Colorado. When we were planning a final farewell to summer trip (the girls start school on August 16th!), we knew we didn’t want to go any farther than 2.5 hours (exactly how far Royal Gorge is from us), but that we wanted adventure on a low-key, kid-friendly level which, despite the RIDICULOUS photos, the Royal Gorge offers.

This is an amazing place for families … as long as no one is afraid of heights! Travel tip: Most of the attractions, the playground and the visitors center, etc., open at 10 a.m., but the bridge itself is open at 8 a.m., and tickets are cheaper then. (We paid $83 for the four of us over 2 years of age.)

There was also no one there early in the morning, which was delightful, and the weather was so lovely. By the time we ended up leaving around 10:30, it was getting pretty busy and incredibly hot. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been the amazing experience it was if we waited until 10 a.m. to get there.

As it was, we had the best time.

Grace and her insects πŸ˜‰ She was besides herself to find two HUGE butterflies on the way in!
Despite our children’s faces here, we all had fun <3
Makin’ herself right at home <3
Man, oh man.
This girl was spottin’ tiny green frogs in the grass and slithery lizards running in the opposite direction. She’s a gem at this age, and so easy to please!
Feeding the fish.
They have every kind of adventure activity you could imagine here β€” zip lining across the gorge, climbing the gorge, white water rafting in the gorge, riding a train through it, etc. We didn’t do any of those with the kiddos, but the Gondola is included in your entry ticket price, so we did take that, and it was thrilling!

We give Royal Gorge Bridge a big ole’ thumbs up! They have a campground, “glamping” cabins, a dinosaur museum … honestly, we could have spent a week here and not been done exploring. We definitely hope to get back!

Our Friday afternoon was spent hitting up Centennial Park, which had a fantastic splash pad and playground and access to the Arkansas River and was about a mile from our Airbnb. Then it was ice cream at You Scream Treat Emporium.

On Saturday we hit up Skyline Drive β€” a very narrow 2.6-mile drive with the most amazing views and … wait for it … DINOSAUR PRINTS! β€” and then did a short hike β€” the Royal Gorge Overlook Loop β€” to take in the Royal Gorge bridge from a distance.

Nothing to see here, just a mom trying REAL hard not to drive off a cliff!
More skittles bribery in action.
Dinosaur prints! (And yes, Lotte does have dinosaurs on her outfit and she is also holding a stuffed dinosaur, so you can imagine the happiness this activity brought!)
Chris ran up a steep, short trail to snap this pic. (Insert Wow emoji here.)
We accidentally ended up taking the road for drivers for our hike (the hiking trail runs right next to it), but it turned out for the best because there was no way our double stroller would have fit on the other trail.
This girl lives for a Dada snuggle <3
This gorgeous view. So humbling.
Back at the parking lot we had a quick picnic β€” with this ridonc view β€” before packing up and heading home.
My crew. They super cute.

We stopped for coffee at The Bean Pedaler in the cute little downtown area before heading home. All-in-all it was a very successful β€” and beautiful β€” trip, and I’m so glad we did it. It’s a good reminder that it’s often worth doing something to get yourself out of your head. And travel memories are, for the most part, never a bad idea.

And now it’s back-to-school mode over here! This is the girls’ final week before heading back, and I’m so grateful for our summer trips to Seattle and New York, plus this one. I’m grateful the girls had fun experiences with camps and playdates with friends and neighbors and lots of unstructured playtime at home.

We also celebrated a 6th birthday.

The birthday girl requested a trip to the Denver Aquarium on her special day.

It was one for the books. Hope you guys are having an awesome summer, as well <3

BIS BALD, FRIENDS!

The Goat, the Farmhouse, the Paint Mines & the Birthday

Welp, friends, No. 39 is in the books.

This past weekend was my birthday, and Chris really stepped up the celebrating. We’ve had a visit to the Paint Mines Interpretive Park in El Paso County on our bucket list for a few years now, so we used my birthday as an excuse to finally make it happen. After all the fun we had over the past two weeks with the Connors visiting, I wasn’t sure we had it in us to keep up the celebrating, but boy was I wrong πŸ˜‰

The Farmhouse Airbnb

We started the festivities on Friday by staying at this farmhouse Airbnb which included, much to the girls’ delight, a bunch of farm animals (Starling the Goat was a family fave), a hot tub, a pool table and a swing set. It was the perfect spot for cupcakes and revelery.

Starling the Goat was so happy to greet us.
The girls discovered a love of hot tubs when we stayed at the Airbnb in Winter Park, so it sure was lucky this place had one, too.
Happy birthday to me! Love these cute faces the most.

Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Saturday was my actual birthday, and we were up early to have breakfast, take the hot tub for a spin, pack up and get on the road for the Paint Mines, which was about a 30 minute drive from where we were staying.

We didn’t really know what to expect with this visit, but it turned out to be even better than we could have imagined. There are multiple loops to pick from, and even though I wouldn’t call the trails stroller “friendly,” per se, Chris was able to use our beloved Strolley (aka the off-road Radio Flyer) throughout, which was especially helpful since Grace isn’t necessarily into 2.5-mile walks these days πŸ˜‰ I carried Emilia in the Ergo, and we had tons of snacks and sunscreen and water at the ready. We got there around 10:30 in the morning and ended up leaving around 1, which seemed to be when the park was really starting to get busier. Admission is free, so I can imagine it would be quite the destination. My advice would be to get there early if you plan to go.

Here’s a bit of what we saw …

Always up for adventure, this crew of mine.
Just the most gorgeous, open-air, expansive views!
I was all too happy to snuggle up with this one for a couple of hours <3
Lotte’s poses are all some version of dances from her ballet class, which I thoroughly enjoy.
Grace wasn’t quite about the posing for most of the day, but Lotte was all too happy to oblige her mother on her birthday.
Despite her sassiness during our visit, Grace said that the Paint Mines was her favorite part of our trip. Oh, preschoolers β€” try to figure ’em out, I dare ya!
According to the website, “The Paint Mines are named for their colorful clays that were collected by American Indians to make paint. Brightly colored bands, caused by oxidized iron compounds, are found in varying amounts throughout the many different layers of clay.”
The next photos are part of a series I like to call: “Me and my Emilia” <3
Chris really took his role as picture-taker very seriously for this trip, and I’m not mad about it!

You guys, if you think this was too many photos … well I really did my best to edit down what I posted, which was HARD! If you’re in the area and have the time, a visit to the Paint Mines is well worth a stop. It’s free and beautiful and can take as long or as short and you’d like. It’s kid-friendly (enough!), and will provide with you the backdrop necessary for 12,000 awesome photos. Go, I say, and be prepared to leave in awe.

And that was my birthday weekend, my friends. I’m sad the past two weeks are coming to end, because they have just been so much fun. Luckily, we have a trip to Seattle coming up at the end of May that we’re very much looking forward to.

Until then … bis bald, friends!

A Wonderful Week in Winter Park With Our Aussie Family … and Then Some

Our Aussie family has finally been able to visit!

But HOW is it the last week of March, I ask you?!

I know β€” we all end up saying the same thing every year. The time flies, and suddenly your kids are so old you can’t believe it. It always amazes me.

Anyway, I digress. The REAL news to report this week is that WE FINALLY GOT TO SEE OUR AUSSIE NAN AND POPPA! After far too many years of Covid-induced distance, Chris’ parents were at last able to hop on a plane and fly back to see us. Lotte & Grace had not seen their grandparents since October of 2019, and Emilia had never met them. So to say that this was a monumental event for everyone is an understatement.

The Connor’s trip coincided with the girls’ spring break, which was lovely because we were able to spend a week in Winter Park together, as well as have them experience taking the girls to and picking them up from school.

They’ve attended ballet class.
We’ve visited the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
We had a nostalgia-filled dinner at one of our favorite restaurants from when we first moved to Arvada.
We’ve played dress-up and walked to Majestic View Park and played games and watched movies.

In other words, we’ve simply had the most amazing time and I refuse to believe that it will be ending soon. Our plan is to head out to Australia for Christmas this year to catch up with all of our Connor family, so we’re all very busy keeping our fingers and toes crossed that that can still happen.

In the meantime, we have no less than 20,000 photos to keep on loop from our time over the past two weeks.

All the happy faces <3
This little one has thoroughly fallen for her grandparents
Chris and his dad cooked a yummy traditional Australian bread for dinner one night
Nan & Poppa bought us ice creams in the park BEFORE dinner one night β€” doesn’t get better than that πŸ˜‰
Lotte had two ski lessons while her grandparents were here, one of which they attended and cheered her on throughout
Pizza tasting at Crosscut in Nederland before skiing in Eldora was a highlight, as well

Besides having Nan & Poppa here to just live our lives with us for the past two weeks, the trip out to Winter Park was so much much. We stayed at this Airbnb, which was the perfect location for viewing the best times to visit the hot tub and swimming pool (a favorite activity amongst our group), and it was a short walk to the sweetest little sledding hill with community sleds to share. The girls also had an absolute blast hanging out in the bunk beds together.

Our itinerary included a visit to Grand Lake, as well, which was one of our stops on our first-ever vacation as a family of five last year. Chris cooked delicious food, we played games, explored a new-to-us ski town, and generally had a delightful little getaway.

Grand Lake is so much fun in the winter!
Chris and I snuck away for lunch and margaritas at The Ditch, which was SO TASTY

You might imagine that two visitors from Australia would be exhausted after all of the above, but that’s just not how my in-laws roll. They are up for absolutely any and everything, and they are happy to do as many activities as possible when visiting their grandkids. So, we thought taking them to visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science would be a fun activity for the girls’ last day of spring break. This place is so fantastic for kids, since it’s created for them to be able to run around and touch whatever they’d like. We had the best day, followed by a lovely dinner at Jack’s, one of our favorite neighorhood joints.

Dinners out with three kids is SO MUCH BETTER with grandparents πŸ˜‰

And now we’re staring down the final few days of our visit with these lovely people which, to be honest, we’re all a bit in denial about. Seeing family is always the best thing in the world. Saying goodbye … not so much. To have something to look forward to β€” like our trip in December β€” does help soften the blow, I’ve found.

I hope you all are having a wonderful start to your spring season. Until next time … bis bald!



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 β€” sending kids to school, getting dinner on the table, meeting work deadlines (or trying to) β€” 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 β€” despite the issues we put up with β€” and I hope we never, ever forget that.

Bis bald, friends β€” 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 πŸ˜‰
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 β€” Granby Ranch β€” 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 πŸ˜‰
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