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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!
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.
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…
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.
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!
Here’s a quick look at all the places we stayed, visited and ate at during this leg of our trip:
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oh hi there, friends … remember me?! If you don’t, I am not offended. My last post on this website was September 1, 2020, but even then, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to report. Sure, the past year has been pretty busy — we had a baby, Chris started a new job and became a U.S. citizen (he has dual Australia/U.S. citizenship now … wahoo!), we both tried to hold on to some semblance of our careers while watching two children from home full-time. However, because of the pandemic, there was also a heck of a lot of nothing that happened. My trip back to New York with Lotte in February of 2020 was my last flight, and Chris’s trip back to Australia in February was his. Those were the last times that we saw our family, as well. If only we could have known what was coming … am I right?
Anyway, it’s been a rough 12+ months for everyone, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, my friends. Although Chris and I haven’t been able to get vaccinated yet, just knowing it’s right around the corner — and seeing the numbers drop from the people who have been vaccinated already — is such a joy. So, with all of that in mind, Chris and I decided to pack up the car with our brand new family of five, and to head out on a vacation that was as safe as it could possibly be. Rather than taking a super-long car ride, we opted to head into the mountains, to one of the spots that we’ve loved in the past: Granby Ranch. We stayed at a little Airbnb in the Blue Sky Trail area, which was the perfect location for skiing (the older two girls got their first lessons!), as well as quickly getting to a beautiful hike in Rocky Mountain National Park and checking out the most adorable Grand Lake area, which had the cutest little town and, as you might have guessed, a very grand lake 😉 The lake was frozen, so we were able to walk out on it, which I think the girls found to be pretty fun.
Before I get into the fun parts of the trip, and the amazing pictures (because, Colorado), let me just say … Chris and I were pretty surprised at the level of difficulty this trip reached. We’ve traveled with a 3-year-old before, but every 3-year-old is different and, if I can just say, our current 3-year-old can be quite sassy, to put it delicately. When we were out and about exploring, everything was pretty great for the most part, but when we were back in the cabin, things tended to get a bit hairy. To be fair, thanks to the pandemic, Grace probably doesn’t even remember the trips that she has been on in the past, so she’s not used to being on an extended adventure. I was looking back at pictures of her last trip, and wow she was so little! Chris and I kept reminding ourselves that this, right now, with a 4.5 and 3-year-old and a six-month-old, will likely be the hardest it’ll be for us in terms of traveling. At the end of the day, the minute you get home, the stressful moments tend to either fade away or become funny memories, so it’s almost always worth it, or at least it has been so far, in our experience.
What about you guys? Any other readers out there traveling with littles? Care to share any tips and tricks to make it magically easier?!
While I wait for that advice to roll in, here’s a look at our trip in pictures ….
And that, my friends, was our little trip in a nutshell. We packed a lot in, while still trying to be as socially distanced and as safe as we could. I’m glad that we were able to get away, for however short of an amount of time. We were all so happy to be back home, even though we’ve spent pretty much every day here for the past year, which was a nice feeling. Now, with some more trips planned for the summer, it’s starting to feel like things are getting back to normal, and we are HERE. FOR. THAT. Hope you guys are all finding some moments of happiness amidst this craziness and, until next time … BIS BALD!
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.
^^Pretending to be ballerinas and dancing to scenes from the Nutcracker have become a pandemic activity favorite.
^^ 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!
^^ Also thankful for all of the wide open spaces that Colorado provides.
^^ Not gonna lie — we haven’t minded having Chris around more to cook, either …
^^ 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.
^^ We’ve met up twice with friends and their kids, which was glorious for the kids, and only somewhat nerve-racking for the adults.
^^ Lotte has really missed flying, so I took the girls out to the airport one morning, parked in a nearby parking lot, and we watched the planes take off. It was gloriously delightful.
^^ So far we’ve had my birthday, both Mother’s and Father’s Day, and Lotte’s birthday during quarantine. Chris is next in October, then G in December. I’m most proud about the fact that Lotte had a great birthday, complete with a masked-up trip to The Wild Animal Sanctuary.
^^ Lotte started her virtual preschool classes today, which is this final picture. I’m so incredibly sad that she won’t be in-class making actual, face-to-face friends, but I’m so incredibly grateful for a school that even offers virtual preschool, a teacher who is trying her darnedest to make it fun, and for the fact that she’ll be able to connect with other littles her age, albeit virtually, at least until the new year.
Happy Monday, friends! It’s been a little nuts around here lately, so when our realtor recommended that we go away for the weekend while she had our open houses to sell our home (yes … we’re selling our first-ever family home … and that’s all I have to say about that for now), I really balked at the idea. We’ve been so busy, and the girls have been sick, and all I really wanted to do was lay in my own bed all weekend (obviously not an option anyway) with a cup of hot chocolate and a book.
But we decided to go away, since leaving the house on the spur of the moment for hours a time for showings didn’t sound like much fun either … and at the end of the day, I’m glad we did. It was nice to get a little breather away from the house (which has been the center of a lot of our stress, to be honest) and to spend some time in the mountains in fall. We ended up booking this place in Colorado Springs, which was actually part of a larger home in a gorgeous neighborhood, but we had our own entrance and it was completely cut off from the rest of the house, so it ended up being really nice.
Happy October, friends! Oh my goodness — sometimes life just requires that you take a break from blogging … am I right? This is, without a doubt, one of the busiest seasons so far in my life. We’ve got the two babes and work and some big changes coming in the next few weeks … but despite all the madness, we always, always, always have room for a little fun. Enter … Nan & Poppa. These amazing, wonderful, generous in-laws of mine decided that they missed their grandkids, they found a decent flight, and they hopped on it and flew around the world to see them.
Sometimes, my friends, it’s as simple as that.
So for the past week and 1/2, we’ve been livin’ the high life with Aussie Nan & Poppa (and putting them to work, for sure, because of those forthcoming changes I mentioned earlier). Between the work, though, we went to three pumpkin festivals. We visited the Denver Zoo and the Butterfly Pavilion (both firsts for them), took G to a dance party at the library, dropped off and picked up Lotte from preschool, crafted, read books, watched favorite shows … and just oh-so-much more. There was also lots of snuggling since, of course, Lotte got strep throat for the last few days of their visit. Le sigh. Kids man. School man. Winter man. I’m not ready for it!
Here’s the thing about grandparents, though: The best ones can make the world a brighter, better place. Nan & Poppa do that for our kids, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
Happy Tuesday, friends! I hope you all had a happy (and hopefully relaxing) holiday weekend. Chris & I took our lot to the mountains for a little getaway in Frisco, Colorado. We had only been there once before when we stopped for breakfast on our way back from Beaver Creek two summers ago, and I made a mental note back then that we would have to come back and stay for longer. Plus, spending one of the final summer weekends in the mountains seemed like a good way to top off a summer of adventures.
There is a lot to love about living in Colorado, but to be honest, it took me a while to realize that. When we first moved here from New York City, I couldn’t help but compare Denver to Manhattan, and it just wasn’t the same. In our first few months in Colorado I missed the hustle and bustle of the city. I missed living three blocks from Central Park and walking down 3rd Ave. to my magazine job every morning. I missed the museums and the culture, the electricity and the craziness. And although I grew to like Denver as time went on, it wasn’t really until we moved to Arvada — and especially when we had Lotte, and then Grace — that my love of this place really flourished.
My husband and his friend from New York have started a tradition of hiking 14ers, or mountains that exceed 14,000 feet in elevation, and this past weekend they took on the task of hiking Quandry Peak. Colorado has a lot of 14ers, and there are usually multiple ways you can get to the top, including hiking, mountain biking and, sometimes, even driving. (We did this for my birthday back in April when we visited Pikes Peak.) Needless to say, hiking a 14er isn’t on my Colorado Bucket List, so I’m glad that Chris has found a companion in Gavin to tackle these adventures.
I asked Chris to do a little write-up about the trip. Here’s what he had to say:
Happy Monday, friends! This past weekend I was hosted by The Source Hotel + Market Hall, where I got to stay in a King suite (and soak in the glorious tub), shop at Market Hall, eat at their different restaurants and attend Bacchanal, a New Orleans-style wine, food and music festival that was held in the parking lot of The Source. Besides the fact that having a full weekend in a hotel all by myself was glorious (love you Chris & kids!), it was also a great opportunity to see all the ways that this particular Denver neighborhood — called RiNo — is really developing.
Happy Monday, friends — I hope you all had fabulous weekends! The fam and I made a new tradition on Saturday by hitting up the Lavender Festival at the Chatfield Farms branch of the Denver Botanic Gardens. We had been here once before (for their Christmas celebration last year), and we were super impressed then, but that event was a night so we didn’t get to fully partake in the glory that is Chatfield Farms.
Happy Thursday, friends! So my research for a fun new client continued today with a visit by myself and the girls to Lair o’ the Bear Park. We had actually tried to do this hike a couple months back, but by the time we got there, the parking lot was completely full and there were tons of cars waiting, and with two antsy little girls in the back seat, it didn’t make sense to wait it out.
I mean, is there anything better than a picnic by the lake after playing in a new park … like, at all?!
I’m doing some research for some stories I’m working on and it’s just been the most fun, because it’s been bringing me all around to new places the girls and I haven’t been. I do feel a little worried when Lotte wakes up in the morning and is like, “Where are we going today?!” I love that she’s excited, but also … like, it’s okay to hang at home sometimes, too 😉
Anyway, I guess we’ll leave the hanging at home for bad-weather and winter days. For now, there’s much to explore. Yesterday it just happened to be Washington Park (which somehow I had managed to never visit in my 4.5 years of living here). We tested out their playground and sandpit (amazing) and had lunch by the lake.
It was a glorious Monday, friends, and I wish they all could be like this.
As part of my continued effort to keep these kids of mine occupied and busy during this summer (and, in all honesty, to keep myself from going bonkers as well), we hit up the Denver Botanic Gardens — and more specifically the adorable and amazing Mordecai Children’s Garden — yesterday. There were plants galore — that they could actually touch and smell — and a sand box and a bubbling brook and multiple ecosystems. The girls had a blast getting as dirty and wet as possible, and I had a blast watching them. I had packed us a lunch as well, which we ate over in the “adult” side of the gardens, which I will from now on be referring to the main gardens as.
If you happen to be in the Denver area over the summer and you’re looking for some outdoor fun to be had with your kids, you really should check out the Mordecai Children’s Garden. Kids under three are free, too, which means I’ll be taking Lotte there again at least one more time in the next few weeks so we can get her in for free at least one final time.
I have a secret to share, friends … I’ve never really been a huge fan of summer.
There, I said it. Anyone who actually knows me is rolling their eyes right now and thinking, “Duh, who doesn’t know that?” but to others, this might come as a surprise. As a curly headed woman who didn’t grow up near water but did grow up in a home without air conditioning for the longest time, the only things I had to look forward to when the weather got warmer was frizzy hair (okay, I admit, that was a year-round problem) and just the most awful humidity. These days, though, I’m making a concerted effort to change my ways … for the girls.
I mean … G is barely even in this photo, but you get the gist — Colorado is amazing in the summer, and summer is right around the corner! I mean, it’s pretty amazing all of the time, but the summer is a great time to check out the mountains, lakes, hikes, breweries … and everything in between.
To help you out if you happen to be in the hood, here are a few of our fave hangouts when the weather gets warmer: