Christmas Down Under

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So much amazing Aussie family goodness in that photo above, am I right?

Our Aussie Christmas Eve and Christmas were filled with good company, good food, and for the first time ever, no rain on my Aussie Christmas day! Seriously, though, this was my third time in Australia for Christmas, and it was the first time it didn’t rain 😉

Rain or no rain, we would have had a great couple of days celebrating Christmas with our family, anyway, We splashed around in the pool (well, Lotte & Chris did, while G and I spectated), cracked open some Christmas Bon Bons, and ate some delicious food.

Christmas was also the first day that Lotte & G got to meet all five of their cousins, which was only the most fun ever. Sophie was born three months before Lotte, and Jasmine was born only one hour after Grace! It sure was great finally getting all seven of these little ones together.

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^^ Grace’s face in this picture cracks me up!

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^^ Christmas morning with Auntie Sarah — is there anything better?

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^^ I may or may not have purchased these Christmas outfits about four months in advance for way too much money. Totally worth it.

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^^ Grace & Jasmine = all the cuteness you can possibly handle

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^^ Lotte was a straight-up celebrity on this trip, and you just know she ate up every second of it!

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An Epic Holiday Trip to Australia

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Man, oh man — do those look like happy faces, or what?!

I can hardly believe I’m about to write these words, but our epic holiday trip to Australia is over.

Sad face times one million, for real.

But, if the above picture (and all the 5,000 that are about to follow) are any indication, you better believe that an amazing, fantastic, wonderful, memorable time was had by all.

I’ll break our trip down into a couple different posts to cover some of the best parts, but I wanted to start off with a little intro post to cover some of the major points that I learned about traveling with two littles all the way across the world:

  1. Prep is great (and important!), but at the end of the day, you can never really know how your travel will go down. For example, I spent a small fortune on snacks and gadgets and toys for the kids, and while yes, we did use some of them, we didn’t end up using probably half of what we brought (clothing included). Still, I say it’s better to be prepared than to be without, and while the girls both ended up being pretty awesome on the incredibly long and taxing flights, I do think that having everything we had helped me relax a bit, since I knew we did all we could to make them comfortable. (P.S. When it comes to products, this Fly Tot inflatable cushion was pretty clutch when it came to Lotte’s comfort, since she is too big for a bassinet and too small to be comfortable just pushing her seat down to sleep. We were able to inflate it and put it between her seat and the back of the seat in front of her so she could put her feet up on it. It also worked well as a spot to hold extra toys.  The LapBaby was also good for G, since we could strap her to our waist and she and we could both have our hands free. Other suggestions I found useful (even if not necessarily for us) were to bring along sugar-free jelly beans for little ones’ ears for take off and landing, as well as Pedialyte powder packs — which, turns out, Lotte doesn’t like much — to keep them drinking and hydrated.) One other thing we found useful with prep was to really hype the airplane aspect up ahead of time. We made sure that Lotte knew we would be getting on an airplane and flying really long and far to see Nan and Poppa, and that we would be eating and sleeping and playing and watching tv … all on an airplane! And I think that helped, because for both flights Lotte kept saying things like, “I’m eating dinner on an airplane!” “I’m taking a nap on an airplane!” I mean, how often in parenting do we get to call something a flat-out win? Like, never, right? So I’ll take this one!
  2. Packing cubes rule the most. Especially if you’ll be traveling with a family, get some multi-colored packing cubes to throw everyone’s stuff in — they will change your life! You can keep everyone’s stuff organized by color cube, and you’ll be able to keep everything organized both in and out of the suitcase, as well.
  3. Do some healthcare research ahead of time. Lotte actually did get sick on this trip — a chest infection that included a fever, which was her first — but we were lucky enough to be with family who knew where to go and we were in a country where we spoke the same language. If we had been in a foreign area or a place where we didn’t speak the language, the situation would have been much more difficult. A quick trip to urgent care (or Australia’s version of urgent care, anyway) and a prescription of antibiotics later, and Lotte was back to her bouncy self in about a day. I’m grateful we were able to get her feeling better so quickly. My advice would be to check out where the closest hospitals and urgent care (or equivalent services) will be where you are traveling, and to be sure you can get across the important information in the language you’ll need to know to make things right. Find out the best way to cover emergencies overseas, as well, since your American healthcare plan likely won’t help you much, there.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. No … seriously. At the end of the day, even the frustrating or silly or insane things that happen to you while traveling (within reason, of course) will be the funny stories you tell when you’re back home, or even more likely, they’ll be the things you completely forget. I know for a fact there were stressful times on this trip — how could there not be with a 2.5 and 1-year-old — but right now, I couldn’t really tell you what they were. Keep that in mind when you’re actually going through it, and remember to breath.
  5. No, there is no such thing as too many pictures. Sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time documenting our travels through photos rather than sitting with them in the moment. I’ve come to the conclusion that no, there is no such thing as taking too many pictures.

What’s that you say — you’d like some proof? Oh, okay, twist my arm why don’t you?! Here are some shots from our first two days. Yes, these are just from our first two days. Many, many more photos and memories to come, my friends 😉

‘Til tomorrow … bis bald! And happy 2019!
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^^ Pure bliss with Auntie Kate, who will be here in five days and is staying with us for two months! However did we get so lucky?!

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^^ Did I deflate this ‘Welcome to Australia’ balloon and bring it back with us so that I could frame it for the girls as a keepsake of their first trip to Australia? Maybe, maybe not. You’ll never know. (Except that yeah, I definitely did.)

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^^ That Auntie Sarah is some kind of special — she always, always got the smiles out of our girls ❤

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^^ Introducing the girls to Chris’ grandma was most definitely a major highlight of this trip ❤

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^^ There were lots of other family members eager and excited to meet our littles, as well.

img_3496 (1)img_3494^^ On the second day, we threw Lotte in the car and headed off to a place referred to as ‘the tip,’ which is essentially a big ole’ garbage heap where the kangaroos hang out. Gross? Maybe. Amazingly fun and exciting, especially when you watch your 2.5-year-old see her first live kangaroos? Most definitely.

More on our adventures tomorrow, friends!

2018: A Year in Review

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Well friends, somehow — and I’m really not sure how — this photo was taken on New Years Eve ONE YEAR AGO. 2018 is coming to a close, and since we leave for Australia the day after tomorrow, I figured I should put together my Year In Review post before we head out, and then just add Epic Australia, as I will from now on be calling it, once we’re back.

So without further adieu, here is a bit of what we got up to in the year that started with us expanding our little family ….

January
January started out with us getting used to being a family of four, which was made easier by the fact that Chris’ parents were still here helping out, and then my Dad & stepmom, sister and brother-in-law, and a whole slew of friends, all came out to help, as well.

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February
I continued on with my maternity leave in February and celebrated Grace’s first Valentine’s Day with a visit from my bestie.

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March
We finished up our maternity leave visitors in March with a visit from my stepdad, and we checked out the aquarium for the first time.

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Downtown Denver Aquarium

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Arvada, March 2018

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April
April was a big month for us. It was my birthday and the end of my maternity leave, our first big road trip as a family of four (we visited Telluride for the first time!), and Grace’s first plane ride where we went back to New York.

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Telluride, CO

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Telluride, CO
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Telluride, CO

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June & July
June and July continued to be months full of visitors, and we had a blast! First was Auntie Kate, who came to stay with us for about three weeks, followed by Chris’ aunt and uncle and their three kids, and then my stepdad again at the end of the month to help us ring in Lotte’s 2nd birthday with a trip to the Denver Zoo and a Pancake Brunch Birthday Party!

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August
In August we were back out to New York to celebrate my sister’s 30th birthday, and along the way we checked out the Statue of Liberty views from Liberty State Park, spent lots of time with family, walked my Mom’s Memorial Trail in Chadwick Lake Park and spent a couple days at a friend’s summer cabin the woods.

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Liberty State Park, New Jersey

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Liberty State Park, New Jersey

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Weeds Orchard, New York

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Chadwick Lake Park, New York

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October
In October we used up the last day of our annual National Park pass with a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, we went pumpkin picking at our favorite place amongst the mountains, and we celebrated Chris’ birthday with a trip to Alamosa, Colorado and the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

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Estes Park, CO

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Estes Park, CO

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Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

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Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

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Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

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December
And that brings us to December, friends! While our biggest family adventure to date is set to take place this Thursday when we fly to Australia, we’ve been celebrating the holiday season so far with visits from my stepdad and then my dad and stepmom, holiday light viewings at the Denver Zoo and the Botanic Gardens and Chatfield Farms, attending holiday parties, seeing Santa and checking out his village at the Thornton Winterfest. Oh and you know, no big deal, but we also celebrated G’s first birthday … because my baby is officially one.

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And that, as they say, is that, my friends. I’ll see you back here on the flip side of 2018 and the flip side of Australia, but for now, have the very best holiday season filled with all the love and joy.

December Update: We’re back from Australia, and it was every bit as epic as we imagined it would be! I blogged about it here, here, here, here and here.

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Mudgee, Australia
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Mount Panorama, Bathurst, Australia

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Koala Park Sanctuary, Sydney, Australia

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Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia

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Manly Beach, Australia

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Coogee Beach, Australia
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Coogee Beach, Australia

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Bis bald, friends! And cheers to an amazing 2019!

Celebrating a First Birthday & Seeing All the Christmas Lights

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Somehow, and don’t ask me how, our daughter is one.

This little light has been with us for a full year now, and there is no way that I can even imagine or remember what life was like without her. She is tenacious and spunky and funny and silly and smart and rambunctious and curious … and just totally amazing.

G’s birthday on Sunday rounded out a week of celebrations, starting with Santa’s Village at Chatfield Farms on Thursday, my dad and stepmom coming into town Friday and hitting up the Denver Zoo Lights, then celebrating G’s birthday on Saturday with my dad and Judy before the left early on Sunday, as well as alllllll day Sunday with presents and cake and general merriment.

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^^ I was fully unsure of how meeting Santa would go down for G, since she is not a fan at all of Santa when she seems him on Lotte’s cartoon, but we ended up getting this sort of fascinated reaction, which was beyond adorable. Lotte, on the other hand, was giddy with excitement while we waited in line, then got very shy when it came time to actually chat with him. Both reactions were priceless.

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^^ We had never been to the Chatfield Farms branch fo the Botanic Gardens, but the 40 minute drive was totally worth it, because the whole event was spectacular. From lights and Santa to reindeer and hot chocolate and cookies and carolers – it was a great way to celebrate the holiday season!

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My dad and Judy arrived early Friday and the girls was so excited to spend some time with them. We planned to hit up the Denver Zoo Lights Friday night, and I was a little worried because it can get crazy packed and be very cold, but here’s a little secret I’ll let you in on that we have discovered about events like this — pick the earliest time slot available, especially on a weeknight, if possible, and go then. We went at 5:30, which was the first time available, and we got an amazing parking spot and it wasn’t crowded at all. Plus, the weather was fairly mild, so it all worked out well!

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Chris was very busy Saturday cooking all day for his Baby G. We had a pancake party in the morning, a quiche for lunch, and for dinner he made spaghetti and meatballs (G’s first time trying them both), as well as an adorable giraffe cake for dessert.

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^^ I mean … how cute is this cake?!

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^^ Walks by the lake are pretty much mandatory when people come to visit us, as well 😉

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^^ These naked babes sure did love their spaghetti and meatball dinner … and especially the cake!

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^^ Setting up G’s presents (and also Lotte & G’s Christmas presents, to be fair) for her to come down to in the morning was so much fun. We did this for Lotte for her first birthday as well, and it’s absolutely become one of my favorite traditions.

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^^ The girls work up late Sunday and so my dad and Judy didn’t get to see them open their presents. They held a photo of the girls over the presents to prove they were at least here in spirit.

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^^ You sure are loved, Baby G.

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^^ I hope this spunky little lady of ours never loses her amazing energy and zest for life. You’re one of a kind, G, and we wouldn’t have it any other way ❤

So Thursday it’s off to Australia! I’m hoping to get a post together before we head out about all the stuff we’re bringing with us that we hope will help with the littles on the plane. If I don’t get to it before we leave, though, I’ll definitely put one up after, including whether or not the things we hoped would work actually did work. Please keep your fingers crossed for us!

Bis bald, friends!

When Grandpa Comes to Visit

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Well friends, amidst all the craziness of finishing up work for the year, prepping for our trip to Australia next week, and our BABY DAUGHTER TURNING ONE ON SUNDAY …. my stepdad made a quick trip out to see us over the weekend, and it was so much fun.

The girls always have the best time with him, and he really does adore them, so it’s very cute to see. We hit up the Denver Botanic Gardens Blossoms of Light Festival — Lotte has been every year since she’s been born — as well as the Thornton WinterFest — which was new to us but is sure to become a tradition because of how fun it was — attended a neighbor’s holiday party, opened presents, walked to the lake, watched some football, ate some delicious food … and just basically had an all around awesome time.

We hope you guys are really getting into the holiday swing of things, as well!

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^^ This standing lady is ONE on Sunday, and I just cannot believe it!

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I have a big ole’ Aussie prep post coming later this week, because I have spent — ahem — a lot on stuff for the plane so far in order to try and keep our two little ladies happy. We’ll mostly just have to cross our fingers and see how it goes, though, right?

Bis bald, friends! And happy holiday season!

Great Sand Dunes National Park For an Epic Birthday Celebration

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Happy Tuesday, friends! Chris & the girls & I got back yesterday from a weekend away in Alamosa, where we stayed at the adorable 40 Winks Inn and visited Great Sand Dunes National Park. We only found out about the Great Sand Dunes over the summer when a cousin of mine was visiting Denver with her family and they went to see them. Chris really wanted to plan a visit for his birthday, and I’m so glad we did. They are the tallest dunes in North America and are surrounded by grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. It’s honestly, truly magnificent. And although Lotte originally referred to them as a “big pile of dirt,” I think she honestly had the most amazing time sandboarding with Chris and just playing in the sand in general. We had the most glorious weather, packed a picnic, and even did a little off-roading afterwards.

Colorado, you are one beautiful state, and you never cease to amaze us.

So, are you ready for lots of photos of sand? Well good, then you won’t be disappointed!

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^^ These ladies were the most amazing travel buddies on the four-hour ride. We were a little nervous about Lotte and the whole potty situation, but she only had one accident, and honestly it was our fault because we should have been paying closer attention. Overall, we were so impressed with these little travel warriors.

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^^ We stopped in Bueno Vista and had sandwiches at Biggies Sub Shop, which turned out to be way delicious and the perfect little half-way pit stop.

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^^ Colorado road trip roadside views = pretty epic.

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^^ Someone was less excited about the views 😉

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^^ How cute was our Airbnb, 40 Winks? And how cute is little Lotte, making herself right at home on her potty! There were two bedrooms in the space, but there was also a Queen bed in the living room around the corner, so it was perfect because Chris and I just slept there and gave each of the girls their own room. It was a great little spot, and only two blocks from Main Street which, while very small, had some nice restaurants and breweries.

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^^ Our Airbnb was made for Insty 😉

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^^ Our first stop after rolling in on Saturday was Square Peg Brewerks on Main Street, where Lotte made the cutest little friend, fell in love with a dog and had the best time playing cornhole.

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I didn’t take any photos there, but we also visited San Luis Valley Brewing afterwards for drinks and dinner, which was super tasty.

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^^ Sunday was the big day. After renting a sandboard and a sandsled from Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa, we headed to the Dunes, which was about a half hour from Alamosa. Our first stop was the visitor center, which small enough to not feel totally intimidating but had all the info you could possibly want about how the Dunes form (the Medano Creek brings the sand down, and the wind blows it back up … in a nutshell).

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^^ This studmuffin carried the sandboard, sandsled and our 2-year-old in her hiking backpack up the mountain of sand. I had G strapped to me and I was huffing and puffing. We only went to the closest dune before plunking down and having Chris take Lotte on some sled rides, but still, it was enough for me to know that anything further would have been really, really hard to do. One note about the sandboarding – Chris didn’t love it. I guess he was hoping it would be somewhat similar to snowboarding … but it’s not. Oh well, lesson learned, and at least he tried.

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^^ Epic and amazing.

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^^ G slept during most of our Dunes adventure, but she did wake up in just enough time for some adorable pictures.

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^^ We weren’t exactly sure how Lotte would take to sand sledding (she doesn’t necessarily love getting dirty) … but she loved it! Every time they got to the bottom she’d squeal, “More, again!” And even though she had dirt flying into her face, eyes and mouth the entire ride, she always enjoyed it. I was actually quite proud of my gal.

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^^ Sand babies ❤

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^^ The dirt on Lotte’s face in this pic gets me every time!

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^^ It didn’t hurt that it was the height of fall for our trip, meaning the trees had all turned glorious shades of yellow.

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After a full day at the Sand Dunes, we headed back to our place and chilled for the rest of the night, made dinner and let the girls rest. It was really the perfect first day at the Dunes, and I hope we get back some time soon.

Monday was Chris’s actual birthday, but we had to pack up and head back to Arvada … but not before stopping in Buena Vista again, but this time at Eddyline Restaurant on South Maine, which turned out to be so adorable and picturesque.

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^^ These two ❤

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^^ More roadside Colorado craziness. Chris actually took this picture from the car while I was driving, which I’d say is pretty impressive.

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^^ Heading into Eddyline … how cute is this little neighborhood?!

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^^ Not a bad lunch view.

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^^ This one, too ❤

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And that was our trip, friends! For a place that we never knew existed before a few months ago, it was pretty amazing how beautiful it was and how much fun we had. Plus, you just know we love ticking National Parks off our bucket list! This was Lotte’s fourth National Park (Yosemite, Sequoia and Rocky Mountain being the other three), and G’s second, so we hope to keep up the tradition with them and tick some more off the ole’ list soon.

And also, how are we almost in November already?! In other travel news, we booked our trip to Australia for Christmas last weekend, and we even have a couple hours of a layover in Vancouver on our way out, which Chris is very excited about. I’m a little nervous about the flight, I can’t lie, but here’s hoping everything goes smoothly … or as smoothly as it possible can with a 2.5 and 1-year-old … right?!

Bis bald, friends!

Pumpkin Picking Is Better In the Mountains

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I mean, it’s pretty hard to argue with that amazing view, right? Yesterday the girls and I said farewell to Chris as he headed off to Chicago to run the marathon on Sunday. He’s already run the Chicago Marathon before, but this will be his first marathon where I won’t be in attendance. Wah wahhh. In all honesty, I tried to find a flight that would get me (and probably G) in for the day to surprise him and to watch, but nothing got me there early enough because, if you didn’t already know, my man is fast 😉 Anyway, I’m sure he’ll have a nice weekend away with running buddies while the girls and I bond and hold down the fort back at home.

Before Chris left, though, we hit up our favorite pumpkin picking spot, Rock Creek Farm. It was Grace’s first pumpkin picking experience, but this was Lotte’s third visit, the first of which took place when her Nannan and Papa were here from Australia and she was not yet three months old. We really do love this little family tradition we’ve created.  Here are some photos from our pumpkin adventures …
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^^ You can’t win ’em all, right?! Seriously though, this photo cracks me up! Particularly G, who is looking like she’s very much over the tantrum her sister is throwing.

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^^ Ugh with these two cuties … it’s too much!

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^^ And of course, the aftermath back at home 😉 Plus some additional little pumpkins and gourds we let Lotte pick up that we placed inside. Oh fall, I love you so.

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Bis bald, friends! Hope everyone has fun weekend plans!