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For the Love of Camping

24 Jan

The art of camping is one family adventure that has definitely grown on me over the years.  I didn’t grow up in a camping family, but I always envied the fun that my childhood friends would have on camping trips.  I always knew that camping was something I wanted my kids to experience, but wasn’t quite sure where to start.  When my camping journey began (being that I was a novice camper), the reasonable way to begin this new adventure was to hook up with a rented RV and go from there.  Taking the first step was by far the hardest part and camping surely has been a learn as you go experience.  Mistakes were made (yes, even nasty dump tank mistakes), as well as many more successes. I experienced a few tears, all while creating some great memories.

Camping actually was the “perfect” vacation for my family when the kiddos were young.  It beat airplane rides, rental cars, and dining out.  At that early stage in my journey of parenting, the thought of dragging 4 small kids (and all their crap) through TSA and on layovers, all while ignoring sleep schedules and lugging car seats, diapers, and sippy cups was totally unbearable.  Camping made it possible to explore our surrounding states and sights, all while still getting away from the routine of being at home.  We camped often and saw so many amazing places.  But, as every parent knows you must change as your family grows and all good things do come to an end (kind of).

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As soon as my family grew out of naps and booster seats and those little bodies grew bigger, camping was not quite the same.  My true passion to start seeing the world was finally possible and quickly overruled any camping desire.  I put my rustic outdoorsy side on the back burner and abandoned most of our camping excursions.  Believe it or not, it was kind of sad (okay, not that sad).  There is something about being able to fill your kids full of junk food, get as dirty as they want, and run around like hooligans outside all weekend.  I love the feeling of setting up “camp”, the late night adult campfire discussions about politics, and playing cards.  So, in keeping up the tradition, my family now spends one weekend a summer filling my kids with the best food of Walmart and zero showering (for the boys at least).

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Each summer we spend a weekend with a growing group of fabulous families at Palisade Sate Park in Central Utah.  This place is just too perfect of a campground and way to much fun to quit visiting.  The location is great for friends and family coming from several different states and it is absolutely beautiful.  The lake is just big enough to explore, yet small enough to put a life vest on your older kids and let them take out a canoe.  Since this lake doesn’t allow power boats, it especially adds to it being a perfect lake for swimming.  There is tons of open space for that game of  kickball, an outdoor movie, or just to throw the frisbee around with your dog. The bathrooms are clean, with showers and flush toilets (a must for this high maintenance camper).  There is even a golf course and cafe to add to the list of why I love this place.  Did I mention the most amazing sunsets too?

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I could rave on and on about this amazing campground, but I think I’d better get on booking our campsite for this summer.  Happy adventures!

To Read more about my camping adventures, check out my post about Yellowstone.

Denver Getaway

8 Nov

Mini kid-free vacations are the perfect way for me to rejuvenate, relax, and reconnect with my hubby.  As a busy mother of 4, these little getaways are quite limited and cherished beyond belief!  Typically, when my husband and I get that rare hall pass from the kids, we escape to a local hotel or revisit somewhere from our past.  For some reason, I fail miserably to think out of the box, and always go for the same old thing…can I say Vegas?

As a last shindig before the end of summer, my hubby and I decided that a quick getaway was needed for our sanity.  We found a last minute “weekend babysitter” for our favorite monsters and we were all over going anywhere away from the craziness of our daily routine.  It was last minute and we weren’t set on anything specific.  While browsing the internet (of course looking for a deal on a Vegas getaway), I came across a last minute deal on a couple of flights to Denver.  The flights were a steal and we were even able to take advantage of some hotel points that we don’t typically use for family travel.  It all fell into place and I pulled the trigger.  While everything seemed to work perfectly, I was honestly still a little unsure about Denver for “vacation”.

We arrived in Denver with a rental car waiting and 2 nights booked at the Cherry Creek Marriott.  We had no plans or expectations, how completely out of character for me!  We kicked off our weekend with a champagne toast and set off on foot to explore.

The night life was fabulous, food was amazing, and the crowds were overflowing with hip, yet laid back people.  We spent the weekend walking all over and loved the bike rental stations (felt very Paris like…haha) to really let us explore every corner of Denver.  We covered miles of the Mile High City and were able to totally unwind.  One of my favorite weekend getaways of all time…sorry Vegas!

Where to go next?  Maybe St.Louis or Boise?  I don’t want to plan too much, it ruins the excitement.

(Thanks to Pinterest for the great photo of the summertime dining and biking scene in Denver)

Why I Hate Hiking (with kids)

12 Jun

I realize that hate is a strong word, but sometimes it is really the only appropriate way to describe something.  Hate is really a great word to describe how I feel about the art of hiking (with kids).  It’s exhausting, draining, and overall is a pretty miserable experience.  I realize that many would disagree, but that is just how it works for my family.  Maybe it is a combination of my overactive & wild boys mixed with my needing to be in control personality.  But seriously, hiking with my family is simply a nervous breakdown waiting to happen.

I haven’t always disliked hiking.  In fact, one of my first trips was with my husband was to Yosemite.  We spent an amazing weekend hiking, exploring, and dining.  It was about as close to perfect as I could have imagined.  Then came baby #1, and hiking worked.  Then, baby #2, and it was a little tougher.  By Baby #3, it was starting to change.  Quickly.  The 1st hike with 3 kids (four and under) was rough.  One mile, 2 potty breaks, 10 snacks, a few tantrums, about 50 sticks collected, 500 rocks thrown into the water, and I don’t want to leave out that the “hike” was done with an infant hanging off my boob the entire time.  Then came baby #4.  Insanity.  Somehow, I still felt pressured that hiking was the right thing for my family.  How can fresh air and beautiful scenery not be a great experience?  I didn’t like hiking, the kids didn’t like  hiking, and my husband and I were at each others throats the entire time.  Good clean family fun…right?

These pictures say a thousand words, but there are more words.  Whining, crying, fighting, tired, thirsty, hot, cold, freezing, cramping, hungry, dehydrated, hurting, bored, wet, sweaty, teasing, about to die, hurt, sore, scared…need I say more??

The actual moment of deciding that I hated hiking happened in Zion National Park in Utah.  First, this place is beautiful…absolutely amazing.  But when hiking with my fabulous 4, beauty doesn’t matter, it’s a pain in the ass.  So, “the hike” began with 3 of the kids carrying sticks turned “walking sticks”.  It was a typical hike.  Whining, complaining, jumping off of everything, throwing every rock, and “be careful” was said about a million times.  Then, right before my eyes, my oldest jumped off a rock, tripped, and that stick flew out of his hand.  It hit my daughter (drama queen) in the face.  She started screaming (the gasping for air kind).  My husband screamed at my son and grabbed the other stick away from my then 4 year old.  Both boys started to cry…hysterically.  I yelled at my husband for getting so mad.  Our youngest in the backpack started wailing.  There it was for all to see, 4 kids hysterical and 2 adults fighting.  Just then, I looked up and there was a group of European tourists watching us.  The look on their faces was horror, total shock.  That was the moment that I decided I HATED hiking with my kids and that we would not be traveling to Europe anytime soon with my brood (Europe is not ready for these kids).

That was a few years ago and things could potentially be getting a little better.  In my head, I still hate to hike with the kids, but I am starting to consider being more open minded.  Maybe next year.

Red Fish Lake, Idaho

26 Mar

Better late than never, the saying goes.  I had planned on writing this post for Flashback Friday, but things got busy on the home front.  I was preparing for a quick grown-up trip over the weekend (story to come) and the preparations took over my Friday.  So, I’ll just call this one a Magnificent Monday Memory…

Red Fish Lodge, in the Sawtooth National Forest of Idaho is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  I can say that I had spent a fair amount of time in Idaho before this trip.  I always thought of Idaho as just a crossing point from the amazing mountains of Utah to the beauty of Montana.  I wasn’t totally convinced on making the long trek for just a weekend visit to hang out in Idaho.  Was I ever wrong!  I was in absolute in awe.  Between the natural beauty of this lake front property and the picturesque design of the resort, it was almost surreal.  Everything was built from logs, spread out, and as cute as can be.  They have a lodge and rustic individual cabins spread throughout the property.

When we arrived after a LONG day of driving, there was live music playing on the front lawn.  The grown ups were enjoying an afternoon beer, while the kids ran around eating ice cream and just being kids.  Red Fish Lodge looked like one of those camps you saw in a disney movie from a generation ago.  The kind of place that you really thought didn’t exist, except on a movie set.  I knew at that point, it was going to be an amazing weekend.  There was something for everyone.  Boating, fishing, “insane” mountain biking trails (according to my husband who had a quick lesson in how unskilled of a rider he really was), hiking, and relaxing.  There was an outdoor grill and an ice cream stand.  Perfection!  My oldest son, fished his heart out, while the youngest of the bunch spent his days carrying the tackle box and pushing the girls from the dock.  He renamed himself “Pusher-woosher” in fact.  The kids rode their bikes, played on the shallow lake and explored to their hearts content.  The kids were dirty, messy, and exhausted every night!

Red Fish Lodge is a hidden gem, high in the mountains of Idaho.  What a great find!  The only regret we had was not staying longer.

Road Trippin’

22 Mar

Last weekend, I packed up the car, loaded up the kids, and set out for a little mini-adventure.  There is something so invigorating to me about taking a good old fashioned road trip.  I really can’t figure out why I enjoy them, but I do.  They can be a pretty painful experience during the process.  Somehow they always seem to leave behind at least a few fond memories and they are a nice little break from the daily routine.  Long drives with my family are much easier than they were a few years back.  I can’t even really say that it’s because the kids are older though. I think it has more to do with multiple devices with 3G access to keep them entertained.  Hey whatever works, right?

So several weeks back, when we received an invitation to attend a family event 5 hours away, I was all over it!  What a great excuse to pack up the kids, explore our part of the world, and visit with extended family.  Also, no complaints here about staying in a hotel for the weekend.  No bed making or laundry and eating out makes for a great weekend!

The key ingredient to making a quick road trip with a lot of mileage a success is making the drive part of the adventure.  I focused on doing exactly that.  The first part of our trip, I was solo with the kids and without my hubby.  He conveniently had to meet us at our destination via airplane because of work (poor guy).  Five hours in a car and 4 kids.  Could be the recipe for disaster.  Actually, I was pleasantly surprised . The kids were great (maybe they were just scared of my driving) and  I loved being in control of our stops and detours since I was the only driver.  We made a few little unique & interesting stops along the way and I let the kids eat crap I would never let them eat on a normal day.  The fact is that some of the places we stopped, the only foods that didn’t worry me about a potential e.coli infection were the chips, twinkles and candy bars.  The kids were thrilled when I insisted on only choosing snacks from those categories of foods, for safety reasons of course.  We saw alpacas at a gas station, wild sheep, and a pretty cool waterfall.  Who knew all these things were so close.

I need to remember the great parts of this little adventure.  The kids had a blast, I got a weekend off of chores, and we created some fun memories.  Next time I’m feeling the itch to get out of town (which is often for me), I think I will hit the road again.  It surely helped tame my travel itch, at least for a week or two.

Tales of Yellowstone with Kids

9 Mar

Yellowstone is an amazing part of the America West.  Being the first National Park in America, it is by far one of those destinations that we all dream about visiting.  How could you not?  The amazing rolling hills, wild animals roaming the range, and the infamous Old Faithful.  I too, had the same exact idea.  I really wanted to experience Yellowstone in every way possible.  I hoped to someday take in the sights, the smells, and the sounds of rivers and birds.  I desired to enjoy the cool evenings, while observing the amazing star lit sky.  A couple of years back, I did some research and off the family set to discover the American West icon of Yellowstone National Park.

Real camping, as in tents, is not really my thing.  I love the idea of camping and the great outdoors, but for some reason I just can’t bring myself to sleeping in a tent.  The thought of cramming 6 people in an area the size of a bathroom, surrounded by a thin shield of fabric, seems a little primitive to me.  RV rentals for our family are the way to go.  It is just like a small hotel on wheels.  You can experience the outdoors when the weather cooperates and sleep in a heated and bear proof shelter.  So there it is, I planned and we set out for another crazy adventure.  4 kids, 2 grown ups and a  dog, loaded up and ready to experience a piece of America’s finest .  Bikes, scooters, fire wood, toys, and enough food for a small army.  Oh, I can’t forget 2 wardrobes for each person because of the unstable weather predictions and all the stuff for a mobile birthday party as well.  We were loaded and ready for some fun.

The journey began with a quick stop at Bear World in Rexberg, Idaho.  This ended up being the highlight of the trip.  Bear World was amazing!  We drove through their reserve enjoying the animals wandering freely and coming right up to the windows.  There was a petting zoo, rides for the little ones, and our birthday princess even was lucky enough to help feed a baby bear.  The kids could have spent half a day there.  Looking back, we should have spent more time enjoying this little gem, but I was running on a schedule.

As we pulled into our campground, we set up camp and watched the dooming dark clouds slowly cover the sky.  From the corner of our eyes, we couldn’t help but notice the biggest motorhome we’ve ever seen pull into the camp site next to us.  Amazing!  This must have been a coach for a celebrity.  Was I ever wrong!  It housed an older couple and 6 standard poodle show dogs. This was a complete circus act in my opinion, but who am I to judge?  The owners of this pack of dogs fenced in a large area and  somehow took a liking to my 4 kids (I guess if you own this many dogs you must be patient).  The kids were entertained and happy all evening and they surely had their animal fix for the day!

We slept great all night in our heated RV and didn’t even awake to the bear destroying a cooler on the other side of the campground (another reason why I’m not fond of tents).  Early the next morning, we awoke to a wintery white dusting of snow, but beautiful blue skies.  Not much snow on this late summer morning, but enough to know that the air was COLD!  Off we set to explore, learn, and take in the beauty of Yellowstone National Park.  The next 40 miles were long and slow.  Slow and long.  We followed behind car after car after car.  In between asking “are we there yet?” 4000 times, we kept busy scoping the countryside looking for anything that moves.  Then around a bend it all came to a dead stop.  Cars and people were on the side of the road, so of course we followed.  We assumed it was something amazing.  Through the shivering, whining, tears, and about 30 more minutes we finally spotted a very cute and small, yet unimpressive bird.  The European and Asian tourists were snapping photos and all of the retired folks had out their binoculars and bird books.  My kids were less than excited.  I realized at that moment, we should have told them that Bear World was Yellowstone.  After a couple more of these stops and a quick walk through a few natural hot springs, we finally arrived at Old Faithful.  It was packed, so we found a seat and waited.  We waited and waited and faithfully it happened and in 2 minutes it was over.  No fireworks, no music, no F-16’s.  The grown-ups appreciated this amazing natural sensation, but our Disneyland generation of kids were far from thrilled.  We made a quick stop at the gift shop, stocked up on souvenirs and away we went. The dark clouds were on the horizon again.  We realized that we had 4 squirmy kids needing to burn some real energy.  We went back to camp to enjoy the indoor pool and playground at the West Yellowstone KOA.  We ended the night with some more poodle puppy love, s’mores, another dusting of snow and luckily no encounters with any bears.

The last day we decided to skip the National Park and enjoy the small and quaint town of West Yellowstone.   We enjoyed ice cream & comfort food, saw a few real cowboys, and had a blast taking pictures with some life sized stuffed animals.

Bear World was the highlight of this adventure and the huge indoor swimming pool was close behind.  I was able to experience the the beauty of Yellowstone and Old Faithful, while crossing it off my bucket list.  The kids remember their fond memories of this trip, which I’m sure were different than mine (6 poodles groomed to look like a cross between a lion and camel didn’t do it for me).  Traveling with kids is all about a little give and take, a ton of patience, but still an amazing trip for all!

Family Ski Day

21 Feb

I grew up skiing with my family.  I loved to ski as a kid and I still love to spend several days a year racing down the the beautiful mountains.  Like many other parents, I have this crazy vision of our entire family carving down the mountain in harmony.  All 6 of us, laughing and enjoying each others company on a beautiful powder day.  Just a thought.  For those of you who have tried skiing with kids or see other families attempting this task, you know what I’m talking about.  This is just not the reality.  There are two types of  kids out on the slopes.  First, you have that no fear, all out, straight down, X-games loving kid.  The over type is the dramatic, claiming to be frost bitten and dehydrated, crying, drama queen (or little prince).  There is no in between, it is one or the other.  This leads to one type of parent on the slopes with their kids…an exhausted parent.  My simple solution to not pushing myself totally over the edge is Ski School for the kids while I get in some real vertical feet.  We always end the day with a couple of fun runs together as a family.  Mom is relaxed, the kids skills and and confidence have improved, and everyone is happy (for the most part).

I have been lucky enough to visit many resorts in the Western United States while growing up and in my pre-kid life.  What used to make for a great resort is much different than what I would find now as an ultimate resort for families.  Bigger isn’t better and steeper isn’t the winning ticket for me.  The ultimate destination for me now must have easy parking (who wants to walk a mile while trying to herd kids) and a great place to have a leisurely mid afternoon appetizer and beer. These two things top my list and set the standard for the perfect ski day.  If I’m going to be really picky, having a resort that can offer nice wide runs for my beginners, short lift lines, and a great school make it a perfect 10!  Almost sounds to good to be true?

Yesterday morning we drove 30 minutes from Salt Lake City through the beautiful Big Cottonwood Canyon to Solitude Mountain Resort.  This resort is small enough to let your tween take a couple runs on their own, yet large enough to entertain and challenge the best of parents.  Great ski school, amazing food and drinks, no crowds and high speed lifts. Heaven!  After a full day and tired legs we walked steps back to the car, ended with some quick snow play time and called it a success for all!  The best part of all is that we tired them out…all 4 of them!

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