Last October we had a visit from some very special guests who kindly invited us to go stay with them in Colorado. Lucky for us, we were able to make that trip happen over the 4th of July. Dave & Deborah and their boys are so much fun to spend time with and we absolutely loved getting to hang out and catch up. Our girls absolutely adore their boys (well, Rose and Graham had a few tiffs over toys but by and large they got along amazingly well) and mostly it was all giggles and squeals and growling (they played monster chase a lot of the time) the whole time we were out there.
We flew in late in the afternoon on Wednesday and spent the evening eating at the coolest little bbq place and getting ice cream, then going back to their house to see their progress on their remodel. They didn't get as far through the remodel as they had hoped before we can, but having done two remodels ourselves, we weren't at all surprised or put out by a few minor things like missing doors on the bathroom, lol. The boys fixed up a temporary door made out of plywood and stuck it on with hinges and everything and after that we were good to go!
Their house is awesome (seriously, every time we go somewhere that is not California we are in turmoil over the cost of living in the Bay Area and we discuss whether a move would make sense) and the girls were having fits over the bunnies that hop through their yard all day long.
On Friday, we got up and headed to Grand Lake, which was a few hours drive away. The drive itself was stunning. We stopped at Estes Park, which is very much like West Yellowstone in that it is full of cute shops and restaurants and acts as a gateway to a national park. After snacking at Estes Park, we go back in the cars and drove through Rocky Mountain National Park (oh my word, the views were just unreal they were so gorgeous! I wish I had taken photos!). We saw a moose, alpine meadows above the treeline, and amazing snow-covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
We made it to Grand Lake in time for a quick picnic lunch and wandering around before heading to our cabin just in time to avoid a rainstorm. While it rained, we settled in to the cute and perfect little cabin that Paul and Dave had found for us to stay in. The kids bounced all over the place and were delighted to have such an interesting place to explore and they ended up in the loft together chattering and playing with the toys and books and things that the cabin owners leave in the cabin for visitors to use. Clara found a little pink stuffed penguin that she named "Pink Fluff" and they were inseparable the rest of the time we were there.
I made chocolate chip cookies and Deborah and I talked photography and babies (she is due in less than 2 weeks now with their first girl!) and it was just so nice spending time with her. The boys talked work and remodeling and fishing. Our timing was just about perfect because shortly after the cookies came out of the oven, the clouds parted and we were able to go over to the lake and do some fishing and playing on the dock before grabbing a bite to eat in downtown Grand Lake, which was another cute little town made up of mostly one strip of shops and restaurants to cater to tourists.
Fishing was a total bust - especially since Graham dropped one of Dave & Deborah's poles in the water within about 10 seconds of getting his little hands on it. And there wasn't a single bite from a single fish. But the kids had fun despite their parents constant gasping and shouting of reprimands that none of them were wearing life jackets and were going too fast or getting too close to the water. But I don't think anybody really minded not catching fish. Not with a view like we had.
It slays me that Paul uses Clara's "Frozen" fishing pole since she isn't a very trusty caster yet and she definitely doesn't have the patience to just sit and wait for a fish to bite. Also, these photos were completely unposed - I love how Rose wrapped her arms around Paul's neck.
I have got to say here that Deborah is my photography hero. She is the one who got me into photography and she takes such great images. I'm inspired by her creativity and dedication to learning. It's fun to watch how she let's her boys "help" her with the camera sometimes or her willingness to get super low for a shot even at 37 weeks pregnant and on a rain-wet dock.
We got back to the cabin fairly late but decided we still needed to do a fire out back in the firepit because we only had the cabin for one night. We have talked and decided that next time we go we definitely need to plan on two nights instead. The cabin had a massive wood pile for guests to use so we built a nice bit fire and roasted marshmallows. Clara and Rose used the back patio as their little stage and performed dance routines to "It's a Hard Knock Life" (their current obsession). And then it was bedtime for the kiddos while the adults stayed up too late watching a movie, just because none of us wanted to go to bed early on vacation.
The next morning it was raining and we were worried our plans to go out on the lake on a boat would not end up working out. But after a leisurely morning at the cabin spent making a blueberry pancake breakfast with eggs and sausage and fruit, and then cleaning up and getting ready, the rain cleared out long enough for us to get an hour out on the boat without being sprinkled on at all. 15 minutes after turning the boat back in, it was pouring rain again.
The kids were so, so excited to be going on a boat. They looked so cute lined up in their little life jackets. And oh man were they ever pleased to be driving around the lake looking at the wake churning up behind our party boat. I love that watercraft because it is so easy for the kids to move around and it feels pretty safe. The boys threw out lines again but once again had zero luck catching any fish. It's been a disappointing summer for fishing for us.
Each kid took a turn "driving" the boat.
The scenery at Grand Lake is just incredible. I actually way prefer cloudy days like this because it is so interesting seeing the cloud shapes wrap and curl their way around the mountaintops.
Rose needed some snuggles from Aunt Deborah.
Clara and Colton were so goofy together. She basically hero-worships Colton and wanted to do whatever he did all the time. I just love seeing these cousins grow up together and develop friendships. She already misses him like crazy and wants to go back.
After lunch in town, we piled back into the cars, this time with Paul & Dave driving together with the older kids and Deborah and me driving together with the littler two (it was too bad that we had to take two cars but so nice of Dave & Deborah to let us use their Camry so we didn't have to rent one!) and did the drive back to their place. On the way we stopped at the visitors center up in the tundra area of Rocky Mountain National Park and got out for a little hike. It was really chilly up their and we weren't dressed warmly enough, but the hike was short and totally worth it. The 360 degree views from the top were just incredible. On the way back down the rock staircase that leads to the top, Rose fell asleep while riding on my shoulders.
The next day was Saturday and we spent the morning hiking up in an area called El Dorado Canyon State Park, which was really beautiful. And so close to their house, which is kind of amazing. Somehow I ended up with only one picture that I like from that hike but the kids had a blast climbing around rocks and inside of caves. And afterwards we went out to lunch at Chik-Fil-A (always a hit) and everybody went to see "The Jungle Book" at the movie theater while I took Rose home and let her get a much-needed, good solid nap in a quiet house without anyone around to wake her up.
That night, Dave & Paul took each of the kids out in turns to go for a drive in Dave's 1966 restored Mustang convertible. Since Clara is obsessed with convertibles and points them out anytime we saw one, this was a really exciting thing. You can tell by the look on the girls' faces how much they were enjoying the experience.
Rose & Graham played together upstairs in the boys' bedroom (that our family commandeered for the week) for a bit while we waited for the others to get back. These two loved and hated playing cars together. It was hard because they definitely WANTED to play together, it's just that they each wanted ALL of the cars. But mostly they got along great. As a side note, the Ariel nightgown that Rose is wearing is the girls' latest obsession. We have only had 1 princess nightgown for ages now and the girls have been taking turns with it every other night (ridiculous that they can share clothes already, but it's totally true for lots of their wardrobe). So we caved and got two new princess nightgowns to add to the rotation (Ariel & Belle) and now they maneuver to see who gets to wear the Ariel nightgown each night so we are still dealing with refereeing over that issue. Ugh. No more princess nightgowns!
Rose looked a little nervous when it came time to actually go for her ride. She covered her ears against the noise of the engine. But after Dad held her on his lap for a bit, she was ready to go in her carseat and by the time they got back she had the biggest grin on her face.
I wish I had more pictures from the 4th of July but I just didn't pull out my camera at all that day. We went to a parade in the morning and the kids got WAY too much candy. They were in heaven snatching up pieces from the street whenever they were thrown our way though, and I think we got hit particularly hard because the people in the parade would notice that Rose and Graham were slower at picking up candy and throw extra handfuls our way.
Then we walked back home and ate belgian waffles for breakfast and spent the morning at the pool swimming. Which was the perfect way to spend the 4th of July. Clara is a full-fledged swimmer now and could go down the waterslide by herself into water where she couldn't touch the bottom, and kick over to the wall of the pool, climb out and do it again and again. Us adults hung out in the pool below the slide so that when Rose or Graham came down in their floaties, we could redirect them to the side of the pool and they would half drift, half paddle themselves over, climb out, and go back in line to do the slide again. I'm guessing they each went down that thing a couple dozen times.
At one point the pool manager did a "coin toss" where she went around tossing pennies and nickels into the pool both in the deeper areas and in the shallow zero entry area. This was when the kids were all out of the pool during the 15 minute "adults only" break. So when they got back in they could search for the coins. It was a great exercise for Clara because she was really determined to get coins and I just stood next to her while she dove. She needed help getting down to the floor of the pool at first but once she got the idea of how to dive down then she would jump a little, take a deep breath, and then fold herself in half and start kicking her little legs for the thrust she needed and started successfully reaching the bottom on her own. It was amazing to watch and we are so proud of our little swimmer! Later on (right as we were leaving) the pool had another break and this time instead of coins, they tossed cans of Fanta into the pool. Clara was remorseful that she didn't get a chance to swim after those and keeps reminding me about it.
The afternoon was spent napping (for Rose) and watching a movie downstairs (for the other kids) and then we went into downtown Boulder for dinner, which was so much fun. I love the scene in downtown Boulder. Lots of street performers, great window shopping, yummy food (we ate at Old Chicago Pizza which was super delicious and then I ended up buying a piece of salted caramel fudge at a candy store called Kilwin's, I think, that was phenomenal).
And then we went to the golf course to watch the fireworks. We got sprinkled on at one point, but not more than a few drops and the fireworks were just spectacular. The kids loved it and Rose, who was getting really, really tired that late at night, would sit on my lap and clap after each particularly good round and shout "purple!" whenever a purple firework appeared. Clara was most excited about the heart-shaped fireworks, and Graham hollered with glee everytime a red one went off.