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A Look Back at 2018

Here it is, New Year’s Eve 2018 and I’m finally writing a blog entry – for the entire year, because I just can’t do this more than once a year these days!

2018 was an outstanding year, but it started out pretty rough!

In January, we were able to visit the Great Wolf Lodge – the kids had a blast swimming, bowling and doing the ropes course! We had a few ski days in January as well, Ethan in Ski School and Ellie skiing with us.

Then the great sickness of 2018 struck in February – Ellie got it the worst with strep, croup and the flu – then Ethan got the flu, as well as Zach and myself. It was pretty rough. Crazy thing, in the midst of all that sickness, Ellie also got lice – yuck! It was rough – I cleaned and cleaned and did so much laundry and attempted to keep the rest of us from getting it as well. I combed through her hair a LOT – while the olympics were on the TV, she would sit and watch while I combed through her hair. I didn’t get all the nits the first time, and a week later they hatched and we had more. Ugh. (Next time this happens, we’re going to a lice salon to have them do the work!!) Luckily, we were able to prevent the spread in our family, but I’d sprayed a bunch of stuff that I couldn’t immediately wash with permethrin (that had come with the Nix bottle) and turns out, Ellie is CRAZY allergic to permethrin. Despite washing stuff that had permethrin sprayed on it, it was still there – if Ellie touched it, she broke out into a rash. I’d sprayed our couches, the rug, the ottoman, their car seats, their backpacks – essentially anything I knew I couldn’t actually wash. Oops! We bought new car seats, new backpacks, new other stuff – just to get some of the permethrin away from her. These rashes lasted until May! I felt horrible because she ended up going to the nurses office at school several times a day to get cream for her rashes.

In the middle of all the sickness of February, we also bought a camper!!! We decided we wanted to spend lots of time as a family up in the mountains and figured a camper was the way to do it. I’ve never been a “tent-camper” and Zach grew up tent camping and had no interest in doing that again. But, a camper means we’d have all the comforts of “home” (much more so than tent camping) and we were super excited to get to camp!!

In March we had some really nice days, so the kids got to enjoy playing at the park, which was much needed after February’s sick-infested month. They were able to ride scooters a bit, and we also did some indoor rock climbing, trampoline park fun and gymnastics classes. Ellie had a daddy-daughter dance at school – so she and Zach got dressed up for that. Also – our favorite snow cone place opened up in the Denver area, so we visited Bahama Buck’s several times in the first month it opened! 🙂 I had a work trip during Spring Break this year, so we signed the kids up for a Spring Break camp at the Rec Center. Ethan struggled quite a bit (partly because I was gone and partly because it was all totally different than his normal routine). Ellie was ok with it, but it wasn’t her favorite. We’ll have to take a look at other camps as they get older to see what we should do on long holiday breaks like that – I want them to do some cool stuff when they’re not in school and I can’t always take off the whole week from work.

In April, we skied a few more days – ending our ski season able to ski together as a family. Ellie is an excellent skier and Ethan finally had the moves down to be able to ski long green runs and keep up with everyone. It was so much fun! We also had some nice days, again playing at the park and even went on an Owl Hike at the park down the street. We also worked hard on getting the trailer ready for camping! Zach installed solar panels and did some other work that we wanted done. Zach also installed a tow-hitch on the back of his Volvo, so we could tow the trailer! We shopped for all the stuff to make our trailer our home away from home – almost like outfitting a small apartment!! It was fun getting ready for camping!!

In May, we had the MS walk – which is the first time we’d been able to participate in the walk! It was a good time. I took the kids to work with me for “Take Your Kid to Work Day” – they enjoyed seeing where I work. Ethan picked up riding a two-wheel bike and that just opened up our ability to go for longer bike rides as a family! They kids ended the school year with field day – they both had a blast. Right after the last day of school, we went on our first camping trip. We went to Gore Creek, which is near Vail. We had a BLAST! We went hiking, biking, played in the river and hung out in Vail a little bit. My brother and his family were in Vail that weekend as well, so we spent some time with them at the pool, having dinner together and playing at the park. For our first camping trip, it went amazingly and we were hooked!!

This is a picture of the camper at Turquoise Lake near Leadville, CO

This summer I worked three long days – so that I could pack and unpack from camping trips, as well as spend some full days with the kids. When I worked, the kids went to each Grandma’s house (which they all love) and we also had a girl come watch them once a week. It was a great setup! When they kids were home with their sitter, they went on walks to the park, played on the slip-n-slide, did lots of crafts and just enjoyed hanging out. They got to have fun on their scooters (at the skate park) and bikes with the Grandmas and got in plenty of swimming too!

In June, the kids went to the church’s sports camp/vacation bible school. Ethan did basketball and Ellie did cheer. They both loved it! Then we went camping at Rocky Mountain National Park. That weekend was HOT in Estes Park! We enjoyed hiking, playing at the river, walking around town, driving up over trail ridge road (THAT was cold) and then doing a paddle boat on Grand Lake. It was so fun! We got visits from two of my roommates from college in June! First, Carisa and her husband, Chad, and their three kids came to visit. Chad was here for work, and everyone else came along. We got lots of time to visit and me, Carisa and all our kiddos went on a picnic hike at a river near by. We had so much fun!! Just after Carisa and her family left, my other roommate, Jana and her best friend, Lauren, came to visit. We got the chance to play tour guide by taking them to Castle Rock to do the Mini incline at Phillip S. Miller Park, and then on to Colorado Springs – up Pikes Peak and hiking around Garden of the Gods. We also drove them to Boulder and took in the sights up there. Right after their visit, I had a work trip. I was supposed to get home Thursday night and then we were leaving for a camping trip Friday morning. Prior to Carisa’s and Jana’s visits, I’d worked really hard to get most everything packed so that the process of having visitors and a work trip we still would be ready for our camping trip. Well, it’s a long story, but my coworker and I had car trouble on the way to the airport and despite several delays, I landed in Denver around 1am. While at the airport, I’d talked Zach through the majority of the packing, so the next morning there wasn’t too much to do before hitching up and heading out! I was SO tired, but it wasn’t too bad. This camping trip was to Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It was a pretty long drive and at one point going over Monarch Pass, we almost over-heated the Volvo, but we made it! We went on some long hikes and drove around the rim to see some spectacular views. There was a burn-ban in effect, but luckily we had electricity at this camp site, so we just cooked inside the trailer. We took the long way home, through Grand Junction – but we stopped at lots of parks on the way home to give the kids a break. It was this trip that made us start considering whether or not we needed to buy a truck to pull the trailer…

In July, we celebrated 4th of July by getting a hotel room down town and going to the Rockies game (with fireworks)! Last year we went to a game (with fireworks) and it took us forever to get home so this year we figured if we stayed down town, it would be easier. So, we checked in at the hotel, walked to the game – enjoyed the game and fireworks – and then had a quick walk home before going to bed! The next morning we had a nice breakfast downtown and then went swimming at the Apex Center – we love going there on warm holiday days – because everyone else is outside! We went to Elitch’s with Zach’s work and Ellie was actually 48″ tall, so she got to ride some bigger rides, which was awesome for her. Ethan enjoyed the day too – even though he couldn’t do some of the bigger rides. We also went to the water park at Elitch’s, which was a blast! Since Ellie was actually 48″, a few days later, I took off work and I took Ellie to Water World – since she was tall enough to ride the big rides. (Ethan will get to go next year! And Zach says this time he’ll take off work and we’ll all go!) Ellie and I had so much fun. It had been YEARS since I’d been to Water World and it brought back so many fun memories! 🙂 We also took the kids to Top Golf in July. Ethan somehow started this obsession with golfing and we thought it would be fun to go hit some balls. They enjoyed it!! In Mid-July, we went camping at Turquoise Lake (near Leadville). Our campsite backed right up to the lake and it was amazing!! The kids swam in the lake, which was freezing!! We went on several hikes and ride bikes a lot!

Oh, also in early July, we ordered a new truck for ME! We finally decided that we needed a truck to pull the trailer and figured it was a good opportunity to trade in my van for a pickup truck! The thing I don’t like about pickup trucks is there’s not a lot of storage – my van had LOTS of storage – so that was going to be a tough sell for me. Well, Dodge Ram’s have “Ram Boxes” – storage boxes on either side of the truck bed – and THAT was my solution. So, we went to buy a new truck and none of the 2019 models that were just showing up on the lots had Ram Boxes. We were told we could order one and it’d be here in six to ten weeks. SO – we ordered me a truck – exactly the way I wanted it. And then we waited.

In August, we tried to soak in the last few weeks of summer – I took the kids to the ninja course that’s outside in Castle Rock and we went Ice Skating. We also got some “go back” tickets from Zach’s work to go to Elitch’s, so the kids and I went on a work day. We had so much fun!! Right before school started, we had a camping trip to Steamboat planned, but decided to cancel it because there were wildfires really close to our planned campground and we were unsure if the Volvo would make it up Rabbit Ears Pass (we still didn’t have my truck, which was expected) so we rescheduled and went to Carter Lake, which is near the town of Loveland. The lake was awesome! We swam in the lake, it was much warmer than Turquoise lake – and we did stand up paddle boards. We also did lots of biking and went into town one day just to walk around. Again, another great camping trip in the books!

For Mother’s Day this year, we wanted to give the grandma’s some new pictures of them with the kids, so we planned some days to go take pictures with each set of grandparents! It was a little late for Mother’s Day, but we got pictures taken in July and August – I think they turned out great!!

The kids started school in Mid-August and had a great start to the year. They both really liked their teachers and although we didn’t do a lot of reading or school practice during the summer, they did just fine getting into the swing of things! Right after school started we went to Spider Monkey – another ninja gym place for kids. We ALL played and we all had a blast!! They continually ask when we’re going back!! Another week later and we went camping again! This time to Monarch Park – which is just near Monarch Ski Resort – just past Buena Vista. It was a little colder than we expected, but we sure stayed warm in the trailer. The kids had a blast playing in the river that ran right by our camp site. We went on hikes and biked – and also spent a day at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs – it was AWESOME! I still didn’t have my truck, but pulling the trailer to Monarch Park wasn’t a big deal. We finished off August with some more park time, more bike riding and scooter riding (at the skate park) and a trip to a good-old-fashioned driving range.

In September, we were in the swing of school and enjoying some down time. When the weather was nice, we did some more bike riding around here. Having both kids on bikes of their own has sure made for a great year of getting to ride bikes as a family! In mid-September, Zach and I went back to Gore Creek for a weekend getaway camping on our own! This counted as our anniversary trip (a month early). The trees were changing colors and it was BEAUTIFUL!!!! We spent lots of time on our bikes and hanging out in Vail. Instead of planning food to cook around the campfire, we ate in town for most of our meals. So, it was the perfect anniversary getaway – quiet time in the mountains, sleeping in our camper, and great food in Vail!

At the end of September, we’d planned another attempt at camping in Steamboat Springs, but we still didn’t have my truck and it turns out the slides at the Steamboat Springs Hot Springs pool are closed in September. Glad I looked that up! So, we canceled that trip (we’ll definitely go to Steamboat Springs next year) and took the kids to the new ninja gym in Denver – Ninja Nation! We heard about it on American Ninja Warrior and the kids couldn’t wait to go! We all went and we all had so much fun!!!

We got one good snow in October, and the kids got their chance to enjoy playing out in the snow! Since that snow, we’ve barely gotten any snow and they haven’t had a chance to get back out in it (it did snow ALL DAY today, New Years Eve, but not much accumulated)… hopefully we get more snow at the start of 2019! After that one snow, the weather got nice again and I was able to take the kids to Boondocks to do mini golf, go-karts, arcade games and a ropes course. They had a blast and I really enjoyed watching them!

The funny thing to note about our anniversary and my birthday this year are that we went to Bahama Buck’s to celebrate both days (yes, if you know, those two events are 5 days apart). Zach and I shared the wedding cake flavor on our anniversary and then we all went back and I got Birthday Cake with Sprinkles (my favorite flavor) for my birthday. When you go in on your birthday, they give you a free snow-cone coupon – yay! 🙂 For our actual anniversary day, we sent the kids to grandmas and had a night to ourselves. We did a little shopping, to include going to Hobby Lobby to buy decorations for a gallery wall I wanted to do in our stairwell. I’m so happy with the way it turned out and I think it’s a pretty cool tribute to our anniversary – and our life together. Every time I go up or down the stairs, I see this and it makes me so happy!

A few of the pieces, I already had – like the old, wooden skis and at the top right corner is a copper picture printed with our last name and “est. 2007” that Zach got us for our anniversary a few years back.

Two days after my birthday, my truck finally arrived!!! Crazy thing – we had a week-long camping trip planned starting the 20th of October – to Utah and Arizona. We knew if we didn’t get the truck in time, we’d be OK pulling the trailer with the Volvo, because we didn’t have any crazy passes to go through… but we really were hoping we’d have the truck in time. So, we picked up my truck on the 13th of October and had less than a week to put 500 miles on it (per the owner’s manual, you need to put 500 miles on a new vehicle before towing with it)! So, I left work an hour early every day and would go for a drive before picking up the kids, then we’d drive a little more. Friday before we left, I took the day off work and did enough driving to get to the 500 mile mark! HA!

So, we got everything packed up, hitched up the trailer to the truck and we were off for a week of camping!!! The first day we drove to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. We got there late and the next morning we woke up to the most beautiful rocks around us. It was a rainy morning, but we drove around and checked out all the arches.

We spent some time in Moab then headed back to the campground. The kids enjoyed playing on the rocks around us for a really long time. The next day we hitched up and headed to Arizona. We planned for only two nights at Arches – since we got there so late the first night we really only had one full day at Arches since we had a long drive ahead of us yet again to get to the Grand Canyon. We stopped at the Four Corners and made it to the Grand Canyon pretty late.

Is it child abandonment if neither parent is in the same state as your kids? 🙂

We stayed three nights at the Grand Canyon, so we had a little more time there. We camped on the South Rim and rode bikes, hiked and enjoyed all the sights.

We went into Flagstaff one day – we loved that town! We got to watch the sunset from the Desert Tower one night, it was amazing. It was pretty chilly there (I’d assumed fall in Arizona wouldn’t be too cold) but it was worth the views! Then we hitched up again and headed back toward Moab, but this time to visit Canyonlands. We drove into Canyonlands and it seemed so empty – we had to drive a long time within the park to get to our campsite. It was amazingly quiet and very few souls around – which, after being around all the tourists at the Grand Canyon, was a welcome change! Our campsite at Canyonlands had lots of rocks behind it, so the next day when it was light out the kids, yet again, enjoyed playing on all the rocks!! We went on a long hike and drove around to see lots of sights. This was another 2-night stay, so the next day we hitched up and drove home. Overall it was a LOT of driving, but it was an AMAZING trip!

We plan to do a week-long camping trip every year – and lots of little trips in between. We learned a lot this first year of camping – what works well for cooking over a camp fire and what doesn’t. What things we need to bring each trip and what things we didn’t really use. We are grateful to have gotten the truck, which we feel gives us more flexibility to go some places where we need more towing power than we went this year. Overall we are SO happy with the choice to invest in a camper – it’s been a great experience so far for our family and we can’t wait to continue making wonderful memories for as long as we can, going on camping trips!!

Ok, One more… Truck + Camper + Bikes @ Grand Canyon = Happiness!!

We came home from our trip and instantly it was the end of October! I feel like the end of October to Christmas was endless crazy! We got Ellie’s ears pierced for her birthday, then had halloween and her family birthday party. Ellie dressed up as Rainbow Dash and Ethan was an 8-ball. I’m not sure why Ethan wanted to be an 8-ball but luckily we’d discussed it several months back and I ended up making him a costume – basically like those M&M costumes – but just black, with an 8 on it! He loved it! Ellie got a fin-fun-mermaid tail for her birthday – so, needless to way, we’ve spent a lot of time at the pool since then! She LOVES being a mermaid!

I feel like I blinked and November was over – I don’t remember much about the month except Thanksgiving and celebrating Ethan’s birthday! We had both sets of grandparents over for lunch on Thanksgiving and just enjoyed the time together. A few days later we had Ethan’s family birthday party – we went and played pool (yes, there is some correlation between the 8-ball halloween costume and his choice of activity for his birthday – which, he’d NEVER played before). Neither of the kids were very good at pool, but we enjoyed playing and just being together. It was a fun time for all of us! On Ethan’s actual birthday we went back to Bahama Buck’s – it’s obviously a special treat for us to go on our birthday’s! 🙂

December rolled in and we had Zach’s work Christmas party, some friends visit from out of town, a few play dates, going to look at Christmas lights, a friend’s birthday party and then school was out! I feel like it’s a pretty big accomplishment to have made it through the first half of the school year. Things like homework and packing lunches and snacks, making sure we have library books back in time, different school parties and activities, etc. It’s sometimes monotonous and sometimes crazy and I was thankful for a little break. I think I’m now refreshed and ready to get back in the swing of things for the second half of the year!

We enjoyed the Christmas holiday with our families. Separate Christmas festivities with each set of Grandparents. We spent Christmas Eve day just us four – going to church and then we gave the kids their new scooters a little early so we could take them to the skate park to enjoy the nice weather while it lasted! Santa came Christmas morning then both sets of Grandparents came over for lunch on Christmas day. We had some nice down time together as a family and then we were able to go skiing one day before the end of December. The weather was great and both kids took to skiing again without skipping a beat! It’s so fun skiing with my family!!

Our sweet Ellie is now 8! She likes to go by Eleanor, but we called her Ellie for so long, it’s hard to remember to call her Eleanor. I think sometimes she forgets too – she goes by both Ellie and Eleanor at school. Ellie is doing awesome at school – she’s really excelled at math and reading this year. It’s been great to watch her really come into her own with school. She befriends all the kids and has such a tender heart towards the kids that don’t quite fit in. She seems to be a leader in her classroom and works hard to stay on task and not get in trouble. She definitely still loves art and music the most! Ellie decided she loves snakes this year – I have NO IDEA why. She went to a “creepy-crawly” activity at school and got to touch a snake and a few other reptiles and she loved it!

Ellie likes playing with her baby dolls and really likes being helpful around the house. She sometimes gets to cut strawberries or other soft items with a sharp knife – which, she thinks is pretty cool! She’s a great painter and loves to draw – it’s fun watching her artistic talent grow! Ellie is amazing at everything she picks up (except so far she’s not great at golf or pool!) – she’s a great swimmer, awesome at rock climbing, an excellent skier, super strong at ninja obstacles, a great ice skater and roller skater and she loves riding her scooter and her bike! She is so athletic and we really do have so much fun because they’re activities she loves!

Our sweet Ethan is now 6!! He lost 5 teeth already this year – all since the end of August!! None of his teeth have grown in yet, so he really struggles eating certain things!! But, no worry – he still loves eating and just goes with the flow! He’s ALMOST 48″ tall – which, by summer time he WILL be 48″ tall and get to do all the rides and slides!! 🙂 Ethan is still growing into his athletic abilities, but he’s definitely gotten strong as he’s gotten bigger and his chance to play on the playground three times at day at school has really helped improve his strength. He loves ninja obstacles and although he struggles reaching things sometimes, he just does his best and loves doing it!

Ethan loves owls – and a close second is penguins. He has so many owl and penguin stuffies – giving each of them very unique names and loving them all! Ethan is so tender hearted – he loves snuggling and always sticks up for his family! He’s a leader at school and has so many friends that he cares about.

The kids get along MOST of the time. They can play for hours and get along doing whatever they are doing. At times they fight and it drives me crazy! ha! I hope they grow up being best friends!! They are so equally matched in so many areas, which make it a joy doing things together. They really enjoy all the same activities, which is such a joy to do all those things with them. They really enjoyed camping together – I loved watching them!!

We are really happy with the kids’ school. Since we moved schools when Ethan skipped into Kindergarten, we were a little unsure of how it would go. After having been at this school for a year and a half now, I know God really put our kids in the right spot!! I’m so thankful that it’s worked out!

A quick recap on Zach – he HARDLY traveled this year (which is a vast departure from the last several years) and we loved having him home so much!! He’s in a different position at work (hence the reason of less travel) and it’s very different than the engineering he’s done in the past. It’s more people-oriented and sometimes problems he can’t solve because it’s not an engineering problem. He’s definitely grown a lot this year and I think he’s doing a great job! Zach taught an Introduction to Design course at Colorado School of Mines in the Spring. He really enjoyed it – he liked working with the students and encouraging them and explaining how each of their skills match up to jobs in the real world. It was a cool experience for him but it was also a lot more strain on us than we’d expected. He taught Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, which meant flexing his time at work (working later on the other days) and then coming home after dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Although he enjoyed it, he didn’t sign up for the fall semester and doesn’t plan to sign up again – yet. We’ll see what comes of it. I could see him teaching some day… so, we’ll just see.

Zach’s MS is holding steady. He’s still eating mostly Paleo and doing shots three times a week. He had a weird episode in the Spring where he got stung by a wasp and then a few weeks later his hand was numb. We thought this was MS related, but then figured out maybe it was wasp-sting related… either way, we never really got an answer, but eventually the numbness went away and he’s fine! Zach still enjoys working out – running and lifting weights, as well as bike riding. He’s still a killer skier, even though he doesn’t get to shred the slopes like he once did… eventually the kids will be much better skiers and he’ll have a blast with them!

As for me, I definitely got the “kids to school, go to work, pick kids up” schedule figured out. I love the fact that school is so close – I can take the kids to school and pick them up and still work and still get time with them in the afternoons. Ellie started allergy shots this year, so that’s an added item to our to-do list on a weekly basis. We haven’t signed the kids up for a bunch of activities, but just enjoy going and going activities when we can fit them in. I really like this plan for now as it gives us flexibility during the week and on the weekends. I really enjoyed work this year – I got to step out of my comfort zone quite a bit and lead projects at work that really stretched me and challenged me. I enjoyed my work but towards the end of the year decided it was time for me to find a new program – so three weeks before Christmas break, I started on a new program, in a different business unit. It’s a lot of change – and I really don’t like change – but in the end I do think it will be a good move for me and eventually I’ll get the hang of all the newness and begin to be able to take on challenging roles again.

What a great year it’s been! I’d say the biggest highlights and activities of the year would be Ninja, Bike Riding and of course Camping! Yay for bigger kids who can roll with the punches and setting into camping easily, who can ride bikes far without needing assistance, who like to play hard and have fun! The kids are doing awesome in school and it’s so cool to watch them continue to get better and better and all the activities they do, the things they learn at school and how they handle different situations. This year is going to be a tough one to beat – and I can’t wait to see what the next year holds!