Wednesday, April 30, 2014


We had so much fun at Columbia State Park when Kent's parents took us there back in November
we knew we wanted to take our friends there on our Spring Break trip.

It was a beautiful day. (What day wasn't that week??)  Mid 70's, sunny, perfect.
The drive from the cabin to Columbia is beautiful,
but quite a twisting, curving drive.

Our kids did okay, but our friends' kids weren't so lucky. Their younger girl started feeling sick,
but we were almost there, like just around the corner from the parking lot-could see the sign and everything, 
so they didn't pull over.
And she threw up, in the car, right as we pulled into the parking lot.

None of the souvenir shops that were open sold girl's clothes,
So she got to walk around sans pants for the first bit.
Luckily her tunic/shirt could almost pass off as a dress.

These kiddos got along incredibly well, considering we spent four whole days together, living in the same cozy cabin.  It was so cute to see them playing outside--it was usually some combination of ninjas and "house."

Ellie is a go-er. She was always at the head of the pack, plowing on, moving forward, ready to get to the next activity.
She gets this from my dad.  And Kent's dad, come to think of it.

The day we went happened to be field-trip day for several schools in the area, so there were hoards of elementary kids there, but we managed to time our activities just right to avoid them most of the time.

Nicholas and I just hanging out in the saloon while Daddy took Ellie to the car for a diaper change, waiting for our sandwiches, nachos without cheese (yep, just kids are not even slightly adventurous eaters....), and sarsaparilla. 
The saloon was deserted while we ate, and then right as we finished, all the school kids came.  We picked up and headed out to where they'd been just before:

Panning for gold.
The highlight of our trip was definitely the gold panning.  Or "golding" as Nicholas called it.
Nicholas listened so intently, responding so politely--the instructor guessed he was at least six years old. 
Nope, he's just an incredibly verbal four-year-old.

Ellie spent her time scooping up mud and dumping it all out again.  At one point I actually had found a few gems for her and put them in her little vial...
and she picked up the vial and "dumped it down" into the water.

Found some gold!

We could have continued "golding" all day, but they actually had a sign up about a 2-hour limit, 
so we eventually made our way to the rest of the town.

(her pants, rinsed thoroughly in the bathroom sink, had dried by this point)

This man was so sweet, and so talented, and none of the elementary kids were paying him any attention (or any tips).  
I sent the kids over with a dollar each to put in his tin, and he stopped his song to take a picture with them--he continued to talk to us as we sat on the bench eating our swedish fish from the candy shop.  He did admit to being confused about who's children were who's.  

We got a lot of that on this trip--being outside of Utah with a total of 5 kids (between two sets of parents!) got us a lot of attention.  Lots of "wow, what a crew!" kind of comments.
We laughed, because here where we live it's quite the opposite.  Most people readily assume we're "just getting started."

We took a minute to practice some yoga on the pavilion before we headed home.

The kids are watching me post this, and Ellie says, "Us go there again Mommy, please?!" while Nicholas adds "I'll even bring my own money for ice cream this time!"

Yep, it was an awesome day.


Our Ellie-girl is very touch-oriented.
In fact, so is Nicholas.
And my husband.

I have to work really hard to make sure my family all feels loved and touched enough, because that's not my natural love language. (With the exception of a newborn baby...I'll squeeze and snuggle my babies every waking moment, can't get enough.)
My family survives on hugs, kisses, hand-holding, snuggles, and cuddling.

While we were on vacation, though, Ellie stepped it up a notch.  
She would not eat unless she was on my lap. Every meal, every time.   

And so, this is us at Happy Burger.  
We ate a little and we touched a lot.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

playing outside

I know it's been a few weeks, but I haven't forgotten about our California trip.
We got home just in time to go to my parents' house for Easter,
Just in time for me to leave on a little mommy vacation to, until I get back, here's a few pictures of the kids enjoying the fantastic California weather.

Nicholas rode this trike pretty much all day, every day. Grammer played along and filed the role of pit crew, giving him frequent oil changes, refilling gas,  and changing tires.
We watched Cars on the drive to California....
Found some treasures.

Ellie and Grammer, who was a saint and wore the necklace Nick made her everywhere she went.
Kent, doing his duty as loving son.

Nicholas helped too. I'm pretty sure Nick had more fun, though.
And every girl needs a rose garden to run through every once in a while.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

why I didn't want to come home

Picture overload.  But...this place!
I had thought that our visit to Kent's parents' house in the fall was our last--but they're still working on selling it, so we got to visit once again.

Every moment we were there I felt myself just drinking it all in. Soaking my eyes with the greenness, breathing deep.
There's nothing but quiet and peace, serenity, and freedom and the air smells so alive and crisp.  

I really didn't want to come home.  
I just have to keep reminding myself that summer in Utah will come eventually, right?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

how we road trip

We made it home from our Spring Break trip.
This was a good one. A really good one.  I could have stayed there forever.  That road up above? That was as we drove through Folsom. I could live there someday.  It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.

April in California? It's the best.  
 I'm not kidding, guys.  It's the best.  

Kent's parents' house is a twelve hour (give or take) drive from ours.  This is the third time we've done this drive in the past six months.  
So while that in no way makes us road trip experts, I do feel like we've got a nice streamlined approach for our family.

So, here's how the Andersens road trip with a four-(and a half! he won't let us forget the half!) year-old and a two-year-old.

1. Surprises.  a.k.a. the secret bag of new cheap toys and trinkets.  I try to have enough to give them each a surprise every 2 hours or so.  I put them in a small zipper duffel bag that is in my reach in the car.
I like to rotate through entertainment for the kids as we drive somewhat--snacks, movies, surprises, repeat.  Unless, of course, Ellie is screeching to watch UmiZoomi again or Nicholas tells us he can hear his stomach talking and it's telling him he needs more food.  In which case we throw rotation out the window and go for whatever works.

Our favorite surprises (the ones that keep them quiet longest) so far have been any cheap toy still in it's packaging--makes it more exciting for the kids, glow sticks for driving at night, stickers-especially the puffy kind, pipe cleaners, beads and stretchy string, and a duck whistle, like this one.  Maybe we'd just been in the car together too long, but that duck whistle was hilarious.  

A little disclaimer--as a mom I've learned that as long as it's happy noise, as long as no one is screaming or whining, I can pretty much tune out any other obnoxious repetitive noises.  The duck whistle probably isn't such a good idea for some people. I'm 100% sure Kent didn't find it quite as funny as me and the kids did.

I bought several $0.97 pencil holders from walmart to keep the beads in-we didn't have any big spills, so I call it a success.
 Nicholas made me probably a good fifteen or twenty necklaces throughout the trip.  Because our bead supply wasn't endless, in between each bead session, I'd sneakily cut the strings and dump the beads back into his box.  He never noticed.  I hope this doesn't make me a terrible mother.

Pipe cleaners.  My mom used to bring these for me and my siblings on road trips (back before DVD players--talk about road trip experts! My mom was a pro!)  I remember making them into all sorts of shapes and even making little dolls with them.

Nicholas isn't that advanced yet. He mostly just twists them together and then asks us to pick which one is the best.

Just so you know, when a four-year-old asks you to pick a favorite like that, you're doomed no matter what you answer.

Moving on, to tip number
2. Let it slide.
A road trip with young children is not a time to enforce.  If you are trying to get them to give up the binky, for example, but a binky will keep them quiet for hours, minutes, or even seconds, just do it.
These kind of trips are all about survival.

 She's pretending to sleep--I just love her sweet little hands pressed together.
She spent most of the drive with that pacifier.  But she was quiet and content and we were all happier for it.

3. Find your zen.
This is the advice (given to me by my sister-in-law Shannon when Nick was a newborn) that has saved me pretty much every single time I've traveled anywhere at all with children.

The idea is, just face the trip knowing that there will be crying. There will be tantrums.  There will be stops and delays and lost credit cards that make you turn around and backtrack for half an hour.  There will be traffic jams.

But you, as the parent, just chill.  
You can't always fix it, you can't always prevent it.  Your kids will cry.  And you will survive and you'll get to the end of the trip eventually. Take a deep breath and just be.
And when traffic gets really bad, turn on some dancing music and have a little family jam session.
 Traffic--only thirty minutes from home--nearly torture.
 Group photo!

4. Stay in a big(ger) city
We don't make the whole twelve hour trip in one day.  Our kids are too little for that. 8 hours is about their max.  And mine too.
BUT, the cities that are technically "halfway" from here to there are tiny. In Nevada.  
We've found that if we find a good deal on, we can actually stay somewhere really nice for cheaper than staying at some "Paradise Motel" in Winnemucca.

I don't really have any fond memories of Winnemucca. 
So, we press on to Reno.  8 hour drive the first day, but we get to stay somewhere cleaner, nicer, and happier, and then the next day is just a short 3 1/2 hour drive.
Coming home that's reversed, but it's still worth it to stay somewhere more restful to us.
Our room.  The kids think it is so fun to stay somewhere fancy.
Actually, I do too.

 Ellie dances in the foyer, and Nicholas tells me that the light fixtures look like jellyfish.
 Life with littles is really just so much fun.

 Admiring the hotel's pool from our window.  Ellie had just finished saying
"Me wish me how fwim. Sometimes, me will know how fwim."

5. Pack a hotel suitcase.  
Just one suitcase with everything in it that you'll need for the one night's stay.  A change of clothes, all your kids' blankies and pajamas and everything.  This way you can leave all your other luggage in the car and getting in and out of the hotel is a breeze.  

It's also nice to have a few breakfast-type snacks (cheerios, bananas, yogurts, granola bars, pop tarts) in the hotel bag for the kiddos for when they wake up in the morning and you aren't ready yet to take them down to breakfast.  For Ellie, this is essential. She must be fed.  
 She loves books. I made sure to put plenty of them, particularly ones she hasn't seen for a while, in her bag next to her seat.

6. Access to clean stuff.
Clorox wipes (I put these in my hotel bag-hotel room light switches and tv remotes are nasty), a clean set of clothes for the kids, paper towels, garbage bags, zip-locks, baby wipes, etc.  
I make sure that all of these things are in easy reach for me while we're driving or easy access if we make a stop and need to change someone's clothes.
You don't want to be pulling all the bags out to get to someone's clean pants while you're stopped on the side of the freeway.

I make sure to have all these things,
And plenty of movies, books loaded on my kindle, and snacks. Our road trip snacking essentials? Kent just needs a diet soda and gushers candies.  I like twizzlers and cheese and crackers. The kids love pirate's booty, fruit snacks--they never get these at home so it's a fun treat for them, raisins, and fruit, like strawberries (I bring little bowls and plastic forks), apples, or bananas.

It's a long drive, and we had our fair share of freak-outs from kids and parents alike, but we made it.
We were talking to our friends at the cabin about this--when you do something like this as a family, you can't really call it a "vacation." It's more like a family trip.  Tons of work. Not relaxing in the typical sense of a vacation, but totally worth it.

All things considered, I kinda love our family trips.