Colorado Corona Resort Getaway

Six months and 100 years ago (or so it seems), in a time before social distancing, masks, runs on sanitizers, and hundreds of thousands of coronavirus pandemic deaths, we booked a three night stay at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center outside of Denver, CO. Of course, the resort closed due to the pandemic, but it reopened on June 25 (with safety measures in place) five days before our scheduled stay. We all had been looking forward to this getaway – and to seeing my sister and her family who live nearby in Colorado – and we decided to keep our reservation. We’re glad that we did.

Traveling
We flew from Orange County to Denver on Southwest. I was surprised how busy both airports and the airplane was. Everyone wore masks, though, and kept to themselves. Last year, we took the light rail from the airport to a nearby station and then took a hotel shuttle to the airport. This year, the shuttle wasn’t running, so we just took an Uber, which, despite not having car seats and just strapping the kids in the seats and hoping for the best on the quick 15 minute ride, we will always do from now on – so much easier!

Accommodations
The resort had a totally different vibe than last year. It was way less populated and much quieter, which was nice. We checked in early and settled ourselves into our “family room” – a larger room with bunk beds and an extra TV for the girls.

Bunk Bed Movie Night

Swimming
Most of our time, obviously, was spent playing in their large indoor and outdoor pool complex. We did it all – splash pad, water slides, hot tubs, lazy river, infinity pool, and water fountains. Vivian is a strong enough swimmer that we allow her to swim in a pool without us. Lillian’s swimming is coming along, but we still want to be close to her. William developed a no fear attitude and he’ll run and jump into the pool even when you’re not looking, so you must always, always be watching him. My sister and her daughter joined us for three of our four days at the pool and between the three adults and four kids, we were all able to remain safe and have fun.

Indoor Pool Time

Lazy River

Splash Pad

Infinity Pool

Cousins Swimming

Family Swim Time

Dining
This year, only one restaurant in the resort was open, but we never went to it. You could order “take out” at the pool or Grand Lodge and that’s what we did for each meal. We were able to eat distanced from other people without interacting with servers. One night we were even able to heat up leftovers from a few prior meals and eat those. We also ordered a lot of strawberry daiquiris at the pool – nonalcoholic ones for the kids – and slurped those down.

Living Her Best Resort Life

Resort Activities
When we weren’t swimming (or napping after swimming), we went putt-putting, went on a Colorado scavenger hunt, played lawn games, and did crafts.

Putt-Putt

Scavenger Hunt

Crafts

Family Love
Although we have spent a lot (like, a lot a lot) of time together these past four months (seriously, it’s been a lot), it was nice to spend time together somewhere outside of our house. It was also so nice to see my sister and her family and give the cousins some bonding and play time.

Sister/Sister Cousin/Cousin

Family Pic in the Grand Lodge

Cousins at a Colorado Sunset

We hope to be back in Colorado again next year and we hope that this awful pandemic is finally a memory by then!

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Quarantine Continued

Oh how utterly naive I was three months ago when the coronavirus hit the U.S. I was hoping it would only last a few weeks. Ha ha ha. I remember when the girls’ schools closed, I was so stressed because at first they were initially closed for two weeks and I just couldn’t fathom doing distance learning with them while working full time for two weeks. If I had known then that they would never go back to school for the 2019-2020 school year and would continue distance learning for three months; that we would still be quarantined in the summer; that I would lose my job of 16 years as a result of the virus; and that our original ideas for summer fun would be drastically changed, well, I probably just flat out would have had a nervous breakdown.

Since my last post about quarantine, Vivian has finished kindergarten (online) and Lillian has finished her first year of preschool. After I was furloughed from my job on May 1, William switched to part-time daycare. So, the girls are home with me full time and William is home with us Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every-other-Friday. Three months after quarantine began, many, many things are still closed (playgrounds, museums, libraries, zoos, etc.). We mostly do activities outside – lots of hiking, biking, walking, and swimming. It’s taken me – well, it’s still taking me – a long time to adjust to this new forced nonworking routine. I’m not used to being not busy and, frankly, I don’t like it and I don’t do well with it. I think back on what I used to do in a day and it blows my mind – I was so busy, so organized, so efficient, and so productive…and now, well, I feel like a sloth. As if I didn’t already know it, this time at home has confirmed that I am not cut out to be a full-time stay-at-home-mom (or a homeschool teacher!).

Despite my uncertain feelings, we are forging ahead. What else can you do? We have no control over this pandemic and I have no control over when/if my company will bring me back to work. I can only be extremely thankful that we are all healthy, will not be living in a cardboard box anytime soon, and that I have the unexpected gifted time to spend with the kids doing fun things and making special memories. And, speaking of that, here are some of the things that we’ve been up to in quarantine recently:

Backyard Water Play

Creek Play at O’Neill Regional Park

Hiking to Patriot Hill in San Juan Capistrano

Hiking to Aliso Peak in Laguna Niguel

Biking the Serrano Creek Trail

Walking Around the Lake in Rancho Santa Margarita

Hiking the Pecten Reef Loop

Watching the Airplanes Take Off and Land at SNA

Hiking in the Oak Glen Preserve

Walking Around Lake Laguna Niguel

Climbing Trees at Laguna Niguel Regional Park

Finding Hidden Waterfalls in Aliso Viejo

Beach Play in Newport Beach

Freezing in Laguna Beach

More Beach Play in Newport Beach

Train Rides in Irvine Regional Park

Exploring the Children’s Garden Trail in Irvine Regional Park

Pony Rides in Irvine Regional Park

Another Beach Day

Exploring Tide Pools in Laguna Beach

Exploring the Nature Park

Exploring Trestles in San Clemente

Finally – the Pool Opened!

I know enough now to expect to be writing a third quarantine blog post in three months. By then, school, in some form or another, will be back in session. I’ll be teaching online at CSULB for the Fall semester. And maybe (or maybe not…who knows!) I’ll have my job back. Most of all, though, hopefully by then, the coronavirus case numbers will finally be on a downward trajectory!

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Quarantined Birthdays

This year, all three kids and Dan celebrated their birthdays in quarantine due to COVID-19. Prior to the lockdown, I’d reserved a birthday party space at one of our community pools for the girls to have a joint party, sent save-the-dates via text, picked a theme, planned the menu, and researched party decorations. All of that got cancelled. The girls took it all in stride and, honestly, I was a little glad to save the money and stress of party planning. Our fancy dinner date reservations for the girls also got cancelled and, of course, we couldn’t go on any big outings to theme parks, as we had in past years. So, birthdays this year were simpler sans the parties and school celebrations, but everyone still felt loved and celebrated through our little family traditions.

Vivian’s Golden Birthday
Vivian was up first and was so excited to celebrate her golden birthday this year. As per our family tradition, the kitchen was decorated with balloons (thankfully, the grocery store was selling them). We had bought her a few gifts and her grandparents had sent some, also, which I wrapped (if they weren’t already wrapped), and we arranged them on the kitchen counter for her to see first thing in the morning. I had requested a card shower from family and friends and so she also had a slew of heartfelt cards waiting for her to open.

SIX

Our normal birthday dinner tradition is to go to BJ’s for pizza, but since we couldn’t do that, we ordered takeout from there. I made a homemade chocolate cake (I think this was the recipe that I used) that she decorated.

Happy Birthday!

At six years old, Vivian is still our sweet snuggler. She’s a great swimmer, reader, bike rider, hiker, skier, and big sister. She loves to pretend play, can’t sit still to save her life, is a budding artist, and makes us so proud. Her baby, toddler, and preschool years are long past her and she is truly now a girl. I can’t think about it too much or else I’ll be a crying mess. I mean, wasn’t I just trying to figure out how to keep her alive and happy as a newborn? And yet, the years will fly by and I’ll soon be reminiscing about the days she read her picture books to me and the nights that she snuggled me before falling asleep.

SIX, Again

William’s Second Birthday
Celebrating a child’s second birthday is easy. There’s no first birthday obligations and it’s the last birthday of which they are unaware. By the time they hit three, they know what’s going on and they have expectations. But, two, oh, that is a sweet spot. We had no party planned or dinner reservations for William, so nothing got cancelled. We carried on as we would have pre-pandemic and decorated with balloons, bought him a few gifts, wrapped gifts from grandparents, ordered take-out for dinner, and concluded our celebration with homemade blueberry cake (he loves “bluebeddies). Since William was still in daycare, he did also get to celebrate there with his friends.

Birthday Boy and His Balloons

Daycare Celebration

Happy Birthday!

William is my forever obsession. I still constantly say every day that he’s just so cute. He lights up my life and makes my heart fly. I’m sure I’m ruining him for life, but I can’t – won’t – stop. And although Mama remains his number one fan, he’s still very much loved by his Daddy and sisters. All this being said, this boy can be trouble! He’s so rambunctious and stubborn and defiant. If you turn your head for a second, when you turn it back, you’ll find him naked on the kitchen counter playing with a large lit candle. Or he’ll have dragged a chair over to the kitchen counter, stood on it, and be starting to wrap his arms around a fresh full pot of coffee (or grab a knife from the knife block). Or he’ll be stealing a drink from your wine glass. With William, you cannot look away! He loves doing things himself (“I do it myself!”), laughing, Team Umizoomi, trains, trucks, hikes, and dirt. Spend five minutes with him and you will be equally in love and exhausted. He’s also all boy. We don’t want to assign gender stereotypes to him, but he fits them so well. William is everything I never knew I wanted and I’m so glad that he joined his sisters in our family two years ago.

Dan Creeps Towards 40
We quietly celebrated Dan’s birthday in Arizona. We make a big deal for the kids’ birthdays, but ours are always subdued. I gave Dan a card that had been sitting in my nightstand drawer for years. It was such a strange card that I was surprised that I had ever bought it for him in the first place. But, I hadn’t been to a store in a long time due to the quarantine, so I wrote a heartfelt message on it and gave it to him. As it turned out, he had actually bought that card for me to give to my dad years ago. Ha!

Lillian’s Fourth Birthday
Our sweet-and-sassy Lilly Belle finally turned four, a milestone that she’d been anxiously awaiting for many months. As with Vivian’s birthday, Lillian’s party and dinner date night got cancelled. But, again, we celebrated with balloons, presents, chocolate-chip pancakes for breakfast, homemade spaghetti for dinner (as requested), and chocolate cake for dessert.

FOUR

Happy Birthday!

Lilly Belle

Lillian remains her Daddy’s girl and Vivian’s best friend. She is such a sweet and snuggly little girl and it’s hard not to just eat her up! She loves pretending and playing with Vivian, watching movies and shows, riding her bike (with no training wheels!), coloring, being read to and pretending to read by herself, and dancing and singing. She’s improved a lot in her swimming abilities (which is now on hiatus due to the pandemic). She’s still our homebody (like her Dad) and she still sucks her thumb and twirls her hair. She is small, but strong (seriously, you should see her ride her tiny 12″ bike up hills!). She makes Dan smile daily and say, “I love that girl.” She’s stuck in the middle of our family, but holds her own with confidence. We like to call her our spicy margarita. 🙂

And…that’s a wrap. Four birthdays, all celebrated while sheltering-in-place. I wonder what the kids will remember about them…I have a feeling that they won’t stand out as quarantine birthdays at all!

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Escape to Arizona

Disclaimer: I need to preface this post by stating that no laws were broken during this documented escape. All social distancing and physical distancing protocols in place were followed. Masks were worn by all individuals during the two short indoor excursions that occurred out of necessity (once by Dan into a grocery store and once by Dan and the girls into a gas station restroom). Hands were washed and sanitized often.  

Near the end of April, we needed an escape. By this time, we’d been cooped up at home during quarantine (due to the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic) for over a month. Like most people, our originally planned Spring Break trip (to Death Valley National Park) was cancelled. At first reluctant to get out of town (due, mostly, to what other people might think), we were encouraged by our friends and neighbors to do it and that’s the push that got us researching where we could safely travel to get some respite away from others.

We live in a very suburban area – there are lots of houses and lots of people who live very close to each other. We wanted to go somewhere where we could really be physically distant from other people. We wanted to look out our back door and see and hear nothing but nature. We wanted the kids to be able to run around and explore without fear of them getting too close to other people. And, we wanted this trip to be relatively inexpensive. We surprised ourselves when we settled on a new-to-us destination: Prescott, Arizona!

We rented a house from VRBO that sat on three acres near the Prescott National Forest. It was nestled on a lot off a dirt road and had gorgeous views of the Granite Mountains from the back patios. It.was.perfect.

Home Away From Home

Day 1: Drive to Arizona & Explorations
For years, we’ve thought that our kids were bad road trippers, mostly because we took very few road trips. But, as we’re quickly learning, they actually rock at them. We still haven’t allowed media during road trips, but they occupy their time with music and pretend play and drawing on magnetic doodle boards and games and tons of snacks. On this trip, it took six hours to get to our destination and we only stopped very briefly once to get lunch at a drive-thru Popeyes in Blythe, CA (we’d never been there and wanted to try their chicken sandwiches; been there, done that now – no need to do it again!).

We arrived at our rental house in the late afternoon/early evening and the kids immediately took off exploring it. It had four bedrooms, five patios, two living rooms, and a huge fenced yard. They absolutely loved it.

Lovin’ the AZ Life and Views

We brought all of our bikes and while Dan cooked dinner, I took the kids on a bike ride down the dirt road. It’s soooo nice that both girls can ride without training wheels now. We ate dinner on one of the back patios (every night). The master bathroom had a huge jetted tub, which, of course, the kids loved. On night one, we were already saying to each other how glad we were to have escaped to here.

Day 2: Riding the Peavine Trail
In the morning, we took a 6 mile (one way) bike ride down the gorgeous Peavine Trail, just outside of Prescott. In CA, all of the parking lots at trail heads are closed, but in AZ, not only were the parking lots open, but all of the fees were waived! We rode past Watson Lake and the Granite Dells, down a dirt “rails-to-trails” path. Both girls are very good bike riders, but Lil’s bike is so little (as are her legs), so she petered out after 1.5 miles and got in the bike trailer with William. She resumed her ride further down the trail after she’d rested. We rode past a variety of landscapes and stopped a few times for snacks, water, to take the in the views, and to let a few horses pass us on the trail.

Riding the Peavine Trail

Little Lil on Her Bike

As we neared the end of the trail we realized that the only way back to the truck was to turn around and retrace our route (I didn’t carefully look at the map and realize that we were not riding in a loop). It was close to noon and the kids were tired. So, Dan turned around and rode the six miles back to the truck while I waited with the kids. Forty-five minutes later, he arrived and picked us up and we grabbed a potsticker to-go lunch from a drive-thru restaurant called Sauced in nearby Prescott Valley. It was delicious, but even after placing an online order ahead of time, it took them foreeeever to prepare our food for us. What food we didn’t eat in the truck on the drive back to our rental house, we ate on one of our front patios after we arrived back “home.”

While William napped in the afternoon and the girls played, I perched myself in a partly sunny spot on one of the back patios and read. It was divine to hear nothing but the girls playing in the background.

Afternoon Reading

We ate leftovers outside for dinner and continued to enjoy the peace and quiet (you know, except for the kids’ screams).

Day 3: Hiking Thumb Butte
Our quarantine pastimes outside of the house pretty much solely consist of bike riding and hiking and this remained true in Arizona. Since we biked the day before, we hiked on this day. We walked a little over 2 miles up and around Thumb Butte on trail #33. The trail offered beautiful views and the kids, especially William, had fun hiking it. We even saw a few black-tailed deer at the end of our loop.

Hitting the Trail

Thumb Butte

Covered in Kids on the Trail

At the end of the trail, Lillian fell asleep. While she dozed in her carseat in the truck, Vivian and William explored the creek that we parked next to. To say that William loved it is definitely an understatement.

Today was Dan’s 37th birthday and even though we didn’t have any big celebrations, I think he was happy with how the day turned out. We spent the afternoon eating lunch on a patio at our rental house and relaxing and riding bikes. Dan grilled a flank steak for dinner. We went on a drive in search of ice cream, but all we could find were wild antelope, so Dan ran into the grocery store to buy some that we could all eat at home after singing to him.

Ice Cream, You Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream

Day 4: Final Explorations & Drive Home
While Dan packed up the truck for our return trip to CA, the kids and I continued to explore the backyard, finding bugs and cactus and even a neighbor’s horse.

Backyard Explorations (House is Behind Them)

We took a slightly different drive home so that we could drive through downtown Prescott and see the quaint streets and courthouse square. We stopped once in the middle of nowhere (seriously, I have no idea where it was, except that it was in Arizona) to investigate some large cactus plants near the road and we slowed down once to grab takeout from a Wendy’s drive-thru for lunch.

Now, THAT’S a Cactus!

I am sooooo glad that we went on this trip. It’s always a joy to explore a new place, especially with the kids. They loved Arizona (according to the girls, it comes in only second to Hawaii). We made so many wonderful family memories and I’m grateful that we didn’t let fear keep us from doing this. Although I didn’t know it at the time, exactly one week later, I would be indefinitely furloughed from my full-time job of 16 years. Having this last hurrah weekend away was worth every penny. The memories that we made in Prescott will certainly always be treasured.

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Life in the Time of Corona

It’s nearly 11pm. I just put the batter for Soft Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies in the fridge to cool overnight and a pan of Triple Chocolate Stout Beer Brownies in the oven.  I’ve also almost finished a bottle of Decoy chardonnay that I started drinking around 5pm. We’re currently on day 38 of quarantine due to the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. I stay up way later than I used to. I binge watch Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. I sleep in. I homeschool. The world has turned upside down.

Currently, the kids are 6, 3, and 2. I doubt they’ll remember much of this crazy time. Here’s what I want to remember, though: We stayed home. The kids loved it. We rode bikes. We did crafts. We baked. We cut our extracurricular activities down to zero. We never rushed out of the door in the morning. We never got home at 6pm after a long day of working and learning. We learned new things. We thanked God for our jobs and our health. We taught our kids independence. We went for drives. We sang in the car. We cleaned. We FaceTimed. We slowed down to nearly a halt. And after a month of stressing out about it all (I am am extrovert who loves to be on the go, go, go!), I realized that this is actually really freaking nice. You know, minus simultaneously working full time from home, homeschooling, managing a house during a pandemic, teaching at a state university from home, and being around each other 24/7 all.the.dang.time.

Pandemic Grocery Shopping

Working From Home with Kids

Working and Homeschooling

During our first month of lockdown, I decided to do everything. Everything I had ever put off. Everything on my to-do list. Everything on my 2020 resolution list. If you know me, well, you know this is 100% me. So, I:

  • Vacuumed the garage
  • Deep cleaned all six car seats
  • Washed all the blankets, comforters, duvets, and mattress pads in the house
  • Washed Vivian’s backpack and both girls’ lunchboxes
  • Weeded our landscaping
  • Vacuumed the bathroom and laundry room vents
  • Deep cleaned the high chair
  • Deep cleaned the living room – baseboards, couch, entertainment stand, behind the TV
  • Alphabetized the spices
  • Cleaned and organized every single cabinet and drawer in the house (50+)
  • Scrubbed the barstools and kitchen island
  • Washed the girls’ Pottery Barn chair covers
  • Replaced the pillows on our master bed
  • Cleaned the walk-in coat closet
  • Scrubbed all baseboards and the staircase banister
  • Cleaned and repainted all of our outdoor light fixtures
  • Repainted the front door
  • Hired a painter to repaint our shutters and wrought-iron window box
  • Washed bikes and outdoor toys
  • Bought a new “shoe bench”
  • Repurposed my walk-in closet to a “cloffice”
  • Cleaned cobwebs from the garage and outdoor furniture
  • Cleaned the downstairs windows outside
  • Organized kids’ craft supplies
  • Deep-cleaned bedrooms – moved furniture, cleaned ceiling fans
  • Washed barstool covers
  • Replaced soap dispensers in kids’ bathroom so that they match other decor
  • Removed desk from William’s room so that his bedroom no longer doubles as an office
  • Switched Viv’s clothes from 5T to 6
  • Switched William’s clothes from 18 months to 2T
  • Cleaned out Lillian’s clothes
  • Vacuumed all dresser drawers out
  • Magic erased the entire house and touched up wall paint
  • Used a Q-Tip to clean the light switches
  • Cleaned out files
  • Hired someone to fix our washer and dryer
  • Organized the garage (Dan)
  • Bought and installed a wireless printer (Dan)
  • Cleaned out Dan’s clothes (Dan)
  • Added an outlet to the walk-in coat closet (Dan)
  • Ran all plastic toys through the dishwasher (including bath toys) and soft toys through the washing machine
  • Redecorated the powder bathroom with new decor
  • Planted our garden

Alphabetized Spices

Cleaning All the Toys

New Cloffice

I also taught both girls how to ride their bikes without training wheels. Vivian was 5 and learned two weeks before turning 6. Two days after she learned, Lillian learned, at 3 years old. And man is she sharp and fast – look for her in BMX competitions in a few years!

I taught Vivian how to tie her shoes. I’m also teaching Lillian, but I’m not ready to call it as a win quite yet. Next up will be teaching the girls how to braid.

Although it seems like we’re really in the thick of it now, we will blink and be back to our fast-paced lives. I keep trying to remind myself of what a blessing this all is (especially since we are extremely lucky enough to be employed and healthy). I am incredibly thankful that the kids have each other – I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for them if they were quarantined without any other kids around. They play, laugh, fight, make believe, exert their independence riding bikes around the neighborhood, drive us nuts, cry, and laugh some more. Over the last two years I have clearly seen that one of the biggest blessings in my life is and will always be having multiple kids and that blessing feels overwhelming (in a good way) on most days.

My brownies just came out of the oven. Time to finish my wine and gelato and head to bed. Before I sign off, though, here’s a smattering of other random things we’ve been doing in quarantine during the past 38 days:

Gardening

Sibling Snuggles

Games

Chalk Art

Adventures in Early Potty Training

Reading

Car Picnics with Ocean Views

Couch Forts

Nature Walks

Tree Climbing

Exploring

Trail Rides

Bike Rides

We have at least two more months of quarantine since the girls’ schools have been cancelled for the remainder of the school year (through mid-June). So, we are no more than 1/3 of the way through this. I’m sure I’ll have a followup post to this prior to June. Either I’ll be insane and rageful or I’ll be finishing my second bottle of wine in one night and even more sentimental. Stay tuned.

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VEP Holidays

VEP = Valentine’s Day, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day. Not in that order, though, of course.

Prior to kids, our celebrations of these holidays were minimal – maybe a nice meal, a drink, some friends. Now, these holidays have expectations attached to them – chocolate, surprises, special outfits, presents, wonder, awe. It’s not bad, but it’s also not easy. Add in a worldwide pandemic and government-mandated house quarantine for two out of three of them this year and, well, let’s just say that I’m glad that there are no more holidays until the 4th of July.

Valentine’s Day
Back in February, which now seems like five lifetimes ago, we celebrated Valentine’s Day. The kids wore special outfits, I bought them some chocolates and a few small items from the bins at Target, the girls celebrated at their schools, I took the girls to our clubhouse to do some crafts that they had set up for kids, and we baked – A LOT.

Valentine’s Day Outfits

Valentine’s Morning Display for the Kiddos

Crafty Cutie

So that I remember for future years, here is a list of the goodies that we made. We had so many cookies that we packaged them up in cute Valentine’s Day bags that I found at Target and delivered them to neighbors.

St. Patrick’s Day
By the time St. Patrick’s Day rolled around, we were in full lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The kids were home from school, so they missed their celebrations there. They still dressed in green and woke to find a trail of gold coins that a leprechaun had left that led from their bedrooms to a pot of gold hidden in the kitchen. And, again, we baked.

St. Patrick’s Day Outfits

This time, we made:

Easter
Easter was on April 12 this year and we were still in the middle (gosh I hope we’re at least close to the midway point of this) of quarantine. Church was cancelled. There was no need to put on fancy dresses and nice outfits. The kids were fine with all of that. But you can’t tell a 6, 3, and 1 year old that the Easter Bunny couldn’t visit because he (or she – I don’t know!) was sheltering in place. So, we dyed eggs, decorated, baked, found eggs hidden inside and outside the house, opened Easter baskets, and enjoyed takeout for our Easter dinner.

Dying Eggs (William Was Purposely Excluded From this Messy Activity!)

Leaving the Easter Bunny a Plate of Carrots and Cookies

Easter Baskets!

William Hunting for Eggs

Egg Hunt in the Morning Rain

William’s Easter Best

Happy Easter!

And, now, for the final list of baked goodies, so that I don’t have to search far and wide for these recipes in future years:

I had bought Easter-colored M&Ms to bake regular old M&M cookies with, but I ran out of flour (and ended up having to buy a 25 lb. bag of it directly from a mill in Illinois due to the pandemic shortage) and so we’ll have to wait and bake those later.

This is such a crazy and unusual time in our lives, but there is still much to celebrate and I’m so glad that we continued to make holiday memories with our family of five.

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More Snow Before the Slow Down

Days before California, along with much of the United States, was locked down and nearly everything was closed and cancelled due to the rapid outbreak and spread of COVID-19, I took Vivian to Snow Valley Mountain Resort in our local SoCal mountains for a day of skiing. She loves skiing so much and did so well her last two days on the slopes and I wanted to continue to build on that. We were having a wet March near the coast, which translates to a snowy March in the mountains, and so it was a good time to go (I did not yet know how restricted movement and life would become in the days and weeks (please not months!) ahead).

Ready to Ski!

I signed Vivian up for a morning ski lesson at the resort’s Children’s Learning Center. Growing up, my parents always put us in morning ski lessons and then skied with us in the afternoon and I wanted to do that with her on this day. We think it’s very important for her to take a lesson every time she goes skiing so that she continues to improve. Also, I am not a ski instructor; I’m a mom. Trying to do both just leads to frustration for everyone. So, she went off to ski school and I spent the morning skiing by myself. Unfortunately for me, on this day, the clouds were very low and viability was, at times, only a few feet. Also, only three chairlifts (1, 6, and 13) and a handful of runs on the lower part of the mountain were open. It was perfect for Viv, but I got bored pretty quickly skiing by myself. Plus, I could hardly see where I was going and did not have any sense of what was where on the mountain since it was my first time skiing there. Anyways…Vivian…ski school: They put her in a group with two or three other little kids. I told them that she had just been skiing in the Sierras and was quickly gaining skills. Still, when I went to check in on her after a few solitary runs of my own, she was still on the small magic carpet right outside the ski school. It was so obvious that she did not belong in the same class with the other newbies. Thankfully, the instructors saw this also and so, for the remaining two hours of her class, she got a private lesson from a wonderful and experienced ski instructor. He took her all over the mountain – on both green and blue runs – and, by the end of her lesson, he was very impressed with and proud of her (as was I!). She was doing a great job turning and even starting to do some hockey stops. And her confidence was high. I was, once again, thrilled for her.

At the Top of Chair 1

Awful Visibility, But Still Skiing

After her lesson, we ate lunch in the lodge, and then we spent the rest of the afternoon skiing together. She continued to do awesome and I was giddy with excitement over her progress. She could get on the chairlift, get off the chairlift, ski down the hill, and get back in line to reboard the chairlift without me helping her at all. I laughed as she zoomed off the chairlift and took off down the hill. She skied the entire mountain that was open – she definitely wasn’t just confined to the bunny hill. I had so much fun with her – it was definitely a special day.

Riding the Chairlift

Mama and Daughter Skiing

All of the ski resorts are shut down now and so I doubt we’ll get in anymore days on the slopes this season. I’m already looking forward to many more days skiing together next season, though!

Until Next Season!

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Frozen II: Chambers Family Edition

For the second year in a row, our family road-tripped up to Mammoth Lakes for a “snow vacation.” We planned this trip in early January with another family and were anticipating a long weekend with lots of snow. In 2019, Mammoth Mountain recorded one of their biggest February months ever with 207″ of snow. This year, less snow was falling, but we were still hopeful that there would be a few feet of fresh snow for us to enjoy. But, week after week, as we approached our vacation, no snow fell. In 2020, for the first time in recorded history, absolutely no new snow fell in February. What.the.heck?

Even though we didn’t have any fresh snow for our vacation (except for the morning that we left to go back home), there was still snow on the mountain. It was a stark contrast from last year, though, and there was no snow in town. Still, we all got to go skiing and snowboarding and we took full advantage of the snow that was there. We had a wonderful time with our friends, still got to ski/ride across the entire mountain, and Vivian progressed in her skiing drastically.

Day 1: Drive North, Park Play, Welcome Center, Pizza
We left our house at 6:21am for our six-hour drive north. I am not a morning person at all, but it’s a point of pride for me now to leave the house early for our road trips. It took a lot of careful and extensive planning and preparing for all five of us to be buckled up and in the truck at that early hour, but by God, we did it.

We got coffee at Starbucks and then drove, drove, drove. It took nearly no time at all for the kids to start asking when we’d be there. They are not really used to long road trips. In fact, the girls kept asking why we weren’t flying there instead. However, they all actually did really well in the truck. We have a very limited media policy (TV only on weekends and vacations; no tablet use at all except on airplanes and by Vivian during weekend nap time to work on math/reading programs for school; no phone use at all), so the kids did not have a tablet or phone to entertain them. They’ve never used a device in the car, though, so they don’t even know that it could be an option. Instead, we listened to a lot of music, played games, napped, and snacked. After about five hours, we stopped in Bishop at Schat’s Bakery for a little break and some homemade (or, well, bakery-made) bread. An hour later, we checked into our rented condo.

Ye-haw!

Our friends weren’t arriving until much later that night, so after we unpacked, we went to Shady Rest Park for what we thought would be some snow playLast year, we went sledding at this park. This year, there was no snow on the sledding hill – wah!

No Snow for Sledding

After some halfhearted attempts to make a snowman, we gave up and drove over to the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center. Last year, there was too much snow to even walk around the outside of the Center, but this year we were able to take a walk and explore more.

Inside the Welcome Center – Don’t Feed the Bears!

By now, Dan and I were ready to put the kids to bed and settle down with our books, but we had to feed them. So we settled for a few beers instead of some rest and took the kids out for pizza and pasta.

We did get the kids bathed and to bed at an early time – well before our friends arrived at 9pm. When our kids woke up in the middle of the night, though, they were so excited to see their friends next to them that they all thought it would be perfectly fine to start playing together at 3:30am. After night 1, I put some hard restrictions in place surrounding the time that they were allowed to leave their room and we all got a *little* more sleep on nights 2 and 3.

Day 2: Skiing at Mammoth
At this point, I pause to remember what ski trips were like pre-kids. We’d get up in the morning, grab our gear, drive to the mountain, and just start skiing. No big deal. Oh.my.gosh. Now, it’s like running a marathon before you even get your first ski run in. First you have to appropriately dress and feed all the children. Then you need to make sure that they have all of their gear. Then there are child care dropoffs, ski school dropoffs, rental fittings and pickups, and making sure that all the kids are where they need to be (which is never all in the same place together) on time. Then you remember that you made sure that they had all of their gear, but you forgot half of yours, so someone needs to run back to the condo. Finally, you park far, far away because all the good spots got taken while you were dealing with all the kids stuff, haul your stuff to the lifts, and then, finally, hours after you arrived at the mountain, take your first run. And don’t even get me started on the cost of taking three kids skiing with you…

Skiing Sisters

Anyways, once we got all the kids where they were supposed to be, Dan and I, along with our friends, had a great day on the mountain. The snow wasn’t fresh and there were even some bare spots and closed trails, but overall, the snow was decent. It was a little like Spring skiing, without the warmer temperatures. We stopped for a beer and lunch in the Main Lodge and peeked in on the big kids at ski school.

Beautiful Day on the Slopes – Sans Kids!

Vivian at Ski School

We picked up the big kids (including Vivian) after their full day of ski school in the late afternoon and then took them on a run down a bunny hill. Vivian immediately informed us that she did not need any help getting on or off the chairlift.

Dan and Vivian on the Chairlift

When she skied off the chairlift, she pointed in the direction that she wanted to go, and she went! Even after being very tired after a long day of lessons, she was doing awesome! I was so impressed that she retained some of what she learned a year ago and built on it. And oh my – she LOVES skiing. I was just giddy with happiness for her.

After our green run, we picked up the little kids from child care and took a group gondola ride to the top of Mammoth Mountain.

Mammoth Kids

Chamberses at the Top of Mammoth Mountain, 2020

After a full and long day, we ate dinner back at our condo and all fell asleep fairly early.

Day 3: Skiing at Mammoth & June
On our second day on the slopes, Dan, Lil, William, and I went to Mammoth, and Viv accompanied our friends to nearby June Mountain. William went to child care all day, Lil took another half-day morning ski lesson (that, honestly, was too much for her – she only lasted a little while before she went in for hot cocoa and then joined the other child care kids for a gondola ride to the top of the mountain), Viv took another full-day ski lesson, and Dan and I enjoyed a full day of skiing all over the mountain by ourselves and with some Baker Ranch friends who also happened to be at Mammoth at the same time as us. We ate lunch at The Mill with our friends and then did a quick run up Chair 23 right before they closed many lifts at the top due to high winds.

Skiing with Woolly on Day #3

Although we didn’t get to see Vivian ski at all on this day, we were told that she was advancing and doing really well. She was independently skiing green runs and even went down her first blue run. We are thrilled that she’s learning how to ski well so young!

BFF Hot Cocoa Break at June Mountain

On this night, I made dinner for the gang – baked chicken, roasted vegetables from our biweekly farmer’s box, and parsley noodles. And then, once again, we all collapsed in exhaustion.

Day 4: Snow Play & Drive Home
After getting 0″ of snow in February, we woke up on March 1 to 9″ of the fresh stuff. The kids were able to play in the snow in the condo complex. I also pulled them on the sled to Mammoth Creek Park next door. There was a mixed bag of emotion in the snow – from excitement to screaming and crying. It was probably good that Dan picked the kids and me up directly from the park to begin our drive back to SoCal.

Snow and Sled Play!

We, once again, powered through our drive home, only stopping once for gas. It was a great weekend and I’m so excited to continue to build upon Viv’s ski skills over the next few years!

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A Cold Ohio MLK Weekend

William and I went on our first trip of 2020 – to Ohio – in January. I know – it doesn’t really make sense. We went because my sister and her family had a break in their farming and ranching work and they were flying to Ohio from Colorado. Since they were going to be in Ohio, and my brother and SIL were going to be at my parents’ houses also, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go home and see everyone at once. William still flies for free, so he came along with me. The girls stayed in California with Dan to keep up with school and Spanish lessons.

I have not had the best of luck when flying across the country to Ohio (especially by myself) with the kids. There was that time with Dan and Vivian when I was pregnant that we got rerouted to St. Louis and then ultimately stranded in Chicago in November with no luggage or winter coats due to weather. That time I was by myself with both girls when I was newly pregnant and our plane’s landing gear wouldn’t close after takeoff and we were rerouted to LAX. That time I cried because I was 33 weeks pregnant and flying by myself with Lillian as a lap child and Vivian as a toddler and I was so uncomfortable and thought that the flight was never ever going to end. That time I was by myself with a 2 year old, 4 year old, and 4 month old and got stranded overnight in Chicago with no luggage due to weather. And that time that I flew direct and the airline still lost all of our luggage for two days. And now, once again, I had plans to fly across the country alone with a baby – in the winter – through Chicago. Oh, also, it happened to be on the same day that a huge snowstorm was moving through the Midwest. Luck was not on my side!

This time, though, I was prepared. I packed extra clothes for both of us in my backpack; I refused to check a bag and instead lugged our suitcase on the plane with me; and I carried our winter coats with me on board the plane (this meant that I had to walk through three airports carrying a toddler on my back/front (I didn’t bring a stroller), coats in my arms, and a backpack in my arms/on my back – all while dragging our suitcase). If I got stranded in Chicago, I was not going to be without coats and luggage this time!

We flew over the snowstorm in our path and landed in Chicago at 1pm. There was no snow on the ground, but all of the big yellow snowplows were lined up next to the runways ready and waiting for it. I kept obsessively checking the radar. We boarded our small regional jet and took off from Chicago at 3pm. The snowstorm was right behind us. Within hours, O’Hare had issued a ground stop for all flights. Over 800 flights were cancelled in Chicago. But not ours. We had made it out in the nick of time and landed on time in Toledo. That night, the snowstorm rolled through Ohio and when we awoke the next morning from our safe and cozy beds, a beautiful white (and cold) world awaited us. Perhaps my luck has changed!

Exploring the New Family Lounge at O’Hare

We – And Our Luggage! – Made it to Toledo On Time

California Boy in Snow

I spent most of the weekend relaxing. Really. I only had one child to care for and my Mom was, as usual, extremely helpful. She woke up every morning with William and made him breakfast while I slept in. She gave him every bath. She made dinners and snacks for us. She did our laundry. I was utterly spoiled. I caught up with family, read a lot, and was actually pretty lazy.

We spent most of our time during the day at my Dad’s house since my brother and sister and their families were staying there and my aunts and uncles gathered there. My Mom cooked a “Christmas” turkey dinner for us one day since we didn’t have one together as a family last season. My Dad had his right foot and lower leg amputated right before Christmas (as a result of his heart attack and its aftermath last April) and so we helped him some with things around his house since he doesn’t yet have a prosthetic. The baby cousins, who are six months apart in age, had a blast together and it melted my sister’s and my hearts to hear their hilarious and loud laughter.

One night, us “kids” went with my aunt and two uncles to dinner in my old college town and to watch an ice hockey game at my undergraduate alma mater. I hadn’t even driven through campus in nearly a decade, so it was interesting to see the university’s changes and fun to be back on campus. BGSU lost to Minnesota State 3-6 in overtime, but we still celebrated our night out sans kids (my Mom watched the babies) with after-game drinks downtown at Reverend’s Bar & Grill.

Hockey Night Out

Besides eating pizza out one night at a new-to-us pizza joint in Clyde, our only other outing was to storytime at the library and shopping at a kids’ thrift store in downtown Fremont that is closing soon.

Library Storytime

Our flights home, although long, were uneventful (especially for us). We are looking forward to another trip to Ohio later this year. That one, with all three kids in tow, though, will, I’m sure, be much less relaxing!

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New Year, New Hikes

What better way to start out a new year – 2020, no less – than with some fresh air, green hills, and exercise in the form of a hike (it sure beats a hangover!). We took the kids to Cave Rock and Dripping Cave in Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park on New Year’s Day. The hike was 5 miles roundtrip and, of course, took us approximately ten times longer than it should have.  We brought our jogging stroller with us, which was easy to do on this mostly flat hike. My Mom was with us, too. She and I had actually ran here before and I had hiked here many times in the past (the park is close to our old condos in Aliso Viejo). This was Dan and the kids’ first time back to Cave Rock and Dripping Cave, though. The girls absolutely loved our destinations and although they weren’t quite as enthusiastic about hiking 5 miles, they did it (well, when they weren’t riding in the stroller, being carried on my back or hip, being carried on my Mom’s back or hip, or being carried on Dan’s shoulders or hip).

Sweet Sisters Hiking in Aliso & Wood Canyons

Atop Cave Rock

Dripping (Literally!) Cave

Dripping Cave

We kept on hiking right into the second weekend of the new year, this time in El Moro Canyon at Crystal Cove State Park. With our three kids in tow, we hiked about 3 miles, following the park’s “moderate” loop. Unlike our New Year’s Day hike, this hike had some elevation gains and losses – and it had some amazing ocean views! I had hiked here a few times many years ago, but Dan and the kids had never been here. We definitely want to go back again to hike other trails, now, too. The trails had many families with small children/babies on them, so we felt a shared connection with our fellow hikers.

Hiking at Crystal Cove State Park

William the Hiker

Vivian the Poser

Hiking Babes

Two weekends of the new year down and two hikes, too! We’re excited to see what other trails life leads our family down in 2020!

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