Category: Travels and Adventures

London, 2016

In a half-hearted attempt to clear out my drafted posts, I’m publishing them without much editing and tons of photos, starting with our trip to London in January. Enjoy!

Overnight flight Tuesday to Wednesday. I got about 3 hours of sleep on the flight due to a surprise wake up from a non life-threatening medical emergency. We were proud we were able to pull out cash, find the underground, buy Oyster cards, make it to rented apartment all by ourselves without a phone to guide us.

We arrived at apartment in Holborn at noon. Our host was very helpful with local restaurant and bar recommendations. We headed to Franco Manca for sourdough pizza for lunch. Delish and inexpensive! Bought sim cards with pay as you go data plans from o2 for our iphone 5ses. Both phones were up and running in about 5 minutes, so different from a phone back home! We overbought data but it was wonderful to have maps/directions, contact with each other while we were separated, access to social media, and the ability to contact our boys back home. We headed to Cittie of Yorke pub to meet up with WP folks. Too exhausted to think straight. Hit up Stainsbury’s for snacks, cheese and meat for dinner, and muffins for breakfast before watching HIMYM and crashing.

The Brians (husband and boss) had to get to conference by 8 but I slept until 9:30. Blissful! I enjoyed a quiet breakfast before heading out to the British Museum, a free history museum only a few blocks away. I explored Greek, Egyptian, and European artifacts and art before heading back to the apartment for Indian food and to be available while my mom took our baby to the doctor. Turns out he had an ear infection and while we didn’t plan on (or prepare for) our boys to be sick while we were gone, things went extremely well and Teddy started antibiotics right away. The conference was just on Thursday so I met up with Brian at the official after party at a pub just down the street from our apartment, a literal 3 minute walk! We loved being so close to everything!

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Ready to brave the cold, wet weather of a British winter
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The British Museum was established in 1753 and the current building was begun in the 1820s. It was incredible to see artifacts like the Elgin Marbles that I had read about but never imagined I’d ever see
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Inside the atrium of the British Museum
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This is a CLOCK! It was so beautifully intricate
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Carved coral bracelet, incredibly popular in Victorian times
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A gorgeous jet set
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Mosaic jewelry made in the 1860s
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Mummies in the British Museum
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Ancient Greek temple facade

Brian and I walked to Westminster Abbey on our first day of site seeing, about 35 minutes away from the apartment. The Abbey was probably my favorite part of the entire trip. We couldn’t take photos of the interior but it was definitely awe inspiring. For the two of us who love history, architecture, fascinating life stories, and learning, it was a gold mine! There’s a ton of great information at this site. Admission includes a free audio tour which really helped us make the most of our admission. We even ate lunch at the restaurant on site, the Cellarium Cafe. Not only did we not have to hunt for food, it was incredibly tasty!

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The north entrance of Westminster Abbey
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Abbey Courtyard
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The Abbey Cloisters

Westminster Abbey is very close to to the Palace of Westminster and it’s very famous clock, Big Ben. We had enough time to wander around the Palace building and across the River Thames to the London Eye. I am incredibly, paralyzingly terrified of heights and, desiring to keep this trip as inexpensive as possible, we happily skipped the Eye. We were able to make it back to the Abbey in time for the 5:00 pm Evensong service, sitting mere feet away from where the royal family sat for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We walked past Buckingham Palace after dark, which was a little disappointing since we couldn’t see much, but made up for it with an intensely delicious dinner at Wahaca, a Mexican restaurant, in Soho. I am extremely skeptical of Mexican food outside of Mexico but our meal was one of the highlights of our trip. We still talk about it 10 months after the fact!

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Palace of Westminster/Big Ben/London Eye
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A whole lot of London in one photo
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Big Ben next to the River Thames
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Up, up, up! I could never ride the London Eye and not pass out
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Buckingham Palace

The next day Brian and I walked 45 minutes the opposite direction down the Thames to the Tower of London. I have so many photos of our explorations on this day because the contrast of the very ancient buildings in front of the ultra-modern skyline of London was incredibly striking. The oldest building in the Tower (and my personal favorite) is the White Tower, which was begun in the 1080s. It is mind-blowing to experience to soak in the history of a place that existed hundreds of years before your country of origin was founded. After the Tower tour, my long-suffering husband waited with me at Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross station to get a totally necessary photo. To end the day, we met up with the other Brian and folks from Human Made for dinner and drinks before crashing.

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London Bridge is falling down, oh wait, its right there!
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The Beauchamp Tower was filled with etched and carved graffiti, some simple, some intricate. These were carved by the many prisoners the tower once held
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Guarding the Crown Jewels
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The White Tower
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The old and new existing together
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London Bridge
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Im a little older than 11 years but it was very exciting to see this train platform for the first time
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Im ready for Hogwarts!

Before we had felt settled, it was time for us to make our way back to the airport via the Tube for the excruciatingly long flight home. The flight from the US to London was 7 hours but the opposite direction was 9! We were very, very happy to get off that airplane in Atlanta! We barely had enough time to scratch the surface of all there is to see and do in London and want to return, possibly with our boys, to finish our tourist wish-lists.

A Look Back at 2015

A bunch of my friends have been writing blog posts or business updates that focused on what they accomplished in 2015. I didn’t get a chance to write a “year in review” for our family Christmas cards this year so you all are the luck recipients!

January

When I asked Brian what we did last January, his response was, “Survived!” I couldn’t agree more! Teddy turned 3 months at the beginning of the year and we were still a sleep-deprived state, learning to juggle the very different needs of our small infant and toddler. Brian attended PressNomics 2015 in Phoenix at the end of the month. I accidentally gave my computer a bath, lost a bunch of data, but had help from wonderful friends replacing the dead laptop with the one I am using to this day.

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Teddy was the smilest, happiest, most contented baby I’ve ever known

We were able to fill our empty rental house at the beginning of the year with fantastic tenants who have treated the house well over the year. The house had been vacant for a few months and our family and the renters were happy to have found each other.

Of note, I learned to make roasted chickpeas to trick our 2 year old into eating something healthy. He randomly stopped eating anything at dinner so I upped my healthy snack game in attempts to give him something with nutritional value.

February

We went to a wedding, the boys got bigger (Teddy started adoring Ben, which was so much fun to watch), stripped wallpaper in our kitchen, dining room, and hallway in preparation for painting, which was completed during our Florida trip, and we left for our annual Disney trip. This was Teddy’s first trip and even though it took him a day of travel to get used to being in the car, he adapted very well and we really enjoyed ourselves.

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Brothers!
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Meeting one of Ben’s heroes. He’s ben saying for the last 11 months that on the next trip, he’s going to meet Woody.
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Happy Teddy along for the ride
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Brian and Mini-Brian

March

We met up with the spring break group from His House Christian Fellowship from Grand Valley in Fort Myers after our Disney vacation. Brian helped lead the trip while the boys and I helped cook for everyone. The boys enjoyed the attention from all their “Grand Valley friends” and we all enjoyed the extended Florida weather with our students, even if it was colder than normal.

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(L) Ben at 5 months in 2013, (R) Teddy at 5 months in 2015

Our big painting project was completed while we were gone, thanks to the work of the talented Becky. It was such a blessing to not have to worry about Ben ruining all her work by running his hands through wet paint.

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Clean slate!

Brian and I experienced a “first” by attending WordCamp San Diego together at the very end of March. Teddy was too young to be left behind but Ben spent a week with Grammy and Papa. WPSessions sponsored and Teddy was the youngest and quietest attendee. We squeezed in a day trip to Disneyland, which only made us want to go again soon!

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Napping during WCSD 2015
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Radiator Springs Racers at Disney’s California Adventure

April

We returned home and readjusted to being responsible for chores again. The weather got warm enough that I was able to start spring clean up a bit earlier than I have in years past. Teddy started eating solid foods and we geared up to have lots of fun around our house during the summer. We also took what is possibly the best set of photos of our boys together.

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Bananas!
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I <3 matching outfits
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*dies*

We got a new water heater, so exciting, but since we haven’t had any issues with out hot water since, I think it was a significant event!

May

Brian had his 29th birthday, we celebrated our 7th anniversary, and Brian attended LoopConf in Vegas during the first few weeks of May. The whole family participated in the Civil War reenactment at Greenfield Village in Dearborn over Memorial Day weekend.

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May is the beginning of the months that, for me, redeem living through winter in Michigan. It is so beautiful and we spent as much time enjoying our new neighborhood as possible. We have an established asparagus patch in our garden and ate asparagus every two days all month long. It was great!

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June

One day in June I woke up and didn’t feel completely overwhelmed by being outnumbered by my two tiny tornado children. It took almost 8 months to feel like I could take on anything and, naturally, to celebrate, I went out and got a job. I started working for poststatus.com at the beginning of the June and even seven months later am still surprised how much I enjoy doing something that exercises a completely different set of skills than raising children.

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We bought our Chrysler minivan with cash at the beginning of June. This was one of the goals we set at the beginning of 2015 and I’m still pleased and proud we accomplished it. Our van, Van-essa, has taken us on many trips in the last 7 months, the first of which was to a retirement celebration in Iowa for my uncle at the end of June.

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Van-essa

The two most significant home improvement tasks we took on were cleaning and rearranging our breezeway to be a quasi-outdoor play and hangout space for our family when the weather wasn’t quite nice enough to be outside and hiring a landscaper to remove the remnants of a spruce tree (and about a million weeds) out of the north side of our lawn.

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Hi Baby Teds!
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We love playing in the grass!

We spent Father’s Day with friends from out of town and took the boys to play on the playground behind our house. Everyone had a lot of fun!

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Family slide time
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Happy Father’s Day!

July

We kicked off July by hosting my extended family for brunch on the 4th. Our city’s 4th of July parade is spectacular and goes right past the end of our street so back when my grandparents lived here, it became a family tradition to have brunch and walk to the parade together. Now it is our turn to host!

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Most of our photos from July are of our boys at the playground. We live very close to two elementary schools and within walking or biking distance from one of our city’s biggest parks and playgrounds so our spare minutes were spent feeding ducks, eating ice cream outside, and playing on all the play equipment.

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Aggressive ducks
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Ben’s favorite ice cream is “white” aka vanilla
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At the playground
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Exploring
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Dino ride
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Teddy loves swinging as much as his big brother
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Home Depot!!!!!!

In the last week of July, our family left on a 2 week camping road trip to Colorado. The boys were really excited to play in our popup camper!

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Chunky baby in the camper
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Snack time in the camper!

August

We spent the last few days of July and the first 10 days of August on vacation in Colorado. We camped in Moraine Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park for 5 nights before driving to Breckenridge, Colorado for the rest of our trip. We hiked, played on almost every playground we found, and didn’t sleep a whole lot.

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Ben never walks when he can run
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Without a doubt, this photo sums up what life with Ben, age 2, was like
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Our Teddy is a multitasker: snuggling and hiking at the same time

During the rest of the month we had one day trip to a reenactment and a trip to the zoo but mostly spent time near home. We love to travel but being able to recharge at home is really important to us.

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September

September was abnormally busy for us. We took the boys camping near Ludington for a long weekend. Our family celebrated Ben’s 3rd birthday on the 19th (sniff!). Brian had a great time at CaboPress, a business mastermind event put on by our friend Chris. I started running using a couch to 5k app but ended up with terrible pain in my knees from unsupportive shoes and had to bench myself for the remainder of the nice weather last fall. I’m hoping to take it up again (with new shoes) in the spring.

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We spent a ton of time at the campground playground, naturally
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Very happy Teds
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Bobble-headed babies in a buggy
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Big boy Benny turns 3!
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He’s still my buddy, even though he often thinks he knows more than I

October

Teddy turned one year old at the beginning of October. I still have so many feels about my baby being older than a year old but we have no immediate plans to force him into being a middle child. He’s so good at being the baby that we’ll let him keep the title for a while.

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CAKE!

 

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Our birthday baby

We explored ArtPrize in Grand Rapids and had a blast trick or treating at both my dad’s office and in our neighborhood. This was the first year that Ben knew what was going on and wanted to be part of every minute of such a fun day.

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Wreck-it-Ralph and Fix-it-Felix

November

The month of November is a giant blurry spot in my mental calendar. The boys and I all got our first colds of the winter, I finished up 5 weeks of doing yoga at church on Monday nights, and we celebrated Thanksgiving with my parents, siblings, grandma, cousins, and aunt and uncle.

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Because we were all sick, we set up our own “campground” in the basement. So far, it has provided the boys with nearly 2 months of enjoyment
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Short sleeves in November? Craziness!

I purged several trash bags worth of clothes, toys, and household items before Thanksgiving so we could enter the Christmas season without feeling bogged down in stuff. Ben and Brian made a large snowman from our first snowfall and Ben is still asking when it’s going to snow enough for him to do it again.

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Benny’s snowman was nearly twice his height
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So many heart eyes! 😍

December

Brian and I experienced a first at the beginning of December: Traveling without kids! We flew to Philadelphia to participate in the inaugural WordCamp US. Brian has been working with WordPress for longer than we’ve been married so I finally got to meet so many people face-to-face I’ve heard of and chatted with online. We also took the opportunity to spend a day exploring Philadelphia together and were able to see lots of the notable historic sites.I’ve meant to do a post devoted to that trip but face it, at this point, it’s probably not going to happen. Suffice it to say that I think I’ve found my people.

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Oldest continuously live in neighborhood in the US
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Date day in Philly
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Liberty Bell

You can’t talk about December without also talking about Christmas. We spread out festivities as much as we could this year so the boys didn’t completely fall apart. We had a ton of fun with extended family and were thrilled that Brian was able to take the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day off of work. We played, watched lots of movies, ate lots of junk, and had fun being together as a family.

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Play structures: Fun for small kids and cats alike!
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Playing with their new Christmas toys
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Reading time with the best daddy ever

Other small notable events from December: Ben had his first dental cleaning (and did great!), unseasonably warm weather prompted us to spend extra time outside,, Ben really got into decorating the house for Christmas, Brian and I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and we discovered and eliminated a mouse in the basement.

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Ben loved watching what was going on in his mouth with the mirror
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Ben created a story for every ornament he put on the tree

So heres to 2016! May it be full of as many memorable moments!

Wreck it, wreck it Ralph, just as fast as you can

Earlier this year, Ben fell in love with the movie Wreck-it-Ralph, which was ok with us because we love it too! If you haven’t seen it, we definitely recommend you check it out.

There was no contest when it came to picking Halloween costumes this year. Ben had to be Wreck-it-Ralph and that meant Teddy had to be Fix-it-Felix. I like costumes for small kids that are as close to normal clothes as possible (to minimize potential issues with my strong-willed 3 year old) and am really pleased how well the costumes came together. We even figured out how to fit Ben’s raincoat under his plaid shirt!

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You’d be as surprised as I am when I tell you that he kept his hat on both times he wore his costume!
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Ben told me that he needed “a Wreck-it-Ralph medal but I have to find it myself.” Ben did find it (at a party store)
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All photos by Brian

The Richards Family Takes on ArtPrize

Every fall for the last seven years, Grand Rapids, MI, the next-door, big sister city to our little hometown, holds a city-wide art competition called ArtPrize. Paintings, sculptures, photos, and live installations are exhibited on the sides of buildings, on street corners, in the museums, and in parking lots. We’ve made it a point to check it out at least once every year, even when we had a 3 day old Ben and overdue with Teddy.

I didn’t get any photos of the art but we did get some of our family!

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Colorado or Bust!

At the end of July, our family took off for a nearly two week long road trip to Colorado for lots of family time and camping at Rocky Mountain National Park. Camping, even in a pop-up camper, with two small kids isn’t always fun but we enjoyed hiking in the mountains and exploring outside. It took us some time to figure out what worked for us (hiking only in the morning, must be back to the campground for naps, quick and simple meals, etc). Ben loved roasting marshmallows, climbing on rocks, and lots of time with Daddy. Teddy learned to army crawl while we were camping so I spent a lot of time trying to keep him from eating grass and rocks.

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Perfect illustration of what living with a toddler is like
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These deer traipsed through our campsite our first night there. Hello nature!
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Looking for fish in Bear Lake
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Home sweet camper
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Gorgeous, vibrant thistle
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Teddy’s first ice cream!
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Ben playing with one of his surprise toys next to his “mountain”
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We borrowed my parents’ collapsible wagon for Teddy; he loved going for rides!
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(L to R): Dad, Ben, Brian, littlest sister, Mom at Sprague Lake
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Hiking with T at Sprague Lake
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Top of the world!
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Ben had more energy (and fewer problems with the altitude) than I did
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We spent a lovely morning at Holzwarth Historic Site, a 1920s rustic resort in the mountains
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Colorado River
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Oh, my heart!

We up followed our camping adventure with 4 nights in the lovely area of Breckenridge, CO. We stayed in a house where there was enough space for all of us to have our own space to sleep, a washer and dryer for me to get laundry done, and internet so Brian could work a bit. It was great to get back to something close to our normal routine for a few days before driving home again. We even had a chance to meet up with the Crowd Favorite staff in Denver for lunch.

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Art installation in Breckenridge
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We played on lots of playgrounds all over Colorado
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Even the big boys got to play!
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Playground around the corner from the Crowd Favorite office in Denver
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Road trip buddy