After two days playing at the beach, we were all a little tired and somewhat burned so we took it easy all morning. By the time we got the energy to get out the door we weren't quite sure which beach we wanted to go to, so we drove past Corona Del Mar and it was super crowded. The parking lot was completely full. We decided to head south on Rt. 1 towards Laguna Beach. Right before we made it to Laguna, we saw the most perfect section of beach, so we made a U-turn and headed back north. The first parking area we tried was also full. In fact, most of the parking lots were full but we got lucky and right when we came to the intersection for the southern end of Crystal Cove Beach, the parking lot opened up. We headed in and found a parking spot close to the trail leading down to the beach. The views from this beach were absolutely amazing and there was a ton of space to play on the beach without feeling like we were right next to someone else. The waves at this beach were also enormous so the girls didn't go on the boogie boards. Peter and Mike, however, tried to dominate the large waves. Peter had a few attempts and a few successes, but his back got pretty trashed by some of the waves, so he gave up boogie boarding and instead played soccer and frisbee. Andrew decided to build a downhill ball track in the sand that emptied into a giant pit. Everyone had a great time helping out and Madeline rolled the ball down the hill several times before the track was eventually destroyed. After 3 straight days playing at the beach and getting plenty of sun, we were all happy to chill out at the house for our last night of watching movies while eating cookies and ice-cream.
Mike and I got up early and went for a nice long run down Ocean Blvd towards Rt. 1 and into Crystal Cove State Park. We ventured on a path towards the water and then a bit northward. We eventually made it down to the water and had fun walking around the tide pool area and the quiet sandy beach. Mornings like this make you wonder why you don't live in California.
We spent the rest of our day back at Corona Del Mar Beach. We found another great spot, although it seemed more crowded than it did the day before but that is probably because it was Saturday. The kids did more of the same things they did the day before. This time Peter wanted to be buried so we spent time making him cozy in the sand. We even covered Emma and made her a mermaid. We took all the shells we had found the previous day and decorated her tail. It was pretty cool looking. By the early afternoon the Partridges made it to the beach and spent some time with us there. Then we headed back to the house to change our clothes. Just the adults headed out to grab some hamburgers and shakes and sit at the park and chat it up without the kids. It was so awesome being able to be with Adam and Myisha again. It was just what Mike and I needed. We were definitely sad to say goodbye later that night. The kids loved spending time with them as well and we promised that we would get together again when we could. Being able to spend time at the beach was awesome but spending time with our good friends was the cherry on the cake. There is nothing quite like amazing friends. We are lucky to have the Partridges in our life!
This morning we let the kids sleep in while we went to the grocery store to stock up on food for the next few days. Then we took Madeline for a little walk to explore the area around where we were staying. She was so excited to play at the little park across the street from our cute little condo. Eventually we all got our swimming suits on and gathered all of our beach things and headed to Corona Del Mar Beach. We didn't walk too far along the beach before we found the perfect spot to set up our beach tent and chairs. There were lots of people at the beach, but we tried to keep our distance the best we could. Madeline spent most of the time playing in the sand, jumping the waves, running away from the waves, and just having fun with her older siblings. Abby and Emma spent most of their time on the boogie boards while Peter just played with Madeline in the water and then frisbee with Mike. He stayed out of the water for the most part because of his skinned knee from the day before. Andrew enjoyed sitting in the warm sand while we buried him really good. He probably spent a good two hours just chilling in the sand. There just isn't anything better in the California sun than being at the beach and having a blast together as a family!
After sleeping in we got ready and headed over to the San Diego Zoo before it opened. We were amazed at how long the line was to get into the zoo. It kind of felt like we were at Disneyland, except the line went pretty fast. Once inside, it did not feel crowded at all. We headed first to see the flamingos. Madeline was fascinated with their pink feathers and how some of them stood on one leg. Then it was off to see the giraffes, but not without stopping first to grab some waters and a refillable cup for fun drinks. Madeline loved the giraffes as well but kept asking if we could feed them since we can do that at our zoo in Colorado Springs. It was fun to get super close to the giraffes and many of the other animals we saw. After wandering through the rest of the Urban Jungle, we wound our way through the Outback where we saw the cutest koala bears. Of course, most of them were sleeping with their heads tucked into their chest. There was only one that was awake and moving around. The further into the zoo we went the bigger animals that we saw. We saw monkeys, apes, gorillas, baboons, elephants, jaguars, lions, polar bears, ant eaters, colorful birds, and hippos. We met up with our good friends, Adam and Myisha, after lunch and had fun walking around the zoo together. One of the highlights of the zoo was seeing the baboons. When we got to the viewing window there were two baboons just sitting there against the glass. Madeline loved talking to them. She was so cute and tried to touch them through the glass. It was super fun to see them up close. After walking for most of the day we decided to head over to the shops to find something fun for Madeline to take home. She picked a baby kangaroo and a sequin snake as her souvenirs from the zoo. Then all the girls piled in Myisha's car and the boys and Madeline piled in the minivan and we all met up by the pier where we had fun playing at Waterfront Park. The kids had fun running around in the water and Madeline ended up getting soaking wet so on our way to dinner we stopped at the car and changed clothes. We walked to Puesto's where we had the most amazing Mexican food. We sat outside in the courtyard and enjoyed a casual dinner together and just had the best time. We just love Adam and Myisha and wished we lived closer. After dinner we headed back over to Waterfront Park where we picked up some dessert and ate it by the water. It was a great way to end an amazing day.
Our last big family trip of the summer would be heading to southern California to enjoy some time at the beach relaxing and visiting with Adam and Myisha in San Diego. Madeline was definitely the most excited for this trip. She has become obsessed with staying in hotels and flying on airplanes. When we are done with one trip she asks when we are going to stay in another hotel again. She gets easier and easier to travel with as she gets older and it is so fun to watch her excitement over the smallest of things. She loved looking at all the planes when we were waiting to get on our plane. She loved running down the runway to get on the plane and she was thrilled to have her own seat where she could watch movies on the iPad with her pink headphones.
We were super impressed by our airline in cleanliness and sanitization. It made us feel a lot more comfortable flying during COVID. Everyone was handed their own personally sealed sanitized wipe. We used those to wipe down the arm rests and tray tables and our general areas. Masks were obviously required during the entire flight and I was amazed at how well Madeline did with keeping her mask on. From the time we got on the shuttle to the first time she asked me if she could have a break from the mask it was almost 3.5 hours. I'm not sure many 4-year olds could do that without whining. When we got to LAX it was rather late at night, so we all piled in the rental car and headed down to San Diego to stay the night. All four big kids shared a room where they watched TV and enjoyed some food Andrew ordered from Grub Hub. Madeline slept in the adult room and well, we pretty much went to bed.
Deer Creek Reservoir is just up the road from Provo and is a pretty great body of water. The views from the shore are spectacular with Mount Timpanogos towering over the northwest shoreline and Park City to the northeast. The water was pretty temperate. When we got there, we saw one of the giant inflatable obstacle courses like we did in Mexico, so we sent the older kids off to do that and got the rest of the kayaks and paddle boards set up. We also rented a jet ski, which was a lot of fun. We only crashed it once, but it was a lot of fun for Mike to go flying in the air with the girls and pretend they were seagulls. Madeline loved the Jet Ski and went out multiple times. We would have people paddle board out, trade out for the person on the jet ski and go off into the lake. It’s crazy how fast those things go and just so much fun. No wonder people like going to the lake!
Driving to Utah is a bit of a slog, so it’s nice to be able to break it up. We got up early and, on our way out of town, stopped at the big park in Grand Junction. It was pretty amazing. There were dozens of slides, zip lines, ninja warrior stuff, and all sorts of fun stuff. Madeline had a blast, and the older kids proved that everyone loves playing on a cool playground. Thank goodness it wasn’t too hot!
Packing and hauling bikes for seven people cross country is quite a chore, but bike rides like this make it all worth it. Right off the Interstate is a bike path that follows the river as it courses through Glenwood Canyon. The roaring water and the towering rock walls are spectacular. There are parts of the canyon that are only accessible by the trail, so It’s worth the ride. Of course, sometimes even the best laid plans have their hiccups. The plan was to start at the top of the canyon and bike downhill to Glenwood Springs. Instead, we started about half way down and biked up and then all the way back down. Of course, to do this, we had to leave a car in Glenwood and one in the Canyon. While in Glenwood, renting the Burley for Madeline to ride in, Peter somehow knocked the stem off his tire, thus creating an unfixable flat. Fortunately, after Mike used some choice words, they found a bike store and got a new tire put on. It only delayed things by about 30 minutes, so not the end of the world. Once the gang was all back together, we headed up the Canyon. It was breathtaking, both visually and physically. It’s hard to pedal uphill with kids in tow! When we got to Hanging Lake, we saw a marmot just hanging out by the trail. We turned around at Hanging Lake and headed downhill to Glenwood Springs. Of course, it wasn’t totally downhill. In fact, there were some big ups, and it was super sunny and hot. There were some grumpy comments, but once we made it to the bridge over the interstate, it was pretty easy. We ended up at a park down by the river in the shade with ice cream.
Today we slept in and then packed up all of our stuff. Mike made pancakes for everyone even though it was Father’s Day. We are super grateful for him. After the car was all packed up, we headed to Fish Creek Falls which was just a 15 min drive from downtown Steamboat. The trail to the upper falls was mostly paved and it was only a ¼ mile. We headed to the overlook at the top first to see the picturesque views of the upper falls before winding down and meeting up with the dirt path to see the lower falls. It was really quite magnificent. We stayed at the bottom falls for quite a while as we were all mesmerized by the sounds and movement of the water. Once more crowds of people started showing up, we decided to head back up the trail and back to the car. It was just what we needed before the long drive back home.
We spent all day at Steamboat Lake today. Mike and Peter headed up early to find a good spot on the lake and set up the paddle boards and the sunshade. I stopped at the store to grab some more life jackets and then we headed out to meet Mike and Peter. The drive to the lake was a little further than I was expecting, about 45 minutes away, but it was absolutely beautiful. When we got there, I stopped to get a pass for the car and then we drove to where Mike and Peter had set up all of our stuff. It was rather windy by the time we made it down to the shore and so we all kept on our long-sleeved shirts. Since everyone was a bit chilly it took a little bit of time for people to be brave enough to get in the water. Peter The kids each took turns heading out on the paddle boards and then Mike tied the tubes to one of the paddle boards and pulled the kids along. Emma and Abby loved sitting in the double tube, and they headed out with Mike on a little adventure to the other end of the lake. I took Madeline with me on the other paddle board and we went out to find them. Madeline loved being on the paddle board with me and she took plenty of videos with the GoPro on our way out to the other end of the lake to find Mike and the girls. We finally met up in one of the inlets and got out on the sandbank for a little bit to enjoy the views. Steamboat lake is enormous, and all of the motorized boats were required to stay in a specific part of the lake. We were obviously paddling in another part of the lake and it wasn’t crowded at all. We only saw a few people out paddle boarding or kayaking. It was so nice to basically have the lake all to ourselves.
Our first day at Steamboat Springs was spent on a family bike ride with the kids along the Spring Creek trail. We rented a Burley trailer for Madeline and attached it to Andrew’s bike and headed out on a fun adventure together. We biked along the most beautiful trail that rang along the Yampa River. It wasn’t a very long trail all the way to the end from where we started but no one was complaining about that. After making it to the end we turned around and ate lunch at a park along the trail. Madeline was super happy to get out and play on the playground. We ate lunch and relaxed for a little bit before heading back on our bikes down the trail. On the way back we saw that the Alpine Slides were open, so we stopped and bought tickets. Each of the kids got to do 2 rounds on the slides and Mike and I each took a turn with Madeline on the slide while the other one kept an eye on the bikes. I wasn’t sure if Madeline would like the slide or be afraid of it, so I was pleasantly surprised when she screamed in excitement all the way down. I personally loved it too and enjoyed the beautiful views on the way down.
After getting back on the bikes, we rode along the trail but stopped briefly to check out the botanical garden we saw at the beginning of our ride. We parked our bikes and put on our masks and entered the Yampa River Botanic Park. We did a big loop around the park, just enjoying the pretty flowers and beautiful landscape and fun paths in the wooded areas. Then it was back on the bikes to finish out our biking adventure. When we got back to the hotel, we got on our swimsuits and headed to the pool for our reservation pool time. We were a little sad that the hot tubs were closed but the kids still had a blast swimming in the pool and fooling around together. The older kids took turns playing with Madeline which was nice. The pool was a great way to cool off after finishing our ride with the kids.
We decided to take the entire family to Madison, WI to support Emma at JOXC Nationals. It was a relatively quick flight to Chicago where we rented a big fat black SUV and drove to Madison. We got in rather late on Thursday evening. We let the kids sleep in the next morning and Mike and I snuck away for a bit to go running and exploring. We ran from our hotel along the lake and towards the Capital building. The run was beautiful and so easy since we were now running at sea level. The inside of the Capital building was pretty spectacular. It was decorated for the holidays with the biggest Christmas tree I had ever seen. After making our way back to the hotel, the kids were still in their pajamas. After getting everyone ready for the day, Mike dropped Emma and I off at the course so that she could do a run through with her team. While she was running, I stood in a very long line to grab some swag. Emma joined me after her run and we stood in line for a little bit longer. I ended up standing in line for almost 2 hours to grab some shirts and sweatshirts. That was so crazy. While Emma and I were at the course, Mike took the other kids to the Madison Zoo. They had a great time seeing the tigers, lemurs, turtles, birds, iguanas, alligators, and other animals at the zoo. They arrived at the course to pick us up right when we were checking out. We then headed back to the hotel to let Emma shower and change before meeting Kim, Al and Haley at a restaurant for dinner. It was so nice of them to come and support Emma for her big race.
Sometimes it is quite necessary to get out of town and just go to the mountains. Lucky for us we live relatively close to a plethora of mountain ranges. We thought it would be fun to spend the long weekend at a cabin up near Twin Lakes, CO. We rented the coolest cabin on VRBO that was tucked nicely up nicely along a mountainside and only a 5 min drive from Twin Lakes and 20 min from Leadville. Since the kids didn’t have school on Friday, we headed up on Thursday evening and stopped at Rudy’s to eat dinner. We drove the Sienna and the 4Runner so we could do some off roading in Mike’s car. We got to the cabin a little after 9pm and although it was dark, we could tell that this would be a ton of fun for the weekend. It was an actual wood cabin with all the amenities for a comfortable stay. Peter got his own room on the main level while all the girls joined us up in the loft. In the loft there was a bunkbed for the girls, a fun living area, a giant bed for me and Mike and a spacious bathroom area. Madeline slept in her little pack-n-play. The rest of the cabin was cozy and spacious. In the basement was a pool table and a foosball table with another set of bunkbeds. It wasn’t until morning that we saw how amazing the views were from the cabin. We woke up to the most amazing sunset and we didn’t even have to get out of bed to enjoy it because we could see it from the tall windows outlining the back of the cabin. The girls had fun in the morning grabbing their coats and exploring outside the cabin. There was a fun little firepit and lots of rocks to play on. We had a lazy morning and enjoyed stuffing our faces full of Mike’s amazing French toast before heading off on our first adventure!
My mom and I planned a surprise baby shower for Ruby. We bought cute plates and table décor ahead of time and even had cute cupcakes and other treats that we brought with us. Ruby was so excited and surprised. She got some really cute things for baby Cali. It was so fun to be able to do this for her as her family.
After getting back from the lake we spent some time relaxing at the house before heading out again but this time to go horseback riding. Grandma Anne and Grandpa Franz watched Madeline so Mike and I could take the big kids to go on a horseback riding adventure. John, Amy and Kyle came with us too. Abby was really nervous, so they spent a few minutes with her on her horse before everyone else got on their horse. Everyone aged 16 and under had to wear helmets. Peter wasn't that thrilled with wearing a helmet, but he did it anyways. The ride was through the most beautiful scenery. We rode through grassy meadows and then up through aspen trees and other dense tree areas. We even got to do a water crossing. It seemed like we were heading up for quite a while before reaching a plateau. We loved riding at the top of the plateau and some of us got excited with our horses and tried to pass each other. Some of the horses got really snippy with the horses in front of them. We all had to try and keep a decent distance between our horses. All in all, everyone had a great time riding horses through the wilderness and no one fell off or got hurt. We all rewarded ourselves with shakes afterwards. Some of us got the famous Bear Lake raspberry shakes and others opted for some sort of candy bar shake. You really couldn’t go wrong because they all tasted delicious!
Bear Lake is a lot bigger than I had expected. We were so excited to spend the morning playing at the lake. We headed over first with our kids and got the sunshade set up, so we had a cool place to sit while the kids played in the water. We brought the three kayaks that were sitting in the garage of the big house and the kids all took turns going out exploring in them. Mike headed over with Peter and rented a jet ski and each of the kids took turns going for a ride. It was hilarious watching the girls bob up and down as Mike did donuts in the water. I wasn’t sure if they would love it or freak out. They love it and asked to go again and again. I must admit that I was a little freaked out when we got going above 40 miles/hour but boy was it a rush. Eventually everyone else from the house showed up at the lake for some fun. Everyone took turns on the kayaks but only our kids ended up wanting to go on the jet ski.
It has been almost 6 years since the entire Kelsch/Wilhelm clan has gotten together. We spent a glorious 4 days together in Bear Lake at the coolest and most interesting house for my parent's 50th Anniversary. We called it the Big House. With three levels, 9 bedrooms, a theatre room, an indoor gym equipped with a trampoline, play set and half basketball court, an area on level 2 devoted solely to video gaming, and slides connecting each level inside the house and outside the house, it was a kids dream house. We spent most of our time in the house just chilling and letting the kids roam and do whatever they wanted. Each one of adult couples took turns fixing dinner. We played games, watched movies, took naps, and explore the sites in and around Bear Lake. It was great catching up with everyone's families and bonding like old times. I sure hope it's not another 6 years before we do this again.
Today was a fun day filled with nostalgia, cultural and play. We started out by heading to the New Sanno hotel in Hiroo where we enjoyed a fabulous breakfast buffet. This amazing hotel is for military, retired military and government employees and we spent a lot of time there when we lived in Yokosuka. It was our home away from home. The kids LOVED the breakfast buffet, especially the French toast and the omelettes. We would occasionally order breakfast to our room and we would always ask for the special strawberry jam. Today’s breakfast did not disappoint. I think Andrew ate 5 French toast slices in under a minute. Then he went back for more. I got my special strawberry jam so that made me happy.
After a quick stop in the souvenir shop after breakfast we headed up to see the construction that was happening on the Tokyo LDS Temple. It was pretty crazy to see that the entire temple was under construction and the church building next door was totally gone. It will be exciting to see the finished product. Since the LDS wards are now meeting in Senzokuike and Kichijoji (which are both too far for us to want to travel in church clothes) we opted for a nice walk in Arisugawa park across from the temple. It was nice to have some quiet reflection there.
After finishing up our nastalgia part of the day in Hiroo, we hopped on the subway and made our way to Asakusa to see Sensoji Temple as our cultural part of the day. This was one temple we hadn’t been to before but a popular temple to visit by both locals and tourists. It was completely packed. We started at Kamainarimon gate and walked through Nakamise dori which is the street lined with shops leading to the main temple. We found lots of various gifts here for the kids. After finally getting to the main temple we passed under the main gate called Hozomon and the Goju no To five storied pagoda which is always closed to visitors because it’s essentially a graveyard. The 2 statues that are at the Hozomon gate were modeled after 1960 sumo wrestlers. To honor them, every few years 800 citizens of Maruyama get together and create a pair of enormous waraji straw sandals. Each sandal weighs about 2.5 tons each. The main temple just past this gate (Hondo or Kannon-do) is pretty spectacular. Some of the greatest artworks from Sensoji’s collection are painted directly on the ceiling or are hanging on the upper part of the walls. The room where the services take place is also open and you can watch, but usually you aren’t allowed inside. In our haste to get out of the heat and crowds we walked back the same way we came, only realizing later that we had missed seeing the garden and stone bridge to the left of the temple. Oh well.
Back at the station, we got on the train and headed for our fun part of the day. We made our way to Odaiba, which I like to call Tokyo’s playground. There are lots of fun things to do here. After eating lunch at a pizza place, we had fun playing at Joypolis which is a fun indoor amusement park. We went on a few of the rides, played a virtual reality game, and tried our hand at the claw games. I gave Andrew 1,000 yen (@$10) and let him have fun. I told him the claw games couldn’t be won but he was determined, telling me he knew how to win. I couldn’t believe it when he actually won his favorite Pokeman character. Then he tried to get snoopy and WON that too. What??? It was crazy. He was beyond excited. We left all smiles, bought a few things at the Daiso (Japanese version of the dollar store) and got on the train to go back to our hotel. Later that night we ate dinner at Moti’s (Indian Restaurant) which was only a 10 min walk from our hotel. We were in heaven as we ate the butter chicken and naan. I first tried Moti’s when I was a teenager. It is still as good today as it was all those years ago. It was the perfect way to end our day and our fabulous trip to Japan!!
The morning started out with a run around the Imperial Palace twice with Bob Poulson...a good friend and one of my running coaches back in high school. He still coaches the high school runners for ASIJ. I ended up running almost 8 miles in the heat. I’m definitely not used to running in the heat yet. I’m glad it was a social run. Andrew and I met up with Bob later to eat udon for lunch. It was fun to catch up with Bob. After lunch we said goodbye and headed back to the hotel to rest. I think at this point we are slowing down. Disney kind of did us in I think.
After some time resting, we got ourselves up and headed to Nihombashi to the Pokeman Cafe. When we got there we discovered that you had to have a reservation for the cafe. Oops. I quickly got online to make a reservation for Monday morning only to find out that the entire next month was pretty much full. Oh well. We walked through the Pokeman store and bought a few things before getting back on the train.
We decided to head to Harajuku and Shibuya. We walked from Omote-Sando to Harajuku via the main road passing the Oriental Bazaar and Kiddyland...two places I remember going to as a kid. Then I took Andrew down the crazy side shopping street in Harajuku called Takeshita street. There were lots of unique stores and a lot of crepe vendors. It was so crowded but lots of fun. We hopped on the train in Harajuku and decided to head to Shibuya. We saw Hachiko first and then went to eat ramen at Ichiran. It is a popular ramen restaurant set up so efficiently. You pay for your meal through the vending machine, wait for an open stand, sit down and hand your ticket through your personal stall, and wait for your meal. In your seating area is your own waterspout for refilling water. It was so clever. We enjoyed our ramen and then spent the rest of the evening shopping in the crowded streets of Shibuya. We bought crepes and even found a Krispy Kreme. And, of course, we walked the big intersection a few times before jumping on the train to head back to our hotel.
One of Andrew’s only requests on this trip was to go to Tokyo Disney Sea...the only park of its kind in the world. We have fond memories of this park and scary ones too as this was the place where we were when the big earthquake of 2011 happened. It was a crazy time. We weren’t worried about a big earthquake this time but instead focused on how to get in as many rides and fast passes as we could throughout the day. We started at Journey to the Center of the Earth and rode that and then got a fast pass for it. We rode the Indiana Jones ride twice and Raging Spirits. Those were our favorite rides.
Part of the excitement of Disney is stuffing our faces with yummy treats while waiting in line. We ate cinnamon churros, caramel popcorn and Mickey popsicles. We walked all the way around the park looking for real ice cream and finally found a gelato stand. We saw parts of the Easter themed mid-day show on the water (we know...Easter is over but clearly the Japanese didn’t care) and didn’t spend more than 45 min in any line waiting for rides. That’s not to say there weren’t lines that extended all the way to 100-120 min...we just weren’t crazy enough to stand in them. The longest line we waited in said 35 min for the Nemo Searider. It ended up being 45-50 min. By the time we got to the ride...it stopped after 1 min. Technical difficulties. We hurried off the ride to catch our fast passes for Raging Spirits. They gave us a fast pass for the Nemo ride to use later but we never used them. Guess we will never know if that ride was good or not.
It got pretty hot in the middle of the day so we headed down in Ariel’s underground grotto and rode the jelly fish ride. Then we headed over to the carousel in the Arabian coast section. We even went back to the elevator at the Leonardo Challenge area where Andrew was said to have pushed the button right when the earthquake started. We had to go back and snap a photo.
We saw a variety of characters throughout the day. All Andrew wanted was a picture with goofy. As we were leaving the park we finally saw goofy. I told Andrew to quickly just run up next to him. The timid kid came out and he didn’t do it. I caught a photo of Andrew where the caption should read...I missed my chance😢 Poor kid. Oh well. At least we made it until 5pm...not 10pm like we had originally anticipated. I guess that’s what happens when you are not used to so much walking in the heat. Still...it was a super fun day. You really can’t go wrong when you are at Disney!!!