Category Archives: pictures

Fifteen.

A couple of months ago, I was looking at Instagram, and a popular blogger that I follow on IG had posted a picture of her sweet family…they’d been travelling in an RV for a number of weeks together. She seems like a fun mom, and I love watching what she does with her kids through pictures. However, what caught my attention was the couple of comments that were visible under the picture.

I’m paraphrasing, but the gist was this, from 2 different moms: “We do EVERYTHING with our kids. We have never ever gotten a babysitter, even to go out for dinner, because we never want to be without them. Why would we want to go on an adventure and not include them?”

I almost choked on my tea.

Because, you see, I love my kids. So much. My only serious childhood ambition was to be a mom someday (and a cashier and an Avon lady. Which hasn’t happened yet, really. Who knows what the future holds though, right?), and I am one. I love travelling with them and seeing new things for the first time with them.

But are you even kidding me? Never getting a babysitter? Never doing anything without them? I’m sorry, but to me, that’s just not healthy for you as an adult human, or for your marriage. I’ve blogged before about how I think couples have to be careful not to lose sight of each other while they’re in the messy throes of raising kids (12 in ’12 was all about this for us), because before you know it, those kids are on their own, and you’re married to a stranger. No one wants that, right?

So, all that to justify say: Matt and I ran away to the beach last week for 5 days to celebrate our 15th anniversary, and it was truly, truly one of the highlights of my life. And we have Matt’s parents to majorly thank for totally stepping in and taking over the household for us while we were gone…they even left me with a clean house and garage, and the laundry done. Doesn’t get much better than that!!

We joked that we didn’t even know if we would be good at going on a sit-your-butt-on-the-beach vacation, since we’re usually go-do-a-ton-of-stuff vacationers (Nashville, Nashville again, Boston…). However, as it turns out, we killed it at laying in beach chairs. Literally for 4 full days, our only responsibility was making sure that we reapplied sunscreen regularly. We read books (you guys, my non-reader husband read TWO WHOLE BOOKS while we were gone), listened to music and the ocean, walked the beach and collected shells, and made getting back to the beach (or, just staying there all day) for sunset our job. Oh, and plenty of eating, and drinking Lime-a-Ritas like they were nutritious.

I don’t know if I can go back to do-something vacations after this. I’m afraid it ruined me in the best way possible.

It’s not that I ever would’ve shunned a vacation at the beach. I mean, hello, parenting babies and toddlers is incredibly exhausting, too. But as we reflected on the trip, and the time of year that we took it, it made sense why this felt like perfect timing. For the past couple of years, and the foreseeable future, our March-September is c-r-a-z-y with baseball. And you all know we wouldn’t have it any other way! The rest of the year feels so much more regular-busy-family manageable.

October is the perfect time to go to the beach. I’m polishing up my persuasive speech skills to talk Matt into this again. :)

I didn’t even mention where we went, did I? Siesta Key, Florida, right outside Sarasota. We visited a few neighboring beaches, too, to compare, and none of them even came close. I’d choose Siesta Key again in a heartbeat.

Sigh. So that’s it. Here are a few pictures, to make you want to go, too.

Next week, if I’m brave enough, I’ll blog about body image and what living in a bikini for a few days taught me. We’ll see.

First Broken Bone (maybe)

This is how Bennett looks as of Monday afternoon.

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That’s a maybe-broken pinky finger. On the child that, if I was a betting person, I’d have picked hands-down to have the first broken bone in our family. But let’s back this story up.

Saturday, 9am

I had taken Jack Henry out to Chesterfield for his baseball game, and Matt, the two older boys, and his parents were at our house (planning to leave for Luke’s game at 9:15ish). Luke and Bennett went out for a neighborhood scooter ride, as they often do.

I got a text from Matt letting me know that there had been a scooter accident, and that Bennett was pretty banged up, but that he’d taken care of it. I asked for details.

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“Apparently speed was important.”?? Uh, yeah. 1. Don’t you remember what it was like to be a boy on a bike/scooter on a hill? 2. Have you met our child?
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The rest of Saturday and Sunday, Bennett was obviously still feeling some discomfort from his injuries, and our focus was on his swollen pinky finger. He couldn’t bend it all the way, and it just didn’t look quite right.

So on Monday morning, I took him to see our school nurse, who took one look at it and said she thought it should be x-rayed. I called our insurance company, talked to a few friends, and decided on Urgent Care for x-rays, knowing that I’d take him to an orthopedist to have it set if it was broken, but hoping they’d say no, it’s not broken, and we’d go along our merry way.

I didn’t anticipate what actually happened: an inconclusive result. Between Bennett’s strange finger shape (his pinkies are bowed, which means one of the bones is atypical) and a weird divot-that-is-possibly-a-break in that misshapen bone, the doc wasn’t sure. So he splinted it and told us to see an orthopedist in a week.

Sigh.

We’re speeding up that timeline and seeing a specialist tomorrow. Will update :)

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UPDATE: NOT broken, much to Bennett’s chagrin! We saw an orthopedist who took one look at our UC x-rays and was able to determine that his bone is misshapen and that divot is a rudimentary growth plate, not a break. Hooray!

Minus One

Last weekend, for the first time ever, Luke went away for the weekend on a church retreat for sixth graders. I have to admit, it was really, really weird to not have him with us… I felt like I was forgetting something all weekend.

However, it was really cool to spend some time with just the two younger boys while Luke was doing all of the Big Kid Things. Because we did not have a crazy overscheduled weekend for once, we had plenty of time to just do what we wanted.

Friday night, after Matt and I took care of the yard work and finishing up our bathroom remodel, we decided to have a bonfire in the cul-de-sac and let the boys have s’mores before dinner. Might’ve been our best decision all weekend.

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Saturday: early breakfast at The Shack (I’m obsessed with their berry granola pancake), a long walk on Grant’s Trail,

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and took some time to hang out at Grant’s Farm.

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It was just so much fun for Matt and me to focus on these 2. And even better, by far, was how they got along with each other. I’ve loooong known that just removing any one of them from the mix for a while totally changes the dynamic, but it’s such a pleasant surprise to see these two getting along.

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By Sunday afternoon we couldn’t wait to have Luke back! He was, of course, exhausted, but full of fun stories. Growing up Catholic, I didn’t have these kinds of experiences, so I’m excited for him that he got to experience something like this with his youth group!

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Things are totally (eyeroll) back to normal now, with B and JH resuming their roles as oil and water. Oh well. It was sure fun while it lasted.

Vacation 2014: The Estes Park Part (The Beautiful Weather Days)

Picking up where I left off

When we woke up Thursday morning, we knew the forecast had a much better day in store for us, despite some initial cloud cover and gray skies. We grabbed a quick breakfast at a little cafe on our way into RMNP, and we stopped for the obligatory entry pic at the park, since it wasn’t raining for once.

One of our very favorite parts of the park from our trip 3 years ago was the Alluvial Fan. Unfortunately, in the flood last fall, much of the Alluvial Fan was washed out, and we were disappointed to find that it was completely closed to foot traffic while they’re doing some sort of rebuilding. However, we did one good hike (a bit narrower and rockier than some) near the Alluvial Fan that took us up high enough to see the rushing water that eventually spills out below.

We spent some time driving around different parts of the park as the clouds completed burned off for the day, and decided on hiking to Alberta Falls. We were in a bit of time crunch, especially given that the trail is a) very busy; b) a little more difficult on the way back up than others we’d done; and c) we were meeting up with friends in less than an hour. No matter. We did it anyway.

SO glad we did. The last time we were there, and we didn’t realize this at the time, we didn’t hike all the way up to the best view. This time, Matt was intent on making that happen, including a small, dangerous, off-path diversion before we realized the regular path would take us up to a breathtaking view! We loved it…the air was misty with the spray coming off the falls.

We hiked back quickly to meet our friends, the McGills, for a walk around Bear Lake. How cool is it that their trip overlapped with our time there? Our kids had fun climbing rocks, until Elle slipped on the absolute last step of her climb down and gashed her leg! So that was a bummer. But still, definitely a highlight to have them join us there!

One more 2 mile-ish hike that day on what became known as “Horse Poop Pass” because our trail had been used FREQUENTLY by horses. Gross, but for boys, pretty much the highlight of the trip, what with all of the poop talk.

We finished the prettiest day in EP with mini-golf, where Jack Henry got TWO holes-in-one! Dinner at a very forgettable pizza place, and then a stroll down Elkhorn for t-shirts and ice cream cones.

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Part 2 of our Colorado trip began Friday, as we took Trail Ridge Road all the way across RMNP as we headed to Steamboat Springs to meet up with my whole family!

While it was a tiny bit hazy as we got started early, by mid-morning it was crystal clear and the absolute perfect day for seeing all that this incredible road has to offer. We took our time moseying along, looking for wildlife, stopping to skip rocks in the river, and checking out the Continental Divide.

Up next: 7 adults + 8 kids in one condo for 3 nights :)

Vacation 2014: The Estes Park Part (The Bad Weather Days)

As I mentioned before, we had 36ish hours at home. Around 4am on Tuesday, we woke the family and headed to the airport for our 7am flight.  And for the first time I can ever remember, our plane took off EARLY (I love you, Southwest Airlines!).

It was only after we were comfortably sitting on the plane that I remembered: we’d forgotten Jack Henry’s booster seat for the rental car. So that was fun. Related: I’ve got a brand new booster seat for sale.

After a brief panicky moment where we realized that the boys had left their backpack on the bus that took us to the rental car place from the airport (it was found immediately – that bus was still in the parking lot 10 minutes after dropping us off, which I consider a miracle. Oh, and everything was in it, which included an iPod and iPad. Sheesh.), we headed to Boulder for breakfast. We ate at The Buff, recommended by a friend who lives there, and it did not disappoint!

By going through Boulder, we planned to take a slightly more scenic route into Estes Park (EP from here on out)…however, we didn’t realize we’d really be rerouted due to damaged roads from last fall’s disastrous flooding. But, that was fine. We were treated to a pretty view of the St. Vrain Creek the whole way. Which was nice, because the rain started to fall on that drive, and it stayed majorly overcast and rainy for the next 36 hours.

Kind of a huge bummer when the reason you’re in Colorado is to hike, and the weather is unseasonably cold and wet.

However, we made the best of it. We bought ponchos, ate a snack, and got started on our first hike of the trip shortly after getting to EP.  We all loved Gem Lake. The trailhead is located just outside of EP and not in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) proper, which made it super easy to access. I was too worried about rain while we were on this hike, so I kept my camera in the van and just used my phone. This was probably the hardest hike we did, and everyone loved it, from the views to the difficulty to all of the rocks to climb on for the 11-and-under set.

Sidenote: these boys of mine nearly gave me heart failure several times with their rock-climbing antics and getting too far ahead on the trail this first day. I *may* have tried to put the fear of God in them by making them read the back cover of a book on people who have died while hiking in RMNP (and the story on the back cover is about a 12-year-old boy from the Midwest who was never seen again after he got too far ahead of his family and presumably fell to his death. I know, I am the funnest mom ever.)

We ended that day by settling into our amazing condo (people, seriously…if you’re going to EP, stay here), getting dinner at a place we’d never have tried if it weren’t for TripAdvisor’s recommendation (and it was delicious!), and went back to the condo and crashed by 9pm. Since we’d been up since 4am.

Day 2 in EP started out with more rain, but since our plans included not much more than RMNP, we decided to tough it out and take the drive up Trail Ridge Road that morning. We saw nothing. Absolutely nothing. Unless you count thick fog as something. Matt made us take this mile-long walk (thankfully not a hike) up in the Alpine region where it was 37 degrees, heavy fog, and steadily drizzling. As you will see in the pictures below, I wasn’t thrilled.

So we ate lunch in the van up at the top of Trail Ridge Road, turned around, and drove back down. We crashed at our condo for a while, and when the weather looked slightly more favorable later in the afternoon, we talked the boys into going on another hike: Nymph Lake (which we’d seen last time we were in RMNP in 2011) and on to Dream Lake.

It was raining on us as we started, but the drizzle stopped as we made our way up to the first lake. The trail was muddy and we stopped often to watch the water running off the mountainside in various cool little trickles. And then, we heard it ahead: a waterfall. We totally weren’t anticipating it, and it was raging due to the recent rain. It made wearing a poncho and being cold totally worthwhile! Dream Lake was beautiful, but I would definitely love to see it on a not-overcast day sometime with my own eyes, knowing it looks like this.

Making that last hike happen made us feel like the day wasn’t totally lost, and we all appreciated that had it not been raining for 2 days, the mini waterfalls, huge waterfall, and overflowing streams wouldn’t have been near what we got to experience.

By the time we made it to dinner at Poppy’s, we were really tired and hungry. There wasn’t a lot of talking until there was food in everyone’s belly…these children don’t stand a chance of avoiding the hangry gene.

Up next: the prettiest days ever in RMNP.

Vacation 2014: The Wisconsin Part

As is custom in our family, we wait until the boys’ baseball season is over to travel. Which means that by the time late July rolls around, we are very ready to get out of town for a while!

This year’s vacation had 3 parts: Wisconsin and 2 parts in Colorado. We spent a weekend in Wisconsin with Matt’s family, came home Sunday, Matt worked Monday while the boys and I did laundry and repacked everything, and then very early Tuesday morning we headed to the airport. It was a whirlwind but really, really fun!

Our extended family now numbers 16 on the Diehl side, which means we’ve outgrown the family cottage. Therefore, Matt and the boys and I stayed in a little cottage across the neighborhood from the rest of the family, which worked out fine! We spent our lake time eating (great meals out but also pounds of Chex Mix, which I have proven time and again I have no self-control with), playing baseball, shopping a little bit in Lake Geneva, eating some more, and playing at the Assembly Park beach. Just all-around fun family time at Lake Delavan!

Sidenote: Luke found this picture of our family at the lake years ago on Google Images. Isn’t that crazy? Also: we had a talk about not searching Google Images, because, you know, they aren’t always PG.

So here’s the rest of the story, told in pictures…

Life Skills 101

“So, Mom, did you know that there was like a TOTAL CASCADING WATERFALL OF MILK off the counter this morning? Right here. My sock got some on it, but I still wore it all day.”

This was a conversation I had with Bennett this evening while he was working on making dinner for himself and his brothers. It came up because as he was making grilled pj&j, he dropped glob of jelly on his sock, and I told him to just take it off since it was almost time to shower anyway.

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And actually, I did not know about the milk waterfall. I was upstairs getting ready for the day, and B and Luke were eating breakfast together (Matt and Jack Henry were already on their way to baseball).

They’d done a pretty good job of cleaning it up, but you know, didn’t do it in a way that would truly pass Mom-inspection. So, I pulled out my newest trick: telling him I was going to teach him a Life Skill, instead of correcting what wasn’t done right.

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“Life Skill” has become a frequently-used phrase around here this summer. A couple of months ago, I realized that there are SO MANY THINGS – all the things – that a kid needs to know and know how to do. It’s not like you can just put them in a book and have them read it. It’s things that pop up in day-to-day life that make you think, “hey, a kid needs to know this.” Maybe I should make a list.

Like being able to take a few bucks into a Quik Trip and buy a bag of ice (don’t worry, I sent 2 of them in together). Or how to do a load of laundry start to finish, or use the dishwasher. Or how to go up to a concession stand with your water bottle and politely ask for a refill, and say thank you when they give it back to you. Or how to order in a restaurant, giving the waitress your attention.

Or, figuring out how to put the dishes away that you can’t reach.

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So this evening, instead of correcting the cleanup that was done in the morning, I said, “Hey, buddy, I’ve got a Life Skill to teach you. Remember that little ant problem we’ve had in the kitchen? Well, ants like leftover food that’s on the floor. And if you don’t wipe up a spill like milk with a wet paper towel, they’ll find it.”

Easy peasy. Doesn’t sound judgmental. Problem solved.

WHY IN THE WORLD DID I NOT THINK OF THIS APPROACH BEFORE NOW?

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My favorite Life Skill teaching happened this morning though. Bennett, Luke and I were in the van on the way to Jack Henry’s last baseball game of the summer season. I had a bracelet I couldn’t put on myself, so I reached my arm behind me and told B what to do, then said, “You know, this a good skill for you to have when you’re older. Your girlfriend or wife might sometime need help with this.”

Bennett’s immediate response: “Well, the bracelet is on, but this is one skill I’m not going to need. Because I’m going to be single, and be a baseball player, and live with my dog.”

This has literally been his mantra all summer long. About not getting married, having his buddy Connor as a roommate since they’ll both be professional baseball players, and having a dog. (I’m all: “Life Skill: someone needs to take care of your dog while you’re on the road all the time with the MLB, cowboy. Maybe a wife would be a good idea. Also? I want grandchildren.”)

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So, help me out. What are some other things my boys need to know how to do on their own?