Garden of the Gods – Colorado Springs, Colorado…

Ryan could not have chosen a better birthday gift for me than this gift of having family photos taken at Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods Park is known for its amazing 300-foot towering sandstone rock formations standing against a backdrop of mountains, including Pikes Peak.

Ryan told me about this gift about a week before my birthday, so I jumped online and ordered coordinating outfits right away. It felt like a true miracle everything fit and coordinated so well. I think the buffalo plaid is fun, and it’s something different than I’d normally choose. Coordinating a family of twelve is no easy feat! Haha.

Melissa did our photo session. She was great to work with, and she quickly and thoroughly captured our family well! I love that she chose to do photos of our family, our kids, the boys, the girls and individual photos of each of our kids.

Manning (13)
Rhythm (13)
Tapestry (12)
Cherish (10)
Liberty (9)
Jubilee (8)
Mercy (6)
Treasure (5)
River (3)
Bravely (2)

Our kids really enjoyed the photo session, which made it overall relaxed and fun.

It definitely helped that our kids have become used to quickly posing for our traveling photos.

Bravely was really cute and funny. There were times that it was difficult to get her to look and put her hands down – just a typical toddler. Ha! I was thrilled with how she did end up looking and smiling. And in one of my favorite photos, she has her hands up in the cutest way.

After we finished our photo session, we drove around the park and stopped to see some of the many incredible views.

Garden of the Gods is stunning, definitely a place I recommend visiting!

I feel like these photos capture and represent our season of travel so well, and I’m really thankful for this gift!

Denver Selfie Museum – Denver, Colorado…

Last Tuesday was my birthday. I woke up to lots of kids coming into our room giving me hugs and wishing me a happy birthday. Even Bravely copied her older siblings and said, “Happy birthday, Mommy!” There’s not a much better way to start a day.

I really like my Lara Bars I eat most everyday for breakfast, so I bought our kids special muffins and I had my Lara Bar with a candle. Haha. Our kids made me the sweetest homemade cards and bought me really thoughtful gifts – including a cute tin colorblock coffee mug, Diet Dr. Pepper (I only allow myself one for a special treat on occasion) and a phone holder for the van. Ryan gave me the amazing gift of a professional photo session at Garden of the Gods, which we did the next day. Thank goodness he knows me well enough to have told me a week in advance so that I could plan cute coordinating outfits.

We drove from Colorado Springs to Denver for lunch. We ate at Torchy’s Tacos, which we had not had in over a year. I absolutely love their green chili pulled pork tacos.

After lunch, we headed to such a fun place…the Denver Selfie Museum!

Close family and friends know that we love being silly and laughing. This was the perfect kind of entertainment for our family.

We roamed from photo set to photo set. Tapestry took Ryan’s phone so she could take photos as well.

We created all sorts of goofy poses and snapped away.

We had way too much fun, laughed way too hard and took way too many pictures!

I love taking photos. I love art and creativity. I love laughing. And I love being with my family.

I could not have picked a more fun way to celebrate my birthday!

Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado…

Last Sunday, we drove about 2 1/2 hours from Colorado Springs to Rocky Mountain National Park. We entered from the town Estes Park.

Because of COVID and the parks popularity, a reservation system was put into place. This is the first national park we’ve had to make a reservation to enter. We weren’t able to get in until 3PM, so we planned to make the most of our short time there.

We chose to drive to and park in the Bear Lake area. We enjoyed stunning mountain views in all directions as we drove.

We parked and started hiking at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. A ways down the trail, we veered off onto the Alberta Falls Trail.

It was a pretty and shaded area. There were trees, rocks and streams along the way.

We brought a jog stroller, which was easy to push along the trail, but we later found out that strollers aren’t allowed.

We walked up to the most beautiful rock wall, and we looked down to see Glacier Creek below.

We continued our hike, and we arrived at Alberta Falls.

Alberta Falls is a 30-foot waterfall that flows down a small gorge on Glacier Creek.

We stood around watching and listening to the waterfall for awhile, and then we started our trek back the way we came.

We walked about 5 miles total that day. We were worn out by the time we got back to the beginning of Glacier Gorge Trail. Still, we walked a short distance over to Bear Lake to check it out as the sun was going down.

All-in-all, we felt like we had the perfect experience at Rocky Mountain National Park for the amount of time we had there. If we visit it again in the future, we’ll head north toward the Alpine Visitor Center. We were told that is one of the most scenic drives in the country.

Manitou Cliff Dwellings – Manitou Springs, Colorado…

We spent the past week in Colorado Springs. We stayed at Garden of the Gods RV resort, just outside of Manitou Springs.

We were excited when we heard about the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, a group of relocated Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings.

When we visited Mesa Verde, nearly a year ago, we weren’t able to walk through the cliff dwellings. We just saw them from afar.

These cliff dwellings we were able to walk through and explore.

We had fun envisioning living here.

In each space, we read about how it was used. When we encountered this room designated for a whole family, Ryan asked our kids if they could imagine living in a space this small.

They answered, “Yes.” I laughed and said, “Well, we do live in an RV.” Ha.

The cliff dwellings were like a big playhouse. Our kids had so much fun going in and out of holes, discovering new spaces everywhere they turned.

Our kids especially loved climbing the ladder to check out the second story.

After exploring all the spaces, we walked though the museum and gift shop. It was an overall fun and educational experience for us all!

Jellystone Park – Larkspur, Colorado…

Last week we spent the week at Jellystone Park in Larkspur, CO. It is a really nice park that just opened in June.

We didn’t tell our kids which RV park we were going to be staying at, so they were ecstatic when we drove up to Jellystone.

If you’ve never stayed at a Jellystone, it’s worth trying one! These parks typically have RV spots and cabins. They are packed full of fun amenities and activities. It is an experience similar to spending a week at summer camp.

Our whole family loves playing putt-putt golf, so we were thrilled about the nice course at Jellystone. We played putt-putt every evening we were there, until it snowed and they shut the course down. Even then, we drove over there hoping to play. Ha.

This Jellystone has an awesome water park. We took the kids Friday morning to enjoy it before the crowd arrived for Labor Day Weekend.

After enjoying the water slides and the huge bucket of water dumping from overhead, we walked over to the heated pool and hot tub. The pool is in a completely different area than the water park . There were only a couple other people at the pool, so that was nice!

Because there weren’t many people and all our kids without floaties could touch in the deep end, it was an overall stress-free experience for me. And everyone had a blast swimming!

We did not do many of the scheduled activities at Jellystone. It was very crowded for Labor Day Weekend, so we mainly did things other people weren’t doing and avoided the crowds. When I saw tie-dye t-shirts on the schedule of activities, though, I knew we’d love it. We joined in and each made our own shirts.

This kind of thing is much more complicating with many kids than it is with a few. We were one of the firsts to arrive, and we were definitely the last to leave. A staff member told us we made the most shirts of any family that had ever been there before. Haha. I wasn’t surprised.

We had so much fun, and we loved how each unique shirt turned out in the end!

During the day Monday, it was hot outside. By late Monday evening, we were bundled up in jackets and hoodies. And it started snowing during the night!

It took all day for the snow to accumulate on the ground. Once there was quite a bit of snow, we bundled up the best us Texans know how and we went out to play.

The kids used sand toys to build snow castles. They tasted the snow. They soaked up the experience.

It never snows this much in Texas. Occasionally, not even once a year, snow will fall from the sky for maybe 30 minutes. Everyone, like every single Texan both young and old, rushes outside to see the snow. Everyone takes pictures and videos. If you are really, really lucky enough snow will accumulate on a surface where you can gather it and build a 5-inch tall snowman. Within minutes, the snow is gone and you have a new memory to last the next 1-5 years until the next snow. Haha. I am not exaggerating.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week at Jellystone – from swimming to snow!

Flaming Gorge Red Canyon Overlook – Dutch John, Utah…

The evening before we left Wyoming, we made the beautiful hour and a half drive from Rock Springs to the Flaming Gorge Red Canyon Overlook.

It was a gorgeous mountain drive the whole way. We really enjoyed the views.

Flaming Gorge Reservoir is the largest reservoir in Wyoming, on the Green River, impounded behind the Flaming Gorge Dam.

We drove over the Flaming Gorge Dam, which was neat to see.

There are many long drives we take with certainty our kids will find the drives worth it. Others, we chance it and hope for the best. This was one of those kind of drives.

Our kids oohed and aahed a few times along the way, and they really got excited when we arrived at the Red Canyon area.

When we first turned onto the road heading to Red Canyon Overlook, we saw a group of goats hanging out right beside us.

We parked at the Red Canyon Visitor Center, and we walked a short paved trail to this amazing overlook. It was quite a view to see!

We walked around and admired the beauty as the sun was making its way down.

After taking it all in, our kids excitedly squeezed into a large crack in the ground.

Then we started walking back down the short paved trail. Jubilee and River ran ahead. I called out for them to wait on the rest of us. As they turned around to start running back toward us, River fell. Bravely had fallen about two minutes earlier, cried a minute, and was ready to walk again. When River fell and then stood back up, though, I started yelling, “Breathe, breathe!” Tapestry ran ahead and yelled back, “She did breathe!” Just as she said that, River fell straight back and hit her head on the paved path.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a child who holds his/her breath when scared or hurt to the point of passing out, but it’s scary! River started this when she hit her head on the floor as a baby. She has done it several times since. We used to rush her to the ER every time. They always assured us she was fine and would outgrow this phase. She has mostly outgrown it, and she does usually breathe when I remind her to do so. This was her first hard fall from not breathing fast enough. Her head was bleeding to the point we thought she may need stitches. Once I got her cleaned up, we knew she was ok without stitches but that we’d be on concussion watch for the next few days. Within a couple hours, she was her happy self. She came to our room with a huge smile on her face that evening and said, “I’m better because the girls gave me stickers.” When you get hurt in a big family, you get showered with love, attention and treats. And that was just the cure River needed!

We all ended up loving the Flaming Gorge Red Canyon Overlook, and we found it worth the drive. We only wished River had not got hurt, but we are thankful all is well now!

A week in Rock Springs, Wyoming…

Last week we stayed at the KOA in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

We loved the mountain views!

And our kids were excited about the amenities.

They spent tons of time playing on the playground and jumping on the jump pad.

There was even a Stegent-size chair at our RV park! Haha.

We were happy to have easy access to hiking trails through the mountains behind our RV park.

As we’ve traveled, our love of hiking has grown. There’s just something grand about being in nature and exploring it in this way.

Our kids want to climb most anything we’ll allow them to climb. Mercy was very excited to discover this shelf on the side of a small mountain.

Our boys are all about conquering. Climbing to the top and overlooking the ground beneath is Manning’s favorite.

All our kids, especially our little girls, love collecting rocks. We have accumulated quite the rock collection from our travels.

We really didn’t know of or find much to do in or around Rock Springs, but we honestly hardly looked.

We had more of a relaxed week, and we really enjoyed it.