Sunday, September 29, 2013

School Time!

James started his second year of preschool at the end of August. He is now in the 4-year old class and they are already starting to read! He loves school (see the video) and he is doing great with his reading. We are so proud of him and how hard he tries, and hope that remains true for the duration of his school years. 
Family photo on the first day of school
First day of school 2013 (age 4)
For comparison, first day 2012 (age 3)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rocky Mountain High, Part Two

As promised, here is the rest of our fantastic trip to Colorado. Would that I could do justice to the beauty around us with these pictures. It truly is one of the most magnificent places I've ever seen. 
Jill attempting to capture every beautiful moment
On Thursday, we headed north to Estes Park. The drive itself was gorgeous, through winding mountain roads, and the destination was just superb. Our campground was located across the street from Lake Estes and there is a lovely bike/jogging path that goes all the way around it. We jumped on the opportunity to enjoy the scenery and the setting sun on that trail. What a great way to do a little exploring! 
Not a bad shot for riding a bike and taking a picture with my phone simultaneously!
Sunset from our campground. Yes, please!
Friday was our day in Rocky Mountain National Park. We are big fans of America's National Parks and were very anxious to finally see one of its crown jewels. She did not disappoint. The splendor and majesty of this park will take your breath away. Seriously. It's stunning. I took hundreds of pictures and then had to come home and try to decide which were the best. It's a rough life, but someone has to do it.  Here are a few of the winners!
Near the top of Trail Ridge Rd., somewhere around 12,000 feet in elevation
I don't know what he's pointing at, but he sure is cute!
Purple mountain majesties 
Magnificent view, wish it hadn't been so hazy
I dream of swimming in those remote alpine lakes on a hot, summer day
Lovely little stream
One of our favorite places in the park was Bear Lake. We went there in late afternoon and the light was so lovely and it was quiet (except for James, of course), and we just walked all the way around the lake. There are trails that leave from there and go up to other lakes, so here's hoping we make our way back there someday. 
Family picture just off the road to Bear Lake. Couldn't resist the backdrop.
Bear Lake, in all its glory

James and Chris being silly on our walk
Love those sweet, smiling faces!

The last bit of sun lights up the trees along the lake 
We were lucky enough to see a variety of local wildlife while we were in the park. They seem quite used to the people and were not remotely fazed by the crowds and cameras. 
Golden eagle in flight
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
Look at the rack on that elk! Do you think he wishes people would look him in the face? 
An entire herd of elk.
A mother elk nursing her baby
So... maybe not a large variety, maybe it was mostly elk. But still, elk are cool!
There was also this bird, a Steller's Jay. Loud and proud on the tree.
While we were only there for a day, it was a wonderful day! We look forward to going back and spending a lot more time exploring.
A beautiful farewell to a beautiful day
Saturday, we left Estes Park and headed west on Highway 40 through northern Colorado. It gave us a change from I-70 and allowed us to see some new places. We stopped for lunch in Steamboat Springs at a great little place called the Sweet Pea Market & Restaurant (, where we ate outside along the Yampa River. There are no pictures because we were too busy devouring the delicious food, but it is wonderful if you are ever in that area. We spent our last night camping in Vernal, Utah so that we could spend the next morning at Dinosaur National Monument. What a wonderful exhibit! They have taken a giant slab of rock with hundreds of fossils in it and put it on display so that you may see the fossils exactly as they were found. It is a really interesting place and James was so excited to be there and get to touch the bones and ask the rangers all kinds of questions. Chris and I were just happy to have someone else to answer them, and with far more knowledge than us!
Chris and James on the second level overlooking the wall of fossils
James describing to the ranger the way that a T-Rex chomps (as if he didn't know)
Sunday afternoon, we headed home. It was a really fantastic trip, with beautiful scenery, great family time, and some nice relaxing parts as well. 
Almost home!
James is great on road trips; thank you, iPad!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rocky Mountain High, Part One

In the middle of August, the Utah Shenks spent an awesome week enjoying a family vacation in Colorado. The sheer volume of pictures taken means that this trip will warrant more than one post. Wouldn't want to inundate you with too much beauty at one time...
Just driving down the highway is a visual feast
We took our little camping trailer and our dog, Leo, and hit the open road. We started the trip off in Colorado Springs, enjoying the Garden of the Gods park. Unfortunately, this trip coincided with a huge amount of rain causing flooding and mudslides in that area, so while we were able to enjoy small bits of sunshine and time outside, our outing to Pikes Peak was canceled. On the plus side, we were able to spend more time with Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Jim, and that is never a bad thing. As always, they are the most fantastic and generous of hosts and we love being there.
A rainy day in the Garden of the Gods is still pretty amazing
Really brave rock climbers
Future rock climber

Chris goofing around on Jill's bike at our campground. Love the face!
Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Jim, just a-swingin'
Chris and Jill enjoyed a rare day out (thanks for babysitting, Aunt Charlotte) and took a tour of the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado. They are the geniuses behind Chris's favorite beer, Fat Tire Amber Ale. If you haven't tried it yet, go find a bottle. It's fantastic! The tour includes samples, of course, and since Jill is not a big beer fan, Chris basically had double the fun. Nothing like getting drunk at 11 am on vacation... 

At the beginning of the tour, still sober
Ending the tour down a slide, definitely not sober
While in Golden (where Aunt Charlotte lives), we took in the Historic Railroad Museum there. It is a really great place and if you're ever in the area, be sure to check it out! They have a wide variety of rail cars you can climb in and explore, as well as a functioning roundhouse and the most detailed model railroad we have ever seen! 
Chris and James checking out the model railroad

A train just waiting to be explored

I'm pretty sure Chris is explaining the mechanics of this to James

If there's a truck in the area, James will find it and want to "drive" it

A visit from a local

All aboard!
On our last day in the Denver area, we took James to the Children's Museum. It was a really fun experience for him with a variety of areas to learn and explore. One of our favorite things about James is that he is always up for trying new things and this trip was no exception. 
Dressed as a fireman, sliding down the pole.
Hanging out in a full-size fire truck was awesome!
Painting a masterpiece with Mom
Tool time in the workshop, just like Dad
Inside a big, square bubble!
Chris and James make their own giant bubble

The boys share a moment during our yummy lunch in downtown Denver
Enjoying the deliciousness that is Little Man Ice Cream!
What a wonderful first half of our vacation! Check back for Part Two, which will include our time in Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Dinosaur National Monument.