Stange Family Vacation 2017 | Yosemite

Visiting Yosemite has become one of my favorite family traditions. We stay in a cabin by Bass Lake and when we're not out exploring, we're swimming in the lake, which has been INSANELY full the last two times we've visited!

Our trip to Yosemite this year was especially eventful because Andrew and I were able to hike up Half Dome together! If you don't know what Half Dome is, imagine the biggest boulder of solid granite rock that's been sliced in half, towering in the sky.

I've been wanting to do this hike since we first visited Yosemite and luckily for us, the timing was just right and we were selected from the raffle to receive permits!

The hike up was absolutely beautiful! My sister-in-law, Maya, and I were especially in awe over Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail.

We did encounter a rattlesnake at one point, which was pretty exciting, especially since the hiker behind us was just walking towards us while we were taking a rest, then jumped about 10 feet in the air exclaiming "Sh;t!" as he came back down and the Rattlesnake didn't even seem phased! So that was exciting!

Before the final ascent up half dome, you have to climb up sub-dome, about a thousand switch backs of stairs, and after that, you see the two cables with wood planks at intervals up the side of Half Dome at about a 45 degree angle. I know 45 degrees doesn't sound too impressive, but you'd be surprised.

There was a bit of the line (as everyone needs to stop from time-to-time to catch their breaths), so I decided to do something really stupid and take that picture of Andrew while we were climbing. I'm really glad I didn't die and that the picture actually turned out descent... See what I did there? ;)

Getting to the top of Half Dome was absolutely incredible.

The hike back down was mostly uneventful until about 20 minutes from the car to take us back to the cabin. It started POURING rain! It only took about 5 minutes for us all to be totally soaked. What a way to end, right?

Despite our squelchy shoes and sopping wet backpacks, none of us regretted going on the hike. It's one of the coolest things I've ever done.

And because I'm a birth photographer and simply can't help myself, I have to say that climbing up the cables to the summit of Half Dome reminded me a lot of childbirth. Everyone was encouraging everyone else saying some of the exact phrases I've heard husbands and family members say to mothers. "You're almost there!" "Just a little longer!" "You can do it!" Way to go, Half Dome Hikers. You'd all make terrific doula's. ;)

The rest of the time we spent up at Bass Lake and Yosemite was relaxing and awe-inspiring as well, especially Nelder Grove. I loved seeing the looks on my kiddo's faces as they stared up the massive tree trunks of Giant Sequoia's! These children remind me to always be curious and maintain that sense of wonder about our world.

I'm so grateful for the memories we were able to make on our vacation together this summer, and although I'm always sad to see summertime go, I also love to see where the fall leads. Thanks for keeping up with me and my family and just appreciating us and celebrating the fun times we have together. These memories are the stuff that families are made of and I'm so glad that we get to make some of them in Yosemite.

Stange Family Vacation Summer 2017 | Oceanside

Happy Labor Day! I hope you're out doing fun things and relaxing from your labors today! We're hanging around in Utah today, but I definitely wouldn't mind being back in Oceanside today (or anyday for that matter!)

Andrew's parent's live in Oceanside and we try to make a trip out there once a year (in the summertime). This time, it just so happened that Andrew's work trip landed the week before our scheduled vacation so we were able to drive to CA, drop the kids off with his parents, fly to Chicago for the week, then fly back and continue our vacation. So fortuitous!

The week in Oceanside was everything we wanted and needed. A couple of trips to the beach, plenty of dips in the pool, lots of good food, and catching up with dear friends.

Honestly, I could go to the beach every day and still crave for more. Chelsea would probably feel the same way were it not for the obligatory bath afterwards to wash all the sand off.

The Carnohan's are some of our favorite people. We took a trip to Yosemite together last year and even though it only lasted a few days, it is one of my favorite vacations to date! Click here to see posts from that trip.

Plus, Ryan has proven to be pretty skilled with my camera and it's nice to have someone to get a picture of all of us.

So glad that this crazy, energetic, hilarious little tribe is my family!
P.S. Would it be weird to print and hang a family photo where everyone is wearing swimming suits and I have sunglasses on?

One of my favorite parts of our outing with the Carnohan's was their insane ability at finding little sand crabs! I think it's a 6th sense kind of a thing. My kids definitely benefited from that extra sense.

Of course, I had my own kind of little adventure involving that special time of the month and the lack of product to cover that need, but I won't go into it. Suffice it to say, it all worked out and there were bathrooms nearby both times. :)

The girl's adventures mostly revolved around their swimming lessons! I loved going to watch them. Chelsea was a total natural and loved swimming around in the water. Alexa... not so much! I did learn that her avoidance techniques mainly revolve around asking you questions to get you to never stop talking. Good thing her teacher had been doing this a long time and knew exactly how to get her to get moving in the water! I'm sure Barrett would have loved swimming lessons, too, but I think we'll wait a bit before signing him up!

I even got the opportunity to photograph Lisa from @adieandaden with her two children! Here are a couple of pics from the shoot. Aren't they the cutest?!

I love meeting instagram friends in real life! Lisa's family reminded me so much of my own, especially little Aden's deep chocolatey brown eyes and Adie's fun, energetic personality! Basically, Lisa and I decided to be next door neighbors someday.

Every time I visit Oceanside, I wish I lived there! I love the people, I love the food, I love the shopping, I love the beach (despite the sand and obligatory shower), I even love the smell. But then I remind myself that there are a lot of things I love about living in Utah and that visiting every now-and-again helps to keep Oceanside fresh and exciting! So grateful for in-laws who let us crash in with our three energetic kiddos and shower us with love! Andrew's mom took this photo of me and all my kiddos one of the days we went to the beach and I just love it! I posted it to instagram here with some additional thoughts on why it's quickly become one of my favorites.

P.P.S. The white floppy hat I'm wearing got stepped on by dirty little shoes in the car and is SO not clean now. Any suggestion for getting dirt out of these kinds of hats. I'd be eternally grateful, thank you.

Take me back! I can't wait until our next opportunity to visit the place where my mermaid heart feels most at home! ;) Thanks for stopping by! Can't wait to tell you about the rest of our trip, so stay tuned!

Stange Family Vacation Summer 2017 | Chicago

If you've already been to my Facebook page, you've seen that I spent an entire 18 minutes and 20 seconds describing our family vacation and sharing some stories from the amazing three weeks! That, and some of my UNBELIEVABLE Xanadu vocals. ;P

Our first stop was Chicago! Andrew served an LDS mission there back in 2007 and 2008 so it was really neat for him to be able to go back and visit his old stomping grounds. We even ran into some current missionaries and they were able to update him on the status of the mission today. That actually might have been my favorite part of the trip... Had it not been for the deep dish pizza.

We did the tri-fecta of deep dish Chicago Pizzas and I can definitely say that it completely lives up to the hype! We tried Gino's East, Giordano's, and Lou Malnoti's. My favorite was Gino's East for sure. The crust there is PERFECTION. It has the texture of a cookie, but tastes like pizza dough. Uh-may-zing.

Sunday was probably my favorite day. We got in that morning and spent the rest of the day exploring the city together, mostly walking up and down Magnificent Mile and experiencing the big city life.

Monday was our anniversary and I spent the day exploring and shopping (that's when I found FOUR curtains for $10!) Then that night we went out to probably the fanciest restaurant I've ever been to, Smith and Wollensky, which is right on the river and had the most DELICIOUS Shrimp Bisque ever. Soooooo good. Then our waiter bought us dessert because it was our anniversary (New York Cheescake. Mmmmm...)

There are SO MANY PEOPLE in the city! Businessmen, consumers, tourists, hobos, performers, and monks who will approach you with a smile and bracelets in hand that they give you in what seems like a sweet gesture of kindness until they give you a clipboard with a paper on it that says "donations." Sorry Alexa. There goes your $5 birthday money.

These guys were my favorite street performers!

The entire trip was FILLED with walking and one thing I regret is not having brought tennis shoes because by the end of day 2, my feet were KILLING me! Lucky for me, I had just purchased a pair of red Saltwater Sandals and they ended up being the most comfortable shoes of the trip and held me through! #notsponsored The weather was pretty good, too! I managed to stay mostly cool with jeans on every day. I think as long as you're in the shade, you're good.

Another highlight of the trip was the Cubs game we went to! I bought a Cubs hat that I eventually surrendered to Andrew because it was a size Large and looked better on him (it was on clearance!) It was really neat to be in one of the most iconic baseball stadiums in the world, even if the Cubs lost 2-0. :(

The "last" day in Chicago (I'll tell you why the quotations in a minute) I walked to Willis tower and took the elevator up to the top floor where I stood in a glass box and nearly died of terror! Haha! Then I did it again because I couldn't leave Willis Tower without even looking down while I was in the glass box!

Shortly after that, Andrew and I checked out of the hotel, hopped on the train (just kidding. The L-train is WAY scarier than Willis Tower), and made it to the airport where we discovered that our flight had been delayed a couple of hours due to inclimate weather. A couple hours passed and our flight was delayed again... Then cancelled. We had no where to go so we slept at the airport that night (not a pleasant experience) and planned to take another flight the next day. We got a flight to Houston that connected to San Diego (where Andrew's parent's were watching our children) but as soon as we got on the plane, we learned that it was having technical difficulties and we had to de-board. Still, it could've been worse. We could have had all our children with us! We finally caught a plane straight to San Diego about 28 hours after we arrived at the airport the day before. It felt so wonderful to be back and be reunited with our children and be out of anything with the word "air" in the title!

Chicago was a totally unforgettable experience. From the walking architectural tour where I saw the Iconic Chicago Theater to the Nutella Cafe, I'm so glad I got to experience it all with my main squeeze.

I'm so glad we chose each other 7 years ago and have been able to make so many memories together. There's nobody else I'd rather do that with than you. Love you, Andrew!!!

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