Games, Homelife

Favorite Family Card Games

Our family loves to play games. Card games. Board games. Video games. We are cool with all of it.

But times are a changin’ in this house and my teenagers have outgrown the entertaining games of the early years.  And I can’t say I miss most of them.

Yet, there is still a 7 year old in the house and we don’t want to leave him out so we have to find games that work for everyone!


Without further ado, here are our favorite family card games for elementary school through adulthood in no particular order.

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Sushi Go. This game is inexpensive, portable, and easy for the whole family. The basic idea is simple. After the first deal, everyone selects one card from their hand to keep for points, then you pass your hand to the left. After you reveal the card you kept, you now pick a new one to keep from the hand you received. The process repeats until everyone is handed one last card, which they keep.

This game is great because there is plenty of personal strategy involved without being too complicated for the young kids. Even though it suggests ages 8+, my 6 year old was able to hang in there with us once he understood how the cards worked. Of course, he doesn’t have as much strategy developed yet, but this game makes it so that everyone earns some sort of points each round.

It is also easy to say things out loud to help my kids with their strategic processes without revealing my own hand. “If you have a pudding card, then right now might be a good time to make sure you keep it” or “Remember that wasabi cards are important to grab early”. Of course, this is just a great strategy when helping younger kids with any game.

Pit. Loud. Fun. Loud. Silly. Loud. Fast. And yes, LOUD. The kids love this one because of its pace. No one has to wait for a turn because the play happens all at once until someone wins.

Everyone is attempting to be the first person to receive 9 matching cards by trading blindly with other players. The only difficulty for some kids is making sure that they remember how the Bear and Bull cards work. Also 2 players will have a 10th card, which can work to your benefit IF you remember you have 10 and not 9. I try to make sure my younger kids aren’t stuck with the 10 cards because it is visually difficult to remember that all 10 don’t have to match, just 9.

My 6 year old was able to hang with this game IF someone acted as his card holder. If your kids are young and their hands are small, holding 9-10 cards and keeping them organized will be the hardest part of the game for them. The speed can be frustrating to a younger child who can’t manage their cards. You can purchase a card holder for them, which helps, or a designated adult plays with them. Either option allows us to play as a family.

This game is NOT good for those sensitive to noise or speed. It is LOUD, so it works well for bousterious families, but might send quieter types over the edge. And definitely get the set with the bell. Something has to signal the end and be heard over the yelling.

Exploding Kittens.  This is a new one for us and my entire family loves this game.  LOVES.  The cards are funny and the images are colorful and silly, not gross despite the name of the game.  It is fairly easy to learn and the instructions are very clear in the guide, which I appreciate.

We all enjoy the intense feeling that builds up as the game moves along.  At some point, you know that there are only a few cards left and you know how many are the exploding kittens (which mean you are out if you can’t diffuse them).  The intensity and laughter increases when player get a chance to place an exploding kitten in the deck after diffusing one.  Kittens can be placed anywhere secretly, including the top of the deck, making it the NEXT card that will be drawn.

My youngest just turned 7 when we learned this game and he can play without any help.  His strategy isn’t always the best, but there is some luck involved so he can hang until the end at times even with poor moves.

*Note, it appears that there is an explicit version on Amazon.  I have no clue about it.  That is NOT the one we play.

The Great Dalmuti.  This is another one that brings our whole crew together around the table.  The rules are simple so that even my youngest child can follow. This game is very similar to the classic card game, “I doubt it” also known as “Bulls#@t”.

This is another game where the youngest child might need a card holder or an assigned card holding buddy.  If we can’t locate our card holders, I will organize the cards for my youngest before the game starts so he has his hand in order.  Then, on his turn, he hands me the cards and I fan them out in my hand, but keep them facing him so he can decide what to do.  The initial organizing could give me an advantage, but I try to ignore the cards some as I organize, but if he has the Great Dalmuti card then I will know it.  What can you do?  We still have a blast!

Coup.  This one is a bit more complicated than the other games on the list, though my 8 year old can hang with it. My 6 year old needs to play with a partner, which is usually me. The rules aren’t quite as straight forward, but it isn’t too bad once you play a few rounds. The game comes with some cheat sheets to keep on the table so everyone can have a reminder about what each card is capable of doing.

You can order the Coup: Reformation cards, which serve as an expansion pack. They introduce one additional character and provide bonus cards so that you can play in larger groups. We use the Inquisitor from this pack to replace the Ambassador every time we play.

Hanabi. I have to be honest. This one is my least favorite on the list of favorites, but it is my 13 year old daughter’s absolute favorite, so it is here on my list. Because if my teenager likes to play it, then I like to play it with her!

This is a cooperative game, so there isn’t a winner or loser. No one is out until everyone is out. The techniques for cooperative games are a bit different and take practice. You may have to help your kids through the different types of strategy when it isn’t “every man for himself”. This was a great introduction to this genre of games for our family!

Splendor.  We have gotten so many families HOOKED on this game.  Hands down, this is my FAVORITE game.

It is pricey, but well worth it!  It is straight forward enough that my 6 year old actually won the first time we played.  Sadly, now that the rest of us have worked out our strategies, he doesn’t often win anymore, but he can play with understanding and enjoy the game along with us.

The title calls it a board game, but there is no board. The cards make up a sort of board in the middle, but I consider it a card game.  The biggest limitation of this game is that only 2-4 people are supposed to play it, though we have done it with five. This is the type of game I break out in smaller family groups, such as when the boys go to bed or when someone is at an athletic practice and the rest of us are home.

Dutch Blitz. This one is geared more toward the older elementary (ages 8+) due to the speed of the game. My littlest guy would struggle to keep up. I recommend purchasing this one with the expansion pack if you are ever going to play with more than 4 players. It’s particularly handy when your kids have friends come over to hang out.

Finally, I’ll give a shout out to a few favorite classics that we enjoy.

UNO. Everyone knows about UNO. We have enjoyed this one for years because children as young as 4-5 years old were able to play it. We would lay portable desks or box lids on their sides so the youngest players could spread their cards on the floor and have them blocked from view. This gives them the ability to keep it all straight. UNO is a great family game when you have a range of ages in the house.

SKIP-BO. My childhood memories include playing this game with my mother at the kitchen table after we cleaned up dinner. It is still a favorite for me. I love to play with my daughters after dinner in the same manner.  It is suggested for children as young as 7, but I suspect with a little help that a 6-7 year old could play too.

Phase 10. This is another classic card game that the family can enjoy together. The difficulty with this game is the amount of time it takes to complete all 10 phases, so we typically don’t. We declare odd or even phases at the beginning and then we are only committed to five of them, but the difficulty increases all of the way.

A NOTE ABOUT CARD HOLDERS because it is important to include the WHOLE family in the fun:

I’ve suggested a card holder for many of the games on this list.  This sort of simple modification makes a big difference for little hands.  Sometimes, I even organize the cards for them at the start of the game and then they can take it from there.

We have the one by Gamewright due to price, but there are a lot of options available to help little hands. It is well worth the price to make family card games work for everyone! I have my eye on this curved wooden block one because I think my youngest two kids would like it.

So go forth.  Play games as a family.  Laugh.  Enjoy.  Make memories.  And let me know what games you would add to the list.

(NotBefore7 is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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Blogging, Flashback Friday, Parenting

Flashback Friday:  Exhausted Mommy of an Infant and Toddler

This blog post was originally published in September of 2009 on my former blog. My four kids were 3 months old, 2.5 years old, just turned 5, and about to turn 7.  I was exhausted.  overwhelmed.  emotional.

As your kids grow up, it is so easy to forget the challenges of little ones.   I am so thankful that I had a blog to record some of my thoughts in real time so I can look back and remember. 

So today I repost this here as a reminder there is much joy, laughter, and fun in parenting, but there can also be tears, exhaustion and confusion. At all stages.

And for some of you current readers who know the current version of me, but never met the past one, it is a look at the hot mess I became after the fourth kid!

My Current Status

A lot of folks told me that after child number three, I would hardly notice the transition to another child. After all, routines were established and the house was filled with kids and their stuff anyway.

That may be true for many moms out there. But for me, adjusting to four children has been the hardest transition since the rough adjustment I had to motherhood in general.

An infant is hard.

They don’t follow everyone else’s schedule because they come with their own.

They like to be held and often need to be rocked to sleep.

They have fussy times that aren’t always convenient or predictable.

Sometimes they stay up a lot later than their parents would like to stay up.

Everyday with an infant is different and unpredictable.  At least with my infants.

A two year old is hard.

My particular one is well into tantrum season. He has a hard time stopping anything that he is doing.

He doesn’t transition well.

He doesn’t like the word, “No” and he is hard to talk into anything.

He wants to do what he wants and when he wants to do it.

Like I said, he is two.

(Some of you with an infant and 2 year old right now in your house know what I mean. Whether they are your only 2 kids or you have eight, it’s tough!)

My decision to homeschool my older two has definitely made things more difficult. They would both be at school all day this year, but I have chosen to keep them home with our family. I am happy with that choice and feel completely confident in the decision, but it does make this transition even more overwhelming.

And I notice that I have become a different person.  I don’t want to go anywhere.  Which is NOT like me at all.  But it doesn’t seem worth all of the hassle involved.

And if you know me, then you know that I don’t like being at home all day. I am a “get out of the house” kind of person. I tend to be adventurous and take my kids out daily. After all, the best learning happens out in the world!

But this transition to four kids has made me quite content to be at home.

But I do things that are so out of character.  So disorganized.  Lazy feeling.  Just recently one of my kids missed a friend’s birthday party because I just didn’t want to do it.

In order for her to attend, I would have to load up all 4 kids and take them to a local moon bounce warehouse. After dragging all four into such a fun place, only one would get to stay. I knew D (age 2) would freak out and I’d have to drag him back to the car while carrying the infant car seat and convince the 6 year old that we would come back another day. Once we got settled at home, we’d have to do it all again 1.5 hours later to pick her up from the party.

No thank you.

And I am an emotional mess.  Tears regularly form in my eyes when someone truly wants to know how things are going. In fact, just last night I was in tears and had to stop talking to a group of women that barely know me because I admitted I was totally overwhelmed.

And clearly…TIRED.

Tears and tiredness seem to be normal when there is an infant in the house. At least in this one.

But that doesn’t mean that homelife is bad. Because it is not.

I love each of these kiddos more than words can say. Watching another child find his place in the mix is delightful.

And most days we do just fine.

And many moments, we do more than fine!

But for the first time in a long time, I can’t handle it all.

I cut back on activities. I remembered my limits again. And I am working on accepting that this isn’t the season to do some of the things I so desperately want to do. There will be time for things like coffee dates, blog reading, scrapbooking, field trips to DC, and book reading in another season.

For now I just focus on the tasks in front of me.

One task at a time.

Attempting to parent with confidence, knowing that God promises that I can do all things through Him.(Phil 4:13) Every task He has called me to, He will be faithful to see fulfilled.

And that is the promise that I cling to right now.

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Homelife, Poetry, Uncategorized

My Favorite Hot Tea Flavors

A hot cup of tea is the perfect way to start my day and relax in the evening.  Want to know what is steeping in my house?

cuppa tea

{Affiliate links below.  Thanks for your support of Not Before 7.}

Harney and Sons: Hot Cinnamon Spice  

This is my favorite flavor.  If you like to eat red hot candies, then you are sure to like this black tea.  Described as “Black Tea with Cinnamons, orange and sweet cloves,” this tea is a fantastic addition to your morning wake up cup!

Harney and Sons: Vanilla Comoro

Presenting another delicious flavor by Harney and Sons.  This black tea is flavored with vanilla just about perfectly.  You can purchase it in tea bags or loose leaf.

Harney and Sons: Holiday Tea

Clearly, I enjoy tea by Harney and Sons because all of their flavors are fantastic and I could go on and on. This is the last one I will mention specifically. This spiced black tea is perfect in the winter during the holiday season or anytime during the year.  While you can find it in the stores during the Christmas season, you can purchase it online anytime!

Tazo: Awake English Breakfast

This is my favorite Starbucks “go-to” tea.  This English Breakfast flavor is very bold and will deliver on its promise to keep you awake!  But you don’t have to pay a Starbucks price if you want to buy it to brew at home.

Celestial Seasonings: Sleepytime Vanilla

I rarely do an herbal tea.  In general, Celestial Seasonings aren’t my thing, but I can break this one out in the evening if I need something decaf and calming.  This tea is mild and has a great vanilla taste.  It is easy to find at your local grocery store or you can buy it online.

Celestial Seasonings: Cinnamon Apple Spice

This is an herbal flavor that I actually get excited about.  The smell is delicious and the cinnamon and spices blend so nicely together.  I love to sip this tea in the evening, on my porch while enjoying the cooler weather in the fall.  This tea tastes like “fall” to me.  Break it out in October and enjoy a cup.


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Art, Homeschooling

Firework Art Using Chalk Pastels

Our family loves to pull out our chalk pastels occasionally and tackle a project from Hodgepodge’s Art Lessons.  As soon as I saw the fireworks lesson download (free to subscribers) I knew it would come in handy this week.


{This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks for your support of Not Before 7}

Bored children were looking for something to do yesterday.

“Hey guys, how about creating some fireworks with the chalk pastels?  I just downloaded a lesson yesterday.”

My art-loving child and her friend were immediately interested so I set them up!

IMG_8618My older kids are able to follow the lesson directions on their own these days.  I simply help gather supplies and set them up.

Paper.  Chalk Pastels.  Wet Wipes for hand washing.  PDF lesson.

Note: We have tried several brands of chalk pastels and the Faber-Castell brand works well for the price.

The PDF files are written in an easy to follow format. We just set them in front of us on my laptop or tablet.

When my kids were younger, I walked them through the processIMG_8623 by creating my own piece of art alongside them.

These days it is nice that they can create on their own when I am too busy to sit with them.

Though I prefer to sit with them.  I LOVE chalk pastels!


After creating a dusky sky, the girls began filling in their fireworks.  The sample lesson focused on red, blue, and white fireworks.IMG_8630

“Is it OK to use green?”  


And with a little reassurance to make it their own, they began creating their original masterpieces.

Our Chalk Pastel lessons provide our spine and inspiration, but the art each child creates reflects such originality.

The pride they take in their final product is obvious and I love to see what they have done.


If you want to receive this lesson on fireworks for free, head over to Hodgepodge and subscribe.  Not ready to subscribe?  You can also check out the free lesson on fireworks and give it a go.

Give it a go and try some holiday inspired chalk pastel art this weekend!

You ARE an Artist Sale!

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Brave Writer, Homeschooling, Poetry, Uncategorized

Found Poetry

PicMonkey Collage

Inspired by the Poetry Tea Time website, we decided to write a few poems with our friends to end the school year.  The first activity I selected for my crew and their friends was Found Poetry.

The basic idea of a Found Poem is that you “find” a poem in a piece of text that has already been created.  Some great sources are magazines and books. Your final poem can be simple or complex; decorated or plain.  The options are endless.  You can find several examples on my Poetry Pinterest Board.

We decided to focus on Blackout Poetry, a type of Found Poetry in which the author blacks out the words that aren’t going to be part of the poem.  The words that remain can be highlighted through artwork or simply left for viewing.

Our lesson began with a Blackout Poetry presentation by Laura Randazzo on Prezi.  Once my kids and their friends were inspired to try, we made photo cIMG_5131opies of the pages in their favorite books for them to play around with.


NOTE:  It would be WAY more fun to use the actual book page, so hit a library or book warehouse sale and grab a few titles to save for this activity!  I plan to grab a few at our $1 book warehouse.

We began with pencils, circling words that stood out to us and working them into a design.  It wasn’t easy, but it sure was fun.

Another way to approach this would be to write the words that stand out on post-it notes and play with them a bit, eliminating ones IMG_5134that won’t work and incorporating new ones until you are ready to circle them on the paper.  Of course, you’ll have to keep them in some sort of order or use your design to guide us through the words you select.

The kids in my house that day ranged in age from 6 to 13 and everyone enjoyed their creations.  Some remained simple blackouts and other students tackled a design.

IMG_5139I appreciated the open ended nature of this activity.  The final products were all so very different and reflected the ages and the abilities of the child creating them.

Of course, you might have to convince your students that there isn’t a wrong way to create a Found (or Blackout) Poem.

Every poem doesn’t have to make complete sense.  Every final product doesn’t have to look like an image.  In fact, there doesn’t even have to be a final product to display.  The process of playing with the words is its own lesson.

So have some fun.  Play with the text.  See what is FOUND.


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letters to my kids, Parenting

Dear Daniel,

Tomorrow you will turn 7 years old, which will occur in 30 minutes and will have happened by the time this is published.

Tonight, you are asleep in your bed, snuggled against your pillow, Pilly.  Pilly has been an important part of your sleeping routine since you were a baby.  Moments like these make me wonder how long this precious attachment will last.  I know it is one of those childhood delights that will have a end.  There will be a night when suddenly Pilly is on the floor or in the closet or becomes “just a pillow” to you.

But tonight is not that night.  You are resting peacefully with your arm around Pilly while sleeping on your pillow pet.  And it is precious to this momma’s heart.

Now I admit that I am not usually the most sentimental Mom, but something about your birthday stirs up some Mommy emotions.

Because tomorrow my BABY will be SEVEN.  And I realize that age isn’t much of a baby.  Yet I feel like that every year as the next number ticks off.  I feel it most deeply with you because you are the last child to be 6 in this house.  Now you will be the last 7 year old I will have.

Jokingly, I asked you to celebrate backwards and turn five tomorrow, but you refused.  Then you began to get slightly annoyed when you thought I wasn’t kidding, so I backed off.


When I look through pictures and think about your activity during the day, I can’t believe you have so much energy.  You climb, jump, run, hit, and move.  A. LOT.  And I love that about you.  Your energy makes me smile and I love to watch you move.

All of this energy has been extremely beneficial because you are the youngest of four kids and it allows you to keep up with our life at this stage in the parenting game.

I have the privilege of  watching you develop relationships with each of your sibilings both individually and as a group.  You bring out different aspects of each of them as they relate to you.  I love how they love you, care for you, and watch out for you. IMG_4176You bask in their attention.  And for now, you even enjoy how they take care of you like the “baby”.

Of course, it isn’t always easy to be the youngest of the foursome.  Your needs are often forgotten or lost in the mix of life with the older kids.

This year I focused on snuggling up with you during the school day to read picture books.  It was such a sweet time and I loved how much you enjoyed it.  It was something I had always done with your siblings that had been neglected since we entered the world of independent readers.  I am so glad that I was reminded to schedule that time with you.

Of course, being the two boys in the family, you and David have a special friendship. Your interests are similar IMG_5021and I enjoy listening in on your discussions. They usually revolve around minecraft, guns, Halo or nerf.

You both enjoy watching Minecraft videos together, specifically Dan TDM. He has become a household name thanks to the two of you and watching him play Minecraft is your current morning activity.

You have learned to be a good friend through the relationships you IMG_5301have developed with neighborhood friends and boys from our homeschool groups.  I am so thankful for the boys you have met who share similar interests and energy levels.  I enjoyed watching you and your friends at your birthday party today.  You shot nerf guns, played in the sprinkler, and dumped buckets of water on each other.  The laughter and enjoyment was obvious.

IMG_5427Of course, there is your love of weapontry to discuss.

Nerf swords and guns rank high on your list of favorites.  But if they aren’t available, even a stick will do.

Everything becomes a weapon when it is in your hand.  Sticks, silverware, and even math snap cubes.  An air soft gun is high on your request list, but you won’t be getting your own just yet my boy.

IMG_5199Of course, you also have a very tender side which I am reminded of when you climb in my lap to cuddle.

At a homeschool activity this year, you wrote this message (left) as your secret code.  My heart melted.  We do love you!

I can’t wait for our morning together.  When you wake up, we will enjoy our special breakfast.  Just me and you.  I can’t wait.

I love you my little boy.


And I know I tell you this all of the time: you will ALWAYS be the baby.  But I’ll try to let you grow up!




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Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Journal: Heading Home

Our incredible adventure was technically over except for the long drive home looming before us.  We found ourselves in Albuquerque, NM but had to make it back to Raleigh, NC.

Three long days of driving.

Thankfully we had a few stops planned for our trip home to give us something to look forward to.

Our first one was in Oklahoma City, where we were going to crash for the night.  We took this opportunity to visit the Oklahoma City bombing memorial.


The Memorial is done in such a way to honor those we lost and reflect the tragedy that occured.  The quiet reflecting pool is located on the site where a street formerly ran through the area.


There is an wall on either side of the pool.


Embedded on one wall is the time, 9:01, representing a time of peace before the tragedy struck.  (The bombing happened at 9:02)


The wall on the opposite side shows a time of 9:03, representing the moment when the journey toward healing began.


Empty chairs sit on the lawn, arranged in 9 rows, each representative of a floor in the building where a loved one was lost.


Names are etched in the glass bottom of each chair.  At night, lights illuminate the chairs.


The children’s garden displays tiles created by the children of the city.  They are displayed along the wall in the back while visiting children are invited to leave their sentiments on chalkboard tiles on the ground.


Sidewalk chalk was available on site.


Recorded on the wall outside of the memorial are these words:

“We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever.  May all who leave here know the impact of violence.  May this Memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope, and serenity.


I am so glad we took some time to visit this site before heading to bed.  It made a huge impact on my kids.  They will all remember this, even if it is a vague memory in their minds.

Note:  Visiting sites like this with kids can be tough.  They all respond differently.  My 11 year old daughter was in tears for quite some time.  That’s OK.  We let her express her pain and talk through it.  Tragedy is difficult and we all feel things to different degrees and express those emotions in different ways.  One child might cry through the pain while another might keep asking, “When are we leaving?” as they are uncomfortable with the pain (or bored because that is another response a child might experience)  

On the other hand, my 6 year old thought we were going to see an actual bombing.  He was disappointed that there wasn’t going to be a weapons display.  He kept asking us where the bomb was.  We attempted to help him understand what happened in Oklahoma City, but it is still a bit outside of his realm.

When we visit sites like this, we try to keep it short and informative.  I want my children to see how a city walks through a tragedy together and how they rise above on the other side, but I don’t want a child in tears to have to sit with that sort of pain for too long.  Don’t put expectations on your children’s reactions.  Just help them process what they feel and validate their feelings.

The next morning, we were off for a two night stay in Nashville so we IMG_8216could visit friends.  We have bunked with these friends in the past so the kids were eager for a return visit.

This friend is one of my BFF’s in 7th and 8th grade.  We kept in touch despite the distance from Maryland to Alabama while growing up.  It is such a joy to still be in touch.

Our kids have a great time together.  We spent a lot of time with her youngest child while her older two were in camp.


But we took everyone for half price milkshakes at Sonic in the evening so the older kids could get in on the fun too!


And additional bonus for me this trip was meeting a friend from the world of online social media.  Andi (who helps run the Nature Pal Exchange) and I met through Periscope and have continued to chat on Facebook and Instagram and other social media sites.  She took the time to drive and meet up for breakfast so we could finally chat face to face.

The last day of driving was the hardest, despite the down home cooking IMG_8221stop at Cracker Barrel because yes ma’am I do love that place thank you very much.


But then Cracker Barrel was over and we only had our beds to look forward to, which was wonderful yet it also meant that our vacation was over.

And it is.

We are home safe and sound filled with wonderful memories about our time out west.



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Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Journal Day 12: Mesa Verde

In second grade, my husband saw a picture of Mesa Verde in his history textbook.  The image and information intrigued him.  And that fascination never ended.  The images of the cliff dwellings stayed with him so that when he heard we were going out west, he immediately asked if we would be close to Mesa Verde.

Of course, we made it happen.

And he was able to see the textbook pictures come to life before his very eyes: Cliff Palace.



You are not allowed into Cliff Palace (or Balcony House) unless you sign up for a Ranger-led tour.  We were eager to descend in to the Cliff Palace area, so we grabbed tickets to the earliest tour, which was noon.

There was a bit of a descent.


And then there we were.



There was ample opportunity to take in the scene.  It was tremendous and in amazing condition.




Our group gathered on the far side of the houses.  We had a discussion about the people who lived here and their history.



Our tour guide, Ranger David Knighteagle, is a Native American. He also makes traditional Native American flutes. He brought one of his handmade flutes on our tour of Cliff Palace to play a song for the spirits of his ancestors. It was a beautiful tradition and we were able to be a part of his spiritual moment as the flute echoed around the Cliff Palace.


Of course, there was a climb out of the Cliff Palace area.


In the end, it was an amazing day and a dream fulfilled for my husband. Once our picnic lunch was over, we headed back to Albuquerque to crash for the evening.

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Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Journal Days 10 and 11:  Arches National Park

It was time to leave Bryce Canyon. On a last minute whim we decided to take the scenic route and check out Capitol Reef National Park.


We ventured out on a brief hike to take in a view of the park.  This park is a geologic monocline, which is a “wrinkle” on the surface of the earth.  This “wrinkle” extends 100 miles!


It was pretty hot so we decided to have a picnic lunch.  Our picnic area was exactly what we needed.  There was lots of shade and open grass area.




The scenery was stunning.


It was a welcome respite from the heat of the afternoon.   We continued our drive through Capitol Reef with a short stop at the petroglyphs.


After a quick viewing, we continued the drive to Arches National Park in the city of Moab. Our first stop was our hotel and we enjoyed a quick swim in our hotel pool for a view of our first “arch”.


Then we thought we would head to the actual park that evening. The rangers were not at the gates anymore, but the park remains open to the public for 24 hours a day.


On our way to Double Arch, we stopped at Balancing Rock and attempted to push it over.


After a bit of fun there, we enjoyed the ENORMOUS Double Arch.  The hike was a short one and well worth the experience.


It was nearing sunset and the views were impressive.



At this arch, you were able to scramble and climb all over the actual arch.  The view from the “hole” pictured above was lovely.


Eventually it was time for a good night’s sleep so we could return to the arches the next day.

We began our morning with a hike to Delicate Arch.  This is an intense climb, but only 1.5 miles long.  A large section of the hike was along this rock face.  Walking on a large rock made this an intriguing and different sort of hike.





Near the end of the climb, the pathway was created around a large rock.


Around the bend was the view we had been waiting for: Delicate Arch.  The very arch that is on the Utah license plate.   This was the place I had been waiting to see.  The view was grand!



The kids joined me to experience the arch up close and above us.  I was terrified as the drop behind the arch is deadly.  The area under it is plenty spacious, but it is still a frightning prospect.


The wind began to pick up in an awful way, so we hiked back down the rock face.

Our next stop was Landscape Arch, which is closed off to pedestrian traffic as it has shown many signs of collapsing in the “near” future.  It is the longest spanning arch.


Sand Dune Arch was small and hidden, but a fun site to check out.


And then the kids BEGGED to return to Double Arch, and we were happy to entertain their choice.


They LOVED climbing around in this arch.  It felt like rock climbing all over again to them.



Our family fell in love with this park the same way we fell in love with Zion National Park.  But we still had one more stop, so eventually we had to begin to make the drive to Colorado.

On our way out of the area, we saw an Arch on the side of the road (not in the National Park) named, “Wilson Arch”.


It was a perfect ending to our time in the area.


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Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Journal Days 7 and 8: Bryce Canyon

We would have been content to remain in Springdale, near Zion National Park, on the Virgin River FORVER.  No one wanted to leave.

Alas, we knew that our check out time was approaching, but we procrastinated.  I started my procrastination with breakfast by the river with one of my favorites.


Then we swam while soaking in the gorgeous view.


Then it was time for more playing in the river. 

Before we knew it, it was time to check out.

Springdale had lots of great lunch options and we filled up on a delicious meal before heading out of the National Park area.


“Good-bye Zion.  We love you!  And we WILL be back.”


Our next destination was Bryce Canyon and we were eager to see the hoodoos.  We spent our evening taking in various view points on the scenic drive.

PicMonkey Collage

Our next morning was spent hiking among the hoodoos.  This was a fantastic experience.

PicMonkey Collage

Walking behind my boys, listening to their chatter while hiking, was a fantastic moment in parenting.  IMG_7657I was able to watch their relationship grow right before my eyes, without the typical distractions of home and life.

Hiking with your kids is an experience I highly recommend.  It doesn’t matter WHERE you go hiking, though these locations out west are incredible, but just GO hiking together.

Conversation comes easy as you hike. The time spent together deepens relationships and your knowledge of one another. It is a beautiful thing.

Of course, picking out hikes that are interesting, challenging, and include scenery that is very different from home is helpful too!

Our hike out of the hoodoos was particularly memorable.  It is called the “Lombard Street” of hiking.




Crazy, fun stuff.

Then we headed a little ways out of Bryce Canyon City and grabbed lunch. Our diner choice got an A+ in my book simply based on the HUGE mason jars that they used to serve iced tea!


We returned to the “Wall Street” section of our morning hike again that evening. The kids wanted to walk around and explore this crazy hike a bit more.


After a good night’s sleep, we stopped briefly at a local playground.  The kids needed some time to run and play while I picked up a few groceries for a picnic lunch.


Then we said goodbye to Bryce Canyon, wearing all of our Zion Canyon T-shirts…


And we buckled down for the next big drive.

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