Friday, August 05, 2016

Our Crazy and Wonderful National Parks Adventure

As I type this, I (Saren) am in the car with my husband and five kids (ages 11-16) driving from Mount Rainier National Park to Crater Lake National Park. Before Mount Rainier, we visited Rocky Mountain National Park for a couple days, then Yellowstone for a couple days, then Glacier National Park for a couple days. We've seen amazing sites, we've set up and taken down camp 4 times (quite a process each time!), we've slept in tents 8 nights, we've been able to shower a grand total of 2 times. We've got our fingers crossed that there will be laundry facilities at the next park as our clean clothing options are getting pretty sparse.

When we get done at Crater Lake, we'll go on to Lassen Volcanic National Park, then Yosemite, Then Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Zion, Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde. By the time we sleep in our beds again, we will have visited all 12 national parks that existed in the west back when the National Park Service was founded 100 years ago.

Why are we doing this? Well, it all started when some good friends planned a month-long trip that would follow the old Park-to-Park Highway and invited us to come along and celebrate the centennial of the National Parks System with them. My first thought was, "That would be really cool but there's no way my husband could get that much time off work or that I could leave Power of Moms for that long and the kids would have to miss the first couple days of school and camping for a full month would be a lot more camping than I'd really enjoy." 

But as Jared and I talked through this idea, it just started to feel right - and doable. We've had so many of these national parks on our bucket list and we only have one more summer after this summer with our oldest before he heads off to college. We've been craving some solid family time as all the kids have been busy with their own separate things - sports, jobs, friends, etc. Being out in nature and hiking with our kids is a major part of our family culture and some of our best memories come from time we've spent together outdoors. 

So Jared talked to his work and figured out a plan for how he could take some vacation days and then work in the car on the days we'd be travelling from park to park. I realized I could use this trip to do something I've been wanting to do forever - write a National Parks Guide for Families for Power of Moms - and decided I could keep up on my other Power of Moms work during our car time (good thing Ashton is such a great driver so he can drive while we work!). And I decided that if it's right for our family, I can make anything work - even a solid month of sleeping in a tent and cooking on a camp stove and dealing with all the little discomforts involved in camping!

So here we are on the road to Crater Lake (amazing that this internet hotspot we picked up at Walmart is working in the middle of nowhere!).

This trip has been all that we hoped for so far - and more. We've experienced some amazingly gorgeous places together and created some wonderful memories (see lots of it on Instagram @sarenloosli if you like). Sure, there have been plenty of squabbles and some complaining and some grumpiness from lack of sleep or hunger here and there. Of course, some things haven't gone as planned - like yesterday when I insisted we do this supposedly-amazing hike that was supposed to go to a fabulous viewpoint of Mount Rainier and the kids complained that it was sort of rainy and they didn't want to go on another long hike so I got all huffy and told them they were being so ungrateful and they simmered down and we got going on the hike only to find ourselves hiking through a crazy hail storm on Mount Rainier. Then once we got to the top of this hard hike, we couldn't see a thing from the vista point due to all the clouds! Then when we were almost back to the beginning of the trail, Mount Rainier popped out of the clouds in all it's glacial glory and we were all so excited!

As we leave each park, I've been posting some highlight photos ON INSTAGRAM HERE and typing up detailed information about what we did and what advice I'd give to other families wanting to visit that park. I've taken tons of photos and my son Ashton has taken lots of video footage that he's making into short films showing what we did and offering suggestions for others (he's so good at video editing and makes great use of his Go-Pro).

Why am I telling you all this? Because I'm hoping you'll be excited about this new National Parks Guide for Families that will result from all this and hopefully help your family experience some of the great stuff we're experiencing some day. And because I'd love your help!

Please click on the link below to learn more about this trip and the guide I'm writing and add your comments about YOUR favorite things to do and see at the 12 parks included in our itinerary. You can add comments on this blog post or on the post linked below.

So much of what we've done so far has been thanks to recommendations from commenters on the post linked above and comments from those who follow me on Instagram. And I'm sure there are many things I should be including in the guide for each park that I won't have a chance to experience myself but that I can include in the guide thanks to the information you provide to me.

Wish me luck as we continue this crazy trip! I'll keep you updated on how things go on Instagram @sarenloosli or follow our group's official Instagram feed

Have a wonderful week (and enjoy your shower and kitchen and bed for me, will you?)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Typical Summer Evening

Last week, we had a session with a fabulous documentary photographer, Cate Johnson.

The idea behind documentary photography is to capture the regular and basic parts of every-day life - the parts we don't often think about photographing. 

Usually we photograph the special stuff - the birthday parties, the special outings, the family trips - wonderful things that we certainly want to remember through photographs. And most of us do occasional formal family photos where we capture how we look when we're all gussied up and smiling for the camera.

But the simple things we do day in and day out aren't usually photographed. And down the road, we probably won't really remember how our every-day life looked.

I want to remember the little details of our every-day family life.

So I was really glad when Cate offered to do this photo-shoot for us.

I was so impressed by what she captured - she's so talented. And in looking at the photos she got, I saw that the simple and mundane moments of our family life are even more beautiful and precious than the things I usually take photos of.

Cate showed up as we were finishing dinner prep and snapped away as we ate, cleaned up, played around in the backyard, and went for our regular evening walk. No one put on special outfits or did their hair extra nice and we left the house how it usually is so the kids thought this was the best photo shoot ever! The older kids said they felt a little weird about having someone there with a camera taking photos - but after a few minutes, everyone relaxed and Cate did a great job of just blending into the background. The whole family really loved looking at all the photos Cate sent us - everyone seemed to realize what a good life we have after seeing it captured so beautifully on film.

Here are a few of Cate's captures:

 While some of us finish dinner, some of us jump on the trampoline:

Then when dinner is ready, I come out and ring the dinner bell:


Despite the fact that we have a "no phones at the table rule," this happens sometimes and gentle reminders are this case, he was looking up a concert we were thinking of going to the next night so it was a good use of technology...



It always seems to take forever to get everyone out the door to go on our evening walk - one person goes back in to get something, then people start jumping on the trampoline while we wait for that person, then when the person who went in comes out, another person has gone in there to go to the bathroom or find their shoes. But eventually, we get going!

 Finally, everyone's outside at the same time and we're ready to head over the the park on the next block - we always walk around the park a couple times and often have some pretty good talks while we walk plus Isaac is usually showing us his latest skateboard trick, Ashton's often on his beloved hoverboard, and there's often a football or frisbee that is being thrown around.

Before we get to the park, we pass the library.
 There is usually some tree-climbing going on in the trees in front of the library.

The twins always have to climb on the benches and planters in front of the library.
Then we get to the park: 

 Heading back home from the park:

We ended the photo shoot with some posed shots - love how Cate kept them so natural by just shooting away and not asking people to sit a certain way and smile as is the norm:

I'm sure I'm biased - but I think these are some pretty handsome boys.

I'm so grateful for this one daughter of mine.

I'm so glad to have some good family photos! I was looking for a recent photo for something on Power of Moms a little while ago and was coming up pretty empty...


Our life is so good. I'm so grateful for these images that will always remind me of the everyday moments and the abundance of beauty in my life.

*** If you want your own documentary photo session and you're somewhere in Northern Utah, check out Cate's website here and invite her to come to your home. She really did a fabulous job with this photo shoot and I recommend her wholeheartedly. Cate also provides wonderful images for our Power of Moms Instagram account - just search "powerofmoms" to find and follow. Cate and her twin sister Candi put up such beautiful and inspirational stuff there pretty much every day!


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