2016 was a year of many changes and many adventures for our family. I thought it would be fun to do a year in review post to highlight some of the big changes or adventures we took in 2016.
During spring break in March we took our beat up 20 year old pop-up camper on a big adventure! We spent one week visiting The Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Glenwood Springs, Colorado.We encountered white out conditions in southern Utah and decided to get a hotel and finish our drive in the morning. The National Park campgrounds were all full so we had to stay at a RV Park just outside the park. It got down to 29 degrees overnight and our heater wouldn't work at first but thankfully Nate was able to fix it. It was quite the adventure! It was just as beautiful as I had remembered it though it had probably been 25 years since my last visit. We enjoyed ranger led activities, seeing wildlife, hiking the rim, and hiking several miles down into the canyon. Orion was a rock star this trip and hiked miles each day on his own!
Hiking into the canyon
The canyon rim
Zion National Park
Zion National Park did not disappoint! It was gorgeous! Once again all the first come, first served campsites were full so we had to stay at an RV park. Apparently spontaneous trips aren't allowed anymore. Someday we'd love to go back and hike the river bed. The dripping overhangs, river, wildlife, and scenery were all beautiful.We wrapped up the trip visiting friends in Grand Junction, exploring Colorado National Monument, and spent a full day swimming and soaking in the hot springs. Awesome spring break trip!
Colorado National Monument
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado
In April, Nate accepted a promotion opportunity with his company in Fargo, North Dakota. We were moving over 800 miles away and Nate would be headed there in 4 weeks. We furiously got our house ready to sell. Thankfully it went under contract right away. The first weekend our house was for sale we took a trip to Colorado Springs and visited the Garden of Gods among other sites.
With our big move and house sale we were able to pay off the rest of our student loans. We were officially debt free (except our house) 6/28/16. We purchased our 2nd home 6/29/16 and were able to get a 20 year low fixed rate mortgage and put 25% down. Home sweet home in Fargo!
Bought our 2nd house
One thing our big move left me without was a job! After working for 3 years as a full-time salaried employee in a job I loved, I was a bit lost at first. I wanted to take some time to visit my dad who had been ill, visit my sister, and take time to get the kids settled before I looked for a new job. The summer was a whirlwind as Nate started work in May, the kids and I didn't arrive until July, we were only here 3 weeks then we left for a month on the road, only to get back in time for school to start. So thankful to have had that time with my dad (and my sister) this summer and for all the amazing sites we got to see between Fargo and Orlando.
Anheuser Busch St. Louis Missouri
Our first stop on our trip was St. Louis, Missouri. This was a last minute addition as Nate needed to travel there for work just two weeks after we got into Fargo so we started out road trip early and met him in St. Louis. It was neat to see a city I had never explored but it was HOT while we were there. 105 on the heat index and extremely humid! We toured the Anheuser-Busch brewery, watched a Cardinals game (where I was sure I was melting from the heat), had local custard and soda, visited the science center, and Wynter met up with a friend she met on last year's cruise. Fun stop on our trip!
St. Louis Cardinals game
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Our next stop was Gatlinburg, Tennessee where my dad met up with us for the first part of our visit with him. I had never visited Gatlinburg or the Great Smoky Mountains so this was a real treat for me. Once again, never enough time to truly explore and I would love to go back and do some longer hikes when it isn't so hot and humid.
Skinny Dip Falls Asheville
After 2 nights in Gatlinburg we went back to my dad's for almost two weeks there. We took a day trip to explore Asheville. I asked a friend who lives there and she recommended Skinny Dip Falls. It is just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was a gorgeous drive by itself but a short hike back and you are rewarded with hidden natural waterfalls, pools, and a deep rock jumping pool. It reminded me of Maui, Hawaii and the road to Hana, gorgeous for sure!
Caribbean Beach Resort, Myrtle Beach, SC
Myrtle Beach, SC
Myrtle Beach, SC
Myrtle Beach was a highlight of our trip. I wish Nate was able to join us for this leg of the trip but he had to work. My dad, his wife, and my niece and nephew joined us at the Caribbean Beach Resort. The resort location and amenities made our time there so special. The property was on the beach so it was easy to go from the beach, to the pool, and to the condo. The only negative was Myrtle Beach experienced record jelly fish the days we were there and both Brennan and Phoenix got stung several times both times they tried to swim. Our ocean time was limited to shallow wading. The pool area was awesome though! Water slide, two lazy rivers, 4 pools, 4 hot tubs, and 2 kids play structures with fountains and spray features for kids. We would love to go back.
Walt Disney World, Florida
Hubby was able to meet us in Orlando and join us for the rest of our trip. My sister lives in the Orlando area so we got to spend several days with her. We spent one full day inside magic kingdom, another day touring the grounds of the Art of Animation Resort, and another day at Disney Springs. We swam at my sister's neighborhood pool which was awesome and went to Cocoa Beach while the older boys went to Cape Canaveral to tour the NASA facility there. It was a very pleasant temperature our entire time in Orlando. A welcome break from the oppressive heat and humidity we experienced in MO, TN, and NC, the previous few weeks.
I tried to plan our trip so we were in the car no more than 7-9 hours each day. I also gave us 2 nights to explore each new city so we had a day without car time in the middle. Our next stop was Nashville where we toured the city and visited the Dave Ramsey show live during his radio broadcast.
Visiting the Dave Ramsey Show
Mammoth Cave National Park
One awesome part about having flexible plans is when we came across Mammoth Cave National Park we were able to stop, do a cave tour, and spend about 3 hours there. Not in our original plan but so awesome. We truly love the National Parks!
Navy Pier, Chicago
The Cloud Gate, Chicago Bean
Our next stop was Chicago! I was excited because I had never been to Chicago. I was expecting New York, which in some ways it is like but it definitely has a Midwest friendly, slightly slower pace vibe that NYC didn't have. I actually loved Chicago and would love to spend some more time there. It is a day's drive from us so definitely possible for that to happen at some point. We explored the zoo, Navy Pier, The Cloud Gate, the amazing park next to the Cloud Gate, ate Chicago style pizza, and a Chicago style hot dog. We went rode the train from our hotel, which is always fun for the kids.
Brennan bought his 1st car and got his driver license
In 2016, Brennan turned 16, got his driver license, and bought his own car. It is awesome having another driver in the house. I know he is enjoying the additional level of freedom and being able to have a job and drive himself back and forth from his job.
Breckenridge Brewery Colorado
In October, Nate's grandma passed away so we drove back to Colorado for the funeral. It is always hard to say goodbye to a family member but she lived a good, long life! We stayed a couple days after the funeral and spent time with Nate's dad, brother, and extended family.
Orion started playing hockey
Those of you that know me well know we are not a sports crazy family. I am not a soccer mom, honestly with 3 kids that played soccer from 1-10 years I hope to never sit through a youth soccer game again. I was not ready for Orion to start team sports but our neighbor told us about this amazing program through Fargo Youth Hockey where you pay $40 for 6 lessons and if you sign your child up for hockey ($150 for the 5 month season) you get to keep all the gear for free. So Orion got every single piece of gear for free. I mean, skate, stick, pads, bag, everything. It seemed like it was too good an offer to pass up. We tried it, figuring he wouldn't be ready as he had only ice skated twice before but he LOVED it and was skating well by lesson 3. They split them up into teams and we now have practice Saturday and game Sunday with an occasional weekday afternoon practice. I hear it gets more intensive and expensive but so far we love hockey. I even am helping the Fargo Youth Hockey Association with a fundraiser they are doing on February 9th for Giving Hearts Day where 350 area charities have partnered up to raise funds that day and access matching funds to help their organization. So far that has been fun!
Wynter bought her 1st car and got her driver license
We moved while Wynter still held her permit so we weren't sure what that would mean but North Dakota made it easy and she was still able to get her license on time. A few days later she purchased her own car. I now have two licensed drivers with their own cars in my house. Hard to wrap my head around but so convenient!
Besides that I think we are settling in well here in Fargo. We have a great church and an awesome neighborhood with tons of kids. Orion was out playing every day it was warm with other boys his age. Our house is about 700 sq ft and 1 bedroom smaller but we added a 3rd shower, a 3rd car garage, and a bigger lot so it is working well. I love our kitchen and master bath that had been recently updated and love the hardwood floors upstairs. Overall 2016 was a great year for us!