the Paladinos


Wednesday, October 21, 2015 by Leslie Paladino

We just got back from our October break vacation to Colorado.  It was our first time there and we loved it.  Such a beautiful state!  Or at least it is once you get to the mountains.  The area close to Kansas, not so much.  Sorry Kanorado folks! 

Much like last year I waited till the last minute to plan this trip.  Like the Tuesday before we left last minute.  For some reason I have an aversion to vacation planning.  We started out in Grand Lake which is a sleepy little picturesque mountain town.  We soon discovered that fall is not really the season for Colorado, specifically Grand Lake.  Summer and Winter are their seasons and they kind of shut down in the fall.  But we wanted a relaxing trip away from everything so that suited us just fine!

We rented a small cabin/house with a view over Grand Lake.  During the day we hiked and explored the Rocky Mountain National Park or hung out in town.  At night we would drive around looking for elk which Michael and I never got tired of.  The kids got a little bored with it though.  And yes, I know that we have elk available about 2 hours from here but it’s way more interesting in Colorado for some reason.

After 3 days there we drove across the mountains to Estes Park.  Like literally across the top of the Rocky Mountains.  I could barely stand to look out the window sometimes we were so high.  Estes Park was a welcome sight after crossing the “frozen tundra.”  Yikes!  It was much more populated than Grand Lake and more tourist oriented I would say.  Elk were everywhere!  We saw a huge bull right outside someone’s condo.  All over the golf course.  Everywhere!  As we were watching them on the golf course we met an interesting character.  Gary August, who is a famous “artist to the stars” and Johnny Depp’s uncle.  He had all kinds of interesting stories about his life.  In addition to being an artist he helped design sets for Pirates of the Caribbean, was on a PBS show for years about people with disabilities because he had polio, and was an orphan in China.  Very nice and very interesting guy!

From there we went to Colorado Springs.  We visited the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Garden of the Gods.  The kids loved the zoo which was very interactive and let you feed and pet giraffes, as well as birds and lizards.  Garden of the Gods was beautiful!  Who knew huge orange rock formations could be so interesting.  Winking smile  

Grand Lake
Our fox friend who welcomed us to the cabin and came to say goodbye the last day. 

My favorite place and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.  It was just a quick walk from one of the local waterfalls.  You walked out of the trees to this amazing landscape. 
Darn camera focused on the mountains instead of us (but I guess who can blame it). 

Buddy the Elk.  He was the first elk that we saw and we had been driving around for a while looking.  We pulled up to a park entrance to sit for a minute and no sooner than the words “I guess we’re not going to see any elk” were out of our mouth we looked over to see this guy standing a few feet from our car.  Oops!  We found him the second night we went looking too.  He was easy to spot because of his missing antlers.  DSC_7591_thumb1DSC_7611_thumb1DSC_7640_thumb1DSC_7657_thumb1DSC_7659_thumb1DSC_7662_thumb1DSC_7665_thumb1DSC_7682_thumb2DSC_7708_thumb3
We tried to get another family pic here with no better luck on the focus.  Oh well!  
Can you spot Michael? Smile

These two are views from the top of one of the mountains on our scary drive.  Doesn’t even come close to capturing it.

Estes Park


Colorado Springs
Real or not?  Smile

Love the look on his face!  He had just gotten the bird to land on his stick for the first time. 
Double fisting some parakeets.  This small, confining, claustrophobic room was terrifying for me.  I DON’T LIKE BIRDS!  I didn’t last long in here and had to keep yelling at the kids “don’t come close to mommy, don’t come close to mommy.”

This bear was so funny to watch.  Peter captured this pic of him underwater. 

Here chicky chicky!

Garden of the Gods
This captures the size of the rocks well.  The little dot in the middle is a rock climber.  Ummm, no thank you!


And that concludes our trip to Colorado.  Well, not quite actually.  On our way back across the wastelands of Kansas, after dark, in the middle of nowhere, we hit a deer.   Thankfully it was a relatively small deer and the car was still drivable.  But it definitely left it’s mark and we’ll have to have some front end work done but we were very thankful no one was hurt (other than Bambi of course).  From now on, I think we’ll fly to Colorado instead. 

October Break!!

Thursday, October 8, 2015 by Leslie Paladino

It’s that time of year again.  Time for our year round school October break.  Yay!!! This is my favorite time of the year, break included.  We’re definitely ready for a relaxed schedule, cooler temps and a VACATION!  Last year we visited Gatlinburg, TN and loved it!  We had so much fun stopping along the way and the mountains were amazing.  They made our mountains seem like bumps.  This year we’re heading to Colorado for the first time.  I know, I know!  We’re the only people left in the world who haven’t been there before.  Smile  We’re starting off in Grand Lakes and possibly ending up in Colorado Springs.  But that’s still up for debate.  We literally just put things together this week so we’re a little fly by the seat of our pants for this trip.  Aaaand we leave on Saturday.  Nothing like procrastination! 

I never took the time to blog about our trip last year so I thought I would do that now before we leave for our next trip.  Don’t worry, that makes total sense.  Winking smile  Prepare for picture overload.

We started our stay at this beautiful cabin.  It opened up to the most amazing views from the back.  And it had a cool loft or “death trap” as I began to call it where the kids stayed.  The ladder was super steep and Peter was in a sleep walk stage when we went.  Not a good combo.  So every night we would pile things in front of the entrance to block him.  
Panoramic sunrise from our deck.  The sunrise’s were amazing.  It took so long for the sun to finally come up over those huge mountains.

Time lapse video of a sunrise.

It’s hard to tell what’s going on here but I had to capture how Michael got the time lapse video.  It’s a cell phone on top of a shoe on top of a table on top of a stool on top of another shoe.  But it worked!  This cracks me up!!

Literally smokey mountains. 


Before we left we found the cabin and a very cool old schoolhouse that was over 100 years old and had been renovated into a house.  We couldn’t decide which one to stay at so we booked a few nights at both and moved half way through the trip. 

Very cute, right?  Adorable even.  Unless you have to stay there!!  It was the creepiest place EVER!  It felt like we were staying at our grandmas house but didn’t know our grandma.  And it didn’t help that the first night there we were woken up at 3:00 am by a rolling sound outside on the deck.  Back and forth rolling sound right behind where Peter was sleeping.  What in the world!?  Let’s just say I didn’t get much sleeping done on this trip.  Michael at least waited until we were pulling out of the driveway to tell me that there were 2 people buried behind the house somewhere in an old cemetery.  Yikes!      

Still cute, but wait for it.
Wait for it…
There it is.  Creepy hat wall!
Creepy hole in the ceiling.
Creepy ribbon mannequin.  I don’t even know!?
Creepy clock!
Ok, back to cute. 

So this year, we’re keeping it mainstream and steering clear of any creepy or even slightly outdated places. 

Time lapse video of the fog at the base of the mountains in the morning at the schoolhouse.

The aquarium in Gatlinburg was great!  One of the kids favorite things.

This was just a place off the side of the road on the way up the mountain but was beautiful!  The landscape in TN is just so different and one of the things we loved.
That’s North Carolina in the background.

This was at the highest peak of the mountain.  The landscape there was totally different.  Very sparse and the trees were all evergreens. 

On our way back down the mountain we saw our first bear.  It’s that vague black shape in the middle of the pic.  You could always tell there was a bear sighting because there would be a line of cars pulled to the side of the road. 

Deer were definitely plentiful and we saw 4 bucks walking just off the side of the road in one of the parks.  They paid no attention to us and got within a few feet of us.  Beautiful!
Gabby’s first time on a big horse.  She loved it!
Peter of course wanted nothing to do with it so we took a carriage ride.  Smile
Our second bear sighting.  A momma and baby were romping through the forest just off the road. 

We pulled off the side of the road just down the hill from the bears and were throwing rocks in this river when we noticed 2 otters swimming upstream.  They played and swam for the longest time.  So neat to watch them just out in the wild!

This was our last hike of the trip and one of our favorite places.  It was so beautiful and just unbelievable. 

Wild turkeys off the side of the road.

We’re looking forward to new adventures this year! 

Back to School!

Sunday, August 16, 2015 by Leslie Paladino

Next up, Back to School!  The kids started back 2 weeks ago since they’re in year round school.  We start earlier and stay later but we like the schedule with the 2 week Oct and May breaks.  Gabby is a big time 3rd grader now and my baby Peter is a 1st grader.  And I still want to scream NOOOO every time I say that.  Sad smile


Gabby girl is doing great in 3rd grade.  Or at least the portion that she’s been there after that pesky little walking pneumonia episode. Her teacher is Mrs. Clark and we LOVE her so far.  She’s very upbeat and fun but also structured and organized.  Just right for our little perfectionist (what can I say, she get’s it honest!).  And this girl is so ready to be a big girl.  She’s outgrown silly things like princesses, backpacks and children’s menus.  It’s all about Disney Descendants (if you haven’t heard of it, Gabby can tell you ALL about it), non cartoon tween shows, messenger bags, and ordering $8 adult food.  Where did my little girl go?   


Peter on the other hand is not loving 1st grade so far.  He has Mrs. Brazzeal and she also seems very organized and structured which is what Peter needs to help him stay on track.  But he gets very nervous and stressed every morning and even the night before and always asks not to go.  He just told me at the end of last week that he has been crying “a little” every day at school when he starts his work.  He thinks that it’s too hard and I think that he is afraid to ask his teacher questions.  But he came home last Thursday and Friday and said that they were the best days yet and he didn’t cry at all.  It breaks my heart to know that he’s going to school anxious and upset but we’re working through it with him slowly and surely and trying to encourage him as much as possible.  I think that he’ll outgrow it as he gets more confident with what he can do and everything isn’t so new. DSC_7463
He was excited to get a desk this year instead of being at a table.