The Holland Family Blog » Erica Holland Photography and Family Happenings

One Great Big Colorado Adventure

Last fall, after a stressful and humbling internship search, Brad was offered an HR internship with DigitalGlobe in Longmont, Colorado. We took a week or two after school got out to vacation and pack up. We opted to save money by bringing only what could fit in our van, and true to form, Brad had no problem making everything we wanted to bring fit. We left Jordan at our house, and drove out to Colorado, only 4 hours later than planned, our car full to the brim. It took us a couple hours to unpack, and we settled into our new Colorado home.

Brad enjoys his job most days and after 5 years in the Army appreciates only working 40 hours a week. We’ve had no problem filling all that free time exploring everything that Colorado has to offer. We think everyone should come visit Colorado, and in case you do, we’ve compiled a helpful list of things you should and should not do while you are here.


If you come to Colorado, you should bring a bike. We’ve counted between 50-100 road bikers on our way to church each Sunday, and spent hours at Boulder’s bike park.  We found a couple of balance bikes on Craigslist for our twins, and in the last month Annika learned to ride without her training wheels. We are amazed to see tiny kids flying around the BMX track at the bike park, but I think our girls may be on their way.  When we went back to Utah for Jordan’s wedding, we brought Brad’s road bike back to Colorado, and he has been enjoying some long Saturday morning rides.

If you are going to let your kids loose at the bike park, you should not forgo dental or health insurance. Or knee and elbow pads. We are constantly tending to new cuts, scrapes and bruises. While climbing on a fence a few weeks ago, Elise flipped over it and cracked her tooth. We are now spending our summer earnings on dental care for our three year old. After spending days on the phone with doctors and dentists and insurance agents, Elise went in for surgery on her tooth. It was cracked too badly for them to save, so she now has the smile of a 7 year old. I’ve fallen in love with her toothless grin.

While in Colorado, you should go to the mountains. Rocky Mountain National Park is only an hour away, and we didn’t wait long to take the girls up for some camping and hiking. It is just as beautiful as you would expect it to be, and we even saw a bear with cubs!

Photo credit Annika Holland

However, you should not go camping and hiking without doing some preliminary research into the condition of the campsites and the trails. Somehow we reserved a campsite that was mostly flooded and muddy, and we could have used snowshoes on the first hike we tried (instead we were wearing shorts and sandals.) As we started the hike Brad said “I’m not sure we should do this. The girls are going to get too cold  and cry.” I said “Where is the man I married!? Where is your sense of adventure!?” Brad was right. The girls were great until we got to the lake, and by then their little toes were frozen and they cried and cried. The man I married was smart as well as adventurous.

In Longmont, you should take advantage of the many, many parks, walking trails, and hiking trails in close proximity. Boulder is only 20 minutes away, and there are beautiful mountain hikes with trailheads only a few blocks away from downtown. Longmont has a large network of walking trails and dedicated “greenways” that we’ve explored on our Sunday evening walks.

A view of Meeker and Longs Peak from the Pella Crossing trail

Even though I encourage you to go hiking, you probably should not reasonably expect your small children to do a 6 mile hike up a mountain. Bring backpacks and plan on carrying them if you are determined to get to the top. (We were determined, and Brad is really good at carrying multiple children at once.) However, there are a multitude of kid friendly trails in the area  just perfect for little legs.



You should try out some of Boulder’s incredible restaurants. It is a foodie’s paradise.

You should probably not take all your kids with you when you go out to eat at one of Pearl Street’s fine dining establishments. The food is great, but the bill is high. (We meant to be next door.)

You definitely should get an apartment close to a pool. Our pool is only 100 feet from our door and we are there nearly every day. All of our girls are getting quite comfortable in the water. Last summer Annika screamed whenever she was in deep water, even if someone was holding her. Now she is swimming the width of the pool. Lucy has never wanted to wear floaties, and so she is quickly learning to swim.

You should not take your eyes off of Elise in the pool. She is not as good a swimmer as Lucy, but she has no fear. She loves to jump into the pool, sink to the bottom, the kick her way back up and assumes someone will always be there to grab her once she gets to the top. So far she has only jumped in when someone is watching nearby, but I think it is only a matter of time until she tries it on her own.

When you go visit anywhere you should do your best to get involved in the community. A few years in the Army taught me to treat everywhere like a permanent home, no matter how short your time there may be. We helped my cousin Zach plant trees at the bike park for his Eagle Scout project. Now whenever we visit the park the girls are so proud when they point out the trees they planted. We also visited Boulder’s farmers’ market, bought into a CSA, and visit the library weekly.

You should not stand around and watch while your kids do all the work. Or maybe you should.

If you go to Colorado, you should definitely convince all your favorite people to come visit you. Everything is more enjoyable when you share it with people you love. We were lucky enough to have Jeff and Tammy stop by for a couple of days as they made a major move from Texas to Boston. Seeing all those cousins reunited was a highlight of the summer for me.

Taniel and Isaac are coming out on the 4th of July and I have a long list of things I want to do with them while they are here. Does anyone else want to join us before we move back to Utah in August? These two would be super happy if you did!

Monica - Looks like a great time in CO! If I was just a little closer (like even New York ha!) I would so love to visit! Look how big Tammy and Jeff’s kids are!! Tell them I said hi! My favorite part of this post should come as no surprise… Love the pool being so close!!! Glad you’re enjoying your time there!

makana - this was such a fun post to read. I loved how you broke it up and, as always, your beautiful photos.

Jeneca - I love your adventures! Thanks for posting. If we could, I would love to make it to visit but maybe I will just see you when I am back in Utah at the end of August.

A Desert Adventure

I’m writing this post in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. We are spending our summer in Longmont, Colorado while Brad does an HR internship for DigitalGlobe. It’s been a pretty awesome summer so far, with a few kinks. Colorado is beautiful, the weather has been perfect, and we’ve been spending every possible moment outside – at the pool, the bike park, or in the mountains. But I’m going to have to save that for a later post.

Today I’m backtracking to a trip we took to the Utah desert. After Brad got out of school and before he started his internship we drove down to Bryce Canyon National park for a couple of nights. Our girls are getting older, which makes adventures with them easier in some ways, but we are still learning a lot about hiking and camping with young kids. There were more than a few times the trip was a struggle, but in this case, the good moments certainly outweighed the difficulties. I think what I want my kids to learn most from our outdoor adventures is that just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. It is why we tell them repeatedly that they can do hard things, and why we push them to go further than they want to on hikes. Sometimes I have to remind myself as well.

Having grown up in the Northwest, where everything is wet and green, I am always surprised by how astonishingly beautiful the desert can be.


According to my girls, skirts are the wardrobe of choice for adventures. I think Lucy is rocking the look.

Brad and I go on camping trips for the hiking and the beautiful views. Our girls go camping for s’mores. I think they just put up with everything else in order to get s’mores.

But having a view like this next to your campground doesn’t hurt either.

That first night, after we (finally) got all the girls to sleep in the tent, we sat outside in the car looking at the stars and the trail maps. We’ve hiked with our girls enough now to know that a mile will take us a little over an hour, including frequent stops for snacks and the bathroom. Brad was pushing for a 6 mile loop, and I was trying to tell him that it was way too ambitious. “It’ll be fun!” (That’s what he always tells me when he wants to do something that I think is a bad idea.) In the end, I resigned, with the warning that he would probably have to carry Annika a good portion of the way, and I wasn’t going to carry two kids at once. (Carrying Lucy and Elise was already a given).

At the trailhead the next morning, the view over the canyon took my breath away. The trail down the canyon is steep, with drop-offs the whole way, so we started the twins in the backpacks, and Elise wasn’t happy. (Lucy is always happy to be carried – little lazy bum.) We zig-zagged down to the bottom, and Annika kept a surprisingly good pace. She would continue to surprise me all day. Once we made the mile-long trek to the bottom of the canyon, we hiked the peek-a-boo loop, which is a three mile loop the park rates as strenuous. We told Annika that it was long and hard, and we weren’t sure she could hike the whole thing, but we wanted her to try. She said “I can do it!” – and she did. It wasn’t easy, and there were times she was barely moving, but she hiked every step of that loop. I was so proud of her I could have burst. Not to be outdone, Lucy hiked the whole long zig-zagging mile out of the canyon, giving her parents a heart attack as she ran up the narrow trail. I know there are plenty of other 5 year olds who can hike further – what she did was not particularly remarkable in and of itself. But for her to set a goal and then see it through, despite the difficulties, was a big step for her and a very fulfilling moment for me.  One of the hard parts of parenting is that for all the effort you put into raising kids, you often don’t see the results or get any feedback until years down the road. This hike was a little bit of positive feedback for me – an indication that maybe some of the lessons we are trying to teach our girls are sinking in, that just maybe I’m doing something right as a parent.

If that hike was an indication of what we are doing right as a parents, the next morning told the story of some of the things we are doing wrong. Namely, that we are pretty terrible at giving our girls consistent and dependable schedules, and we frequently push them too far when they are too tired and get annoyed with them when they really just need a nap. I mean, we should probably just go easy on them, they’re only 3, right?

But we had another day in southern Utah, and by-golly, I didn’t want to waste it, even it it was only 30 degrees and everyone was exhausted.  The pioneers didn’t let exhaustion or cold weather stop them, right? (And really, you have no idea how many pioneer stories I’ve told Annika while we are hiking. I’m not sure it is really fair to compare her recreational hiking experience with her parents to her ancestors’ forced migration across the United States, but pain is all about perspective right? That little blister is nothing compared to bare, bleeding feet, and good stories make the time go faster.) So we loaded up and headed to Red Canyon State Park.

Sometimes Lucy does this thing where she refuses to walk by herself. At all. She would rather stand by her car door and cry for 15 minutes than walk up the 3 stairs into the house. Eventually someone will take pity on her (usually not me) and carry her in. This was one of those mornings for her. We knew everyone was tired, so we found a 1/4 mile nature walk past some fun rock formations. Annika and Elise skipped and ran and climbed up boulders. Lucy wouldn’t walk a single step. She wouldn’t even walk from the bathroom stall to the sink. I was holding back tears as we finally made it back to the car;  I was so full of frustration and guilt after asking, arguing, pleading, making deals, threatening, and then finally just giving in. I just wanted her to stretch her legs for a couple hundred feet before our car ride home. It should’t have been a big deal for either of us. Please tell me I’m not the only mom with moments like this.

I don’t have a picture of Lucy crying, or one of me carrying her. I was too annoyed to take a picture. But here is one of Annika climbing a rock, with Lucy peeking out behind. I set her down to take a picture, and she wasn’t happy about it.

Luckily I have a husband is more patient than I am, and was wise enough to see that Lucy just needed a little break, a little snack and a little motivation. He encouraged us to try one more little hike, and promised fruit snacks at the end for anyone who gave it their best effort. Now, we really try to stay away from bribes, but there is a fine line between bribes and motivation. I’m not sure where this one fell, but it worked like a charm. Lucy and Elise and Annika ran and skipped along the trail. Elise made up a little chant that went something along the lines of “I’m a great hiker. I’m the best hiker! I’m so great!” and she kept it up the whole time. Once, when I cautioned Elise to slow down as she ran along a narrow trail with a steep drop-off she stopped and said “It’s ok Mom. We’re all going to die. Just like Jesus. We will be alive again.” And then she skipped away. For my fears, I’m the only one who came away from the hike with an injury. I stubbed my pinkie toe on the corner of a sharp rock, tearing it open. Blood pooled around my toes in my sandal. Elise said “I’m a good hiker, and Lucy’s a good hiker and Annika’s a good hiker, but you’re not a good hiker mom. You got blood.” I’m still waiting for my toenail to grow back. Maybe it is time to retire my Chacos as my hiking shoe of choice.

And then we ate fruit snacks and drove home. Exhausted, but happy. Rejuvenated after a few days in the wilderness and ready to face our new adventures.


Cristine - Love this post and your family!!!! That pic of Anni with the s’more is my fave!!! :)

Mom - You’re a good hiker and a good mom! You’re great! (Read that in a sing-song voice please)

Monica - Seriously? That place is beautiful!!! I’m jealous and that’s a big deal since you know where we’ve been hiking!!! You are such a great mom Erica! Don’t even think twice about that! PS Go Anni! Ryan is a trooper but she does not always hike with a happy face. :)

Becky - Love your honest appraisal of your girls. And you! As I would scroll down through the pictures, the portrait oriented ones particularly, they top out with magnificent views, and then I scroll down again and there is one adorable child or another at the bottom. Loved this post, miss the Hollands. Enjoy Colorado. I always remember it’s perfect climate.

Miranda Clements - I love reading this post, Erica! I love to hear about the real life experiences of your camping and hiking. My favorite memories are camping with my family when I was younger, but I’ve been kind of dreading going with kids of my own. But this post got me excited about it again! Beautiful pictures and I love to hear about all of your girls’ different personalities! Thanks for sharing!

Emily J - Love this post! I’m so proud of your girls and your family for going and doing hard things! Good for you for taking your girls on adventures! Since you’re in Colorado this summer, one of our favorite places to hike there is Mesa Verde. Interesting, challenging at times and beautiful! Love your family <3

Nate - You guys are awesome. I got tired just from reading about your adventures. I am going to go eat some fruit snacks now.

Ms. Ballard - My two grown up children go on and on about the camping and hiking we did when they were little. While I remember many rest stops and trail snacks, they remember the beauty that surrounded them. All of that hard work of living in the rough with little ones is so very worth it. I couldn’t be happier looking at your photos. Strong work, you two!

Deja - I really, really love this post. I particularly love the dialogue. What marvelous girls. And you are, of course, an awesome mom.

Taniel - I read this just as we were having something of a meltdown on our vacation. I loved what you said about things being worth it even if they are difficult. I think we have this idea in our minds that traveling and adventures with kids will all be glorious and problem free. I appreciate your honesty and love your sense of adventure! Can’t wait for more adventures with you!

Evelyn - Awesome. You and Brad are so good at doing fun trips with your girls. It takes so much preparation as a parent to see those adventures through. I am thoroughly impressed. I love the pictures!

Our April Fools Baby

Annika is the birthday queen, so it is somewhat fitting that she got to celebrate her birthday twice. We held off on her birthday party a few days until my Mom was going to be in town, but even without a party, we couldn’t let her special day go by without a little celebrating.

She requested crepes for her birthday breakfast, and I was happy to acquiesce and eat my fair share.

I would think that having a birthday on April Fools’ Day would be sort of annoying. I mean, who wants everyone playing practical jokes on you on your birthday? But Annika loves it. Brad and the girls got me good when I came home from running to the store and turned on the sink, only to get soaked by the spray nozzle (they’d taped down the handle.) I played that joke so many times as a kid, you’d think I would be more aware, but I was caught completely off guard. We tried to fool Annika by wrapping up a bunch of random things around the house and giving those to her instead of her presents. She wasn’t fooled, but she did look a little bit worried at one point. I’m going to have to work harder to really get her someday.

When we moved to Springville last fall, Annika found that she would be eligible to get her own library card once she turned five. We visit the library at least once or twice a week, and she’s been waiting almost a year for her own card. So, first thing in the morning of her fifth birthday we all went to the library. Brad skipped school that morning to be with Annika on her birthday. B-school has been nice that way.

Afterwards we grabbed ice cream cones at the SOS Drugstore. When it is your birthday you can eat ice cream before lunch.

Annika requested cauliflower soup for dinner (seriously, I would have made anything for her, and that’s what she wanted.) Some of our very best friends from Germany texted me that day to say that they were in town, and we were so, so happy to have them over for dinner. I’m just now realizing that I didn’t take a single picture of us together, and I’m feeling rather sad about it. I’ll just have to treasure the memory, I suppose. Looking back , I’m glad we could celebrate Annika’s big day in all her favorite ways – with books, ice cream, and friends.

Lizzie - Wow, I remember when she was born! Also, those first two pictures of her look so much like Brad. I never realized how much she looks like her daddy!

Marilee - What a fun day!

Cristine - FUN!!!! Happy birthday Annika!