Saturday, June 22, 2013

Heading out East (Part 2: The Gettysburg Edition)

We enjoyed a lovely drive in northern Virginia, crossed over into Pennsylvania and found our hotel in Gettysburg.  It had gotten really foggy the last little bit of our drive and we couldn't wait to have a dip in the hot tub.  It was the perfect way to end the day!

We woke the next morning to an absolutely gorgeous day!  We got some breakfast, checked out, and made our way to the Gettysburg Visitors Center.  What a facility!!!  We first did the cyclorama, a fully-restored giant painting that was done in the 1880's that depicts Picket's Charge.  The painting is 377 feet long and 42 feet high and hung in a circle.  The world's first IMAX. :)  Very impressive!

 After looking viewing an overview movie of the Battle of Gettysburg and browsing at the gift shop, we left to get on our bus tour.  It was really well done and our tour guide (a 40-year Gettysburg tour guide veteran) was super knowledgeable.  As we toured around the battle scenes and saw where so many died, it truly felt like we were walking on sacred ground.  As our guide described what took place 150 years ago, history came to life. 

Abraham Lincoln pulled up to this very train station when he arrived to give the Gettysburg Address.
General Robert E. Lee

From the top of Little Round Top overlooking some of the bloodiest land in the USA

Our amazing tour guide
This barn that dates back to the Battle of Gettysburg still had the scar of a cannonball hole
Lots of monuments. Everywhere.

Ken was my model all week.  He was glad to turn the camera on me for awhile.

Site of the Gettysburg Address

We returned to the visitors center and walked through the museum.  You could have easily spent several hours in seeing all the artifacts and reading the amazing stories about the conditions that led up to the Civil War, the horrors of the war, and then trying to rebuild after the war.  That was quite the collection and beautifully displayed.  We got a few things at the gift shop for the kiddos and were sad when it was time to leave.  I can't wait to return, spend more time, and bring my kids to experience this!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Heading out East (Part 1)

Just a few days after we returned from our church history trip, Ken and I were able to get away, just the two of us.  Earlier in the year, we had watched our friend's kiddos while they were on a lovely vacation.  Lucky for us they agreed to return the favor.

Ken left on Monday and I followed him out on Tuesday after doing major laundry, cleaning the house, getting all the kids packed -- again, teaching lessons, and having a Take Note rehearsal.  Wouldn't you know that is was a crazy snowy day here and school actually got cancelled.  I was a little nervous my flight wouldn't get out, but it ended up being just fine.  It was 20 degrees when I got on the plane and it was almost 90 when I got off the plane in DC.

I took a cab to the hotel and was so excited to see Ken. We walked around the corner to a fun restaurant and dined outside.  The night was beautiful and I couldn't get over how warm it was!  Ken and I are usually pretty good about having date nights, but, as much as we love our children, there is something almost magical when we know we can just focus on each other for a few days.

On Wednesday, Ken had to go to work. :(  I slept in and didn't have to go anywhere! :)  That was such a treat!  Ken and I were able to meet up with my friend Rusty and his family for lunch.  It meant so much to me that they would take the time to drive into the city to meet us.  I have been wanting Ken to meet Rusty for years and I wanted to meet the gal who could make Rusty settle down.  I totally loved Jennifer and their daughter.

We lucked out and timed our trip perfectly for the cherry blossoms and I couldn't wait to go see them!  As soon as Ken got off work, we headed to the tidal basin, along several thousands of our friends.  The blossoms were glorious!  I had fun taking pictures, walking around beautiful monuments, and people watching.  So awesome being with my love! After lots of walking with my love, we enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner.  Rusty was on his break for work so he was able to join us for dessert.  It was such a beautiful night and after all that walking we were ready for a good night's sleep!

Thursday Ken again headed out door to go to work, but this time I wasn't too far behind.  One of the perks of a visit with Ken to DC is visiting my former roommate, Naomi.  She is seriously one of my very favorite people on the planet, so any time I get to spend with her is a real treat.  We had a great plan of me spending the day down in Fredericksburg with her, then picking her husband up at Quantico, and then meeting Ken for a nice dinner in DC.  Well some plans just don't work out.  As I was heading down to the airport on Tuesday, I got a text from her hubby saying that Naomi was in emergency surgery.  I was freaking out a bit and was glad to talk to her the next day.  I arranged to rent a car on Thursday and drove down to the hospital in Fredericksburg to hang out with her. (Crazy deja vu moment:  I lived in that area when I was 13 and just as I was passing Patomic Mills mall, Red, Red Wine came on the radio.  That was one of the big songs that year and I was instantly transported back in time.  Very fun to remember back to that time.)  Even though Naomi was unable to get out of bed, she was healing well.  We talked, laughed, and cried as the hours sped by.  I loved every second of being with her, even if it was in her hospital room, and the time passed too quickly.  I finally had to go to meet Ken for dinner.  We ate at an amazing Brazilian steakhouse, Fogo de Ciao and then enjoyed a lovely walk through the city on the way back to the hotel.

It was a bit cloudy and rainy when we woke on Friday.  Ken had decided to take the day off so we could see some cool things together.  We checked out of the hotel and then walked down to the Old Post office, the 3rd tallest structure in the city.  There were some really cool views even with the gray day.  We went up on the hill to meet my friend Erica (my friend from RBHS) for lunch.  She is an congressional aide and it was really cool to hear about her job and catch up.  After lunch, we had a couple of hours to walk past the Library of Congress, Supreme Court, and the Capitol.  I love those buildings!  We walked to the Ford Theater where we had tickets to see the matinee of Hello Dolly.  Great show that we both really enjoyed.  After the show, we went to the car rental and drove around the city before heading up to Gettysburg, our next adventure together.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Spring Break Road Trip (Part 2)!

Monday we got up and decided to head back up to Nauvoo and see a few more things, especially some of the homes we missed, before continuing on to Carthage Jail and then Indianapolis.  It was such a beautiful day as we drove along the Mississippi River!  We were disappointed that the many of the Joseph Smith sites that are owned by the Community of Christ Church were closed, but we took time to go by them and read all the signs.  Then we went to Brigham Young's home and a few others before getting on our way.

We drove the half hour to Carthage where we visited the jail where Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were martyred.  It is difficult to describe my feelings while in that place.  I vacillated between sadness, joy, and everything inbetween.  I would have to say I settled on something that I would describe as peace.  Peace that God is in control.  Stillness because I know He is God.  I think it was powerful for the kids to be there and I'm really glad we went there as a family.

We continued our drive through Illinois (where we stopped for a moment in Adair, Illinois) to Cyle and Athena's home in Indianapolis.  Being in the van with the kids was great!  We were listening to audiobooks of the Tennis Shoes series and we were all completely entertained despite the long hours in the car.  Every time we got in the van, the kids would start chanting, "tennis shoes, tennis shoes!"  I don't think they even wanted to watch a movie until our very last stretch of driving when we were almost home.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with Cyle and Athena.  They have done their home up beautifully and we such gracious hosts to our crazy family.  On Tuesday we went to visit Cyle at his work and then to the Indianapolis Children's Museum, which apparently is the largest children's museum in the country.  It was really cool with lots of great exhibits for the kids.  We especially loved the water clock, the hot wheels exhibit, and the ScienceWorks area.  It was also super cool that we were able to meet with Ken's cousin Kyly and her son Isaiah and spend the day with them.  It was the first time that I had ever met Kyly and I just adored her!  It meant so much to us that she would take the time off work and take Isaiah out of school to be with us.

The next day, Wednesday, we just laid low and went to a movie.  It was nice to have a down day after the breakneck speed at which we had been doing activities.  That evening Morgan babysat and we were able to have a nice evening out with Cyle and Athena.  How I love being with them!

Thursday we were packing up for another busy day on the agenda.  We were almost done packing the van and Athena was showing Morgan how to use her new blowdryer/curler (way cooler than if her old mom was showing her) when I heard a loud crash from the bathroom.  I thought a shelf or something big had fallen.  I ran into the bathroom to see Morgan twitching (but not in a seizure-type way) on the floor and a huge hole in the wall.  Athena is freaking out as she explained that Morgan had just passed out.  I did my best to stay calm and got her flat on her back instead of being crumpled up against the wall.  Athena ran to get Ken.  I kept talking to Morgan and after about 30 seconds -- a very long feeling 30 seconds! -- Morgan's eyes popped open and in a startled voice asked, "what happened?!?"  She was very surprised to wake up on the floor and even more surprised to see the big hole she had made in the wall with her head.  After giving her some juice and a little more to eat she felt just fine.  We're still not sure what made her pass out.  We're guessing she had her knees locked.  Probably should talk to her doctor about that one...

We finally got on our way.  Drove back across Illinois and the Mississippi River for our first stop of the day in Hannibal, MO.  Hannibal is where Mark Twin lived and set several of his books, especially Tom Sawyer.  We toured the cave (the one where Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher got lost), drove up to Lover's Leap, walked around downtown that had Mark Twain's house, saw an old-fashioned Mississippi Riverboat, and had ice cream.  It was a fun stop that we all enjoyed!

We continued on our way driving through some of the back roads of Missouri.  We stopped at Far West where temple cornerstones had been laid by the early saints.  We were the only ones there.  It was just before sunset and everything was golden and tranquil.  It was so beautiful!  It was neat to read how that area was once a large town of over 5,000 Saints before they were forced to leave.  I would have loved to spend more time in that peaceful setting but several of us had to use the bathroom so we continued onto the visitor's center in Liberty.  Our whole family was moved when they saw Liberty Jail and its walls that were 4 feet thick.  For them, and for me, experiencing that makes sections 121-123 even more powerful as we learned all that Joseph and his companions had to endure.

After one more night in a hotel , we only had 2 more stops on our adventure.  We visited the grounds of the new Kansas City Temple.  I was just dedicated last year and was beautiful!  I'm glad we took a few moments to go see it.  We then headed over to the visitor's center at Independence.  We learned about how it was important for the Saints to build Zion and how we can build Zion today.  My favorite was when the missionary how we could build Zion in our own families.  Cooper confidently raised his hand and answered, "with a hammer."  That provided all sorts of colorful visuals in my head. :)  Ken had to work a change that night, so we were under a deadline and had to get home, so we got on our way.  I think we were all looking forward to sleeping in our own beds that night.

There is something powerful when you have the opportunity to be somewhere and see it with your own eyes rather than just reading about it in a book.  It was amazing to see my kids really become engaged in church history during this trip.  I'm so glad that for the rest of their lives that they will remember this trip, I know I will.