Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hannibal and the Confluence

Greg and I couldn't resist the chance to see the birthplace of Mark Twain so we visited the Samuel Clements museum and his childhood home, as well as the homes of Becky Thatcher and Huckleberry Finn.  I had required the kids to listen or read at least one of Twain's short stories but other than that they hadn't had much exposure to his work - they still loved it.  There were quotes all over the displays in his childhood home and I wish I would have taken pictures of some of them because I was snickering the whole time.  Such a gift with words.

Here they are by a river boat and painting the fence ( I told Andrew not to get any ideas).

 Tom and a Becky who's eyes were a little sensitive to light.
We also got to go through the Mark Twain caves.  Our tour guide was awesome and we had a blast walking through the dark caves.  I was horrified to think of little kids playing in those caves with nothing more than candles and lanterns.  It was a cool 50 degrees in the caves - a nice break from the stifling humidity.

Greg and I had such a hard time keeping this road trip to only a week - so many cool things to see.  We had really wanted to go see Springfield but couldn't fit it in, next time I guess.  We had a bit of a drive that night to get to Saint Louis area but as we were driving that I realized we would be going right past the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  I decided I had to see it.  I started looking for how to get to the best spot and started using the word confluence in every sentence I possibly could.  What a great word.  The kids were getting antsy and bickering a lot and  it would seam that looking for the confluence (and my silly enthusiasm) was getting on their nerves.  However, by the time we got there the silliness had caught on and everyone (except Kate) was super excited to see the now famous confluence.  My kids think I'm weird but I love the moments when I can just be silly and get them laughing - need to do it more often.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

On to Nauvoo

Nauvoo, Illinois was a city built up by members of the Mormon church after they were forced to flee from Missouri.  They turned swamp land on the Mississippi River into a beautiful town.  At one point it's population rivaled that of Chicago.  The church has preserved and rebuild many structures that you can visit to see what it would have been like to live there in the 1840's.  My kids loved the bakery (they got free cookies), the blacksmith shop, the gunsmiths, and the family living center where they got to make rope, shear sheep, and make (taste) homemade bread.  We also got to see Joseph Smith's grave and many other significant buildings from when Joseph was alive.  We even got to see a cute musical show put on by the missionaries serving there and the kids loved that.
 I have been to Nauvoo a few times before but this home was new and was so awesome to visit.  This is where my great-great-great-grandmother lived as a young girl.  As a child I learned stories from her life history, my favorites were about when she crossed the plans and the significance of her death.    
If you can't read the plaque -  she had long red curly hair that attracted the attention of a Native American Chief while she was crossing the plains.  It was only through promptings from the spirit that her mother was able to keep her from the persistent chief.   My little red head loves that story.  

It was wonderful to visit the home and share what I knew of this special woman with my kids and to see them humbled by imagining all of us living in that small one room house.  It was a great experience.  Then as we were leaving a missionary sister started talking to us.  When she learned I was a descendant of Mary she taught me more about being "The Last Leaf".  Apparently, in General Conference they used to have a special area set apart for those who had met Joseph Smith.  These members would bare their testimony at conference.  As the years passed the number of those who knew Joseph grew smaller and smaller.  They started calling the group " The Last Leaves"  Eventually Mary was the last person able to bare testimony that she had personally known Joseph Smith; earning her the title - "The Last Leaf".  She died at 107 still testifying of the truth of the gospel.  I love her story and loved being able to visit her home and learn more about her.
Before leaving Nauvoo we had to walk (Mack had my phone and took a ton of selfies and Lily pics) the "Trail of Hope" that leads from town down to the river where they began their trek west.  Along the way there are dozens of quotes that tell the thoughts and experiences of different individuals who took that path.  It is humbling to read of their faith and hope in the mists of the persecution, violence, and hatred that forced them to leave their beautiful homes.

I remember coming to Nauvoo as a child and seeing a big empty field where the temple stood before vandals burned it to the ground.  I love to see the temple standing there again; it is beautiful.  

We had a great day in Nauvoo but it ended in tears - Kate's eye got worse and worse and spread to the other eye.  We called her doc, bought eye drops (which of course she refused to try), and used a lot of hot rags but she wasn't feeling very well.  Then the dreaded dinner hour.  Finding a place to eat that makes everyone happy is nearly impossible.  We thought Chinese take-out would go over okay - not so much.  After 15 solid minutes of screaming we started praying Emily would cry herself to sleep.  No luck, but she eventually stopped and ironically ate lots of rice and sweet and sour chicken for dinner.

The next morning we went to  Carthage Jail where Joseph was killed.  Greg met Elder Bowler, a senior missionary, who we learned knew Greg's dad and uncle.  It was a little tender mercy for Greg to get to talk with him.  

 There is a special spirit in Carthage.  I love to listen as they retell the story of what happened there and to feel the witness that it is true.  Joseph was killed because he was a prophet of God; he gave up all to follow the direction of the Lord.  
 The missionary closed the door and took a picture of our family through the bullet hole in the door.  I hope my kids remember the feeling they had here.

We loaded up and headed to Hannibal...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Chicago Here We Come

We left Wisconsin and my family behind and met Greg in Chicago.  We stayed downtown and showed our kids the big city.  They were fascinated.  
 We walked down to Navy Pier to enjoy real Chicago Pizza, a donut ice cream sandwhich (Yum), the Ferris Wheel, carousel, and a few other rides.

 One of my favorite parts of the trip was our architectural boat tour.  We got to travel right through the heart of downtown on the river.  It was amazing and I learned so much.  It got a bit long for the kids but we enjoyed it.  At one point we passed an outdoor theatre where an orchestra was playing Darth Vader's theme from Star Wars.  Lily started singing along in "meow-meow"  Darth Kitty put on quite a show.

The girls wanted to see the American Girl Doll store so we checked out the mall.  Lego heaven.

For breakfast the next morning we had a dozen donuts from 'Glazed and Infused'.  So yummy, and expensive - I think these cost more than some of our dinners.  Then we headed to Lincoln Park Zoo.  The summer of 2005 Greg interned in Chicago and the kids and I spent a lot of time at the zoo.  They wanted to go back and Emily in particular wanted to see the polar bear.  We walked to the farthest most point to see the polar bear only to discover that his exhibit was closed for renovation.  Emmy shed a few tears but we got through it.  We had some Chicago dogs for lunch then headed to church.  The local ward was held inside a public school and there was no a/c.  It was a good experience for the kids.

Then off to the Field Museum- I love this place - and so did the kids.  They loved all the animals and of course Sue.  There was a lot of walking and they were troopers especially Lily who, at age three, walked the zoo and the entire museum.  Impressive.  Here are the boys on the steps with Soldier Field behind them.

 Kate started feeling sick and kept complaining about her eye hurting.  She suffered through the last half of the day and sadly that eye was a problem for the rest of the trip.
 Our last adventure before we left town was the tower formerly know as the Sears Tower. (I can't even remember it's new name and I'm too lazy to look it up).  The kids loved seeing all the places we had been.

Here they are - sitting on top of the world.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Party in Wisconsin

One of my sisters lives in Wisconsin and for years we have heard about the wonders of Wisconsin Dells, water park dream land.  When my parents left on their mission we decided to get together somewhere other than Ontario.  The wonders of the Dells were calling and the reunion was planned.  My brothers couldn't make it nor could the brother-in-laws so in the end it was just the 5 girls, 26 kids, and dozens of water parks.  Let the party begin.

First we had to get to Wisconsin - a 24 hour drive.  Val and I caravaned through Utah, Wyoming, and Nebraska.  We only got complaints in one hotel but it was a good experience becasue I was able to teach my kids how to use a phone with a cord.  My back was still giving me grief but with Mack, Natali and Val's help we made it to Iowa where we spent a day playing with the Bernard cousins.  They had a huge water fight, went ice skating, fished in the pond, and went shopping with Uncle Aaron.  Total party.

Then we all rode together to The Dells.  We met my other two sisters and enjoyed the next three days swimming, sliding and just hanging out.  I wished we could have had more time to chat.  It is hard to have a decent conversation when you are at an indoor water park that echos and you are trying to keep 6 toddlers from drowning.  The kids had such a blast but I don't have many photos cause I didn't want my phone anywhere near the water.
 One afternoon the kids enjoyed the arcade and ropes course.  Here is Emmy.
 Sophie, Emmy, and Hattie - awesome climbers.
 Natali on the course.
 Walking from one park to the other.  It really was amazing how many different parks there were.  I think we went to three out door parks and three indoor ones.  Even Mack, who doesn't love water, had a blast.  How could you not with that variety?

 Our last night we all went out for ice cream.  Such a wonderful time.  Love these kids.