Sunday, November 27, 2016

Wrapping Things Up

The Star Wars suitcase proved to be a great purchase,
since this guy knew it was his and was excited to cart it around.
One less job for us!
 With one last plunge in the pool . . .

one last morning sack lunch meal prep . . .

one last cram into the elevator . . .

one last meal . . .
Isaac, the smarty pants, took the family to Costco for our meal.
At $1.50 for a hot dog and drink, he provided the cheapest meal of the trip!

and we were on our way home.

The flight home was uneventful, however I do have to mention the delight of a half-empty airplane for the leg from Phoenix to Spokane.  After spending so much time squashed together in the van and in hotel rooms, we spread out in the airplane.  We each took our own row and s t r e t c h e d out!

 And, with that, we were home.  Beautiful, wonderful home.

It was a marvelous trip, one that we will talk about for the rest of our lives.
Testimonies and family ties were strengthened.  Our understanding of the world and of our history grew.  It was a financial sacrifice to undertake an endeavor this magnitude with this large of a family, but I cannot feel bad about that.  This will be the only year that all of my children live with me.  With Isaac leaving for his mission soon, we are at the end of an era.  
This was our last opportunity to have a last hurrah
and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Medieval Times!!

I had been to Medieval Times twice before and I knew that there was one in Chicago.  After the church history sites, it was pretty much the number one place where I wanted to take my family.

In case you don't know, Medieval Times is essentially a dinner theater.  The show is one of knights and kings, horses and falcons, sword fighting and jousting.  It is sometimes super cheesy, but it is easy to wink at that because it is so dang entertaining.

The horses are fascinating to watch, majestic and beautiful.  The grown-up side of me appreciates the hours upon hours of training required to produce such a show.  The little kid side of me loves cheering for our assigned knight as he battles his way through.

As you can see, the night we went was not very crowded so everyone got great seats.  Also, if you check online, you can find all kinds of deals and coupons.  I ended up only paying $30 per ticket, which I thought was quite a bargain for the delicious dinner (which is served on metal plates and eaten with your hands) and elaborate show. I know I'm easily entertained, but seriously, the whole family loved this unique experience.

Part of the weak plot line is when the king gives flowers to his knights to toss into the stands.  Based on my experience, the knights try to aim for the little girls, so I told my girls to really cheer for the knight to get his attention.  Sure enough, two of my little girls got flowers (Eliza got one when she went with me a few years ago).  They were so cute and we had to get a picture with their knight after the show.

They were pink carnations and the girls smashed them and stuck them in their journals to dry as a keepsake.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Museum of Science and Industry

One of my proudest moments came the morning of our second to last day.  Everyone suggested I just pay the $25 parking fee because parking is notoriously bad and expensive in Chicago.  I was driving a monstrous vehicle, not a zippy compact around downtown, yet I found a FREE and CLOSE parking spot.  It was a bit tricky getting the long, wide van into the available spot, but I DID IT!  As we were walking away, headed toward the museum, I made everyone stop, turn around and appreciate for a moment the feat their mother had just accomplished.  The family sang my praises tolerably well and I bounced my way into the day.

Running through the expanse of green grass, racing to be the first to the doors.

When I was researching the trip, I knew our last day would be in Chicago.  I also knew a few other things:  we would be full to the brim with spiritual feasting, my husband (and a some of the children) DOES NOT like crowds, and we were in a big city with lots of not to miss opportunities.
The place I kept going back to time and again was this highly recommended place called 
The Museum of Science and Industry.
Okay.  Let's give it a try!

Oh, my goodness.  What a fantastic day!  
We could have spent three days there, it was so jam-packed with amazing things!

It was all hands on and very interactive.  We had so much fun!

Definitely jump through the hoops for the home school tickets--especially because the cafeteria style lunch was outrageously expensive.  I thought we couldn't bring food in, but there were families eating sack lunches.  Dang.
But that was the ONLY downside to the day.
It was an absolute ball!

There was one section that was full of water games.  I think it was intended for the younger set--and our guy certainly did enjoy it--but the whole family had so much fun playing!

There were historical exhibits like this one about the circus.  Again, so fun.

There was a massive model train of the track from Seattle to Chicago, complete with major landmarks as well as small city scenes and topography along the way.  There were some old train cars to play in.

And another area with more historically important stores, like this original Walgreen's.

The farming area, which I thought my country kids would gloss over, was enjoyed as well!

These pictures only represent a smidgen of the awesome activities at this museum.  It was a perfect change of pace from the other stops on our journey.  If we ever go back to Chicago, I'm going back here!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Riverside Iowa

I mean, we HAD to.

The directions to the monument were "Behind the beauty salon."

When were we ever going to be anywhere near this place again?!

It is a cute little town with a quirky and fun museum dedicated to Captain Kirk, who will be born here in just over two hundred years.

I told Dad that he needed to give a report (remember how everyone had to give reports?), but that his topic must remain on the down-low until we arrived.  He was giddy when I told him that Riverside wasn't terribly out of the way and that I thought we ought to go.

The kids were delighted and we all enjoyed the sleepy little town.

On the bridge. This is a serious job.
The town totally embraces this fame, celebrating Captain Kirk Days like another town might celebrate Pioneer Days or the Tulip Festival. I love it so much!

Seeking out strange new worlds.
"Did you use the restroom, yet?" asked the sweet old lady at the desk.  
When I responded negatively, she got a twinkle in her eye and said, "Make sure you do before you go!"

The view from the toilet.  I'm totally serious.
 They had a nice park across the street from the museum, so we played and got in a good leg stretching before piling back into the car to continue our long drive back to Chicago.
What a fun rest stop!
Thank you, Riverside!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Winter Quarters

Dressing up.

After so many months of preparations and miles of travel, we were finally at our last church history stop.  Winter Quarters is in Omaha, Nebraska and it was the launching site of the Westward Trek, by wagon or handcart, depending on the year of your departure.  It was called Winter Quarters because it was where the Saints, after being kicked out of Nauvoo and traveling (miserably) across Iowa, stopped and settled for the winter before continuing on to the Salt Lake Valley.

Packing scale size blocks representing supplies into a covered wagon.
 This is one of my favorite visitor's centers.  It isn't large, but it makes good use of its space.  There are lots of hands on activities for the children, a few precious artifacts, and some very cool displays.

We arrived at dusk, so the missionaries took us out to the cemetery before it got dark.
That is a sacred place.

Father and mother at the frozen and shallow grave of their infant.  The sacrifice was great.
Am I honoring their sacrifice?
Then, they brought us back in and began the tour.

Log house with a sod chimney.  So interesting.
 As we stood at the front of the building, the missionary started the tour by asking,
"When did you know that Joseph Smith was a prophet?  When did you know the church was true?"
Our Camilla looked up and said simply,
"On this trip."

You know what?  That one statement, offered humbly and with the open honesty of youth, made all of the struggles and sacrifice to go on this trip WORTH IT.
I'd do it all again, dear girl, to hear you say that.

The Menfolk

Yoked Oxen and a cute Lucy
 It does add time and distance to the overall trip, but I felt like it was worth adding to the itinerary.  It wasn't a long stop, but I do think it really summed up our education about those early, faithful, courageous Saints.  There is a temple right next to the visitor's center and cemetery with beautiful stained glass.  I would have loved to attend, but it wasn't feasible for us this go 'round.  Next time!