Monday, June 16, 2014

It's Just Paper

Friday night was Father and Sons camp out for the ward.  The boys always look forward to this time with their dad. This year Eli and Harry were adamant about taking their coin collections so that they could show every one...captive audience, you know. Harry showed some people, but Eli really made sure to show everyone in the camp. He would walk right up to someone and ask them if they would like to see his coin collection. What? Were they gonna say no to that adorable face? I think not.

David D. and Ryan P. looked and admired the coins and asked him pointed questions about it. Bubba P. had great expressions of admiration as well. This must have really made Eli feel good.

But the best interaction had to come from the bishop, Dan E. He was one of the last ones to see the coin collection. Eli made sure to thoroughly display each coin, with a detailed explanation of its value and history. Eli made it clear that his coin collection was not for sale or trade. Bishop put this to the test. First he pulled out a dollar bill from his wallet to entice Eli, but he snuffed at that and told the bishop it was just paper.

Then the bishop upped the ante and offered a $10 bill from his wallet to entice this nascent coin collector. NOPE!

Finally bishop pulled out a crisp $100 bill. $100!!! Take it and run Eli! Take it....and RUN!!! Eli looked at it and thought about it a second and said, "Maybe for my lamest coin." The bishop laughed and told Eli that he must really love his coin collection. Eli agreed and said that his dad worked really hard to buy his coin collection, like for two months.

I just love this kid.

And Harry had fun too, but got tired and asked to go to bed.

On the way home, the boys stopped in Heber to visit Lindsay and Justin's shaved ice shack called WISP (Wasatch Ice and Soda Pop). I haven't been able to go yet, but Rinar said it was super delicious.  I can't wait to check it out.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sunday Fun

While we were away on our epic field trip, my mom held down the fort. When Catye and Mike picked us up from the airport, they brought this little morsel with them. Unfortunately, she was sleeping. But about 10 minutes from pulling up to the front door, she opened her eyes. Raef, Zach and I were ecstatic to see those blue eyes. It took her a minute to register our faces in her sleepy brain. Man, I missed her so much.

Eli has developed an obsession for coins, which started right before we left on the trip. Every night, that is all he wanted to talk about: coins, coins, coins. Oy! Naturally, his unabated enthusiasm spilled over to his little brother. This did make it exceptionally easy to know what to bring them back from our trip. Rinar even found some gigantic coins. This was Eli's face when he saw the gigantic ones for the first time.  Priceless!

Now any time there is a visitor to the house, they get treated to a perusal of his cool coin collection.

And Noelle just loves grandma!

On Sunday, Jamie and Leah came over for dinner after church. Mike and Catye stayed the night. Right before dinner, Catye and Mike went to get in some showers. They were pretty exhausted because their son Paul kept them up all night.  As I was finishing up dinner prep and taking a phone call, Rinar comes running in to tell me that the shower door exploded. When I got down there, I witnessed a scene of glass carnage. And poor Catye and Mike were bleeding. Luckily, no stitches were needed, but it was pretty bad. Both Rinar and I were vacuuming and vacuuming and then Catye and Mike had to get glass pulled out of hands and feet. I am just very grateful it was them, and not a baby in that bath. They are okay. But now that this is the second time a sliding glass shower door has exploded on us, may I recommend never getting one in your house? They are horrible!

Monday, June 9, 2014

From Philly to Maine

Saturday was a rode trip day. We headed to the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside to Lancaster County, and then on to Gettysburg. We left pretty early, so it afforded us time to take the long, slow, scenic way. I am glad we did. As we were driving to Lancaster, we saw a yard sale and did a little bit of shopping. I found some darling artwork and Rinar rounded up a couple of pairs of shoes that Raef and Zach could wear. 

Then we went to the Lancaster farmer's market. It is the oldest farmer's market still in existence and the place was happening. Pretty much all of the vendors are Amish or Mennonites. We bought some raw honey and various jelly assortments from this nice Amish gentleman. There were lots of samples and things to see and smell. Rinar also made it a point to a get a little explanation of the difference between Mennonites and Amish from the lady at the candy counter.

 Outside was a Mary Poppins street musician. You know what I am talking about? He had a bass drum stuck to his back, cymbals, ukulele, harmonica, horn, etc. It was fun. There was even a bucket of various improvised percussion instruments so that othes could play along with him. Fun!

From Lancaster, we made our way to Gettysburg. We took our time doing the auto tour and looked at the many details of the battle. I tried to explain it the best that I could to two uninterested kids. Oy! But I got a lot out of it and I think that Rinar learned a few things as well. In this picture the kids are standing on Little Round Top, a critical moment and turning point in the battle and hence, the war. Gettysburg is just a very special place.

Raef was obsessed with the idea of finding bullets and artifacts, even though he knew that it was illegal. He tried to think of umpteen different ways around the laws and all. It was a nice consolation that there was a gift shop where they sold actual bullets. We also made sure to pay our respects to the greatest president ever to live, Abraham Lincoln. We stopped at the cemetery to see where he delivered the Gettysburg Address. Like I said, Gettysburg is just a very special place.

Sunday was definitely a day of rest for us. We all needed a break from all of this larnin'! We went to church in Moorestown, New Jersey. And by the way, that is a beautiful little town. It is absolutely idyllic. After church was over, I thought it would be nice to go and see Valley Forge, but we modified this plan when the bishop invited us to his house for dinner. It was pretty darn cool. We ate random stuff for this impromptu dinner party and then they were incredibly gracious and spent valuable time with my kids playing Apples to Apples. Raef and Zach really had a wonderful time. Thank you Bishop Rigby and Sister Rigby.

To wrap up the Philadelphia portion of the trip, we went to The Franklin Institute. I thought it was a science museum, but it is really just a glorified kids museum. More than half the stuff is broken and the place was a zoo because we landed in the middle of field trip hell. In addition, it is really expensive. Holy cow. Let's just say, I really would not recommend it. But at least there was this sweet statue of Benjamin Franklin, one of my favorite founding fathers.

And Zach got to ride the Sky Bike.

I suppose it was not a total loss. There were a few surprises along the way. The Philadelphia LDS temple is getting built about two blocks away and that was an inspiring site. Plus, the boys were able to run the Rocky steps. This is something Rinar really wanted to do. I waited by the car because I really did not want to get a parking ticket!

We were able to get out to Valley Forge before rush hour traffic and just before the visitor's center closed. Good thing, because it allowed us to get another stamp for our NPS passport. Before we got there, we stopped for lunch at the Shake Shack. Holy moley, that place is delish. I would say it is the eastern equivalent to In'n'Out, only way better. Plus they have a whole bunch of shake flavors, which made the kids pretty darn happy.

I am grateful we could go to Valley Forge. The name is appropriate because it is where farmers were forged into soldiers. To understand Valley Forge is to understand the terrain there. It is on a hill and easily fortified. At the opposite end of the visitor's center several miles away is the house where Washington had his headquarters. There is a park ranger there and you can tour the house, which has reproductions and period pieces. Once again, I was just awed to walk in General Washington's footsteps.

We packed up Wednesday and got on the road early so that we would have some time in New York City before we got to our hotel in the Boston area. We parked in Staten Island and took the free ferry to the city. It was seamless and worry-free. Plus we got a great view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I had originally planned to take them to Ellis Island, but we canceled that plan because most of it is still closed because of Hurricane Sandy. But we still kept the Empire State Building on the agenda. The ticket price it very expensive, so I decided not to go up because we could save some money and I had already been. While they went up, I headed over to the NYC Public Library for the exhibit they had on children's literature. It was an enjoyable solo excursion that I am sure the rest of the crew was happy to miss. But once we reunited, we headed out to the ferry and our car again.

In the afternoon, we went to Coney Island. I had never been there before. We made sure to ride the Cyclone, a brain-rattling wooden roller coaster from 1927. It was fun and I hope to never ride it again. We had eaten pizza in the city and then opted for a hot dog snack at the original Nathan's on the boardwalk. And yes, the hot dog was yummy.

In the evening, we went to my cousin Lindsay's house in Brooklyn. The plan was for our boys to babysit her little ones and then the adults could go to dinner. Mission accomplished. We bought some mac and cheese, blueberries, juice boxes, and got the kids going and then we split.  Since it is their town, we had them choose the dinner location. They did a great job. We went to Giacomo's, an Italian place just around the corner. It was a darling restaurant and a wonderful time with them.

And can I just give a shout out to my cousin. She is the most amazing woman! And she has a blog if you want to check it out. Lindsay just gave birth to her fourth son. She lives in the craziest, busiest city in the world, their apartment is tiny as you would expect, her husband is the bishop, and some how or another she is keeping it all together. I mean, the laundromat is a block away people. She is definitely a tree growing in Brooklyn. And she has the most darling children. My boys were amazed at her oldest son Garrett. They couldn't believe how smart he his. Zach told me that he thought Garrett was a genius. But I was proud of my boys. When we got back, the kids were in bed, the apartment was quiet and Raef was finishing up the dishes. Way to go, boys!!

We actually made great time from Brooklyn to Boston. And on Wednesday, we went to the Plimouth Plantation, a living history center. They have a Wampanoag village and a Puritan village. The Wampanoag are actual Native Americans and a lot of them are descendants of the Wampanoags. They encourage the kids to ask lots of questions and learn stuff.

The Puritan village is fun because the settlers there are reenactors and stay in character faithfully. We came across a man talking to a group and as I listened to him, realized that he was Miles Standish. Man, was he spot on. I thoroughly enjoyed it. He just acted like we were one of them and was a garrulous guy. There were probably about five of them throughout the village and they really look like they live there.

After Plimouth, we made a quick stop at Plymouth Rock and saw the actual rock they landed on. We also ate lunch at a place called the Lobster Hut. Raef ordered lobster mac and cheese. Let's just say, it was not his favorite. But he ate it because that was an expensive lunch. Every. Bite.

We also made sure to visit Cape Cod National Seashore. And like the last time I was there, it was cloudy, misty, and a little bit dreary. But it was still nice and the kids were able to play on the beach for a while and comb for rocks and such. Rinar and I also stopped and talked to a few random couples. One was from Australia and the other was from Connecticut. I tell you, people are so interesting.

It was a downpour Thursday. We made an attempt at the Freedom Trail in Boston and I just was not up for the struggle with the boys. It was clear that they had reach the limit to all things historical.

And just like the esteemed James Otis, I think the history lessons died that day.  We waived the white flag, went back to the hotel, took hot showers and relaxed for the rest of the day.

We drove to the scenery of New Hampshire and Maine on Friday. Rinar wanted to stop at this house for some reason.

Hi Ken! Do you still read my blog?
 We went to the coast and as we were driving towards Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I realized that Maine was just on the other side.  We had never been to Maine and thought, hmmm, why not? We found a lighthouse in York, Maine and took some pretty pictures. We also met the lighthouse keeper and a local artist with a genuine Maine accent.

The kids played at the beach some more and an old-fashioned arcade and then we headed home. There was a lot of packing to do.


I would say that the thing I enjoyed the most was talking to the many people along the way in each area we visited. People are so interesting. I learned so much more about where we were by talking to the locals. The trip also reminded me of the beauty and majesty of this great nation. I can really say that I am proud to be an American.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Virginia to Pennsylvania

We have really been packing it in on our blitzkrieg history tour. On Monday we drove to Williamsburg to spend the day in colonial times. You can actually walk around Williamsburg for free, but if you want to go in the buildings and listen to the reenactors, you pay an entrance fee. I am still not sure if it is worth the hefty price tag, but since we were there, I figured we might as well just do it.  I would say it is very similar to This is the Place State Park. 

We were able to go into many buildings , like the governor's mansion, printing press, wig shop, silversmith, and state house.  It was also nice to be there on Memorial Day. They had a parade with a colonial marching band and lots of period costumes. 


After we finished our visit to Williamsburg, we headed over to the original Jamestown site, which is now a National Park.  We made it in to the visitor's center with just enough time to get a stamp for our NPS passport and to watch a video about the site. Then we went and looked around. You have to walk on a bridge that goes over wetlands. That was a great experience because we could see a prodigious amount of wildlife: terrapins, snakes, frogs, a muskrat, etc. At Jamestown they have excavated a lot of the original foundations and have several monuments to the big players like Pocahontas, John Smith, and the like. There is also a church there and a cemetery.

We missed the visitor's center at Yorktown, which was kind of a bummer. However, we walked the grounds a little bit and took some pictures. It is quite an honor to be able to walk where George Washington walked. I loved it. 

Yorktown also had some action during the Civil War, so about a half mile down the road was a Civil War cemetery. Every grave was honored with a flag. It is good to know that they are not forgotten.

On Tuesday, it was time to see the Capitol, the perfect place for an American history trip. We first went to the American History Smithsonian Museum. I didn't drag the kids through every exhibit but we did see the highlights like the star-spangled banner, Nauvoo sun stone, military installation, and of course the ruby slippers.

After lunch and as a small mercy to Zach, we then went to the Natural History museum and that is when he could be the tour guide and explain stuff to us. We looked at the rock display mostly, and were able to see the shiny, expensive stuff as well.

We waited in a short line to get into the National Archives, which is next door to the Natural History Museum. The rostrum is where the founding documents are displayed. The room is dark and photography is forbidden. It was kind of sad to see that the Declaration of Independence is severely faded, almost to the point of illegibility. But what an honor it is to be able to see the actual documents that they signed. 

After this, we thought we would try to get a tour of the US Mint. We walked through an interesting sculpture garden, across the Mall, and past many excessively large government buildings to get there. Unfortunately, we would have had to wait another 90 minutes to get in, and decided to bag it. Hence, we went back to the hotel a little early and relaxed a bit. But after dinner, it was time to hit the history trail again. We went back to the Mall to see the monuments. Night time visits are perfect. There are free places to park, it is cool, and not too crowded. They light them all up, so they are easily seen and do stay open quite late. Unfortunately, it decided to rain a lot. 

We pretty much got soaked!

But can I tell you? I loved it! The lightning storm was amazing to witness from the steps of Lincoln Memorial. And then the heavy downpour was a fun experience. You just don't get that kind of thing in Utah, or the west anywhere really. I am glad that my boys could experience it as well.

We saw the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, WWII Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. We also happened upon a sweet sculpture of Albert Einstein.

Wednesday was the perfect day to finally go see Arlington, which really is a requirement when you visit DC. I have been there many times, but had never gone to see Robert E. Lee's house. I picked the perfect time to go because they had just finished restoring it a few years previously. The park ranger takes you on a tour and they have done a wonderful job with the house. And by the way, I had no idea that his wife was a direct descendant of Martha Washington. Whaaa?

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is such a special place...hallowed ground. I kind of get teary-eyed whenever I am there just thinking about it. The wreath in the picture is from Memorial Day. It is the wreath the President put there. I also learned that the Vietnam grave is empty because they tested the soldier's DNA and now he is not unknown. But it symbolic anyways, so I guess it really doesn't matter.

After lunch, we decided to go to Ford's Theater. I had never been there and was looking forward to it because I had read a book about it when I was in a book club in Reno. It was a worthwhile stop on our itinerary. There is a museum in the basement and they have many artifacts from that horrible moment in history, including the gun used to kill Lincoln. Then we sat in theater seats and listened to a presentation from the park ranger. We could see the president's box, but we couldn't go near it. Darn!

Every night we Facetimed my mom and were able to talk and see the kids. It was such a blessing to be able to do that.  It was a highlight of every day. Noelle would try to eat the iPad and the other three enjoyed making lots of faces.

It was time to move on to our next location. We packed up and headed out after rush hour traffic. Our first stop was Fort McHenry in Baltimore. We spent about an hour at the fort, but it was totally worth it. The visitor's center plays a top-notch movie about Fort McHenry. I am not going to lie, I got a little teary watching it. I am not going to give you the details and ruin it for you. Go someday and see for yourself.

Then we started heading toward Keri and Jeff's house, which was about an hour out of Baltimore. We made an unplanned stop at another National Historic Site called Hampton House. It was on the way and we needed to kill a couple of hours. This was a little treasure we found. The reason it is a historic site is because of the architecture of the house. Hampton was a plantation and the house is early Georgian. Plus, all of the furniture is original from the hundreds of years it was privately owned. There was a lot to see at this estate. And it was raining, so it was good to find a place to kill time that was indoors.

We finally got to Keri P.'s house in the early evening. And it was awesome! Keri and her family, Jen M. and her kids, and Lauren and Nate (way back from our Univ. of Utah days) and all of their kids were all there. It was quite a crowd. Amazingly enough, they all ended up in the same ward in rural Maryland and they all love each other. It was a wonderful visit and I am so grateful I have made the best associations over these past twenty years. These ladies are the cream of the crop. Their husbands aren't too bad either. We ate dinner, visited, had some dessert, and then it was time to hit the road again.

L to R: Lauren, Jen, me, and Keri
This time we were headed for Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. But I really wasn't feeling the love from Maryland to New Jersey because, holy cow, the toll roads! Are you kidding me?!?

I had never been to Philadelphia so I was anxious to put the boots on the ground and check it out. We followed Keri's recommendation and did Once Upon a Nation with our boys. And it was great. They had ten stations where you could sit and a volunteer would tell you a story. I think it helped some of the history to come alive for Raef and Zach. The storytellers were animated and fun. You could tell they loved being there. It also helped us navigate a well-laid path for seeing the most important stuff in the city. I always feel like I never have enough time though!

There was a sign saying that all the tickets to Independence Hall were gone. What!?!?! I was almost gonna be devastated. I really wanted to go in the building. Fortunately, I decided to ask a park ranger and they actually had extra tickets. Never give up...never surrender! 

We made sure to get some real Philly cheese steaks for lunch and to hit all of the story spots. Because if the kids heard all of the stories, they would get a free ride on the carousel. This was the perfect motivation for them. 

And they did it!

On our way back to the car, we saw the Federal Reserve building and it offered tours. We went in and were sad to see that we were ten minutes late for a tour! Grrr... However, the security guard was very nice (and shockingly, a Republican...what???) and he gave the kids souvenir money. It is the shredded stuff that the Reserve gives away at the end of the tour. To pay back that kindness, I gave him my cakey cornbread recipe, courtesy of Our Best Bites.

We also checked out Elfreth Alley and then ate dinner at a Greek booth at the Reading Terminal Market.
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