Monday, July 21, 2014

New Jersey and New York and NEWSIES!

Did I tell you that I got to take Julia to see Newsies in New York for her graduation gift? Kind of a selfish gift, I know.  But she was excited and I was excited and it was fantastic but I'm getting ahead of myself, so back to the trip...

We drove to New York with the plan to check into our hotel in New Jersey then get Julia and I over to New York in the late afternoon with enough time to explore before going to see Newsies.  And then the Lincoln Tunnel happened.  

I know I need to let this go, but maybe talking about it will help.  We all loaded into the van on the New Jersey side and headed for the Lincoln Tunnel so the kids could see how Buddy the Elf got to New York City. ("First, I went through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest... Past the sea of twirly, swirly gumdrops... And then, I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.") The GPS started going wonky on us at this point, taking us in circles, which we should have taken as a sign of bad things to come.  It took us nearly an hour just to get to the entrance of the tunnel (this was on a Friday, at 3 in the afternoon, so we should have seen it coming) where the toll booths were located.  As we pulled up, the toll collector asked for $22. The sign posted on the toll booth said that $22 was the rate for buses and that passenger vehicles cost $13 to take the tunnel, so Allen asked him why we had to pay the bus rate.  The guy just stared at him, looking annoyed, not answering.  I leaned over and asked, "Can you explain why we have to pay $22? The sign says it's only $13 for passenger vehicles.  We aren't a bus." He transferred his death stare to me, still not speaking. After great effort to get him to speak Allen asked, "Are you scamming us?" The man responded, "You don't have enough money for that." We finally (very reluctantly) just paid the guy the $22 and asked for his name, which he refused to give.  Once Allen returned to the hotel later he looked up the fee schedule where it explained that "Buses, minibuses, and any two or more axle vehicle designed with a seating capacity of ten or more persons, including the driver" were charged the $22 fee. Why in the world couldn't he just tell us that? We still don't get it.

By the time we resurfaced in New York, it was too late for Julia and I to explore much. But we did get this picture before finding a place to eat.

 We went to The Counter on Broadway and ordered some custom-built burgers. We also wanted a milkshake to share, but we couldn't decide on a flavor. Our server was a tall, tattooed, muchly-muscled young man who we asked for a recommendation on shake flavors. "I like the Birfday Cake Shake" he told us matter-of-factly. It seemed really out of character, and I thought I may have misunderstood (it's pretty noisy EVERYwhere in New York City) so I asked, "Which shake?" He repeated, "The Birfday Cake Shake.  You know, with birfday cake flavor and sprinkles on top?"

Seriously, how could we not order it when we made him say it twice? 

After dinner? Newsies.  YOU GUYS.  Dreams come true once, maybe twice. But this being my third time in the Nederlander Theater to see my favorite show, ever, and to share in that excitement with my Julia? There are NO WORDS.

The cast had changed some from the last time I was here (the original cast is still my favorite) but that did not matter because I felt the same magical excitement at waiting for the curtain to rise as I had before, maybe even more so when you combined Julia's excitement with mine.  Everything about the show was just... just awesome. (No words, remember?)

After the show we walked to Times Square amid the largest crowd I have ever experienced.  We had to link arms not to lose each other and push through hordes of people to get anywhere.

Then our knight in a not-so-shiny white van came and saved us from the crowds and we did a little nighttime driving tour of Manhattan for the whole family to enjoy.  Apparently it was trash collection night and we learned pretty quickly that if you're stuck behind a garbage truck you are seriously stuck until they want to move. We got to watch these guys load trash into the truck for a good half hour before they drove on enough for us to get past them.

I was really hoping to see Central Park this time around since I still have yet to make it there in the daylight, but no such luck.  You know what that means, right?  I'm going to have to go back eventually.

Boston: America's Walking City

We arrived in Boston (wait for it...) super late and Rachel and Jeremy were waiting up for us with beds ready for everyone. After Allen and Jeremy found a parking spot about 4 blocks away, we all slept soundly. The next morning we awoke to rain, but that doesn't stop us!  We had breakfast and then headed out on an adventure.

We walked over to this cool fountain at the Christian Science Center

then checked out the awesome architecture of the Boston Public Library, the first public library in the United States.  From there we hopped on the subway

and surfaced near Boston's Freedom Trail.

Umbrellas up, we trekked over to the Bunker Hill Monument which is an obelisk, much like the well-known Washington Monument, only smaller, and walked the 294 steps to the top.

We also explored the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship in the world that is still afloat. The kids liked resting in the hammocks and touching things they probably weren't supposed to.  It was fun.

We wish we had a couple more days to spend there - Boston has so much history and character that we couldn't see it all in one day.

Eventually we rode the subway back to Rachel and Jeremy's place.
 Princess tried subway surfing with some serious encouragement from Uncle Jeremy

We did a lot of playing games, visiting, eating and just hanging out that night.  It was fantastic.

Here are Rachel and Jeremy's two cuties, Big B and Little B. Getting to know them better was one of the best parts of this trip. 

It was hard to leave the next morning, especially when Big B started crying as we drove away.  Talk about heartbreaking.  We felt a little better about it knowing we would see them in a week or so at the family reunion in Texas. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Notre Dame, Kirtland and Palmyra

The whole crew in front of Joseph Smith's family's log cabin

We drove through Chicago, but that was as close as we got to visiting.  Hi, Chicago!

As we traveled along we saw signs for Notre Dame, which Allen decided to make a quick pit stop.  The campus was gorgeous.  As we drove through we were pointing things out, like the old cemetery right at the entrance and the amazing architecture of some of the buildings, but no one was listening.  They were all completely focused on whatever screen they had in front of them, headphones in.  So we decided to change things up a bit.  Allen loudly announced, "Hey guys! Look! We're at Monsters University!" Everyone looked out the windows. "Really?" they asked, kind of excited.  "Yeah, this is where they filmed it!" I responded.  I know, I shouldn't lie.  And that was a blatant one, considering it's an animated film.  But the little kids were suddenly fascinated.

They eventually figured out that this was actually NOT Monsters University, but we played a game I called, You Don't See That Everyday to keep them looking out the windows, until it started to get ridiculous.  First, they spotted things they had never seen before and would point them out.  Then they started mentioning things like, "A whole van full of Mormons driving around a Catholic University, taking pictures. You don't see THAT every day!"  So we stopped playing.  But we kept looking.

Allen told me that the students call this mural at the end of their football stadium Touchdown Jesus, so I had to take a picture.

Before long we were back on the road.  This was one of our really long driving days. We got to Kirtland, Ohio just after the sun had set and got a couple of decent pictures of the Kirtland temple before continuing on to Palmyra, New York, which is where we hoped to stay for the night.

Something crazy was going on here, I'm not sure how Hubba is levitating.

We drove as far as we could, but once it started to get late we knew we weren't going to make it to Palmyra.  So we pulled off the freeway in Buffalo, found a hotel with two rooms available on our first try, and hit the sack for the night.  The next morning we made it to Palmyra and stopped at the Hill Cumorah Visitor's Center first.  Right when we walked in, Little O found a friend - his kindergarten teacher's sister who had come and volunteered in the classroom a few times.  So cool!   

After a brief presentation we hiked up to the monument at the top of the Hill Cumorah and got everyone together for a picture.

But then I counted and realized we were missing one.  And that one was Little O.  After a frantic search for about 15 minutes (it felt like hours!) we found him.  He was racing the other kids back down to the visitor's center when we called them all over for the picture and he, not hearing me, kept running and came out the victor.  He then tried hiking back up to the monument around the other way, where All-a-Boy eventually found him.

It would not be a real family trip without us losing someone, I guess.  But that was definitely not my favorite part of the trip.

We loaded back into the van and stopped by the Palmyra Temple for a couple of photos.

And then continued on to the Sacred Grove.

Everyone kind of went their own way, but still stayed together.

It was so gorgeously green and peaceful there.  I wish we had more time to spend in the grove.

There are three things that fascinate me in nature: clouds, birds and trees.  I find them all beautiful in their own ways. Of all the trees in the grove, this one was my favorite somehow.  It seemed to have a personality all its own.

We drove past a couple of other church history sites in Palmyra before heading back to the interstate towards our next stop: Boston!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Nauvoo, Carthage and Clinton

We drove through Illinois and across the Mississippi River to get to our hotel in Iowa. The next morning we drove from Iowa, across the Mississippi to get to our destination in Nauvoo, Illinois.  As soon as we parked next to this playground the kids were super excited, thinking this was our destination.  We had to let them run around and enjoy it for a little bit.

Across the street was the Nauvoo Temple.  Here's a picture of our crew behind the temple:

And here they are in front of it:

Across the street from the front of the temple is this statue which is called Calm as a Summer's Morn. It is a representation of Joseph and Hyrum Smith as they left Nauvoo for Carthage where they were killed 3 days later.

Once we got to Old Nauvoo we were immediately given tickets to see a performance geared toward kids which included a puppet show.  Hubba was lucky enough to be called on stage to perform in one of the numbers.

Kind of a funny coincidence happened at the puppet show.  As we walked into the theater, there was a family from our neighborhood.  I mean, people who live right down the street from us and have kids who are friends with our kids. Crazy, right? Some of the kids paired off with their friends to go and explore while the youngest of them stayed with Allen and I.  We were able to do a lot of really fun things like make our own rope, learn how candles and bricks and horseshoes are made and how cookies were baked back in 1840. We also saw some wildlife that was different from what we see at home, like this cardinal which was about the brightest red you can imagine.

And I hope you really like the picture of the cardinal, because I was so busy keeping track of kids and enjoying visiting the different little shops and demonstrations that I didn't take many pictures. None of our neighbors, none of the things we did.  But we all came away with a cookie from the bakery, a "prairie diamond" ring made from a horseshoe nail and a souvenir brick for the family from the brickyard.

I did get this picture of the kids in a stock for shoeing oxen before we left for Carthage Jail, about half an hour from Nauvoo.

By the time we arrived at Carthage Jail Little X had fallen asleep in his carseat and Little O was beyond the top of his threshold for patience in listening to presentations so I volunteered to stay in the van with them while Allen took everyone else inside.  After about 10 minutes Little O announced that he needed to use the bathroom RIGHTNOW so I had to wake X up and hurry them in to the visitor's center to take care of business.  It's okay though, because if we had stayed in the van the whole time I never would have gotten this next picture, which is one of my favorites.

These two boys do not know how to sit still.  One of Little X's favorite past times is chasing birds and he had plenty of them to chase here at Carthage.  At one point this squirrel showed up and kept the boys entertained for at least 10 minutes.  It would run just far enough to get away from them, then stop and stare as they came at it again.

Eventually the squirrel got smart and ran up a tree.

After a longer than expected wait, the rest of the family emerged and we got our group shot of the kids in front of Carthage Jail.

From there we drove a long way along the Mississippi River and then crossed it into Clinton, Iowa, where I lived until the age of 7. We met up with my Aunt Betty and Uncle Jack and then all went to dinner at Happy Joe's, a pizza parlor where I have great childhood memories of my family going when it was someone's birthday.  Probably my greatest regret of this entire trip was that I was so enthralled with my visit with my aunt and uncle that we never got a picture together.  That still bothers me.  I grew up next to these two and this visit with them was something I will treasure for the rest of my life.  Like my parents, they are both Deaf, and so we spent a lot of time with them since they lived a short walk from our home way back when. When we arrived at their home my Aunt Betty let us in and we were all sitting there in the front room when Uncle Jack walked in.  He looked at all of my kids sitting on the couch and floor and signed to Betty, "I don't know these kids." And then he looked at me and his eyes got huge and his mouth dropped open and he signed to me, "Herb's girl?" and I nodded and gave him a big hug. I have seen Aunt Betty once since we left Iowa, about 13 years ago, but I have not seen Uncle Jack since I was 7 years old and the fact that he remembered me and was so happy to see me just about made me cry. Aunt Betty was as spunky and full of life as I remember and Uncle Jack was just as funny as he was when I was young.

At Happy Joe's we all visited and joked and ate pizza and laughed and told stories until it got to be late and Betty and Jack needed to get home.  After they left I told Allen, "Oh, no. I forgot to take a picture!" So he took this picture of me and the kids so we'd at least have some kind of documentation of our trip to Clinton.

After leaving Happy Joe's we drove past the spot in the Mississippi River that my dad swam across when I was young, my childhood home at 443 5th Avenue South (an address I will never forget) and then past the Lutheran church where the 4 kids in my family went each Sunday and finally past my old school, which has undergone renovations and looks much different. This tour of my hometown was all in the dark so I didn't get many photos.  But this one I couldn't pass up, and it didn't turn out too badly.
Our home. A whole flood of stories and memories happened here.