doing well in her advanced classes. It's fun to see her enjoying and working hard on them. Glad Ryan is good at physics.
had some trouble with safe driving the first few months (I got some concerned parents' reports...it's a good thing.) We had her pay for and use the MotoSafety equipment and it's gotten much better. I'm really enjoying her driving help. Right now, she's picking up a wet backpack from the elementary school (water bottle explosion??) so I can do this instead. a 3rd car for her in the plan, but we're procrastinating that expense.
great sense of style/Pinterest user. I love having an in house style expert. If only I could lose 15 lbs, then I could wear her clothes too.
Just went to Homecoming with a cute kid in our ward. He asked her using Solo cups (Don't make me go "Solo" to Homecoming!) and she borrowed the cutest dress from a friend's modest dress company in Utah.
embarked on a clean eating/exercise challenge with Ryan and me. I've loved having her exercise with me 3-4 days a week, and having a partner in the more whole foods/less sugar endeavor is nice.
Turning into quite the pianist. She accompanied Seth on Sunday as he sang "Gethsemane" and they did SUCH a great job.
works cleaning houses and babysitting 2-3 times a week
continues to be a huge help and is happy to attend the many events her siblings in which her siblings are involved. She has great friends and honestly is pretty darn easy as far as teenagers go, I think.
We drove to Kansas City for the night, which is only a tragedy because one of my favorite college friends lives there...and she was IN WASHINGTON! So we asked her for some suggestions and found a hotel and tried to get the kids excited about bowling or a waterpark or something. It was telling of how busy and full our days had been when they asked if we could just get Chinese takeout and play cards in the lobby. It was a nice quiet night.
The next day we headed to Denver Colorado. (Exciting sidetone: We got our 52nd license plate on this leg. Thank you South Carolina driver in Kansas!) We have some very close friends who moved from Spokane a few years ago and we were excited to hang out with them AND excited to not eat out, or sleep in the same room with all of our kids. They treated us to a lovely picnic dinner near UC Boulder and under the shadow of the gorgeous Flatiron mountains.
The next day was the 4th of July and we opted to drive up to Breckenridge to participate in the small town 4th of July. It was a fun parade and the town center had quite the party going on. It was a pretty town with a river running through it, which claimed some flip flops of Faith's (the FOURTH pair of shoes she'd lost on the trip!!). I included a picture of Levi doing what toddlers are forced to do on super long sightseeing road trips: napping in super uncomfortable umbrella strollers. We drove home and had some downtime, but the more adventurous of us REALLY wanted to hike those Flatirons. We left the really littles at home with Emma and took off. Hiking and chatting with the Nebekers was my favorite. Gabe actually RAN two of the flatiron hikes, in the time it took us to we walk the one, but he's kind of a show off.
The next day we found a church close to my cousin's house and then visited my cute cousin Spencer, wife Erin and darling kids...all of whom we adore, but the REAL reason we were stopping in was to see cute baby Tatum and she did NOT disappoint. We got on the road, got stuck behind MAJOR 5th of July traffic but ended up in Salt Lake. We got to hang out with Cade and Stacy for a night. Ryan dropped the teenagers at EFY and BYU cross country camp and, more importantly, made sure to grab some Swig cookies for me!
Normal boring ride home to Spokane but it sure felt LOVELY to be home. No re-entry issues when the trip you took was quite a bit of work. I was happy to spread out in the house and not pay restaurant fees for every single meal that went in our mouths. BUT! I also felt extremely grateful for the things we saw and then time we spent together. Long road trips have so much value, I think, and I'm grateful for we were able to do it. PLUS: I even got to cross off a Personal Progress value project at the end of it!
The thing I loved about this trip is that every place was just a little bit different. We were worried our kids would be a little bored with the whole church-site-tour after church-site-tour thing, but it wasn't the case because each spot had something new to offer.
Nauvoo is kind of like LDS Church Site Disneyland. Happy workers, clean, tours, rides, activities, food, dancing shows and music...it was a fun change from the other spots.
We enjoyed the house and shop tours a lot. We did probably 10 of them and really loved the sweet short testimony the missionaries would bear at the end of the their spiel. It really brought the spirit and reminded us why we were there.
We did the Trail of Tears walk, each of us reading the quotes from the different men, women and children who left Nauvoo to walk across the country to escape persecution and follow the prophet and join with the Saints. I loved knowing my children would picture that spot for the rest of their lives as they heard stories of Nauvoo.
We loved the little plays and musical numbers put on by the young and old missionaries...definitely a highlight of Nauvoo.
We did baptisms (family names!) at the Nauvoo temple. It was Jane's first time in the temple and it was such a great way to have her experience the temple.
We toured the visitor's center and took pictures with the famous statues (doesn't everyone have these picture remakes in their photo albums?)
We drove to Carthage and took the tour of where Joseph and Hyrum were killed. It was solemn and special. I remembered going as a 7 year old and having one of my first real witnesses that Joseph was a prophet and that he restored the Gospel to the earth, and I was grateful to share that place with my kids.
We said goodbye to Grandpa Mike and Grandma Genie and headed over to Adam Ondi Ahman. We spent some time in the car reading to our kids about the importance of that place. It was beautiful and had a neat spirit there, but, honestly, our loud and crazy kids were a little bit of a distraction. I was glad we stopped, but no huge spiritual experience was happening there.
We spent the night in Kansas City and began our trip back West.
We had originally planned to visit the Indiana Dunes National Park but it was pouring rain and we figured a beach is a waste in the rain, so we changed plans and headed to Springfield, Illinois. Abraham Lincoln lived and was buried there AND my dad lived the majority of his childhood there, so we decided it was a good Plan B.
We stopped at Lincoln's tomb and were pretty disappointed that they weren't letting people inside, but we rubbed his nose for luck and continued on our way to the Lincoln Museum in downtown Springfield. It was so great to have my dad along...he'd call us and we'd put it on speaker and he'd give us the tour of the town, complete with childhood stories (which we've all heard all of our lives).
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential museum is without a doubt one of the very best museums I've ever been to in my life. I'm said it's kind of out of the way, making it hard for people to visit. Lincoln is an inspiring man, no matter what, and what Disney (the creators of the exhibits) have done there is moving and interesting and beautiful. We all loved it. (Except Levi, but saintly grandparents took him on walks so that we could enjoy the exhibit.) Seriously: GO if you are anywhere near it.
After the museum, we drove by my dad's childhood home and that was so neat. I've heard SO many stories about that house and it was really special to be there. We decided to go visit the spot (behind a house on a lake) where my grandma Paula was baptized and became the first Sherrill to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saint. We tried to knock on the door, but no one was home and we decided to take our chances quickly walking down to the spot where she was baptized. Bad move: the homeowners drove up and caught us. Embarrassing at first, but he was so gracious and actually shared a few stories about the family from whom he'd bought the house. Neat experience, fun story.
We finished that day by driving into Nauvoo and getting ready for our 2 day stay there.
Kirtland was raining cats and dogs our first day there, not a great day for a walking tour of historic kirtland. But we bought a bunch of umbrellas and headed out anyway. I was so impressed with what the church had done in the last 10 years. There was such a sweet spirit and some of my kids will tell you that the Whitney store was there biggest testimony building experience, as they listened to the sweet older tour guide bear testimony of the school of the prophets and what was learned there. We loved it.
We did the John Johnson farm after that, and despite a very disruptive toddler, got a lot out of that experience too...being where Joseph saw the vision of the 3 degrees of glory and where he was tarred and feathered was humbling and special.
We headed back to Kirtland to visit the Kirkland temple. It's run by the Community of Christ and was really good. We had a great tour guide, and especially loved singing "The Spirit of God" in the temple.
Day 5 was a Sunday and so we headed to sacrament meeting in Kirkland. It was a really special meeting, with great speakers; reinfrocing for me again why we take the time to attend church no matter where we are. We went to the Isaac Morley farm and took a soggy walk in the rain as we listened to more excellent missionary tour guides. We heard church history there that was completely new to us.
We had to say goodbye to Grandma Dorrie and Jeff as we headed to Indiana and they headed to Toronto. We spent the rest of the day driving to Valparaiso IN, to meet up with our next set of grandparents: Mike and Genie!
It's a little dumb to try to put this in one post. Some of my favorite things happened in New York. Let's see if I can make it NOT a million paragraphs long.
DAY 1: Palmyra
We were lucky to have Grandma Dorrie and Grandpa Jeff meet us for this leg of the trip! It was fun to experience this part of the tour with them!
We started our trip at the Smith Family farm. We toured the home and other buildings and then headed to the sacred grove. It truly was a lovely morning and we felt blessed to be there. We all tried to take some quiet time to pray and meditate while there and there were some sweet experiences.
After lunch we went to the Grandin printing press and it was a really well done tour, as well. Not that I'd know...this was when Ryan and I realized a feisty 18 month old baby was not going to do well on the tours. Grandin was my turn to take the baby out. But my kids really learned a lot.
We headed to Hill Cumorah after that and proceeded to hike up the wrong way and roll down the super steep hill and crack a head (Seth's) on a sprinkler on the way down and deal with copious amounts of blood. After that was resolved, we took a few pictures and chilled a little in the visitors center.
For dinner we sent Ryan to buy salad mixes and fruit at the grocery store because we were done with eating out at this point. We just spread out in the hotel dining room and ate some vegetables!
DAY 2: Fayette, Seneca, Watkins Glen
We drove to the Peter Whitmer farm first thing in the morning and it was my most spiritual moment of the trip. I LOVED the video in the visitors center and was so moved by the small little house from which this marvelous work has sprung. I loved the story of Mary Whitmer and loved how the Lord rewards the service of homemakers and small acts of service.
We decided to stop in Seneca Falls and visit the hall where the Women's Suffrage movement started. Great free museum and I thought it was so good to have the whole family reminded of the importance of women's rights.
At this point, we decided to head back to our hotel so that our strung out baby could nap...Grandma said she'd take a few kids and explore the finger lakes area. As we drove back, Levi fell asleep. We opted to drive while he napped, and looked up Favorite Drives in the area, because it was SO BEAUTIFUL. We saw rave reviews of the Watkins Glen hike and realized the my mom was headed there as well. It was one of the highlights of the trip. It was like hiking through a Disney fairy movie...under waterfalls, through grottos, in carved out river beds. We were all enchanted and so grateful we hadn't missed it. (The day was capped off by some of the best Chinese I've ever had, just outside of Palmyra.)
We were all excited for Niagara Falls and, frankly, I think everyone was a little disappointed at first. It really is so seedy at the State Park there and I think my kids were underwhelmed at the view from the top. As I expected, though, everything changed as we did the Maid of the Mist tour. It was awesome! People were thrilled and appropriately in awe of those falls, when viewed close up from the boat. We spent 2-3 hours in Niagara and then headed to Kirtland, OH.