Monday, October 5, 2015

Nauvoo and Adam Ondi Ahmen

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 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.  

Springfield, IL

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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


DAY 4:

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:

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!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Upstate New York

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.)

DAY 3:

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.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Drive Across the Country

(I'm so excited to relive this trip by blogging it.  Hope it's not too boring for the 22 readers I have.)

In the weeks leading up to the trip, I surprised myself by being very nervous about it.  I drive by myself all the time and did it when I had little kids.  This time I had 2 teenagers, one who could drive and one who could run 6 minute miles to the gas station if I ran out or something.  So, I was totally caught off guard by feeling anxious about the trip.  I think it was being in very unfamiliar areas (and especially driving through big cities with a huge floating trailer and a Thule on top), with a very tight schedule.  I felt much better when we nailed down all of the hotel/airbnb accommodations and realized we could pack light enough to leave the trailer thing at home.

We left Spokane around noon and headed east.  The first night was a quick stay in Billings MT; nothing too exciting happened there.  I woke up the next day pretty excited though, because it was sunny and we heading to our first planned destination.

We took a quick 30 minute detour to Pompeys Pillar to see where Lewis and Clark camped and defaced the rock!

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is on the western edge of North Dakota and had been recommended by a friend.  We had about 3 hours to explore there and pulled into the town of Medora.  It's a cute restored western town, with fun shops and restaurants and show at night; I was sad we weren't staying there for the night.  We asked some locals for recommended hikes and started the sight seeing loop, stopping when the map indicated we were by those hikes.  It was so fun because the hikes were .5-1.5 miles and so we could jump out, explore for 10-20 minutes and jump back in.  We saw a "city" of prairie dogs, bison, mountain goats, wild horses and snakes.  The badlands are so interesting...the landscape has so much color and variety and our day was gorgeous.  It was the perfect stop. So perfect that we came back and visited it later that day, when I realized 30 miles away that I'd left my credit card at the gas station.  Ugh.

We stopped in Fargo ND for the night and were able to go to a 9:00 sacrament meeting before we headed back on the road.  We headed south into Western Minnesota and stopped at the town of Walnut Grove to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum.  We spent about an hour there, looking at artifacts, and pictures, touring replicas of buildings that Laura had been in and buying fun souvenirs.  After, we drove 5 minutes down the road to visit the site of the dugout (famous in On The Banks Of Plum Creek) and it was my favorite part.  Though collapsed, it was fun to see the actual site where she lived and it was truly beautiful.  (We hadn't quite gotten to that part of the series when we visited, but we just started a few weeks ago and all of us, okay...except Gabe, are finding it so fun to picture the place because we've been there!)

Our next stop was Chicago, and the drive there was kind of awesome.  It was beautiful and we loved seeing the landscape change as we drove over the Mississippi river.  We stopped to eat dinner on the banks of the Mississippi and watched the sun set.  I kept thinking "THIS is why I planned this trip." Later that night, my usually non-verbal teenage boy talked to me in the dark for 3 hours while we drove into the city and it has become one of my favorite memories from the trip.

Chicago was crazy! It was unfamiliar territory for all of us and I loved the experience of riding the Metra, walking on city streets, finding our way around.  My kids had a kind of hard time with the smells and the humidity and lots of walking but there was still so much to do.  We had yummy doughnuts at Doughnut Vault, great deep dish pizza at Giordano's, a fun visit with my step-siblings who work at the former Sears tower.  We were disappointed that the lovely rainstorm we experienced shut down the observation deck.  We toured the Grant park, took pictures at the Bean and did a (kinda lame) boat tour of the lake...I learned later that the better boat tours go down the river.  Our favorite part were the 2.5 hours we spent at the Art Institute.  We checked out 3 audio tours, which we shared, and used the guide that tells you what to see if you only have a short time to visit.  SO SO SO GREAT.

We left Chicago around 5 pm and headed to Sandusky OH.  We stayed in a small, hot, spider-infested cottage about 20 minutes away from Cedar Point Amusement park, but I'm hoping it's one of those things that will turn into family legend.  Cedar Point totally blew my expectations out of the water.  It is the one of the best known rollercoaster parks in the country and is built in the middle of Lake Erie. It was the cleanest amusement park in the best location! The lines were short, the weather was mild and I didn't have a baby to worry about.  We went on some pretty epic rides and I had some pretty thrilled kids.  Most of my kids will tell you it was their favorite part of the trip.

We again left at 5pm, in order to meet Ryan's plane at 11:00 and we did it!  We were blown away with how gorgeous upstate New York was as we drove in.  Completing that trip felt like such an accomplishment and I was so happy to have Ryan (and Levi) with us to experience this epic vacation.  Watching the kids be reunited with their baby brother was the cutest.

We were ready to start the Church History part of our Church History tour!