Michael took the reigns on planning for this one, and I was not particularly thrilled that we would be tent camping for three nights in 95 degree weather, but wouldn't you know, much like most of Michael's seemingly off the wall plans, it turned out so great! It was pretty much perfect!
The drive is about 6 and a half hours without stops, so we thought it would be a slightly more difficult ride for the kids, since that's longer than our usual 4 and a half hour trips to visit family nearby, but they did so great! It was seriously delightful!
We fed them cereal before hopping int he car, and then once we were an hour or so into the trip, we passed out breakfast cookies and drinks. They read books, drew in notebooks, sang along to the ipod, and we all had a really nice time!
Around Cedar Rapids, Iowa, we pulled off of the freeway to find a restroom. But then we saw a sign that said "Outdoor Learning Center -- 5 miles". We thought we'd roll the dice and follow the signs, and boy are we glad we did! It was a super awesome nature center out in the middle of nowhere! The kids had the greatest time running around, learning about Native Americans, pretending to be farmers, playing at the water table--it was the best! And it was a great spot for our picnic lunch!
We rolled in to Nauvoo at about 2:30 and headed to the visitor's center. Nauvoo is an important city in our church's history, and the historical buildings there have been restored. It is such a fun place to explore--it has an old fashioned blacksmith shop, post office, bakery, brick yard, gunsmith shop, tinsmith shop, family life building (where they teach you about rope making, spinning, candle making, bread baking, looming, etc), and tons of other old fashioned activities, and it's all free! So we stopped off at the visitor's center and looked around. They have a statue of Jesus there and Hannah went right up and plunked down on a bench nearby, looked up at the statue and said, "Huh. I didn't know Jesus would be here!" It was too funny.
So we got our bearings there and then headed to the state park to get our camp site all set up. But on the way we saw the pioneer games going on outside, so we stopped for a minute. The had stilts for the kids to try, stick pulling, pioneer costumes to dress up in, wooden animals to play with, you name it! The kids had a blast.
Once we got to the campground, we realized were the only campers there, in the tent camping part, anyways, so we had our pick of camp sites! We grabbed the one close to the showers and the water pump, and with lots of shade and soft pine needles--it was awesome! So we set up camp and got the fire going for dinner. It was so hot and sweaty that afternoon, so we went to the market in town and bought a bag of ice just to suck on and put in the water bottles. After that we felt so much better!
For dinner we had this with some grilled veggies, and it was pretty much the best decision of our lives! So good. Then Michael took the kids fishing and Hannah and I showered off and I tried to tuck her in to bed. She was totally wired, though, so it really didn't work. By dusk she was still awake and I saw fireflies outside, so we went to go see the fireflies. It was pretty magical, and Hannah says that the fireflies were her very favorite part of the trip. Finally we got everyone to bed and crashed for the night. We were so tired!
On Friday we woke up bright and early and had a yummy breakfast and headed into town to get a wagon tour of Nauvoo. It was so fun! It was like we were the only people there--everyone would come out of the buildings and wave at us as we rode by. And the kids had so much fun petting and talking with the horses. We visited the family life center where we learned all kinds of pioneer skills from bread making to candle making to spinning, and then we toured the bakery, a couple of homes, and the browning gunsmith shop! It was very cool.
Hannah had a rough time sitting through the presentations, so by lunch time we were ready to head back to camp, enjoy a lunch and tuck the kids in for a nap. Hannah, Calvin and Sophie ended up napping, and so did I! And it felt great! They all ended up waking up just as our friends Dave and April Whiting pulled into town! It was so fun to see them and their darling kids! Really, our kids all became fast friends and played so well together the whole time! It was awesome.
Well almost right off the bat, Michael and Dave took the older 4 kids geode hunting at a place about 30 minutes away, and April and I stayed with the younger ones while we chatted and they colored and ran around. Eventually we ventured out to walk around the temple, get a refreshing ice cream, and drive around Nauvoo while the girls cooled down with a movie in the car. It was just what we needed! Then we headed back to camp to get the fire ready for dinner. We had hot dogs and veggies, and it was great.
Michael, Dave and the kids had so much fun geode hunting! It was hot, hard work, but they came back with two whole buckets full and proceeded to smash them open--they were on cloud nine, especially Calvin!
After dinner the kids played around and the adults sat around the fire and chatted. It was so nice! Finally it was time for showers and tucking the kids into bed and more chatting around the fire for us! It was a great day.
On Saturday we were woken up by a ridiculously loud bunch of crows somewhere close by! But that's ok. Michael took some of the kids fishing and I started on breakfast, which was fruit and monkey bread (we never ended up eating the monkey bread for dessert, so we had to fit it in somewhere!) and fresh fish, courtesy of Calvin. It was a nice relaxed camping morning! We headed into town and headed to the tin smith shop, which was very cool, and then Erik and Elliot Anderson pulled in from Missouri! The whole family had planned to come but the girls got sick, so Liz stayed behind with them. We missed you, Liz! But it was so awesome to have Erik and Elliot there! Calvin and Elliot immediately bonded over Pokemon :)
Then we all toured the blacksmith shop and a few other places that I can't quite remember at the moment! But the blacksmith shop was the favorite, because everyone got a "prairie diamond" ring, which is a horseshoe nail bent into the shape of a ring. Sophie was so happy! Then we headed to Grandpa John's for ice cream and sodas and then played around at Pioneer Pass-times with the kids while we ate our lunch.
After that we headed over to the oxen rides where you got to take a ride in a covered wagon replica pulled by a team of oxen. Just as we were about to hop on, Michael realized that Hannah had had a full-blown diaper disaster. I mean seriously. So I changed her in the grass (pioneer style!) while everyone else rode the wagon. I cobbled together a new outfit for her and then Hannah and I took a quick ride after everyone else was done. Those wagon boxes were 3 feet by 11 feet! I imagined them being a lot bigger! I can't imagine have to carry all of my food and my belongings across America in one of those!
After the oxen ride, we headed to the brick yard and then toured the Joseph Smith homestead and red brick store, which was very cool. Michael manfully volunteered to play around outside with Hannah instead of taking that tour, since Hannah had just about had it with sitting and listening to anyone at that point. The tour was like an hour and a half long, so they had to bum around for quite a while! After that we all headed back to camp for some down time and some dinner. We made tin foil dinners and played around, and it was so great. It is so good to get together with old friends. It was such a treat!
Erik and Elliot had to head back home after dinner, so we said goodbye to them, and then we got the kids all showered off and then headed out to see the BYU International Folk Dancers perform. It was so cool! Each of my kids seriously loved it! I wish it hadn't been so dark because when they did the flamenco dance, Hannah was really doing her best to copy them, and it was adorable! My favorites were the tap and clogging numbers. So cool. So we all watched and the kids flitted off to catch fireflies occasionally, and we had a delightful evening!
Ryan was so impressed by the male folk dancers that he went up to talk to one of them afterwards. The dancer, Sammy, asked Ryan if he was going to be a folk dancer. Ryan said, "I dunno, maybe!" Then Sammy put his arm around Ryan's shoulder and said, "Listen, you might not care about this now, but you could play some other sport and hang out in a locker room full of smelly guys all day, or you could do dance and hang out with beautiful women all day. I'm just saying." That caught Ryan's attention! It was pretty funny.
So by then it was really late and we headed back to camp to tuck the kids in and chat around the fire again until Michael actually fell asleep in his chair and it was time for bed!
On Sunday morning we got up early and said "Happy Fathers Day" to Michael while he made us a delicious fathers day breakfast of pancakes and eggs (how's that for a great Father's Day! Make your own breakfast!) and rushed off to church which started at 7:50 (!!!). Then we headed back to camp and took down or tents and said goodbye to Dave and April and their family. It was so fun to see them!
Calvin especially was sad to say goodbye to Suzy, Dave and April's 9 year old. He was holding her had and scratching her back all weekend, the little scoundrel! She said she didn't mind, but she only liked him as a friend, but April did tell me that Suzy told her that Calvin told Suzy that he was in love with her :) I finally weaseled it out of Calvin days later, the poor guy was so embarrassed! But he was sad to see Suzy go, and has already emailed her.
So after Dave and April left, we headed to the temple to walk around and then headed to Carthage, Illinois to see the Carthage Jail where Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were martyred. We had heard that it opened at 11, but it turns out that it didn't open until 12:30, so we picnicked on the grass and Michael napped in the car while the kids chased around a friendly bunny, and then we toured the jail. There is a very special spirit there, and I think Ryan especially was impressed by it. I'm really glad that we went (to learn more about who Joseph Smith was or what we believe about modern day prophets, go here and here).
So then we began the trek home! It actually was so much better than I thought it was going to be! The kids were great, and we made great time! We were even able to stop off at Grandma's house in Rochester for a little break and rice krispy treats, of course! It was great to visit for a little bit with my mom (my dad was out of town on business, sadly), and then we finished the drive home!
It was a great trip and I am so glad that we were able to go and share that fun time with old and dear friends.
At the cool nature center we found in Iowa:
Girls snoozing in the car:
Hannah's "I didn't know Jesus would be here!" moment:
Ryan setting up his tent:
Playing in pine needles:
Being silly little campers:
Sophie trying her hand at orienteering:
Building the fire:
Hannah occupied herself with trying to throw sticks. She was very proud:
Tyring to get Hannah to bed:
Hannah telling me bedtime stories:
Kids chasing fireflies:
Hanging out by the fire:
Waking up on Friday!
Happy happy happy!
Oatmeal and muffins for breakfast:
Checking out the horses:
Learning about baking bread:
Learning about barrel making:
Michael made this handy peanut butter spreader for us!
Hannah the pioneer:
Sophie the cowgirl:
Hannah the sheep whisperer:
Calvin the miner:
The whole mining group:
Sophie found this frog and was very VERY excited:
We tried cooking bacon this way! Worked like a charm:
Ryan practicing carrying water:
Calvin and Elliot being awesome:
Sophie just loved getting to know Suzy and Aubrey:
Hanging out by a well:
Michael and Hannah entertaining themselves while we toured the Joseph Smith homestead:
Almost as strong as an ox:
Almost as strong as an ox:
Changing Hannah pioneer style:
In the wagon ride with the oxen:
Hanging out with Erik and Elliot:
We sure loved seeing Erik and Elliot:
Ryan with his perfectly golden marshmallow:
Me and my buddy:
The girls playing nicely:
Oh, you know, just HOLDING A GIRL'S HAND!!!
Me and my Hannah:
Michael made this spoon out of some of our walnut firewood and gave it to Dave and April as a housewarming gift for their new place in Kentucky! He's amazing.
Michael and Dave:
The Moores and the Whitings!
Our family at the Nauvoo temple:
Loading up in the car!