Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 3, Washington D.C.

This was the campsite where we stayed.  Lovely place, but had a major tick problem (bug spray did the trick, however I did pull a super duper uber tiny deer tick off Mitch's foot).

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I woke up at 5:51 am (impressive--that's 4:51 my normal time!). But we didn't get rolling until 8:15 am. The drive into D.C. took less than 30 min. We found a close/convenient parking garage, but it didn't open until 9 a.m. We planned on meeting up with a free walking tour. I practiced taking pictures of the impressive architecture. How do you *uniquely* photograph something that has already been photographed a million times before?

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{Nathan Hale, who said, "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country," stands watch outside the Justice Building.}

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{Such a trooper to come all this way!}

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{The Washington Monument. I highly recommend the walking tours.}

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{Another viewpoint of the Washington Monument}

While we were listening to the tour guide tell us about the monument, she said that there were still some tickets available for later in the evening to go up to the top of the monument. This was one thing that we had really wanted to do, but didn't think we would get to. We tried to reserve tickets ahead of time online, but they were all sold out, and otherwise you need to get in line by 7 am usually to get any remaining tickets for the day. Patrick & I immediately left the tour and ran for the ticket office while Mitch said, "Make it as late as possible!" The only tickets available were for 9 pm, which was pretty much perfect. Score!

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{Me at the center of the universe. A picture taken for my friend and teacher, Russ Arndts.}

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{Zeke and The White House...we didn't try to get any closer, we didn't have time.}

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{The World War II Memorial and in the background, the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial}

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{Kilroy Was Here...very cool story!}

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{Coming from a family full of nurses, this memorial is always one of my favorites. It is next to the Vietnam Wall, which we did not go down to see since there was some special ceremony going on.}

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{Our whole family on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in our pink shirts. This is where our walking tour ended. I also got asked twice to take other group pictures and was even asked if I am a photographer. :) I just pointed to my group and said, "I have to be!"}

We got lots of inquiries about our shirts. That was pretty cool. One passerby pumped a fist in the air and shouted, "LORD OF THE RINGS!!"

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{Abraham Lincoln...they say that the statue is made to portray two different sides of Lincoln...they also say that Robert E. Lee's face is carved in the back of Lincoln's head, which faces towards his former home which is now Arlington National Cemetery}

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{Tirzah conked out. Malachi and Josh each took turns falling asleep in a stroller, too.}

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{The Jefferson Monument across the river. When we got to the point that we could see Jefferson standing straight up in the monument, I remembered what our tour guide had told us about it's placement. I turned and saw the White House perfectly centered.}

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{Can you see the Secret Service men on top?}

It was sooooo hot. We were hoping to find some fast food at the end of our tour, but there was NOTHING close by. There were some street vendors near our next destination, the Holocaust Museum, however we had mistakenly left our cash in the van (boo!). So we had to walk very far...in total (according to google) it was an extra 1.4 miles for us. Not so easy with hot and tired little legs joining us. It just about killed them! By the time we were done with that, they had very little energy left to bear the Holocaust Museum. I tried to absorb as much as I could, but honestly I was fried too. It was incredible, but it's impact on me was certainly minimized given the circumstances. If you have time to go, really allot yourself a good 2-3 hours to go through it, and don't go with little children, and don't go when you're so tired. Also, reserve tickets online ahead of time for a small fee ($1). :)

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{No pictures were allowed taken inside. Patrick said that even though he knew much of the history that was there, it was neat to see it all put together. I still wish I had more time...}

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{Eden}
Catching a breath...

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{Patrick}

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{The National Archives. This building houses many important documents, but we had our sights set on seeing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. No pictures were allowed inside, and the decay of the documents is very evident.}

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{Mitch}

We were planning to leave the Archives and go to the Air and Space Museum, but that would require MORE walking. Away from our van. Away from our supper. So we decided to skip it. We had just enough time for a change in plans and headed over to the Arlington National Cemetery to see the last changing of the guard for the day. Well worth the drive (and additional walking).

Now that I am home and looking at google maps, I realized that on Saturday night we actually drove right past the massive Pentagon building. We had NO idea what it was (hard to recognize the pentagon shape from the side). It was MASSIVE and we were CLOSE and we had no idea what it was. Ha! Didn't even take a picture. :)

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{Robert E. Lee's house, facing the Lincoln Memorial}

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{I can't even begin to grasp what this means, but I try.}

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The Changing of the Guard
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So after the last guard change, the cemetery was officially closed, and we made our way {quickly} back to the van. We headed back across the river now to make our appointment to see the inside of the Washington Monument. On the way, Patrick & I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the van. Again. And Mitch suffered the harrowing job of trying to find a parking place (nearly impossible) relatively close.

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{Resting at the base of the monument. What a very nice way to end our hard day!}

The elevator ride to the top of the monument took 70 seconds.  The last time Mitch went up here, there were lots of winds and the top was swaying some 15 feet.  Thankfully for us it was relatively motionless (though Mitch was a twinge disappointed--he compared it to a fun roller coaster ride).  We got there in time to see the sunset, which was spectacular for me.

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{The White House}

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{The Lincoln Memorial}

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{The Jefferson Memorial}

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{The Lincoln again...getting darker now}

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{The Capitol...that makes all four sides of the monument!}

It was late, and we were spent, but we made one last stop to visit Jefferson up close.

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It was so late that I have no idea what time we finally fell into bed. It was definitely after 10 pm. And after I enjoyed a nice, cool shower. I had blisters on my feet! I feel like we squeezed an amazing amount of stuff into one day in D.C. Yes, there is so much more to see, but we did fantastic given the circumstances. Retracing our steps with google maps, I estimate that we walked over 6 miles. I do not know the exact temperature for the day, but I have an idea it was over 90 degrees F. Hot!

Monday, June 28, 2010

There and Back Again

Wow, what a trip!  We are home safe.  And now I begin the long process of sorting through photos, trying to document it.  I am torn about just how many photos to share on the blog.  There are over 1,100 just from my camera (that's not counting the back-up cameras I loaned to the kids to use).  Here are some more numbers for you:
Left home on Friday, June 18, at 6:04 a.m., arrived home on Sunday, June 27, at 11:00 p.m., which equals 9 days, 16 hours, and 56 minutes.
Total distance traveled: 3,413 miles (5,492.7 km)
Average miles per gallon: 14.6
Average price per gallon: $2.682
So we spent a little over $600 in gas.
Toll paid on the way out: $44.40
Toll paid on the way home: $1.00
We ate about a bazillion peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, chicken nuggets, hamburgers, and french fries.  Then we were well over-fed at every place we stopped to see family.
Slept in the tent 4 nights, in our parent's houses 4 nights, and in a church 1 night (and that was SOOOO cool!).
It only rained on nights that we were not sleeping in the tent.
The number of times I touched a computer with internet: 2 (yes, I had withdrawals, but I soon got over it and then it was kind of nice)

Days 1 and 2
Here we go...
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Only took about an hour for most everyone to fall asleep.  Patrick got lots of sleep.  ;)  You can't really tell, but everyone is sitting in reach of their "buddies" so that they can help their buddy with any needs.

At 8 am we were passing out some trail mix.  Patrick yells to the back, "Hang on, I've got to pick out the M&M's!"

At 8:21 am Eden has already asked 3 times to go potty.  Seriously.  We just laughed.  She said, "No, Seriously!"  Yes, exactly.  We stopped at 9:42 finally.  It took us 16 min.  I hope we can be a little faster next time, LOL.

At 11 am the kids tried to get us to forget about Washington, DC, and just stay in Wisconsin Dells.  At 11:46 we made our first stop for gas, and while we were stopped we made our first round of PB&J sandwiches.  That set us back 26 minutes--it takes a long time to make sandwiches for 10 people!  At 12:30, Zeke asked when we were going to have lunch.  No joke.

At 1:55 pm we hit traffic as we approached Chicago.  It was baaaadddd stop-and-go traffic, and the temperatures outside were soaring.  Heat radiated off of everything.  Guess who needed to go pee?  (if you said Eden, you are right)

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Patrick is Tirzah's buddy.  He worked hard to keep her happy on the long road.  Here he's giving her a foot massage--it worked!  She went to sleep. 

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This picture is to remind me to never, ever, ever drive through Chicago again unless I have to.  Ugh.

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John Hancock Tower.

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The Sears Tower (also known as Willis Tower)

At 6:43 pm cst, Malachi put an M&M up his nose.  Patrick came to his rescue with a paper towel and told him to "blow".  Malachi was pretty freaked out (and crying), but he did it and successfully dislodged that stuck M&M.  Patrick said to him, "Ok, what did we learn from this?"  Mitch and I were just laughing and laughing.  Then I got this great commemorative shot:
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Day 1 totaled 13.5 hours of driving.  We stayed overnight at Perrysburg Alliance Church.  Their hospitality was amazing, and we are grateful so many times over!  There were storms literally all night long, and we were safe inside the entire night.

Ohio is beautiful and flat.
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But I bubbled over with excitement to see the first rolls of the Appalachian mountains as we headed into Pennsylvania.  The Appalachians are definitely very different than the Rockies.  I said that it looks more like Someone rolled the earth the same way you would flip a bed sheet, and that's how it landed all wrinkly--gentle rolls of land as you climb into the mountains.  Breathtaking.  But no time to stop for scenic photos, all of mine had to be taken through the bug-smattered window.
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Day 2 was about 8.5 hours of driving.  We set up our camp around 6:30 pm (est) and then headed into Washington DC to drive around.  I was so surprised that we could just drive up and park right on the mall in front of the capital for the bargain price of $0.25/7.5 minutes (or otherwise $2/hour--that's a lot of quarters to put in the parking meter!).  I kid you not, Micah's exact words were, "Do we have to get out?"  

This was as close as we ever got to the Capitol building, and I'm glad we took this picture.
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Here is the Washington Monument, which we will see in greater detail on Day 3:
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I took these pictures all without getting my tripod out (minutes were expensive for parking, you know, so I was in a hurry).  I'm so glad they turned out at all!
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After we were done on the mall, we drove over to see the Iwo Jima memorial, since we suspected we wouldn't have time the next day.  It was too late to get into Arlington National Cemetary, so we figured we would not be able to see that.  Josh said, "That was it?  DC is NOT fun!"
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Well, that's all the blogging I have time for tonight.  I will post more later.  I did a great job journaling on Day 1 and 2, and after that it wasn't so great, so maybe the posts will be shorter.  You can click through the photos above to get to my flickr album, too, to see the ones I haven't posted...at least I think you can.  Now that we are back home, life is back to normal, which means I am back to being very busy in addition to catching up on all that we missed.  :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

All is Well

We are having a great time on our trip.  Everything is well, but we have not had much internet access.  Our days are very full and busy.  We are SO blessed!

I'll write more when I can...no worries.  :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coming Soon to our Nation's Capital

It is common knowledge that with a large group, it's easier to keep track of the group if everyone is wearing the same color. A few months ago I proposed that we should buy everyone matching t-shirts for our time in D.C. The idea evolved into making family "team" shirts, and Patrick suggested the color pink. I giggle at the irony...7 boys, 3 girls...and our team color is pink. Perfect!!!

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{BGTF stands for "By Grace Through Faith" and is taken from Ephesians 2:8 (see my post on The Best and The Worst for a link to Sunday's sermon)}

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{Names on the back are obviously a tribute to Lord of the Rings...and may possibly suggest personality traits in our children...but also serve the purpose of giving us some anonymity on our trip.  We mulled over who should be which characters for a long time and had a lot of fun picking them out.}

What's that you say? There's 11 shirts here??

Doh! Well I always said there are thee kinds of mathematicians: the kinds that can add and the kinds that can't.

Wonder who that extra t-shirt could be for? I'll give you two hints: she will probably read this soon, and she is very excited to join our family in August.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Best and the Worst

It isn't always fun times around here.  You, the blog reader, see the best of us.  Or at least you only see what I choose to reveal.  The really ugly stuff I pretty much keep to myself, and only allow you rare glimpses of the struggles in my own heart with sin (such as this one).  In fact, these struggles with my own sinful desires are a constant battle daily and, though I wish they were "rare", they are frequent.

Yesterday was a tough day.  As I sat at the end of the day, I felt as if I sat in the ashes of my own destruction.  As if I had burned all the bridges of relationship that I want so desperately to build between my children.  I "sat in the ashes" and reflected on the day, trying to reply in my mind what went wrong and how to avoid it today.  It is so difficult to be a parent.  Doubt crouches in every shadow, ready to pounce in both good times and bad...doubt about whether I am right or did the right thing.  And I know I did the wrong thing...the soreness in my throat tells me that my words were filled with anger.  All day.  And I hear my own words ringing in my head, when I actually said the words "shut up".  More than once.

Failure.  Sinner.  Screw-up.

Those are words that describe me and they burn into my conscience.

Then this morning the words of Sunday's sermon flood into my mind and bring a soothing balm.  Ephesians 2 begins "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked..."

And it continues from verse 4:

[4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— [6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:3-10 ESV)

Pastor Matthew paraphrased, "I have made you good, so BE GOOD!"  Then he showed this video by the Skit Guys, called "God's Chisel," which I had seen before but still brought tears to my eyes:


It's not just hard to be a parent, it's hard to be a Christian.  To be conformed not to the world, but to the will of God.  Yes, God does not want me to be angry and frustrated with my children.  He gave them to me as a precious gift, and I am to enjoy them while it is my responsibility to train and teach them.  But "failure, sinner, screw-up" are NOT words that God uses to describe me, even though I get it wrong repeatedly.   These are also not words that God uses to describe my children, nor my fellow Christians, yet how often do I think thoughts like that?

I am thankful that God's mercies are new every morning!

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