Eastern Trip: Yellowstone (Final Day!)

It was bittersweet today as we made our final trek home through Yellowstone.  We could have split this up in two days, but I think we were all ready to go home.  And yet, I'd also underestimated just how much our kids would LOVE Yellowstone.  We wanted to stop and see everything!   We saw three bears! One bear was right in front of our path on the road, which was way cool!  And then the beautiful scenery was just breathtaking.  It was good to just drive through and see all the places we want to visit in the future...since we live so close now.  

To sum up:  This trip was amazing!  Sure there were a few hiccups and rough moments, but for the most part it was just a fun family-bonding adventure.  We came home loving each other a little bit more and appreciating the things we have.  After being in our home we could't believe we'd survived in such a small space for so long!  J. is officially sick of driving.  The baby is not so sure about life without the constant hum of RV travel.  The kids are anxious to see their friend and start school.  I feel fully satisfied with the summer we had and so grateful to have fulfilled one of my longest dreams!  

Before we left we read the talk, "Foundations of Faith," by Elder Quentin L. Cook.  In the talk he asks three questions that we posted as a focus for our trip: 

Is Jesus Christ Divine? 

Is the Book of Mormon True? 

Was Joseph Smith the prophet of the Restoration? 

Afterwards in talking about our favorite parts of the trip and these questions, it was so neat to hear the testimonies of our children.  Each of them had something to share, a moment when they could answer "Yes" to these questions.  I am so grateful that happened for them!  

For me, my testimony was strengthened concerning the doctrine of eternal families.  Being with my family and watching them all grow closer together was all made possible because of these three questions being answered in the affirmative.  

The plan of Jesus Christ is a plan about the family, His family.  He desires all of us to return to our Father in Heaven and His sacrifice was for that purpose. 

The Book of Mormon is about a family and we are strengthened as families as we read the words of scripture together. 

Joseph Smith restored the gospel upon the earth.  Because of his faith and sacrifices we have the sealing power upon the earth today.  This sealing power binds families together and to God.  

So, yes, this was a fun adventure, but ultimately these last three weeks were an opportunity for growing closer together - - closer to one another, closer to God; "making home a part of heaven, where we want to stay (Hymns #298)."

 - - - - - -

Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 
 - Matthew 18:18 - 

Eastern Trip: Badlands & Mount Rushmore

On our way to Mount Rushmore we decided to drive through Badlands National Park.

Our boys especially loved these rock formations and climbing all over them.  

What a beautiful country we live in!   

After stopping for dinner at Five Guys (yum!) we made it to Mount Rushmore.  The kids were so excited to see this.  The older kids had been there when they were very, very little (John had some memories of it).  So it was fun to revisit this remarkable National Landmark.  

We stayed for the lighting ceremony.  The coolest part about that was that they showed a video which basically showed everything we'd just visited - - Arlington, Statue of Liberty, DC Memorials & Monuments, etc.  It was a perfect recap and ending to our trip!  

Eastern Trip: Driving and Little House on the Prairie

Today was another long driving day...to a place kind of in the middle of nowhere.  Ethan, David and I had read the first few of the Little House on the Prairie series together and were excited to see where Laura had actually lived.

We were most excited about the sod house they'd lived in (from On the Banks of Plum Creek).  However, when we got there we realized that the house doesn't actually exist, there's just in indentation in the ground where it used to be.

So, the three of us took a tour of the museum which has a replica of the house.  It was actually a really cool museum.

We didn't have a whole lot of time before closing because of our driving adventures earlier in the day.

As we made our way to Walnut Grove, the GPS led us to a closed road.  Well, J. ignored the signs and continued driving....only to find more "Closed Road" signs.  Again, he bypassed them.
Finally we met a construction worker who was like, "I don't know, Man.   You better get off this road cuz there's nothing past this and those guys comin' right now will not be happy if you're here.  If I were you, I'd go back and follow the signs."

Well, what do you do when you're in an RV and there's nowhere to turn around?  You drive backwards for awhile until you find a place where you can do a 15-point turn (never learned that one in driver's ed!).  Somehow J. managed to get us out of there and onto safer roads again. It was quite the adventure!

Because we were behind in our schedule, we decided to skip De Smet, another Little House site and head toward Mount Rushmore.  We ended up staying at a Walmart that night where the boys made up their own kind of fun (who needs grass and a playground?!).


Eastern Trip: Slow Down Day

Our kids loved having a full day of driving in the RV again.  We are all extremely tired.  We slept at a Walmart last night.  It was a bit hazy as to whether or not it was an approved parking lot for overnight, so when I looked out the window at 7 a.m. and saw a police car close by we decided we'd better leave...just in case.  We had a long day in driving ahead of us anyway, so it was good to get on the road.

 Though we opted to skip Chicago, we did stop in a suburb of the city to get some Chicago-style pizza for lunch.  Sadly, the place we chose didn't have the stuffed style. Still, the pizza was very delicious.

J drove.  I slept.  The kids watched a couple of movies or spent some time reading.

We stopped at a beautiful campsite in Wisconsin.  The boys got some playground time and a swim in the little river (we're right on the Mississippi, but this is just a different little strip of water).

We had a yummy spaghetti dinner and got some laundry done.

He's so cute!!!

All in all, it was a good restful day. 

Eastern Trip: Kirtland

Today was rough.

It started with the discovery that we left the stroller in the parking lot at Niagra Falls. I cried all the way to Kirtland...signifying that I am a pretty sleep deprived mama. :( The stroller has been a lifesaver on this trip. Normally very expensive, we found it cheap on the Rexburg yard sale site. Best stroller I've ever owned. Still, I must have been really tired to get that distraught over it's loss.

Then, while the others toured the Kirtland Temple, I took the boys to a playground nearby. After a bit of playing Ethan announced that David had pooped his pants. What!?!? So, I had to deal with that (remember I'm still tired!).

Notice how spread out we all are.  Looks like we all needed a little bit of space today!  ;-)
Once the family was all together again we had a lovely time visiting the other church sites of Kirtland. It was the best your yet, with the best sister missionaries as our guides.

We saw the only ashery on the continent.

The sawmill.

Whitney store and home. 

I loved hearing the Whitney's conversion story. It is a beautiful lesson on personal revelation and I was extremely touched by their faith.

One of my favorite parts about this trip has been seeing all the different missionaries.  These two were the best as they tailored the tour to our family.  I am just inspired by these young women who have taken time out of their lives to serve the Lord! 

After the tour we headed toward Chicago. Only, we took a little detour to some outlet malls in Cleveland. We basically spent the rest of the afternoon there!  This put us a not behind schedule, but apparently we're all ready to be home because we unanimously voted to skip Chicago!

And as one final blunder of the day, we pulled into Walmart in Toledo at about 10:30pm only to realize there's no overnight parking there. So, we searched for another location. Fortunately, another Walmart not too far away was okay.

So, this sleepy family survived one more day. Tomorrow will just be a driving day as we continue our way home.

Eastern Trip: Sacred Grove & Niagra Falls

What a day! 

It started with a yummy breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, and fruit! It was our first "real" breakfast the whole trip (and probably our only).

We then spent the morning at the Smith Farm and Sacred Grove. Each of us left the tour at different intervals (we've been on a lot of tours!). And we each spent whatever time we needed/wanted in the Sacred Grove. 

It was a lovely morning! I felt like I was in the temple and really didn't want to leave. 

Oh, and we believe the stream you cross to enter the Sacred Grove is Hathaway Brook (see church maps in the back of the scriptures). This is where our Brooklynn got her name! :). She collected a bit of the water in a jar as a keepsake.

Once we all had our moment in the Grove we drove three hours north to Niagra Falls. So cool! We decided to get tickets for the Maid of the Most boat ride. So worth it! The kids had a blast! Donovan, however, slept through the whole thing.

From there we finally started to head west. We drove a few hours to a campsite in Ohio to sleep for the night.

Memories made!

Eastern Trip: Palmyra

We're in Palmyra for the next couple of days.  It is so beautiful here!

We're staying at a KOA near Palmyra for a couple of nights. After our last few days of  "get up and go," we decided to take things slow this morning. We slept in, did laundry and let the kids explore the camp.

We then headed to the Peter Whitmer farm. I failed to research the location of this site; we could have seen it last night on our way up.

It was worth the drive to see where the organization of the Church began! It amazes me that from such humble beginnings the Lord's church has grown to what it is today.

On our way back to Palmyra J saw a cheese farm and just had to stop for a little cheese tasting.

Hill Cumorah was our next stop. Upper State New York is just so beautiful. Hill Cumorah is no exception.  

I loved hiking the trail on the hill and imagining Joseph Smith finding the golden plates.

We then made our way to the Grandin Building, stopping for a quick dinner beforehand. We had already seen a couple of printing presses in Nauvoo and Philadelphia, so our interest was a little lacking here. The tour was 45 minutes long! Still, it was neat to see where the Book of Mormon was printed. Such a long, tedious process to print just one! And they printed 5,000 copies! Unbelievable!

A stop at the Martin Harris Farm on the way to the Sacred Grove
When we finished the tour it was pouring outside! This interrupted our plans to go to the Sacred Grove. Well, it didn't stop J still. He was determined to go tonight, so he wandered the grove in the rain and came back soaked...but happy. :)

We stopped at Walmart on the way back to camp and spent the night playing games and eating ice cream.
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