Friday, August 27, 2010

One last visit

This has been the summer of visitors and we love it! Ryan's older sister Liz took a much needed break and spent a week with us recently.

On the way home from the airport we finally went to the notorious Bronners Christmas Wonderland Extravaganza. For my Utah friends, it is this giant Christmas store (the largest in the world to be exact) that is open year round and filled with every ornament you could ever dream of!

Norris, Baby and Jack were happy to get reacquainted with their Auntie Liz

We saw a movie, ate out at our favorite Michigan places and just relaxed. We also made a road trip up to Mackinaw Island. We changed things up and stayed on the other side of the bridge in St Ignace this time and I have to say I prefer it now. We got a decent hotel with a GREAT view!

Mackinaw was great as usual but the only thing I was disappointed in was the weather. I'd been watching the forecast for days and it was supposed to be sunny and beautiful but turned out to be cloudy and a bit cool.

All the same, we enjoyed a bicycle trip around the island,

the view from Arch Rock,

and all the gorgeous flowers and sights Mackinaw has to offer.

Of course, no trip to Mackinaw is complete without some fudge so Liz treated us to some yummy selections!

We also made a trip to the dog beach before she left (I know, your shocked right?)

We love you Liz and had a great time! Thanks for being a good sport and always supporting us! And thanks Fritz for watching the kids so she could come out!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vanessa's Visit and Nauvoo

It has been a busy summer for us! Ryan's younger sister Vanessa came to visit us again and we had a great time as usual!

We started out with a trip to Michigan Adventure which we had never been to.
This is Michigan's version of Lagoon for you Utahn's but better.
We started the day with rides

then spent some time at the water park where Vanessa and Ryan attempted to drown each other.

The Funnel of Fear was awesome! (if you look close you see a raft way up on the side)
A super long wait but worth it (even though I closed my eyes and screamed the whole time).

We had a decent BBQ lunch then back out to the roller coasters for these junkies!
(Oh and this picture is for you Nancy, Ryan was sure you would want a pic of snoopy :)

The next day we had the opportunity to go with our youth to the Detroit Temple for baptisms for the dead. It was great to be able to take Ness with us and have her brother baptize her!

That night we introduced her to sushi. She was a great sport and liked it almost as much as we do :)

Our next big adventure was our stake youth conference trip to Nauvoo. We had not been there before and it was only an 8 hour drive so we are grateful to have had the opportunity to go, especially with Vanessa.

*Just as a preface, as you all know, I have issues with things not being organized and not being in control so I had a difficult time with 80 teenagers running around and no direction for the adults. It improved a bit over the days but needless to say, my nerves were shot by the end!*

We started out bright an early at 6:45am!

The drive down went well and even took us over the Mississippi River.

After arriving, we were organized into companies (ryan and I were together and Ness in her own), assigned our rooms then met for dinner and saw a show put on by all of the missionaries.

The next day we were able to do a mini-trek. I never had the opportunity to participate in a pioneer trek but let me tell you, this was no easy terrain; we're talking through some serious mud, across streams and up and down steep hills that drop into streams!
As leaders we stood back and let the youth do the whole thing. They did a great job working together. Even though it was only a mile it was still challenging for them and it sure made me appreciate all that the pioneers went though and the faith they had to keep going. One thing that was particularly special during the trek were these signs that were nailed along trees as we walked. There were stories of pioneers and it brought a special spirit to stop and read of the struggles the early saints faced.
(if you look close you can see the Nauvoo Temple steeple in the back)

After the trek and some reflecting we headed back to clean up and have a little free time before seeing some of the sights. Of course we had to stop by the fancy quilt shop for my mom. I'm in trouble if we ever go back to Nauvoo with her!

The missionaries (mainly seniors ones) have done an amazing job recreating what Nauvoo would have been like when the saints where there.
We stopped in a Blacksmith's shop,

took an ox ride with Hank and Homer

and toured Joseph and Emma Smith's homes and store.
(remind you of anyone's home?)
The view of the Mississippi from their home
Sadly, these homes are owned by the Church of Christ (reorganized LDS church) so the tours are done by their people and a fee is charged. It was surreal to stand in homes that Joseph himself stood in but it's crazy how the Spirit just was not there. Also, they show a video before the tour on the history of Nauvoo that seems pretty acurate until after Joseph was killed then it goes off on a whole different tangent that their church believes. It makes me sad that Joseph and Emma's line did not continue in our church.
Anyway, on the tour they told us that Joseph, Hyrum and Emma's bodies had been located near one of the homes and reburied together here.

That night there was a dance for the youth. I always have a good time watching them and an even better time watching the adults try to dance with them :) The night ended with another hotel guest threatening to make us pay for his room and he gave us 60 seconds to quiet our kids down or else...yeah, you know I didn't take to that real well. I came to poor Ryan's rescue since he is Mr Nice Guy and firmly handled the situation since I unfortunately have to do that nightly at work.

The next day we started out with a trip to Carthage to tour the jail where Joseph and Hyrum were murdered. The Church has done a beautiful job creating a visitors center and putting on a very reverent presentation of the events that occurred there. It certainly was not a happy place to visit but important all the same. Their spirits were definitely felt there, especially as we stood in the final room and a recording of "A poor wayfaring man of grief" was played.

This is the front staircase that the mob came up
The hole from the bullet that hit Hyrum
The window from which Joseph fell
The upper window is where he fell from
Isn't this a beautiful statue?! It reminds me that death did not stop them.

After Carthage, Ryan and I were able to do a session at the Nauvoo Temple.
A few years after the saints left Nauvoo, the original temple was damaged by a fire and then destroyed by a tornado. It was rebuilt and completed in 2002. This temple is so unique. They built it to resemble the original as close as possible. So because of that, it has dark cherry wood floors and beautiful wood finishing everywhere. Even the changing stalls are wood! It even has a meeting room similar to the one in the Kirtland Temple. There is also an amazing spiral staircase that takes you to all the levels. The endowment rooms are painted with murals like the Salt Lake Temple. I'm really glad we had the opportunity to do a session. We were the only couple so a few other temple worker couples joined us but we were able to have a special role during the session. After we enjoyed the amazing celestial room that must have had a 50 foot celing with stained glass on the top. As I walked back into the dressing room I saw an elderly sister who might as well have been my Grandma Lois. I obviously knew it wasn't her but I just stood and stared enjoying a tender memory that sometimes only come in the temple. My Grandma's must have been thinking of me because another sister complimented me on my dress which I was happy to report that my Grandma Ann helped me pick out. I'm glad we have the opportunity to visit temples where the veil is always a bit thinner!

This is the view from the temple steps looking out to the Mississippi

This is the plaque that sits below the statue of Joseph and Hyrum riding off to Carthage

After our session we headed downstairs to assist the youth with baptisms. The font was unique just like the rest of the temple. It is the largest font and was created as a replica to the original. I had the chance to sit up next to the witnesses and I really enjoyed that, it felt like I was a part of the ordinace. And it gave me a great view to watch Ryan baptize a few youth. I think you ladies know that special feeling you get when your hubbies do something like that :)

That night we had a testimony meeting which is always special to hear from the youth and their great faith. These kids face challenges that we never had growing up in "Zion" and I respect them very much!

Nauvoo is a very special place in our church's history. I didn't realize how special. I gained a much greater testimony and love for Joseph Smith. I really do believe now that quote that you have heard that says somthing like, no one except Christ has done more for the gospel than Joseph Smith. What an enormous burden that must have been but I am in awe when I look at the Church today and think about how proud he must be. The plaque is in front of Zion's Mercantile and it is one of my new favorite quotes. I think Joseph nailed it right on the head when he said this...

We returned home safely and before Ness had to leave we had one last hurah at the beach. I believe no trip to Michigan is complete without a day at the dog beach :) It was a great day to go too cuz the weather was cloudy which means the beach was empty!
We always set our stuff down then take a nice long walk to look for sticks...

Then wrestle those sticks away from Baby so we can throw them.

Is this not the most handsome Airedale you have ever seen?!

I love this picture. Typical Norris running away from Ryan and Baby with her flying wombat ears :)

The beach through Norris's eyes where he stays safely on the shore and barks at us when we get too far out in the water

Well sadly we had to take Vanessa back to the airport the next day but we sure enjoyed having her! She is one amazing girl who believes in her standards, always has a good attitude and is going to conquer the world soon! We love you Ness!!