Arches National Park – Saturday, July 16, 2016

The kids really enjoyed Arches. Hannah said that they’re “climbers” now and would like to climb everything. They certainly were doing their share of climbing! Here are some things we’ve seen or noticed so far…

  • Foreigners really love our national parks! At Arches, I’d say the ration was maybe 70/30 with 70% being foreigners! It’s a great opportunity to practice my language skills. Last night in the hotel I was walking down the hallway and a little boy walked by and casually said, “Bonjour.” I replied, “Bonjour.” Then his whole family smiled and said hello. On the trail yesterday, I was able to use a little German and Spanish. We also spoke with families from Austria, Netherlands, France, and Japan. The parks are their own little melting pot.
  • We saw a man at Mesa Verde who was biking to a bunch of the  parks we’re visiting. If I remember correctly, he was from Virginia, but when I say “biking,” I don’t mean motorcycle. He was literally on a bicycle! He had four packs on the back of his bike and we saw him everywhere. He biked up the huge hills at Mesa Verde. He has biked all across the west. And then someone else yesterday said they saw him biking toward this direction. Daniel said he must have thighs of titanium.
  • The park rangers were talking about how many people go out on the trails in Arches without enough (or any!) water so when Daniel and Hannah and I hiked to Delicate Arch, we took plenty of water for ourselves (with extra for me) and then we took one of our gallon jugs of purified drinking water to share with others. As we came upon people who looked like they were struggling, we would give them a refill (because it was obvious who had run out a long time before). These people were incredibly grateful for more water. It makes you think of a lot of things. I’m glad we planned ahead and I’m glad we were able to bless some others. Hannah said she expected me to start giving out prayer pamphlets. “Here’s your water; now here’s your pamphlet. Let me pray with you.” I didn’t do that, but I was very nice and tried to let people know we cared about them. One guy at the top said he thought it was awesome that we were giving out water when it was such a commodity there. 🙂
  • Speaking of water, we’ve become water addicts. We’re drinking about 4-5 gallons per day EACH. I’m sure I’m drinking even more than that because I’m paranoid about getting a blood clot and my leg is still swollen from our trek into the Great Sand Dunes. But anyway, we love water now. It’s precious. And delicious. And necessary!

Well, I’m out of time again. We’re having a great time. Honestly I’ve been doing pretty well other than my leg and also I seem to be incredibly allergic to something here. I think it’s the Juniper Pines. My throat feels like I have two small golf balls in my old tonsil holes! It’s frustrating because I can’t breathe well and it hurts. We’ll be in this area for a few more days and then hopefully it will subside when we head north.

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Introverts

J.K. Rowling

Bill Gates

Abraham Lincoln

Roy Rogers

Albert Einstein

Eleanor Roosevelt

Mother Teresa

Emma Watson

Barbara Bush

Rosa Parks

Mahatma Ghandi

These people have something in common with most of my children. They are all INTROVERTS.

I get incredibly tired of people praising extroverts when God has given each of us a unique personality. I know many extroverts who honestly need to learn to be quiet. They need to learn how to appreciate others, how to encourage individual talents (and personalities) and how to act a little more introverted at times.

Yesterday our kids walked into a courtroom where they had been told they were not welcome and weren’t even allowed. There was a high likelihood that we would have been escorted out, yet they boldly walked in anyway and sat down in front of spectators, prisoners, attorneys and the judge. Yes, they are introverts, but YES, they will stand up for themselves.

There have been millions of introverts throughout history (including those listed above and many of our greatest Biblical heroes) who probably would not have achieved what they did if they had been extroverts. You see, the thing about introverts is that they might be quiet and you might think they are sitting there doing “nothing” or “wishing they were an extrovert,” but in fact they are quietly plotting their course of action. That might be to write a book, develop a kazillion dollar software company, figure out how to help the poor or making a HUGE difference in any one of a million ways that you or I can’t fathom because we’re too busy being, well… too busy being busy little extroverts who think we know what’s best for everyone.

That’s my shout out for the day to all the introverts in the world. The world is a rough enough place without us bashing one another’s God-given traits. We all have room for improvement, but stress over the things you can change (like behavior) rather than those things you can’t change (like personality).

You are loved and you are amazing – just the way you are!

Trip Out West 2007 – page 5

Our Trip Out West 

Final Page

camping on rainy day animation

September 19, 2007

We returned from our trip last week.  We arrived around midnight between Thursday and Friday.  We didn’t bother bringing anything in the house except our pillows because we had to be up for Friday co-op by 7:30.  It starts at 9:00, but by the time we get everyone up, eat breakfast, get everyone dressed, and drive over to the church, it takes us about an hour and a half to get ready.  Fortunately Chris took the day off work to help me with the first day of co-op and some miscellaneous errands we had to run.  He also had to go to work for a meeting from 11:00 to 1:00.

Here are some of the last pictures from our trip…

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Trip Out West 2007 – page 4

Trip Out West

(September 2, 2007 – September 8, 2007)

Saturday, September 2, 2007

Yesterday we went through the Petrified Forest and then the Painted Desert.  We looked for (and found) much petrified wood, went on a tour around the park (well, the petrified forest), and also went to the Painted Desert.  The children were amazed by the Petrified Forest.  It was amazing to look at those old, old trees that have literally turned to stone.  The more amazing thing, I though, though, is the fact that they haven’t just turned to stone, chemical changes have taken place that have turned most of the interior of the stone to beautiful rocks like quartz and even precious stone like amethyst and other beautiful colors.  This is what gives the trees their remarkable colors.  Sadly, though, the forest may not be there for our children’s children to enjoy.  The park service estimates an average of 1 TON of petrified wood is stolen every single month!!!  This is appalling.  We’ve been reiterating to the children the entire trip how they can’t pick up “souvenirs” because if each little child did that (of 1 million visitors each year), then all the beautiful things would be gone in a few years.  It is said that the ground once sparkled with broken (and larger) pieces of petrified wood, but now anywhere near the trail all the wood is simply gone.  Of course the bigger pieces are there because even the hand-size pieces weigh quite a bit so taking something bigger than a large book would be impossible without help.  Even that would probably weigh hundreds of pounds.  These stones are heavy!!  However, people are obviously taking things because so much disappears every week and the park service knows about it, but can’t really do more than they are now, which is educating the public and prosecuting those they catch.

At the Painted Desert, which is still part of the Petrified Forest National Park, we had the good luck of arriving right when a couple of technicians had caught and were working with a milk snake.  We were able to see them weigh it, measure it, and even put a computer chip just under the surface of its skin.  It was very cool!  The techs let all the children touch it and he answered our many questions with enthusiasm.  One thing we learned is that milk snakes were named that because ranchers saw them coming out of the barns frequently and they accused them of drinking the cows’ milk.  They were probably just looking for other prey, though, like insects or small lizards or perhaps other snakes, because they do not drink milk.

After we left the Painted Desert, we drove as far as we could toward Monument Valley.  This wasn’t on the schedule originally, but Chris really wanted to go there so I added it in.  (We also added Meteor Crater in at his request.  It’s funny how the things he has wanted to add are the things that have cost us money!  Other than a couple of things, all the stuff I had already scheduled was free on the parks pass or museum passes I have.  It just shows once again that guys cost more money!)  Anyway, we ended up arriving in the area for Monument Valley very late and as we were driving along, we saw that the sky was VERY dark and the stars were VERY bright.  I found a safe place to pull over (this means that when I didn’t think we were on the side of a cliff!!!) and we got all the children out, turned out the van lights and just looked at the sky.  It was majestic.  I’ve never seen so many stars, nor stars so bright.  We could see the Milky Way going from one side of the sky all the way across our heads to the other.  We looked for a long time and honestly I could have stood there looking for hours, but we were on the side of a road after all and there were still cars coming occasionally so we eventually got back in the van and drove into the city.  There was no safe place for us to camp in this city so we ended up getting a place for the night.  Also, my legs have begun to hurt more and more and I haven’t been able to see my ankles for about a week.  My feet are too swollen to identify them.  I know they’re there, though, because I still feel them ache!

monument valley

 

This is one of the pictures from Monument Valley.  Chris really wanted to go here so we did and we enjoyed the “monuments” (these great rock formations).  It was very funny, though, because this park is run by the Navajo nation and not the federal government.  This means that the government is not upkeeping the roads.  I swear to you I never drove on roads this bad even when I lived in Soddy-Daisy as a kid and we traveled across the mountain on dirt roads!  We bumped and bumped and we had to have Sarah hold the breakable things in her lap – that’s how badly we were bumping!!!  I thought we weren’t going to make it out either because there is this one huge hill (in a place with all flat land!) and it was covered with red sand.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a 15 passenger van filled with stuff (and people) up a hill covered with sand?!?  I was so relieved when, after much slipping and sliding, we made it up.  I think the guy coming toward us changed his mind and turned around.  🙂

We continue to meet nice people as we travel.  Of course the children are learning things I could never teach them at home, but I have also been pleased with the amount of things I’ve learned – even if some of the things aren’t exactly good.

For example, it always bugs me when people judge a person or a situation before they know all the facts.  That just drives me crazy.  I don’t know why it bothers me so much.  Perhaps it’s because we were so poor when I was growing up and my mom and mamaw always did the best they could, but we just didn’t have much.  Because I was a “poor” child, I definitely experienced prejudice from my friends’ parents or even from other students who didn’t want to be my friend because I didn’t wear the right clothes or have the right toys, etc.  When I was older I didn’t have money to participate in the same activities as the other kids, but when I was in high school, I had some great teachers who provided many opportunities for me.  Of course I still never went to the mall (and I still don’t like to do this!), but they did make sure I got to go on field trips, band events, the prom, etc.  I had GREAT teachers!  Anyway, all this is said because prejudices against other people always bother me and one of those has been the prejudice of “drunk Indians.”  Most of the people making comments like this have never met a Native American.

Well, while we were going through the Navajo nation (most of our trip through Arizona), I noticed that there were many places to buy liquor and everywhere we stopped to buy gas or go to the bathroom or whatever, we encountered drunk people – Native Americans (of course, since we were where they live).  Now at home when I go to the store or wherever they might sell alcohol, I might run into a drunk person every few trips.  Here, there were so many drunk people that I didn’t feel very comfortable sleeping in our tent.  I didn’t feel that they would bother us, but at the same time, all the alcohol made me nervous.  Also, there was an incredible amount of those little pills being sold – the kind that supposedly give you an energy boost, etc. – and I saw at least a couple of people who I suspect were using Meth.  The second guy I saw already had the sores on his face, neck, and arms where he had been scratching his skin off (due to a feeling that bugs are living under the skin).  All these folks were Native American.

I admit that I thought (judgmentally), well perhaps these people (as an ethnic group) really do drink more and just don’t take much pride in their person or possessions.  We had also noticed that there are ALMOST NO houses in Navajo territory.  There are little shacks.  I wish I could show you pictures of these places.  There is no other word for them except shacks.  They are usually around 10 feet by 15 feet or so and made of wood corners with wood and other material making the walls.  Most of the “walls” on the outside are covered with tar paper (I think it’s called) or other real cheap material like that.  We also saw many wikkiups.  (Who knew that Native Americans still lived in wikkiups??)  And finally, there were lots of trailers.  I thought, “Gee, they took such good care of the land, but seem not to care about much else.”

Anyway, to make a long story shorter, I spoke with a couple of Native Americans about this and I found out a few facts…

–          Did you know that the reservations – set aside by the government for the Native Americans – still belongs to the government?  (I assumed the particular tribal nations owned their particular land, but the government owns it.)

–          Did you know that because the government owns the land – it is like any other government property – we can use it, but it’s not ours (or in this case, it doesn’t belong to the Native Americans)?

–          Did you know that Native Americans actually can’t own land on their own reservations?

–          Native Americans who want to stay on the same area of land can actually “lease” land for up to 100 years, but because they can’t own it, this means they can’t pass it on to their own children, they have to ask permission for particular changes, etc.  It’s not theirs!

–          Did you know that if a Native American who dies has been leasing land from the government (on the reservation), that person’s children are not guaranteed to get the house that is on that land?  (This is why so few Native Americans build permanent homes.  They live in shacks or easily moveable trailers.)

I mention all these facts to make people think about this for a minute.

–          If you (or your children) couldn’t ever own the land you live on, would you bother to build a nice home on that land?

–          If you were going to “rent” forever, would you make improvements to your land?

–          If you lived in a “modern prison” and you could drive about in a particular area of land, but you still were accountable to the government for what you do, where you live, etc., would you resent that government?  If you were young and rebellious, might you damage government property like buildings and street signs?  (We have seen a lot of this.)

These reservations have the nicest schools – by far – of any school I have ever seen in the United States and I have seen a lot of schools.  There are new buildings, several playgrounds per school, aquatic centers, baseball and football and soccer fields, gymnasiums, etc.  There are also nice community centers and other “government buildings.”  The ironic thing is that the Boys’ Correctional Facility (in one town it was located about 100 feet from the public school) is almost as big as the school.  This is a HUGE indication that there is some serious problem!!!!!

I just found all this so sad and wondered how the pride of Native Americans might increase if we went in and said, “Hey, this land has been protected for your people but obviously this method isn’t helping to preserve your people or your culture so you can have the land to do as you wish.”  I wonder if the Native Americans of each tribe would come together and figure out some way to make their own local decisions about how to best preserve the land for Native Americans, but yet allow the people to have some pride.  Perhaps they could allow families to buy plots and they would own it, but with the one condition that they must be Native American to own it and if they ever sale the land, it must then be sold to other Native Americans.  This would preserve the area in the best interest of the tribe, but yet it would also encourage them to make improvements, take pride in their property, etc.  I just wonder about these sorts of things…

Well, it is way past time for bed and I’m very tired.  I hope you’re enjoying the pictures and the stories.  I’m sorry tonight’s is so much more serious.  I just have these people on my heart tonight.  There are also so very few churches out here and the few that we have seen have been Mormon.  I believe that many of these people are lost and confused in their own land, but they are without the greatest Light.  Instead of judging “Indians,” why aren’t we trying harder to reach them?

Sonya

There were a couple of things I wanted to add before I forget…  In addition to all the plant life here that is different and beautiful and neat, we’ve seen many animals.  To add to my last list, in the past few days we’ve seen a porcupine and a road runner.  I’m 37 and I’ve never seen these animals – even in a zoo.  This was very cool to see them in their natural environments.  The porcupine was climbing a hill beside the road outside the Grand Canyon and the road runner was eating a lizard (and dropping it, chasing it, grabbing it again – torturing it, it seems) in the Petrified Forest.

colorado rainbow

We’re in Colorado now and we seem to be traveling with the rain. We couldn’t resist a picture of this rainbow the kids saw out the window as we traveled. Isn’t it beautiful? Just after this, it turned into a double rainbow, but we couldn’t safely stop to get a picture.

 

September 4, 2007

We went to Mesa Verde yesterday.  It has been one of my favorite sites thus far.  There are over 600 cave dwelling sites there, but we decided to take a tour into the largest one – Cliff Palace.  Archaeologists estimate that at one time over 100 people lived there.

A few things struck me about the tour to Cliff Palace.  First of all, when we asked how the Native Americans who lived here got in and out of the dwelling, the guy said by hand and toe hold trails.  These are literally holes carved in the side of the rock – some are straight vertical climbs.

mesa verde

Here is a view from above Cliff Palace. This is the largest of the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. It was remarkably well preserved, too.

 

mesa verde 2

I put this picture here to show a more close up view of the bricks. They are so well made and this picture doesn’t even do justice to some of the areas. Notice how well made the windows and doors are as well.

mesa verde 4

Family photo at Mesa Verde.

mesa verde 3

Daniel and Hannah look so cute through a window at Mesa Verde. You can’t see the great workmanship here, but you can see how thick the walls are.

September 5, 2007

I didn’t get to finish writing yesterday.  I only have a little bit of time online each time I write and I had to finish some other work before I could write more.

What I was going to say about the “trails” in the rocks is this…  It is obvious that these hand and toe holds have been gouged into the rock and I have no doubt whatsoever that the Native Americans who lived here used those for the purpose the ranger suggested – climbing up from and down into the cliff dwellings.  There were several things that I think he was wrong about, though.

When I asked if the natives had ropes to transport items (like baskets of food, wood, etc.) over the rock ledge down into the cliff dwellings, he said that they didn’t use ropes for that purpose because the longest ropes they found were no more than 30 feet long.  Now you should see these ropes.  They are very sturdy ropes made of various materials like animal hair and local grasses woven together.  Now if you have seen these ropes, you know that they are amazingly sturdy.  We would be challenged to make something so well-woven these days without a machine.  Sooo, my point is this – if they can make wonderfully woven, sturdy 30 foot ropes, do you think for a moment that they can’t make ropes 50 feet or 100 feet long?!?  Just because they didn’t find any through archaeological digs doesn’t mean that they didn’t have longer ropes for that purpose.  It simply makes sense.

Then, they also have these rooms called kivas that the ranger said were used for ceremonial purposes.  He said they don’t know if they sacrificed animals or plants or if they used the ceremonies for rites of passage purposes, but they were ceremonial.  (He also said that with the rites of passage, the natives deleted a part of civilization that we have always known… teenagers.  Um, I believe perhaps he has that backwards…  We didn’t actually have teenagers until about 100 years ago.  Before that, as far as we know, societies had the sense to raise children to transition to responsible adults as soon as we could prepare them to do so.  Now I’m not advocating young marriage or anything, but I certainly think that a 12 or 13 year old who is responsible, respectful, dedicated to a cause, and already on the path of training for a profession is much preferable to the teenagers we have “created” who are excused for their bad behavior because we no longer require any sort of accountability for “kids” until they are “adults,” which we term anywhere from 18 to 21.  Perhaps if we would start working on them at birth to be responsible by the time they are 12 or 13, we wouldn’t have a society full of delinquents.)  OK, I have really, really strayed there from the point, but it is a good point to think about!  My discussion about kivas was this… I just stood there looking at the kivas over and over and there is a big round room with stone “benches” around the outer edges.  (Now this is down inside the kiva because it’s a room down in a whole – all made of stone.)  In the middle of this is a fire.  On the side is an air vent to provide fresh oxygen into the room.  The cover would have been made of wood and they found many of the kivas basically intact because the wood fell in and the kivas were preserved as they had been.   Now remember that he said they also thought they were used for sacrifices so I asked if they had ever found any organic material there to indicate that there had been bones or grasses or other material burned there besides wood.  He said no.  Then I just kept looking and thinking about the formation.  I raised my hand again and said, “From looking at the formation of this kiva and the fire pit in the floor of it, you said that they were expert pottery makers, so how do you know that they didn’t just use this room as a giant steam room?”  He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Well, because we just don’t believe they did.”  I honestly wonder if they had considered that option.   There was a couple from Italy standing next to the ranger when I asked this and I am writing this because it was so funny, but that lady was translating everything for her husband and she slapped him on his shoulder and started laughing and was telling him about the question I asked and it was obvious that they thought this was a great idea, too.  I couldn’t hear the whole thing, but she said something to the ranger about the fact that they use steam rooms like this in Europe and she thought this was a great suggestion.  It was very funny, but apparently the ranger didn’t think so because the next question someone asked him was why these people left and he promptly told them that one of the most likely possibilities was that they had begun to have too many children and that they just ruined their civilization since everyone knows that overpopulation is one of the primary causes for the destruction of a society.  OK, now here is one of those moments when the Lord must have just closed my mouth because I could not even respond.  I would like to point out to him that actually it’s the misuse of resources that causes societies to run out of food and other resources and NOT the birthing of children, but I couldn’t even speak.  I was so shocked by his disrespect and I have no doubt it was directed at our family.  You could just see this in his non-verbal language and the glance in our direction just as he said it.  (Yes, perhaps I pick up on these things more than most people, but I LOVE studying people and this is one of the things I notice – body language.)

Now this is a place where I actually think they have the timeline correct as far as the time these people lived here – around 1200 A.D..  It is so much easier to more accurately date periods back to about 1000 B.C. because we have tree ring dating (comparing trees in structures with local trees to find a pattern of growth during certain years to trees cut now – you can tell not only how old the current trees are, but also when the other trees were cut) and we have written histories that tell us when particular people were in leadership, etc.   I believe most Christians would even agree with the dates of historians and scientists up to about 3000 years ago.  Now you and I know people were here before that and we even know that people were not as technologically advanced as we are today, but to say that they were just inferior life forms with less knowledge is ludicrous.

Let me give the last example from Mesa Verde.  Many of you know that language is my specialty and my true love.  I took a Navy “language battery” test when I was in college (and joined the Navy for a brief few weeks – long story…) and scored so high that they basically told me I could do anything of my choosing with the score that was the highest they had received in this area.  I absolutely have a passion for languages and for sharing with people the meanings of words and how words and languages develop and have developed over time.  So, bear with me a second here…

Have you ever played one of those games where you tell one person a secret at one side of the room and then you go all the way around the room whispering the same thing, but by the end of the trip the “secret” is inevitably different than what it started out as.  “The cat is in the barn” becomes “the hat is not being worn” or whatever.  This is my theory on why secular researches get so much stuff wrong.

If you think about the story of the kivas above, the ranger said that one of the reasons they know these were ceremonial is because the people believed to be the descendents of the Mesa Verde inhabitants use kivas for ceremonial purposes.  If we can change a sentence in a small room of people and we can change habits over even five or ten years (look at clothing trends or the way we worship in the church today compared to the times of Martin Luther and the purchasing of relics), then habits or customs certainly can change over a period of 600 years.  As a matter of fact, without a written history, I think that it’s not only likely, but very likely that we can base our interpretations of past culture on modern descendants of that culture, but I just don’t know that we can positively state what occurred or what something was used for.  (For that matter, there were a bunch of itty bitty pieces of pottery in the museum and they were very obviously pots, bowls, baskets, etc.  The note said that they do not have any indication of what these were used for, but I asked my husband and my children – separately so as not to influence their comments – what they thought these little pieces of pottery looked like and they all said, “They look like little pieces of doll furniture or some kinds of children’s toys to me.”  Now if we can assess that and we are NOT trained in the field of archaeology, then don’t you think it’s just possibly common sense that these people may have been making one of their pieces of art (and their pottery IS beautiful art!) and a child is sitting nearby – on this cliff dwelling, mind you – that the parent (or the pottery maker) may have said, let’s teach you how to do this and you can practice with your own little piece of clay.  Don’t we do basically the same thing when we allow our children to make little wood implements, crochet a small blanket, cross-stitch a sampler, or even cook in an Easy Bake Oven?

The whole point I was leading to about not knowing everything about the past and making an interpretation is that sometimes what these scientists say makes no logical sense whatsoever.  Here is the last example.  Now this ranger said that they believe these people may (and emphasizing “may”) have had some sort of verbal language, but it would have been very primitive if they had any at all and they certainly had no written language.  Then, he was also explaining in the kiva how this one little hole in the bottom of the floor represents the hole that mankind originated from.  (Some Native Americans believe that the original people came from the lower or under world up into the upper world – on earth.)  The problem with the idea that these people did not have speech is this…  There are these little holes in every single kiva in each of the 600 sites located throughout Mesa Verde alone.  There are also many more kivas throughout the southwest with the same little holes.  It’s obvious that they had some sort of purpose, but do you realize how many interpretations there could have been of that hole if there were no spoken language?  Try this at home – go out in your back yard and dig a little hole.  Then, tell your children you’re going to play a game and this is a quiet game with no talking.  Lead them into the back yard and show them the hole, do a little dance, make motions from the hole to the sky, do whatever you want – honestly – do whatever you so please, but you CANNOT talk (or use sign language – just motions).  After about 10 minutes of this, ask each child individually (because remember that they can’t communicate with one another without language and you don’t want them to influence each other’s comments) to interpret what you were telling them.  After each child verbalizes this to you once, have all your kids come back together and share their stories with one another.  I canguarantee you  that their stories will not be exactly the same.  Now, if you want to make this even more fun, do the same thing, but start with your oldest child and take them into the yard one at a time to see the hole.  (This represents each generation of non-talking natives passing the “story” down to their children.)  There is no possible way that you would end up with the same story from 600 years worth of people if the people couldn’t talk.  (And honestly, as I’ve said before, I bet the stories have changed a little anyway, but with oral story telling being amazingly accurate in some cultures, even if the story hasn’t changed a whole lot since 1200, they would have had to have spoken the stories – not motioned them.)

Finally, I’m going to put some pictures below from Mesa Verde.  Study these.  Look at them more than once and look carefully.  Think about the last time you told someone to do something and they got it backwards.  Think about the last time you were misunderstood.  Try to remember if you have ever encountered a deaf person who doesn’t know sign language or perhaps has very minimal sign language ability.  Think of a time when you’ve communicated with someone who spoke a different language and you’ve tried to give them a simple explanation of something – like where the bathroom is.  Did you get frustrated?  Did you ask for help?  Did you write a message to the person to clarify what you wanted?  Think about these questions for a minute – with the last two, you were still communicating in a language.  If you got frustrated because you asked your husband to buy bread on the way home from work and he forgot, can you imagine if you had no language and you had to rely on that man to provide food for your family all the time in the wilderness?   Do we really really think that humans were able to come to the point we are today and achieve all the greatness we have achieved without the use of intelligent communication?  I am not talking about grunts here, people.  I’m talking about intelligent communication – just like the communication that was had between Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  If we don’t believe in the basics of our religion and we can’t rely on faith that the very basic history in our Bible is true, then we have a greater problem than figuring out what a kiva was used for.

sanddunes2

The children (above and below) are taking their Junior Ranger oath at the Colorado Great Sand Dunes National Park. They’ve earned several of these badges or patches throughout our trip and it has been one of their favorite activities. The children get booklets (usually about 8 pages) and they have to complete activities based on age and usually they also have to attend one or two ranger programs, then they can turn in their booklets and earn a badge. The Junior Ranger program is a great activity at the various national parks and monuments.

sanddunes3

Hannah was very serious about her oath. 🙂

Great Sand Dunes - waterfall

I just thought this waterfall at the Great Sand Dunes was so pretty. It looks so peaceful, doesn’t it?

September 6, 2007

It’s actually about 2:30 in the morning now.  I hope that the past couple of entries I’ve written haven’t been too depressing for anyone.  I have been increasingly feeling the need to share these thoughts as we’ve traveled out west.  We’ve seen so many amazing things and the more we see, the more I am so impressed that there is no way these things got here by chance.  It is so obvious that we have a God who loves us so much, even though we have betrayed Him, that he not only created us and a place for us in which to live, but he created a beautiful place.  If our universe is this magnificent, can you imagine what heaven is going to be like?

I think my favorite place thus far has been Mesa Verde.  I really enjoyed the cave dwellings despite the ranger’s lack of knowledge of other interpretations of the dwellings’ purposes.  The dwellings are so incredibly beautiful and I would recommend to anyone taking a trip out west that you definitely visit that site in particular.

After we left the cave dwellings, we went up another couple of thousand feet and I began to feel very poorly the night before last.  This is when we slept at the top of a mountain – I think it was about 10,500 feet at the pass.  The next morning we drove down to about 8,100 feet to the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado.  These were very beautiful, but I couldn’t make it over the first dune.  I climbed up it and just fell down.  I waited there for about an hour while Chris and the children were playing one or two dunes over and finally I just had to go back to the van.  There was another man back at the visitor’s center later who was having altitude sickness and I wondered if this may have been my problem, too.  I take medicine and I have taken no more than usual, but I have felt so sick ever since we went up that highest peak night before last.  I can’t seem to shake the feeling of nausea, my head hurts, and I just feel generally weak and tired.  (The only reason I’m up for a few minutes right now is because I had a nap and I wanted to get a posting on before we leave the hotel in themorning.)

We decided to get a hotel room last night because while we were at the sand dunes, we were going to walk up to a waterfall and a local couple warned us against that.  They said that they had just returned from Colorado Springs (where we are now) and two people had been killed there by lightning.  They said they were tent camping.  There has been a TON of lightning here.  It’s very beautiful, but also quite intimidating.  The sky seems so much closer to the earth here – I guess it’s because we’re higher up, but because of that, the clouds seem so close to the earth.  The shapes are different and they just seem to connect to the earth in a strange way.  The lightning is no different.  Instead of having so much sheet lightning as we do in Tennessee, which isn’t quite as scary, out here the bolts reach menacingly from the inside of the clouds all the way down to the ground!

So, we got a hotel for the past two nights.

Today we went to the Focus on the Family headquarters here in Colorado Springs.  The children just loved Whit’s End and of course we had ice cream at the soda shop.  Chris and I had hamburgers, too.  It was one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever had – for less than $2.00!  (And it’s free to get into the building and Whit’s end anyway.)  We played there for a long time, but we’re going to go back tomorrow so that the children can record their own radio show.  They are very excited about this and we even get to take the CD home so that they can listen to it over and over and we can share it with Granny and our friends!

I met several homeschool moms while I was there at Whit’s End.  Their children were playing a game in the soda shop called Redemption.  It’s a card game sort of like Pokemon, but the characters, content, and point of the game are totally different.  It’s based on good and bad Biblical characters and you get points for playing or trading certain cards, each card has a Bible verse, and your points accumulate, etc.  There was one boy there named Matthew who has a website with more information about it.  He’s a very enterprising young 14 year old who actually sells the cards as part of a home business and he also has blogs and other links on his webpage at http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/77Matthew/ .  (His mom gave permission for this to be posted here.)  Anyway, we’re not into gaming cards at this time, but if my children begin to show any interest at all, I bet I’ll be steering them toward this game.  It sounds very fun as well as educational (in a Christian manner).

The moms and I talked quite a bit about homeschooling in Colorado.  It seems that they have a couple of good options on how to register the children and they seem to have lots of homeschoolers in this area so it’s great that they have community support.  Also, it’s very obvious to me the influence that Focus on the Family has had in this town.  This is the first time since we left Minneapolis that I feel I’m really in a “Christian” town again.  If you don’t believe there is a spiritual war going on, people, you need to leave your home and take a trip out west.  Some of the things you see will astound you – as they have me.  I’ve tried not to be too graphic in my descriptions of some of the things we’ve seen (other than talking about the reservations), but we’ve encountered so many secularists and also many homosexuals, I’ve seen lots of alcohol and drug abuse (remember I’m the one going in paying for gas, etc.), and we’ve had to carefully monitor what people are posting, listening to, or watching while the children are within range.  Last week we were at a chain hotel (name unmentioned) and it was a very nice stay, but the next morning when we went down to breakfast, they had the news on (which isn’t uncommon).  The main story of the morning was someone (I believe a politician) who had admitted to having a gay affair and then there was this whole discussion beginning about this issue, etc…  I asked to change the channel and the lady was very nice about it (and of course I asked the other people in there eating if they would mind if I turned the channel while the children were present and they didn’t object either).  An almost identical thing happened yesterday morning and there was only one lady in the dining room and she actually got irritated because I asked her if we could change it – this time the news was about gay sex (I’m guessing related to the same story of last week).  I explained my reason and she just acted like that was the craziest thing she’d ever heard of – changing a channel so that children wouldn’t listen to it.  If we don’t start protecting our children’s minds now, guys, and if we don’t pray over these young people every day and make a concentrated effort to win back our country, I worry about our freedoms in the future.  Already I’m being told that I can’t ask questions about the timeline of geology because it “belongs in church,” but everyone else there can present their different viewpoints???

We need to start realizing that we live in a SINFUL society and that is the root of all these problems.  It’s the cause of all our problems in society – not overpopulation.  J   We don’t even want to admit that sin is causing our problems because it goes back to the accountability thing.  WE don’t want to be accountable.  I have my own set of problems that are being caused by my own sinfulness.  I believe that the reason my legs hurt all the time and I got so sick when I had Hannah is because I sinned.  I will not go into detail about my sins (that’s between me and God), but I honestly have no doubt that that’s the reason I’ll be able to bear no more beautiful little children.  (I pray that the Lord can make good come out of this one day, though, by opening the doors for us to adopt.)

On to other subjects…  I have been dropping off lots of postcards to promote the book and I can’t wait to see if other homeschool parents find it useful.  I really believe the book will be a great asset to the other great homeschool materials on the market today and other than your curriculum, it’s really the only thing you need to buy other than great reading books (and there are some reading lists in The Homeschooler’s Book of Lists as well!).

I found out yesterday that my editor has been reading my blogs so I guess I’m going to have to work harder to promote the book now!

Odyssey 1

Christopher and Hannah check out the wardrobe in the Narnia area of the Focus on the Family children’s area.

Odyssey 2

I really like this picture of Christopher in the Narnia exhibit. He looks like a model.

Odyssey 3

You can get good view of the hall here.  The children’s area at Focus on the Family is truly wonderful.  They’ve done a great job of making it very kid-friendly and it’s quite appealing to adults, too.  I’ll try to post some more pictures tomorrow.  Hannah loved going to the bathroom because they have those little children toilets!

September 7, 2007

We are getting ready to go enjoy Colorado Springs some more today.  I was hoping we would have an opportunity to do several things here, but now I’m wondering if we will actually be able to do more than Focus on the Family.  I was looking at the travel time between here and St. Louis, Missouri, where we are supposed to end up sometime tomorrow to be able to enjoy all day Saturday there and it’s going to be a lot of driving between here and there.  By the way, several people have commented that their children would never sit still for six weeks in a car…

We have plenty of books on tape – particularly Your Story Hour and also some books that Chris borrowed from an online library and put on CD.  We also listen to Adventures in Odyssey, which are produced by Focus on the Family and are absolutely fabulous.  And, we have some really neat magnetic boards for the younger children that they can stick magnetic letters, words, symbols, and pictures to.  Unfortunately we can’t do a lot of reading in the van because it makes almost everyone car sick.  Micah read a book one day for about ten minutes and promptly threw up.  Sarah does very well reading in the van, but I wonder if that’s because she is so piled up with stuff that she can’t see out the edges of the van so it doesn’t affect her as much.  (She is in the back seat by herself.  Then we have two children on each of the other seats with a space in between them and that’s where their “supply boxes” are stacked.  They each have their own clear plastic box with colored pencils, coloring books, and a few little special things.  The other thing we’ve used a lot on the trip that I’ve even enjoyed are Brain Quest.  The kids are very much intellectually stimulated by these, but for me, they are actually like playing a Trivial Pursuit game where I actually know the answers.  (I never know the answers when we play Trivial Pursuit.)

One last observation I wanted to make before I head back east…  I think we should be more appreciative of water and less wasteful of it.  There seems to be water everywhere in the east, but out here people have to conserve water or they won’t have anything to drink.  One lady told me that tourists are especially wasteful because they come from places where water is plentiful, but there may be a time when water is dispersed differently and we need to learn now to be more conservative.  I agree with this to a degree and would like to offer a few suggestions:

–          If you are taking your all children to the bathroom in a row at the same toilet, why not suggesting that the last one flush rather having each one flush?  Flushing requires much water and I know this sounds gross, but it would save lots of water.

–          Keep water bottles in a cooler and don’t pour out water just because it gets a little warm.  Get used to drinking warmer water (so you don’t have to have all the energy required to refrigerate water to the coldness many of us Easterners like).  If you do feel like your water is going bad, use it for something else – to wash hands or to wet washcloths, etc. – rather than just pouring it out.  If you must pour it out and you’re traveling, find a nearby plant and at least pour it on the plant.  It will benefit from the drink.

–          Don’t worry so much about how things look – Do you really need to spend 20 minutes with a water hose on washing your vehicle?  If you must keep it looking nice or if you’re concerned about rust from salt or something, try using a damp rag and just go over dirty areas.

–          Take 5 minute showers instead of 15 minute showers.

–          Make sure all faucets are completely turned off after you use them.  I’ve been into several bathrooms during this trip where the sinks actually still had water running out of the faucets when I’ve entered the bathroom.  That’s sooo wasteful.  I’m not even talking about dripping water (which should also be prevented).  This water was a steady stream running out of the faucet.  (It makes me wonder if the person came from a place where they normally have automatic faucets.  I can’t imagine a reason why anyone would leave water running like you wash your hands and not turn it off.

–          Reuse water when you can.  If you would put water in a tub in your sink to wash and rinse your dishes, then you could take the tubs out into your yard and empty that water on your plants.  If you have little children, give them a bath at the same time or one after another in the same water.  (Just be sure to wash them from cleanest to dirtiest so that you don’t dirty the water too much with the first child.)

Perhaps many of you have already thought of these things, but most of us need to do more to put these things into action for the benefit of all of us.  We are doing much better to try to take care of our resources, but we could do even better.  I think the big issue is that we need to start with individuals and work our way up.  If every ONE person tried to make a difference, then we would have a different world.  I might talk more about next time, but you know what I’m talking about.  If each person who smokes would find a cigarette dispenser instead of throwing those butts on the side of the street, then we wouldn’t have piles of cigarette butts on the sides of the road, especially beside traffic lights and other stopping points.  They think ONE butt doesn’t make a difference, but in actuality that one just adds to the growing pile.  (And I’ve never understood why they put ashtrays in cars if smokers don’t use them anyway – do we have a bunch of lazy people who just don’t want to empty the ashtrays into the trash can later?  That’s ridiculous.  It’s the same way I feel about parents who change their children’s diapers and leave the nasty things beside the road rather than holding on to them – no matter how stinky – until they find a trash can!)

OK, now I’m beginning to feel like I’m on my soap box so I better get off.  Have a great day!

Sonya

 

September 7, 2007

We drove through Kansas today.  I was hoping we would be able to spend the day in St. Louis today AND tomorrow, but we just didn’t make it there today.  We did have a fabulous time at Rock City in Kansas, though.  It’s a little northwest of Salina.  I’ll put pictures on tomorrow or Sunday.  I can’t wait until Sunday!  Not only is it the Lord’s Day and we’ll be back in Tennessee where we might be able to find a church, but also we’ll be going to the resort and I can take a nice loooong shower.  That will be great!

The children have been having a terrific time.  We’ve spent numerous hours in the van yesterday and today.  I believe we drove for about 6 hours yesterday until I finally had to rest so we stopped at a rest stop about half way through Kansas.  Then today we drove for about an hour or so, stayed at Rock City and I used the grill to make us a nice lunch (chicken, black beans, and corn – a great stir fry), then we’ve been driving ever since.  It’s 10:30 right now.  Now we did stop for a couple of bathroom breaks and I went into Topeka and dropped off some more promotional postcards for The Homeschooler’s Book of Lists.

The bookstores have been very receptive of the postcards and I hope that they actually put them out for the customers.  I believe homeschoolers will be appreciative of knowing that there is a new resource out there from a Biblical world view.  The editors at Bethany House worked very diligently with me to ensure that the book contains a true Biblical perspective, which is of course the only perspective we would want to promote.  I am grateful to them for helping me make sure the material is accurate, but also honoring to God.  The only bookstore that has not been receptive to the postcards was one in an un-named large city where the manager – who had a very high-pitched voice and feminine clothing – told me that they were not allowed to put out promotional materials for books and I said that was funny because I’ve done this for a while and I’ve never had any bookstore tell me that – including others in his own chain.  He said he would look into it and I said, “Well, you have a very large homeschooling population in this city and I believe your customers would be very grateful if you would make the postcards available.  It would be great if the book were available on the shelf, too, if you could do that.”  He said, “I will check into the postcards, but if they want the book, we can order it.”  Now see, I think that right there is how particular groups continue to try to dominate our society.  Instead of making products available to the general public and letting them make the decision, he was, in my opinion, prejudiced against the product and therefore decided not to promote it even in a passive manner.  There were several books with skulls, witches, and other very secular material lining the aisles.  I am so thankful that thus far this has NOT been the primary response.  I promptly went across the street to another huge chain bookstore and the manager there had tattoos, a ponytail, and was very casually dressed.  He was as polite as could be, told me he would be happy to put the cards out, would get some of the books to go on the shelf, and he gave me information for authors’ booksignings and told me to consider coming back sometime for a book signing if I was ever in the area again.  (That has been my only disappointment about the trip – that I couldn’t do actual signings as we traveled, but I can’t be too sad about it.  I learned a long time ago that it’s funny how God has a plan for everything and obviously doing signings on this trip was not in the plan, but also it might have worked out better anyway because I was able to spend plenty of time with the children just enjoying our nation and I have met plenty of homeschoolers, homeschool friendly people, and retailers who have learned about the book.  So, I think I’ve done my best to promote the book and I’ll do signings when I go home.)

Some of you have asked how to help make the book a success.  Here are some suggestions:

1)      Buy the book and use it.  Finding out that it is useful and that your homeschooling is so much easier with it will encourage you to tell other moms about it.  Letting other moms know about the book is one of the main things you can do.

2)      Call your local bookstores and ask them if they have the book in stock.  This takes about three minutes, but is possibly one of the BEST, most helpful things you can do.  If the book is on the shelf, then moms who come in for help right now will be able to purchase the book.  And remember, some of these moms may not be Christian.  It is my belief that some people use the secular timelines and inaccurate information simply because they use what’s in front of them and/or they don’t know what to believe.  I believe at least some of those people would be willing to use a Biblically based timeline (that includes such dates as the Flood and the birth of Christ) if they actually had one.

3)      Please send me an e-mail and request postcards for your local support group.  I would be happy to mail you postcards for your personal use (to give out to people you meet who might be interested in homeschooling) or for the use of your group.

Thanks for reading.  Also, I asked this of my friends in Johnson City, but if you would like for me to send your child a postcard, let me know.  At this point, I might make it home before the postcard gets there, but that’s ok.  And the big deal is not to get a postcard from me, I could sign it Mickey Mouse or something.  I just think it’s cool to watch children get mail.  They love it so much!

Oh, I remember one more thing I wanted to mention before I forget…  The kids had been begging to go to a McDonald’s while we were further out west.  They kept saying, “Look at those great, huge play places.  We just have to stop!!!”  Of course I can’t stand begging, whining, or other intrusive conversation so I have told them “no” over and over, but also said that perhaps before we went back to Nashville, I would stop at one of the play places.  Now I already said that they’ve been in the van yesterday and today for many, many hours so I said, “OK, tonight is the night.  We’ll stop and play while I update the website and you guys can play.”  Well, we noticed that we hadn’t seen any playlands for quite some time and we had all been looking diligently.  Finally, after a few hours of looking, I saw a place with the tell-tale signs of a playland – the larger room added on to the eating area.  Well, we got off the interstate, pulled in, and I didn’t see any play equipment.  I went in the McDonald’s and the worker told me that the playland had been taken out about two years ago.  I told him we were going east and I wanted to know if there were any others nearby (before the kids fell asleep).  He checked with the manager and told me that there would be no more further east because they are removing all the playlands from the McDonald’s.  He said he wasn’t sure why, but I’m sure most of us would guess it has something to do with lawsuits.  This was disappointing because I’ve been telling the children for two weeks that we would stop at a playland eventually, but not yet…. I said there are always going to be more McDonald’s with playlands, etc.  You know what I mean.  So I did apologize and admitted that I was wrong.  I guess you can’t rely on anything any more.  (This proves once again that the only thing truly dependable in our lives is our relationship with Christ.)  I realize it’s a silly little thing, but now how many of you can honestly tell me that you knew there would come a day – soon – when all the playlands would be gone.  This guy said that their goal is to have all the playlands removed within two years.  Who knew?!?

Sonya

 

September 8, 2007

I think the McDonald’s guy was pulling my leg about the removal of all the playlands.  Not three exits down from his, there was a huge McDonald’s playland and we’ve passed a dozen more since then.  He seemed like a nice guy so I don’t know if someone passed him incorrect information or if he just thought it would be funny to tell me a fib or if he just liked us so much, he wanted to ensure that we ate at HIS McDonald’s – since that’s just what it achieved.  Oh well…

I’m very tired and while I love to travel, I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to being at home soon.  We have less than one week left and I can’t wait to spend the last few days at the resort enjoying the sun (hopefully! – It looks like there is rain in the forecast.).  Right now I am very tired, though, so I’m going to bed.

Today Hannah was drawing little pipes coming out of the people’s heads on the paper she was drawing on.  She said the pipes were sucking out the people’s brains and the stuff gathering at the other end of the pipe was not very pretty looking.  Now this comes from a four-year-old (disclaimer – she has three older brothers).  Don’t you ever just wonder if we’re somehow damaging our children for life and we don’t even realize it or do you perhaps wonder if people like Albert Einstein and Leonardo DaVinci had similar episodes in childhood?  Life is such a mystery and it is certainly never dull with children around…

Sonya

I hope you’re enjoying the adventure with us.  Please click here to read the final page of our adventure.

If you would like to go back to page three, click here.

If you would like to begin reading about the beginning of this trip, use this link.

Trip Out West 2007 – page 3

Trip Out West

(August 23, 2007 – August 31, 2007)

August 23, 2007

We went to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir practice tonight.  It is usually held in the tabernacle, but unfortunately tonight it was in the conference center.  I was really looking forward to seeing the tabernacle.  It is certainly impressive from the outside.  Anyway, the signing was truly magnificent.  We had the pleasure of being there with the 69th regiment from World War II and the choir dedicated The Battle Hymn of the Republic to them.  This is one of their most requested songs and I was very glad we got to hear it.  I hope to get some of their music when we return home.

Other than that, today we went to the Great Salt Lake, but we definitely did not get in.  It was very smelly and there was stuff that looked just like cow manure all along the beach.  The man there said it was brine shrimp (dead, decaying shrimp and baby flies, etc.).  He seemed very excited that their whole life cycle takes place there and normally I am also thrilled about things like that, but I just could not bring myself to allow the children to get in the water or even wade in something that smelled like the farms back home.  So, we came back to the hotel and I let them swim for a couple of hours in the pool.  This satisfied their need for water.

Oh yeah, also today we went to the Planetarium downtown.  We can get in on one of our science museum passes.  That was fun.  We were able to see some exhibits and also go to one dome movie.  This was neat since the movie played all above your head like being under the stars outside.  The kids enjoyed it a lot, too.

Tomorrow we’re going to check out of the hotel and we’ll be staying with a family here in Salt Lake for one night.  They told me that the state used book sale is taking place THIS Saturday, while I’m here!!!  Isn’t that just God’s great providence?!  I think I am beginning to have book withdrawal.  I haven’t been to any bookstores since I left except to buy Sarah the second book in the Eragon series.  She has read the first one four or five times and was very anxious for the second book.  She is devouring it now.  Daniel was so impressed that he wants to read the first one.  Sarah was greatly offended that I told her to let him read it because he is only 6 and she said he isn’t “ready for it,” but I told her if he wasn’t, he’d figure that out soon enough himself.

Tonight we actually went out to eat because I didn’t want to get in trouble for setting up our little borrowed propane stove in the hotel room.  The girl asked for our name because we had to wait a few minutes and I said, “Haskins” (of course).  I watched as she wrote it down and she wrote “Hasbeans.”  I just about laughed out loud.  I didn’t say anything.

Then, I asked the waiter if they had sweet tea and he said yes.  I was very excited.  He brought out the drinks and he brought me a glass of tea and a glass of ice.  This was fine so I just poured the tea in the ice and tasted it.  It was definitely NOT sweet tea.  I said, you don’t have sweet tea, do you?  He said, “Well, isn’t that sweet?  I brought you ice.”  I looked very confused at this and said, “You know sweet tea should have sugar in it, right?”  He said, “No, we don’t ever have sugar in the tea so when you said ‘sweet,’ I thought you meant with ice.”  Very strange… I don’t know how you can jump from sweet (sugar) to cold (with ice), but a similar thing happened a week or so ago and I may have mentioned it.  It’s obviously a location thing.

It’s not just them misunderstanding, either.  The other day we got one of those KFC deals with 10 pieces of meat and then an extra four pieces with the meal food – all for under $20 (which is our daily food budget).  Anyway, after I ordered, the girl said, “Is this to stay or not?”  I had no idea what she meant and I said, “What?”  She said, “Is it to stay?”  I said, “Stay where?”  She said, “Well, here, I guess.”  I said, “I think you’re asking me if I’m going to eat it here and if so, the answer is yes.”  I told her that where I come from, people ask, “Is this for here or to go?” and I just didn’t understand the “stay” part although it makes perfect sense when you think about it.  I only mention all this because most of you who know me well know how much language interests me and it is really fascinating to hear the different meanings of words and also the different phrases in use in different parts of the U.S. where they are speaking the same language, but still there are different “translations.”

Speaking of language, I don’t know what the immigrant ratio is here in Salt Lake City, but I’ve never seen so many immigrants – not even in large cities I’ve visited.  It’s very interesting.  There are signs in Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese – there are many ethic restaurants – and I’ve honestly seen more people of some other ethnicity than Caucasian that it’s truly astonishing.

I met two young men this morning in the breakfast room who were traveling down from Vancouver, Canada all the way down to Texas and back.  I used to love to do that sort of thing (and obviously still do) so we hit it off.  I’m not sure which one of us or why we started the conversation, but we had a very nice chat over breakfast.  They seemed like nice young men who were just out exploring the world.  I hope they have a great time and make it home safely.  I suggested that they try to swing by the Badlands on their way home and they said they would definitely consider it until Sarah said that they should watch out for the rattlesnakes (they want to hike a bunch).  Then they said the would definitely go there.  🙂  That so reminds me of myself when I was 20.  Now I am obviously more careful because of the children, but I think there is nothing wrong with having a sense of adventure.  I think God just instills more of that in some people and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  It’s nice to have differences in people.

Well, I need to get the children to bed.  I promised them that if we get up early enough, I’d take them for breakfast and then to play in the pool before we have to check out.  If we’re going to do that, I’d better put them to bed now.  It’s already late.

Please e-mail if you want me to mail your child a postcard from out west and I haven’t already talked with you about it.  My e-mail is sonya@sonyahaskins.com .  I know it’s exciting to get mail and I’m happy to do it!

Sonya

August 29, 2007

We have seen the Grand Canyon!  I haven’t written in a few days because we’ve just simply been busy going from one place to another.  Saturday was my birthday (37).  My aunt called me at 8 a.m. (10:00 her time) to wish me a happy birthday, which was so very sweet.  I think she and my mom try to see who can reach me first on my birthday each year.

Anyway, I believe it was last Friday that the children and I drove out to the great Salt Lake.  I was not very impressed with this.  The ranger there was quite excited about the little flies all over the place and said that they grow up right there in the lake.  They are brine flies, he explained to the children.  After stepping in about 3 inches of decaying brine shrimp, though, and covering our noses from the smell, I just decided that we absolutely were not getting in it.  I think it’s great to let nature take it’s course and I’m so glad that they have allowed it to remain in it’s natural state, but that doesn’t mean I want to swim in it.  J

Friday night a very nice family from Salt Lake hosted the children and me and allowed us to stay in their home for the night.  This was so nice of them.  They are just beginning their homeschooling journey this year and their boys are around 6 and 10.  I believe they will do absolutely fine because they already have the primary ingredients of what I believe to be a successful homeschool family – a desire to learn, a devotion to the Lord, and a family dedicated to one another.  The mom (I’m not using names here to protect their privacy) was so sweet and truly has a heart to teach those children about our Lord Jesus.  I believe she will do a great job.

Saturday I managed to go to a book sale near Salt Lake City.  The family I stayed with told me about it and asked if I wanted to go.  Ha!!  I don’t think they understood my devotion to books until we arrived at the sale and I began my “hunt.”  I found a few great buys, but honestly I got some really good deals off the free table.  I really do believe the Lord provides me with these opportunities so that I can share the blessing with others so I’ll offer some of these goodies to my friends in the Tri-Cities area moms when I return.

Sunday we traveled most of the day and arrived near Bryce Canyon Sunday evening.  Monday we visited Bryce and it was beautiful.  I actually enjoyed Red Canyon as much as I did Bryce.  I believe this is the name of the area you have to travel through to get to Bryce.  It was so pretty with the vibrant red rocks.

Bryce Canyon

Here we are at the top of Bryce Canyon.

 

 

Bryce Canyon 2

This was truly an amazing site.

bryce flowers

I have truly been amazed by the flowers out west.  The desert seems so desolate, but if you look closely, there is so much life and it is so beautiful in its own way.

Monday evening we went on to Zion National Park, but we didn’t enter because it was too late.  We slept that night in a teepee.  This is a camping area and sort of informational tourist attraction with Native American guides / educators.  The educator who did the program the evening we were there is a native Sioux and his wife is Navajo.  We truly enjoyed the program and Hannah and I had the opportunity dance with him on stage.  I’m not sure what sort of dance we did, but I’m sure he tricked me into doing a rain dance because it certainly brought more rain.  That night we got very wet again (partly because we didn’t know that we could actually close the top of the teepee so it rained in on us quite a bit.  The next morning the place was drenched and we drove through several inches of water to get to the main building.  There we found out that there were flash floods throughout the valley.  (Oh, I also want to mention here that there were the most amazing little hummingbirds flying all around the Native American lodge there.  It was soooo cool.  The children and I have never been so close to hummingbirds, nor have we seen so many.  I know without a doubt that I’ve seen more hummingbirds since I’ve been out west than I’ve seen in my entire life back home.  They seem so much more plentiful here and they just fascinate me.  I even got to see several of the little birds perching!)

Sioux Indian dance

Hannah and I did an “Indian dance” with a native Sioux just before we entered Zion National Park. This man was very nice, answered all of our many questions, and invited us to dance with him on stage. Hannah and I were the only two who took the invitation and I had to carry her. Anyway, I enjoyed it!

 

 

Zion Park 1

A friendly little collared lizard posed for this photograph in Zion National Park.

 

 

zion waterfall 1

zion flowers 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are two of my favorite pictures of native flowers and a waterfall in Zion National Park.  Though we have experienced much unwanted rain at night, one of the advantages is getting to see sights like this waterfall, which workers say is completely dried up when they haven’t had a heavy rain, which is most of the year.  So on that note I was thankful for the rain – that day at least! 🙂

zion waterfall

Here we are in front of the waterfall.

 

 

Also, before I forget, here is a rundown on the weather phenomenon we’ve experienced while traveling:

  • St. Louis, Missouri  –  record heat wave  (Our van must have been close to 150 degrees inside after sitting all day with the windows closed.)
  • Minnesota  –  severe thunderstorm warnings, torrential rain and approx. 70 mile per hour winds that knocked down tons of trees all over the area
  • South Dakota – While I was with my brother (in a house!) the weather was beautiful.
  • Black Hills, South Dakota – They said they never get tornado warnings, but sure enough one came while we were there, along with torrential rains, wind, hail, etc.  We were in a tent – getting VERY wet!
  • Traveling to Yellowstone – We began to get nervous because the clouds were very funnel shaped, seemed connected from sky to earth, and we ended up driving right into more hail and lots of rain.
  • At Yellowstone – There was a cold wave and we about froze!  It was around 35 at night.
  • Salt Lake City – Once again, while I was staying in someone’s home, the weather was beautiful.
  • Zion National Park – Rain, rain, rain.  We watched a film that said they only get about 12 inches per year and they were really behind this year (someone said that), but sure enough while we were there, it rained.  I didn’t really care about this so much except that I had promised Hannah this would be the one place we could play in the creeks (upon the recommendation of my good friend Cindy) and of course they were absolutely black with silt and high and running fast and there was no way we could get in any of them.  I got a little sad at that, but we’re still looking for a creek to play in.

After Zion, we were on our way to the Grand Canyon and stopped at a little town… I can’t remember the name at the moment, but it might have been Freedonia.  The people there were so nice and it was just a friendly little town.  We stayed there a while and ate, bought our groceries for the canyon, and also I looked for a pair of shoes for Daniel.  (We had lost one of his shoes!  Don’t do this out west.  A lady told me here that they have to order everything via Internet.  We decided that he would just have to wear his water shoes, but finally today we found his other shoe – after I took a bunch of stuff out of the van.)  J

After leaving there, we were on our way to the Grand Canyon, but we needed to sleep and I saw a sign for Coral Pink Sand Dunes.  Now I loooove sand dunes.  This was one of my favorite parts of living in North Carolina when I was about 12.  My brother and I just loved to go over to the dunes near Morehead City and play.  So I was very excited about the dunes and we pulled in there for the night.  The next day we had the best time and it was the most fun as far as the whole family just having a GREAT time together doing the same time that we’ve had the entire trip.  One of my few regrets on the trip is that we didn’t stay longer.  We spent several hours that morning enjoying the dunes and hiking them, but we were supposed to be checked out by 2:00 and we did.  I wish we had stayed another day.

sand dunes 3

This is Christopher, Daniel, Micah, Hannah and Sarah (in order from top to bottom) walking up one of the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.  It looks like they are VERY far away from us, but it’s strange in the desert how things look so much further away.  I guess it has something to do with a lack of concrete landmarks.  You can look at the footprints between me and Hannah to see that they are really only about 15 feet away.

 

 

Sand dunes 2

Here the children are running down a portion of the sand dunes.  Every time I caught up, they were ready to go on to another place.  I crawled up the largest sand dune – the one in the picture right before this one.  Honestly, I was on my hands and knees trying to make it to the top.  My legs haven’t healed enough to be able to walk that far in difficult terrain (feet getting stuck in sand) so I was on all fours, but I made it to the top!!  And then I rolled down to get back to the bottom.  🙂

 

 

sand dunes 1

Daniel is beginning to feel the pain as well and decided to crawl for a while, too!

 

 

So, on to the Grand Canyon yesterday and we slept in the van last night.  Actually, we were going to sleep in the Kaibab National Forest and we considered the campground, but it was $16 just to tent camp and they didn’t have any showers and the toilets were broken (actually the water line was broken so no water).  The people there were very nice, though, and told us that if we would drive a mile up the road that we could pull off in one of the “wild” camping areas and sleep there if we wanted.  We did this, but it was incredibly dark.  There were literally no lights around for miles (except for the few lights at the campground that we couldn’t see anyway due to trees).  We were parked there for about 15 minutes getting the kids ready for bed when a white van pulled in.  It made us kind of nervous and they pulled beside our van, but I couldn’t get my window down and they drove on to the camping place behind us.  I got out and walked over to the van to tell them that if they wanted to park right behind us (in the same “lot,” but this area was very big – big enough for four vehicles – that this might be a little safer.  It turned out to be two guys and they were slowly walking toward me saying how this sounded like a good idea when the moonlight shined just the right way and I noticed that one of the guys (the larger one) had something long and wide in his right hand.  I quickly said, “Well, have a great night” and ran back to my van.  I jumped in and locked the doors.  I was telling Chris about it and about then the van pulled in behind ours.  I decided that there was no way on earth I was sleeping near those guys until I felt a measure of comfort that they were safe to be near so I asked Chris to go introduce himself to them and he really didn’t want to do that so I got out (again) and walked back there to where they were walking around the campfire pit.  One of the guys said, “I guess we scared you a minute ago, huh?”  I said, “Yes, you did.”  He said, “Well, we had only gotten the machete out of the van to chop up some fire wood.”  !!!!!!!!!   I’m not one to easily scare, but I’m telling you that I was having visions of way too many scary movies that my brother and I watched together when we were younger.  They invited us to join them at their campfire and share some whiskey (!!!), but I told them that we were probably going to go to bed and I hope they had a good night.  After I got back into the van (and kind of yelled at my husband a little bit for being willing to let me be the one killed), I prayed that the Lord would not let me go to sleep if there was any harm I needed to fear and I asked Him to just lay it on my heart to leave immediately if we needed to leave.  (I’ve done this before and I can’t tell you the times we’ve fled from unseen danger and found out something later just because we have such an awesome God.)  Anyway, it was obviously fine because I must have fallen asleep within minutes.  I don’t think I could have done this without God just touching my heart with peace and putting me to sleep.  (And again, I thank you all for your prayers on this trip.)

Grand Canyon 1

Daniel and Christopher look over the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

 

 

Grand Canyon 2

…a view from the Grand Canyon’s North Rim

 

 

Grand Canyon 3

I just love these flowers!  They seem so much more abundant and colorful than back east.

 

 

Grand Canyon 4

Micah, Daniel, Hannah and Christopher pose in an Indian ruins site, but I can’t remember the location at the moment.  I’ll add this later.  These were great ruins.

 

 

Grand Canyon 5

Aren’t these flowers just beautiful?!?  These were just growing on the side of the road.

 

Today we spent the day hiking along the Grand Canyon rim and just enjoying the view.  Actually, this wasn’t the most fun part of our trip simply because at some of the other places (like Zion), we were at the bottom of the canyons (well, at Zion we drove from top to bottom and back), but at the Grand Canyon, you’re literally at the edge of the top of the canyon and this just isn’t the safest place for little kids.  I didn’t see that we would be able to do a lot more tomorrow so we decided to use these few days that would have been spent at the Grand Canyon going to see some other things we really weren’t going to have time to do (like Mesa Verde, of which I’ve heard GREAT things!).  Oh yes, and the other disappointing part of the Grand Canyon is that the children really have been working diligently on their junior ranger badges the entire trip and we have to attend a ranger program for them to get a signature.  We went to the one on geology and it was soooo extremely about the timeline of the Earth’s history.  I didn’t mind all the information on geology itself.  That is very informative and obviously accurate – things they can prove – but I have a big problem with them making statements about things they can’t prove.  Of course I asked lots of questions and I was the “bad guy” and there were two men (together…, I think) in the audience who just got irate at every one of my questions (only about four and they asked many more than that).  Finally, one of the guys got so mad and basically asked me to keep my “opinion to myself” and I told him that I believe it is imperative to share two viewpoints when the one hasn’t been proven as absolute fact and the fact that he was presenting it as 100% fact when it isn’t is bothersome to me, especially when I have five small impressionable children there listening to and learning from every word.  I asked the ranger if he had considered the possibility that if rocks were heated to a higher temperature, could it possibly have the same effect as time – the time he was talking about as a slow change over 400 BILLION years.  He said that this was impossible, but that yes, rocks are changed due to higher temperature and I said isn’t science about making a hypothesis, testing it and trying to prove that.  He said yes, but then he said, no, actually, science is about accepting that things change…  (So now the very definition of what makes science pure is being changed to meet their needs.)  Anyway, I asked if this were possible, could he prove with 100 percent certainty that his hypothesis is accurate and he said no, that it is not 100%.  I very politely said that this is all I wanted him to say for the benefit of myself, my children, and others who did not believe the same thing.  The guy with the other guy at this point about went ballistic and asked me if I thought it would be appropriate to teach about evolution in church and if not, then why did I feel it was appropriate to teach “church” in a science setting – this geology talk.  The funny thing is that I wasn’t trying to preach or anything – I was simply asking the ranger to admit that he couldn’t prove his hypothesis with 100% certainty.  These people are so threatened by the least little bit of disagreement that I think they’ve brainwashed themselves and so many other people around them to think that anyone who doesn’t agree must be crazy….

Well, anyway, that was very difficult because there were probably 40 or 50 people at this talk and one lady came up to me (out of all those) and said that she absolutely agreed with what I had said and that it bothered her (and her husband there with her) that they present what they are saying as FACT with no further discussion.  (Oh yeah, that also reminds me … when someone asked him about some rocks that were “out of place” based on his theories, he said he chose to leave that out because it was too difficult to explain.  AND, he also spent a good five minutes telling us how we evolved from the little bacteria that lived on the earth so many millions of years ago…. Now how is that essential to a talk on geology???)  Anyway, and after the talk a lady whose husband obviously agreed with the ranger and these men came up to me and whispered “you are very smart.”  I got the impression just from that and something else she said that she was going to think about all this, but sadly she didn’t feel comfortable saying this aloud.  I had talked with her earlier about something and both she and her husband were very nice during all this.

So, by the end of the day, I was just ready to leave the Grand Canyon.  We have been driving for a few hours and we’re in a little town called Tuba, I think.  We’re just staying here for the night for a place to rest and then in the morning we’re going to go through the painted desert, then on down to the Petrified Forest and another Painted Desert.  I can’t wait!  I really love the desert areas most, though I also love playing in water when we can.  I’ve been able to take pictures of several more absolutely beautiful flowers.  It’s amazing to me that among the sand (in the deserts) or on the cliffs (like at the canyons) how it can seem to barren and desolate, yet if you just take the time to look closely, there is so much beauty and life.  There are little critters everywhere and there is life coming from every crevice.  It’s wonderful.  It’s amazing.

Well, it’s about 3 a.m. and I’m feeling very tired.  I’m going to try to post this in the morning.

Sonya

 

August 31, 2007

Today we were going to go on to the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert, but we ended up getting side tracked.  I had a lot of work I needed to catch up on for my homeschool group so we got a hotel last night and I spent the evening working on our group website while Chris and the children swam.  This was good because it’s good for him to have some time alone with them and I enjoy working on the website.  This morning I dropped by a bunch more promotional postcards at the Barnes & Noble in Flagstaff, Arizona so hopefully we’ll see some increase in sales there.  The Lord has really put me in contact with the right people as I’ve made the trip because I have met so many homeschoolers or people who are good friends with someone who homeschools, etc.  I’m hoping many of these people will contact me later with requests for more postcards to give out at their local and regional homeschool events.

After I worked on the computer some more this morning and we did our “errands,” we made a stop at the Lowell Observatory, where they discovered Pluto – the planet that is no longer a planet.  Actually it’s considered a dwarf planet now.  We got in free because of our reciprocal agreement since we have membership at the Hands On Museum.  This is a great deal!  You pay less than $100 for a membership to Hands On and you can go there all year, but then you can also go to about 250 other science / hands on type museums across the U.S. for free (or reduced).  Anyway, we had a great tour, got to look through a solar telescope at the sun, and then went through the exhibits.  The tour was great and the guide was very knowledgeable.  I was greatly impressed by the fact that he knew most of the answers to the questions and I was incredibly impressed by the questions my kids asked!!  They are such voracious little readers and I have been amazed on this trip by the things they know that I haven’t taught them, which honestly seems to be way too much.  …  I’m glad they are developing their own interests and learning without my guidance.  They were asking mathematical questions (how many miles per hour is the probe traveling to Pluto), scientific questions (what is in a meteorite rock), social questions (how do you feel about Pluto no longer being a planet), and so on.  We learned a lot.  It was especially neat to visit the exhibits telling about the founder of the observatory, the guys who discovered Pluto, the 11-year old girl who suggested the name Pluto and more.

After that we went to the Meteor Crator.  This is a crater almost 1 mile across that was formed by a meteor when God created the world.  (Of course their version was a little different… 🙂  )  Despite the time differences, there were some really neat exhibits and we learned some there as well.  I feel like we will have done six months worth of school in this six week trip.  We have even been playing Brain Quest in the van so that’s covering math and English!  We’re also listening to Your Story Hour, which are terrific history tapes if you’re not familiar with them.  I would most highly recommend them.

meteor crater

 

 

 

Hannah is trying to look at the meteor crater through this telescope at Meteor Crater, but she’s not tall enough so she’s actually looking at the sky.  I just thought the picture was cute.

 

 

meteor crater 2

Hannah, Daniel and Christopher pose at the top of the crater.

 

 

 

 

 

 

meteor crater 3

All the children pose on a rock at the top of the crater (on top of the world we told them), which is why it’s so windy here. You can see the storm clouds still following us.

meteor crater 4

Hannah is in a phase right now where she thinks it’s incredibly funny to look irritated. She says, “Take my picture while I look mad!” and then immediately afterward she laughs hysterically.

meteor crater 5

Just so you’ll believe me about the storms surrounding us… I took this photo from the road to meteor crater. And these people say they never get any rain?!?

Now we’re on the way to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert for tomorrow.  We stopped at a McDonald’s to use the Internet real quick and eat (which I really really really don’t like, but I figured since we were using their services, we should be respectful and eat).  We’re going to sleep somewhere in the van tonight because it’s supposed to rain – again.  We’ll get up early in the morning and perhaps we’ll even try to get up early enough to see the sun rise over the desert.  I bet that would be pretty.  We’ll see, though…

Sonya

Petrified Forest

If you look closely here, you can see that we are standing at the base of a tree turned on its side. This is called Old Faithful and it actually has some of its roots preserved as well as the tree itself. This is rare. The size of these trees is amazing. Chris is 5’8 or 5’9 (depending on his mood) so that can give you an idea of the width of the bottom of the tree.

Petrified Forest - painted desert

These are some petroglyphs we saw in the Petrified Forest. There were many of these and they are very impressive historical remnants from the Native American civilizations who lived here.

If you have enjoyed reading about our trip out west, we still have a few adventures left.  Click here to read more!

If you would like to go back to page two, click here.

Trip Out West 2007 – page 2

Our Trip Out West 

(August 12, 2007 – August 20, 2007)

August 13

We went to the Minnesota Children’s Museum and the Science Museum of Minnesota.  These are both absolutely amazing places!  The children’s museum has a special area for Curious George.  (I’m putting some of those pictures below.)  And at the science center we went to the traveling Pompeii exhibit.  I’ll put pictures of both places below.

 Christopher is in the turtle habitat.

turtle

science center 3

 

I just thought this was so cute.  All the children (except Sarah) were making wind toys.  They worked very diligently for about 45 minutes just on this activity.

 

 

 

childrens museum

 

 

 

 

The children absolutely loved this area of the children’s museum.  They moved blocks around a conveyer system for an hour.  It was great to see the cooperation involved.  I wonder if I could create some sort of system like this to make housework any more fun …

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

We are in South Dakota today.  There is still a lot of corn and I found out that the short plants all over the place are soybeans.  I had told the children they were probably mustard greens or turnip greens… I guess that shows how much I know.

My brother and his wife moved out here a couple of years ago and have a little house in Colman, SD.  It’s a very little town and they are letting us stay in a small house just around the corner so we’re not camping for a few days.  It will give me a good opportunity to clean out the van and also to clean up the tent and tarp.  After the storms in Minnesota, the tent and supplies are very dirty.  Not only that, but when I went to pack up the tent, we were running late to go meet my publisher and I couldn’t get all the water OUT of our waterproof tent so I just left it in there, shoved it in the back of the van, and now I have a mess to clean up.  Oh well…

The children and I had a wonderful tour of Bethany Press.  It is really a great company whose primary focus is really missions.  They reach the world through books and they even train missionaries there.  It’s neat.  And I never knew all the details of exactly how a book is printed so it was great to see the process from the computer all the way through the printing process.

Yesterday afternoon, after having lunch with two of my editors from Bethany House, the children and I went to the Minnesota Children’s Museum and also the Science Museum of Minnesota.  These two places were absolutely fabulous!  I’m going to post some pictures soon.  Hopefully I’ll get to do that tomorrow.  I’m hoping to get all my internet work caught up while I’m here at my brother’s house.  They are very generously allowing us to stay in the guest house, use their Internet, and (the best part!!) do some laundry.  Actually, the best part is that we get to visit and I don’t get to see my brother and his family much now that they are in South Dakota.

Other than a few minor inconveniences and the van being a total disaster, all is going well.  I’m even feeling very good and have had no problems with my legs or abdomen out of the ordinary.  I’m thankful for that.

August 15, 2007

Today my sister-in-law, her children, an extra boy she was watching, and my family went to the Kirby Science Discovery Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  That was fun.  Tomorrow we’re going to the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead and museum in DeSmet.  I think the children will enjoy that.  We’ve been listening to On the Banks of Plum Creek on audio during the past few days.  And for the past couple of years Chris and I and his dad and step-mom have bought Sarah all the Little House videos so the children actually have watched that at home.  It’s always nice when they can integrate as many senses as possible with their learning.  I think they absorb so much more that way.

Well, I want to go visit my brother.  I don’t know when I’ll get to see him again soon.

Sonya

Daniel, Hannah, and Christopher dig for dinosaur bones at the science museum in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Sioux Falls 1

 

Elizabeth and Mindy (my brother’s stepdaughter and wife) check out an exhibit on lenses.

Sioux Falls 2

 

Daniel floats in space.

Daniel in spacesuit

Mackenzie, Mindy, Christopher, and Elizabeth explore exhibits at the science museum.

Sioux Falls 4

Hannah and Christopher worked for about 15 minutes until they finally got this wooden dinosaur put together.  It’s so great when the children work together.

Sioux Falls 5

This is in a mock old-fashioned schoolhouse at the DeSmet Laura Ingalls Wilder museum.  Hannah and Sarah are wearing the adorable bonnets and aprons that Mindy’s mom bought for them as a keepsake.  That was very sweet and I think she would be overjoyed to see how much they’ve worn them already.  I’m sure they’ll get much more use when we return to Tennessee!

Sioux Falls 6

August 18, 2007

Let’s see… where to start.  A racoon demolished our food several days ago.  I can’t remember if I mentioned that.  We had the hottest day on record in St. Louis at the first of the trip, those horrible storms with 70 mph winds in Minneapolis, and now in the Black Hills there were funnel clouds with strong hail, wind, rain, etc.  We ended up with 4 inches of rain in our tent and slept saturated.  We were VERY wet.  The scary part is that by this morning, I didn’t really care if it was rainwater or pee anymore.  I just packed everything up the same.  It will all need to be washed anyway.

Now I need to hurry because we’re heading toward Yellowstone.  I just stopped for a minute to let everyone know we’re still alive.  Hopefully my husband and mom are checking this as I told them to since I haven’t had cell service since Iowa.  There is a HUGE storm approaching and it looks very scary.  I’m not sure if we’re going to sleep in the van or where tonight, but I definitely don’t want to tent camp.  The lightning is very scary…  The kids are begging to go to a hotel.  I’m sure the fact that I haven’t had a shower in 3 days and they slept in water isn’t helping matters any.

I’ll try to find someplace to do Internet again in a few days and I’ll download all our pictures – we got to see the presidents at Mount Rushmore in the POURING rain, we drove by the Crazy Horse Memorial, etc..  I also want to say that the Badlands are absolutely fabulous!!!!!

Sonya

Mt Rushmore 1

 

The children pose in front of Mount Rushmore.  This was the day after we got drenched.  The night before we had actually arrived for the night program, which they supposedly never cancel, but sure enough they did due to the extreme rain and storm.  This was the same night there was a tornado warning nearby (one resident said the first ever) and the storms were horrendous. 

Mt Rushmore 2

Micah took the above picture from the van, where we ate dinner and then ran to the tent very quickly.  (We had set it up earlier before the rain started.)  I think we should have saved the money and just slept in the van someplace.  I have found the advice from my friend Rebecca to be true – Flying J’s and Wal-Marts make very good places to sleep.  It’s funny because we slept at a Wal-Mart parking lot one night and when I parked, I just parked beside an RNI woke up in the middle of the lane because there were so many trucks, RV’s and other vehicles parked there for the night, I didn’t realize there were rows.  It’s very good that they allow this in some places.  And of course we did go in to use the bathroom and spent money we otherwise would not have if we couldn’t have stayed there.

Mt Rushmore 3

 

I think Micah took this picture.  He was amazed at all the fog that covered the lake the morning after the big storm at Mount Rushmore.

Badlands

 

This is one of our pictures from the Badlands.  You just can’t imagine the beauty from the pictures we took so I’m only putting one.  I also took some pictures with my 35mm film camera.  Sometimes those show color better so I’m going to have them developed when I return.  If they turn out real good, I’ll post them later.

Badlands 2

 

Here is a picture of me with the children in the Badlands.  See, I really am here with them.  It was nice of a couple passing by to take the picture with all of us.  While I was talking with them, I thought Hannah was going to run off the cliff.  You can kind of see from the picture that you’re never very far from a huge drop off.  That kind of raised my stress level a little.  Overall, however, the children have been very good and we’ve had many good comments about their behavior.  I’ve had numerous opportunities to talk about homeschooling through this.  (I think this does make a big difference in the behavior of children.)

 

August 19, 2007

We’ve seen some amazing things during the past few days.  I can see where tall tales like Pecos Bill and other astonishing stories have come from.  I can truly imagine everything out here being heavier, stronger, taller, etc.  Here are some neat things that have happened the past few days that I didn’t get to write about last night…

–          At the Badlands, we took a Junior Ranger tour.  The goal was to walk up a dry creek bed (it was dry when we did it at least) and look for animal prints.  Now many of you have read how fascinated my children are with fossils and such since we live so close to the Gray fossil site and we’ve found some neat things in our yard.  As we were going through the creek bed, Micah actually found two real fossils that they had not found yet – parts of jaw bones with the teeth still intact.  He got to complete a fossil find form when we returned to the center.  The ranger said based on our description of where they were and his memory, he would show the fossil hunters later where to find them.  (He was with us the whole time and saw all of this of course and was greatly impressed with the children’s attention to detail.  We had a very large group for this tour – about 25 people – and Micah, Daniel, and Christopher found almost all the really neat stuff.  I was very happy and excited for them!)

–          As we were hiking along the creek bed, I found a real Indian arrowhead.  It was made of translucent rock that had purplish streaks in it.  It was beautiful.  It was partially embedded in the rock and I couldn’t resist picking it up, but I did return it as he requested for the fossil people to go find later.  What I think is frustrating sometimes is that they say humans didn’t live with these amazing animals (dinosaurs), yet there were bones and an arrowhead in the same level (layer) of ground.  Of course I realize they could have washed from someplace and become imbedded later, but I think the scientists sometimes make their own stories based on what they belief and forget to remember that the SCIENCE of it should come first.  (I’m sure all the other visitors there thought I was crazy when he said that the layers have been created over 33 million years and I said we didn’t believe that.  A lady there said, “Well, why wouldn’t you?!”  I told her that scientists have also said for years things like petrified forests and the grand canyon have taken many millions of years to form, yet some of those same things are beginning to form from the Mount St. Helens eruption only 27 years ago.  She didn’t say anything after that except, “Hmmm.”)

–          You know how they always say that wild animals are more afraid of humans than we should be of them.  Well, of course it comes to my luck that while we were walking along the trail, a little kangaroo mouse ran out of the brush right toward the group.  Some of the other little children were trying get away and I was telling them all to be still.  My kids were trying to catch it and I was telling them to be still.  This little mouse just wouldn’t move on… he just kept hanging around the group.  The ranger just said to be still a minute so I told all the kids to be real still.  Of course right about then, the little critter ran over Christopher’s shoe, which would have been perfectly fine except that then he decided to go INTO Christopher’s shoe right below the ankle where there is that little gap between skin and shoe.  I couldn’t take it any more.  I reached down and grabbed the little guy then with one hand and Christopher’s foot with the other and separated them.  The ranger ran over and everyone started laughing and yelling about the same time – it was funny, but it was also startling to see the mouse try to go into his shoe.  The ranger got the mouse and decided to help him along so he put him in the bushes then.  I told Christopher what a memory he will have from the Badlands!

–   Then, finally, as the walk was almost over, Daniel said that he had found some more tracks.  The ranger came over and he began looking and then he called everyone else over.  He said how “dog” type tracks have little claw marks at the tips of the toes, but “cat” type tracks don’t have claws.  He looked and looked at the large pad and the pudgy little toe marks and said that they were mountain lion or bobcat tracks.  He said that’s very exciting because in all the time he has worked there (five years or so), he has never found big cat tracks.  That made Daniel feel real good.

At the Black Hills, there was a tornado warning, which is very rare, but again… I guess God is providing us with plenty of great memories, though I don’t know how good that night will be.  Our tent has been leaking the whole trip, but the night before last we ended up with four inches of water in the tent.  I mentioned that yesterday.  It was awful.  I’ve never slept so wet.

Last night we traveled as far as I could without having to stop for sleep.  I ended up stopping on the Big Foot Mountain (I think is the name… I need to look that up again).  Anyway, we woke up this morning and drove down.  It was absolutely beautiful, but with a 10% grade for ten miles, my brakes ended up getting way too hot and I thought they were going to go out so I had to stop to let them cool before we could finish our descent.  It is so desolate here, but beautiful.

Here are some other funny things the kids have said…

When we were at the campground night before last, Micah took a fishing hook to the man at a camp near us because he had rods and Micah doesn’t so he thought he could use it.  As we were leaving, I guess the guy felt sorry for Micah because he came and gave him a rod and reel, which was very nice.  Micah was quite grateful.  Anyway, the guy said it was no big deal because he got free stuff all the time as a professional fisherman.  The kids were asking what I was talking with him about and I told them that the man was professional and he “fishes for money.”  Daniel’s eyes got huge and he said, “You mean, he really really fishes for real money?!?”  It was so funny.  He was very sincere and just didn’t get it.

Then, later, we were at the gold mine panning for gold and Christopher didn’t find gold, but he found a beautiful little red stone.  The guide said it was a garnet.  We were very excited and Christopher found many.  Daniel also found a few and he was so excited.  He said, “I found a garmet!”  (I said, “Garnet, Daniel, not garmet. A garnet is a stone.  A garmet is something you wear.”)  He found another one and the process repeated itself several times.  Finally, as we were leaving, Daniel was so excited and he said, “Look how many garmets I found!!!”  I didn’t bother correcting him the last time.

Black Hills

 

The children pan for gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We all really enjoyed this activity.  If you are coming this way, I would highly recommend that you plan this with your family.  The children did find several tiny nuggets of gold, which thrilled them, but we also found numerous garnets.

Well, we’re heading into Yellowstone in a few minutes and I’m hoping I can somehow get this onto the webpage there.  Chris said I’m not calling enough, but I haven’t had cell service since the first few days.  I just get no reception or cross-over reception from other carriers here at all.  So, hopefully I’ll be able to get Wi-Fi.  I see a Yellowstone connection, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

Anyway, I can’t wait to see the park so I’ve gotta go!

Sonya

Monday, August 20, 2007

We are now at Yellowstone.  We have been through some terrible storms and hail on the way. It is beautiful here, but VERY cold at night.  We have seen Grizzly bear cubs, a Black bear, elk, many deer, and a moose.  Tomorrow, we will see “Old Faithful!”

Yellowstone

This was pretty much our introduction to Yellowstone.  We were driving along the road and a bunch of buffalo were trying to get across.  I obliged and the children and I were just thrilled to see them cross.  The pictures below are just some beautiful shots we took at Yellowstone.

 


Yellowstone 4

Hot Springs in Yellowstone

 

 

 

 

Yellowstone 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Faithful – Yellowstone  Christopher kept asking what “Old Faithful” meant and I tried to explain, but he just didn’t understand.  Then, as we were waiting, he kept saying, “I just don’t think this is going to happen – let’s go.”  I said, “It should be within 20 minutes.  Wait and be more patient.”  Finally, the geyser erupted and I said, “See, it came and now you know why it’s called Old Faithful.  It is faithful to erupt.”  Sadly, some of the geysers have stopped erupting because people have thrown trash or other stuff into them.  That’s a loss for mankind.

Yellowstone 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellowstone 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellowstone 3Yellowstone flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellowstone 8

Though it was very cold, the children had a great time playing by this creek at the top of one of the mountains in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone 5

While we were taking a walking tour of the Norris Geyser Basin, the ranger was saying how the basin had been formed 640,000 years ago when the largest volcano ever erupted and that same volcano is still simmering below the surface.  He said that’s what formed the petrified trees, the geysers, the hot springs, etc.  I asked again about Mount St. Helens and some of the same features forming now only 27 years later – not hundreds of thousands of years.  He said, “Well, the eruption of St. Helens was an exception to the rule of how long it takes things to form because it was an amazingly powerful blast.”  I said, “That makes no sense when you just said that this volcano (at Yellowstone) was the largest eruption ever.”  He said, “I can’t exactly explain it, but I know that this happened a long, long time ago.”  A lady came up to me after the walk and said, “Thank you for the very good questions you asked.”  That made me feel good because sometimes I feel a little self-conscious that people are going to think we’re crazy.  I don’t really care what they think beyond that I hope they find us respectful in our approach to the difference of opinion.  I do think that’s important.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I’ve decided to start putting the day as well as the date to help me better keep up with what day it is.  I have an idea now of why some cultures have not bothered to develop a system of keeping up with the date – it doesn’t seem to matter much when you’re not doing the things we associate with modern society (keeping appointments, working on certain days, etc.).

Anyway, any ideas I had about losing some weight, getting a tan, and generally looking and feeling healthier upon my return to Tennessee have simply been washed away into delusion land.  We have spent most of our time bundled up in pants, long-sleeves, and jackets so a tan is out of the question.  I’ve been driving a lot at night and snacking as I drive helps keep me awake so I certainly haven’t lost any weight.  And I am finally getting tired.  I guess the trip is catching up with me.  My ankles and legs are very swollen from all the walking/hiking and I am just feeling very sleepy and generally weak.  We were going to stay in Yellowstone two more days, but the temperature was about 35 or 40 at night and during the day it was around 55 or so where we were and we were just freezing.

The night before last (our last night in Yellowstone), it began to drizzle and I just didn’t think we could handle the freezing cold AND cold rain in our tent on top of that.  The kids said we had some waterproof stuff in our tent bag so I got that out and decided to apply it before we went to bed.  The problem was that it was almost dark and the children were holding the lamps for me, but I just couldn’t see that well.  I could see the seams and so I put on the required alcohol and then began to squirt the water-proof material in the seams.  I was almost done before I realized that the stuff is clear and you can’t really see it, but the whole time I was doing this, it had been dripping on my head.  I knew it was getting on my hands a little, but I figured I could wash it off.  Now if you’ve ever used this stuff, it’s actually like super glue.  I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get it off my hands and I never even knew it was getting in my hair until Sarah said it looked like a big net above my head sticking to me and the top of the tent.

Well, I scrubbed for 15 minutes with alcohol on my hands and never did get it all off and I decided to just leave my hair alone for the night because by this time it was very dark.  The next morning I was packing the van (when I had decided not to stay another night, but to come south instead) and I was bent over looking for something.  When I went to get up, I had the biggest yank to my hair.  It was stuck to the metal side of our van!  Ouch!  This really hurt.  So I was dirty, sticky, stinky, and getting more irritated by the moment.  I decided that not only were we coming on to Salt Lake City (where I was hoping it would be warmer), but also that we were going to stay in a hotel just for a night or two so that’s what we’re doing.  The other advantage to this for a day or so is that I could update the website, talk with Chris on the phone, and buy Sarah a book I’ve been promising her since we left Johnson City.

Then we got here and Hannah was saying, “Mommy, mommy, look at your shadow – it looks just like a buffalo!”

Here are the animals we’ve seen so far:

– many buffalo (bison)

– one grizzly bear cub and two adult black bears (One was foraging for food so that was neat.)

– many deer (white tail and mule deer)

– an adult male moose with huge antlers and a momma moose with her baby (That was great.  The momma was eating and the baby was sitting right behind her, then finally got up to stand beside the mom.)

– two red foxes

– plenty of birds – hawks, geese, ducks, red-headed woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, and a bunch of other birds

– lot of elk

 

I’ll put some of the pictures here.

 

Chris is coming on Saturday.  I’ll be so glad for him to see all the amazing things out here.  I can see why tall tales developed about the wild west.  Things do seem bigger and more magnificent here.

 

I would love for all of you to see this part of the country.  I’m trying to take lots of pictures because I really don’t think you can truly imagine beautiful the national parks are here.  I am so thankful John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Longfellow, and others had the foresight to realize that all this great land would be ruined if we didn’t protect it.  If our entire country were half this beautiful when settlers began to come here, I can certainly see why the Native Americans, English, French, Spanish, and the new “Americans” fought so fervently for it.

 

Tomorrow I believe we’re going to try to go to the Salt Lake to put our feet in the water.  We have a pool here at the hotel, but it is finally so much warmer here in Salt Lake City that I really want to get out and enjoy the heat.  I really love summer and heat.  Winter makes me kind of depressed – you have to wear so many clothes and it’s so cold and it’s difficult to breath outside and …  You get the idea.  I don’t so much mind being hot, but I don’t enjoy being cold.  I’ve observed that people seem to prefer one or the other and I simply prefer warmer weather.  So anyway, I thought the heat would be nice and also I thought the kids would really enjoy floating in the lake.

 

That reminds me about what the kids said their favorite things have been so far on the trip.

 

Hannah said, “I liked playing in the creek.”  (I believe we were in the Yellowstone River, but I’m not positive.)

 

Daniel said, “I think the Badlands were great.”

 

Christopher said he has liked “everything.”

 

Micah said, “I liked the geysers and the animals and all the smelly sulfur stuff!”  (Doesn’t that sound just like Micah.  He is such a scientist.  I kept reminding the kids that the gases at Yellowstone are toxic and he didn’t want to purposefully try to inhale it.)

 

Of course that’s probably not the kind of thing I should have said around the other children as Sarah then had a “stomach ache” and “headache” for the next two days.  She was really fine, but kept her mouth covered and was convinced that she was being poisoned.  About the time I had her convinced that it really was FINE – millions of people visit every year and they haven’t been poisoned (although over a dozen have died other ways) – the ranger who was giving us a tour mentioned about the gasses that I was right, people don’t get poisoned because they walk through and leave, BUT five buffalo had died a year or so before.  They graze close to the ground and the gasses are heavy so that’s more where they accumulate.  The buffalo had suffocated.

 

A park employee died just a few days before we arrived in a single car accident and one of the workers told us that a girl stepped over one of the waterfall barriers last year and fell to her death.

 

That’s so sad.  It sounds like almost all the accidents that have occurred there have been because people haven’t been careful and haven’t obeyed the rules.

 

Anyway, enough of that…  I’m going to put all the pictures in now and I hope you’ve enjoyed the website.

Sonya

Cont Divide

Cont Divide 2

Cont Divide 3

I loved all the waterfalls at Yellowstone.  Waterfalls and flowers.

Click here to read where we went next on this amazing adventure!

If you would like to go back to page one, click here.

Trip Out West 2007 – Page 1

Our Trip Out West 

(June 26, 2007 – August 12, 2007)

camping on rainy day animation

September 19, 2007

 

June 26, 2007

We are still planning the trip west.  Last night I looked at the atlas again and planned out our basic route.  We’ll be able to go through some major cities and do some exciting activities.  Chris is concerned because he has calculated that our gasoline is going to cost over $2000!  I had no idea.  I really feel like God wants me to take the trip so I have just been planning and praying.  I figure the Lord will take care of the rest.  He seems to be really opening doors to show us that this is in His will.  He made all the gas in the world so I figure he can easily provide me with $2000 worth.

 

July 29, 2007

We have decided not to go all the way to California this year.  Gas and other expenses were going to be too great.  However, we are still planning a great trip and you can look at our itinerary by clicking here.  If we’ll be in your area and you would like to meet my family or do an interview, please contact me via e-mail at sonya@sonyahaskins.com.  We leave in one week and a day.

 

August 8, 2007

We are in St. Louis, Missouri this evening.  I have finally been able to use Internet access.  Actually, I had really hoped to camp or stay in the van the entire trip just so we wouldn’t end up spending a ton of money, but of course I didn’t realize we were going to be traveling during the worst heat wave ever.  Yesterday I think it was 107 and today it was around 102.  We have had hotter weather at home occasionally, but I agree with the children that this seems the hottest weather we’ve ever experienced.  We were even sweating when we were sitting still.

So here is what we’ve done thus far…  Monday morning we left.  We were supposed to leave at 8:00, but of course we were a little late and ended up leaving Gray at 10:30.  That’s not too bad, though, and I was pleased with our progress.  I should have taken a picture of how neat the van looked when we pulled out.  I had that van so organized with our clothing, food, sleeping gear, camping gear, etc. all in particular little compartments, but then by last night it kind of already looked like my laundry room on a bad day.  This morning that van smelled sooo bad.  I think it was the cantaloupe I bought yesterday for the children.  The kids actually ate the cantaloupe, but then I put the peel (along with tomato and kiwi peel) in a pan to throw away later.  Sarah (11) told me that this is the reason we shouldn’t try to make a compost pile in a closed van that is getting about 150 degrees during the day.  It’s really disgusting now and honestly smells like something has died in there.  This is the reason I don’t eat cantaloupe.

Monday we went to Mammoth Cave and arrived JUST in time (literally on the minute) for the last tour of the day.  Then we camped that night in the park.  That was wonderful.  It’s a very nice park, we had a great time in the cave, and the kids did great camping out.  I did think it was very hot, actually very very very hot, but I didn’t realize it apparently has been the hottest night of the year.  I met a nice woman in the camping bathroom the next morning and she said they camp all the time, but that it was uncomfortable.  That made me feel better to know that I wasn’t just “complaining,” although I didn’t really have anyone to complain to anyway.  And I was busy listening to the crickets.  That was fun!

The kids are freezing here (even though it was 107 outside) because in the cave it was quite cold and we didn’t have enough sense to wear sweatshirts like all the other people there!

 

Look at these adorable little children!!! We really are having a great time and I just thought these pictures were so cute.

Yesterday went to the Owensboro Science Museum in the morning and then we drove and drove and drove to get to the next stop, which was going to be near St. Louis.

Wooly Mammoth

The children are standing in front of Wooly Mammoth bones (recreated of course) at the Owensboro Science Museum.  They had a great time, even though Hannah has a frown.  She is standing beside me now even saying, “Looking at me – I was being grumpy!!!”  She seems to think this is very funny to do now in pictures and then after I take it, she runs over and says, “Can I see me in the picture?!?”  It’s actually kind of funny.  She has such a rambunctious little personality.  God has blessed us greatly with each of these unique personalities to raise.

We had intended to camp near St. Louis, but we passed the one stop where we could have camped and then we ended up closer to St. Louis not able to find camping anywhere.  We were having difficulty finding someplace to eat the food (other than snacks) that we brought as well (and there seem to be no stores near the highway) so I stopped at Schiappa’s – home of a 36″ pizza.  We had the 14″ and couldn’t finish it.  I couldn’t imagine 36 inches!  Anyway, I was asking the workers and a few other people if they knew of anywhere to camp and apparently two guys were very concerned about the children camping out in the heat so they offered to pay for a hotel room right next to the restaurant.  It is kind of barren out here and it was a very sweet offer so I really felt I should take them up on it.  They said they would enjoy knowing the children were swimming in a cool pool instead of laying in a hot tent.  We slept GREAT and it was so nice of these guys.  I really enjoyed the hotel stay and the breakfast.

This morning we awoke early and accomplished our goal of getting to the St. Louis Zoo early.  It is such a great zoo.  I could go there all the time!  I can’t get the pictures to load right now, but I’ll try to put them on later in the week.

We had such a fun time at the zoo, but unfortunately when we went out to our van for lunch, someone had broken in to our van.  They broke the passenger side door lock and I’m going to have to go in the morning to the Dodge dealership to fix it.  This is terrible and we’re already way over budget for this trip!  BUT, the good thing is that they were apparently stopped for some reason in the act because they got in the van (the lock is broken and all the doors were unlocked), but they didn’t take anything.  I have a few thoughts about this…  I figure that they either saw my Bible laying on the console and were convicted not to steal from someone with kids’ suitcases, kids’ clothes, kids’ toys, etc. all over the place OR (more likely), they opened the door and got a huge whiff of the dead thing (rotting cantaloupe, tomato peels, kiwi) in the van and they decided that they didn’t want to be involved in two crimes.  Either way, I praise the Lord for the messy van (they wouldn’t have been able to find anything anyway) and even for the smell.  🙂

Well, we better get on to bed.  We want to get an early start again in the morning because we’re going to the St. Louis Science Center – another amazing place.  We’ve been there before once and loved it.  I hope you like the pictures.  Send me a note if you enjoy the postings!

Sonya

 

August 10, 2007

We had the most wonderful time in St. Louis – well, other than almost getting robbed.  It is a very attractive city, I think, with so much to do.  I believe we could stay there for a couple of weeks just visiting museums, the zoo, and other attractions and still have more to do. Below are some pictures at the zoo.

The children loved the water area in the children’s zoo at the St. Louis Zoo.

st louis zoo 1

 

st louis zoo 2

Daniel, Christopher, and Hannah are being eaten by a hippo at the St. Louis Zoo.       

Yesterday we went to the Science center and we were able to see a neat presentation in the planetarium.  The only downside to that was that they ask you to turn off cell phones, cameras, big watches, etc., but there was this kid right beside us who kept turning on one of those little round light balls that you hold in your hand and then the light flashes all around.  It was driving me crazy so finally I reached up (we were all laying on mats) and bopped his shoe.  When speaking isn’t permitted (or I would have just asked him to stop), I sometimes do this to my kids – tap them on the shoulder, lightly kick their knee under the table, etc. – and they get the hint very quickly.  But of course this little boy, whose parents were right beside him and weren’t making him turn off the goofy light anyway, had not trained him in any sort of manners apparently.  So instead of turning off the light in shock and being quiet, he sat straight up and started shouting, “Mommy, someone is trying to take off my shoe!  Mommy!  MOMMY!!!!  SOMEONE IS TRYING TO TAKE OFF MY SHOE!”  At that point I just decided to ignore him and eagerly hope for the end of the shoe.

Here are some pictures from the St. Louis Science Center.  It is the best museum ever!

 st louis science center 1

st louis science center 2

 

 

My children, thankfully, were well behaved and have done well the entire trip thus far (all five days of it).  We’ve had several comments on their good behavior and how “lucky” I am or what a good mom I am.  These comments are very sweet and I always cherish them, but I know that I am also very blessed.  I have made so many mistakes and continue to do so every day, but the children are very forgiving and God has been very merciful.  I try to be a good mom, but I also have a great husband and he is very good with the children.  So, it’s a combination of many factors, but I know that mostly the Lord has just provided us with much advice, help, and grace from others just when we need it.

Last night we slept in the parking lot of the Flying J truck stop.  This is a great option and I’m thankful that they let you do this.  I felt very safe and the children slept very well.  The only reason I didn’t sleep better is because I didn’t have anywhere to lay down and I was cramped in my driver’s seat.  I woke up with a big strain in my neck!

After we woke up and washed up in the Flying J, we drove and drove and drove some more.  I think the children were really getting tired of being in the van because they began asking to stop at all the historic sites.  Finally, Micah saw one the looked very interesting – Kalona Historic Village.   We had to drive ten miles off the interstate, but it turned out to be well worth the trip.  There is a little historic area where they have all the original buildings – school, railroad depot, a house, a beautiful church, etc. – in a central location and you pay for a guided tour.  It was great.  THEN – and this was REALLY neat!! – at the end of the tour, you get to go through a Mennonite museum.  We did this and there was a delightful lady working there and she is Mennonite.  She answered tons of questions for me and explained to the children the difference between Mennonite and Amish, how the Amish and Mennonite lived in that area, why she believes the way she does, etc.  It was so helpful.  She said she normally doesn’t go into that much detail with visitors, but she didn’t mind at all and it was kind of funny, she said, because we were even asking about her own personal history and she was so delightful to share her own experiences.

The children sit at an old one-room schoolhouse in Kalona, Iowa.

one room schoolhouse

 

 

 

one room schoolhouse 2

The Haskins family visit with Ada Yoder, a sweet lady and wonderful guide at the Mennonite Museum in Kalona, Iowa.

In this area we happened upon, there is also an Amish community of about 1000, which is pretty large, and the lady explained to me how to go to the area.  After our tour at the museum and a delicious lunch of homemade foods at a local German restaurant called (???), I drove the children through the Amish community.

There were a few things that really struck me in the Amish community:

1)      People going through in cars really go way too fast.  There are very few cars there anyway – we drove around for about an hour in this area and probably passed 4 or 5 other automobiles.  They were tearing up all kinds of dust on the gravel/dirt roads and once we saw a truck almost run into a horse and buggy.  This made me so sad for these people.  We were driving “buggy speed” and we tried to be very respectful of their customs.

2)      The people in this particular area of Amish are more open to outsiders than some areas.  I guess they just don’t get such a huge influx of visitors like they do in Pennsylvania that it’s not as much of an imposition.  Anyway, the people we happened upon were very polite and respectful and willing to answer questions, such as “You don’t have a beard, so does that mean you aren’t married?”

3)      There were several little children playing in the yards and they had little scooters, wagons, and another buggy like toy.  One little boy was playing in a sandbox.  It was nice for the children to see this.

4)      We happened upon some Amish people repairing a building – with three men working on it and four children, I believe.  They were all working.  I noticed a bell on the top of the building and I stopped to ask if it was a school.  It is.  Sarah commented how neat that the children were helping to build their own school.  The Mennonite lady had also explained to me that the governor of this state – Iowa – had some time ago agreed to allow the Amish to have separate schools with their own teachers and the students could attend independently because it was too difficult to send them to the regular public schools.  The children were coming home with bad habits, were being exposed to things they weren’t exposed to at home, and were being taught things against their belief.  First of all, I applaud that governor for being flexible in this and for recognizing that these parents love their children, but that it is a parents’ right to educate their children as they see fit.  And also the children commented how it’s kind of like homeschooling in some ways, which I agree.

Now for the kids comments that I thought were funny…

We saw several horse and buggies and Amish people.  I was explaining to the children (before out talk with the Mennonite lady) about how the Amish live – without modern conveniences of electricity, television, cell phones, computers, etc. and Christopher said, “Well, we must not be very Amish then.”

Then, after the entire visit through the community, which was soooo incredibly beautiful, Christopher and Daniel both declared that when they are old enough, they are going to shun society and become Amish because it looks like a lot of fun!

travel photo with tanks

 

Daniel and Christopher in front of a 155 mm Howitzer someplace in Iowa.  (I think!)  This is a veteran’s memorial park.

travel photo with tanks2

 

We decided to stop at a veterans memorial park with some really neat machinery.  Micah is on an M6OA3 tank.

 

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Last night we camped in Nerstrand State Park in Minnesota.  It’s a very nice little campground packed with campers.  Actually, it is very interesting to me that all the campgrounds we’ve been to have been packed with campers.  They begin to turn people away in the late evening so I will remember that we need to get to the campgrounds out west early enough to get in.  (I guess that’s why the recommend reservations.)

Anyway, not only did we get to experience the awful heat wave in St. Louis, but here we were able to experience an unseasonably windy and severe thunderstorm.  The children (except for Sarah) were terrified as we kind of saw it coming beyond the campgrounds so we began to put our things inside, etc., but then when it came upon us, the campmaster (or whatever you call the people – I guess he is perhaps a park ranger) drove by in a truck making an announcement and Micah convinced himself that he was warning us of an oncoming tornado.  (The children are aware of tornado alley and are extremely afraid of tornados.  I guess they’ve seen too many Storm Stories episodes.)  So he began crying hysterically and Daniel was laying under his covers in the tent crying…  Hannah and Christopher both looked like deer in the headlights… and so on.  Finally, when there was a huge blast of thunder and lightning more than usual and I even jumped, I had to laugh and Sarah was laughing with me, but everyone else did not find it very funny.

Alas, we eventually went to the “storm shelter” (the little brick bathroom and shower area) and found out that it was going to be another hour before the storm passed so I told the kids we were absolutely going back to the tent.  I did not want to sit in the bathroom with men, women, children, and even a couple of dogs.  And more than that, the wind was blowing so hard that I was honestly afraid that if we didn’t get back in the tent, it would blow away so we ran back to the tent in the rain, got our covers wet, and took shelter.  It turned out that it didn’t really matter that we got things wet, though, because after about 30 minutes, our tent began to leak anyway!

camping photo

 

Micah walks around the campground in Nerstrand State Park.  He is responsible for all our camp fires.  All the children help set up and tear down the campsite.

camping photo2

 

Christopher, Micah, and Hannah play Star Wars space ship at Nerstrand State Park in Minnesota.

Click here to read more of our adventures.