Saturday, September 12, 2015

Utah, Take 1

It was decided in mid-June that I needed my mama.  But my mama was tied up caring for her mama, so she couldn't come here.  Enter Frontier and their amazing $39 one way fares, and two weeks later, the girls and I hopped on a plane bound for SLC!

Ella made this chart for her daddy.  It has one line for each day we are gone.  He could check off each day and know when we were coming back.  Very sweet.

We had a bit of a wait at the airport.  Ella decided to count all the dots on this sign post to pass the time.  (I think she got tired of it after the first 100.)

As our takeoff time inched closer, it became apparent that there was no way we were leaving on time.  I was ready for a long delay, but it ended up only being about a half hour.  During that half hour we shuffled back and forth between multiple gates, and I was a complete stress case with my unfounded fear that I'd miss an announcement and not get on my flight.  Thankfully everything worked out just fine.  The girls were enthralled by the airplane.  The last time we flew anywhere, Ella was just under 2, so she didn't remember it at all.  Julia was 4, so she remembered a few things, but it was still all very novel and exciting.  When we took off, Julia shouted, "We're in the air!" People around us were asking if she was scared, but nope, it was all excited energy.

My parents met us at baggage claim, and we were on our way!  Ella grabbed Grammie's hand, and I swear she never let go.  That girl loves her Grammie.

First stop was Cafe Rio with Stewart and his family, for a Pork Salad and a chance to see my nephews.  And then my heart was happy.

Our stay in Utah lasted a little under a week.  We filled it with splash parks, friends, trips up the canyon, family, and good food.  I tried to make it a point to see all my friends this trip out, to ease the stress of the trip we were planning later in the summer.  Sometimes it feels like we go to Utah and drive all around the valley trying to squeeze in a visit with every person we have ever known, and it ends up being a pretty crazed vacation.  Going twice this year definitely allowed us to have some down time and to feel like we were actually on vacation.

When it's over 100 degrees, you go to the splash park.  At 10am.  And leave by 11, because it's just HOT.

I love these ladies.  LOVE them.  Every time we get together, even if it's been years, it feels like no time has passed.  Seeing them is what makes me miss living in Utah. 

Walking in the mountains while waiting for the weenie roast to start.

Ella continues to be a Mastermind fanatic.

Fry sauce!!

Another big highlight was spending some time with my Grandma.  She hasn't been doing too well lately, and it was wonderful to visit with her.

Aunt Suzanne took us to the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point.  Everyone loved it, especially when we played in the water and sand. 

This picture was completely unplanned and not posed.  I walked by the living room and noticed that all four of these cousins were sitting on the couch, reading, of their own volition.  Some things are just in your blood, I guess.

For Sunday dinner we decided to have the ultimate Shannon meal, full of filled pastas.  There were pierogi, ravioli, and pot stickers, with focaccia and salad to round it out, and mini pocket pies for dessert.  Pretty much everything I love on one plate.

Airplane selfies!

The flight home was fairly uneventful.  Julia made friends with a girl across the aisle, which made everything go more smoothly for me and for the other girl's mom.  We landed sometime after 11, so I had 2 very sleepy children to drag through the airport, and our luggage was of course the very last out, and then it was the biggest traffic jam I've ever seen at an airport (this was my first time flying through O'Hare, maybe it's always like that, in which case, NEVER FLY THROUGH O'HARE), but we finally, FINALLY, found our Clarky and headed home.

We all missed Clark, but we had a wonderful time visiting our friends and family in Utah.  It was nice for me to get a little spoiling from my parents, and for me to take a small break from regular life in Illinois.  I came home feeling refreshed and ready to take on life again.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


 Near the beginning of May, we took a quick trip to Springfield, IL, to see our fair (not so fair) state's capital, geek out over Lincoln, and watch Clark run a race.  We left on a Friday afternoon and returned late Saturday night (Sunday morning technically).  Short trip, but we packed in a lot of fun.

First, we stopped at Lincoln's tomb.  Our purpose was twofold: 1) to see Lincoln's final resting place, and 2) to scope out the cemetery.  Clark's race was Saturday night through Oak Ridge Cemetery, which is a winding, complicated mess, and at night it would be even more so.  We thought it might be good to just get a feel for the place, while enjoying the sightseeing at the same time.

The girls rubbed old Abe's nose.

Blue even got in on the action.

I hadn't realized that you actually get to go inside the tomb and walk right to the spot where Lincoln is buried.  They have all sorts of signs asking you to whisper to maintain a respectful atmosphere, and there is even a person who sits by the headstone, I assume to enforce this.  I was a bit worried about how the girls would do with this, but they have had lots of practice whispering in church, so they were golden.  I found it to be a powerful experience.

We got there just a few days after the 150th anniversary of his entombment, and there were signs of the previous weekend's commemorative activities all around town.  Here we are at the original entrance to the tomb, with flowers at the door.

Lincoln's house, complete with black bunting to mark his passing.

 After touring his house, we headed to the old state capitol to have a look around.  It's a beautiful building, and we geeked out some more over Lincoln.

This is the actual furniture that was in the Lincoln funeral car.  THE ACTUAL FURNITURE.  Maybe this doesn't seem like a big deal to you.  Maybe I seem like a crazy person, going ga-ga over some old furniture.  But maybe you need to go read Bloody Crimes by James Swanson.  Then you'll know what I'm talking about.  (Also recommended: Manhunt.  These two books are primarily responsible for my Lincoln obsession.)

After the Old State Capitol, we got some lunch at Panda Express, and then headed to the Lincoln Presidential Museum.  If you find yourself in Springfield, this is the place to go.  The girls and I went last year with my parents, and it was definitely worth going again.  They put together such a beautiful portrait of Lincoln's life, from his humble beginnings in a log cabin, to his time at the White House, and through his assassination.  They also have a couple of movies they run throughout the day, a children's room with the most amazing dollhouse (it's Lincoln's house!), and wax figures of the Lincoln family and numerous other people from Lincoln's time (including John Wilkes Booth, which is a color.  Don't you think?).  I think it is so well done, and most definitely worth seeing.  If you come visit, we'll go together!

Me, listening to General McClellan at the White House.

The Lincolns welcoming the Blockburgers!

Playing in Mrs. Lincoln's attic, the children's area.

After a full morning of walking around Springfield, and a full afternoon of walking around the museum, it was time for Clark to run a half marathon.  Sounds like a ball, don't you think?  We wore him out before he even started, but he still had an amazing run.  His first half marathon ever, and he won first place in his age division.  That's my hot runner husband!

As I mentioned before, the race was through the cemetery.  At night.  So everyone had to have a headlamp, and glow sticks were abundant.  The first lap was at dusk, the second in the dark.
 And he's off!

The girls and I had fun waiting for Clark to come around.  We went to a nearby playground for a little while, then came back to see him finish his first lap. 

After that we went back to the car, ate some snacks for dinner (we do things on the cheap, if you haven't noticed), and pulled out all our glowsticks.  It's pretty rare for our kids to stay up past sunset in the summer, so this was a real treat.  We heard an owl hooting in a tree right by our car, and we had quite a party in the dark with our glowstick necklaces and bracelets.  The pictures of this didn't really turn out, because it turns out it's hard to take pictures in the dark.  But we still had fun, though we were all pretty tired by the time Clark finished.

So after that packed day (sightseeing, running a half marathon, ya know, the usual), we got in the car and Clark drove the 3.5 hours back home.   The man is a machine.  I still can't believe he did all that, and didn't complain once. All I can say is, I married up.  That guy is amazing.

I've got to say, Springfield won me over.  Even with their yucky drinking water (every fountain in the whole town tastes nasty), I loved every minute of our time there.  Good on ya, Springfield.  We'll be seeing you again soon.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Moving Forward

That last post was a doozy, wasn't it?  The month of May was rough.  But I have to say, that this summer has been incredibly healing.  I'm not going to lie, the pain is still there, the grief can still hit me like a ton of bricks at times, but this summer was the thing of dreams, which eased the sadness quite a bit.  I'll go into more detail about the summer in subsequent posts, but I had to put it out there that time has done it's work, and I am healing.  And healing well.  I can truthfully say that I'm no longer angry at God.  I still don't entirely understand, but I have come to accept that I don't always get to understand, I just get to go along for the ride sometimes.  I know He has a plan for me, for our family, and I trust that His plan is glorious.  And in the meantime, I'm discovering all the wonderful aspects of having older children who are more independent.  That is pretty glorious in itself. 

God is good.  Life is beautiful.  And fall, that most splendid of all seasons, is coming.