Thursday, July 31, 2014

On Showing You Care

There are some things you never quite understand until it happens to you....a lot of things, really. One of the things that I hope I understand a little better since my mom's death, is the fact that letting people know you care means an awful lot! Over and over I have been awed by the care people have shown -- showing up at my door that day to offer love and care, gifts of money, a bag of treats for our trip, an evening out for Chris and I after we were back home, text messages, phone calls, hugs and assurances of many, many ways that people have said "I care"! It takes so little, really.

The other day I pulled out the stack of cards I've gotten since mom's death. Cards are a very little thing. I mean, they usually get stuck away in a drawer or box eventually, or maybe even in the trash! The messages inside them tend to all run the same, tired lines and really, what good are words anyway? There's really nothing you can say that's very helpful after the death of a loved one! But I looked back through each one the other day and you know what I was looking at? Not the wording. Oh, I skimmed over the words, yes, but mostly I looked at the signatures.

Every one of those people cared about me! Every one of them took the time out of their busy life to sit down and get that card ready and put in the mail....for me. Even if they put it in the mail and never thought about me again, it's still a token that they cared. Cared enough to actually let me know. Cared enough to, not only think about me, but make sure I knew I was thought of! Humbling, really. Some people wrote notes saying what mom meant to them over the years. Those are extra special!

Ten and a half years ago, mom was in the hospital in extreme pain. The doctor thought her cancer had returned and didn't give us much hope. He made the decision to take her in to surgery and see what he would find. He discovered no cancer, but a blocked bowel caused by scar tissue! A nurse told mom later the story of how her doctor had seen a rainbow before going into surgery. Sometime after that, mom took a card a friend had made for her, added a rainbow in the sky, and the verse "My times are in Thy hand" (Ps 31:15) and hung it above her desk. There it still hangs.

When we returned from our vacation the other week, there was a card in the mail. Mom's friend, who made that card so long ago, heard the story about the card and made a replica for each of us children, and an enlarged one for daddy...with a rainbow in the sky! Talk about special, and cared for.

I hope that in the future I remember how little it takes, and how much it means, to let people know they are thought of and cared for. I hope that I remember to take the time to DO something to let them know, even if it's "just" a card.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

You'll be old before you know it too!

I love being the Mother of little ones. I'm not so crazy about the tiny, newborn stage, but give me 6 or 8 months - preschool age? Love it! I love the sweet, naive, innocence; the wonder and awe of discovering how life works; the unabandoned love and trust; the quick turning from anger to forgiveness; the total lack of self-conciousness and the cute and funny things that constantly come out of their mouths - really, what's not to love?? :)

Oh, I know there's lots of work and messes and naughtiness and constant demands and sickness and discipline and training and interruptions and no time for yourself and then turning around and doing it all over again! But give me a row of little, innocent, trainable people over the tall, maturing, I-have-my-own-opinion people who, let's face it, have to make their own choices and there's really not a whole lot I can do about it when it comes down to it!

I've considered just going on having babies forever so as to always have some of those sweet little people running around (fleeting, pie-in-the-sky consideration!), but it doesn't take much looking around to realize that, at some point, every family has had to leave those days behind. Somewhere along the way, every family has had to go from a row of preschoolers, to a row of teenagers; a row of teenagers, to a row of youth.....

This is where all those wise, helpful people come in who showed up the day your firstborn arrived. The ones who nodded their heads gravely and said those sad, sad words -"They grow up too fast!" "They won't stay little long!" and even better - "They'll be going to school before you know it!!" I never really had much love for those people. I mean, seriously people! I WANT them to grow up! I'm not really into hopping out of bed multiple times a night forever. Not really in the mood to be summoned to the bathroom by little voices yelling "Dooonnne!" for the rest of my life. And I wouldn't mind eating my food in peace at a normal pace again rather then grabbing quick bites between feeding another mouth and cutting up two other people's meat. Really? Why sit around and cry about them going off to school 'before you know it'?? Oh, I'll know it all right!

I think I know the real reason why the thought of going from a house of preschoolers to one of teenagers and so forth makes me panic suddenly and wonder if the "going on having babies" idea is a valid consideration. It's not totally because I realize suddenly that my days of training are pretty much over for this child and what I've done better have been enough. It's not just the seriousness of knowing that I can't make my child's decisions for him anymore, he will have to make his choices. You know what it is? It's the realization that I AM GETTING OLD.

Don't laugh at me! Somebody told me recently "I rather envy you your big, happy family!" and it kinda threw me for a loop. My big (BIG) happy family? BIG?? What does that make me? Not a young, youthful mother that's for sure! And then my daughter wants to learn to cook and sew and ...well... everything, and I know that's good. She should learn, and I should teach her. But suddenly I'm all, "Wait a minute! I LIKE to sew. I don't WANT you to make the pizza crust! What am I gonna be good for anymore anyway?!" I AM GETTING OLD.

Ok, laugh. I know it sounds silly. It IS silly, actually! And I know I'm not old, and I don't even have a teenager in the house yet. But I am getting old - we all are! What does that realization do to you? Do you mind? Are you ok with that idea? I want to be. I don't want to be the mother of the ((ahem)) biiiig family who works herself to death because SHE has to be the one to do it all or it isn't done right. The one who can't see that she's really a bit ridiculous to not sit back and let her growing children take over some things even if she LIKES to do them.

I want to accept the changing stages of life with grace. Usually I think of that statement in the context of grandparents who's children have left the nest. In reality, there's many many stages of life before one gets to that point! I imagine the sooner one figures out the 'with grace' thing, the better! So, instead of being like those wise, helpful people and sighing over how "The children will be taking over and I'll be getting old before I know it!!" I think I'll prop my feet up and just enjoy the fact that I don't have to do everything anymore! :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

To Take a Trip

Before our big trip becomes a distant memory (you know how quickly something like that can feel like a dream once you're back to real life?!), I thought I'd pass along some of the things we did to make traveling more fun and the packing a bit easier. I'd never done anything like this before, traveling for days at a time, not in my childhood nor as a mom. I kept trying to imagine how this would be?!

I had so much fun reading others tips and ideas, I thought it might be interesting to share mine too :) I found out there's lots of tips and tricks out there for big road trips if you go looking for them! After awhile I felt like I was on "idea overload"! :) We took lots of things along to try to keep people occupied, I knew they probably wouldn't all get used but it was exciting to have these bags of things that no one could play with until trip time! Another thing I wanted badly to do, was figure out some way to not have to drag 50 things in everytime we stopped for the night. A kind reader sent me an article with lots of great ideas and it included the perfect packing tip!

So, without further ado:

disclaimer: I realize I am a light packer. If these ideas sound crazy to you, that's fine :) Maybe there's someone out there like me who will like them!

1) We put a rod in the back of the van and put all our dresses, shirts, pants, short, everything possible...on hangers.
2) We used two "communal" suitcases, one big and one little. In the big one I packed all of our night clothes, our box of toothbrushes/paste, etc, shampoo/soap and a few other misc items. In the small one I packed all our underware and socks and here's where the perfect tip came in: I took a gallon size zip loc bag for each of us and wrote our names on them. Into each went that person's underware and socks. (*) Flatten out all the air, throw it in! It kept things neat and orderly and even Lillian (age 4) could find her own things easily. I loved it! It also made it simple to put things away when we came home! When we stopped for the night, out came 2 suitcases and 7 sets of clothes on hangers and that was it!
*note: this was summertime so there weren't many socks. You could use 2 bags per person if needed.

since we had a big van, we took along a small stack of drawers that's usually full of doll clothes to hold all our stuff. Worked great tucked between Charles' car seat and the back of the driver's seat!

1) Coloring books/crayons/markers; Paper and pencils/pens
2) Books to look at/read
3) Books on tape from the library
4) A pack of pipe cleaners - my girls love making people and shapes out of them!
5) Magnets of our family and house and a cookie sheet to play with them on. I read this on a blog somewhere a long time ago and thought it was so neat! I took pictures of each of us and of some of our furniture, cut loosely around them, bought magnetic sheets, stuck the pictures on and cut close around them and made magnets! (We discovered the cookie sheet came in handy for a nice lap desk too!)
6) Three ring binder with plastic sleeves. I put blank paper in a few and cut pages out of an activity book and stuck them in the rest. They could write on the sleeves with washable markers and then wipe them off!
7) A list of all the states to mark of license plates. Chris and Isaac had a big competition going with that! I think they found all but 7!
8) A bag of wrapped packages. I went to Dollar Tree one day and had fun! :) Nothing big, just little stuff. On the days we drove for longer stretches, I'd set the timer for an hour an they'd get to pick a package to open. This had to be the hit of all the activities along!
9) Other misc - sometimes we'd do the timer thing and play a game when it went off, or read another chapter in the book we bought, or sing, or tell stories.
10) Rubberband bracelets. The girls spent a bunch of time on those!
11) Games. I think the only one we ended up using was Battleship and the Uno Dice for Charles!

Charles was the biggest pain! There's not much to amuse a 15 month old in a van that lasts more than a few minutes! We had some books and toys and snacks,etc. His favorite activities turned out to be messing around with the Ipad, and playing with the Uno Dice game on the cookie sheet :)

I think that's it! Should have asked y'all for ideas before we left - maybe you'll have to share them and I'll tuck them away for another time!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Days 10 - 13: Arkansas

We spent our last 3 days with the Gingeriches in Arkansas. Rachel and Kristine gave us their house and they stayed with Grandpa. They were having their last 2 days of Summer Bible School so it was a busy time to be there!

Thursday forenoon Rach, Krisitine, Joy and I (and my little ones) went to visit a neighbor lady, Genice, who was one of mom's good friends. We had a little "party" along with her daughter, daughter-in-law and sister. You can't spend time with them without laughter and stories :) It also felt sad because mom was missing from the circle.

We spent the afternoon having lunch together, quilting on the quilt mom had left unfinished, picking blackberries and playing with cousins. I did laundry somewhere in there too! Supper was at Carl's that night for whoever was around. We sure enjoyed their fresh sweet corn, cucumbers and peaches!

Friday morning we all went to the Bible School program. Charles wasn't too impressed and didn't cooperate too well, but it gave us a chance to see some church people. Quilted again in the afternoon and got the quilt finished! I loved being able to help with that! I got to go berry picking that afternoon and that was fun again too in spite of the normal scratches and chigger bites.

I spent all Saturday morning getting things packed back up! We all left at 11 and had a picnic at the Blanchard Springs picnic area. Carl, Grandpa and Isaac did a little fishing while the rest of us packed the picnic things away and waded in the ice cold spring water! We got cleaned up and left there around 3 along with Grandpa, Rachel, Kristine and 2 of Carl's girls and headed back up to Mansfield, MO. When we were there Wednesday, we found out they do a Musical called "Laura's Memories", so we decided to go back up for that Saturday evening and then get a motel and leave from there for home.

It was a perfect way to end our trip and was especially fun to have other family along to enjoy the evening with! The very sanguine lady who was the music director talked with us beforehand and was so impressed when she heard about our trip that she told the whole cast and they gave us public recognition

We pulled out around 7 yesterday morning for one more day on the road. And now, it's back to real life! It's a little hard to believe it's all over with - all the planning and preparation and work........... It's a trip we'll never forget, that is certain, but not something we'd want to do every summer! :) It's been fun to share the trip with you all and it was a good way to give ourselves a little journal to look back and remember our trip by.

So ends our Big Adventure!

Day 9: Mansfield, MO

I think we would all have to agree, we saved the best for last! Backing up to Wednesday.......

By Jasmine:

On Wednesday morning we all got up around 7:30 for breakfast. At 8 we left Javans and headed for Mansfield, Missouri. Around 10:30 we arrived at Laura's last home, Rocky Ridge Farm! We went in the museum and bought tickets. While we waited for the tour of the house to start, we looked around and watched a video about Laura that had recordings of her voice on it.

Before too long we went on the house tour. Daddy stayed outside with Charles because he usually got fussy and didn't like to be inside! (He took a tour later with another group.) We had a little old lady for our tour guide. Mom described her as a recording. She said, "It's like she has a recording in her mind." She saidd t hat because a time or two the guide got distracted, so she'd rewind about 5 sentences and start there and repeat exactly what she'd said before! :)

We walked into the house and found ourselves standing in Laura's kitchen looking at the very things she used to cook with and serve meals on! The tour guide told us that everything in the house was just like it was when Laura lived there except the flooring and wallpaper were replicas. She went on to tell us what the slot made in the wall between the kitchen and dining room was used for - Laura would fix a meal and put the food on the "window sil", then she'd go around and put the food on the table. Afterward she would out all her dirty dishes on the "window sil" and then go around and wash them in the sink that was right by the slot. She said she saved time that way!

The guide also told us that the newest thing we saw in there was the refrigerator. Rose bought it for them, but Laura didn't want to give up any of her precious floor space. She saw the broom closet and decided that it was the place for the fridge, so out came the brooms and in went the fridge! They had to add a little bit on outside the house to make it fit.

As we went through the house the guide told us interesting things, like - they used an old radio for storage (Almanzo took the inside parts out! They didn't throw anything away!) She also told us when Laura had parties, she served apples from her orchard and popcorn from her garden instead of ice cream and cake. Another interesting thing was that Almanzo hooked rugs. She said one time he needed something to do, so he took up hooking rugs! One room in the house still had the original linoleum on the floor! The guide said they've toured literally thousands of people through there and it still looks good. All she can say is "they don't make things like they used to"!! :)

Another story the guide told us was about the huge rocks that made the fire place in the living room. She said Laura found these big rocks she wanted to use for the fire place, so she showed them to Almanzo. He didn't like the idea of all that work so he brought home a load of bricks to try to persuade her differently! Laura wasn't one to give up easily and she wanted those rocks, so she shed a few tears and guess what? She got her rocks! :) Too soon it was all over and we went outside thinking about all that we had seen that day. The museum was also full of interesting things to look at! All kinds of things that belonged to the Ingalls family and to Rose - Pa's fiddle is there and gets taken out and played once a year, clothes they wore, quilts they pieced, lots of items that Laura mentioned in her books and much more. It was a lot of fun!

By Isaac:

After the homestead tour and museum, we went to the Rock House that Rose had built for her parents. She sold a story for $10,000 and used it to build them a house for their retirement. Rose directed all the building of the house and the guide said she's heard Rose made them re-build the chimney from 1 to 5 times! She finally said she would accept it but insisted it was still crooked! The guide said she guesses Rose was right because it still leaks sometimes when it rains.

Rose bought all the furniture for the house and everything was very expensive. She ended up spending $11,000 on the house. It was a 6 room house with a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, dining roomm parlor and another room where Laura wrote a lot of the Little House books.

Rose also bought them a car! The guide told a story about how Rose taught Almanzo to drive the car he didn't know how to stop the thing, so he pushed the break and gas as hard as he could and pulled on the steering wheel and yelled "Whoooaaa"!!! The car ended up in the ditch with quite a bit of damage to the bottom of it! :)

Almanzo and Laura lived in the Rock House about 8 years and Rose lived in the Farm House. But after Rose moved away, Almanzo and Laura immediately packed up and moved back to the Farm House!

After that tour we looked around in the gift shop and used up the rest of our money we'd saved for the trip and then it was time to load up and head for Arkansas!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dear Mom

If home is where the heart is, than what happens if you have no idea where your heart is??

If it is more accurate to say, "Home is where my family is," than maybe loved ones in Heaven is just God's way of making us realize where He wants Home to be!

Dear Mom,

I came "home" for the first time to no mom here. As I walked in the door of my sisters' house where we're staying, May 6 and the week following came rushing over my senses. We stayed here over the time of your funeral, mom. Spent numb, mechanical days here planning who would lead songs and choosing a burial plot; selecting pictures and memorabilia in your honor; writing poems late at night with kleen x by our side.

This trip has brought you to mind so often, mom. I remember when I told you of our plans, I knew you would love the idea of visiting all the Little Houses! And you did. I can't begin to tell you how many times in the past 9 days of travel I've wanted to tell you all about it. Can't remember how often I've caught myself thinking "I'll have to remember to tell mom _________".

I miss you, Mom.

Today I sat at the quilt you left half quilted and let the tears roll down my cheeks. So many people have told me with knowing nods, "Going home for the first time will be hard," and I've wanted to smack them. "How is that helping?" I've wanted to say. "Don't you think I know it will be hard?" Of course I know that they know that I know that it will be hard, you just say those things and its ok. Because it IS hard.

You're not here to cook for my family anymore, not here to hug my children and ask them about our trip and admire the souvenirs they would proudly show you. Not here to read them the age old stories about "Tabitha Tabby's Fantastic Flavor" and give them snacks in your little bowls on the low, slide out board in your kitchen. You'

In many ways I want to run. Run back to Ohio and my own little world (although in some ways I feel like running farther than that right now, the whole "where IS my heart thing). Run away from the daily-ness these people have to face and seem to be doing well with in most ways. Run away from the future here that needs to be made without you, mom. Just run.

But life is life. Death is no surprise. Why do we act like it is? Because we're human, I suppose. Because we're on this earth and we can't just sit around waiting to die. And so, we make the first trips home and the first......everythings......because, well, it must be done! And we know in our hearts that if we allow it, it will make us stronger, better people. People who's hearts are turned toward Home in new and deeper ways. People who try a little harder to focus on what counts and remember the fact a little more clearly that we are all dying and we are all longing for Home!

Love you,

We'll catch you up with the rest of our trip one of these days :) For now we're busy playing with cousins, enjoying family.... and shedding some tears and feeling the ache.... and longing for Home!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day 8: Fun and Friends

(Just for your info - I'm furious. I've typed part of this and accidentally lost it TWICE!!!)

By Jasmine

We've been gone for a week now. I'm getting kind of tired of traveling now but it's still fun. We spent the day at Javan and Matina's for our 8th day.

In the morning after breakfast Tanya and I went outside. We caught the kittens and went to the hay bales. We played with the kittens a bit, then let them go and played tag. When we were finished we decided to catch them again but they didn't want to be held so we went back to the house.

Right before lunch Tanya, Isaac, Bradlyn and I played Scrabble. In the middle of the game we had to go to lunch, afterward we finished our game. Then we went out to play a game of croquet. Logan won even though Isaac got to be poison first!

That afternoon Tanya and I decided to pretend the little children were our children. While we were outside playing church, dad called and said it's time to go. We were going back to the place Laura and Mary lived in "Indian Territory", and then meeting Javan's family at a park for supper. At the Little House on the Prairie the well Pa dug was still there they had built a log cabin on the old foundation that was the same size as the one they had lived in. They also had an old school and post office.

When we had finished there we went to the park. They had a train, a miniature gold course, and a play ground with huge slides. They were a lot of fun!

When Javan's family came, we had supper, rode the train, and played mini golf. Then we went back to the playground. On the playground they had things that you sit in and spin. They were tilted so that you could make them go by yourself. There was also a wheel, sort of like a big tire, only it wasn't standing up straight nor did it have air in it :) It was on it's side and also tilted so that when you ran on it, it spun. It was a lot of fun!

When it was time to go home Isaac and I rode with Javan's family. When we got back to their house we had watermelon and Tanya, Isaac, Bradlyn and I played Ninja. That night I slept with Tanya in the tent. It was a fun day!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Day 7: Kansas

The rest are in bed. I should be there too, I suppose, and I should be making someone else write this. But I feel in need of a little unwinding time alone, and writing is a good way for me to accomplish that...

Today was our first day that didn't quite go as planned. Not bad for 7 days, I suppose! Our original plan was to leave at 7:30 this morning for the Science Center in Kansas City and then spend the evening and night at Javan Zimmermans and go to the Little House on the Prairie tomorrow. Well, our night got rather late after visiting too long with first Arlyn and Sue over supper and then Cynthia and her husband before getting to bed at Marvin Kauffman's house! But, we've been flexible as we've gone along, and the visiting was more important than a rigid schedule.

So, we decided to leave later this morning and go to the Little House on the Prairie today and the Science Center tomorrow, making it possible for me and the little ones to stay at Javans and catch up a little. After a delicious breakfast by Cynthia, we headed out and arrived in Independence, KS in the afternoon.

Upon arrival there, Chris remembered why he'd made the plans the way he did - the place is closed on MONDAYS!! Bummer. We looked around and then headed on for Javans.

Our supper and evening spent together made up for everything :) Such fun watching our children get to know each other and a little amazing to see ourselves mirrored in our oldest daughters! When did we become the mothers instead of the young girls giggling and sharing "heart to hearts"?? Matina and I go way back. Back to when we were probably close to our girl's ages! Don't tell anyone but we felt a little old tonight heading off to bed like responsible mothers of 5 and 7 instead of staying up and talking til the wee hours :)

Tomorrow we'll hang around here, do some laundry and some more catching up. Then we'll go back to Independence to see what we can see and meet Javan's family for supper at a park and spend the night here again. Good times ahead..... and now I had better join my slumbering family (and hope that the passle of boys sleeping outside in the tent have a peaceful night!) :)

Day 6: On the Road

After a peaceful night of rest in the Super 8 parking lot, my doors were opened and suitcases and people were loaded inside once again. My wheels were turned back toward DeSmet, and I rolled willingly along! From what I heard, everyone had had a good night and were eager to see a few more things before heading on to Iowa.

After a brief rest at The Laura Ingalls museum while the people eagerly checked out a very interesting room in the museum that they had missed the day before (a room full of lots of original items under glass, so I heard - Ma's shawl, a dress of Carrie's, the family Bible, jewlery, hankerchiefs, lots of photographs and handwritten letters and countless other items of great interest!) everyone clambored back aboard and my wheels were turned toward Iowa.

As we traveled on and the flat prairies turned to rolling hills, my work load became a little heavier! My youngest passenger seemed quite weary of being confined to my lovely interior. I was as relieved as his mother to have him silenced for a nice, long nap! The other 4 were fairly well occupied with a long story, "Hank the Cowdog" or some such I believe? It seemed like forever til they pulled me off for a refill for my hungry iron stomach. Then, it was back to the road where I carried them on toward their destination. They said they were looking for a McDonalds, I believe, but several hours later we rolled into Wendys for another little break.

Back on the road again (I was wondering when this journey would end!) I was interested to see what the restless children would find when they opened the packages their mother passed out. They seemed pleased with their gifts, and I was happy with the quietness that ensued as they checked out new treasures.

I was more than happy to take a break when they pulled me into a small parking area beside a white house and small garage. I enjoyed the silence while the people became reaquainted and enjoyed supper together, but that wasn't to last long! Soon the children all reappeared and 2 energetic boys began bouncing a basketball uncomfortably close to my nice, red walls! They didn't stop there, soon one boy had climbed atop my head and the other carried a cat up and let him prance around on my back! I was relieved when a parent turned up to restore some order!

I had hoped this would be my resting place for the night, but no. Here they all came climbing aboard once again! We rolled along and arrived at yet another house in the darkness and this time the suitcases and clothes were drug out and I heaved a sigh and settled in for a night of much deserved rest!

This trip has been interesting, but I'm beginning to wonder when I will see the hills of Ohio and my familiar resting place at the Millers again?

By: Big Bertha the Red Van

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 5: DeSmet, South Dakota

After thoroughly enjoying the a.m.a.z.i.n.g Pageant at Walnut Grove from 9-11 (I can't begin to do it justice with a description. It was very well done with superb creativity in sets and realistic touches!), tumbling into bed at nearly midnight, and "pioneering" for the night in our motel room with 2 double beds, :) we headed out for DeSmet, South Dakota! We soon discovered we could easily have stayed in this interesting place for more than one day, but we did what we could.

First up was a guided tour of The Surveyer's House, a replica of the Brewster School, the school house where Laura and her sisters went to school in DeSmet, and the house that Pa built in DeSmet after Laura was grown and married. The children enjoyed a school house complete with dress up clothes, slates and lots of other fun children's activities.

After a picnic lunch, we headed out to the Ingalls Homestead which Pa almost waited too long to file on in the book "By The Shores Of Silver Lake". There were so many things to do and see there! The only "original" things there are 5 cottonwood trees that Pa planted, but they've put up a replica sod house/dugout, claim shanty, barn with sod roof, house built to the dimensions of Pa's house on the claim, school house and more.

There were lots of hands on exhibits - doing laundry with a scrub board and old crank wringer, making rope, twisting hay, making corn cob dolls, using a hand pump, trying out a treadle sewing machine, a pump organ and more! You could take a wagon ride across the prairie to the school house where they did a little school demonstration. You could climb up to the hay mow and hunt for kittens, pet the horses and baby colt and check out the chicks. If you were young enough you could enjoy a cart ride or a pony ride.

So many fun things in one day! Here were our favorites:

Chris - The Surveyor's House. Seeing the ACTUAL building that Laura ran ahead of Pa and Ma to check out. The house has been moved into town close to the museum, but it's all exactly as Laura saw it! And after seeing their other houses you can easily understand why this house looked like a Mansion to them!!

Bethany - The original buildings but also the replicas and seeing the actual size of their houses. I'd stand in the doorway and try to imagine being Ma and making this tiny little room (which is really all the dugout and shanties were) work! I thought we live in a small house with a family of five but ours would have been in the Mansion class! They lived with soooo much less back then and I have to wonder if they weren't happier in many ways.

Isaac: The DeSmet school house. Also the ACTUAL building, although it had been used as a house at one point and then returned back to a school by the Museum. Their careful re-furbishing uncovered original chalkboards under layers of wall paper! It was in that very school that Laura "rocked that bench" for Miss Wilder :)

Jasmine: The Tour. All the original buildings and items were the best part of all.

Jennifer: Driving the pony on the cart ride, and riding on the little pony!!

Lillian: The covered wagon ride!

We finished off the day with the DeSmit pageant. It was a much more amateur performance - smaller and shorter and not the best quality - but good for a laugh and some memories at any rate :) Our lovely motel room with 3 queen beds felt quite luxurious at day's end!

Photos: 1) "rocking the desk" in the school where it happened. 2) dress up time. 3) covered wagon ride and Laura's prairie and sky. 4) our littlest trooper.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 4: On the Banks of Plum Creek

This morning found us leaving the lap of luxury - the lovely home of Verlynn and Laurel Yoder, where Rosalie Miller provided breakfast food and snacks and a yummy supper last night. We headed out around 8:45 for Walnut Grove, MN, a 2 hour trek. We kept ourselves occupied with some chapters read aloud, a package opened by Isaac at the halfway point containing Smarties, playing Virtual Hide and Seek and stopping briefly at a Park.

After arriving at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, we wandered around looking at all the many interesting things. They had different buildings to check out - a typical "Settlers House", a dugout, a school house, a church, and a larger building with a store counter, post office and bank set up with some hands on things to do. In "Grandma's House" we looked at many items from that era, one fun one being a pump organ which Jasmine tried her hand at! :)

We left there for "Bubba's Grocery" and filled our cart with picnic items as we trailed around on the old, creaky, wooden floor. We carted our picnic items off to the Dugout Sight and ate close to the Banks of Plum Creek! Between swatting mosquitos and feeling a little warm and sticky, we enjoyed our lunch.

We enjoyed traipsing down the trail to check out the dent in the ground where the dugout once was - the roof caved in long since but you can still see the spot. We continue to be amazed at how very LITTLE Laura's houses really were!! After a wade in the creek and a "sail away" flip flop and one wet little girl, we took the trail on around the loop to see the "table land" Laura talked about. It's easy to see that the landmarks are still there!

From there it was back to the Museum where we browsed around, trying to find something little people could buy amongst $25 rag dolls and $85 dresses/bonnets !! Then it was time to take sleepy people off to our Motel 30 minutes away to nap/relax for several hours until supper time and time to head back to Walnut Grove for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant! And that brings you up to date for today......

Yours Truly

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Day 3: Science Museum of Minnesota

When we arrived at our destination last night (a house that my sister's friend is taking care of while the family is away) we made the decision that the 3 youngest and I would stay put today while Chris and the oldest 2 went to the Science Museum. So, while we had a lovely day playing with other people's toys, reading, doing some laundry and lagging and lolly gagging in this lovely house, they explored the wonders of the Science Museum of Minnesota...........

Written by Jasmine

This morning Daddy, Isaac and I went to the Science of Museum of Minnesota. It had shells, a puzzle of the Mississippi river, a steam engine and many other interesting things.

When we got there, we parked across the road so we had to walk to the museum. When we made it across we were walking toward the doors and one of the workers informed us that they were locked! He told us to go around the building and we could get in that way. When we made it there, there were steps up the side of the building or you could go into a garage type thing. We went into the garage. What do we find? Elevators! That wasn't part of our plan :) Isaac said he saw steps and we finally made it to the top! (And the unlocked doors)

When we got in we showed our membership card and everything, then we could get started. We went to a floor that had a tugboat that you could go inside. There was also a place where you tried to steer a boat, you could get a big boat or a little one. We also put together a puzzle with BIG pieces. It was a map of the Mississippi River.

Later we went outside to go mini golfing. I got one hole in one but after that I got a 6 :( Daddy won but I was only behind Isaac by one stroke. :) While we were outside Isaac and I ran through a maze and I think I jumped over a dead end :) There was also a place outside to put water in a watering can and pour it over different surfaces. There were holes at the bottom to tell how long it took for the water to get through. There was a room out there too. It was dark and on the wall you could see things from outside only there were upside down. You could see them because on the other side there was something that reflected them. It was neat to be able to see a car driving upside down on the wall.

After we finished in the room we went back inside. There we found a place to make pictures by stepping forward and backward. You stood somewhere in front of a screen and the lines went up and down when you went forward and backward. On one floor we ran a steam engine. (Isaac and daddy ran a steam engine) :)

One place had a real mummy from Egypt! A man that worked there told us that a long time ago they mummified people after they died. The6 believed that your "spirit" left you and then later returned. They thought that maybe their spirit might not recognize them if they didn't get mummified, so they did. It was all very interesting. Soon after that we went back to the place we were staying. I enjoyed the day very much!

Day 2 part 2: Pepin Daily News

From the Streets of Pepin (by Chris Eicher) July 10

An avid fan of the "Little House" books series, Jennifer Eicher, arrived in Pepin yesterday afternoon along with her family. They were in town on their much anticipated Laura Ingalls tour, in which they are visiting all the home sites of Laura Ingalls. Their destination here was the Little House Wayside attraction on County Rd CC, 7 miles outside Pepin

I had the privilege of talking with Jennifer after her family's visit. She said she was "sad and disappointed" there wasn't "more things and stuff" in the little cabin, "more like a museum with a tour". She did, however, state she really enjoyed her visit and especially mentioned the loft and fireplace as points of great interest to her.

She left town with her family late yesterday afternoon. The next stop on the family's Laura Ingalls Tour reportedly is the Dugout site in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, from the book "On the Banks of Plum Creek".

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Day 2 part 1: Burr Oak, Iowa

Written by Isaac:

We left this morning at 5:00 for Burr Oak, Iowa, a 7 hour drive! :) For the last 5 hours during the drive, mom would set the timer for an hour an then we'd do something. The first something was Jennifer got to pick a package which had sunglasses for her and Lillian. The second something was we got to listen to a new Hank the Cowdog story which lasted a couple hours but it was exciting! :) The last something was a package that had suckers in it. We stopped to get gas and at McDonalds for lunch.

When we got to Burr Oak, we first played in the park close to the hotel where the Ingalls' lived. We also took a picture in the small covered wagon. After that we took the tour of the hotel. First they showed us a video of the Ingalls' life. While they were in Burr Oak, they lived in the hotel first and helped run it but the owner payed them unfairly so they moved to a grocery store. However the saloon between the grocery store and the hotel burned down. Pa felt it was not safe to live there so he rented the Bisby house and the family stayed there, that is where Grace was born. Unfortunately debt forced them to go back to Minnesota. He showed us the hotel which is the original hotel, not a replica. On the ground floor was a parlor, the owner's bedroom, the office, and Mr Bisby's bedroom. Upstairs were bedrooms for guests and people slept across the beds instead of lengthwise so there could be 3 people in one bed! (You paid 25 cents for a spot in bed and 25 cents for a meal) In the basement was the kitchen, dining room and the Ingalls' bedroom, their only personal space.

It was quite interesting!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Day 1: On Our Way!

We may not have a sturdy covered wagon and two trusty horses, like Laura and Mary did, as we set off to see the places they lived, but we've got Big Bertha! :) There's a family at our church who owns a big red van affectionately dubbed "Big Bertha". Her purpose in life is to provide transportation, comfort, and lots of space for traveling people. We are privileged to be putting her services to use on our Big Adventure! A huge Thank You to Jason and Anna!!

A big Thank You is also due to you people who sent up prayers for us yesterday! The 101 things on my list were accomplished with minimal stress and anxiety and Charles seems to be better this morning. I was reminded of our SS class discussion on "the just living by faith". How easy it is to give lip service to trusting the Father, but to rest whether His answer is the one you humanly think would be the best one or not? That's another matter!

So, the adventure has begun! Today's destination is supper and an overnight stay with my cousin, Myra, and her husband, Jon Schrock, and family. Myra and I spent hours with dolls and barbies and large imaginations back in the day! When my family would make our journeys to IN to visit family and friends, time spent with her was always at the top of my list! Time has a way of changing things, and I'm sad to say that I haven't even met Myra's husband nor can I remember the names of her little ones. I'm looking forward to a short and sweet catch up time!

On the agenda for tomorrow is an early departure for the Masters Hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa. After lunch by Silver Lake, we will go on to the Little House in the Big Woods, explore the site there, and end up in Grove City, MN for the night.

At the moment I think I'll enjoy the peace while my baby naps........

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Quick SOS

It's the day before THE DAY and I have a hundred things to do. Things that only Mom can do to get ready to leave on a trip, you know? Last minute laundry and piles of clothes to be packed. Lists to go over and all the miscellaneous items to be gathered together.

Instead I'm sitting here holding a feverish 15 month old and wondering just exactly what God has in mind? Stress and worry are crowding loudly at the door as I wonder how in the world I am going to do this! But I left it all in His hands last night, and I know He's Got This. I don't know what His big picture looks like, but I know I know I can trust Him!

Will you join me in prayer? I feel selfish to ask it, but I know He cares even about this ....and I know you care too. Thank you so very much!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Our Big Adventure

It all started with an innocent little row of Audio CDs at the local library. I noticed them there one day and thought, "Wow! Those would be great for a trip!" Since there was no trip coming up, and my children kept wanting to listen to them, I gave in and brought home the first book on CD - The Little House In The Big Woods. We all fell in love, Jennifer in particular. She would sit there for hours (not stretched!) Completely mesmerized in the wonders of Laura and Mary and life away back then!

One by one, we worked our way through that row, reliving the Indian war cry and the brown bread and sticks of hay in the Long Winter. We licked our lips over the descriptions of food in Farmer Boy and wondered how it felt to "eat until you are full" and then down pie besides! We marveled at working for 25 cents a day, and the super expensive 50 cent kitten Pa splurged on to get rid of the mice. We went along with Laura through freezing cold sleigh rides behind the beautiful Morgans and on to her wedding day and the First Three Years of giving farming a try.

Long after the rest of us had had our fill, Jennifer would beg to re-listen to the "Laura and Mary" books again! Her play time revolved around "Almanzo" and "Rose" and to this day her name is always "Laura"!! By now she knows the stories backwards and forwards, and woe be to you if you should pronounce "slough" different than the lady on the CDs!

One day early this Spring, Chris came home with a Big Announcement! "This summer," he told us, "We are going to go on a trip and visit all the Little House sites." This was met with disbelief and wonder on all sides! Could we really see the Banks of Plumb Creek? Are there really houses at those places? Do they have clothes that they wore in the museum??? And so the Big Adventure was launched!

Chris spent hours looking up sites online and mapping out routes and places to stay. Since we have a Science Museum Membership right now, he included two of those in our itinerary and when he found out there was a Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant in July, the dates began to take shape! I, of course, was the typical doubter and dragger of feet - should we spend money on this? Wasn't it a bit much? But Chris held firm to one of his favorite mottoes, that no one has ever gotten to the end of their lives and said "If only I hadn't done so many things with my children!" And if you wait until you can "afford" such a thing, you'll never do it. And if you wait until the children are older, you'll never do it...... :) I'm convinced.

So, THAT is where we are headed for 12 days come Tuesday, July 8!! And, like I told you before, I intend to bring you all along with us, so get ready for the Big Adventure coming right up!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Thinking Out Loud

I've been sitting here reading my own blog. Not sure if that's weird or not, but it happens occasionally. I was re-reading the "how we met" stories that I shared last month, and realizing that I never really talked much about them! Maybe because I've been following Shari's thoughts on singlehood and dating  thoughts began tumbling through my mind as I re-read them.
I love "how we met" stories and "proposal" stories; I think most of us do! I never thought of it that, like Timo said, God is love and He loves love stories! I like that. As in many areas of God's creation, I'm amazed at the creativity that comes through in these stories. How simple would it have been for God to set up one set way that a man and a woman meet and marry? I mean, if it works why not use it for everyone??
But, no. Here the girl falls madly in love and the boy takes no notice. Here the boy has thought, and prayed, and is sure, but the girl has many, many questions. Here their first impression was Never! And God worked to change both hearts. Everyone's story is just a little bit different it seems! That speaks to me of a God who loves individually. A God who delights in writing special, detailed stories in the lives of His characters!
But, back to the discussion that's been going on about singlehood and dating over at I'm not a "discusser" (is that a word?) I live with a man who likes to pick things apart piece by piece and then go through the pieces backward yet too. Me? Not so much. This topic of singlehood is a bit touchy with me anyway, see, cause in my family we're split right down the middle - 3 and 3 - so I tend to stick up for the single side pretty hard!
Buuuuttt.....bear with me, I have a point (I think)...... I do have to admit that I'm agreeing more and more with the idea that we've swung the pendulum from "casual dating" way over to a place where maybe we really shouldn't be! The point was made that we've swung so far the other way, that now a simple request from a man to begin a relationship is taken as seriously as a proposal for marriage and many an upstanding gentleman is turned down because he didn't "match the list" and there's "no way we could fit together"!
Which brings me to my Idea: I think dating relationships should start off with 6-8 months of good old fashioned, envelope-with-a-stamp snail mail. These should include lots of questions and answers, family descriptions, likes and dislikes, and everyday happenings. If, after the letter writing period, one party still feels mis-givings and has found no common ground or maybe some character flaw that clinches the matter totally, than maybe it isn't meant to be.
"Yeah, you're a writer!" I knew that was coming. Maybe you're right. Maybe. But I know some people who think they can't write who can put a lot of good stuff on paper when needed! You can say things in letters that you would never get said in a first-awkward-date/phone-call. You can learn to know someone without the pressure of face-to-face/voice-to-voice. You can re-read and ponder (not to mention write and re-write :) ) without the need to "perform" or "pretend" in front of this person you aren't sure about.
I don't know. Maybe I'm getting carried away. I just wonder if it wouldn't take care of some of the "no's" that should maybe have been "I'll give you a chance's". It does seem that when any 16 year old girl who would dare to say "my biggest dream is to marry and be a mother" would almost certainly be looked at as "weird", than maybe we Christians have lost our way just a bit somewhere.
But now I am sounding like a discusser, and I am not one, so I am done, done. Done!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

When You Have Nothing To Say But You Say Something Anyway

I haven't had anything to say these days, so....... I haven't been saying it! I mean there's boring things like - I finally went to the Dr yesterday after coughing for 3 weeks and getting sore ribs. He spent 5 minutes looking at me and prescribed meds for a sinus infection and sent me on my way. Or - we have been having an unusual amount of rain for this time of year and I'm beginning to wonder if Ohio has "rainy season" or what? Exciting things like that. Things akin to the - "Dear So and So, Hello! How are you? I am fine." variety.

I am in the midst of preparing a family of 5 children for 12 days on the road. Maybe that explains everything without any further explanation needed! I mean, where does one start? How many clothes does that come out to, exactly? And this is not a drive-all-day-reach-destination-stay-for-12-days trip. This is a 12-day-stay-somewhere-different-nearly-every-night trip!

We are excited. And some of us are a little overwhelmed. Okay, make that singular and "a lot" and it'd be more honest! But we ARE excited. And I'm planning to drag you all along with daily pictures and updates from Eicher reporters young and old, so you can go ahead and start getting excited too! :)

In the mean time, I'll be making lists and finishing up sewing and working on food ideas and "things to keep 5 children happy in a van" ideas, and rounding up suitcases and all the last minute things that suddenly HAVE to be done before Departing On A Big Trip -- why haven't I noticed the windows before? And the ceiling fan?? Horrendous. Yeah. Those kind of dire, Important, things.

Where are we going? All in due time, all in due time! I like to leave people on the edge of their seats. Keeps life so much more interesting! :) :)