Sunday, September 28, 2008

9/28/08 The National Civil War Museum

We loved this museum (in Harrisburg, PA) – it was well done, interactive, had video biographies throughout (helped to hold kids’ and my attention), and best of all gave us a great overview of the Civil War in one visit. The thing that struck us the most was the extremely high cost of war. Over ½ million war casualties and many more injured for life. Everyone was touched by this war in some way, and it was heart wrenching to hear their stories. We were moved to tears several times.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

9/27/08 The Amazing Maize Maze

They say this is the largest outdoor game in America. It covers 5 ½ acres of corn maize. It’s definitely the coolest maze I’ve been through. You start off with a game board and collect portions of the maze map to help you get out. You can buy clues for $0.25. There are both fun and educational stops along the way. It took us 2 hours to get through and that was with help! To see a picture of the maze go to ...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

9/25/08 A culture, tradition and faith we admire

As mentioned previously, we have found much that we admire about the Amish and as such desired to learn more about their faith and traditions. The Amish House and Farm was just the ticket. This is an Amish home and farm frozen in time from the 1950s when it was purchased along with most of the original furnishings to educate visitors about the Amish ways and faith. We were able to learn and ask the dozens of questions we had.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

9/24/08 The Amish People

The highlight of our touring was a meal in an old order Amish family home. Not only was it the best food, but even better we enjoyed getting to know a real Amish family. It is not something they advertise but if you ask at the Mennonite Visitor center they have connections (as do some of the B&Bs/hotels, we are told). They were lovely people who stole our hearts. Though we have many differences that are obvious, we have so much in common. They showed us much kindness, letting us pet puppies, ponies, showing us their buggy and how it works, not to mention the fabulous Thanksgiving-sized meal. The next day we went back to buy some amazing Amish peanut butter sauce from her and she had her grandkids next door hook up the miniature horse to the miniature buggy and take the girls on a ride. Her granddaughters also sang some beautiful hymns and songs for us. Singing is a great joy in their lives. We were blessed to have them share a little of that with us.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

9/23/08 Friendship Delight

We were blessed to be able to enjoy a good dose of “friendship delight” - the joy of seeing familiar and dear faces. The highlight of our visit here has been seeing our neighbors, fellow homeschoolers in the same group back home, and dear friends. We were all so happy to see them. We were blessed to have a whole 1 ½ days with them here before they had to move on. What a huge treat!

Monday, September 22, 2008

9/22/08 Amish Country

Lancaster County has close to 30,000 old order Amish and the country side here is landscaped with beautiful farms scattered across the rolling hills. Imagine the clip clop of horses pulling buggies amidst the occasional semi truck or even our motor home. What a contrast. Our campsite is next to two different Amish farms. We’ve enjoyed watching them farm with horse teams and unusual equipment wishing we knew more about it. Our fist day here, we watched a father and son working the field just on the other side of the creek from our camp spot. The longer I watched, the more I thought the creek seemed to be a sort of chasm of time. I stood in the present, but across the creek I was transported back in time.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

9/20/08 Some Philly highlights...

In addition to the yummy Philly Cheese Steaks and delicious Continental Cuisine at the City Tavern, we LOVED all the history here. They say it’s the most historic square mile in the US. I believe it. My favorite stop was Independence Hall and 2nd favorite was The National Constitution Center. But of course, I enjoyed all the historic sites, as well as the Mint and Fed Reserve, Washington’s Delaware Crossing and Valley Forge.

Friday, September 19, 2008

9/19/08 A new candidate for president and a class on the Constitution

We loved The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. We learned so much and it was so well done - not only from an adult perspective but the kids loved it too – very interactive. I highly recommend it if you are in the area. While we were there, the kids went on the campaign trail; here’s a few pics to highlight R’s campaign and election to president (the first two pics were actually videos, but due to technical difficulties I couldn't post the video, so you'll have to use your imaginations)…

Thursday, September 18, 2008

9/18/08 The Liberty Medal

While in Philly, we discovered the Liberty Medal Ceremony was to be held with Mikhail Gorbachev as the recipient this year for his part in putting an end to the cold war and bringing increased liberties to the people. Former President Bush (senior) was to speak and present this honored medal. Not only did I want to see the ceremony, but I really wanted to take the kids as well. I was armed and ready with telephoto lens and binoculars! We found a good viewing spot and the kids all agreed they were glad they got to see it. But, God gave me an extra special gift. My dear hubby, was quick and loud when someone offered the watching crowd a free ticket they weren’t using. P was awarded this free ticket and very happily presented it to me. I was delighted to be able to get in so close. I’m sure no one took more pics and video than I (what can I say; I have been “camera happy” all my life).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I was so floored to stand in THE very room where our country was born. In Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Declaration of Independence was finalized, approved and signed. In addition, eleven years later, over the course of several months, delegates met in this very room, argued, discussed, debated, and finally wrote and signed the US Consitution, then a new and experimental government which has now stood the test of time. I can’t believe I got to see the very room where it all happened – wow! And double wow! (Yes, I do love history).
(By the way, the 2nd picture I've posted is of the very chair George Washington sat in as president of the 2nd Continental Congress, who met wrote the Constitution here. It's hard to see in the pic, but at the top center on the back of the chair is carved a half sun. I've included Ben Franklin's comment about it.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

9/16/08 A day off…

I felt like I could finally breathe – space that wasn’t filled with concrete or extremely aggressive drivers. Can you hear me sighing? We have left the crowds of NYC to a retreat in the country. As an added bonus, we were able to meet with the director of a small mission organization that we like. That was a nice opportunity since we were in the area.

Monday, September 15, 2008

9/15/08 Hob-knobbing with Celebs…

Well, we aren’t exactly best friends with Regis and Kelly, but we sure had fun being part of the live audience today. By the way, Mom, did I make my National Television debut? Or…anyone else, did you see the girls and I on TV? This was a VERY early adventure for us. I had to wake the girls up at 4:40 am to travel on the subways to get there, get in line and WAIT for a long time for the chance to get standby tickets. The really amazing thing is that I told the girls there was a good chance we wouldn’t get to see it after all that, and I gave them the choice. They chose to go for it! You can imagine the praying we all did, hoping the Lord would work it out so we’d get the standby tickets! They let 20 standbys in and we were 19! I was so thankful that after all that the girls were able to get in – a gift from the Lord. But, later that day, C had bags under her eyes and sat or lay down every chance she had – poor honey. She said it was worth it, though. Thankfully the little R stayed with Paul or she would never have made it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

9/14/08 The Big Apple

Big is for sure! I didn’t have to feel bad about not “exercising” as I got plenty of that in the 3 days walking around the BIG Apple. Walking around Time Square last night with our friend, Betsy, I wondered how so many people could be in one place! And, I feel pretty sure they have more brightly lit outdoor screens per square inch than anywhere in the world. It was fun getting a tour from a New Yorker. We also saw many of the cities highlights like Empire State Building, Macy’s – the largest dept. store in the world – 10 floors, 5th Ave. shopping, Toys R Us with an indoor ferris wheel, FAO Schwartz – even I had a lot of fun in that one, Eloise’s home – the Plaza Hotel (but we were a bit out of place inside there – and that’s an understatement), Central Park, Ground Zero, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Paul’s Chapel, Grand Central Station, and the UN tour (mind you, this is all over the course of 3 days including our visit to Ellis Island, and yes, I was tired after all this!)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

9/13/08 Lovely Liberty!

In the peak years of immigration through Ellis Island, 12 million passed through here. Research shows that 45% of all Americans can trace an ancestor to Ellis Island. That’s pretty amazing. We were able to follow the footsteps of these millions. All I have to say is what a terrifying experience! And, I stand in awe as I consider the unthinkable lives most had in their home countries that caused them to work for years to save enough money to risk this new world. Many couldn’t even believe a policeman was there to help and protect rather than someone looking to find any excuse to kill you. Oh how beautiful Lady Liberty must have looked to them. We have so much to be thankful for and too much we take for granted!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What do you get when you cross a PB&J with a red light?

C was at the table preparing a PB&J sanwich while we were driving. There was a sudden traffic light change, then hard breaking of the motor home, and unusual loud sounds from behind our heads, and then C says, “Oh no, I’ve been shot.” (...Hmmm...Could it be that we've been to too many war sites?) This picture is what I saw when I turned around. Thankfully she couldn’t say it without giggling (or I might have had to kill her for the scare she would have given me). So, really this pic is what you get when you cross a PB&J in process with a sudden motor home stop!

9/10/08 An Amazing Leader

Today we visited the life long home of FDR and his Presidential Library & Museum. All of it was frozen in time at his death. Even his clothes were hanging in the closet as they were that sad day in 1945!! He had already planned that upon his death the home would be turned over the National Parks. It has given the rest of us an opportunity to see it all EXACTLY as it was. This is the president that had many firsts – 1st to be elected 4 terms, 1st and only to enact that much legislation, 1st and only disabled, and the list goes on. Even though I am a Republican, I admire his leadership, creativity, dedication, and love of the people – qualities which clearly transcend political party. I feel like I received a good education not only about his life, family and presidency, but also about the Great Depression and WW2. And even better, so did the girls! And, yep, another written assignment – but what a classroom!

We topped it off with an absolutely delectable visit to the nearby Culinary Institute of America, one of the premier culinary schools in the world, complete with 5 restaurants to taste the fruit of their labor. It was a delicious end to a pleasant day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mommy, I Shrunk My Sisters!

We just had to…. But, no worries, we figured out how to zap them back to their normal sizes after we took the picture.

9/9/08 The Life of the Rich and Famous

This Newport, RI, summer “cottage” built in 1895 belonged to the Vanderbilts. Compared to their NY City home of 150 rooms, this 70 room home was a step down with its mere 138,000 sq. ft. But, no matter, it was only used to get away from the summer heat for 6-8 weeks each summer. As much as I admired the stunning and brilliant craftsmanship of the artisans who built this home, it was impossible for me to understand a life that would require 40 servants in an early 1900’s summer “cottage.” I usually have a pretty good imagination, but I just can’t put my arms around that one. As Providence would have it, Cornelius, who had it built, only got to enjoy it for about a year before he suffered a stroke. His wife, children and some grandchildren were, however, able to enjoy it until 1937. But, if you figure that they were only in it 6-8 weeks a year, when you add that all together it amounts to a little over 5 ½ years. The daughter who inherited the property turned it into a museum after 1937. So, basically Cornelius Vanderbilt spent $11 million in 1895 to build a museum that his family was able to use off an on for a total of 5 ½ years before the rest of us got to see it!! Wasn’t that nice of him?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

9/7/08 Stepping Back in Time to 1620

Visiting the Mayflower 2 and the Plimoth Plantation was truly like traveling back in time. Scattered throughout the Mayflower and the re-created first village they built when they landed at Plymouth were various Pilgrims. In actuality they were costumed role players who have taken on the names, viewpoints, and life histories of the Pilgrims who actually traveled on the ship and lived in the colony. Each one had a unique story to tell and I loved being able to “get to know” them and hear their fascinating stories as they answered my many questions, as well as the many questions of my kids who were forced to complete a written school assignment by their mean teacher. J I especially loved hearing their comments about their amazing faith – it was very inspiring. The actors stay completely in character (and cannot be tricked!) and are so well trained - even right down to the accurate vocabulary of the day. This was actually the 3rd time in my life I’ve been here and I could do it again. It is definitely on my Top 10 list of all time favorite historic sites to visit! How could you not like getting to hang out with the Pilgrims?!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

9/6/08 Something Old, Something New

Today we toured the Adams National Historic Site and saw all the homes that Adams lived in (except the White House) as well as the homes that his son John Quincy Adams lived in. One of the homes was about 300 years old! The home he purchased as vice president stayed in the family for 4 generations and is completely full of all their original items, even including original wallpaper – that’s wallpaper over 200 years old! It was so interesting to learn about their lives. I’m going to HAVE to watch the recent HBO series in the near future. Then we toured the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. It was fabulous, well done and fascinating. The girls enjoyed the day, as did I.

Friday, September 5, 2008

9/5/08 Walking the Freedom Trail

It’s amazing how much history there is in this brief two mile stretch! It made for a long, but very interesting day. Some of the many historic sites here include: the burial ground with more famous dead people than any other in the world (Revere, Hancock, etc.), the Old South Meeting House from where the Boston Tea Party was launched as well as the meeting place for many heated Revolutionary discussions, Old State House which served as the seat of Government and the site of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s home and the Old North Church where the famous two lanterns hung that fateful night long ago. We also saw and toured the oldest Navy ship afloat anywhere in the world. It is still a commissioned navy ship. You may know it as “Old Ironsides.” It was awesome to see and tour. I learned so much, but the most interesting bit of trivia was that navy sailors on this ship were as young as 8!!! I can’t imagine sending an 8 year old to war!! They actually had a navy rank called “boy.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

9/4/08 The Shot Heard Round the World and Two Revolutions

Though no one knew it at the time, the shot heard round the world on April 19, 1775 became the fateful day that marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War. And in Lexington and Concord, we had a full day learning all about it. It was moving to be in the very spot where heroes stood …where brave acts paved the way for a new country …where Paul Revere traveled on his famous midnight ride …where minutemen spent a sleepless night preparing for the days events …where the best trained soldiers in the world, the British Regulars, spent all night marching and all day retreating and fighting …and where parents and siblings watched their loved ones die bravely.

In that same location, about one hundred years later a “Literary Revolution” began. We toured the homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, saw Thoreau’s Walden Pond and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home. They were all contemporaries and friends and lived near each other. It was fascinating to learn their personal stories.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

9/3/08 Literary Endeavors and the Industrial Revolution

Yesterday, we arrived in Salem, MA. For all you history buffs, this is where Nathaniel Bowditch lived and sailed from (Remember, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch?). This is where Nathaniel Hawthorne, the famed author, lived most of his adult life. And, most infamously, the Salem Witch Trials were held here. We enjoyed a harbor-side home last night by camping on Winter Island in Salem Harbor (it will be one of the rare and all too brief times we can say we lived on the harbor – ha, ha). And, today we went to the House of Seven Gables (learned its history as well as that of Hawthorne – too bad I haven’t read the book yet, but my interest has been peaked), the Maritime National Historic Park (learned a bit about Salem’s rich maritime history) and then over to Lowell, MA. Lowell is the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. It’s interesting that the founders of the first cotton mill factory set out to have factories that would not be like the ones in Europe with horrible working conditions and the many horrors we have heard about. But, as greed would have its way, in a relatively short time, these factories became just that. First, women, then immigrants, then children were exploited in the name of the almighty dollar. It was sad to learn of their stories.