Our Colorado Trip–Beautiful Places

Summer has been so full! The kids and I spent most of last week on my family’s farm and I didn’t get any more of my Colorado pictures posted. I’ll do a little catching up now  🙂

We spent one morning at The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Here’s a family picture in front of the kissing camels. (See them?)

Kissing camels

Ella getting in a little rock-climbing.

Ella rock climbing

Kelly and me.

At Garden of the Gods

Another family shot. Hard to take a bad picture in this place!

family picture at garden of the gods

The kids exploring and playing.

kids at garden of the gods

Later that day, Dan and Kelly took us to the old Phoenix gold mine in Idaho Springs, where we had a one-of-a-kind tour.

phoenix mine tour

The kids’ favorite part was feeding these friendly {and rather chubby} little guys.

feeding chipmunks

friendly chipmunks

After the mine tour, we headed up the hill for a once again, one-of-a-kind, gold panning lesson.

Phoenix gold mine

gold panning lesson

gold panning lesson

panning for gold

father and son pan for gold

Beautiful country! I’ll end with that for today  🙂

beautiful Colorado

Our Colorado Trip–Colorado at Last!

So we left Saint Louis, drove through Missouri, and spent a night in Salina, Kansas. Then, a little more driving, a little singing of John Denver tunes (to set the mood) and a little more of this:

kids alseep in the car

and then finally, ahhhhh, Colorado!

Colorado lake at dusk

We spent the next 5 days with our friends, Dan and Kelly Spiegelberg. Kelly was my best friend growing up and life took them to Colorado 15 years ago. We arrived at their place on Kelly’s birthday, and were able to go out to dinner with them to celebrate. I hadn’t had a chance to do that in quite a while!

The next morning, these 2 cuties were looking for some breakfast–mule deer fawns. They looked a little different from the white-tail variety that we are used to seeing.

fawns in the morning

It was a rainy day, so we headed into Colorado Springs and visited the Focus on the Family Welcome Center. The kids enjoy listening to the Adventures in Odyssey audio series and have read a couple of the books, so it was fun to have an ice cream treat at Whit’s End soda shop and spend quite a while playing in the different sections of Kid’s Korner. There was no admission charge and the kids were entertained for hours.

Whit's End Soda Shop

puppet show at Kid's Korner

kids with puppets

We eventually headed back to the house and enjoyed a dip in the hot tub. It turned out to be a rather brief dip, because minutes after this picture was taken, a storm blew threw and we were scrambling to get outta there and safely inside.

Colorado hot tub

The next morning, Dan thrilled the kids with rides on the ATV, or “Arctic Cat” as they called it. It’s funny because that’s what it was, but they weren’t familiar with the term ATV, so they just read the words on the side and always referred to it as the Arctic Cat, which cracked us up because it sounded so formal.

Colorado ATV

Ella on ATV

Colorad ATVing

What a great time! We all had a blast every day and it was so fun to spend time with Dan and Kelly (and their daughter, Brittany, on occasion; their son, Taylor, was out of town) and to see them getting to know and enjoy our kids.

More pics and adventures to come!  🙂

Our Colorado Trip–Second Day in Saint Louis

Little Scientists

With “The Arch” crossed off our list of things to do in Saint Louis, we boarded the hotel shuttle and spent a good part of our second day at the Saint Louis Science Center. What a phenomenal place–and it’s free to the public!

St. Louis Science Center

This building had 3 sprawling floors of fun things to explore and experience–hands on!

Ella played a harp with lasers for strings.

laser harp

We sat in on a little electricity lab and Ella dared to touch the plasma ball.

plasma ball

Pretty impressive automated dinosaur display.

dinosaur museum

Fun with mirrors:

fun with mirrors

Three-legged Ella:

fun with mirrors

We spent some time in the Life Science Lab.

little scientists

Experimenting with visible DNA.

little scientists at work

Another shot taken by the kids  🙂

mom and dad scientists

We had hoped to eat at a good St. Louis BBQ place, but everything was either closed (it was a Sunday) or sold out, so our shuttle took us to a huge eatery near Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals play, and we ate at Cardinal Nation. Here we are catching a glimpse of the stadium.

outside of Busch Stadium

We may need to venture back to St. Louis before too long. It’s a pretty cool city with a lot more to discover than we had time for.

kids outside Busch Stadium

Our Colorado Trip–Next Stop: St. Louis

St. Louis Gateway Arch

Our first view of the arch as we walked toward it.

From Springfield, we drove for two and a half hours and arrived in St. Louis, Missouri. I had arranged for a FREE two-night stay at the Residence Inn Downtown {using a certificate that we earned when we bought new tires for our car!!} and we were thrilled with our accommodations. They even waived our nightly parking fee!

One of the best things about this place was that it offered a complimentary shuttle to anywhere within a 3 mile radius. Perfect! We parked and unloaded our vehicle and didn’t touch it again until the morning we left. A shuttle was available every time we requested one and the drivers were wonderful!

After getting situated in our room, we hopped onto the shuttle and were dropped off a short walk from the Gateway Arch.

outside Gateway Arch

This was my third visit to the arch, but it had been many years since I had been there last and I didn’t remember much about the area at its base. I’m pretty sure it has expanded greatly in the last couple of decades and now contains a small museum, a theater with a couple of informational movies about the arch and area, gift shops, a large ticketing area and unfortunately, a LOT of people. We like to avoid crowds and long lines, but since the forecast was calling for rain for the next couple of days, we bit the bullet and decided to purchase tickets and wait our turn to ascend the arch that afternoon so we would have a chance at a good view.

Our turn to form a line finally came, but unbeknownst to us, it was still a lengthy wait after that, shuffling through holding sections.

Finally in the pod–I love how this picture captured some of the anxiety on everyone’s faces.

Ready to ascend Gateway Arch

A moment later, a little more relaxed–sort of.

In the Gateway Arch pod

My cute family--going up.

My cute family–going up.

Once we got to the top, it was so incredibly crowded. We held our poor kids’ hands as they squirmed their way through the sea of people’s bottoms that were in their faces.

on top of Gateway Arch

They got to look out the windows, but I don’t think we spent more than 3 or 4 minutes up there before they asked to head to the pods and go back down. We were fine with that. I’m very glad that we all did it, but I would be ok if that was my last time. Ken agrees.

View of courthouse from Gateway Arch

View of the city and old courthouse from the pinnacle of the Gateway Arch.

Once we arrived back down on solid ground, it was quite late and the Groh family was hungry again. We started walking in the direction that we thought was the Spaghetti Factory and, fortunately, we got it right this time, but it was a bit of a stroll. My shoe buckle began bothering me from all the unexpected walking earlier in the day, and before long my ankle started to bleed. I had to take drastic measures and began walking with one bare foot, holding my shoe in my hand. Classy. Thankfully, they still allowed us into the restaurant.

I loved the decor of the Spaghetti Factory and the balloon guy made the kids pretty incredible hats.

St. Louis Spaghetti Factory

We got to see the full moon/super moon after dinner as we walked to catch our shuttle which took us back to the hotel. A good, full day.

Gateway Arch with full moon

Our Colorado Trip–First Stop: Springfield, Illinois

Last summer, we made our longest road trip to date by heading east to visit my sister and her family in upstate New York, with a stopover at our friends in Ohio. Since that was completely successful, we decided that this summer we would take an even longer trip and head west to visit my childhood best friend and her family, in Colorado.

Since the drive to the Colorado Springs area is about 20 hours, we thought we’d make a couple of stops along the way to make it a more enjoyable trip. We had initially planned to head to Springfield, Illinois–our capital city–and spend a day and night there exploring historical sites. But since we had to cut our vacation a little short due to Ken needing to get back to work, we chose to just spend a few hours there and then move on to our next destination.

Springfield, IL capitol building

Thankfully we had a beautiful {albeit very hot} day. We found our way to the capitol building and parked for free a couple of blocks away. According to our GPS, there were some restaurants within walking distance, so we locked the GPS in the car, deciding to wing it, and set off.

Well, I don’t know if the GPS was wrong, or if we were, but let’s just say we ended up having a bit of a Clark Griswold adventure! We walked…and walked…and walked, alone, through some neighborhoods that had seen better days; down one street and then another, sure that the restaurant we were desiring was on the next block over. It was so hot, we were fading fast. The kids were complaining, with their hands hanging straight down by their sides and their feet dragging a bit. We were irritable, sweating, thirsty and our stomachs were growling–I’m tellin’ ya–we would have been great Griswold fodder. It was so ridiculous–ha!

Anyway, we circled around and ended up on the other side of the capitol building and saw three ladies approaching in the distance. They were smiling and carrying take-home containers. Take-home containers!! I almost ran to them, but controlled myself and as we passed I asked where they had eaten. They pointed us in the direction of Obed and Isaac’s and we set off with renewed hope. Several minutes later, we were in a very quaint air-conditioned eating establishment, with our name on a list for a table. Apparently everyone else knew to come here.

After a very enjoyable meal, we headed back to the capitol building with restored energy and a little more spring in our step. {Notice–no pictures until the fed, happier Groh family appeared}

Lincoln Statue--Springfield, IL

A replica of the Liberty Bell.

Bell at Springfield, IL

Heading inside.

Walking into Springfield, IL capitol building

The beautiful rotunda.

Springfield, IL capitol rotunda

I didn’t take a picture, but the bathrooms in the building were awe-inspiring. I told the kids that it might be the nicest bathroom they’ll ever use!

Springfield, IL capitol building

Firemen’s monument–took this shot for Grandpa Groh.

Firemen's monument, Springfield, IL

One of the kids took this picture before we left  🙂  I love how they’re getting pretty good with the camera!

Kissing at capital, Springfield, IL

Off to Saint Louis!

 

 

A Memorable Fourth of July

Ella's first 4th of July

July 4th, 2011. Our daughter’s first 4th of July.

And friends {5/6ths of the Zidan family} stopped to visit us for a few days while on their way home from 6 months in Swaziland.

The Zidans

Ken had built a wooden ship in our backyard and finished it just in time to leave for China to meet and bring home our daughter, 2 months prior.

Ken builds a boat

Kids playing in front of ship

Ken put a bug in Jim Zidan’s ear about painting the ship while they were staying with us and Jim began drawing up a design. It was a brutally hot day–but inspiration struck and had to be dealt with.

painting the ship

Jim and Ken painting

Ken’s buddy, Jake, and his boys, came for the 4th and got in on the  fun…errrr…work…ummm…whatever.

Jim and Jake painting

Despite the dangerous heat index, we were all quite amazed and impressed with what was accomplished.

squid on the ship

crab side of the ship

Well done everyone! Well done!

The ship-painting crew

Happy 4th of July!!

Zidan 4th of July

 

Mudroom Upgrade

Our mudroom/laundry room/pantry begged for some attention. As you can tell by its name, it serves many purposes and was overcrowded and under-organized.

This is where we were a few months ago:

mudroom before

This wall has generally looked this way for the past several years. Remember this winter when I had a super productive day and changed around a few areas of our house? Well, I began the ball rolling in the direction of change for our mudroom, but for several weeks it remained in this rather awkward transitional state:

mudroom temporary

Thankfully, my husband {who is a physical therapist by trade} is financially savvy and quite a talented DIY’er, so we combined some cash we received around Christmas time and took advantage of a Menard’s promotion where we could earn 11% store credit on purchases, and Ken began accumulating the supplies needed to build a shelving unit to meet our needs in this room.

We worked together to draw up a design for the space. Ken figured out all the measurements:

shelving unit blueprint

And I filled in all the spaces to make sure it could contain everything I needed and wanted it to:

pantry storage map

As he had time on weekends and after work, Ken began to build the shelving units in sections.

woodworking project in garage

We used each section as it was constructed, although not completed.

mudroom in progress

painting project

Piece by piece, it came together.

mudroom shelves in progress

mudroom lockers

completed mudroom unitI found this cute bin at Kohl’s, of all places, and am using it to hold coupons and odds and ends that would have previously stockpiled on the kitchen counter.

coupon organizer

I picked up this row of hooks at Hobby Lobby and Ken mounted it on the wall opposite of the wall unit. Here I hang aprons and the kids’ “play” coats. Now the kids know which jacket to grab when they are going outside to play. That alone has solved a great recurring problem that we had.

decorative coat hooks

mudroom coat hooks

Eventually, we hope to add some enclosed storage across the top of the shelves. I would like to store vases and out-of-season items in them, out of sight. In the meantime, I plan to use storage bins up there to keep things accessible, yet tucked away.

Everything in its place:

mudroom organized

This Old House

Pratt Family Home

This is where my family and I spent this past weekend. Honestly.

See the upstairs window on the right? That’s where Ken and I slept.

Our kids slept in the upstairs room on the left.

And my parents slept in the room behind the lower window on the left.

That’s where they always sleep, because they have lived here for over 10 years now. My paternal grandparents lived here for decades before that.

My grandfather–George Marshall Pratt (the third, although that title was not a given part of his name)–was born in this house in 1906. The above picture shows his mother and five of his siblings. He and his older sister had not yet been born.

We are not sure when the Pratt family moved into the house, nor who built it. Unfortunately, it seems that anyone who could answer those questions is no longer on this earth, and we didn’t think to ask them when they were still here.

This is the front of the house in a shot that I took this weekend:

Pratt family home

It actually looks quite alive and inviting when my mother’s flowers are in bloom, but this picture, from a cold spring morning, makes for a good comparison with the one taken over a century ago.

Here is the same house a few years after the first picture above. My Grandpa Pratt always stated that he was a newborn in this picture and was in the bedroom with his mother, I believe behind the curtains in the bottom left window.

George Marshall Pratt home

{I have to wonder–who took these pictures?! Was there a traveling photographer who made his or her way around the countryside with a wagon carrying old-time camera equipment who would take a picture of the family homestead for a fee and then move on? I just have to wonder.}

Through the years, my grandparents added a couple of enclosed porches to the house, as well as a kitchen, an additional bedroom and expanded their basement (to include indoor plumbing!). Eventually, they added a bigger kitchen, turning the previous kitchen into a dining room, and built a bathroom on the main floor.

This photo shows what used to be the front of the house, which is now an enclosed porch that my parents have used as a wonderful playroom for the grandkids.

Enclosed front porch

This is what it looks like on the other side of that wall–from the inside looking out to the enclosed front porch. This is one of the original rooms, which I believe was used as the main living area.

Inside of original Pratt home

My parents have been able to make some interior changes to the house and have also built an attached garage, a large dining room and a mudroom/pantry area.

Here is a side view of the house today, but you can still see the original portion of it which was built so many years ago.

Pratt home 2014After we enjoyed our good night’s rest this past weekend, we stripped the beds and Ken  helped my Dad move the big furniture into the newest bedroom. There it will remain until the walls and ceilings in those two old rooms and the stairwell are gutted to the studs so that new electrical wiring, insulation and drywall can go in.

This is the original stairway leading upstairs. Generations of kids and grandkids have played on these steps! 🙂

grandkids in the stairway

The walls and wallpaper will be updated, but the original stairs will remain.

I hope to post some before and after pictures once this latest project is complete.

It’s exciting to anticipate the changes, but I also love the stories and memories that this old house holds for me and so many others.

Something for Your Child’s Easter Basket

Kids with Easter baskets

If you’re looking for a great Easter gift for a special child in your life, I would highly recommend something from the What’s In the Bible series.

My kids {and Ken and I} love these DVDs. They are packed with solid Bible truths presented in such a fun way that your kids {and you} will enjoy and even remember them. Phil Vischer {of Veggie Tales} does a great job teaching simple, yet foundational biblical truth.

We currently have Volumes 1 and 8 if anyone local wants to swap or just check them out. I plan to get a couple more for my kids’ Easter baskets.

If you click here or on the ad in the left sidebar, you will see this week’s offer of The Jesus Journal with Volume 10 thrown in as a bonus. Volume 10 explains Jesus and the Gospels and is a great one for Easter time.

As part of their affiliate program, I plan to keep a link to their site on my blog and it will change with different deals or percentages off, so check back in if you’d like to wait for a different offer. {And I’m not gonna lie to you, I could earn a small commission if you order it through my site. So it’s a win/win either way.}

But commission or not, I really do think these DVDs are great!

Better than another chocolate bunny–right?! You know how your kids act when they’re all hopped up on sugar!!

Ebenezer Series: A Big Move

Acknowledging God’s magnificent hand in my

otherwise ordinary life

{Spring break is over and I am back, continuing on with my Ebenezer series. For a reminder of what this is all about, you can read the introductory blog here and catch up on all other posts in the series here.}

Mobile Home

At some point, my father made some changes and was no longer working for his friend {my landlord}. The house was still available, so my friend and I remained there, for a little while.

But the day came when my landlord’s wife paid me a visit and, although she was a wonderful lady, I felt a heaviness in my chest when I saw her at my door. She explained that they had hired someone who would be living in the house and that my roommate and I would need to move out. I don’t recall the exact time frame, but I know it was short.

She left, and as soon as I closed the door, I dropped to my knees in that magnificently spacious room and cried out to God. “Oh dear God, what do you want me to do?” I wept, with my hands-covered face in the plush carpeting. I poured my heart out to Him there and I felt his comforting presence. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those moments.

farmhouse kitchen

Feelings of confusion and desperation came and went over the  next couple of weeks, but they didn’t get the best of me. I didn’t want to leave this place, which I had initially resisted with all my might, but I felt reassured that He would provide a way for me, as He had before, and I began to actively wait upon Him.

I broke the news to my roommate, and we each began brainstorming our options.

One night I called my best friend, Kelly. She had gotten married a few months earlier and moved to the southeastern corner of Wisconsin. I had driven the three hours to visit her on more than one occasion and was somewhat familiar with the area. Kelly’s extended family lived in surrounding communities and, along with her, I had visited them many times during my teen years.

As soon as I told Kelly of my predicament, she said, “Laury, you should move down here.” She told me how she didn’t think I’d have any problem finding a job in the area and that she would ask around to see if anyone was looking for a roommate.

In no time, she let me know that there was an elderly lady from their church who lived in a mobile home {in a retirement community} and had extra space that she was willing to rent out. Upon her request, the mobile home association granted her approval to have a young person stay with her, even though all residents were supposed to be over 60 years old. It sounded less than ideal, but for $20 a week, it would do fine until I found something else.

My time in the farmhouse was just under a year. It all seems like a whirlwind now, but without much hesitation, I quit my job at the newspaper and closed up my consignment space. We packed up most everything from that big old farmhouse and stored it at my parents’ home. {Bless their hearts once again}

Ironically, the new guy who was moving in was a high school classmate of mine. He and his wife began storing a few of their belongings in the house before I was scheduled to be out, so it was fun to cross paths with him and catch up a bit.

With many of my clothes, and just a few necessities stuffed into my car, I headed for the other side of the state to meet my new “roommate.”

Her name was Irene.  She was a sweet-spirited and rather spry 80-something year-old who had a love for the Lord that showed in everything she said and did. She was widowed, with no children, and lived with her yappy little dog in this mobile home, left to her years earlier by a man for whom she had been a paid caretaker.

Irene Maxwell

The back bedroom, which became my room, contained the hospital bed that this man had used, complete with wheeled bedside table. Other furnishings included a floor lamp, an old chair, large pictures and mirrors, hanging plants and oodles of filing cabinets and file boxes.

Bed at Irene's

The closet had two fold-out doors and was ¾’s full of old clothes, coats, boxes and a vacuum–with just enough room for me to squeeze in a handful of hanging clothing items.

Bedroom at Irene's

My living space had just been downsized to a rather crowded and oddly furnished 9′ x 10′ room {or so}, —in complete contrast to the 4-bedroom farmhouse from which I had just moved.

I rearranged and did what I could to make the space comfy and my own. Irene had emptied out a couple of filing cabinets and I used them as dressers. I used to joke about not being able to find my clothes–like I had looked under “j” for jeans but then remembered I had filed them under “p” for pants. It was an unusual way to live, but I always knew it would make for a good story someday.

 

Clothing files at Irene's

I had 3 windows in my room which made it bright and sunny. And although it was a bit confining, I had a peace within me and am thankful that I was able to adjust immediately. Life had brought a quick and exciting change, and I felt ready to take it on.