Saturday, April 30, 2011

Great Plains Adventure Day 9

I realize that Missouri is considered more of a Midwest state than a Great Plains state, but for the sake of continuity, I shall continue calling our trip our Great Plains Adventure.
Today all the FIRST Lego League festivities wrapped up.  This afternoon was the awards ceremony in which Pi POD did not win any awards, but agreed that the whole experience was AMAZING!  Once again, thank you to everyone who made it possible.
Today we went to the most distinguishing landmark in St. Louis-- the Gateway Arch.  Up close it is so much bigger than I imagined!  Abe does not like heights, but he was a brave boy and went anyway.
Here we are - squished into a space ship about to be shot into space.  
Not really, but that's what we told Cannon to make it seem more fun to be in a tiny enclosed pod jerkily making our way 630 ft up the arch.  It was partly very cool and partly very freaky.  So the trick was to be fully present and enjoy the moment while mentally checking out and pretending it wasn't really happening.  
It's kind of the same mental trick I do when I'm having a baby.
Here we are at the top.  It was quite crowded and stuffy up there, it swayed ever so slightly and any fear of heights or tight spaces combined to make one anxious to get back into the pod and get back down ASAP.   We all agreed to head back down sooner rather than later. 

All that said, we're glad we went up.  It is an engineering phenomenon.  And you all know how much I know about engineering phenomenons.
"We must touch the great Mississippi River". 
It was interesting to see the River overflowing it's banks. 
 No one here seems concerned about it, but this river is huge and I think the natives should be more concerned.  But you know how much I know about rivers flooding.

 Previously I wrote about how traitorous we felt in going to the St. Louis Zoo without Clark.  We purposefully did not go into the reptile house out of respect.  We had a bit of time before our ticket time for the Arch, so we revisited the zoo.  Abe stayed in the car with the little people (parking is very expensive and we're getting tired of toting them around) and Clark, Bethany, Elinor and I booked it as fast as we could to the herpetarium. 
Lego robotics and World Festivals are cool and everything, but I guess the Reptile House is where it's at!
As we finish up our time in St. Louis we are pretty worn out.   Everyone's feet are tired and aching and no one has gotten enough sleep.   Except maybe George-- he can't walk and he happily falls asleep wherever.  
Abe and I are looking forward to a long days drive tomorrow to rest up for the next leg of the trip.  If all goes well we'll be sleeping in Sioux Falls, SD tomorrow night, then on to Rapid City. 

End note:  We will not be wearing Pi POD shirts in anymore pictures on this trip. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Skimming The Surface - GPA 8

The Wiener Mobile is parked in our hotel parking lot every morning and evening.  We suppose that it cruises around the city and outlying areas during the day.  At night there is a manned security car to protect the wiener mobile.  I've never seen it in person before.  Now I am complete.
Because there is SO much to do here, there is no way we can do justice to any of it.  Our approach is to experience as much of it as we can even if we can only skim the surface.  We went to the St. Louis Science Center first off.   It is a great place, but truth be told, my girls aren't crazy into science, and they are pretty worn out from lots of walking the last few days, so they were a little slow moving.
Once again we didn't have Clark with us (I'm missing him), but we thought of him as we took this picture of the pi sign.
I really really really wanted to go into The Art Museum, but we were short on time before we needed to be over to the arena for the first robot run.  Abe stayed in the car with the littles while Bethany and Elinor and I saw as many beautiful paintings as we could in 20 minutes.  Lame, I know.  But it was better than nothing.  I loved what I got to see.
Pi Pod spent much of their day hanging out in their pit and completing their 3 robot runs-- the last one went great.  Clark tells me that it is NOT a good run when your robot falls over, which sadly did happen in the 2nd run.  They said their little Lego driver guy was drunk.  Good thing they take your highest score.  
The girls were ecstatic to get to go "trick or treating" around the pits collecting all sorts of trinkets.  They got their faces painted, they got to have their names written in Chinese and Korean, they got buttons, pencils, chapstick, wrist slap bracelets, pins, stickers, rubber bracelets, temporary tattoos.  

That was really fun, but then the girls spent hours back at the hotel trading with the sisters of other Pi POD members.  Elinor wasn't so much into the trading.  She and her friend Caleb were vegging out on superhero cartoons, but she enjoyed the collecting.
Pi POD Shuttle Craft.   
This evening the boys headed off to a Black Eyed Peas concert for FIRST participants.  Supposedly it was the "clean" version.  These boys aren't exactly into pop culture, and neither are their dads who accompanied them, but they decided to give it a go. 
They didn't stay very long.  
This is my happy place. 
Good night.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Get Your Pi Pod On - GPA 7

We got to bust out our Pi Pod shirts today!!  Let the competition begin!
I often say there is a fine line between brave and crazy-- and I regularly vacillate between the two.
On this trip, with how much we are squeezing into each day, I cannot say for sure which side of the line we're on, but I'm leaning toward crazy.

There is so much to do here in St. Louis-- it is incredible and most of it is FREE!!!  There are also events for Pi Pod we want to go see.  I cannot believe how much we've been able to do on this trip with our little kiddos in tow.  So far, every little (and not so little) body is holding up pretty well.
Ew.  Penguins are stinky.
We headed off to the St. Louis Zoo first thing this morning.  I should say that was the first thing for the kids and I.  Abe had already shuttled the team to the convention center earlier.  Our monster van is working out great as Team Pi Pod Shuttlecraft.
In our travels we have always enjoyed going to visit the zoos of different cities.  They've been a favorite of Clark's.  It felt so wrong to go to a zoo without Clark with us today-- he had FIRST Lego League events.  In honor of him, Faith sat on the snakes on the carousel. 
We have petted stingrays before, but this was fun because we got to feed them.  You put a piece of fish between your fingers and they come and suck it off.  Very fun.  Elinor swears a ray tried to bite her.  I don't think so, but she was not to be convinced.
Now that is a real man!
"Mommy and Daddy, can we pleeeease get a guinea pig?"
No.  Maybe.  We'll see.
One very happy baby.  One very handsome husband.  Two cute little fennec foxes in the back.
The boys are having a great time.  One of the fun things the teams from all over the world do is exchange buttons and swag.  Pi Pod boys are pinning buttons all over their hats. 
Gives the term "metal head" a whole new meaning.
Tonight was the Opening Ceremony for FLL.  It was an exciting and spirited atmosphere.  A huge ballroom with music, emcee, talent show and at least 2,000 screaming FLL participants and supporters.  Roughly half of the 84 teams are international teams.  It was so inspiring to watch each country's team come onto the stage and announce their country and say hello in their language.  There as a particularly touching moment when the Japanese team performed a Janpanese dance of celebration, but before they performed, a young man spoke in Japanese with a translator.  He spoke of the earthquakes and tsunami back home and thanked the other countries for their support.  The whole ballroom stood up and applauded them. 

FLL talks a lot about Core Values
  • We are a team.
  • We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors.
  • We honor the spirit of friendly competition.
  • What we discover is more important than what we win.
  • We share our experiences with others.
  • We display Gracious Professionalism in everything we do.
  • We have fun.
 There is a very positive atmosphere associated with this whole endeavor.  We are so grateful to everyone who helped make this trip possible for Clark and Team Pi Pod.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meet Me in St. Louis, Louie -- Day 6

We left Nauvoo (sniff, sniff) early this morning and headed straight for Carthage, IL-- about 25 miles.  We watched a wonderful movie and had a tour there.  It was a perfect way to finish up our Church History leg of the trip.  
Clark is standing by the bullet hole that killed Hyrum Smith.
Here we are at the window that Joseph Smith fell out of after the mob burst into the jail and shot him.  I am so grateful to be able to come here with my family and have it preserved so beautifully.  
On the drive to St. Louis we stopped very briefly for a gas and potty break at Hannibal, MO.   It is the boyhood home of Samuel Clements, otherwise known as Mark Twain.   We stopped at the gift store in the museum, but didn't go through the museum.  We snapped this picture at a statue of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and then hurried on our way.  Obviously we didn't do the town justice, but I have to be honest here.  I have very mixed feelings about Mark Twain.  I like some of what he's written, but I always feel like he is making fun of me.  Sometimes I'm not quite sure what he is making fun of, but it makes me a bit nervous.  I find him too cynical for my taste. 
Finally, we and the rest of Pi Pod arrived in St. Louis amidst lots of rain.  The boys were ecstatic to get over to the convention center and set up their "pit".  That is where they show off the great state of Utah and meet other teams from all over the world.  The teams surrounding them are Australia, Malaysia, Florida, and Israel.  China is just down the aisle!!!! Can you believe that??? 

There are a few more pictures, but the server here in the hotel is going aggravatingly slow, so I'll work them into a later post.   The hour is late and the morning will come early.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nauvoo, The City Beautiful -- GPA Day 5

The Nauvoo Temple:  Abe and I were last in Nauvoo in April 1998.  We were childless and we remember our trip very fondly.  I can only say that this trip has been all the great things we remembered and much, much more.  This truly is a beautiful city and there is such a feeling of peace and goodness here.

The day has been a great success.  We saw and did everything we possibly could have in one day.
However, we were somewhat tormented by this.
I think this face says it all.  I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry when I think of his behavior today.   He made himself known to all the missionaries he came in contact with.  In fact, several remembered him from the night before at the play.  Some kids slow down when they are tired, but Cannon just gets louder and faster.  We love him, but I'm glad he'll be strapped into his car seat for a few hours tomorrow.
  The wagon ride: It was made even better by Elinor finding a tree frog on a wagon bench.  It was quite chilly and we liked wrapping up in the quilts the sister missionary provided.
The Heber C. Kimball House:  It's remodeled, not restored.  It is GORGEOUS!!! I don't care if I have to haul my own water-- I want to live there.
The upstairs nursery room was to die for.  Cute, sweet, darling, delightful, absolutely perfect.
Cute, sweet, darling, delightful, absolutely perfect.
The memorials in the Smith Family Cemetery:  The Community of Christ Church owns most of the Joseph Smith properties, which they give guided tours to.  They were very informative, but very long-- not such a good combination for our little people.
 The Old Nauvoo Burial Grounds:  So beautiful, reverent, sacred, peaceful.  This is Abe's and my favorite place in Nauvoo.
The upstairs of Joseph Smith's Red Brick Store:  Clark takes a moment to preach The Good Word.
The Webb Blacksmith ShopThis was a favorite for everyone.  We watched the senior missionary make us a mini horseshoe and then everyone picked out a prairie diamond ring.
The streets of Nauvoo:  I love them.  I wish my neighborhood looked like this.
The Nauvoo Quarry:  It's where the original temple stones came from.  Not too much to see there now as it is mostly filled in with water.
Friends at the temple.
More friends.
The Pi Pod guys were happy to be together again.
More than friends???  Shades of the future?
 The Nauvoo leg of the trip has been all we hoped for and more, and tomorrow we'll be off and running to St. Louis.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo-- GPA Day 4

 Abe said we were going to be on the road by 6:00 this morning.   I know he takes his trip departure time very seriously, so although it was 6:09 when we finally pulled away, we did get an early start.  And a good thing too because it has been a very long day.  Good, but long.
 First stop:  Liberty Jail in Liberty, Missouri.
It was a very nice display at The Church's Visitor's Center and I feel it was the highlight of the day.  That is probably because everyone was still fresh from a good night's sleep and not too much driving.  Yet.
Then came the driving.  It was a good 10 hour driving day again today.  There just is no easy, fast way to get to Nauvoo.  It is worth it to come here-- it's amazing, but you have to really want to get here.  Missouri is beautiful to drive through-- so lush and green.  We did have a LOT of rain for most of our drive today.  Not so nice, but I prefer rain to major wind, which we've also had on this trip.
Yes, I know this is a beyond cheesy picture.  I'm okay with that.  I like this statue and I feel it is very apropos.
 We couldn't help ourselves.  Bethany wanted her violin for this picture.  What do you think?  I got my head angle pretty good, huh?
The kids were so happy to meet up with their friends and fellow Pi Pod team members in Nauvoo.  Another family is here right now as well and the kids are tickled to be staying in a hotel with their friends.  It's as close to a sleep over as they're going to get!
  Everything closes down at 5:00 round these parts, so we quickly went over to the Brigham Young House to see our many times great-grandfather's house.  We are both descendants of Brigham Young.  Abe likes to note that he is descended from Brother Brigham's first wife.  I just mention that mine was younger and prettier:)
At this point of the trip Cannon is not doing so well.  He's been a hoot for the whole trip, but all the driving and excitement and lack of sleep caught up with him this evening.  I am concerned for our tours around Nauvoo tomorrow because he is talking a blue streak to anyone who will listen and then some. 
We went to a super cute little musical play put on by the senior missionary couples called "Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo".  Abe and I are sure the whole thing was good, although we each just saw part of it and took turns outside with Cannon and George.  They were allowed into the show, but they were a bit disruptive.  Shocking that a baby and toddler could be disruptive during a play.
 Happiness is a hotel pool!
The kiddos weren't the only ones who were happy to see their friends again.