Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Driving home - Day 13 & 14 {Sabbatical SW trip}

We finished our southwest sabbatical trip with Legoland on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. On Wednesday, we started the long trek home.

Honestly, I was pretty sad to leave. I was downhearted and even shed a tear or two as we started driving. Despite the fact that we had been on the road for 13 days, our trip had been amazing and I did not want it to end. It is now six weeks later as I write this and Terry's ten week sabbatical is ending in only five days. Terry left this morning for some alone time to pray and prepare for going back and I cried buckets before and after he left! And I am not much of a cryer, I'm really not. But it was hard to say good bye for even a couple days after being together nonstop all summer. And it's not that we didn't get grumpy with one another or were perfectly happy all the time, but all the stress and pressure of life was gone. The spiritual battle, attack, accusations, pressure, and condemnation I was so familiar with that made me more than ready for a break, were gone especially on our two week trip. It is hard raising a family in ministry. It is hard to homeschool four kids!

I am more convinced than ever that our American way of life where entire families go their separate ways all day long is not the way it was meant to be. We should be together with our loved ones and not running in six different directions after everything else like extracurricular activities! I want to be the Gornicke family from the movie RV who were full time RVers (we watched RV as soon as we got home because we so strongly related to it)!! There's a quote at the end where the wife is talking about how life gets away from you and you started being "associates in the marriage business," and how their trip reminded her of the "old us...and I was happy." Exactly. Families should be together. But no matter how careful you are, ministry has a way of intruding and demanding sacrifices, sometimes which are easier to give than at other times. What I'm trying to say is that anyone who thinks sabbaticals are unfair, or a joke, or a waste, or that pastors should never need a break because it's just Christian life because "Paul never had a sabbatical," or any other nonsuch have got it wrong. Churches who give their staff sabbaticals are gracious and loving and acting in their people's best interests. This summer was a pure gift and I'm exceedingly grateful for it.

But back to the drive. We drove east from Escondido, California, stopping at Victorville for gas, wishing to cross the desert and avoid Barstow by any means necessary. 

I suppose the desert does have a certain beauty to it, but I wasn't that fond. 

A solar farm, I think... 

I posted a video of the desert on my Instagram story and saved it to remember what it was like.

I took a view pictures as we were passing Las Vegas.

It was neat to see the big hotels and stuff from the interstate, but we didn't have any desire to visit the Strip. It did, however, make us want to watch Ocean's 11 (and 12 and 13), which is what we did when we were settled at home.

I liked Trump's hotel!

There were two pretty sweet sports cars on the interstate with us and I caught the second one. Terry wanted to send a picture to David, but I didn't use my phone. So here you go David, if you ever read this. Also, notice the tower in the background...?

Terry visited that as part of an awarded scholarship after high school back in the day ('97, ha!). There's a roller coaster and other cool stuff on top. 

East of the city was a Nascar race track. I did send a picture of that sent to Terry's dad who loves racing.

After Las Vegas, we climbed the mountain we had previously quickly descended on our first time pass through Arizona and then crossed into Utah. It was super fun to drive past St. George again, where we had eaten Culvers as a special treat for our last night in Utah. It was even more special and bittersweet to go by Hurricane, where we stayed while visiting Zion. From there we drove about an hour north to Cedar City where we would be staying for our final Airbnb. From this picture it looks pretty decent right? It was NOT. It ended up being very dirty and gross. We seriously considered trying to find somewhere else or driving all night. There was pop on the counters, the garbage wasn't taken out, there was mold in the bathroom, it smelled like a boys dorm, and even worse things I won't write down. But we decided to stay. Somehow we all slept decent and got out of there as soon as we could the next day.

The next day, our 14th day of travel on Thursday 29, 2017 ended up being a 13 hour day of driving. Our plans to stay in Laramie ended up falling through so we just drove straight home. The kids watched three movies, which sounds like a lot, but was necessary. Ezra with is Dorito fingers looks so happy right?!

He thought those earphones were fun.

At one point during the movie I noticed all the kids had their Legoland keychains souvenirs hanging above their heads. Batman for Ezra.

Sharkman for Noah (and another one that he traded at Legoland). Notice how much his face is peeling? We were all pretty burned. 

Evie with her little fairy.

Samuel with his Ninjago figurine. Hey, he's even wearing his Ninjago shirt!

Here's that first picture again, this time in order. Sometime mid-afternoon Ezra AND Evie both fell asleep. Poor Evie doesn't usually do that but felt so sick she couldn't help it. 

It started raining shortly before Casper, WY, where we ate McDonalds for dinner. The clouds, rainbow, and rain was such a lovely change after all the desert and heat.

There was a small fire outside Edgemont, SD, but I was pretty sure the rain must have put it out. From there it was a short drive home and we were finally home. We unloaded and went right to bed!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Day 2 of Legoland! - California, Day 12 {Sabbatical SW trip}

After our first overwhelming day at Legoland, we went back for day two on Tuesday June 27, 2017, this time mostly in the waterpark. It was only a few dollars more to do two days so it was a no brainer. Plus, it was a better day in my opinion since we knew the lay out and what to expect and weren't so inundated by newness and strangeness.

Except when we stayed with Jackson and Janae in LA, we stayed in all Airbnb's. They were all decent (except the following night), but not quite as nice as pictured. All except our Escondido, CA place. It was exactly like pictured and didn't disappoint me. Finding it on the night after our first full day at Legoland was a little sketchy since the rental itself was in the backyard of a larger house and we had to park on the street. At 10pm it was a bit of a pain to make several trips back and forth, into the back yard, and finally into the house, but we managed. We slept good that night and got up to have oven baked breakfast burritos, which wasn't as good as Jackson's pancakes but was better than microwaved burritos. Plus, coffee! Sometimes that was hard to come by.

We got to Legoland 10am-ish, wandered around the Big Store a little more, and finally made it into the 4D Lego Movie that we didn't have time for the previous. 

I was actually really looking forward to the short show, but was disappointed that Chris Pratt did not voice Emmett! It was still cute though. We got sprayed with water and blown with wind so it would feel we were part of the movie. Ezra was pretty cute with the 3D glasses.

Noah especially wanted to visit the Game Space building where you can play Lego video games but we only stayed ten minutes. It felt like a waste of time. We had better things to do than stare at a screen!

Next we hit up Miniland again since both Noah and I felt like we didn't get to explore enough the day before. Terry had caught Evie's cold and wasn't feeling the best (and neither was she), though this day was a tad better for him (not for her). However, the littles didn't really care about it, so Terry stayed with them while they built boats. Noah and I started at the little Star Wars gift shop and then discovered this life-size Darth Vader!

We back tracked a little and went back to the New York skyline. I think Noah liked the big Lego buildings. Here is the new Freedom Tower, or One World Trade Center. The sign says the Lego version is 25 feet high, the tallest Lego building in America, just like the new tower is the tallest actual building in America (see the following sign).

There are the two sunken fountains from the fallen towers.

Next to the pools.

More New York.

Inside the train station. All I know of famous New York buildings is from movies. This reminds me of X-Men. Ha!

The Guggenheim Museum reminds me of Men in Black. He he he.

Back to Vader.

Noah with the Death Star. 

Vader and Obiwan fighting.

The other side of the Death Star.

Closer view of the X-wings and TIE fighters.

I took some of these photos yesterday but I thought I'd throw Noah and Evie in for size comparison. R2D2 is getting sold behind Noah.

It was a pretty big Millennium Falcon. 

I was pretty fascinated by the detail of the Endor Lego sets. There's little Han and Leia trying to open the shield and even Chewie out the top of the AT-AT!

And the AT-AT that the Ewoks smashed with tree trunks. Ha!

There was even that one little Ewok who was flying through the trees dropping rocks on the AT-ATs. 

I discovered the Ewok village in the little trees of Endor too. 

They were pretty well hidden so I missed them the day before. It was so cool!

Noah and Evie for size comparison with the Endor shield.

There's Vader ordering that dude around.

One of my favorite discoveries was lost little lonesome Leia (L alliteration, yay!). She was all by herself just like in the movie.

Behind us was the Naboo planet core fish that almost swallowed their ship. At this time of day we could actually see how it was lit up all cool. "There's always a bigger fish."

Zooming out a bit.

Above the fish was R2 and presumably Anakin flying off to save the day. 

Noah and Evie in front for size. I like the kids pointing to left who discovered the big fish. 

The Gungan's boomas that exploded in Episode One.

Gungans verses droids.

Up the way from there was a sidewalk lined with larger Star Wars characters. Noah and Yoda.

Evie and Leia, because that's whose sticker both of us have on the back of our van

Darth Vader and an Ewok. 

Chewie and my favorite, Han Solo.

Darth Maul and R2D2.

Darth Maul is so cool.

The life size Chewie was also so cool.

I needed a photo with him too.

Next to Chewie was an outlook over Miniland.

We went back to the Star Wars section since Terry still hadn't joined us yet. 

I liked little Padme (she even has chains!) and the cat-like monster that was trying to get her atop her pole.

Noah and Evie in front of the new Jakku exhibition with the fallen Star Destroyer that the little Millennium Falcon behind them was supposed to zoom in and out of (it was broken).

On the other side of it you could see where the Falcon was supposed to go through. The detail was so cool!

Poe and BB8. 

That old man about to be interrogated by Kylo Ren.

Here comes Kylo, yikes!

Little Rey beside her fallen AT-AT.

See how huge that Star Destroyer ship is?

Finn and Poe's stolen TIE fighter aflame. Finn is even holding Poe's jacket!

That cool gate on Jakku.

With Rey, Finn, and BB8 running under it! 

This was behind the new exhibit and was from Episode Two when the clone wars begins and the Wookies are fighting. Those are all Wookies down there.

Yoda was in there but hard to capture. 


I wandered over to Endor again and discovered another hidden section - the Ewok net that captured Han, Luke, Chewie, C3PO, and R2D2. "Great Chewie. Great. Always thinking with your stomach." "I'm not sure that's a very good idea, it's a very long droooooop!" Ha!

Love it!

Plus, all of them were actually in the net. It was just so cool.

I made Noah pose with Anakin since that's who used to be his van Star Wars sticker.

Daddy and the littles finally joined us, I showed them all the little hidden Star Wars sets we had discovered, and then took another picture of everyone with Chewie.

From there we went up the sidewalk and into this little Key Cave where you were supposed to try to find all the hidden keys to win. Evie as a mummy cracks me up. Her glasses. Ha ha!

A mummy's tomb.

Lego Egyptians.

There was an ice cave section before the exit. Cool Lego wolves.

Funny Lego guy frozen in an ice cube. 

When we exited, we made our way back to the front of the park so we could leave and go eat at our van again. This artist and his Lego painting was cool.

This flower was nearby, and was huge. I really enjoyed all the different sort of tropical plants. 

Once again we had our hands stamped so we could come back in, and walked out to the parking lot for lunch. The Lego hotel heavily advertised online was directly next to the park and though it was too ridiculously expensive for us to stay in, it was still pretty cool looking.

Check out the dragon's belly and tail under coming out from under the tower.

The tree outside the hotel had this huge bloom as big as my face. 

Heading back in was completely empty at the gate. Now, finally we were headed to the waterpark portion of the park. We had wanted to eat lunch before we were stuck back there.

I didn't take any pictures for our first couple hours back there. Terry took Samuel and Ezra to the little kid pool Duplo area while me and the olders went to try some slides. First we did the orange slide since the line was shorter. We rode a huge tube big enough for like 10-12 people down a very large slide. Next we waited in line so long to go down a very simple blue slide. It was frustrating how long we wasted time in line when we just wanted to swim so I went and retrieved Terry and the littles while the olders did some actual swimming. Then we all went down the orange slide in a tube together. The littles were freaking out since they think they don't like waterslides, but they had a great time. Next we went to the lazy river together and rode it three times around. It was very warm and comfortable.

Next we grabbed all our stuff and went to the next section of waterpark, the Chima portion. This was the little's slide paradise. They simply loved it there. Here's Ezra going down the little green slide. He's so happy. :)

Ezra sliding down that alligator tongue.

Such fun!

A look from the front. I took the olders to the next section, the wave park.

Samuel climbed the stairs and went down the big green slide. Ezra tried to as well but they said he was too short and sent him away. Terry thought they were wrong. He got to later on though.

Happy Samuel. Unfortunately, shortly after this they shut down this pool for some kind of maintenance. They joined us at the wave park, but they had also just shut down that pool for the same reason. Huge bummer! 

There was another little Lego boat building area next to the wave pool so they all played there for a while. Terry's faithful sunglasses probably fell off there but we couldn't find them. The littles were happy building boats but the olders were bored. Terry took them to the Pirate's Reef, a "shoot-the-chute" splash ride. They had to wait for quite a while. First me and the littles walked over there and tried to figure out where to watch. Then the kiddie waterpark opened back up and I let the littles swim. I ran back over to catch Terry but unfortunately they had just finished their ride.

 I did catch them getting splashed by the next group - they're in the middle of the ship and hard to see.

They were rather cold as they exited and rejoined us. 

Terry stayed with all the kids at the little kid pool and slide area while I got in line alone at the Pirate's Reef chute slide. 

The line was shorter this time and Terry showed up just in time to take pictures of me. I'm in the second to last row on the outside. You can see me looking back with the sunglasses on.

It wasn't a very long drop, but it was pretty steep. "Yzma! Put your hands in the air!" and that's exactly what I did.

WAHOOOO!!! It was over too quick but very fun.

Just starting the big splash. Zooming in on everyone's expressions is pretty funny.

From the inside you couldn't see a thing but two huge walls of water on both sides. I guess that's all you could see from the outside too.

And you got soaked and thereby cold.

Samuel and Ezra were extremely content to play in the kid area but we brought them over to Noah and Evie in the wave pool so they could at least experience it.

Here it is.

Ezra did not like it. 

Terry tried to make it fun for him...

Ezra wasn't having it. This cracks me up though.

The waves went off every five minutes for about five minutes at a time. Noah is holding Samuel and Terry's got Ezra and they're waiting for the waves to start.

Evie was swimming all over the place.

Noah is welcoming the coming waves.

Samuel was short enough he had to have a life vest but he didn't mind. He bobbed around the waves and had fun.

Samuel, Noah, Daddy and Ezra, and Evie.

One more shot. After this Daddy took Ezra back to the kid slide pool while I stayed with the others. We swam for like 45 minutes, until the pool closed at 7pm.

We then exited the pool park, completely wet and cold. Brrrr. We stopped at the Lost and Found and Terry's sunglasses weren't there. Now we know what he needs for a birthday gift! Noah and I left to run over to the Technique roller coaster but the line was still too long so I abandoned the idea of riding it. Next we got into line at the Coasteraurus but Noah didn't want to wait in the fast moving line and went to the Big Shop to look at Lego sets. I rode the Coastersaurus awkwardly alone since Terry had the other kids at the driving license place and then the helicopters again. It was fun though and they let us go around twice. 

Terry met me there when I was done and got in line with Evie. I took the littles across the sidewalk to the Safari ride we had seen when we first walked in the day before and they did that.

They were a little freaked out to do it alone, but ended up loving it. It was just their speed. 

By the time the littles were done, we were just in time to see Daddy and Evie do the final ride of the evening just after 8pm when the park was closing. 

A very short video of them careening down the steep slope. 

We met up with Noah at the Big Store and exited the park for good. Wait, no, Terry went back in  to check on his sunglasses once last time to no avail while we waited in the van. Back at our Airbnb I heated up my last casserole of white lasagna while we all got showered up. It was delightful to have real food in a comfortable house. We also did all our laundry that night, made lunch for the beginning drive home the following day, and went to bed. So long Legoland and good bye California! We absolutely loved both! So sad to leave!