Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Stand True

I think it's about sacrifice.  It brings forth the blessings of heaven, right?

We'd not even been home a week from our East Coast trip when Caleb traded his typical basketball shorts and BYU t-shirts for long pants with suspenders and a straw hat.  Alyssa wore a bonnet and ankle-length skirt instead of her usual leotard.  The hours that would've been spent in gymnastics training, were filled with pulling a handcart over hills and through rivers.  Her teammates thought she was crazy.

I gave up all contact with my two oldest children and traded a peace of mind that comes from knowing they are safe within the security of our own home for endless worry about their safety, comfort and enjoyment.  

Their excitement about participating in trek made it a little easier to let them go.

"Why do you think trek has become a standard youth activity throughout the church?" I asked Jon one day as we reflected on the fact that neither of us had ever participated in such an experience.  It's a rather new tradition, but one that nearly every youth now participates in at some point.  "I think it's about appreciating our pioneer heritage," was Jon's answer.  

I agree.  But I think it's more than that.  I've decided that I think it's to teach the youth that they can do hard things.  They can leave their electronics for a few days.  They can be strong when things are tough and uncomfortable.  They can make sacrifices.

When I think of my children eagerly signing up for such a test, I can scarcely stand it.  My throat gets tight and my eyes wet.

The YW of the Mill Pond Ward
Left to Right: Emma, Abby S., Abby A., Ashleigh, Rachel G., Anya, Sarah, Isabel
Alyssa, Linsey, Rylie (not in our ward) and Rachel S.

The first river crossing was only ankle deep.  Caleb's straw hat can be seen at the front of the handcart.  Before he left, I reminded him that as one of the oldest youth on trek, he needed to be a good leader and hard worker.  I was so touched to see him so involved in the work.

The second river crossing was waist-high for full grown men.  My tiny girl said she just had to hold on to the cart and kick her legs.

There's my boy at the front of his cart.  Seriously, will I ever be able to look at this photo without crying?

The kids were awakened at 4:30 a.m. on the morning that the young men were called to "enlist in the battalion."  They took their buckets and hiked up the mountain while the young women packed up the carts.

I'm incredibly touched by the strength of these young women:

When they came to a particularly steep hill, they paused to pray.  It such a moving picture but it also makes me laugh because Alyssa is peeking.  See her in the middle?  The only one whose eyes are open:

My daughter is miniature, but she's mighty--in more than just physical stature.  There she is in the front of her cart:

It must've felt so good to get to the top.

They can toil and struggle and smile through it all.  These kids are strong.  They really are.

They told me it felt so good to frolic in the river for a bit.

Caleb and his pa had a little water fight:

I couldn't wait to have my kids home.  (Natalie really didn't like being an only child!)  They returned exhausted, filthy and hungry but most of all, happy.  They would insist that the experience was worth every bit of sacrifice.

And that's just how it is living the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It's not always popular, it's not always comfortable, it's rarely easy, but it is always worth it.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The End of the Trip

We visited the American Museum of Natural History for our final New York City outing.  Not only does Caleb love all museums in general, but he's a huge fan of the "Night at the Museum" movies, so he'd been looking forward to this attraction all week long.

Which train should we take to get there, Anna?

I love the subway.  The platforms are terribly dirty (we only spied two rats the whole week, though) but the trains are efficient and get you anywhere you want to go.  So very convenient.

JP Morgan Chase employees get free admission to New York's best museums.  Since we had two such employees in our family, their corporate badges allowed our entire clown car to enter the museum free of charge!  Cool beans.

The kids found Teddy:

And cougars, our favorite animals, of course:

We saw Rexy and Dum Dum, too.

It was hard to look away from this disturbing exhibit:

The ocean life exhibit is really neat (and quite dark.)  Guests are encouraged to lie down under the massive whale to get an appreciation for its size.  That is all of my family members on the floor right there:

We had Shake Shack for lunch.  Caleb gave it two thumbs down.  I thought it was quite delicious, but probably not worth the $70 price tag.  Seventy dollars to feed my family fast food!  And besides that, the line was long and all the tables occupied.  So we ate on park benches across the street.

We took one final stroll through Central Park; peeked in on a wedding, counted more turtles and stopped briefly at the playground.

Clara and Lys snuck in a few last minutes of cousin bonding.

On our way back to the hotel to pick up our luggage, I paused in front of Jimmy Fallon's studio to express my disappointment in him. (I have a crush on Jimmy Fallon.)

Jon had been learning the process of obtaining Fallon tickets for months before our trip.  The day the July tickets were released, Jon took the day off of work to focus all his attention on securing them. He had two computer screens ready and we would've had them, except that he wasn't filming the week we were there.  Boo!

Someday, Jimmy, I'm coming back to New York City and you'd better have a seat for me.

It was hard to say goodbye.  It had been a most fantastic trip.  I asked Caleb for his New York 5-star ratings.

Smelly: 3.5 stars

Dirty: 3.5 stars

Noisy: 5 stars

Cool: an enthusiastic 5 stars!

We all loved it.  Every bit of it!

How was our trip?  We each chose one word:

Incredible. Amazing. Awesome. Memorable. Breath-taking.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Baseball is just one more thing that New York knows how to do.  It would just be a crying shame if sports fans like us didn't see the Yankees while they were in town.

We rode the subway to the Bronx after breakfast.  At one point in our journey, we had a train car almost to ourselves. It was the only time all week that happened, that's for sure.

The subways usually looked more like this:

Before heading to our seats, we visited Monument Park--which is a tribute to all the Yankee legends.

The tribute to George Steinbrenner is the largest monument.  I admit that my only knowledge of him comes from watching Seinfeld.

We got first game certificates and then settled in at our seats.

The game was great!  I love how the Yankees include "God Bless America" in the typical "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" seventh inning stretch tradition.  And they play "New York, New York" at the conclusion of the game.  We are a sing-a-long, belt-it-out-with-the-crowd kind of family, so we appreciate details like that.

We're kind of a bunch of clowns, remember?  Here's proof:

We know how to have fun, that's for sure.

 We passed through Babe Ruth Plaza on the way to the subway.

We had planned on seeing the Metropolitan Museum of Art once we got back to Manhattan.  Turns out, however, that we had the closing time wrong and we were too late.  So we came up with a plan B.

Jon guided all the men plus Amy to the Financial District.  They walked down Wall St. to see the NYSE and pay a visit to the bull.

They then took the Staten Island Ferry for a nighttime view of the city and the Statue of Liberty.

The rest of us were doing this:

American Girl Place is a little girl's paradise.  It's even fun for the teenager and adults. Grandma let each of the girls pick something as a gift from her.  So much fun!

This would be our last night in New York City.  When the others returned from their downtown adventures, we stayed up late playing Scum.

It was another fantastic New York day and it was hard to see our week coming to an end.