Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wheaton Arts.

**This post was inspired by my participation in a campaign initiated by RelayRides. Relayrides is a very affordable peer to peer car sharing rental service in which you can rent from to venture out into your favorite 'hidden gems' of the world!
Bill Moyers said, "Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous" and I believe we found one of those places in our neck of the woods. New Jersey never ceases to amaze me. I love the fact that you can find places to go that are tucked away  without driving for hours and hours, and if you doesn't seem like a long drive. I have found a few hidden "gems" in the Garden State, and the latest gem/adventure we found was exploring the art in a beautiful wooded village in Millville called Wheaton Arts

This place is perfect for people of all ages. We lucked out on going on a perfect non-humid, cool weekend, and the best was free! Apparently they have a free weekend in July every summer, and we just happened to pick the weekend where admission was free. 
We first got to experience the art of glass blowing, and can I just begin to tell you how brilliant blowing glass is!! I was amazed at these artists in how they shape, bend, and heat up the glass to make it into a perfect size pitcher. Noah was enthralled with the whole experience that he was listening with intent during the demonstration observing every move these guys made.  
As we were leaving the building we scoped out some huge round glass looking ornaments and a shrine full of, what else...blown up glass! Everything was done so tastefully & I commend them for their hard work! I can see why they charge so much for their art. Not only is it perfect, but standing in front of an oven that's 1750 degrees for hours blowing glass would be understandable as to why this art is high in price. 
As soon as we walked outside of the building into cooler temperatures we got a glimpse of these lovely glass bowls, and vases. So colorful, but I left with nothing. Maybe next time. 
They also have a playground inside for the kids, and as soon as they spotted it they all ran towards it. It was perfect, and because I had a feeling we were going to be here all day we let them swing away! Noah was too much fun as you can see here.
We then went inside the building next door, and experienced the world of pottery! I was particularly impressed with this gentleman who knocked these coffee mugs out within minutes! 
My daughter Lexie told me how she can totally picture me wearing my overalls with my hair in a bun doing pottery. I sort of shook my head thinking...yeah, I could do this. By the way... Noah kept petting this beautiful Golden Retriever. I can tell he would like us to own one someday. Not now little man!
As we walked around the rest of the place I had myself a little house on the prairie moment. They have an old school house where you can walk inside and get a taste of how it might have felt like to be a student in the 1800's. The desks were so old that you can smell the wood through the glass window. 

We then browsed the award winning museum stores & quaint shops where they sell all kinds of american glass. From paperweights to jewelry, and unique's amazing artwork! 

I didn't trust Noah to go into some of the shops with me for fear of breaking something so he stayed behind and chalked the walkway in front of the shops. Believe me if you're in a store surrounded by $400 paperweights from all over the world, and if you have a touchy kind of kid I guarantee you'd want them to stay outside, hence the chalk. Maybe thats why they have boxes of chalk laid out all over this keep the kids occupied. Chelsea went ahead, and joined him in on the fun, only after she we went inside the General Store to listen to this mechanical piano. Really old time music!

This place was quite amazing, and I'm so glad I discovered it while driving through the backroads of South Jersey. The kids had so much fun exploring this fun place. It kind of reminded me of the time we went to Sturbridge Village (another hidden gem.) Old school, but modern.

Wheaton Arts truly is a hidden gem, and if you do have to drive for hours and hours why not rent a car from RelayRides

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Few Snippets From Our Weekend In Palmyra.

Growing up I didn't attend church too much and if I did it was because my mother told me to. She said it was good for the soul, and that it would make me a better person. She said it was one way to know Jesus, and make friends. I remember going to CCD classes only because my friends were going. Even though my heart wasn't completely into the whole church thing, she was right about one thing...making friends. And ever since I joined the LDS church I've always managed to make friends where ever I go. 

Reflecting back on our weekend in Palmyra was awesome y'all. Every time we come here it gets better and better. The choices I make in having a good time, continuing to believe, and having my testimony strengthened by this wonderful place is refreshing! And when you have friends you can visit with who allow you stay with them is a blessing, and that adds extra icing to the cake. 
I wish we would have spent more time here with Jacob & Emily, but the weekends seem to get shorter, and shorter! They have the coolest farmhouse with lots of  land, goats, and chickens. Makes me want to seriously think about moving up here, and join in on having a farm life. Although Jersey is home for now there are some days where we just need to get away. Where we need to escape the "city life" and venture out to a place where we can catch our breath. Where the kids can actually run around, interact with country folk, and experience attending another ward. When I asked the girls if they wanted to stay for the remaining two hours of church they both willingly said yes, and my heart swelled! Even Noah...he was a bit fussy in the beginning, but knowing that Emily was a familiar face in the Primary eased his mind, and from what she said did very well. He even looked content after classes were done. I personally was thinking of leaving right after sacrament meeting so that we can have more time to visit the sacred grove again, but ended up staying for the remaining two hours and I'm so glad I did. I love meeting new sisters and feeling a different kind of love from them. They don't know me, and I don't know them, but for that one hour of being in Relief Society I immediately felt as if I was part of their family. They were extremely welcoming, and I'll tell ya when you participate, and comment during the lesson they love you more! Listening to the girls wanting to stay and go to Primary and Young women classes on their own motive tells me that this is where they wanted to be. And that they also continue to believe. 

We may not have had enough time to visit with our friends, but attending church with them was so nice! I sure love their family, and I'm so grateful for their hospitality! 

This will be my last post from our weekend in Palmyra, and I now leave you with a few snippets from that weekend...
 ^^^ Eating ice cream at Chill and Grill because this is where it's at! ^^^
^^^ Colossal size banana split! Shared it with Lexie because I just couldn't finish it! ^^^
^^^ Colossal ice cream cones the first time around. ^^^
 ^^^ Fun pictures taken inside the Sacred Grove because there are times when you just can't take life to seriously. ^^^
^^^ Sisterly love. I hope that when they are in their 20's they'll look back at this pic and say to each other, "Those were the best of times sis!" ^^^
And another picture for our posterity. Going to the temple on a road trip is a must! Whenever we are on a road trip, and there's a temple nearby it's mandatory that we attend. It truly helps with my patience on the drive back...especially when you have two young ones who constantly pick at each other. 

Hope your summer weekends thus far have been memorable, and fun! 

**You can see other highlights of the pageant, the sacred grove, and the temple herehere, and here. 

Happy Monday! 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Sacred Grove

One cannot leave the town of Palmyra without walking inside the Sacred Grove. The Sacred Grove is where it all started. Where a young 14 year old boy knelt down to pray to God to ask which church he should attend. And then all of a sudden a bright light appeared in the sky and then God the Father, and His son Jesus Christ appeared to him, and answered his question! They both answered to him, "none." They told him that he was the chosen one. The one to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ, and His true church upon this earth which I am now a member of. 

I know. 

At first I couldn't believe it myself, but when the missionaries were teaching me about the Joseph Smith story I felt my heart beating a million miles a minute, and I knew it was true. 

And I know it to be even more true now. 

Every year when my family and I go the Pageant the sacred Grove is the number one place we run (not walk) to. You'd think it be the temple, and that's super important too, but the the Sacred Grove is a place where you are surrounded by nature, and the fact that this is where the beginning of something great happened makes the spirit even stronger. Our family loves it, and I know that the Sacred Grove is another place where you can feel peace, and be in tune with the spirit. 

After all...this is where it all started. 
The kids were super excited to walk through it yet again. We walked through on Saturday during the day, and then again on Sunday before we headed out. It rained on Sunday, and regardless of the muddy trail we walked through the entire grove. I wasn't thinking of how muddy my shoes were getting. All I was thinking about was what a beautiful place this is, and how it never changes, and the feeling that I get is always different. I can understand why anyone would want to come here to pray, and receive revelation for themselves. 
There are some days where I wonder why the Lord chose to appear to a 14 year old boy, but then I look at Lexie who is 14 at the moment, and am amazed at her maturity. Joseph Smith sure must have been a mature 14 year old boy at that time for Heavenly Father to appear to him, and put a major responsibility on him where it would change the world. 

And it has.  It truly changed mine! 

There are days when I wish I could live in this part of the country so that I can come here seeking answers to prayers, and do my visiting teaching. Attend the church at the Peter Whitmer farm,or Palmyra ward, and make a whole new group of friends both young, and old. This whole area would be a wonderful place to serve a mission, and when our kids are grown, married, and completely on their own, Jon & I would love serve a mission here!
It truly is a wonderful place to visit, see all the sites, and if you want to learn more about LDS church history this is one of the places to come. Every time we come here we always feel leaving with a unique strength that helps us endure life no matter what challenges come our way with a sense of peace. It's easy to forget the things of the world & all the silliness & drama that comes with it when you come here. It is a great reminder of my conversion, and why I believe in it so strongly! 

Everyday is a new day to do better. 

And now I leave you with my testimony...
^^^I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that he restored the gospel on this earth for us to have. Prophets have been around for years, and having one today to lead and guide us is a blessing...a huge blessing! I know that the Book of Mormon is true. It definitely is another testament of Jesus Christ, and along with the bible they are two of the best books ever written. I know this because I've felt it through reading it! I am thankful for the temples that are built upon this earth, and know that as long as I strive to live a good life in being an obedient daughter of God that I will be with them forever, and reign with Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ for all eternity. ^^^

Have a wonderful weekend! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Palmyra Temple

Can you believe that in the past seven years of going to Palmyra for the Pageant, and attending the temple we've never walked the temple grounds?? I know...crazy right? Every time we do a session we'd just walk right out back to our kiddos. There is no visitors center for the kids to hang out in, and so for those two hours we're inside the kids just linger around the temple hopefully not tearing up the place because you know when you have a four year old boy anything can happen. Especially when he loves picking flowers from the flowerbed, and all of sudden Noah comes up to me afterwards, and says "here mommy, these are for you", and hands me these...
^^^ beautiful daisies. ^^^
We absolutely love the temple, and I honestly don't know what I'd do had I not joined the church, and finally felt prepared to enter inside. I'd probably feel lost, and would always feel something is missing because now that I know they're here for a purpose...I just simply can not go. I want to go. I crave it every time I feel down, stressed, or overwhelmed. Serving, and doing the work of the Lord really uplifts me, and truly brings joy into my life. And all the things that seem to be such a big worry don't matter anymore. It makes me love my husband even more, my children more, family, and overall helps me to become a better human being. The past ten months with Jon being unemployed off and on was not an easy one, and instead of letting my faith slide we attended the temple numerous times. I'd had been going through a little bit of withdrawal lately because I hadn't been to the temple in a couple of months. I'm so happy to have made some time in our 'short weekend of a schedule trip' to go to the temple. 

Taking the time to actually walk the temple grounds in its entirety didn't even take long. I make it sound like the grounds are huge. It does take long, however, when you are sitting on one of the benches appreciating the countryside, and everything that happened around this area 194 years ago. You look at your kids walking along with you, sometimes ahead of you because when you have a little boy running around always looking up they know how the temple looks like, and that there's an gold angel at the top, but yet don't know the significance of it. And that's just the beginning of knowing that we need to continue to teach him more about the importance of temple worship.

^^^ love that the colors of Chelsea's skirt & sandals match the flowers. ^^^
We met a family from Canada and they were kind enough to take a family picture. We in return took theirs. It's so nice to meet other families who come from different parts of the world to attend the pageant, and get familiar with all the historical sites here. 

We love the temple, and I'm so grateful that they stand out and bring a feeling of peace, and harmony inside every one of us. I can tell that the girls love getting familiar with different types of temples. Lexie was taking pictures of the architecture, and Chelsea and Noah were being kids exploring the temple grounds. This was the first time not having Sierra with us and it felt a little "off" not having her around...especially when we come here. 

Oh, how we all miss her.  

Luckily we know that families can be together no matter what. Watching this video is a reminder to me, and definitely brings a feeling of comfort, and for that I am eternally grateful! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hill Cumorah Pageant '14

Attending the Hill Cumorah Pageant is one of the highlights during the summer, and a time for us to bond as a family on a spiritual level. Ever since we moved to North Carolina, and watched it for the first time we were all hooked. Maybe it's the fact that my girls love the theatrics, but now that they are older they love the whole story behind it. "It's like the Book of Mormon coming to life" Chelsea said. She was almost four when she watched it for the first time, and there were several years where she would fall asleep, but now she's wide awake. Noah is the same age as her now, and he is even more in awe, and intrigued by the whole storyline. His eyes were glued to the stage especially during the fighting scenes. When I asked what his favorite part was he mentioned the part when they built a ship, and when the fire came out "popping in the air", and when Jesus is "coming down from the sky." It's so interesting to watch my kids as they get older, and how they continue to learn more about the history of the church in various ways including going to the pageant. 

Ever since Chelsea, and Noah have gotten older they love going on prophet hunts. When Sierra, and Lexie were younger we really didn't really seek out the actors who were dressed as the prophets, but they still loved taking pictures with them. Noah has been going to the pageant since he was a baby, and I think the fact of having a boy gets Jon enthusiastic to have him meet the characters who play the prophets. Now that Noah is older he is beginning to really understand this whole prophet thing and he gets really excited to meet them. 

Every year we sometimes hear of friends having gone to the pageant or plan to go to the pageant, but what are the odds of actually running into them. There have been many instances where the girls have bumped into friends they met at EFY, and the fact that we've lived in many different wards in various states gives us more opportunity to run into some old friends. I mean...what are the chances right. You'll be surprised...especially the year when Sierra ran into Hannah whom she met at the Boston temple, and then later saw her that same year participating in the pageant. Or the year we ran into the Laney's and my dear friend Eliza. It's a small world, and this year we saw Becca from our stake, and it was really nice to have seen her there with her family. Even better passing the time talking, and getting better acquainted with her. Thanks for the company Becca!
We are so grateful we had the opportunity to attend the pageant again this year, and every year it's the same storyline, and it never gets old. It's never a waste of time, and the five hour drive is totally worth it! Each year our testimony builds, and we see it in our children as well. When summer arrives, and pageant time hits Chelsea will always ask if we're going again this year. And I always tell her yes. No matter the drive, or little time we have throughout the weekend to spend with each other (because Jon won't get vacation time until after a year with the company) we will take advantage of all the sights, and history of this wonderful church, and the gospel that was restored by Joseph Smith. It's an amazing, inspirational  true story with so much to learn, and spiritually grow from, and if you ever have the opportunity to attend I encourage you to go. You will not regret it, you won't fall sleep, and I guarantee you will feel leaving with a happiness that you've never felt before. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Philadelphia International Music Festival: Part II

I just received these pictures from Maxim Kuzin who was kind enough to post them on Facebook and give me permission to use on my blog. He was the conductor for Lexie's orchestra, and was amazing. He is from the Ukraine, and as you can see had such a great time with the kids. Most of these kids who attended the PIMF range in ages from 10 to 18, and from what Lexie was telling me had a couple of ten year olds who are prodigies! It really inspired her to never give up on playing, or practicing because if these young 10, 11, 12 year olds can do it starting off at a young age then every child can do it, and continue to get better at playing too.
^^^ My young music geniuses!" -Maxim Kuzin ^^^
Having Lexie making it into the top two orchestras that played at the festival tells me that all those lessons, and hard work is paying off. She truly had an amazing experience and has been going through a bit of withdrawal lately. Not only is she missing her music peeps, but I think she's missing the intense feeling of playing the heck of her violin the most. Music has become a huge part of her life, and she uses it for good. Music definitely touches the heart, the mind, and soul. I personally don't know how to play an instrument, but one thing I do know is the feeling that it brings into life. 

Especially my life. 

I thought that with Sierra being gone I wouldn't be hearing too much of the piano being played, but I was wrong. As much as Lexie loves to play the violin she has been teaching herself to get better at the piano, and she is making some excellent progress. She along with her sister Chelsea have been learning to play the guitar as well. Having musical instruments constantly being played in the home brings solace, and moments of clarity. I'm especially grateful for all my girls to be so musically inclined. I never want them to give up on their dreams, or stop playing. I never want them to feel they are not good enough to enter into a university that is known to be a good music school. I never want them to not audition for an orchestra because you'll never know if you'll get in. 

Music has been around for centuries, and when its played depending on the genre and the mood you're in can really have an affect on our emotions. I love listening to all kinds of music, but especially the kind that brings goodness into our hearts. The kind that makes us happy. The kind that uplifts us. The kind that heals us. The kind of music we can listen to over and over again. The kind of music that Alexandra played last weekend. The kind that relaxes you yet has so much energy to uplift you. And when you have a conductor like Maxim Kuzin that leads them in an'll definitely feel his energy as much as theirs. 

And you'll be leaving wanting to hear more.