Wednesday, August 04, 2010

My Heart (Iowa) is Such a Beautiful Place

Ever since moving away from Iowa in January 2007 we have been meaning to go back and visit.  Every summer we have wanted to, but it just didn't work out.  So this summer I put my foot down -- and although the week we were able to go didn't coincide with either the Iowa State Fair or the Nauvoo Pageant, we decided to go anyway.  You'll have to forgive all of these landscape shots from the way out there, but a desert Idaho girl can't believe that you can find all this green and flowers at a rest stop along the way!  
On our way to Des Moines we stopped in Omaha to see the Winter Quarter's Temple and see the Mormon Trail Center.  Darik's parents served a mission there and this was our first time visiting.
What a beautiful temple!  and the temple grounds have a burial grounds from the pioneers that died at Winter Quarters.  If you didn't know you were walking on sacred ground before, you did when you saw those headstones!  What a beautiful tribute to have those headstones be able to look up at the temple all day!

Across the street was the Mormon Trail Center.  They (obviously) had an area where you could dress up as pioneers and pull a handcart.  My other favorite part?  Seeing Mark Mabry's Reflections of Christ in person.
How is it that Darik looks hot as a pioneer man and I look worse?  I need a new bonnet, stat!
After that stop we drove on into Des Moines where we stayed with our friends Ted and Hilery for a few days.  Ted & Hilery were our neighbors in Cedar Rapids and basically the best friends anyone in the world could ask for.  Hilery tells me she didn't like me when we first met because I was hugely pregnant and gushing about being able to have a baby every 5 minutes.  Little did either of us know we were in the same boat - and they had started filling out adoption paperwork.  Little Nora from Guatemala joined their family shortly after Ellie joined ours.  They were Baby BFFs.  I love how when they were babies Hilery & I would get together all the time so the babies could "play", i.e. steal toys from each other.  No, they really did like each other :-)  And I was so SO SO excited to get them back together.
T&H moved to Des Moines shortly after we moved to Idaho . . . and they have a little two year old Aron - who is ALSO adorable!  Our first full day there while Ted was working we brought the kids to the free splash pad/wading pool at the park.  Gotta love big cities with awesome park systems!
At this same park was a antique carousel that they keep updated for the kids to ride.  One ride was fun, but by the time the second ride came around I think they were about done with it :-)

These two princesses play SO so SO well together.  Melts my heart!
It was almost time to leave so we had another day out on the tow and this time stopped by Raccoon beach/walking trails/park.  Again, i LOVE this city!
Ted & Hilery were the perfect hosts.  We had a blast playing, visiting, eating, and laughing.  Ted and I could get into debates about the craziest of things - I think next time I visit we should talk Sarah Palin :-) !!  We only wish we still lived next door!
Here we are driving back into Cedar Rapids, city of five smells seasons.  I never could figure out what their fifth season was.  Tornado season?  Anyways, as we drove into town Ellie said, "Dad my heart is a wonderful place."  We were a little confused so we asked her where her heart is.  She replied, "My heart is in Iowa!"
Our first stop was the Meyers'.  I met Amy at the breastfeeding support group at Mercy Hospital where we had both delivered our babies.  I had decided I had to get out of the house and find ways to meet people that wasn't just at church.  Tobyn and Ellie were just a few weeks apart, and Amy and I ended up becoming good friends.  We may be about 10 years apart but I swear it seems like we're long lost sisters!  Amy is the friend that I attended Luther Bible Study at her church house.  That was a neat experience that I look back on, too.  So, this house is where we spent many, many play dates.  She's had AudriElla since we left so there were plenty of kids here for her to play with.  The other fun thing was talking with her older daughter from her first marriage about Twilight - heh, I never thought that would be happening :-)  I think one thing Ellie loved about this trip is everywhere we stayed was somewhere new, but the people at each house already loved her, even though she didn't remember from when.  
It was so great to catch up with her.  Since we've left Tob's been diagnosed with autism and, let me tell you, this woman is my hero.  What a trooper.  Getting a goodbye kiss, so sweet!
Ellie had been dying to see this land of Iowa that she had always heard of but never seen.  So we went on a trip down memory lane and went to see our old place.  We tried knocking but no one was home :-(  I have some shots of Ellie from when she was a baby almost in these exact same poses.
Then it was off to Mercy Hospital where she was born.  This is the hospital that was flooded and evacuated from the floods of 2009 that made the front page of the NYT
We also went and walked around Darik's old work.  We were hoping the office would be open but it closed at 4.  The ice arena was hosting the national horseshoe championships :-).
As we continue our tour down memory lane and around the city we drove up Mt. Vernon Rd and stopped by the Foster Family.  We'd called ahead to make sure the Gorrell family was there as well.

This is another of Ellie's little Baby BFFs.  Also the bunny?  She told the adults, "I know how to tell if it's a boy or a girl."  Oh yeah?  How?  "Well, this one has girl eyes so she's a girl."  Phew!
And last, but definitely not least, The Stangers.  Talk about Superwoman, Garnet had a 3 week old baby, just had a family of 6 stay at her house the week before, and was more than happy to open her doors and home to some old friends.  When we left they had a baby Isaac and we had a toddler Ellie.  Ummmm, put these two back together and you get pure craziness!  I think their personalities are SO, So similar.  In familiar surroundings they can clown it up with the best of them, yet they are intensely curious in certain areas, extremely smart, and at times, shy.  Let's just suffice it to say they hit it off fairly well, fairly quickly.
This boy has an insane tongue!
So glad the weather cooled down just a bit.  I think we even got a rainstorm.

I love how you just look over the edge of the backyard fence and can see the cornfields.
Shawn builds houses on the side and we walked down to take a look-see.  Umm, I'm in love, is all I can say.  The man builds perfect homes.  Seriously, it would have been perfect for us.  Anybody want to spot us $200K?
On the most eternal walk home I've almost ever been on the kiddies discovered a bug.  And Isaac was crazy.
I love this picture on the porch.  They had raced home for a prize and Ellie got beat and was grumpy that she lost.  Sir Isaac was not too sure about this moody little girl anymore.  The next day we were able to attend Cedar Rapids 1st Ward again before we left.  It was wonderful to see all of our old friends and acquaintances.  Ellie went to Sunbeams with Isaac and was THRILLED to find out her teacher was her old babysitter from when she was a baby.  She left Amber with a promise to call her cell phone whenever she missed her!  And saying goodbye to Isaac?
Now that was a hard thing to do!

In conclusion, we decided we miss Iowa and our friends there desperately!  We would love to be able to make a move back there someday - and even if that isn't in the cards we sure hope we can see the people and friends from there that make it so special.  

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