So, a couple weekends ago the munchkins’ parents decided to get away for the weekend and enjoy the changing colors.  Meanwhile, the munckins and I had our own adventures – we went to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which they loved and I thought was super silly.  And we made the previously mentioned rainbow cake — and we explored the neighborhood …

Here’s what we found.


DSC_0317On the way home from Pennsylvania we decided to go north instead of south. This had something to do with soup and Max and Erma, but I’m not sure what.

North meant the tollroad. My growing-up family used to go back and forth from Illinois and Pennsylvania on the tollroad three or four times a year, but it had been awhile and I hadn’t driven it before. However, the tollroad had a lot less traffic than 70 and with my iPass, I didn’t have to stop at any tollbooths – so it was actually an easy drive, much better than the rain-drenched ride east.

Anyhow, as we were traveling, Kelli was reading the map and I mentioned that one of the few president houses I hadn’t been to was Garfield’s, tucked away in the northeast corner of Ohio. Kelli found the location and then Kelli said, “So, let’s go to today.”


“Sure, it’s not that far out of our way.” Then to help the munchkins get excited about a visit to an old house, she said, “Hey, guys. If we visit the president’s house, it will count as school and you won’t have to do your math.”

That clinched the deal.


So we visited Lawnfield.

Actually, I put it right up there with Hayes as one of my favorite houses – big, but not huge and with a “cozy, family” atmosphere.


Here are some Garfield/Lawnfield facts.

*Garfield was the last of the presidents who were born in a log cabin.

*Garfield was president for approximately 200 days before being assassinated by Charles Guiteau.

*Garfield was the only ordained preacher to hold the presidency.

*Garfield married Lucretia Rudolph, the daughter of a prominent family.

*All five Garfield children were successful.

*Lawnfield was lived in by Garfields until 1930 when it was turned over to the Western Reserve Historical Society as a museum.

*The second floor library (one of the coolest rooms I’ve ever seen) was the first presidential library constructed for the purpose of storing a president’s papers.

When we walked into the visitor’s center, the lady at the desk asked if the kids wanted to be Junior Rangers. Of course they did. They each received an activity book with many things to do – and a list of objects they were supposed to find as we toured. The older the child, the more activities he/she has to do to earn the junior ranger badge.  Our tour guide, Lisa, was very patient  explaining things to the kids and since we were the only ones in her tour group, we didn’t have to worry about other people.

The kids take the Junior Ranger Pledge - helped along by Lisa

The 9yo looks for clues.

5yo proudly holds his junior ranger certificate.

All in all, everyone decided it was a fun trip and the 9yo even said it the second-favorite thing she did on the trip.



Yep! That was fun.


The road where Ken’s parents live has been in my life since that first visit “back to Pennsylvania” when I was 20 years old and meeting my soon-to-be-inlaws for the first time. And although Ken’s parents now live up the road from where Ken lived as a teen, it is within easy walking distance. As I took that walk after lunch waiting for the t-shirt extravaganza to begin – I realized that this road had been in my life longer than any other street/road/avenue in my life. I have walked it many times.

And what a beautiful walk it always is.


Last Sunday (back in PA), I headed back down south to the church where Ken’s family has attended ever since they trusted Christ (Ken was about 10).  I wasn’t going to make it in time for SS, so I had this whole texting thing going on with Kelli about whether or not I could find a Starbucks to get her a latte since she was having latte withdrawal. Then my MIL decided she would like a pumpkin spice latte, too, since she hadn’t had one before.

I finally made it – two lattes in tow. (I can honestly say I did this for two people I love, because personally, I would NOT go three feet out of my way for a latte or any other kind of coffee).

Here they are – my MIL with her first latte ever.


After church, we headed back to the house for a family dinner.  As we headed down the road, we stopped to savor the PA hills (well, I’m not sure how much savoring the kids were doing, but Kelli and I thought they were pretty.


Of course, the table was Steeler-themed.
Of course, the table was Steeler-themed.
Kelli and Heather (her cousin) enjoy their vacation by doing the dishes for 18 people@
Kelli and Heather (her cousin) enjoy their vacation by doing the dishes for 18 people.


Ok, I am now officially WAY behind on posts from this past week.

Still have the rest of the PA trip, and the weekend with three kids and two dogs and a cave and my mom’s 88th birthday celebration and the church dedication …

So, I will start at the end and talk about the cake.

See, the three munchkins and I wanted to bake a cake for my mom’s birthday dinner today. Sometimes when you have legos to play with, the outdoors to run in and ping pong balls to paddle – baking a cake isn’t all that exciting. If I was to have help, I needed to bake a kid-exciting cake.

The “can-we-help” choice?  A rainbow cake.

Six layers. kid-designed frosting  … and a drive to my mom’s – an extreme test of gentle manuevering. (We were in great fear that one of those layers would slide off.)

Here is our finished product.110_0748

Just kidding - here it is.


DSC_0196When I do conference workshops, I introduce myself and then somehow attempt to connect to the audience. For instance, the people at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Conference know that one of my granddaughters is named after their weather girl and the people at the Cedarville Conference know that we lived there when we were first married.

But I connect to west/central PA in a unique way that happens no other place. Not only were many of my formative years spent there – I married a guy ninety miles down the road from where we lived. I can usually find someone (as I did this time) who has been to Fort Roberdeau and then I tell them how when I was a kid, I thought it was my own personal fort. Then I ask if they’ve visited the nearby farm house and then surprise them by saying my parents used to own that house.

One of the things we talked about this time is my accent. I basically learned to talk in the heart of Pennsylvania – where the Pennsylvania accent is about as strong as you can find it – but I also spent a good part of my childhood in the Chicago area. So my accent is a weird mixture of the two of them which gives certain family members (who supposedly love me dearly) an easy target for mockification. (Just made that word up.)

They love to hear me way the word warsh (instead of wash), but when I said it Saturday at the conference, they all said, “Warsh is the way you’re SUPPOSED to say it. That’s the way we all say it.”

So there!

One time I actually did have a linguist try to figure out what area of the country I was from. He couldn’t do it because I’m that combobulated mixture of the east and the midwest. (That, plus I learned to talk from my parents who were both from the New York City area.)

One guy told me to be proud that I speak Chicavania, so from now on that will be a buzzword in my life — and don’t mess with my Chicavania heritage!

Anyhow, we had a lot of fun with it.

The church where the conference was held wasn’t a huge church – medium sized, actually (but growing rapidly).

They had the children’s wing cleverly decorated. Downstairs the youth room was equally cool with an actual diner part with red stools, black and white tiles, booths, a soda glass cabinet, etc.

Here are just some of the murals they had on the wall.  The Pet Shop, by the way, is the church nursery. The window of the firetruck actually looked over the large banquet/gym below.


After a morning roaming the peaceful, but cloudy Pennsylvania countryside and the annoyingly chaotic Wal-Mart. (Could I just say that Wal-Mart in Washington, PA is NOT a good place to go on a Friday morning – the lines were crazily long and we waited at least a half hour for Kelli to get a toothbrush and three kids’ t-shirts for a Great Grandma craft project!)  Whoa – talk about traffic – except it was people traffic not car traffic.)

OK, so I didn’t actually finish the sentence I started with – but anyhow after the peaceful countryside and the chaotic Wal-Mart, I left the Illinois fam with the PA fam and headed north to Grove City – about 100 miles away.  Once there, I checked into my motel and then headed out to the CMA church where I found, not only the official Awana crew, but Lauri (semi-official Awana crew person), who had driven over with the official crew to do a workshop and to see me.  How fun!  We even got to room together. (Lauri, by the way, has become a great friend even though we’ve never lived by each other. Our connection is Awana and her parents who attend Central. Her dad used to go to woodworking meetings with Ken.)

After we set up, the missionaries told us we were going out to eat at The Iron Bridge. Immediately, I knew this would be a good experience. A restaurant called The Iron Bridge tucked into the hills of Pennsylvania had to be something special – and it was.

DSC_0189The Iron Bridge (so called because it is built by an Iron Bridge was absolutely packed. Of course, it WAS raining outside, so what better to do on a cold, autumn Friday night than to go out to eat.

I had an apple-stuffed chicken breast with a cider sauce that was SUPER GOOD!  The baked potato that came with it was humungous and the salad and bread were also delicious.

DSC_0188Lauri and I drove back to the motel which was right across from an outlet mall. I had a last-minute thing I needed for the conference so we decided to visit the mall – it had every outlet imaginable from Gymboree to The Steelers Store.  Mostly we walked around in the rain, using up the calories gained from the apple-stuffed chicken breast with cider sauce, the humungous baked potato, salad and bread.

A good and busy day.


The rain.

When we (Kelli, me and the three munchkins) left the house last Thursday, the weather was just fine. Ok, a little cloudy, but nothing wrong with a little cloudiness when you have a ten hour trip in front of you.  But the clouds soon turned to rain. Unrelenting rain. Steady rain. Teeming rain. Ten hours of rain. We were in the middle of a storm and the storm moved right with us – across Indiana, across Ohio, through West Virginia and into Pennsylvania. We talked about the rain. We listed songs about rain. We listened to my squeaky windshield wipers clear away the rain.

Early morning it rained, all afternoon it rained and it was still raining when we reached Ken’s parents in the darkness. 

Friday was a little better – but still sort of cloudy.

Here are some scenes from Friday morning.