Sunday, September 30, 2012

The last bit of reflection.

Today I've had some time to look back over pictures and reflect on our vacation. It was busy and fast paced at times, yet quiet and slow at other times. It was a time that I truly hope that I never forget.

The best part of our trip, by far, has been all the time that we were able to spend with my family. It means so much to me that we were able to go with my parents, and that our relatives made the effort to come together and catch up with us, and fill us in on the happenings in their lives. They played with my children, entertained us, gave us professional massages, sang and rocked my baby to sleep, and celebrated my 33rd birthday. They hosted large amounts of people, and provided delicious meals at their houses.  They took time out of their busy lives to be with us while we were there.  Thank you all for making our vacation so special.

The other thing that has made this trip so memorable has been our lodging situation. When I booked this location, I knew that staying on an Amish farm would be different than what I'm used to. While I've heard a lot of different things, I didn’t know much about the Amish, or what they believe, or how they really live. I expected to have a clean place to stay, and we were excited to learn a little bit about how the Amish farm, and how they live life.

I did not expect the house and the land to be so big, and open, and beautiful. I didn't expect to be able to let my children play outside without feeling the need to keep a constant eye on them, like I do at home. I didn't expect to feel so welcome by this family.  And I didn’t necessarily think I would leave there, having made new friends, and hoping that we would someday return and see them again.
The most special experience for me this past week and a half, was something that I have no pictures of. I didn't even take my camera, on purpose. You may or may not know this about me, but I LOVE singing old hymns. Love, as in, not a day goes by, that there is not a hymn sung in my house. I have an old hymnal of my grandmothers that sits on my piano, and the kids frequently will grab it, and play "sing that hymn". Anyway, somehow it came out in conversation between Bryan and Steve (the father, and owner of the farm) that I sing in church, and he invited us to come to their house to sing with them. We made plans for after breakfast the next morning. Bryan and I walked over to their house at 7am, carrying our coffees and the hymnal that had been sitting on the table in our guesthouse. The family was still sitting down at the breakfast table, while Martha was busy finishing up the children's lunches for school. Soon after we arrived, their cousin, and a friend that teaches music also joined us, and we all sat down at the table. Steve pulled out a basket full of hymnals and a pitch pipe. And let me tell you,  those Amish can sing! They busted out four part harmony, and it was beautiful. Beautiful, like closing your eyes and smiling in the middle of the song, because it's so beautiful. And I realized that we worship the same God. And it is something I will never forget.
"Take my voice and let me sing, always only for my King."
One of the biggest things that I have learned this past week, is that while there are many ways that we are different, there are just as many ways that we are alike. We are both families, that work hard to provide for our children. We are mamas that smile as our children play, and daddies that hug our little girls when they have a cut on their finger. We share our birth stories, and life experiences. We scold our sons when they play too rough, and try to get our kids in bed by 8. We visit friends and family, and look forward to shopping trips with our daughters. We love to sing throughout the day, and sit and read at night after the kids have gone to bed. I could go on and on, but the point is, that while they drive buggies, and use gas lamps, and enjoy growing their own food, and drink milk from their own cow, they are beautiful people, made in God’s image, just like us. They love, and care, and live life, and are joyful and thankful, just like we are.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A horse, a buggy and a fair.

On Tuesday, we headed to Lititz to get some last minute Wilbur Chocolates, and spend some time walking downtown. This area is so rich in history. The old buildings are beautiful, and there are times that I could totally picture how life may have been 2 or 3 hundred years ago.
 

I have a picture of me in first grade, standing beside this same pretzel. I wish I knew where it is.



That night, we went to a favorite pizzeria for dinner with my parents, my cousin and her family, and my grandparents. I can not get enough of spending time with this family! I love them.

Wednesday was our last official day in Pennsylvania. The kids played outside in the morning, and then we got to do something really special...



 

This is Smokey. But Grady calls him Smoker.
 
And on our last official day there on the farm, Ms. Martha took us for a horse and buggy ride.





 

That afternoon, we headed to The Ephrata Fair, which is a big deal. It is always held near the week of my birthday, and growing up, the day of the parade would occasionally fall on my birthday. My mom led me to believe that the parade was in honor of my birthday, so I have a special appreciation of this fun time.

The fair is a week long street fair, the largest in Pa. There are activities all week, such as brass bands on stage, rooster and pig chases, a petting zoo, rides, peanut scrambles, crafts, games for the kids, and tug-of-war for the adults. There are all kinds of judged competitions, like lamb/sheep, dairy cow, rabbit and goats, and vegetables. And there is a ridiculous amount of good fair foods served up as well.

We started out with a visit to the local fire station. The department is 100% volunteer, which is different than here in Florida. The firemen were super friendly, gave Bryan a tour, and filled us in on how they do things there.


 
 
Grady missed out on all the fun.
 
This makes me laugh. Really. I can not imagine in a million years, this happening in Florida... Days before the fair starts, people start claiming their seats for the parade. They lay out folding chairs, camping chairs, lawn chairs, etc... on the sidewalk, and leave them there- for days. Some people lay a string, tied to water jugs, across the spot where they want to sit. And no one takes their stuff. Can you imagine that? Every time I see it, I laugh.




 


 

"Let me in, let me in!"
"Let me out, let me out!"
She likes to drink water out of a coffee cup,
and call it coffee.






 

There is rye, wheat and other like items in those jars. And a giant sunflower and tobacco on the table.


 
My all time favorite ride ever, is the ferris wheel. When the fair comes to town (or any neighboring town) I get so excited, and feel like I just HAVE to go, if only to ride the ferris wheel. I took the kids for a ride, and the very generous workers gave a triple ride for the price of one ride.
 

This picture was taken a little before 5pm. These streets would become wall to wall people within an hour.





 



The two sweet girls above are my cousins Chelsea and Lexi. (You might remember them as my pretty flower girls, nine years ago.)



 After the rides, it was time for the parade. We found our seats, yes, claimed by a rope on the sidewalk, and watched for the best parade ever!