While the plan is to relax and take it easy here at home this summer, we actually started off the summer with a great road trip vacation, discovering once again that we love to travel together in our van seeing the sights and just doing life as a family. Lois and the kids drove from Emo all the way to my sister Sonia's place in Port Perry (about 1 hr from Toronto) over the course of 5 days, while I flew in to TO (right in the middle of the G20 summit!)and met them there. I am thankful for a wife who thinks the idea of camping with 4 kids by herself is fun, and that she doesn't mind driving almost 2000 km while doing it!
One interesting addition to the usual roadtrip vacation came about because of the fact Lois and the kids camped their first night on the shores of Lake Superior, near Duluth, MN. After putting their feet in the water there, they camped the next night near the Mackinac Bridge, next to Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Because they were heading towards the last two great Lakes in Southern Ontario, they made it their goal to put their feet in all 5 of them - and they did! Quite an impressive feat in my books, especially because they didn't set out with that goal originally.
Lake Ontario - on the way to Niagara from Sarnia
Lake Erie - we took a 20 minute detour from the 401 on our way to Chicago and found this great spot.
It was nice to be able to get in on at least one of the five, and actually get a shot of Lois in the water as well!
Besides seeing the lakes, the kids and Lois enjoyed the slower pace of camping (or maybe it was slower because I wasn't around wanting to do a million things - hmm!), seeing some beautiful parts of the country, and making some new friends at campgrounds. Lois was also blessed to be able to connect in Sarnia with Diane, the Ontario coordinator for the Mom's In Touch prayer ministry that she is involved in. It has been a blessing to see how God has answered the prayers of Lois and the other moms who meet to pray every second Thursday during the school year.
Niagara Falls was beautiful by day and by night, and everyone liked to see all the bright lights and sights. God blessed Lorianne with the opportunity to see "BODIES" a traveling exhibit of the human body, which was something just recently she dreamed about seeing (and never thought she actually would!). From the falls it was a nice drive on the 407 toll Hwy to connect up as a family.
As a family we hadn't been at my sister Sonia's house for four years, and in the mean time they had bought a nice new pad that we wanted to check out. The Dueck 4 had a blast playing with the Hiebert 4 and it was great to just connect as adults over games and lots and lots of food! It was a treat for us country folks to go to a "real" movie theater (that is in our own country - normally we go into Minnesota to the theater) to watch Toy Story 3 in 3D and we also attended church together. And probably the highlight of the weekend was a trip to Canada's Wonderland, where we did rides, waterslides and a show together.
When we left for Chicago on the Tuesday morning, the sun was shining and it was a great day for driving. For part of the trip Lorianne read us I want to go Home! by Gordon Korman (great book), while at other times we were all listening intently to the various Lamplighter Theater audio book productions we had purchased. These 3 hour stories adapted from historical novels written in the 1800's are not only highly entertaining, but they teach excellent Christian truths. We highly recommend you buy them http://www.lamplighterpublishing.com/ and then share them with others you know, and if you can, buy the books as well. All our kids love it when we read these classics as a family together, and the oldest three kids have read over 10 of them already!
Since we now live "in the bush," and are surrounded daily by the birds singing, trees and hiking paths, and lots of deer, going to the city for a vacation is fun for us, and Chicago definitely has lots of options for fun. From shopping to walking and from listening to a Beatles tribute band perform at lunch to checking out what is happening in the Rain Forest Cafe right across from our hotel, there was never a shortage of things to see and do. Here are some of the highlights:
Shopping and seeing the sites on the Magnificent Mile!
Stephen found a special friend!
The Hershey Store!
Millennium Park - lots of great art to see, including a 2 story giant mirrored jelly bean!
Downtown Chicago from Navy Pier
The Field Museum (we spent 5 hours here, which wasn't enough for Lorianne!)
Giordanno's Famous Deep Dish Chicago Style Pizza - Caleb's highlight of the trip!
As you can hopefully tell by the photos, we had a blast! We will definitely be going back for more. Our "travel agent" Mark Mast has given us a whole two pages of options for us to do each time we go.
The trip home Friday and Saturday was relaxing, and God provided a great hotel for us, with a quiet spot for me to work on my sermon, and a paved walking trail near by for us to go for walks. Truly we are blessed as a family for many reasons (health, resources to travel, time to get away, etc.) and we thank God that above all of these, we just really enjoy being together.