We drove across the Mississippi River (the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota) and into La Crosse, Wisconsin around 9p.m. or so on Saturday night. It was pouring rain and already dark, and had been pouring for hours, so it was kind of hard driving. But when we crossed the Mississippi I told the kids “We’re in Wisconsin!” and they all screamed and clapped, even Ethan, age 2: “Yay, Sconsin!”
We got the kids in pajamas and lying down, put out a few small fights, and they quieted down and were soon asleep. All of them slept well this time, even the babies, so that was really nice. At this point John and I were really, really tired, so we had to switch drivers every two hours or so, and one of my sisters had to stay with us talking to keep us awake while the other two adults slept. We got to Wausau around 11:30p.m. or maybe a little later and even though I was so exhausted, it felt so terrific to be so close to home. Kaari and Kaatia both kept me company on the 90 minute drive from Wausau to Eagle River and we had such a fun time watching out for deer on the twisting, dark roads (a doe ran across the road and we saw two others, plus two foxes ran across as well) and making fun of extreme Wisconsin accents while we looked forward to hearing them. 🙂
We finally arrived at the Branham home 5 miles outside of Eagle River between 1:30a.m. and 2. My parents were still up, and Kirah woke up soon after because she was so excited to see us. I loved seeing the stars again! In a big city you just can’t see them very well because of the glow of the city lights and pollution. Out here in the country they are so close and huge and bright. John and I got my sisters/their kids/their stuff into the house and finally crashed ourselves around 3:30. We had to get up at 7 to get ready for church at 10, and the half hour drive to church in Rhinelander.
Church was great, especially seeing all the old familiar faces we grew up with, and they were really happy to see us, as well. Being so tired made me nearly fall asleep the last two hours–I was dozing off every minute or so, and had to jerk awake before I fell off my chair. We were planning to take a nap after feeding the kids lunch but we got done with that so late that we just decided to stay up and go to bed at a decent hour. Instead, Kaari and Kaatia and I took the kids “exploring” some of the beautiful woods on my parents’ 14-acre land along the Wisconsin River. I kept telling them “Just wait till you see the ferns” and they’d say “What’s a fern?” When we rounded a bend in the rutted road in the grass my dad had made and we saw millions of ferns on either side of the tracks, they were puzzled. I pulled one up and showed them how you can strip the leaves off and make an arrow or spear, or put several ferns together to be an umbrella when it rains. Or the best part: you can crawl under the ferns and hide and no one can see you. The kids yelled “Dive!” and ran into the ferns. The ferns were taller than Ethan, Jordan and Owen. It was so much fun watching the kids having the time of their lives playing hide-and-seek in the ferns, just as we did as kids.
This morning I got up at 6:30, woke up Ciara, and we were joined by Kimi and Olivier for a walk/run for half an hour down River Road, a nearby road winding through the forest. It was great to be out in that delicious, clean, cool air, so unlike the polluted and crowded streets of Salt Lake. We were only passed by two cars in all that time and it was so quiet except for bird songs and squirrels trilling in the trees. Chipmunks ran across the road in front of us and it was so fun to see Ciara’s face–she’d never seen one before.
Today we’re going to go grocery shopping, then swimming at one of the hundreds of nearby lakes after lunch. We’ll have an early family home evening because Kirah has soccer practice. The Branham family is scheduled to do a special number in Sacrament Meeting next week when Kavi gives his homecoming talk, so we need to practice the song. Kaari wants to write one for us and have “I Am a Child of God” mixed in.
I know one thing seeing these gorgeous forests: I don’t want to go back. I’d thought I loved Utah and especially living among so many church members and having so many things close, like home-school groups, ballet for my girls, and an awesome public library system, but I am starting to think I could give it all up to live here again. I don’t know how I could have ever left. I’m sure it can never happen because there just aren’t jobs here but my goodness, you just can’t imagine how beautiful and clean and perfect it is up here. I’ll see if I can get some pictures on here later. Have a great day, everyone!