Harder Family

Harder Family

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Family Vacation

Psalm 34:1-3 "I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together."

16 days, 3800 miles, 13 states, 12 Junior Ranger badges, 4 new tires on our van, and countless hours of fun as a family = a Harder vacation adventure. After saving for a year, our family finally took the trip that we had been planning for months. This post is a little long, but full of pictures from our adventure. See the bottom for a prayer request and another update!

*NOTE: before everyone thinks we have everything together, just know these pictures don't capture the less fun moments traveling as a family (the tears, the fighting, the complaining, yelling, etc). Just know we are a normal family.

Lexington, KY:

We started our trip off in Lexington, KY. We visited my parents and my sister's family. During our time there, the kids got to play with their cousins and chickens. Wayne and I helped my parents build a chicken coop and finish unpacking their garage. It was a great time of fun with our family.

Gettysburg, PA:

Our next stop was PA. We started our time by visiting Gettysburg on our way to our first Airbnb. Gettysburg was very large and the kids worked hard on completing their first Junior Ranger badge of the trip. 

Hershey, PA:

The next morning, we headed to Hershey, PA for a free Hershey tour. On this day, we celebrated Sophia's birthday. We discovered that Sophia and Milton Hershey share a birthday! Sophia was very excited to eat lots of chocolate and visit so many fun places on her birthday. 

Lititz, PA:

From Hershey, we headed to Lititz, PA, a cute little town that is known for chocolate and pretzels. We took a pretzel tour and made homemade pretzels. We then visited Wilbur Chocolate, where we watched a video about how chocolate is made and then we bought some delicious chocolate!


After enjoying some amazing soft pretzels and chocolate, we headed to Philadelphia. Our first step was the Rocky stairs. Grace wasn't too impressed. She didn't understand how something that wasn't historical, became so famous...just from a movie. From there, we headed to what was supposed to be our next Airbnb. 

We quickly discovered that not all Airbnbs are great. We ended up not staying at the Airbnb and drove back out to Hershey to stay in the other Airbnb. I'll save you the drama, but let's just say that it was in a very bad neighborhood, the place was dirty, there wasn't enough linens and supplies for our family (even though we paid extra per person). We learned the hard way on this trip that although Airbnb is generally great, we will never stay in a large city with Airbnb (I'll share about our Providence, RI experience later). 

After a stressful night, Wayne was able to arrange two nights outside Philadelphia with his hotel points. We headed downtown Philadelphia for the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. We also experienced a real Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. The kids completed Junior Ranger badge #2. On our way to the hotel, we noticed that our tires were feeling worse and worse. Wayne took the car into a local tire shop and we discovered we had to replace 4 tires (never buy the least expensive tires at Walmart). The tires were starting to come apart on the inside. When they took them off the wheels, parts of the tire fell off (even though when Wayne looked at them they looked fine). We are so thankful for God's protection and that we discovered it in Philadelphia before all of our extra driving.

Betsy Ross' house (we quickly discovered in Philadelphia and Boston, that none of these historic places are free. Unfortunately, for a large family, even $5/person adds up quickly. We decided to save the money and just enjoy seeing the outside of the homes.)

The next day we headed to Valley Forge and met up with the girl's pen pals from PA. It was fun to see their friends and see some historic sites. The kids completed Junior Ranger Badge #3.

My friend Jodi and her kids. We met online while we were adopting the boys. She has 12 children! It was great getting to meet them in person.

On Sunday, Wayne and the kids went to tour Independence Hall while I ran my half marathon. Unfortunately, I had to walk almost 3 miles to the starting line. I was exhausted before the race began! Thankfully, I finished, but this was one of my toughest half marathons. 

Fort McHenry:

After the race, we loaded up the car and headed for Washington DC. Along the way, we stopped at Fort McHenry, the location where the Star Spangled Banner was written. The kids worked on Junior Ranger Badge #4. This was a great experience. The kids all helped lower the huge flag and Shan Chen and DJ were able to help the rangers put up the smaller flag.

Washington DC:

That evening we arrived at our Airbnb in Washington DC. This Airbnb was very nice. We stayed at a cabin that was about 20 minutes away from DC. It felt like we were in Tahoe in the mountains, but we were just a quick trip to all the sights in DC. The first day in DC, we visited the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the US Capital, and the National Archives. The second day, we toured the White House, Ford Theater, the Natural History Museum, and the Air and Space Museum. The third day, we walked the National Mall and Arlington Cemetery (we walked over 9 miles this day). The last day we started the day off at the Holocaust Museum and then drove to the Pentagon. The Pentagon was our favorite tour of the trip!! We all highly recommend getting into the Pentagon for a tour. Note: These pictures are out of order, but are all from DC.

The kids were excited that the President's helicopter flew over our heads while we were at the Jefferson Memorial.

There were many veterans at the memorials while we were there. The kids enjoyed meeting actual veterans while at the different memorials (we met WWII at WWII, Vietnam at the Vietnam Memorial, and Korean veterans at the Korean Memorial). This made the history come alive for them. They were so cute and thanked all the servicemen for their service.

Grace reenacting the scene from Captain America.

Micaela LOVES President Lincoln. She is already working on a report about him for school and she plans on dressing up like him.

While in Arlington, we got to meet up with some dear friends from CA, who live in DC. Morgan was in the youth group when Wayne and I helped as newlyweds. It was fun catching up with them, and eating at a Chevy's Mexican Restaurant!

Somber moment remembering all those who died at the Pentagon.

Junior Ranger Badge #5 (National Mall). They also got a badge for the White House, the National Women's Equality, and Fort Hunt. We have to mail a few in, but they learned a lot by completing these booklets.

They aren't excited that Lincoln died here, but that they are near a piece of history.

The future librarian in her favorite place...a HUGE library!

Rhode Island & Plymouth, MA:

We stopped in Rhode Island for my half marathon in Jamestown, RI. Along the way, we visited the Thomas Edison National Park. If you are ever in the area, we all highly recommend this park! We learned a lot about Edison and all of his inventions! The kids completed another Junior Ranger badge.

Wayne enjoyed this stop a lot. It was like a grown boy's dream place...tools everywhere!

We stayed at an Airbnb in Providence, RI. At 11:30pm, we woke up to shooting. Around the corner from where we were staying, someone shot out all the windows in a building! It was super scary to wake up to semi-automatic gunfire right near where you were staying!! I had to get up at 5am to leave for my race 45 minutes away. Wayne and the kids hung out at the house while I ran. I felt much better at this half marathon and cut off 10 minutes from my Philadelphia run the week before. We stopped to see the Roger Williams monument (he is the founder of Rhode Island - another Junior Ranger badge). 

On our way to Boston, we stopped by Plymouth, MA to see the Plymouth Rock (something we are currently studying for history). Shan Chen got to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.


We spent a full day touring Boston. We walked part of the Black Heritage Trail and the Freedom Trail. We ended the day at Bunker Hill, which was near our hotel. The kids all climbed the 294 stairs to the top of the monument. A few complained and I quickly reminded them that I had run a 1/2 marathon the day before, so if anyone could complain, it was me. The night we arrived, we walked to the USS Constitution and we got to experience them shooting a canon and playing the taps while they lowered the flag. This is a ritual that has been done for years (I cannot remember the exact number). 

Niagra Falls:

We ended our trip by driving to Niagra Falls on our way home. The kids have talked about going to the falls for years. We surprised them with a stop here for the night. It was so fun seeing the joy on their faces! We just stayed on the American side because I do not have passports for the boys yet. We ended up taking the Maid of the Mist boat tour. That was an adventure for the books!! It was amazing seeing God's majestic creation in person. To feel the power of the falls just reminded me of how great God is and how small we are.

Here is a picture of Micaela and Joella writing and drawing about the trip in our hotel room. When you homeschool, you take school every where you go. This was a HUGE field trip.

Prayer Request: Wayne is going in for his MRI next Monday (10/8). Please pray with us that everything is stable. God is good, no matter what the results, but we sure enjoy having Wayne with us a long as God will leave him here. 

Finally, we are still raising money for my 25th half marathon. We are celebrating this momentous occasion by raising money for Little Leo, who was hosted when the boys were in the United States. He is still waiting for a family to adopt him. Would you consider sponsoring me me a $1/mile or a flat amount? We are trying to raise $1300 each (DJ's host mom and I). If we raise the amount, we will dress up like Super Woman and Wonder Woman. All donations are tax deductible.

No comments:

Post a Comment