We planned for days for the 17+ hour road trip to Illinois. Matt thought it would be best for the 4 of us to drive (this vertigo girl shouldn't be flying on airplanes!) so we rented a newer van with a DVD player for the long trek! The boys kept saying we were going on "a long journey"!
We met up with my Aunt and Uncle and cousins in Ocala since they were driving to Illinois too. The boys loved having them around when we stopped for food and at the hotel later that night. They were good entertainment!
Driving through the mountains, I told the boys their ears might "pop" but it would go away soon. Tanner yelled from the backseat "I don't want my ears to pop off!!" We all had a good laugh! Love the sites along the drive...
The boys did unbelievable on our "long journey"! They didn't fight or fuss at all, and slept a few times, which gave Matt and I a little break from the movies, Disney songs, and road trip games! We were SO proud of them!
When we made it to the hotel in Effingham, we were a little stir crazy! The boys and I had some fun jumping on the beds and being silly while Daddy unloaded the van.
Our hotel had an indoor pool (thankfully, because it was rainy and cold outside!) and it was a perfect activity for the boys to get out some energy and get some exercise after being in the car for so long.
We waited for everyone else to fly in and get to the hotel before going to dinner at our favorite restaurant in Illinois, Niemerg's! We love their fried chicken and it's a place my Grandma loved too!
The next morning, Mom and Dad took Matt and I, the boys, and Jamie and Jacob on a little trip down memory lane. We drove into the town my parents grew up in, Louisville, population 1200. Jamie and I were both born here and lived here until Jamie was in Kindergarten. We have lots of memories visiting my grandparents and other family members during our summer breaks.
We drove to Kinmundy where my Mom's parents lived. My Grandpa Gene used to take Jamie and I through the field on their property to this railroad track. We would put pennies on the track, go back home, and once we heard the train go by, we'd run back to the railroad track to see our flattened pennies.
Coming over the railroad track bridge to my grandparents house...
My Grandpa Gene and Grandma Zola were wonderful people. They used to play all sorts of games with us, like chinese checkers (even though my Grandpa was color blind) and hide the thimble. They also had a little brown organ that I loved to play when we would visit. The row of trees had definitely grown since we were here last. My Grandparents moved into this home when my mom was 13.
My beautiful Mama standing on the land her family owned and was raised on.
My Grandma Zola passed away in 1995, and my Grandpa Gene passed away in 1997. We came back to Illinois for both of their services. This is their peaceful gravesite. In the far distance, you can see a little white house. This was the house my mom came home to after she was born.
After we spent some time in the area my Mom was born and raised in, we drove back into Louisville to North Clay High School, the high school my parents met at. They were high school sweethearts! It has been a bit updated since they were there last. :)
Louisville water tower...
My Mom lived out in the country, and my Dad lived in town on the main street of Louisville. This is the park just blocks from the house my Dad grew up in. He played baseball on this field. Our little ball player Carson with his ball playing Papa.
Jamie also played baseball at this park! When Jamie, Jacob and I were kids, we would walk with our cousins to this park and play. This rocket ship used to be SO big to us (and scary!). It was really neat to see all of the same playground equipment, that we used to play on, still there.
Now my little boys were at the same park playing on the same rocket their Mommy did when I would visit.
We've grown a little :)
Nana and Papa on the seesaw with Carson and Tanner...
The original merry go round! So much fun!
My Dad has so many memories in this park. One of them is on this bridge with his neighborhood friends. They would camp out, or build forts. Pretty neat to have so many memories in this place and then have your little grandsons there with you.
After we played and reminisced at the park, we drove down the main street to my Dad's childhood home. My Grandparents lived here for 37 years. My Dad is 1 of 5 children, and they have so many memories in this home. We got to hear a lot of their stories on this trip. We loved visiting their "big white house" when we were kids. They had squeaky wooden stairs that went up to the 2nd floor. They had a pedestal bath tub in their upstairs bathroom that was so much fun to take a bath in. My Grandma used to cook her famous mashed potatoes and noodles and lots of sweets. She kept a deep freeze full of popsicles for us. They had an upstairs window fan hidden by an accordion type partition that used to scare me! I can still see the bedroom with 2 beds that we used to sleep in when we would visit at Christmas with the porcelain Christmas tree with lights on the side table. These are just some of the memories I cherish about my Grandparents home.
My Grandpa built this garage next to their house. I remember pulling into this rocky driveway in the middle of the night when we'd driven straight through from Florida and the sound the rocks made as you walked through them up to the back porch door.
After visiting my Grandparents old home, we drove up to the square. The Clay County Courthouse...
They have a Clay County Veterans Memorial on the square in front of the Courthouse.
Several family members who served, including my Grandpa Frye.
We visited the Clay County State Bank on the square, the bank my Grandmother retired from after 25 years. We would run into the bank to see Grandma and get a lollipop from her when we were kids. A sweet lady that I vividly remember at the teller booth beside her growing up came to the visitation.
The only grocery store in town is Mike's Food Market. My parents are good friends with the owners. We used to go in and get cupcakes and cherry pies. They also have the salad dressing we stock up on when we visit, Mullen's.
It was only fitting that we take pictures of our memories :)
My mom started working for Farm Bureau in Louisville, then continued on with Farm Bureau when we moved to Florida, and still works for them! She did not know anyone who works in the Clay County office, but she went in and introduced herself and took a tour of the building. She said they still had the same kitchen table from when she worked there over 25 years ago.
When I was a little girl, I suffered from chronic ear infections (much like my Tanner boy). Mr. Bunnell's Drugstore was a place my parents visited often. Mr. Bunnell had a soda fountain in his store. We used to get soda fountain drinks when we would visit in the summers. Mr. Bunnell passed away and they changed the drugstore to a cute home decor store, but they kept the old soda fountain! We had to stop in and have a vanilla coke!
The boys had ice cream!
Yum, there's something about an old fashioned soda pop!
We had lunch at another favorite restaurant, Julian's, where the boys tried a Manhattan burger. They actually thought it was good!
Then we drove by the house my parents BUILT when Jamie and I were little. The siding on the house is different than what my parents built, but we could still see the similarities. I was hoping my old medal swingset was in the backyard but we didn't see it. It was a nice day talking about memories and remembering good times in Louisville.
My Grandmother's service was on Saturday. It was held at the church my Grandparents grew up in, raised their children in, and my parents were married in, RedBrush Christian Church. Her service was beautiful. All the words spoken by the preacher truly reflected the wonderful person she was. My amazing sister compiled memories from my aunts, uncles, and grandkids, and wrote my Grandma's eulogy. We were all so incredibly proud of her courage to get up and read the beautiful words she wrote. It was not easy, but showed just how loved my Grandma was.
The boys were able to attend the beginning of the service, and then wonderful ladies of RedBrush played with them in the children's classes. They also provided a delicious homemade meal for all of our family after my Grandma's service. It was a beautiful time celebrating the amazing woman my Grandma was, and sharing stories about our favorite times with her. She loved her family and friends so much and I know it would have brought her so much joy to see all of us together.
After Grandma's service, our cousins invited us over to their house to play. My Dad's cousin Ed and his family lived just down the road from us when we lived in Illinois. We have very fond memories on their farm, taking the paddleboats out on their pond, having cookouts and shooting fireworks on the 4th of July, and even silly memories like sliding down their laundry shoot! Over the years their kids have built their own homes on the property and we had a blast exploring. It was a little boys dream home! Sitting on their giant tractor...
Matt and the boys on the dock. They have a zipline that goes across this pond!
It didn't take long for our outdoorsy boys to start digging in the dirt!
My cousin Anthony coaches the Louisville Sluggers baseball team with his boys. They built their own baseball diamond to practice on. Carson was on cloud 9! We had a little family baseball game going. Such fun memories made!
Matt hit one way out and the little boys were scrambling to get it. I LOVE that they are running around right by the wheat field!
After our baseball game, we got to ride on their 4-wheelers. The boys thought this was pretty cool and wanted to do it all by themselves...sorry boys! Mommy wasn't letting that happen! We had fun riding around their property.
Tanner picked some dandelions...love those cheeks!
We finished up our visit with a little basketball and trampoline jumping. It was an awesome way to get the boys energy out before we started our drive back home to Florida. So much fun!
One last stop on main street for frozen custard and vanilla cokes before separating ways.
We will miss our Grandma Betty so much! It won't be the same without her warm hugs and greetings every time we spent time with her. She loved us so much and we are just so grateful to have such wonderful memories of her to think about and talk about in the hard days to come.