Four Days in St. Louis

Okay, I know I said I was going to get back to the posts about South Africa, but I decided to fit this one in first.

Back in January, back when I had three kids at home and an easy church calling, I was nominated as President-Elect for the Junior League of Ogden. Steve was actually the one who talked me into accepting the placement. He convinced me that with three kids in school all day, we were at a good place in our lives for me to do something like this. He told me it was a unique opportunity that I was unlikely to have again. He even offered to help out more around the house to make things work.

The very next week, I was called as first counselor in my ward's Relief Society presidency. The Relief Society president had just recently moved into our ward. (She actually lives across the street, just out of ward boundaries.) She knew the names of just three sisters in the ward. And she is officially, the busiest lady I know.

I knew that those two responsibilities were going to be difficult to balance. The next month I was selected to served on a Task Force for the Association of Junior Leagues International. And then the next month we were back to having four kids at home.


The next two years will be unusually busy/exciting as I attend a number of Junior League trainings/conferences across the country. But I love Junior League and feel like it's a good use of my time and efforts. And no complaints here. . . it turns out that I kind of like going on trips.

When I accepted the position as President-Elect, I quickly realized that AJLI's annual conference in St. Louis, Missouri fell on the same weekend as the Ogden Marathon. Sad. But, due to my recent health problems, Steve and I decided that it was probably a good weekend for me to be gone. . . there would be no way I would get sucked into the excitement of the marathon and try to run something I wasn't physically ready for.

Steve and I stayed in St. Louis some eleven years ago, as we were driving across the country in the VW Passat wagon that we bought on eBay. (The first of two VW Passat wagons that we bought on eBay. . . ) We loved St. Louis and have looked forward to going back with our family.

The other lady who should have attended the conference with me works for the GOAL Foundation, the organization that puts on the Ogden Marathon. . . so she was out. Since I had a hotel room to myself and the conference was over Lucy's birthday, I convinced Steve to make it into a family trip. We almost booked our tickets. But at the last second, Steve said he didn't feel like it was the right move. It was maybe a week later that we found out he was right. We decided it was still a good idea for me to take Lucy, for her birthday. (Rachel actually declined to join us on trip. . . she couldn't stand the thought of missing the marathon.) So that's the story of why I took Lucy to St. Louis.

I booked the 6:00 am flight out of Salt Lake so we could optimize Lucy's birthday in St. Louis. Which meant I had to wake up at 3:30 am . . . It's not very often that I'm willing to wake up at that outrageous hour of the morning.

This was Lucy's super special birthday breakfast:

And this was the selfie we took just before we took off. I waited for the guy in the row behind us to move so his head wasn't in the picture. Afterwards, Lucy said, "You were waiting for him to move? Don't you know photobomb pictures are the best?!?"

Our connecting flight departed from Minneapolis. We had to run across the entire airport to make our flight. I was so impressed with Lucy for keeping up. And then, of course, once we sitting in the plane on the tarmac, there was a mechanical problem and our flight was delayed.

Random tidbit of information: Lucy loves purple. So, therefore, she refuses to eat anything purple.

We arrived in St. Louis and rode the MetroLink light rail downtown near our hotel. It was easy to figure out and super inexpensive. St. Louis was rainy and Lucy was starving, so she asked to stop at the first restaurant we saw: Snarf's Sandwiches. It was a great pick.

We checked into our hotel and Lucy got the best birthday present of all. . . Disney Channel! Lucy keeps up on her favorite shows and doesn't like to fall behind. Except she calls them her programs, which makes her sound like an old lady. She would have been perfectly content watching television all afternoon. . .

But instead, we put on our rain jackets and ventured out into rainy/windy downtown St. Louis. It was some intense wind. The kind that turned our umbrella inside out the second we walked away from the building. Lucy couldn't even keep ahold of it. There were only a few people out on the streets. We darted from overhang to overhang, peeking at my phone whenever we had decent protection from the rain to make sure we were headed the right direction. By the time we arrived at our destination, my shoes were completely wet, as were the bottom twelve inches of my pants.

City Museum is a large playground museum:

Built from repurposed architectural and industrial objects:

This is called the Slinky: 

The hamster wheel is one of the most popular attractions: 


This is a super short video, but this mirror room might have been my favorite: 


These spiny chair things were a big hit:

Lucy was having so much fun: 


So I decided to join her:


The people sitting nearby apologized for laughing at me. A few minutes later I watched another adult fall off and couldn't help but laugh myself. 

Lucy is a clown:

And, speaking of clowns. . . there is a circus school located within the museum that teaches students from ages 6 to 80. The circus performs daily and does private parties.

So many different random things all in one place. . . the shoelace factory with shoelace machines from the 1890s, the Skateless Park (think skateboard ramps without skateboards), "Worlds' Largest Underwear", and Art City. Which included a Story Teller lady who makes snowflakes:

We quickly looked through the Natural History museum. . . did I mention this place is huge?!

The outside exhibits looked amazing. . . two airplanes suspended in the air, a fire engine, two giant ball pits and more:

And here's the ten-story slide that starts at the roof and goes all the way down to the Enchanted Caves:

I was just planning to take a picture of Lucy, but the twenty-year old girl working there told me that she goes at least once every day she works there and I should go on it too.

Bad idea. The combination of the spinning chairs and then the twirly slide was too much. I just about puked.

We walked by Bella's Frozen Yogurt Cafe and noticed it was happy hour. . . perfect! I think our two frozen yogurts together were only five bucks.

And check out this amazingly simple contraction. . . the yogurt divider: 

Perfect for when you can't decide between chocolate and fruity: 

It was a long, rainy walk back to our hotel. I tried to talk Lucy into going a few more blocks to the Gateway Arch, but she was too cold. (Lucy is, by far, my toughest kid, so that should indicate how bad it was.) We made it back to hotel, changed into our swimming suits, and went straight to the hot tub. We were so tired from our early morning that we decided that we would skip dinner. (I totally regretted this decision at 10:00 pm, but by then it was too late to go out anyway.) 

The next morning, Lucy was super excited to eat breakfast at the hotel's buffet. They charged her the children's rate. . . only six bucks. You better believe she ate her money's worth. 

We had some time before my first class started, so we decided to walk over the Gateway Arch:

The Gateway Arch sits on the west bank of the Mississippi River and is the internationally recognized symbol of St. Louis. The arch is 630 feet high, 630 feet wide, and is the tallest man-made monument in the United States. 

Designed to symbolize American culture and civilization, the monument opened to the public in 1967.

The arch was assembled of 142 twelve-foot long prefabricated stainless steel sections. 

An actuarial firm predicted that thirteen workers would die during the construction of the arch, but no workers were killed during the monument's construction.

The riverfront park landscape is beautiful. . . it looked so lush and green:

The arch is resistant to earthquakes and is designed to sway up to nine inches in either direction and withstand winds of up to 150 miles per hour. 

The Gateway Arch is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world.

The underground visitor center is located directly below the arch, between its legs. The main attractions are the Museum of Westward Expansion and two theaters that show films about the arch.

Much to Lucy's dismay, we didn't have time to ride the tram up to the top of the arch.

She really wanted a picture of herself hanging on the arch: 

A little blurry, but she was happy with this one: 

We spent a little too long at the arch and had to hurry back to the conference center for my first class. 

Where I signed up to go on a service trip to Guatemala. . .

And then it was time for the Annual Conference Opening Session. . . I won't bore you with a link to the two-hour video of the opening session, or the two-hour video of the annual meeting, but here is a one-minute video clip that was shown during the opening ceremony.

And here I am. . . two blurry pictures representing the Junior League of Ogden:

I attended an excellent workshop on Facilitated Networking, taught by Diane Darling. She taught us how/why to shake hands and how to block hugs. I took three pages of notes. (Seriously.)

After the workshop, it was off to the Service Dialogue, where we learned about some neat transformations that are happening within AJLI. There were four delegates from the Junior League of Salt Lake City who attended the conference. They were so nice and saved seats for me at all of the group gatherings.

I wasn't planning to attend the opening reception because I wasn't going to leave Lucy. But the Salt Lake president marched right up to the AJLI president and asked if I could bring her with me. . . and she said, "Of course." We hopped on one of the busses and rode to the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Lucy was thrilled with all of the fancy food at the reception, and I met some really neat ladies. Someone told me that they had learned to take notes right on the contact list next to each person they talked to, so they could remember who they had met and what they talked about. It sounded like a great idea, so I dutifully took my notes. . . and then lost my list!

The next morning at breakfast, I taught some girls from Texas about Google Drive. (They had never heard of it. . . ) And then I went to a workshop on community gardens and met another Angela Ballard:

I think there were roughly 600 delegates at the conference. . . and they were loud: 


No pictures, but the Mary Harriman Award Luncheon was one of my very favorite parts of annual conference. I am adding a link here because I think a few of my JLO friends might enjoy learning about this year's winner, Samira Modad of Mexico City. (Skip to 6:46.) I ran into Sami later the next day. She was so extremely kind and pleasant. She was thrilled that I told her I had four kids and even more excited when I told her that we owned a Mexican restaurant. "I have been to your home", she told me. "I have been to where the Mormons live!"

I skipped the social on Friday evening and walked down to the Gateway Arch with Lucy. 

But first, we stopped at Snarf's: 

We were hoping to take the tram to the top of the arch, but all of the tickets were sold out. Lame. And when I went through security, my pepper spray was confiscated. Double lame. 

The pretty clouds made up for it: 

I think this picture is way cooler than "hanging from the Arch":

The Instagram version: 

Then we were off to Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals:

This video is super short because Steve called me, but it gives you a glimpse of the atmosphere outside the stadium: 


I assumed they were pretty good seats. . . but I should have known better with a number like 345. 

We were at the very top. Which provided for some pretty views: 

Too bad it was freezing cold. Freezing cold. There were maybe 30 Junior Leaguers at the game with us. The ladies from Hawaii were the first to leave. . . then the ladies from Southern California. We stayed until the fifth inning, but I was freezing cold. . . and we still had to walk home. 

I met some more neat people at breakfast the next day; I really hope my delegate list turns up. 

Then we had a very long business meeting, which included voting on proposed amendments to the Association's bylaws. Did I mention it was long? I voted against the motion to extend the time by five minutes. Counting the votes took longer than five minutes.

Steve's cousin, Carley, moved to St. Louis a few months ago. One of the big reasons Lucy was excited to go to St. Louis with me was because she was going to get to spend a day with Carley's kids, Savannah and Lincoln. They picked Lucy up from our hotel on Saturday morning and went to the Saint Louis Zoo. And then they came and picked me up and we went to the Saint Louis Science Center. So impressed with all of the neat things St. Louis has for families. . . both of these attractions had free admission!

We started out in the Life Science Lab. The guy running the exhibit went to hand me a lab coat. I asked if I really needed to wear one. He acted completely shocked, and said I was supposed to, but he guessed it would probably be okay. Without missing a beat, Lucy pipes up, "Don't mind her, she's just my personal photographer."

So I went to work taking pictures. . . without a lab coat. 

So many other fun exhibits throughout the science museum. We probably could have easily spent nine or ten hours exploring everything:

I was really hungry and snuck away for some Dippin Dots. They are my favorite.

This was some sort of contraption that tested how relaxed you were: 

It was actually a competition between two people. Savannah didn't even appear to be trying, but she was significantly more relaxed than Lucy. 

Lucy even tried going to sleep, but Savannah still beat her. 

One last stop at the hamster wheel, and then we were out of there.

Everyone was hungry, so we went back to our new favorite restaurant, Snarf's: 

We had such a great time with Carley and her kids and can't wait to go back to St. Louis with the rest of the family.

That night, I went to the Awards Banquet while Lucy caught up on her programs. Here are the four Salt Lake ladies who kindly let me join them at their table: 

Dinner was surprisingly good. . . one of the top five steaks I've ever eaten. Pretty amazing, considering I was in a banquet room with 700 other people. And bonus, it didn't even make my stomach sick. It was exciting to watch some of the Leagues receive accolades (and money) for the contributions they have made in their communities. I am really hopeful that we can win something next year for Junior League of Ogden. 

The evening was a little on the long side. Mostly because I wasn't feeling well. By then, I was sneezing like crazy, so I hurried and left as soon as it ended. (My theory is that I got a cold from shaking all of those hands during the workshop on Facilitated Networking.) 

It was a rough night, and we had to be up at some ridiculous hour of the morning to catch our flight home. The St. Louis airport was unexpectedly busy at 5:00 am on a Sunday morning, and we barely got through the security line in time to make our flight. Thankfully, it was a direct flight and there were no mechanical problems or other delays. (But Delta did lose our checked bag. . . which was delivered to our house later that night.) 

One more picture, taken in the SLC airport. Does this look like Mark Eaton? Rachel likes to take pictures of tall people, so this is for her: 

Nevermind, one more picture. On our way home, Lucy drafted up some plans to start a Junior Junior League of Ogden: 

And so exciting. . . I think it's actually going to happen!