Sunday, June 17, 2018

Special Olympics and a Trip to Springfield

We made a trip to downstate Normal, a two and a half hour drive for us, to see a bit of the Illinois Special Olympics. A boy in Kai's swim group won gold in the 400 meter freestyle in our regional meet this past spring and qualified for the state event which was held this weekend. We went to cheer Conner on, and also give Kai a preview of the event. Kai was unable to compete in the regional meet this year but we're hoping he can next year.

We arrived at around 11 am on Friday and got to see Conner and his family as they awaited the start of the competition. Then as the swimmers entered the pool to warm up, we went up in the stands to get our seats.

We watched the first race and then it was Conner's turn to swim in the second race. Kai's swim coach, James, was on the deck with Conner and had him ready to go.

Conner swam closest to us (the nearest lane was not used) and the boy just on the other side of him got off to a very fast start. We weren't sure if that boy would be able to keep up that pace - 400 meters is 16 lengths of the pool. Conner edged closer in the last few laps as we cheered him on.

The other boy hung tough, though, and Conner ended up with the silver medal.

It was an exciting race and very fun to experience. They didn't post the times when we were there but we're pretty sure that Conner swam his personal best. We got see the medal ceremony and congratulate Conner before we left.

Kai enjoyed it and it was great for him to see this. James pushes him hard during the biweekly training sessions but now he got to see how it paid off for Conner. (We didn't stay for the second day but the next day Conner won the gold medal in the 200 meters!) Both Kai and Conner have trimmed about a minute off their 400 meter times in the past few months. Hopefully this helps motivate Kai to keep up the good work and give it his best next year.

After watching Conner race, we drove about an hour and 15 minutes further downstate to Springfield. The capital of Illinois, Springfield is most famous as the place where Abraham Lincoln lived from the time he was a young man until he became the 16th President of the United States.

As residents of the Land of Lincoln, I thought our trip downstate was a good occasion to learn about our state's most famous citizen.

Our first stop in Springfield was the home where Lincoln and his family lived.

In Springfield, Lincoln worked as a self-taught lawyer and entered in politics serving in the Illinois House of Representatives. Touring the house, we got to learn about what Lincoln's life was like in those days.

After the tour, we checked into our hotel and Kai got to use the pool.

For dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant. Kai loves calamari!

After dinner we walked around downtown Springfield. The following is the old capitol building, the one used when Lincoln served in the Illinois legislature.

Kai enjoyed seeing the life-size statues of Abe and his family.

Lincoln, at 6 feet 4 inches, is still our tallest President ever.

The next morning, we went to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. I had read that the museum is considered one of the first "experience museums" and we got to see what they meant. Created by a company whose founder got his start at The Walt Disney Company, the museum combines contemporary storytelling technologies with historical artifacts to create an amazing experience for visitors.

One technical highlight of the museum is the use of holavision special effects to bring to life ghosts of Lincoln, his wife Mary, and Civil War soldiers. Another highlight is a movie full of special effects that tells the personal and political dramas and key issues of Lincoln's presidency, especially slavery.

Two main areas of the museum document two different stages of the president's life: The Pre-Presidential Years where you enter through a life-size replication of the log cabin that rep Lincoln lived in as a boy, and The Presidential Years which you enter through the White House. In one part of the museum, Kai got to go behind the presidential podium and give the Gettysburg Address as it was displayed on the teleprompter.

I was happy that the museum made it so fun to educate Kai, and all of us, about Lincoln's life, and the great man who preserved the Union and abolished slavery.

After learning so much about Lincoln, it was fitting that we visited his tomb on our way out of town.The tomb is the final resting place for Lincoln, his wife Mary, and three of their four children. (The three children here all died before reaching adulthood. Along with the assassination of her husband, you can understand why Mary suffered depression.)

This was our first trip as a family to downstate Illinois, and it was well worth it.


  1. Congratulations to Conner. What an amazing feat. There is nothing like a positive example to motivate others.

    What a sad story about Mary Lincoln.

    Well, now Kai has a more intimate understanding of the life and times of one of our greatest Presidents.

    1. Conner did very well and it was great for Kai to see.

      Kai gained a good understanding of Lincoln and the times he lived in. Loved that the museum made it so interesting.


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