Thanksgiving this year found us down in Southern California. I can’t say it would have been my first choice to make the long trip while 34 weeks pregnant. In fact, shortly after I found out I was pregnant I informed my mom not to expect us to come down for Thanksgiving… and definitely not for Christmas. However, about a month before Thanksgiving, my little brother Jayson announced that he was getting sealed that weekend. I was NOT going to miss that just because I was pregnant! So we decided we’d suck it up and make the trek.
Since we had recently bought a new van we had enough room to accommodate our family as well as my sister’s family so that they could come as well. It was also to my benefit at that stage in the pregnancy to have the more space that our van would afford over our Corolla. My sister arranged to get off work on Monday at 3pm so that we could get on the road before too late. That morning I was trying to get us all packed up and cleaned up but between a bad back and some pretty regular preterm contractions that I’d been having I was disinclined to push myself too far. Eric of course had to get work finished before we could leave so he was in the office and wasn’t able to help me get things in order. So I puttered around the house and got as much done as I could without either aggravating my back or inducing contractions. Luckily Eric was able to come home early and help get things finished off. We ended up leaving a little later than we’d intended, but (if we’re honest) probably not much later than we expected.
We knew that even with the extra space in the van it would be a tight squeeze in a 7 passenger minivan with 4 adults and 3 kids. I’d hoped that we could fit all three full sized carseats in the backseat, but we had no such luck. We ended up putting Danny and Skylar (our 3 year old nephew) on the sides of the backseat in regular carseats and squished poor Sam in the middle of them with his booster seat. Unfortunately we’d used the anchor system for the bigger carseats but there was only one anchor in the middle of the backseat so the bigger carseats sorta leaned in too. Luckily Sam was a really good sport about it but I still felt bad for him, he definitely got the bum end of that deal.
The majority of the trip was relatively uneventful. Each of the boys sat in the back with headphones and a tablet and the adults rotated between listening to different programs together, or separately as couples or on our own with headphones. That is until we were about 2 hours out from our destination, when our nephew Skylar puked all over himself. So we pulled off to the side of the road and tried to clean things up as best we could without any supplies at 1am. Then we drove a little further, negotiated for a Subway plastic sack for him to throw up in and inched our way back to Thousand Oaks. It was a pretty miserable way to finish off the drive. I was less tolerant of the situation than I would normally be as my gag reflex during the pregnancy was far below what it is normally. In the end we did make it back to my parents’ house alright and were glad to be there.
Skylar was sick for the next day but then seemed to get better. We spent the next couple days lounging around at my parents’ house (a kid’s paradise), going to the beach and making Thanksgiving preparations. Thursday was (of course) Thanksgiving, and the day was well spent preparing and eating food and counting our blessings. I don’t think there’s anything in this world that can make me feel as grateful as just being with family. I feel truly blessed to have the most wonderful family on all sides – older generations, younger generations, through blood and through marriage. I can’t think of anything in this world I could want more than to get to be around them.
On Friday we were very busy making all of the wedding preparations. My brother and his wife had eloped and we didn’t get to celebrate their marriage at the time so my parents planned a reception for them following the sealing ceremony on Saturday. Jayson has always been a bit of a picky eater so coming up with something fun to eat at the reception that still bore his seal of approval was a bit of a trick. They settled on Chinese food, which was pretty fun. My mom tried to make most of it herself to save on the cost, so Friday found us cooking up lots of rice and chicken and going to several stores for different ingredients.
Saturday morning came and we got everyone ready to go down to the temple without too much incident, except that Kyle was sick and couldn’t come with us to the temple. Luckily, he’s not old enough to attend the sealing anyways, but we were all a little bummed that he couldn’t be there. He’s been fighting with some pretty intense health problems recently so we all assumed that his pre-existing problems were acting up again and didn’t think much of it.
On the drive to the temple Danny was a bit of a pickle. We were almost to the temple when we heard him dump out an entire bag of dried apples in the backseat. Not just a little sandwich baggie, but a big gallon sized bag of apples that Taylor had dehydrated herself. Luckily we’d already eaten the better part of the apples, but we were still rather upset with Danny for dumping them out. So we demanded an apology from Danny. After refusing a few times he said, “Well, I not am sorry. I not will say sorry.” in a tone that was so matter-of-fact that we had a hard time not busting a gut laughing. What a punk! We threatened all kinds of different things, but his response was the same, “I not am sorry. I not will say sorry.” That kid is hysterical, and he’s going to be the death of me :P
The sealing itself was just beautiful. I don’t remember all the things that the sealer told Jayson & Ashley, but I remember the feeling that was there. There was a certain feeling of elation at finally getting to be there and having this ceremony performed for them. I think everyone in the room felt like they had been a part of that journey in some sense or another and we all felt like we – not just they – had made it to the finish line. Of course this wasn’t at all the end, it’s the mark of a beginning, but I think we were all grateful to have been a part of the journey that got them to this point.
After the sealing we went outside to wait for Jayson and Ashley to come out. Just ahead of them was a couple who had also scheduled their sealing for that day. However, they’d gotten the wrong license from the state and weren’t able to be married that day! Their family had all come in from Mexico and around the country for their wedding, only to find out they had the wrong paper work and couldn’t be married that day at all. Isn’t that about the saddest thing you’ve ever heard of?! Apparently there are a few different kinds of marriage licenses that the State of California will issue, and one is more of a license to co-habitate, but not to be married (I don’t understand it either), and that was the license that they had gotten. So they took all their pictures, and were going to go have their reception that night… but they wouldn’t be able to be married until Monday when the county offices opened up again and they could get the right paperwork. They still all looked so happy and I think they were having a good attitude about the whole thing, but my heart broke for them. Luckily the temple president said that they would open up the temple especially for this couple on Monday so they could be sealed (temples are closed on Mondays). I still can’t get over that situation. Can you imagine showing up for your wedding and being told you couldn’t get married that day because of a clerical error?!! I would have been devastated.
Anyways, after Jayson and Ashley came out we did some pictures. The photographers had a hay day following around Sam, Skylar and Danny. They looked so cute in their little suits walking around like little men.
Picture credit: Erik Hokom Photography
There’s something about Danny’s stance in this next picture that I find just hilarious. It reminds me so much of Eric’s dad, I’m not exactly sure why, but it *really* does.
Just in case you looked at that last picture and thought, “Oh Brittny, you big baby, you weren’t really all that pregnant, quit whining.” Uhm, no really, here I am sideways. I really was THAT pregnant :P
After pictures we had to race back home so that we could get all of the food ready. My parents had to stop Diddy Riese for the cookies and ice cream for the reception (they opted to make ice cream sandwiches with legit cookies and ice cream rather than having cake) but Eric and I went back to the house to start making LOTS of fried rice. When my dad got home he immediately went up to his room and laid down dead. He was starting to feel sick just like Kyle had been that morning. My mom wasn’t feeling too great either but had to press on to get all the preparations done. I was sent out to a Chinese restaurant in Newbury Park for some of the food and lost my phone on the way, making me late. But in the end we all made it to the church with all the food and the reception was lovely.
Towards the end of the reception Cody made a quick exit and made it as far as mostly through the Relief Society room before he lost his cookies. We sent him home to get changed and go to bed and the reception wound up pretty quickly shortly thereafter. That night my mom, dad, Kyle, Cody, Ryan, Taylor and Ashley all came down with the stomach bug. We think it’s the same bug that Skylar had at the beginning of the week. Not exactly the perfect ending to the perfect day :P
We had planned to leave for Utah the next morning, but with Taylor and Ryan so sick we went back and forth on leaving. Plus, with the rest of the family so sick, we were sure that our little family wasn’t going to be immune to it for long. The *last* thing we wanted was to get 3 hours down the road and all fall ill and be too far to turn back but still with the prospect of 7 more hours in a car. We hemmed and hawed for awhile – at one point we decided we’d stay until Wednesday – and finally we decided to just bite the bullet and go. We left Taylor and Skylar behind as Taylor was too sick to travel and could come back to Utah with my dad later in the week, but we took Ryan with us as he was on the tail end of the bug and needed to be back in Utah the next day for classes.
The first couple hours of that drive were agony. We felt certain that we were at any minute going to be sick. I had an especially scary time of it since there’s a lot of movement near your digestive tract while being pregnant. Every time Maeli would kick me I would think, “uh oh, this is it, I’m coming down with the plague.” We made it all the way to Baker when Danny threw up ALL over. We were able to pull over and clean everything up but it was pretty nasty. With my weakened stomach from pregnancy, and Ryan’s weakened stomach from the bug we were in bad shape. We cleaned up as best as we could, bought an air freshener and a pack of dryer sheets and soldiered on.
Surprisingly, we made it all the way back home without anyone else getting sick. And I think poor Danny might have just been a little bit carsick and was very upset that we deprived him of food for the rest of our journey (but can you blame us?). We’ve chalked our good fortune up to our family’s daily regimen of Emergen-C, we’ve hardly been sick this winter (knock on wood) while we spent almost the entirety of last winter being sick. It might just be the placebo effect, but even if it is, we’ll happily take placebo effect over being sick!
So, that was our exciting Thanksgiving adventure. We were definitely thankful to be a part of the whole experience, and especially thankful to have escaped the stomach bug!
In case you weren’t aware, let me tell you something unique about Eric. He is the youngest of 9 children. That puts him in a very interesting situation. He became an uncle when he was 3 years old. This means that our oldest niece, Danielle, is 21 and seems like she ought to be more cousin than niece, but things are what they are. However, 21 puts her at a marrying age and that’s just what she did over Christmas break. That made us feel a little old to have a niece old enough to get married, even though she’s not all that much younger than we are. Oh well. If you’ve been following our winter break saga this post just picks up where the last one left off. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog post…
We drove from Logan up to Rexburg on Tuesday afternoon. We were very glad that we had planned ahead and were already halfway to Rexburg from Orem. Sam has gotten much better at being in his carseat in recent months, but it’s still not his preferred location so it’s best if we can keep him out of it as much as possible.
We pulled into Rexburg around 4:30pm. After unpacking ourselves into the room and getting settled Eric suddenly realizes the Rexburg Temple doesn’t provide clothing rental (or so he thinks). This wouldn’t be a problem except that his wife has fed him some apparently edible food since they got married and he now has more… girth units about his middle section. A.k.a. he needs new white temple pants. So he finds where the nearest Church Distribution Center is and races out to go get himself a new pair of temple pants.
(For those of you who might not be up on LDS lingo I’ll explain really quick. When we attend the temple we dress all in white to represent purity and heaven and other things along those lines. Most church members own their own set of white clothes that they can wear inside the temple. They can buy these at a Distribution Center where they sell white clothes that fit the specifications of the temple as well as other church supplies – scriptures, lesson manuals etc. At many of the larger temples they offer a clothing rental service for those who may not own their own temple clothes or who aren’t able to bring them with them. However, since Rexburg isn’t a very large town Eric didn’t think he’d be able to rent clothes there. Ok, enough explaining… back to the blog post :)
When Eric gets back he tells me that his sister Dianne (the mother of the bride) has invited us over for pizza, and has agreed to hem his new temple pants for him. Since there’s not a whole lot more to do in Rexburg, and the whole point of this trip is to be with family we pretty much immediately hop back in the car to go to Dianne’s.
We had a ball at their house! I was pleasantly surprised at how laid back they were for it being the night before the wedding. We played Rock Band, ate pizza, watched a movie and just hung out as a family.
Sam helping Eric sing his part in Rock Band
Sam putting on a show for some of the women
Sam trying to get into a cousin’s backpack
Sam climbing through his cousin Lizzie’s legs. Yes, Sam was very photogenic that night so there are some fun pictures of him :P
Anyways, so partway through our fun night Eric gets a call from his dad to tell us that we’d checked into the wrong room. Oops! Luckily we’d left one of the room keys behind and hadn’t let Sam make too much of a mess yet so they were able to just transfer all our stuff to the correct room and take over the room for themselves.
The next morning we woke up with a concern that had been nagging us all trip – what were we going to do with Sam while we were in the temple. He had been so clingy since the first day we left the house (Christmas Eve) and had only gotten worse the longer we’d been gone. We really didn’t want to leave our niece Becca with a screaming child for three hours, but we really wanted to participate in Danielle’s wedding. Danielle had invited all of the family to participate in an endowment session before the sealing to get everyone in the right spirit of the ordinance. However we knew that meant an extra two hours that we’d be leaving Sam. We finally decided to go participate in the endowment session and trust in the Lord (and Becca) to take care of Sam.
I’m so glad we did. We took Sam over to the Eaton’s house still worried that he was going to be ornery. He hadn’t eaten yet so I pulled out my nursing cover and fed him for a few minutes. All of a sudden, Sam decided he was done eating, climbed down, and crawled right over to Becca! It was truly a tender mercy from Heavenly Father that he would do that. We gave him kisses that he hardly acknowledged, and we left. Apparently Sam didn’t make a fuss the whole time we were gone. He slept happily on Becca for a while and played with his cousins.
The whole experience of going through the temple with Danielle was awesome. I think she was truly inspired to have the temple experience like she did. It was really cool to see how the endowment and sealing ceremonies fit together. It also really got us all with the Spirit before getting to the sealing. It was such a neat experience and I’m so glad we got to be a part of it.
After the temple we picked up Sam and went to a big family luncheon. You know, just being with family is pretty cool. We really enjoyed sitting around and talking and watching the little kids run around. What a blessing to have such a great family.
Sam and I ended up taking a nap and missing the family pictures (we figured Danielle would probably appreciate not having a cranky baby in her pictures more than us trying to force him to be there). We sent Eric to represent our family for the pictures and then he came back to bring us back to the reception.
We got to help take down the reception which, strangely enough, was one of my favorite things. I really like the energy of setting things up and taking them down. There’s a sense of accomplishment when everything is in order and ready for an event, and when you’ve gotten everything cleaned up and packed back up. I know that sounds weird, but I guess I’m just a weird person. It’s definitely one of the reasons I loved my time as a stage technician for the Young Ambassadors. I miss being a part of that a lot sometimes. I love what I’m doing now as a wife and mother, but I still miss it.
When we got back to the hotel we took Sam swimming for a little bit. Sam is an absolute fish! He loves the water so we couldn’t pass up a chance to take him swimming – even if it was in the middle of winter in Rexburg, Idaho! (Don’t worry, the pool was inside, otherwise this “swimming” would have been called “ice skating” or “tobogganing”).
When the pool closed up we got dried off and met with some of our nephews to play cards. I nursed Sam to sleep and kept him asleep on my lap while we played Bang! and Five Crowns<. As we were getting close to our last round of Five Crowns the man at the front desk came over and said he'd gotten some complaints that we were being too loud and asked us to keep it down. We were extremely perplexed by this since we'd obviously been quiet enough for Sam to continue sleeping peacefully in my lap the whole time. We think that it was actually the family that owned and lived in the hotel that registered these complaints more because they saw us in the common area playing games rather than that we were actually making any considerable amount of noise. Luckily we were just about done so we finished up our game and went to bed.
The next day was a little bittersweet. Our vacation had finally come to an end. We’d had a really fun vacation with all of our family. It had been fun having time off from work and time away from home that we didn’t have to worry about all the same day-to-day activities we’re normally concerned about. However, we were very excited to finally be taking Sam home and get back to a normal routine. Sam had been very out of sorts since leaving and we would be glad to have our Sam back to normal. I think that’s the mark of a good vacation. Short enough that you’re sad to see it end, but long enough that you’re ready to get back to your regular life.
Luckily Eric still had a few more days off. So we went home and celebrated the New Year with Ryan and Taylor. We probably spent the better part of the next few days just hanging out with them and playing games and relaxing. It was a nice way to end a vacation before going back to real life.
It was a real blessing for our little family to be able to go attend the Oquirrh Mountain Temple dedicatory services today. While other events have preoccupied our time and efforts over the past few weeks, there have been none so important as the establishment of this house of prayer, healing, and worship to God. In this world of decadence and self-indulgence, I find great joy in the establishment of symbols and opportunities that promote service, love, and kindness to all human beings.
During the course of the dedication, my mind was drawn to a very simple yet meaningful bit of wisdom. During his talk, President Thomas S. Monson mentioned the times that we try to set aside a place in our busy schedule to do temple work or service, we are often side-tracked by busy distractions that always seem to crop up at the same time. To paraphrase what the prophet said, we have many rooms in our homes in this day and age of comfort. We have bedrooms, TV rooms, offices, and this represent another piece of our lives and attentions. Where do we make room or space for the things that truly matter most? Where do we teach and set an example for our children as to do what is right? How do we show them what things are truly important? We need to make time for the temple, because that is where we find the apex of life’s greatest achievements. I know this to be true.
Recent weeks have been a good example of President Monson’s lesson. In the course of unpacking during this week, I must have over-exerted myself somewhat and I was sick on Saturday and Sunday morning. Of course as a result, I did not really feel like going to the dedication, but with some more effort and resolve, I made the trip. I found that as I pushed onward toward that goal, I was able to do what needed to be done. It wasn’t as difficult as I had originally thought.
This life is a wondrous miracle to me. I am so very grateful for family and friends that help us in so many ways, particularly with our recent move. It is hard for me to believe that so many opportunities would have been lost had I not made good choices prior to this moment, like going on a mission. Learning Chinese has opened many doors of opportunity, and my service helped my timing in finding the spouse that was perfect for me. On a lighter note, I wouldn’t even have all this neat artwork to decorate our new home with! :) I am truly blessed.
I promised you all that I would let you know what our family’s plans were, and I am happy to say that we have an answer now to what lies in our long-term future. After much deliberation (which you can read about in detail in Brittny’s entry in her family’s blog) we have decided to plan on moving to China. However, that doesn’t mean we currently have a specific plan or an official job offer to get us there. We just know it’s where we need to end up in the imminent future.
So that meant we canceled the pending offer on the really nice house that we were about to commit to buying. Now we have about a week to find an apartment that rents out for short-term leases or month-to-month contracts. So this hectic stage of our life is not over quite yet.
Sometimes I think God tests our resolve to do His will at the more inconvenient points in our lives. That way it is a true test of our actual character. It was particularly intriguing to me that we tried by every means possible prior to the point-of-no-return deadline on our house contract to gather data and find out at least a little more about our options so that we could make an informed decision. All of these avenues we pursued were dead ends, and I believe it was to let us make a decision by faith. It is good to know that we are headed in the right direction.
On Friday, I got to meet up with some of my high school friends for lunch. It was fun to get to catch up with them and see where everyone’s lives have taken them. It’s always interesting to see how much things do and don’t change over the years. Life has taken us all in different directions, but we’re still essentially the same people that we were in high school.
In the evening the guys decided to have a “boy fest”. Originally the girls were going to go out and the boys were going to stay home and play basketball and Wii, but we girls didn’t end up leaving. So the boys still played their basketball and Wii but then we all spent time together playing Bang! and Ticket to Ride (and playing Ticket to Ride online). I think some of my very favorite times are just sitting around the table playing board games with my family. We got to do a lot of that this trip, and I think it will be a while before any of us (except for maybe Cody) will want to play Bang! again.
Saturday ended up being a very busy day. We got up early so that my parents, Ryan, Eric and I could go to the temple, and by early I mean we got up at 5am so that we could be to the temple by 6:30am. I was definitely NOT a fan of getting up that early but it was awesome to get to go to the temple with my family. We came home and took a much needed nap afterwards. That afternoon we went to the beach and took family pictures. I’d post them here, but that’ll have to be another time since we haven’t gotten them back yet from Tami Bowerbank – the photographer. They should turn out really fun though so we’ll definitely post them when we get them.
After family pictures I got to take Eric to geek heaven – Fry’s Electronics. If you are not a nerd or have never been to Fry’s you won’t fully appreciate what an amazing place it is in nerd-dom. It has EVERYTHING that tech nerds could possibly ever want. Computer parts, audio systems, DVDs, books on computer languages, hi-tech appliances, games etc. If a nerd wants it, they can find it at Fry’s. Eric had never been to a Fry’s before since there isn’t one in Utah and the closest one to his hometown in Indiana is about 4 hours away. It was fun to get to take him around and see everything. We were there to get some miscellaneous parts for a computer that we were building for Taylor and Ryan (we’d been able to scrounge up just about everything except for RAM, a case, a power supply and a processor). It was a fun project for Eric to get to put it together and a great Christmas present for Taylor and Ryan. We got the money for the extra parts from selling off pieces of Taylor’s broken laptop. While we were at Fry’s Eric also found a ridiculous deal on RAM for our desktop… so we now have 6GB of RAM in our desktop :P Eric spent the rest of the evening setting up their computer, and they ended up with a pretty sweet system, especially considering they were getting it for free. Once again we confirmed why we are NOT Mac people, you could never build a pretty decent computer for practically nothing and have it be a Mac. Yay for PCs :)
Sunday we went to church and then spent the rest of the day with the family at home. Monday we drove back to Utah and now we’re just settling back into our regular routines. It was a really fun trip, and nice to be able to spend time with family, especially at this time of year. Thanks Mom & Dad for having us!