Thursday, September 25, 2008

Post-Vacation Thoughts

This past week, my family and I took a vacation to Utah to see my wife's oldest brother get married. His first wife passed away earlier this year after being deathly ill for decades. We were delighted to be there to enjoy the company of his new wife, who is a very kind woman whom I'm sure will make him very happy. The temple sealing was beautiful, and the tears in his eyes as the sealer spoke of children were moving -- children were something he never thought he could have because his first wife couldn't have children after beating cancer shortly after their marriage. We hope they can have children immediately.

The trip was a pretty good one. We took the 12-hour drive in one long stretch last Wednesday, and arrived late that evening. The kids had to do homework nearly the whole time in both directions. With them being gone for 6 school days, we had to sign a "contract" to make them do school work during their absence. It's ridiculous -- can't a kid just cut school for a week and call it good?!

The following morning I took some time to go down to Provo to visit my grand-aunt, my paternal grandmother's sister and the last living member of that generation in my immediate family (she's 84). We had a delightful time visiting about our family history. She shared stories from her youth and we walked through a bunch of pictures I had so she could tell me who all the people were. She also sent with me a pile of photographs to scan and mail back to her. I was delighted, and recorded the entire conversation. Probably the best part of it was hearing her giggle at one picture of her on a horse with two of her siblings. It was downright precious.

That evening we had a family party with most of my wife's family. We went to the condo where my wife's parents are living while they are missionaries in Temple Square, and it was alternately loud, raucous, and deafening. There were far too many kids in a confined space -- my three children are loud enough without being inspired by their cousins ... It was great to see everybody, and it was the first chance I had to visit with the new soon-to-be-sister-in-law-in-law.

The next day, I went with my brother-in-law-in-law out to Antelope Island to help some people put up some hot air balloons. I'd never done anything like that, and after considering how rare an opportunity it was, I decided to go despite being completely exhausted. I got up at about 4:30 AM, showered, and rode in the car half-dazed, only to stand around for two hours while the wind failed to cooperate. Eventually, three balloons went aloft and I got some great video and pictures of the whole experience. I wish I would have been able to ride, but I didn't really expect that I'd be able to. Nevertheless, I'm glad I went!

My wife stayed "home" and made the wedding cake, which turned out beautifully. The wedding itself went very well on Saturday. They were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple and we took pictures on the grounds afterward. The kids were so excited just to be there that they asked if they could go "touch the temple." I laughed at that, but of course let them go and do so. They really enjoyed themselves, even if they were a bit uncooperative for family pictures.

At the family "lunch" afterwards, it was a good time, as well -- basically a repeat of the family party with the in-law's family under foot. Nobody, as far as I could tell, mingled with the other family. Everybody was cordial and smiles all around, but there were just too many people to try to have a meaningful sit down visit with anybody.

The next day, we were at my parents' house and we had a family party there, too. Three of my siblings were able to come out: my two brothers and my second sister. Their families being with them, my children had a great time just running around being silly. My youngest, in particular, seemed the happiest as he had a new place to explore, new toys to play with, cousins to follow around, and, most importantly, new trucks to play with (big metal ones from decades ago). He was very sad to leave on Tuesday. I really enjoyed the party, despite a few unfortunate events. I had the chance to visit with all of my siblings in attendance and had good conversations, I think -- better than I usually have with the kids zipping around like maniacs. As it turns out, one of my brothers and his "new" wife are looking to adopt a few children! We're very excited about the possibilities, though it will no doubt be a hard road to travel for them -- they're looking to adopt older children, which usually come with a lot of emotional baggage for the trip. Nevertheless, what an amazing thing they want to do!

The next few days, we pretty much spent the time visiting with my parents. I managed to cajole my parents into "interviewing" with me about their youth and about their family history. I recorded this, as well, and have a lot of neat stories now. I'm grateful they were willing to put aside their fears and humor me. My parents are awesome, and have lived wonderful and honorable lives, even if they often think they haven't accomplished much (hah! 7 kids ...).

On the way home, we split the trip into two days. We drove halfway to St. George, stopping in Hinckley to visit some of the homes that my grand-aunt had mentioned. She drew me a map of where everybody lived when she was a child, and most of the homes are still there. We stopped to take pictures, then found our way to the local cemetery where some of my ancestors are buried. I took pictures of the tombstones and was grateful for the excursion. It was humbling to be where they worked so hard to scratch an existence out of the desert soil -- it is now a beautifully green farming community.

Our stay in St. George was at a hotel with an indoor pool. We swam in the morning, then hit the road. My son was recovering from having a touch of diarrhea so it seemed he was asking us to stop every 5 minutes so he could use the bathroom. Truth be told, he was just paranoid and wanted to pee every time he had the slightest urge to do so. It was infuriating, but what can you do?

After coming home, we found our house in good order. While we were gone, we had new tile laid in the entryway and kitchen, which looks beautiful. The house has a fine layer of dust on everything, and we still have a lot of putting away to do, but it sure is good to be home.

We did find that one of our fish, which we had called "Oreo" due to his black and white spots, has now changed into a "Calico". It has orange spots and most of the black has faded to white. Weird.

And, happily, I didn't put on any weight while on vacation! In fact, I took 1 1/2 pounds off! Thanks to my wife, who worked really hard to meal-plan and pack up food to take with us, this trip went great and didn't derail my diet. I'm now down about 27 pounds! All my clothes are hanging off me (my work pants won't stay up!), but I don't want to go buy any more until I'm done losing weight -- probably another 5 or 10 pounds.

And last night, after getting home, we went over to the Raingutter Regata for my oldest son. His cub scout pack had their competition and my son took 2nd place! Not bad for a kid with asthma-in-remission. In the few races where he lost, he didn't take it well, so we have some sportsmanship lessons to teach him, but it was still a pretty fun experience.

It's been a very busy and exhausting week. Now that we're back, we're starting to get re-overwhelmed by all that lies ahead. It's incredible how family life is just one long to-do list that adds two things whenever you check off one. Nevertheless, it's still a good life.

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