Thursday, July 29, 2010

Some Early Morning Thoughts

My brain is swimming with random thoughts, so I'm up.  Today both Ben and I will be speaking in church.  We haven't yet spoken in this ward, so it's funny that we are both doing it the week before we move to Japan.  I guess I'm the "Hello, we moved in about a year ago"-talk, and Ben is the "Goodbye, we're so sad to leave"-talk.  Mostly I just hope Eleanor does fine hanging out with her grandparents the whole time.
I'm speaking on repentance and the blessings associated with it.  And can I just say what a beautiful thing repentance is.  If I could boil down my talk to two sentences that I wanted everyone to walk away with it would be "With repentance, God's supernal gift of mercy to us through the Atonement of His Son Jesus Christ, we know we can be made clean again, new creatures in Christ.  And it is never too late, and never too early."  So there is your spiritual thought for the day.
The other thing on my mind (besides our move across the Pacific Ocean in a week), is Pioneer Day.  Apparently, for most Mormons Pioneer Day isn't a big deal, it's a "Utah" celebration.  I didn't know that until I moved out here.  And I didn't even grow up in Utah.  In Panaca, Nevada, my hometown from age 4 to 13, it was a huge celebration!  It would start with canon fire in the morning and ringing the old chapel bell, followed by a twon breakfast hosted by the Boy Scouts I believe.  Then there would be games and races afterwards where you could win a quarter!  Races like wheelbarrow races, and three legged races.
Then we'd all go home for lunch and a nap.  Then there would be a parade, only about 15 minutes long mind you, this was a town of 700+ people.  The Primary kids were always in it, dressed up like pioneers.  Then there would be a town dutch oven dinner afterwards.  Usually there was a dance either the night before or that night.  That was the first dance I ever went too.  I loved it.  I love Panaca.  I love celebrating Pioneer Day because I am always in awe of the sacrifices and triumphs of my Pioneer ancestry.
Short example story (and Mom, feel free to correct any details I get wrong).  My Mortensen ancestors came from Denmark in the Willie Handcart Company.  The father and on of the daughters were crippled and had to be pulled in the cart.  They had something like 9 kids. When they were introduced to the gospel in Denmark and baptized, they wanted to join the Saints in America.  The missionaries in Denmark asked them to leave behind the oldest son (my ancestor) to help them preach the gospel and promised them that if they would do so that all of their family would reach the Salt Lake Valley and be reunited with their son after he had finished his mission.  Being stalwart and faithful, they did so.  They had enough money to go by wagon, but choose instead to go by handcart and help furnish other families for the crossing.  For those unfamiliar with the story of the Willie and Martin Handcart companies, many people died in the terrible snowstorms they encountered in Wyoming and others suffered from frostbite.  Miraculously, none of the Mortensens died or were affected by frostbite (the father made shoes for his family while they pulled him in the handcart).  Truly they were true to the faith.  I'll forever be in awe of my pioneer ancestors. No matter what the cost, they were true to their testimonies, true to the witness they had received from the Holy Spirit about the truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  And that is truly something to celebrate.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Our "Last Hurrah" Vacation

We've been planning this vacation for some time, and it was nice that it fit in nicely before we'll be leaving to Japan.  It started as just Ben's family celebrating Grandfather Lewis's 90th birthday!  And then my brown side planned a reunion for the same weekend as well, which was luckily nearby.  Then we decided to tack on a few days and drive to Vegas to see my family as well.  Here are some highlights in pictures!

Random school playground in Wyoming. Yes, Ben is eating her face!

Ellie with cousins and Grandpa Brown at the Brown Reunion (sidenote: Every Brown reunion is camping.  Always.)

With Grandma and Miriam. Her face is wet with oranges, which she LOVES.

My favorite picture of us on the trip.  We're waiting for the birthday surprise for my Grandpa Brown (he's 80).
Sleeping in Ben's arms.  She was beyond exhausted by the time we left the Brown reunion.

With Grandfather Lewis, who celebrated his 90th birthday at this reunion.

Grandpa keeping the kids entertained with coloring.  Check out his children's books here (he's an illustrator).

All the Lewis grandkids minus Ellie and baby McKneely
So Ellie's looking down, but this is really about my niece.  She's a very very smart girl and pretty awesome, but is easily scared of trying new things.  This picture is at Bridal Veil Falls, but before this we all went to Park City to check out the Alpine slide. I took her to the bottom to show her other people coming down and explained how it all worked and that she could go as slow as she wanted.  We were all pretty surprised when she was excited to try it out, with me as her driver.  So a ticket was purchased and we waited in line to ride the ski lift up, which I also explained to her and promised she would be safe.  She was a champ, not scared a bit while on the lift.  Her plan was "We'll go slow first, and then slow and fast, and then if I want we'll go fast."  I was game.  We weren't on it more that two seconds when she was wanting to go faster.  We never did go slow.  She was terrific!  We were all terribly proud!  

In Pahrump with Grandpa Brown, who can't resist the opportunity to balance babies.

With Uncle Andrew.  Such a goof!

Funny story.  Ben had run into a Subway to get us lunch and I was leaning over the front seat, feeding Ellie bits of avocado (which she thinks is candy).  I decided to let her pick the pieces out of the bowl herself and when I stopped paying attention for a bit, this is the result.  She was picking the pieces, smearing them from her forehead down her face and then putting them in her mouth.  Maybe it's a method for cooling down.  Maybe she was tired of her skin being dried out by the desert air.  Maybe she just likes messes.

A First Birthday!

Though Eleanor's birthday was Saturday, we had our first celebration on Thursday in Vegas with my family.  We'll have another party this weekend with Ben's side of the family.  We are so blessed to have such wonderful families!  We spent all of her actual birthday driving from Albuquerque to Texas.  I can't believe it's been a year.  Obviously, she has grown tremendously, and so have Ben and I.
A year ago we welcomed sweet little Eleanor Lee into our family.  It was a dramatic entrance (20 hours of labor and a near miss with a c-section), and she has proven to be a little drama queen since then.  Well, at least she loves to talk, laugh, and cry really loud.  I think she is the best baby in every way, but then again I'm her mother.  But allow me to brag a bit...she usually sleeps from 6 pm to 7 am and eats everything I put in front of her.  Jealous?  You should be. We love her to pieces. She is generally a super happy girl, loves to explore, and laughs a lot.

(Under the ginkgo tree on BYU campus where Ben and I regularly had lunch)

I'm not sure exactly how I have changed this last year.  If nothing else, I can function on less sleep.  But I think I'm a little more patient, a little less judgmental, and learning better what it means to be child like.  I have a greater appreciation for my parents, my mom in particular.  I have a fractionally better understanding of the love my Heavenly Father has for me, because I know that it is far to big for me to truly comprehend.

Enough of that.  Here are some fun pictures of our party.  Thanks especially to my Aunt Karen and my mom!

She was the tutu-ed princess of the party.
Grandma Diane with all of her grandkids.

The awesome pineapple bunt cake!

Okay, not a picture from the party but from our vaction.  But I couldn't help myself.  She's so cute!