Friday, June 24, 2016

On a mountain high or over a stormy sea...

We have mission assignments!

After waiting more than four weeks we were so ready to get these mission calls! Once we saw that their calls had been assigned we started waiting together in the front room each morning for the mailman to come.   When Benson came skipping up the driveway with two big white envelopes we were seriously so excited.  We have video of the calls but not a lot of pictures.  So here it is:

Landon--Texas, Houston mission Spanish speaking.  Mexico City MTC in August 30, 2016
Dallin--Tennessee, Knoxville mission Spanish speaking, Provo MTC August 31, 2016

We will miss having these two in our home but we wouldn't have it any other way.  I have spent the better part of the last six months tearing up over every 'last' with these two but mission calls brought nothing but excitement and joy.  I'm so happy that they can begin the next phase of their lives with this opportunity for intensive self-discovery and service.

One of Landon's doctors commented that he thinks its great that we Mormons "send our kids out to explore the world" before they settle down for real life.  I have been thinking about that comment.  I feel like this is more like the 40 days of fasting that Christ did before he began the ministry portion of his life. It's not about becoming a world traveler or about having a cool vacation.  It's about becoming who they really are--who they will be in the next life and who they were before they came to this world.

All of the life experiences we have tried to facilitate over the last 19 years for these boys have focused on having them learn that they are sons of God and that He has a bigger plan for their lives than they can possibly understand.

These boys have had so many hard and great experiences that have brought empathy and understanding and hard work and joy and tears in their lives.  Rustin and I have cried and despaired and rejoiced and hoped with them.  My relationship with them has changed so much over their lifetimes.  I went from being the total and complete giver of life to the parent who enforced broccoli at dinner and bedtime at eight.  I was the parent that wondered if my child would ever learn to play well with anyone but his brother. I became the parent who cheered at ball games even with they sat on the bench.  And who rejoiced when things went the way they hoped.  I shook my head when they played just a little too hard (seven surgeries to repair injuries between these two...not including broken bones and stitches...) and I brought them ice packs and ace bandages.

I turned into the mom who brought the assignment that was left sitting on the kitchen table just because I could, knowing that the 'cruel world' would teach them plenty of lessons about responsibility without my help.  As time progressed, I became the mom who went to bed before they did. The mom who talked with them about girls and friends and heartbreak. And the mom who wished they would talk MORE about girls and friends and heartbreak. I became the cheerleader who prayed and hoped and encouraged knowing that they had to make the results happen on their own. And I became confident  that they would be able to live with whatever joy or pain life handed them.

Years ago, in the months before Rustin was called to be the bishop of our ward, I had an enlightening experience.  I was trying to figure out the why's and how's of (what we knew would be) Rustin's new assignment at church.  I wasn't sure how I would manage a house full of young kids and I had a thousand other questions.  Rustin and I were driving home from Boise by ourselves and I was pondering.  I suddenly became completely and totally overwhelmed with the weight of the sorrows and sins of the world.  It was a physical pain.  I started to cry and then to sob with sadness that Christ had to take all the sins of the world on Himself.  I couldn't bear the thought that one Being would have to carry so much horror.  I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that I couldn't make a dent in helping with the sorrow of the world.  Just as I was about to give in to despair, all of the weight and sorrow lifted.  A clean and pure knowledge came to me that indeed God can 'handle' the world.  That Christ is more than capable of shouldering the load but He has a role for me to play.  My role at that time was as a mother, friend visiting teacher and especially as Rustin's support.  Over the next five years Rustin played a huge role in helping our friends and neighbors find their way to the Savior.  In order to do what was needed, he needed me to hold things down at home. I didn't mind one bit.  I was so thankful that Rustin could help the Savior with His work.  Thankful that a little bit of that sorrow and pain and weight could be lifted here on earth according to the plan of the Savior.

I feel the same way now.  These two boys of mine have valiant spirits.  They have kind, generous, hard working spirits with a healthy dose of competitiveness and impulsivity. They have a lot to learn but I think they are willing to learn. It doesn't matter where the Lord needs them.  There are brothers and sisters all over the globe that need the help that only the Savior can give.

I will miss these boys like crazy.  It will never be the same here.  Once they leave they will come back to stay on occasion but they will forever live their own lives.  I pray that these next two years will prepare them for whatever the Lord has in store.  That they will gain perspective and connect with their true spirits.  I can't think of a better way for each of them to begin the rest of their lives and I feel thankful to have a front row seat.

Ensenada and Catalina

We two day excursions off the boat.  Catalina Island was the first and it was really the only beach time we had.  It was enough time that I still have sand in our swim bag!

We rented a little golf cart (did you know the only cars on the island are golf carts?!) and we drove a loop around the island.
We also god a couple of paddle boards and just played in the water. And we got fingernail polish that changes color in the sun. Very fun.

Our second day trip was to Ensenada.  We met up with a guide on a bus that gave us a screaming deal on some fun activities.  For $52 each we went to a zip-pline park with five different amazing LOOONG zip lines. In-between each zip line there were unique bridges.  One had narrow skateboard size planks to walk over a ravine.  Another had a barrel and then planks to cross.  I thought they were scary and hard.  I skipped a couple of them in favor of the ground route. The kids loved the bridges but some of them were HARD.  Jackson cried when he he couldn't go on one of the bridges because he was too short to clip in to the safety lines.  He inherited his big brothers' lack of fear of heights.

He rode with one of his brothers or dad on each of the zip lines.  Two were over 1000 feet long.

The guides that clipped us in were cute.  They looked like eagle scouts to us.  They could scamper across the bridges and zip lines like squirrels!

 They taped our flip flops to our feet with duct tape.  Our guide called them Mexican nikes.  HA!

After the zip lines we went to La Buffadora with is basically just a big blow hole at the seashore.  The best part of that was the tacos.

There is just no way to describe these super fresh handmade tacos with meat cooked over a wood fire grill.  And fish and shrimp battered and fried.  And they cost like $3.  My mouth is still watering.

Right next to the taco stand a really fun outdoor market.  We were at the end of the day so we got some awesome things super cheap.  Dallin and Landon both got knives.  I wonder if knives will ever loose their appeal? I doubt it...

If we had gotten off the boat a little earlier we would have had time to go horseback riding on the beach as well for another $20 each.  If we had purchased those activities from the cruise line we would have paid over $250 per person.  I think the guide is Ensenada Hector on Facebook and instagram if we ever go again we will definitely look him up.

Overall I think the best part of the trip was the lack of stress.  We didn't have to make decisions about what to do or where to go to eat or which activities would appeal to which kids. If I go again I would love to go somewhere that has snorkeling or scuba diving.  Scuba diving is definitely on my bucket list! But time with all of us together is definitely the best vacation of all.

Sometimes we escape...

We have had so many changes around here--sometimes we just need escape it all!  Ninety percent of our family vacations are family reunions or camping.  Which we love! We haven't ever been to Disneyland or rented a house on the beach.  (both are on my to do list...) With Dallin and Landon leaving any time this summer we wanted to do something with our whole family.  Juli and Shon helped us find a CRUISE! We went with the Robinsons and Kendricks (minus Jeremy who was home with pneumonia...) and we boarded the Carnival Imagination cruise ship on Sunday afternoon.

For perspective on how big that boat is, look at the little tiny boat pulled up alongside the ship.  That boat holds 250+ people.

We had rooms in the bottom back of the boat where we could get rooms all together.  And it was affordable. And really--how much time do you spend in your room on a cruise?!!

We had a king size bed and two twin bunks.  And not much room other than that! The bathroom was tiny and we had to duck  under the bunk to walk around the bed.

Our room steward Joey knew us all by name and did a great job! He lives in the Phillipeans and works 6-8 months on and 3-4 months off.  He has two kids who cry every time he leaves.  He has been working on cruise ships for more than ten years and he can make more than 100 different towel animals.  How awesome is that!

Jackson spent every second possible on the waterslide and splash pad...

And he ate banana splits at every meal...
And climbed down from his bed and slept in the middle of our bed every night...
And he did not care for the kids club so he hung out with us.  We didn't mind.

We pretty much didn't see the older kids.  They hung out with their cousins and checked into the kids clubs a few times.  Mostly they just did their own thing.  The got freshly cooked pizza at all hours of the day. And ate ice cream--Abby set the record with fifteen ice cream cones in one day...

 The big boys played miniature golf and met other kids on board the ship.  (One boy who was also waiting for his mission call!)

and went to concerts...

They looked super handsome at dinner...
 And played ridiculous games of 'what are the odds' which made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants...

I loved hanging out with my sissies. And I missed the ones who weren't there (Kendra, Emily, Ashlee, Lindsay, Heidi, Jamie, Melanie, Jessi and Ariel...)

And I loved having an easy laid back schedule!
We had a couple excursions off the boat.  I'll post those later!