Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Life in Our World - Good, Good Things

You know that satisfaction of sucking on a chocolate truffle? Smooth. Sweet. Satisfying. Pleasing. This past weekend was like savoring a Lindt.

Calvin and I flew to Seattle where we met up with Ande, Cali, and Levin’s flight to Denver. Ande and Cali took shift one with Levin, and Calvin and I took shift two.

We landed in Denver Friday evening and met up with Ray who had been working there all week. We met at the car rental place. They gave us a brand new van with only 3 miles on it for 5 days for $100. What a welcome. Certainly a sign of good things to come. Then Calvin, Ande, Levin, and I drove to Colorado Springs via Chick-fil-A while Ray and Cali drove to Colorado Springs via White Christmas, the play in downtown Denver.

Ande, Calvin, Levin, and I met Michelle and Afton at Dallin’s (Michelle’s little brother) basketball game, where he promptly made a 3-pointer. What a welcome. Certainly a sign of good things to come.

After visiting with Brian and Kathy (Michelle’s folks) for a little bit, Afton was more than ready to leave the noisy gymnasium, so Ande, Calvin, Levin, Afton, Michelle, and I got in the new car with only 3 miles on the odometer and went further south to Fort Carson to Abe and Grace’s home. Grace had chocolates waiting on the counter, chocolate chip cookies on the cupboard, and chocolate milk in the fridge. What a welcome. Certainly a sign of good things to come.

In the meantime, Ty had decided to surprise Abe and fly out from Maryland. It was difficult to schedule a trip that far with his military and school schedule, but he finally finagled it. However, when he landed in Florida his connecting flight was cancelled and no other flights were available. He would miss the homecoming after all.

About 11:00 pm Ray and Cali joined Ande, Calvin, Levin, Afton, Michelle, Grace, and me and we rested, visited, and waited until 3:15 am when the welcome home ceremony was to be held for the returning soldiers. 


The Fort Carson event hall was bedecked. It didn’t matter it was in the middle of the night, it didn’t matter it was cold outside, Mr. and Mrs. Claus and three or four hundred people came to welcome home their husbands, fathers, sons, and fellow soldiers from Afghanistan. 

Grace and fellow army-wife Jenny

The men landed at Fort Peterson before they were bussed to Fort Carson. While the soldiers were enroute from one base to the other, the families watched a recording of them deplaning. Like Santa Claus and the waiting families, it didn’t matter that it was in the middle of the night or that the temperature was low and cold, the army band and army brass were there to welcome the men as they stepped on American soil. I cried a wee bit with a whispered prayer in my heart when I saw Abe’s familiar smile flash on the screen. Grace shivered with excitement and anticipation. 

Finally, at 3:09 am the soldiers were ready to enter the Fort Carson event center to meet their families. Patriotic songs played and families stood and cheered as the men marched into the hall. After standing at attention, a chaplain said a prayer thanking God for their safe return and we sang the Star Spangled Banner. A general made a few comments thanking them for a mission well-served, we sang “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” and then pandemonium followed as he called out, “Dismissed!” and families were put back together. 

Abe and Grace

Abe and Cali

Abe and Ray

Abe and Calvin

There was an extra bonus for three of the families on Abe’s team. They saved the rank advancement ceremony until they returned to Fort Carson instead of doing it in Afghanistan. We got to watch as Abe was made a captain. 

And then the event center quickly cleared as soldiers went to get their gear and go home with their families. (We found only two soldiers that had no one to greet them and we were glad we had made the welcome home bags for them.  We gave the other bags to soldiers and their families.) By the time we returned to Abe and Grace’s home the night had caught up with us and we all fell sound asleep.

In the meantime, Ty was sleeping in an airport in Florida waiting for a flight . . . to somewhere, anywhere. He finally caught one to Denver early Saturday morning via Charlotte, North Carolina so Ray and Calvin went back to Denver to get him. Abe still didn’t know that Ty was coming. When Abe and Grace came home on Saturday about noon (they turned their house over to all of us and spent the night in a hotel) they brought wings and pizza so we could all celebrate and watch the Army-Navy game on TV. We told them Calvin and Ray had gone to get oranges and bananas (funny what details you throw in when you’re lying), but would be back soon. Just before the game started, in the door the three walked, and Abe bear hugged Ty just like he had all of us the night before. Calvin told me later, “I’m glad he came. It was worth his effort. I wish you could have seen Abe’s eyes light up when he saw him.”

At half time Army was winning. Ty, Grace, and Abe took Afton and Levin across the street to play on the playground equipment.

Afton, Abe, Ty

Levin and Ty throwing rocks down the slide

We came home to watch Army once again shoot themselves in the foot and lose the football game. Argh. “Losing is a disease” with that team. But even a loss couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the weekend. 

Ande and Calvin

It was just great fun to be together. We missed Joe who had to work, but were grateful that everyone else had been able to come. 

After the football game, several of us went to the commissary to buy groceries for the next day’s family Christmas celebration. We ended the evening playing Liebrary. Liebrary is a game where the book title and synopsis of the plot are read to everyone and each player then writes what he thinks the opening line of the book is. One player reads aloud the correct opening line along with the concocted lines and then everyone makes their guess as to which line is legitimate. Bet you can’t guess who submitted this line to Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat:

If I ever saw a cat in a hat I would shoot it dead and that would be that.

Each time we play that game I think it won’t be as funny as the last. I’ve been wrong every time.

We woke up to snow on Sunday morning, but still made it to church by 8:30. No small feat. We were greeted by Elder and Sister Walker. They are a missionary couple that left their home in Utah and moved to Colorado for two years to help military families while the husbands are deployed. They have visited and helped Grace – given her rides to the airport and changed her smoke detector’s battery that was too high to reach.

After church we went back to Abe and Grace’s and prepared for our family night. During all this time Afton was learning to crawl with everyone baiting and applauding her on, and Levin was being chased and tickled by everybody in the family. 

Michelle, Afton, and Ty
What are the chances of being able to see your granddaughter who lives clear across
the continent learn to crawl on the weekend you're with her?  It was pretty grand.

Ande, Levin, Abe, and Cali
Afton, me, Levin
I love having a lap.

For our family night meal each family chose their favorite appetizer to prepare: 

Calvin and Ty

Calvin, Abe, Ande, Levin, and Ray

Ande and Joe chose a fruit platter – oranges, pineapple, bananas, limes (actually Joe chose dates stuffed with nuts and wrapped in bacon but since he wasn’t able to come and Ande, who doesn't like dates, didn't think twice about ditching his request)

Cali and Ray chose shrimp and cocktail sauce.

Abe and Grace made cherry bread.

Ty and Michelle made stuffed mushrooms and popcorn

Calvin and I chose a salami-cheese platter and vegetable tray 

Cali and Grace

After we ate we had family night. We started off by singing Angels We Have Heard on High and then I gave the lesson. I assigned everyone a person from the story of the birth of the Savior. Each person told us about their character’s testimony of the divinity of the Savior and taught us what they felt or identified with in that testimony. Cali was John the Baptist, Grace was Mary, Abe was Joseph, Calvin was the angels, Ande was Elizabeth, Ty was the shepherds, Michelle was Anna, and Ray was Simeon. It was a very sweet time. (If you’d like the scripture references I’d be happy to share them.)

After the lesson everyone did the part they had prepared. Grace and Michelle sang. Ande prepared a minute-to-win-it game for us to play.

the family dance

Cali had us dance. Ray recited a quote by Teddy Roosevelt. We played a game with Ty (my enthusiasm was a great handicap to our team). Hmmmm. What did Abe do? I don’t remember now. He was in charge. What do you want to bet he skipped his part? And then it was time to open presents.

As I mentioned before, each family chooses three of their favorite things for the year and then gifts them to all of the other families. 

Ande and Joe gave us vanilla powder for cooking, I Want My Hat Back a children’s book (oh gee it is a funny one, I can see why Joe gave it a 5 on goodreads), and the Monday crossword puzzles from the New York Times and Fluxx, a card game.

Ty and Michelle made a child’s board book from pictures of the family, donated a flock of geese in behalf of the Payne’s to a family in need, and gave us the book Leadership and Self-Deception. (They had Disney song’s they played before each gift to help us guess what they might be.)

Hot chocolate was Abe’s staple and macaroni and cheese was Grace’s while they were apart this past year; they gave us their favorite varieties. Abe weaved us all survival bracelets from parachute cord and burned a cd with a 500 page manual on how to be prepared. They also gave us cd’s of their favorite Christmas songs (from the Killers, Beach Boys, and Tran Siberian Orchestra). Les Miserables is their favorite Broadway play so they gave us movie tickets to see it on Christmas Day, too.

Last year Ray organized us into the non-profit Feed the Hummingbirds organization and gave us a hummingbird feeder. (He is the president but wouldn’t let me be the secretary until a humming bird ate from our feeder.) He gave each Feed the Hummingbirds member a packet of hummingbird feed. They also gave us a container of mini-mini-marshmallows and an apothecary jar. Levin gave us one of his favorite board books about cowboy bunnies.

Calvin and I gave everybody a boning knife, the Little People Nativity set, and a rubix photo cube of this year’s favorite family photos.

I’m telling you, this is a tradition that fits our family. It’s such fun to be a part of everyone’s world. We have all really enjoyed it and look forward to it.

Sunday evening, after our family night was over, it was time to take Ty back to the airport and Michelle and Afton back to the Page’s. Ray had to catch a flight out early Monday morning. Slowly but surely, the party was breaking up.

Calvin, Ande, Cali, Levin, Grace, Abe, and I visited and played games and watched movies on Monday.


Grace made us flautas for supper and we continued our gospel and life discussions that had been an ongoing part of the whole weekend. It was a relaxing and satisfying day. We had plans to do other things, but all voted to stay home and be together instead.

I’ve written of the things we did and saw, but the best part was the things we felt and heard. I don’t know how you write about harmony, love, trust, and gratitude. I don’t even know how you take a picture of it. I just know you feel it and sit there thankful and humble that you got to experience it.

Tuesday, after everyone had left, Abe texted this message: Grace and I want to thank you all again for coming to see us. It really meant a lot to us. We love you all!

Michelle responded: Thank YOU. We had a great time. You two are fabulous hosts.

Cali wrote: Amen. What a great trip. Another of many more to come.

Ty wrote: I had a great time with all of you. You guys are the best family.

Ande wrote: Ditto x 100.

What a welcome home party it was.

Certainly a sign of good things to come.


Michelle said...

You must have the touch--Afton learned to roll over at your house back in July. What a great post. Fitting for a great weekend. Thanks again everyone for everything!

Tiffany Fackrell said...

so happy you had all of your family safe and under one roof!! Welcome home Abe, and Merry Christmas to you all!!

Rachel said...

YA! Abe's back! This calls for a trip to Colorado! It's fun to read your blog. It makes me feel like I'm there enjoying it all.

Rachel said...

Hahahahaha.... here I thought I was so on top of things by sending Abe a text right about when he'd be getting home... and it was a.m. not p.m. What fun, fun pictures. I'm so happy he's back and you all got early Christmas.

Becky said...

What a sweet, happy post! Family reunions are grand.

Noticed the little question marks on Cali's gift tag--fun! :-)

Deidra said...

It looks like a weekend that was the best it possibly could be. How great to be all together.

And you got to watch Afton learn to crawl! Grandma pay-out in a huge way!

Amie said...

Fabulous! I'm so glad Abe is home safe... and so grateful for his service.