I’ve said this before – but there is something special about watching a family reunite for the first time in two years. We witnessed first hand last week the tenderness of this moment when our nephew Max returned from his mission in Taiwan.
The excitement was thick waiting for him to get off the plane and you could tell my sister-in-law was anxious. These next two pictures are the pure joy of a mother when she spots her son making his way through the long corridor exit. I teared up just looking back at these photos – so much emotion as is evident on his sister’s faces. These pictures tell a story on their own.
We had Briggs right after he left so he looked down and said, “I don’t even know who this is!” It’s hard to keep track of so many cousins, especially when they all changed so much in two years.
We saw two other missionary homecomings while we were there…I wanted to photograph all of them! So much happiness and even more gratitude to have them home safely!
We gave Hallie her birthday gift a little early and we didn’t hear any complaints! (Except from Hunter who wanted his birthday gifts early!!) She’s turning 12 in a few weeks so I took her up to Utah to watch general conference (or as our kids put it – church on TV) in person and to spend time with her cousin and my parents. We told her just a few days before we were going and she was more than willing to leave all her brothers behind for a long weekend.
I surprised Steve’s sister at my nephew’s football games. Surprises are the best. I was waiting in her seat when she returned from the bathroom and she looked right at me before recognizing it was me.
It was conference weekend so our plans revolved around watching/listening to conference, but we managed to squeeze in a lot between sessions. The girls made treats and managed to complete a couple sewing projects, they are just about the cutest cousins together.
The boys were occupied Saturday night with their Priesthood session of conference so we set out to find curtains for my mom, go out to dinner and hit an outdoor mall. I’m pretty sure these girls could’ve spent hours at Bath and Body Works. What is it with this age loving that store? I distinctly remember going with my best friend when we were young trying every spray and every lotion – walking out smelling like an awful fruit basket. I also remember my first lotion was Sun-Ripened Raspberry, the second one I purchased was Juniper breeze. To this day, those smells take me back!
Sunday morning we got up bright and early and made our way to Salt Lake. My parents had never attended conference there and I had only been one time before when I was dating Steve. Hallie has made a couple visits to temple square, but this was totally new. It was the best of both worlds for me. I got to experience this with my parents and I got to bring my only daughter along. It was a special day.
It was announced just days before that Elder Hales would not be in attendance and that President Monson would also not be in attendance. I was pretty disappointed. I wanted Hallie to feel the presence of the prophet in the same room as her – the same way I had years before. Instead, I reminded her that she was in the presence of the apostles, which she would see as prophets in her lifetime.
In between the morning and afternoon session, we stayed on temple square. We heard the news that Elder Hales had passed away as we prepared to enter for the afternoon session. It was a tender session to witness as they opened sharing news of his passing and then the last talk of the day also spoke of him. I have to believe his fellow apostles were mourning his death as they sat on the stand – where he once sat with them.
My dad had the special opportunity to meet up with his old mission companion as well as someone he had taught while serving in England. It was fun to sit in the old tabernacle after the second session and hear stories from them as they compared details. By afternoon, the drizzly morning weather had moved on and we were left with beautiful blue skies and moderately warm weather – but coming from Arizona I’m probably not the best judge of weather because 75 seems cool at this point!
Hallie and her cousin have had these matching pajama bottoms for two years – they have about grown out of them and they’re both a little sad about giving them up.
It was a beautiful weekend, so good for the soul. Not only from the messages that we heard, but the people we spent time with. Just what I needed. Steve on the other hand wrestled four boys over the weekend and was left depleted! He needed a vacation from his weekend!
I asked Hallie for her account of the experience.
It was really different being there in person instead of watching it on tv. (even though I was pretty much watching on the big screen the whole time!) While we were walking there, I was anxious and excited. When we got there, there were a couple guys yelling at the mormons with signs. It kind of made me sick to my stomach because I hated to hear them yelling lies about us. But we kept on walking. When we finally got inside, the spirit came over me and it felt like this was all a dream.
But when Dieter F. Uchdorf stood up to conduct, I knew it was real and I was really seeing the apostles. During our break in-between sessions, we had 4 extra tickets and we give them away to complete strangers. The first 2 people we gave them to were an older couple with missionary name tags. The 2nd couple we gave them to were from Cambodia. We didn’t know this, but they were in Utah for a service mission and they wanted to go to conference. They ended up sitting in the row right behind us and they kept thanking us! (I guess we gave them to the right people!) The second session was just as good. After conference was over we went to the old tabernacle and it seemed so much smaller. (even though the new one is only 3x bigger)
We got home from Idaho just in time to see our nephew get off the plane from his mission in New York City.
If you’ve not been at an airport homecoming – let me set the stage. The missionary has been gone for two years – with limited contact, two phone calls a year and a weekly email or letter. The airport is filled with excitement. The parents – especially mothers – are a mix between anxious and excited. It’s almost painful to see people walk though security from the flight and not be the missionary. I’m not sure why, but they always seem to be at the back of the plane and the wait becomes unbearable.
And then you see them through the glass security barriers. They start walking faster as the mothers meet them as close to security as they can and tears of happiness fill the air. It’s tender to witness.
I’ve been in airports when a missionary was coming home and I started to get choked up watching them embrace their loved ones and I didn’t even know them! But knowing the missionary makes it even more special, it is such a sweet reunion. Our nephew was no exception. How good it was to see him embrace his parents for the first time in two years. Welcome home Smith!
When we were planning out our December calendar, and being mindful to not over schedule, many things were cut. But lights at the temple were a must. It’s fast and easy and yet the kids love going. It is truly remarkable just how many lights they have and how many beautiful nativity scenes are on display. Typically, we do this activity earlier in December because it is the best way to kick off the season with our Savior as the focus.
I hesitated joining the family on this little outing tonight. The two littles made the day a little rough for me and by the time Steve walked in the door I was snappy. I could feel it. Steve could see it. Steve was quick to recognize it had been a long day and he offered to take all the kids to give me a few moments at home alone. I wanted to take him up on it. But I really needed to go. I needed the peace and Christmas spirit that I knew would wash over me if I joined.
And you know what, it was exactly what I needed. I needed to see the kids wonderment of the lights. I needed to hold hands with Steve. I needed to see the nativities. And suddenly the long days events were forgotten – a Christmas miracle! If you’re in the area – check it out. It can get really busy, but if you go early in the evening you’ll miss a lot of the crowds.
Hunter’s baptism two weekends back seems like forever ago.
I was able to reuse the #8 marquee I made three years ago for Hallie’s baptism. It’s been stashed in the corner of my garage and it was good to pull it back out and bring it to life again.
I made the #8 marquee and the other #8 signs were picked up at Hobby Lobby. I sewed the buffalo check table runners made from this fabric at Amazon. We’ve used Hallie’s baptism runners over and over and over again. But I think these are my new favorite. I want buffalo check everything right now! Each table had a wood slice with some greenery and a succulent, all from Hobby Lobby. I’m finding it’s harder to decorate for a boy than it is for a girl!
Gathering everyone for a photo proved to be very difficult. We had gathered this group when we realized several people were missing including my mom and Briggs. By the time I gathered them, we were missing a new group of people. Between the two photos it shows the majority of the people! With our family and friends, we had a full house and Hunter could feel the love from all the support. I love this family and community with all my heart.
We hosted a soup and rolls dinner afterwards and enjoyed the beautiful weather. There was a moment that night that stood out among the others. The family was gathering their food and sitting down to eat. The backyard was lit only by the string lights hanging above. There was a TV that scrolled through pictures of Hunter Birth to present and music filled the air. And I paused. I stood to the side and watched for just a minute. I soaked it in. It was a thin place. Everything was right and my whole body felt peace and gratitude. If I could collect moments in a jar like people collect sand – this moment would be sitting on my mantle.