"Go Royals! Go forth to serve well. Return with honor!

"Go Royals!  Go forth to serve well.  Return with honor!
This family photo is from August 2003, just before Brad left on his mission to the Philippines, but it remains a personal favorite

Friday, December 24, 2010

An Absolutely Amazingly Awesome Royal Christmas 2010

‘Tis another Royal Christmas,
With a letter so fun to write.
Gathering up the happenings,
While our memories are bright.

Reflecting on things occurring here and there,
We’re growing leaps and bounds.
We’ve compiled some things we’d like to share,
Before Mr. Burns says: “Release the hounds.”

Our story now written, we gave it our best,
Royally reporting, for reals and in jest.
With that introduction, get ready to go,
Grab some hot chocolate (with just a touch of mint) and enjoy da show.

Fallfest pic! Halloween Day in Provo, October 31, 2010
From left: Brad, Whitney, Jordan, Maralea, Mike, David, Kelli, Jason
Us again!  Here holding tightly onto our bridge over troubled waters


Elder Royal Returns Home From Peru to Again Becomes . . . DAVID ROYAL

Mom & David looking for great bargains in Catacaos
   We gotta give the big headline up to David (woot, woot), who returned home from his two years of service as an LDS missionary in the Peru Piura Mission in July.  That was definitely one big, awesome deal.  Mom and Dad traveled to Chachapoyas, Peru (Las Vegas to Atlanta, Atlanta to Lima, Lima to Chiclayo, Chiclayo to Chachapoyas), which turned out to be about a 36 hour journey (including a 10 hour ride in a 20 year old taxi cab without shocks into the west Amazon mountains with two drivers (Jorge and Israel) who “no habla Ingles” and actually thought
they could communicate with Mom and Dad by speaking really, super slow Spanish (i.e. “Co . . . mo - Esss . . . tassss”) - which, uh . . . let's just say it did not help.) 
Mom and Dad capture David in Chachapoyas
They finally met up with David in the center square of Chachapoyas, when Elder Royal snuck up behind Mom and surprised her.   They had an awesome reunion.  Their tour of David’s mission and Peru is well documented by Dad right here in this family blog (below).  If there is one thing Dad is good at - it’s documentation.  He’s a true family historian.)  So, it was great to get David back home with us (and David is happy to be home, to see everyone, return to school, and get completely caught up on Muse recordings over the past two years).  The family met David in the airport and had a party to welcome him back.  David spoke with a funny English accent and was quiet at first, but it didn’t take long before he was back to playing guitar and volleyball.  (He still struggles with English on occasion, and his facial expressions and mannerisms change entirely the second he begins speaking Spanish.  It’s pretty awesome.)
Brad, David, Kelli and Jordan at McCarran Airport, Las Vegas

San Diego Beaches
A Cardiff sunset with the Bringhams, less the dads
(one photog one fishing)
   We took a few days off in August to play in the surf and sun of Southern California before sending David off to school.  The Bringham family met us there (without Cody, who is due to return home from the Iowa Des Moines Mission in March) and most of us tried surfing (emphasis on tried - Nicky and Brad get ultra surfing props).  It was fun relaxing, hanging out, and getting back into the swing of things (and by swing we mean fighting with David, who still loves to tease everyone around him, jk).  (But seriously, why don’t we all live in Southern California within a few blocks of the beach?)
Family Days in Provo

Cougarmania is awesome!
   David left for BYU about three weeks after his return home but, fortunately, our parents are seriously crazy rabid BYU football fans with season tickets so we gathered in Provo, Utah for every home game . . . and even went there twice when BYU wasn’t playing (including Thanksgiving - when we had some wicked awesome family dodgeball with our turkey and a great weekend . . . until the blocked field goal at the end of the BYU/Utah game - rats!).  So, we got together a lot with not only
Dad & Mom with Mike, Devin, Mackenzi & Katie Berns
David, but with Brad and Whitney, and Kelli and Jason, all of whom live in Provo/Orem now.  We love attending the BYU games (we made some basketball games, too). The boys enjoyed sitting in the student section about three rows up from the field behind the south goal post to get t-shirts thrown into the crowd and possibly get on TV.  (That last thing didn’t ever happen, sadly.  Mom and Dad recorded every game, so we would actually arrive home from each trip, unpack, get a couple snacks, and then sit down to watch the entire game again on TV.  We are certifiable Cougar nut jobs.)

To Florida and Georgia With Love
Mom & Dad at the BYU/FSU game in Tallahassee with Steve & Sabrina Denmark
   Dad has enjoyed recent opportunities to get in touch with friends from his mission.  Dad and Mom got to meet Evelyn Parker (baptized in Vidalia, GA, 1980) and her daughters Rebekah and Rachel at the Atlanta airport en route to Peru in July.  That
Dad with Terry & Rita Stratten in Lake City, FL
was very cool! Mom and Dad also went to Tallahassee, Florida to see the BYU/FSU game, and spent the weekend with Steve and Sabrina Denmark, then went to Lake City, Florida for a reunion with Terry and Rita Stratten, Tim and Duane Thomas, and Wayne and Cassandra King (and their daughter, Tasha).  Dad was in Chicago in January and went to see Bob Berns at Kay’s Animal Shelter (Kay was in Kentucky picking up some puppies, so he missed her), along with Rod and Angela Lambert (Bob, Kay and Angela were residing in Foley, Alabama when Dad served there in the spring of 1980). 
Mike with Evelyn, Rebekah & Rachel: Atlanta airport
We also got to meet Mackenzi Berns, daughter of Michael Berns (from Foley, Alabama) and Katie Berns, daughter of Tim Berns (also from Foley, Alabama), who joined us at a BYU football game and later for some post game pizza.  (Katie’s brother, Tyler, is presently serving in the Minnesota Minneapolis Mission.) Michael and his daughter Taylor also joined us at one game.  Mom and Dad also visited Larry and Talitha Hudgins (of Jacksonville), who are both FSU and Utah fans (ugh - a double dose of razzing this season).  Missions are awesome!

Jordan Named Second Team All Region
Jordan gets a "kill" vs. Liberty
   Let’s give Jordan some props here.  The Silverado High School boys volleyball team made it to the regional semi-finals and lost in five games to Las Vegas High School, 29-27 in the final game.  (And to our Olson and Jenkins family members who attend LVHS, you should not be happy about that.  Jk - wait, no seriously, be not happy.)  Jordan was named Second Team All Region (the first of this Royal volleyball generation to receive such recognition as a junior).  He is pretty good (and, as it turns out, he is now taller than David - ha!)  Jordan is looking forward to getting started with volleyball season. 
Jordan recognized at state tourney
Silverado should be pretty good.  (Perhaps Jordan will be the first to win a state championship.  David came closest, his team making it to the final match and leading 2-0 before falling 3-2 - ooops, sorry David, forgot that we are not supposed to talk about that. This is supposed to have only happy memories!)

All He Wants For Christmas Are His Wisdom Teeth Forever Gone!

Jordan is singing in the wisdom teeth removal rain
   Within minutes of leaving school on Friday, December 17, 2010, for Christmas break, Jordan found himself sitting in the chair of an oral surgeon.  He was given a seriously potent anesthetic and the last thing he said he recalls was talking to the surgeon about going to Tahiti someday.  He woke up with a mouth full of blood and gauze (yum), and spent the evening nursing his aching/swollen mouth/jaw.  Mom gave Jordan a recorded interview when they got home so we could all see how out of it he was.  (She even had him play the piano in his very hazy condition - and, well, he actually did pretty good.)  Jordan is glad to have that big event behind him.  (We know, we know - too much information.  But, Mom and Dad insisted that this part goes in, and they seem to think that wisdom teeth removal is a pretty big deal.)
Dad Turns Fitty!
Dad loves his Beatles cake
Dad's older, likes silver hair and
is still younger than Mike Adams
   Mom threw Dad a Beatles themed surprise party to celebrate his Royal oldness in August.  (Well, she tried to make it a surprise, but that plan was kind of blown when she accidentally included him on the guest list sent 
via email.  Doh!) We had good food, a live bad that played classic rock, and got to play a lot of volleyball at the Flagg’s house of fun. It was awesome.  Dad doesn’t seem to mind being so very over the hill.  (Mom’s not far behind, but . . . that’s all we can say about that.  As far as Dad’s concerned, she still looks just like Haley Mills!


   Okay, that’s it for family headlines.  So, without further ado, let’s check in on the family!  We’ll start with the oldies but goodies and work our way down to the younger, super coolios.

Mommy and Daddy
Mick Jager was way off - growing old is NOT "a drag"!
A Valentine's Dance date!
   Mom finished her fifth year of seminary teaching in 2010 and is presently teaching seminary in a different capacity, as the home school instructor (once a week), as scripture mastery specialist (we think) and as the advisor for the Seminary Council.  She loves it!  Dad likes it when Mom is teaching seminary because her face shines with light.  He continues to serve as Stake Young Men’s President and does his lawyer thing at Royal Jones Miles Dunkley & Wilson.  Mom and Dad talk a lot about serving a mission.  With Jordan soon leaving them with an empty nest, those plans are becoming more of a reality.  (Wowzers.)  They enjoy traveling together.  Mom gets the nod as the best freeway driver between the two - she always gets better time than Dad (who prefers her driving when she’ll do it so he can play and/or work on his computer), but leaves all night time and bad weather driving to Dad.  They celebrated their 27th anniversary in April (awwww).

Brad and Whitney
Brad & Whitney make a pretty picture
"He ain't heavy, he's my husband"

    Okay, now onto the couple preparing to celebrate their third wedding anniversary (January 4th).  Brad graduated from BYU in Business in April.  (Whitney graduated the previous year in Exercise Science.)  He and Whitney still reside in Provo while Brad presides over a start up business related to batteries for heavy equipment called Jolt Industries.  Whitney works at Macy’s in the University Mall (Orem).  She loves fashion and recently entered a national video contest with a company in New York City with hundreds of contestants and finished inthe top 10.  Brad and Whitney love to travel when they can.  They also love taking care of David, who lives about three blocks east of them in Provo and is a frequent visitor/moocher (thank goodness for family).  Brad and Whitney wrote out their 2010 to the song, “Twelve Days of Christmas.”  (You know how the song goes.) 

 On the FIRST month of 2010 fun things were happening: 
We had our 2nd anniversary
On the SECOND month of 2010 . . .  We watched Cougar b-all
On the THIRD month of 2010 . . .  We went snowboarding
On the FOURTH month of 2010 . . . We moved within Provo
On the FIFTH month of 2010 . . . WE'RE STILL MARRIED!!!
On the SIXTH month of 2010 . . . We went to California
On the SEVENTH month of 2010 . . . Whit turned twenty-four
On the EIGHTH month of 2010 . . . Returned to California
On the NINTH month of 2010 . . . Bradley’s one year older
On the TENTH month of 2010 . . . Lots of Cougar football
On the ELEVENTH month of 2010 . . . We ate yummy turkey
On the TWELFTH month of 2010 . . . Merry, merry Christmas

Kelli and Jason
Kel & Jason take a pretty picture, too!
   Kelli and Jason reside in Orem, UT, where Jason works at a local Hyundai dealership as a mechanic.  (Jason took several courses to become certified as a full mechanic this year.)  Kelli is a receptionist at Innovative Flex Pak in Springville, UT.  Her hair/nails business (which she does on the side) continues to grow (and that will hopefully boom so long as human hair/nails keep growing).  Kelli loves messing with hair (and nails) and we love having her cut our hair!  (She is awesome.)  Jason is applying for the Police Academy at UVU, which will start in June.  Kelli and Jason played on a co-ed softball team over the summer and we got to see Kelli’s ball skills in right field and at the plate.  (Dad just couldn’t help himself, yelling out instructions like she was 12 and then offering her $20.00 for a caught fly ball.)  Kelli and Jason got a new dog in 2010 - Darla, a dachshund, to keep Brodie, another dachshund, company (and we can’t forget Indy, the golden retriever).  Jason loves killing poor defenseless but oh so good to eat deer.  He wasted five Bambis in Nebraska in November.  (Ha, ha.)  Suffice to say, there will be venison served in the Golightly home for many months to come.  Kelli and Jason traveled to California and Tennessee to attend weddings of friends James and Georgiana, and Eric and Diane, respectively.  They loved their trip to Tennessee, and enjoyed getting together with Aaron and Jasmine Snooks for their trip to California.  (Good friends are priceless.)  Kelli and Jason enjoy
Kel transforms David into a Halloween emo
going the lake with family and friends.  During one outing at Utah Lake last summer with their friends Jason and Tara Jacklin, Kelli impetuously leaped on a jet ski immediately after their arrival and raced to the middle of the lake.  Unfortunately, the jet ski ran out of gas and Kelli found herself stranded in the middle of the lake for about an hour, floating helplessly, recalling: “there were all these boats passing by and no one would stop to help me.”  Jason tracked her down and towed her back to shore.  (Whew.)

A non emo David . . . much better!
   David was very happy to complete the final months of his mission in Chachapoyas, Peru - which he describes as one of the coolest areas in the Peru Piura Mission (western Amazon).  He served in the cities of Piura, Chiclayo, Catacaos, and Chachapoyas, and loved it!  Getting to tour the mission and Peru with Mom and Dad was really fun.  They went to the Lima Temple, Cuzco, Machu Picchu and spent a couple nights in the Amazon jungle, sleeping under mosquito nets, and saw some pretty cool wildlife (monkeys, cayman, pirana, huge tarantulas, army ants, etc.)  David had little time to get back into American life (and speaking English, without an accent) before leaving for school at BYU.  Going to Solana Beach, CA with the family for a few days in August turned out to be a really good time.  David is presently sharing an apartment with friends he met his freshman year at BYU (Landon Ainge and Tommy Allen) and is enjoying life at school.  He is looking forward to getting together with other friends returning from missions, not the least of which is his cousin Cody.  David still fumbles around at times trying to find the right word in English, but that did not keep him from getting a job at the BYU law library (which consists of sitting behind a desk and "digitally" cleaning documents - fun, fun, fun). 
David & Landon in Provo ER after a flag football mishap

   David now drives a 2002 Acura with 100,000 miles on it.  (He could have purchased a newer car with much fewer miles but David insisted on getting a car with a V6 engine.  We are still waiting on news of his first speeding ticket.  Stay tuned.)  David was at BYU for less than a week before getting his first $75.00 parking ticket when he borrowed Brad’s car and parked it in his apartment complex overnight.  (Gotta love that sweet welcome to Provo.  The parking police see new students coming a mile away, boot cars in seconds . . . and they enjoy it!)  David played BYU intramural flag football with Brad and Landon, and also played on an intramural co-ed volleyball team.  (Verdict: Football team: Good; Volleyball team: Meh.)  David spoke in Church at his BYU ward over Thanksgiving Weekend.  (Seriously, he’s a stud - the total package.  Any young lady who gets this guy will have a champ.  No question about it.)  Jordan usually stays with David
David at the fam Cali surfin' safari
when we go to Provo.  (Don’t tell his landlord as the overnight charity/assistance to the temporarily downtrodden and homeless is not allowed.)  It is great having David home again - even if he does spend most of his time in Provo.  He reports that he has “gained eight pounds of muscle mass” since returning home from his mission (which he feels is pretty impressive - although we’re not exactly sure how he measured that).  David enjoys working out.  One of his 2010 post mission goals was to see Muse in concert, but that did not materialize, so it has become one of David’s goals for 2011.  Oh yeah, David went to a Halloween party as an emo.  (See above pic with Kelli.)  He pulled it off swimmingly thanks to Kelli, who gave him a pair of her pants to wear (a very tight fit), and put eyeliner on and make up on him.  It made for a pretty scary Halloween - as he seemed to like it.  (Ha.)  David is back to playing piano, guitar and ukulele, and recorded a song with Landon for a class (they got an “A” - kudos).

Jordan holds up trees in his spare time  ;)
Jordan & Hannah at homecoming

   Jordan is in his last year of high school at Silverado HS, and has submitted his college applications.  He will turn 19 early into the summer of 2011 and presently plans on attending a summer term of school at BYU in Provo or Idaho.  We’ll see.  But, his primary focus in early 2011 will be preparing for his two year LDS mission.  Jordan will be the third Royal missionary.  Of course, he is also looking forward to a great 2011 volleyball season.  Jordan went on an LDS Church history trip over the summer (a three week adventure from Salt Lake City to Boston, MA visiting every significant LDS historical site in between), which was incredibly awesome.  He attended BYU volleyball camp (always fun)  and EFY (where he again played his ukulele in the talent show), and he is basking in life as the youngest Royal child.  Jordan received his Duty to God (which represents completion of requirements over a six year period).  So, now Brad, David and Jordan have all received their Duty to God Awards and are all Eagle Scouts.  (Note: Dad received his Duty to God, but only made it to Second Class in the BSA.  (Ha.)  Dad’s a Scouting quitter.  Um, okay, we should mention that Dad received his Woodbadge beads in 2010, which is something none of the rest of us have done.  So, good job there, Dad.  We probably should have noted that in your section above.  But now at least it’s now in the record!) Jordan loves hanging out with the family. 
Best group date . . . EVER!
He also enjoys carrying on the Royal family teenage tradition of driving the old family minivan (but he hates cold weather because the heater doesn’t work).  (Wheels are wheels.)  Jordan enjoys playing guitar, piano, going out with the full-time missionaries, getting good grades (doesn’t always happen, but he does so enjoy life when it does) and hanging out with friends.  Wisdom teeth are gone.  Blessings are bountiful.   Life is good.


   Hmmm.  Not much else to say - just a few quotes (they were in short supply this year) and stories before we close.
Dad doing the "Mormon Haka" at Youth Conference

“Yeah, funny thing . . . it was returned to us.  He apparently mailed it to himself.”  Mom, explaining why an important letter Jordan prepared and mailed that did not reach its intended destination in timely fashion.  (Ooops.)

Whitney temporarily became a toycupine

“Is this your wife?”  A Sam’s Club employee to Brad as he shopped with his awesome mommy.
“I've never been in the quotes section.  Darn it.”  Elder Cody Bringham, upset after reading the 2009 Royal Christmas letter and getting shut out once again.  (It took a whole year, but you finally made it Cody!  Consider this a courtesy quote.  (Ha.)  You'll have to do better than that in 2011.)

“Mr. Royal falsely claims that I was ‘moving papers.’”  This is a comment in a brief filed with the court by a woman without an attorney who was responding to the following from Dad’s written opposition to her motion: “In the Plaintiff’s moving papers she states . . . .”  (Hmmm.  Perhaps this is only funny to lawyers.)

Jordan's first vote!

“Uh, good.” Jordan’s response to any question phrased as follows: “So Jordan, tell us about how things went with [fill in person, place, thing, event here].”

“I’ve got some Super Glue.  All I need now is a super husband to come here and use it.”  Mom’s way of coaxing Dad into performing a Saturday honey do.
Brad & David loved flag football

“Honey, it may be because you’re fifty and he’s not.”  Mom to Dad on a Christmas shopping trip, explaining why Dad’s taste in clothes might be a tad different from David’s.

Worst thing about Christmas 2010: Dad dropping the staple gun from the ladder, which then landed on the hood of the Tundra, causing not only a scratch, but . . . (ugh) a dent.  (Daddy no happy.  But, Mommy happy lights are up and look pretty.)

   Alright - just a few more pics and we are outta here!  ;)

"We three queens of Royalty are . . . "
David & Jordan like how the post-game interviews went after the BYU/UW game

Hiking the "Y" is exhausting . . . but the arrival is oh so nice
Mom & Dad inspected the Gulf beaches in September and found no tarballs
Merry Christmas to All!
    Well, that’s our absolutely amazingly awesome Royal Christmas story.  We will not be entirely together for Christmas (as we have to share the married kids), but we will be united around New Year’s.  So, that will be fun.  Regardless of whether we are together physically, we are always one in spirit.

The whole hands in the middle thing never really gets old.  (All for one . . .)
Hey all you Royal fans
Stand up and clap your hands.
Now that you’re on your feet,
Stomp to a Royal beat.
Yell loud so all can hear,
Greetings of Christmas cheer.
Royal spirit,
Let’s hear it!

    [Okay, this is where all all cheer . . . YAY!!!]

Making like trees and LEAVing 2010 in the rearview mirror - with fond memories

Monday, August 2, 2010

The First Weekend Home: Final Thoughts (August 1, 2010)

Brad and Whitney's wedding, January 4, 2008
            It was wonderful having the entire family together once again after two years.  We gathered at Mom and Dad’s house for swimming and lunch on Saturday.  I told David that was where I first went swimming after returning home from my mission (ahem) 29 years ago.  The Vegas heat is just . . . HOT.  David said he thought that the summer heat in Piura was hot, but now concedes that Piura has nothing on Vegas.  Summers in Vegas are like living in a furnace.  I hung out with Dad in his computer room, working valiantly on the family blog, after swimming only a short while.  (I can only take so much of the heat.)  We had some lunch, then David and I left to attend a baptism.  As we entered the stake center chapel, Jordan Mitchell (who returned home from the Texas Dallas Mission (Spanish speaking) a month ago) got up from his seat and ran to David.  They embraced.  It was the kind of reunion I had become used to watching.  David reunited with his Uncle Dave, the Littles, Bishop Olds, and other members of the ward present.  It was a great service.  I had wanted to take the entire family to watch my nephew Steven Olson in the play “Seven Brides and Seven Brothers” across town, but I knew that would be a tall order as there were already plans to take David to his first post mission movie: Inception.  We tried to get to an early movie so we could do both, but . . . the matinee was sold out, so . . . no go.  (How was the movie?  IMO: Meh.) 
Catalina Island, June 2008
            It was especially cool having David at the ward meetings yesterday.  Our Sunday began with David reporting to the High Council at 7:00 a.m.  That was fun - a great moment for a parent.  Jake Evans, who just returned from the Spain Barcelona Mission, also reported to the high council.  David gave the opening prayer in sacrament meeting and clearly had trouble praying in English (he mixes up words and phrases a tad).  We had a very powerful testimony meeting.  It felt so good to be home, back with our family, back with our ward.  There truly is no place like home.  David later attended our stake missionary preparation class and teamed up with Jake as guest speakers.  They gave an impromptu presentation to the class about their mission preparation, the MTC, learning the Spanish language, and being effective missionaries in their respective foreign countries.  They did a great job.  It was a wonderful hour.
David, Provo MTC, August 2008
Lima, Peru MTC, September 2008
            We spent the evening relaxing, watching the BYU/Oklahoma (September 5, 2009) football game that I had saved for David on the DVR - from start to finish.  Even though we all knew the outcome, we still had our doubts that BYU would actually pull it off again.  So, David has been running around catching up with friends like Mike Garrard, Michael Taylor, Dan Lee, and even attended a singles activity.  He is excited to be back.  We are excited to be back - and to be together, as a family again.  Maralea commented yesterday that David went into the mission field as a young man and returns home a man, noting: “and we did not get to watch the process.”  She did not say that begrudgingly, but with amazement and awe.  These missionaries are like caterpillars, going into the cocoon for two years.  Their struggles and triumphs allow them to attain the strength to eventually free themselves from the cocoon and, when they emerge, they discover beautiful wings with an ability to leave the ground and soar into the air, providing them with an entirely new perspective on life.  Our hope is that they continue to soar in life, using their mission experience as a springboard to personal success and happiness.
David with his first missionary companion, Elder Campbell - at the Piura airport, July 20, 2010

            The theme in our stake mission preparation class surrounding what it takes to be a successful missionary has always been based on Alma 8:15, faithfulness.  It relates to a vision Alma the Younger had with the same angel who had visited him several years earlier at the prayerful leading of his good father to give him one last ultimatum to follow Christ or be destroyed.  The occasion of this second visit was under far different circumstances, where Alma the Younger had been serving valiantly for Christ and had just been rejected and run out of the City of Ammoniah.  Despite this apparent failure, Alma was told that he had “great reason to rejoice, for thou hast been faithful.”  Personal faithfulness is something we control entirely.  That is therefore, in my opinion, the true measure of success as a missionary, a person, a parent, etc., regardless of the circumstances.  However, our experience with David these past two weeks gave me a new perspective as to one more key measure of success: deep, lasting relationships.  The angel Clarence in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” told George Bailey in his final words: “No man is a failure who has friends.”  David has friends - many of them.  Every soul is precious to the Lord.  (D&C 18:10.)  When we build a deep relationship with a soul that leads them to Christ, we are rich.  (See D&C 18:15-16.)  I admire David’s ability to create and nurture relationships.  What a blessing that will be to him in life.  True happiness in life comes as we look beyond ourselves and constantly reach out to others.  David taught us that on this trip - without even trying.  Yes, it is very good to have him home again.
Welcome home signs warm the house
Not sure we'll ever take them down!

Lima to Las Vegas: Arriving Home - FINALLY (July 30, 2010)

Tracking our way home, to our left is Chiclayo, with Piura at 10 o'clock
            Flying throughout the night is actually pretty cool . . . if you can sleep.  If not, it’s brutal - especially if you are dead tired.  I would say we managed perhaps a couple hours of sleep, which is not bad.  I spent a lot of time staring at the screen which tracked the progress of our flight.  I cannot explain why, but I was very interested to see when and where we would finally make a left turn over Florida towards Atlanta, GA.  (Answer: Just north of Everglades National Park.)  We only needed on form to be completed for Customs, so David filled it out then handed it to me to sign.  I did not read it, just signed (ooops).  (David did not know I had snacks in my back pack.)  When we arrived in Atlanta, we went to baggage claim and I got sniffed out by a police dog that went ape over an undeclared bag of beef jerky that had been in my bag since leaving Las Vegas.  I also had an old apple and a couple other snacks buried in my bag.  I was directed to an area where my bag was searched and all food (and water) was confiscated like it was illegal contraband. (And apparently . . . it is.)  No big deal.  I have just never been outed by a police dog before.  Now I have.  (The dog clearly has a nose for beef jerky, but apparently nothing for chocolate donuts purchased on in Lima that mysteriously made it past Customs and onto the flight to Las Vegas.)  It was nice to have phone service again (that does not cost $2.50/min.).  We did not have much of a layover in Atlanta before boarding our final flight.  David and I actually sat across the aisle from each other.  I tried to catch up on some sleep.  Unfortunately, I drank a huge bottle of water that I did not want to waste at Customs in Atlanta and my body kept reminding me that it really did not need all that water at once.  So, sleep for an extended period of time was not happening. 
Las Vegas is just below!
En route to baggage claim
David was actually nervous about that family reunion moment
Just about to baggage claim and the awaiting family
            Maralea and David had changed seats prior to our approach to Las Vegas so he could look out the window and see the landscape from above for the first time in two years.  He was a bit nervous, I think.  We arrived at the terminal and decided that Maralea and I would go first, so we could take pictures of him arriving.  (We did not want to miss all that.)  I noticed that my camera was not taking good pictures as we exited the tram but did not have time to fiddle with the settings.  We just moved on.  We went down the escalators to see our children, some extended family and friends with posters.  David came down the escalator all by himself to a round of cheers.  He hugged everyone.  

David discovers that little brother Jordan has grown . . . taller
Balloons and signs were a welcome sight
             We got the three boys together and, just as I suspected, Jordan is now officially the tallest.  (He is even taller than David with his shoes off and David’s shoes on.)  Whitney had set up her camera to take a group picture of everyone, and then we made our way to get the bags - all accounted for.  As we walked out into the Las Vegas heat we were reminded that we are now above the equator where it is summer - and oh so hot.  David continued wearing his suit in the heat but was anxious to get to some air conditioning.  We arrived home to a “Welcome Home” sign posted by the Littles, and balloons.  
David and Kelli, with Whitney videotaping from behind
Setting up for a big family picture in baggage claim
Jordan (right) was all smiles at taking over the "I'm Tallest" title, Brad (left) laughs because . . . misery loves company (ha)
We came home to a "Welcome Home" sign by the Littles
David with his Aunt Chris, and cousins Lisa and Kimberly
            After dropping off our bags, we went to the stake center for David to be released by Pres. Kyle Peterson.  David again signed the plates he first signed at the Stake Young Men’s Encampment of 2002 at Del Webb in Lehi’s Tent where he committed to serving a mission.  I remember that moment in 2001 very well.  Even though I was then serving as the Young Men’s President of my ward, I was not really aware of Lehi’s Tent and the invitation extended to the Young Men to sign the plates to commit to serving a mission.  David was then 13, a short, scrawny 13.  During the evening fireside, Father Lehi would address the group and invite those young men who had signed the plates that day to come down and receive a token of their commitment.  Since I knew nothing about the plates, and did not communicate anything to our youth about it, I figured there were not be any from our troop who would be going forward.  But, without any hesitation, David stood up and walked down to the front, received his token, and returned.  My heart melted as I thought of his valiance and desire to serve - and for making that commitment without any prodding from his father.  David never wavered in his commitment to serve since that time, and today provided the most important signature to those plates: the one in which he returns and reports on a commitment completed, a mission served - now a permanent record on those wonderful plates.  There is nothing so great than to be able to return and report to the Lord on a completed assignment.  (David had also signed plates at a Young Men’s Encampment in 2004 at Lake Arrowhead, which were present at the time of his release.)  The family gathered together for David’s release.  Maralea took off one of his name tags, David removed the other.  He will no longer be known as Elder Royal, but simply David.  That sacred title was temporary, but David will have to transition to life without the name tag and title.  It was a wonderful thing to have our entire family present for that experience, in addition to Mom and Dad.  Brad and David have left Jordan with a brightly lighted pathway to follow in life, for which I am very grateful as their father.
David signing the plates to memorialize his kept commitment, with Pres. Peterson
Signing these plates was the end of an eight year commitment, dating back to 2002
David with the 2002 and 2004 plates, signed, sealed and delivered
Maralea removed David's name tag
Lehi's plates, up close and personal
Mommy got the first post missionary tag hug

            We went to get some sandwiches as Firehouse Subs afterwards, then returned to the house to start the chore of unpacking.  I sat down on the hardwood floor of our entryway and began going through the first bag when I was suddenly hit with extreme fatigue and sleepiness.  I figured I would lay down for just a moment, but there I remained for a couple hours, before waking up and gathering just enough strength to get upstairs to bed.  I then slept for another four hours, before David woke me up for some pizza.  Still groggy, I managed something to eat, went into the front room, laid down on the couch, and fell asleep again.  I did not wake up for another five hours, then went to bed and slept through the night.  I woke up at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday and finally felt rested.  So, I started the task of going through emails, and updating the blog while everyone else slept.  This blog took on a life of its own.  I cannot believe I tried to write so much.  But, I did, and . . . it’s now all in the family history books, so I suppose that one day someone may be glad for that.  (Even our adult children generally admit they just look at the pictures, so . . . .)
"We've gotta father and mother, sister and brother, pullin' together we can work it out!"  Together for the first time in 2 years.