"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

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Royal Empty Nest Christmas - December 2011

The Circle of Life has made its back to the starting line of the really big oval track on which we have been running together. Maralea and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary in April, followed by our sending the young squire Jordan off to BYU for the summer, then on an LDS Church mission to the Philippines, leaving us all alone to contemplate what exactly happened over the past 28 years.  Let's see . . . 29 Decembers ago, I was wrestling with the thrill of having found the girl of my dreams and the stress of figuring out how I would propose to her.  I had traveled with Maralea to her home in Sparks, NV where I met her family for the first time and fell in love with everyone.  (They all thought I was crazy, singing Beatles songs with my guitar non-stop, but that is another story for another day/year.)  Our first Christmas as "empty nesters" draws our thoughts back to those early Christmases we had together.  Each Christmas for our family has been wonderful, filled with great memories and warm feelings for blessings received.
The last Royal family picture before Jordan left on his mission in September.  My how we have grown!!!
Our first family portrait, 1985
       In December 1983, Maralea and I were spending our first Christmas together as a young married couple in Eugene, Oregon.  I was working as a sports anchor/reporter for KEZI-TV and she was employed as an operator for a physician answering service (earning more money than me in the process).  It was an exciting time.  Below is  something I wrote on December 7, 1983, as we prepared for our first Christmas together, away from family.
      “It’s been great to take a couple days and get our house looking more like Christmas.  Maralea and I worked together at the ward Christmas lot (selling Christmas trees) and went ahead and bought a tree ourselves.  We set up our tree last night and decorated it while listening to Perry Como Christmas songs.  We put on Christmas lights and lots of bulbs and other ornaments Maralea purchased.  Maralea put her arms around me once it was all set up.  She put in a Barry Manilow tape, and turned off the house lights, leaving only the lights of the tree to illuminate our home.  We sat there together for about an hour just watching the tree and talking.  It was absolutely awesome, bringing back a lot of wonderful feelings and memories of Christmas and I thought fondly about some of the future ones that lie ahead of us, with children all around.  How sweet that will be!”  (Mike's Journal of Royal Memories, December 7, 1983.)
       Now, in December 2011, Maralea and I are again sitting alone together around the Christmas tree, admiring the lights, listening to music, and reflecting upon Christmas family memories together.  Where did the time go?  But I digress.  It was Christmas Eve 1982.  I was single, in love, and determined to seal the marriage deal which all seemed so surreal.  (Sorry, I veered off on a semi-poetic course there for a moment.)  Here's what I wrote about that time in my life.
       “Dad and I went shopping for Mom and in the process we went looking at diamond rings.  I found a one in a beautiful setting that I may get for Maralea next week.  I think she'd love it!  I can’t believe that I’ve found the girl I've been dreaming of all my life.  I had a long talk with Mom and Dad when I got home from Reno and they are excited at my decision to marry Maralea.  I've had a hard time sleeping and haven't been feeling well yesterday or today.  This is going to be a very significant holiday season for me.  By the time next year I should be sharing Christmas with my wife!  How cool is that?  It feels wonderful to know how much Maralea loves me and also to know how much I love her.  Life has been very good to me and I think that Maralea came into my life at just the right time.  Merry Christmas!!”  (December, 24, 1982, Mike's Journal)
Riding the bus to Oxford, MS
  We relate well to the words of Jacob, son of Nephi, who wrote the following at the sunset of his life: “the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream . . . .”  (Jacob 7:26.)  Maralea and I keep busy, but life has quieted down considerably, as we no longer have teams to coach, games to attend, homework to oversee, grades to check, chores to delegate (yeah, it’s all on us now . . . to hire out the work), etc.  We now wonder how we ever had all the time to do what we did when our house was filled with children.
A Royal army!
This new phase of our lives led to unique opportunities.  Just as Jordan left in June to attend BYU summer term, Maralea was called on a service mission as secretary in the office of the Nevada Las Vegas Mission (after having taught seminary for the six previous years).  She served there for three weeks under Pres. Peter  Christensen, and has continued under Pres. Michael Neider.  I was thereafter released from serving as Stake YM President and called to serve as Pres. Neider’s executive secretary as a service missionary.  So, when Maralea and I are about our missionary business, we are known as Elder and Sister Royal, complete with those wonderful black name tags.  When we loosely planned out our lives over 28 years ago, Maralea and I looked forward to the day when we could serve missions.  We are thrilled to get a little head start in that regard.  Maralea is the first person to greet those who call or enter the mission office.  She always has a warm, welcoming smile and knows all the missionaries.  When we attend missionary activities, Sister Royal is swarmed by the sister missionaries, exchanging hugs, and shaking hands with all the elders who she knows by name.  She is as happy as ever!
World meet Beckham!
We became grandparents in 2011 when Brad and Whitney brought baby Beckham Royal into the world.  We will become grandparents times two in February when Kelli and Jason introduce their son, Royal Golightly, into the world.  We also became parents of a missionary again in September 2011 as Jordan left to serve in the Philippines Angeles Mission, where Brad served from 2003-05 (and where we visited in September 2005 at the conclusion of Brad’s mission and met so many wonderful people who now get to experience Elder Royal II).  We were pretty amazed when Jordan opened his mission call and read that he was going to serve in the same mission as his older brother.  Jordan safely arrived in the Philippines on November 29th and is now walking where Brad, Maralea and I have walked.  That is a pretty sweet blessing for our family.  We miss our little baby boy (ha, Jordan will love that), but are so very pleased that he has chosen to follow his older brothers in valiantly serving the Lord.  (David served in the Peru Piura Mission, 2008-10.)
Hanging with the Ainges in Corvallis, OR
Maralea and I made it to every BYU home football game but one (BYU/NM State), and attended away games at Ole Miss (with Jordan) and Oregon State (with David).  We absolutely love following our Cougars, which gave us plenty of opportunities to visit Provo, Utah and see our wonderful children (and grandson, Beckham).  (We drove by the Provo MTC and waved to Jordan during each visit.)  (If you are wondering why we did not travel to Hawaii to watch BYU play on December 3rd.  We have no idea.  The last time we visited Hawaii, Maralea was eight months pregnant with . . . Brad.  Even then, she had guys whistling at her in her red polka dotted mammoth maternity swimsuit.  We really need to go back - SOON.)
Here’s a little summary of where the Royals are as the once chirping birds in the nest have now flown away to build nests of their own.
Jordan with a kill in the state semis
Jordan aka Elder Royal
Jordan had a great senior season of volleyball and received First Team All Conference honors.  His team finished as runner up in the Regional Championship and lost in the state semi finals, but Jordan got to play one more match: a senior east/west all-star match, which was put together for the first time.  That was a lot of fun - a great way to end the season (and helped ease the pain of not winning state).
       Jordan graduated with high honors and attended BYU summer term.  He absolutely loved BYU.  (And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t?)  Prior to his departure for school, Jordan received his mission call to the Philippines Angeles Mission.  (Yes, I know we already covered that . . . but it’s worth noting twice.)  When he opened the letter from Pres. Thomas S. Monson and announced his assignment, we all cheered.
Jordan opens his mission call
Jordan and his mission letter opening cheer squad (from left: Steven Jex, Dallin Jenkins, David Royal (behind Dallin), Dan Lee, Grandpa Royal (behind Dan), Cathy Flagg, Jeff Flagg, Mike Royal, Jordan Royal, Maralea Royal, Kelsey Blickenstaff, Hanna Christensen, Brennen Marshall)
Jordan was hosted at the MTC by life long friend Daniel Sorensen
One last Mommy/Jordan pre-mission hug
Jordan and Elder Declaro eating in Cabanatuan City
It was amazing to us all that Jordan would be called to serve where Brad served in 2003-05.  Jordan prepared well for his mission and entered the Mission Training Center in Provo, UT on September 28, 2011.  He is presently serving in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, which is about 15-20 minutes east of Cabanatuan City, located not from from an area where Brad served.  We are already impressed with Jordan’s Tagalog after having him demonstrate his proficiency during our phone call with him from the airport the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Christmas Day takes on a whole new meaning when it involves a missionary phone call.  We are looking forward to that.  (By the way, Jordan already opened up his Christmas box that said: “Do Not Open Before Christmas” all over it.  Maybe he’s already forgotten how to read English?)   To follow Jordan’s mission experience, visit http://elderjordanroyal.blogspot.com/.  (Wow, Jordan got a lot of ink this year!  Nice job.)
David aka Lefty
David here with former roommates (and brother of other mothers) Tommy (left) and Landon (right)
David visits the ER after snow boarding (D'oh)
        David is enjoying life at BYU - well, except for the part about having to wear a cast from his right shoulder to hand after busting up his wrist in a snow boarding “accident” when he and his buddy, Jack, decided to go to “the playground” and tryout some “tricks” before calling it a day.  But, that did not stop David from playing in the annual family Thanksgiving Day Turkey Bowl, when he picked off his weak armed Uncle Dan (ha), stiff armed his scrawny cousin Nicky (double ha), and took it to the house.  (David was looking forward to playing lots of volleyball over the Christmas break . . . but that is just not gonna happen.)  David was recently accepted into the BYU Advertising Program and looks forward to a life of writing creative jingles and persuading the masses to buy things they do not need.  (Ha.  Actually, that is not accurate.  Advertisers also promote things we need, like say . . . uh . . . home alarm systems.  See Brad & Whitney below.)  David is employed at the law school library (along with cousins Cody Bringham, Jason Foote, and Kimberly Foote) and loves scanning long documents in his spare time on the job (. . . NOT).  David was always the most enthusiastic of our children about helping Maralea set up the Christmas decorations.  So, this year, as she and I began that little task together - alone - Maralea interrupted my complaining with: “I am really missing David right now.”  (He’s a total Momma’s boy.)
David and Landon in Corvallis, OR at the BYU/OSU game in October

2011 Turkey Bowlers
(Front from left: Trevor, Cody, Nicky, Ally, Devin, Calvin, & "one arm" David.  Back from left: Colin, Jeffrey, Dan and Mike.  Not pictured cheerleaders: Maralea, Kathy, Jen, and Emily)

Kelli and Jason
Jason and Kelli are going to become parents in 2012
Kelli busts a prego move in Hollywood
       Kelli and Jason are expecting their first child in February.  Kelli looks very cute as an expectant mother.  She is enjoying putting together her little nursery for baby Royal.  (It’s a boy and Royal will be his first name - just as Kelli took on a form of her mother’s surname.)  Jason graduated from the police academy at SLCC and is pursuing a career in law enforcement, while Kelli continues to cut hair like a champ.  They are still in Provo, Utah with doggies Indy, Brody and Darla.  (Kelli has always loved dogs . . . but her mom and dad have not. Now she has a dogsled team.) Kelli and Jason enjoy the outdoors.  Jason has been burning the candle at both ends the past seven months, working full time while attending the police academy (graduated on December 15th), while Kelli has been likewise working full time and cutting hair in her spare time.  Their lives will get a while lot more interesting when little Royal arrives.  We can’t wait!!!

Kelli and the guys get in one last volleyball match before Jordan's mission

Brad and Whitney

Brad, Whitney and Beckham
Beckham on his blessing day
  Brad and Whitney are now proud parents of Beckham Royal who was born in August.  He is such a cute little guy!  We love being grandparents.  Brad worked in Alaska selling alarms for four months this past year and did very well.  He and Whitney are willing to travel the world to sell alarms.  Next stop: Eastern Canada (this summer).  Brad won several awards for selling last summer.  One of the most notable prizes he earned was an autographed Jimmer jersey (that now sits in my office for . . . well, just because).  Brad and Whitney are fast approaching their fourth wedding anniversary.  They recently relocated to a new apartment in Provo and may be staying in Utah County for a while.  Whitney says there is just no getting Brad out of Provo.
The kids perform an out of sync Timpanogos leap to celebrate Royal family temple day.  (This is about a week before Whitney brought Beckham to the world and check out the air she gets here.)

Mike and Maralea
Savoring the moment at Jordan's High School Graduation
(Isn't Sister Royal pretty?)
Grandma Maralea holds Beckham for the first time!
Grandpa Royal here virtually holds iBeckham!
It is comforting to know that within only a few short years Maralea and I will qualify for a few senior citizen discounts (the kind that begin at 55).  Isn’t that exciting?  Mick Jagger was way off when he sang: “What a drag it is getting old.”  We actually think getting old is awesome!  (Well, except for the back pain, loss of hair on the head, replaced by hair in the ears, nose and back.  That part is kind of a drag.)  It is fun watching our children grow up, marry, have children and move on with their lives.  Sister Royal and I feel very blessed to be serving together in the Nevada Las Vegas Mission.  Maralea always comes home with a mission story, as exciting things happen daily in the office.  David asked us recently what we do to occupy our time now - with all the kids gone. Let’s see.  We love following BYU football and basketball, we enjoy our callings, and we now have to do all the chores around the house.  A monumental great family moment of 2011 was standing together in the Celestial Room of the Timpanogos Temple shortly before Jordan left on his mission. That was an incredibly special moment.  Another great milestone: become grandparents.  As we count our blessings one by one, we are always surprised to see what the Lord has done.  (I should probably credit that to Hymn No. 241.)  Life is great when we know our family is forever.
Sister Royal AT the mission office
Sister Royal AWAY from the mission office

The last complete Royal BYU Blue Football photo until . . . 2013
Jordan's "last supper" at the BYU Sky Room - about an hour before entering the MTC

The Fab Four Royals at the Wilkinson Center
Other Stuff

  I used to have an easy time tracking funny family quotes; however, it is so difficult to accomplish when it’s just the two of us.  Here are a few we managed to round up.

"Sledding is so much more fun when you completely disregard your safety."  David, on the joy of snow . . . and the agony of defeat . . . in Provo.  (He obviously feels the same way about snow boarding.  Hence, his presently broken right wrist.)

"Do you think I’ll make the cut?"  Maralea, after receiving an invitation from Mom aka Marie aka Grandma Royal aka The Little Old Lady in Sierra Vista to join her Golden Girls book club only to then learn that her name was being submitted for group approval.  (She did make the cut, by the way.  Whew!)

Maralea's GOT GAME!
"I hope this isn’t all that necessary."  Mike, after a random internal computer piece fell onto the table as he was changing out the memory card . . . a piece he could neither identify or find a home.  (The computer still worked, so it apparently wasn’t all THAT necessary.)

"You understand I love Jimmer, right?"  Maralea, explaining why she was so preoccupied with taping ESPN, listening to the KSL post game show, and reading BYU articles online after BYU’s 94-85 win over CSU.

"Look at this Smart Car hanging out in the left lane."  Maralea, who cannot stand slow drivers in the fast lane.  This was said as she drove by the Smart car on the right, looking at the car through the driver’s side window, while calmly observing: "You're not very smart in that car."

A Royal Senior Moment

Mike: (Calling Maralea on the phone while backing out of the driveway): "Hey, someone stole our van!!"
Mar: "What?  (Sigh)  No one stole the van.  I told you twenty minutes ago I was taking the van this morning and to not freak out if you saw it missing.”
Mike: "You did?  When did you say that?"
Mar: "Ahhhhhhh!!!  At least three times.  You never listen to me!"
(This discussion is generally repeated on different subjects in various ways several times a month with the same result.)
Kelli demonstrating how to catch a fly
  We are grateful to have successfully parented all our children out of the house (ha) and look forward to many great future events as they grow and progress in life.  We are giddy at the prospect of reveling in the glorious parental payback of watching them raise children.  (Yay!)  We are thankful for our health, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the blessings that have followed the decision we made long ago to follow the Savior and lead our children to Him.  May His spirit be with you all this Christmas season.  Have a very happy new year.

With lots of love,

Mike and Maralea aka Elder and Sister Royal

Three Generations: Dad, Jordan, Mike, David
David and his snow buddies . . . off to risk life/limb

We love da Jimmer!  That's what we say

 We do not know this little girl, but we love the Jimmer Anthem!

BYU basketball at the Marriott Center (Go Jimmer! . . . Cougars, too)

Maralea meets "The Jake" in Pine Valley

REUNITED!  Cody and David as Elder Bringham returns
Senior Day - our fourth and (sniff) last Silverado volleyballer
What Jordan looks like on paper ;)

Silverado '11 volleyball seniors

Jordan's Brick Oven "Day Before the MTC" lunch

Family party after the Silverado/Foothill volleyball match
MTC: Like father, like sons!

   One of the great moments in 2011: Brennen Pie

Our Temple Day: THE greatest Royal family moment of 2011!
"I saw Mommy kissing Elder Royal"
Maralea, Kelli, Jason, Mike, David
Oh, and we made it on TV in the BYU/OSU game (thanks ESPN!)

Kelli was a speed bump for Halloween
Old Timer Grandpa Royal holds Beckham in the wilderness of the old west at Brad's birthday round up

                           At four months, Beckham is already starting to talk to us!