"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

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Royal Cougar Blue Christmas (December 2016)

New Royal Youngins: Welcome Finley and Macie!!!
     OUR FAMILY IS GROWING!!!  It expanded with the arrival of Macie to David and Kambria last December, and again with the birth of Finley to Craig and Kelli in August.  It has been fun to watch Aubrey and Royal grow into their new roles of big sister and brother, respectively, with Beckham having shown the way as Zoe’s older brother.
One little two little three little grandkids, four little five little six little grandkids
(we're counting Finley, too) . . . (SO CUTE!)
   Maralea and I have discovered that life as grandparents is amazingly beautiful and fun.  We cannot get enough of our six little grandchildren!
 The Royal Family reunion in June was fun, fun, fun!

Aubrey takes a break from family swimming fun while Beckham's motor never stops
Our family swim party in June was RAD, baby!

Macie loved her first Royal family reunion in June while Royal loved showing her a good time
Zoe loves to party Royally
     We had a great family reunion in June - always a highlight of the year for us - which included a lot of swimming, dancing to our 2016 family mix CD (a tradition Whitney started for the family in 2014, where each family member secretly selects a favorite song for the CD and we guess who picked each song - although the little ones give a lot of secrets away during the dance along), and pickleball.  (Maralea bought a pickleball net, balls and paddles, just for the reunion.  It seems to be more of an old folks kind of game.  David and Kambria took Maralea and me to a recreation center in Murray, UT, a few months earlier, where Maralea and I first played pickleball against a much older couple.  We did not know much about the game, but still thought we would destroy the old geezers on the other side of the net (ha).  They annihilated us.  We should get a lot better once our osteoarthritis substantially kicks in.  Of course, it will also help to one day actually learn the rules of the game.)
Kambria is nimble on her pickleball feet.  (She doesn't need shoes to beat a bunch of amateurs.)
David returns a wicked serve in our intense family pickleball game in June, which probably would have been handled expertly if I had chosen to use a racket instead of my camera

Maralea displays impressive pickleball form in this impossible to handle return
(because it struck the wall (ha))

Kelli was glad to retire some of
her 2016 summer attire
     When Finley arrived in August, his birth was announced to those of us in the waiting room by the delivering physician, Dr. Bohman, who once lived in Maralea’s ward in Sparks, NV.  Dr. Bohman reached out to Maralea, put his arm around her and said: “He looks like your dad.”  Maralea just melted with emotion, feeling such deep appreciation for that sweet reference to her wonderful departed father. 

Finley is happy to be with family

      We both felt so much warmth and comfort, thinking of our two deceased parents (Ray and Marie), who aced the test of mortality, being among those valiant spirits on the other side of the veil escorting Finley into the world.  (Finley received his name following a
dream Kelli had of being introduced to him as a little boy long before he was born.)

Maralea had a little moment with Cosmo in Cincinnati
Aren't they so cute?!?
          We have loved attending BYU football games with our little Cougar grandchildren, watching them sing the Cougar fight song with vigor in their fancy BYU gear, and growing into such kindhearted, loving souls.  Speaking of BYU football, Maralea and I attended every BYU game this season for the exception of BYU at Utah (only because Maralea refuses to enter the Ute home of Rice Eccles Stadium (ha) (but seriously, Maralea and heckling Utah fans don’t get along well) - instead we watched BYU lose by one on TV).  We had a great time traveling to Arizona (win, yay, last second field goal), Washington, DC (loss, dang, a certain receiver should have learned from the Utah game that tipping passes in the air is not good), Michigan State (win, nice, wasn’t expecting that one), Boise (loss, ugh, let’s not do any more fake punts from the back of our own end zone) and Cincinnati (win, sweet, front row seats, fun venue), together with visiting our youngins at home games in Provo (UCLA (loss, rats, really needed to recover that late onside kick), Toledo (win, yeppers, I can’t believe BYU, with their constricted offense, actually won a 55-53 shootout), Miss. State (win, OT baby, take that SEC), SUU (win, yawnfest, but a fun grandchild game extravaganza), UMass (win, uh huh, more grandchild fun in the stands, downing yummy CougarTails), USU (win, moo! But, how Hill manage to sustain a season ending injury at home for third time in his career against the Aggies?), Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego (vs. Wyoming) (soggy win, yee haw).
Blue goggles were out in full force for the BYU/UCLA game

The UCLA game didn't end as hoped, but we had a blast
We got to hang out with Kyle and Taylor at the BYU/Toledo game
Had a big crew for BYU/SUU
Had a blast at BYU v. UMass
Beating Utah State was first rate  (Hey Nicky, you're so fine, you're so fine you blow our minds . . ")
At the Poinsettia Bowl before the rain came . . . .
Poinsettia Bowl after the rain (oy)
Beckham, Royal and Zoe party at the pre-game
"Kids Zone"
Aubrey loved game time snacks
Macie loved her first ever BYU game
Even Finley got to a game!
         Most of all, we loved seeing our posterity embracing and following the Savior, Jesus Christ.  We truly “have no greater joy than to hear that [our] children walk in truth.”  (3 John 1:4.)  Each Christmas light we see reminds us of the light of Christ within each faithful soul that continues to brighten and illuminate.  We are grateful for every opportunity to provide light powered by He who offers a perfect brightness of hope.  Our families become bright beyond description as we collectively walk and live within His holy light.  Below is an update with more particulars on how our wonderful family is doing.
Jordan and Maralea at the BYU spring game
          Jordan continues to enjoy the single life of a BYU student in Provo (although he has met someone and seems to be enjoying the exclusive dating life a little more).  (I probably should not say any more about that for the time being . . . or should I?)  Jordan helped run the Utah Speed Academy sports camp over the summer as part of his major of wellness and fitness.  (We have not yet tested Jordan to see if he is any faster as a result of all he learned.  Perhaps we can hold a family forty yard dash over the Christmas break.)  Jordan’s present ambition is to get into physical therapy school.  His second home is Richards Building and Smith Fieldhouse where he works out and plays lots of volleyball.  Jordan continues to work at the BYU law school and is loving BYU campus life (as well he should, because it is super awesome - and we are completely objective about that). 
Jordan and Ashlee attended a few BYU games together.  (More to come?)
David, Kambria, Aubrey and Macie
David & Kam Clan
          David and Kambria have been learning how to be tag team parents with Macie’s grand entrance into their family, adding a new dynamic.  She is a cutie and has grown so much already!  Macie is a champion crawler who follows her mommy everywhere.  She loves bath time with big sister Aubrey (age three) and is cool with drinking Papa smoothies.  Aubrey started preschool this year and loves it.  She fills the house with singing all day long and likes being an awesome big sister. 
David presently serves as ward mission leader and enjoys working with the full time missionaries (especially setting up dinner appointments (ha)), and Kambria is the congregation pianist/organist.  She loves pickleball nights with
Aubrey had a hot pink birthday
David, enjoys staying home with her girls, and finding new dessert recipes on Pinterest.  David loves his work with Visible Equity and is excited about his future there.  He especially likes the ping pong table at his workplace that has allowed him to hone his paddle skills.  David has become a home budgeting king and generally loves telling Kambria how to spend (or not spend) money.  (Thank you, Dave Ramsey.)
     David and Kambria are winding up 2016 by purchasing their first home, a huge step that has been creating a mixture of high stress and excitement.  David grew a beard in 2016 which came in quite nicely.  But alas, he ended up shaving it just before Thanksgiving, which created some family distress.  No one was more disappointed to see David clean shaven than Aubrey (who often calls her daddy by his first name).  When Aubrey saw David’s silky smooth face, she anxiously asked: “David, what
Macie loves her daddy
happened to your beard?
  What happened?”
  Then, after seeing a pile of hair in the bathroom garbage can, Aubrey said: “David.  I found it!  I found your beard.  Please don't make your beard all gone.  If you do, you will make me so sad!”  Aubrey has been mostly successful with potty training this year, and had her first porta-potty experience while playing at a park.  David was reluctant to have little Aubrey do her business there, but Aubrey was more than pleased to enter the private space by herself.  Upon stepping inside and closing the door for “privacy,” she exclaimed: "Wow.  THIS is a nice place.  This is a NICE place!"

The best part of the Ikea hike with David and Kambria's family was this picture (with leaving being a very close second (ha))
"Two little Royals standing by a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G"
Can we get enough Royal family selfies?  I think not!
Craig, Kelli, Royal and Finley
Nothing but family smiles after Finley's safe arrival
          Craig and Kelli expanded their family in August with the birth of Finley.  He is growing so fast and is already cooing and smiling a lot (which is nice, because he also cries a lot - imagine that).  Finley is drooling like crazy and eats like a champ. 

Craig, Kelli and Royal introduced Finley to BYU football at the Poinsettia Bowl

(Finley’s parents are still waiting for him to sleep through the night like a champ.)  Finley loves to stand when held on a lap, prefers laying on his belly, and embraces serious eye contact, which he rewards with a big smile.  He loves bath time and cool music.  Royal enjoys his new role as a big brother (and has trouble leaving Finley alone with all his hugs and kisses).
Finley came into the world smile ready

Royal learned how to swim on his own this summer!  (One day he just turned into a tadpole, and tossed aside his floaties forever.  We think Royal was quite motivated by watching his cousin, Beckham, swimming around the pool freely without floaties during the June family reunion.)  He loves preschool.  Royal is quickly learning how to read!  Although he is growing up fast, Royal still clings to his blankies and his bear (which wears a BYU jersey and is aptly named Cougie).  His favorite Christmas song is Hark the Herald Angels Sing, which he performed in church with his mommy recently.

Royal said bye bye forever to the floaties in June

Kelli is glad to have retired her 2016 “I’M SO PREGNANT!” shirt.  She loves being a mom and caring for two beautiful boys (well, three if we count Craig (ha)).  Kelli serves as a leader in the Young Women’s Program.  She enjoys doing hair as time permits with her increasingly busy schedule.  Craig is employed as a trust/estate attorney for Solomon Dwiggins and Freer, Ltd., in Las Vegas.  Craig presently serves with the Cub Scouts in the Bermuda Ward.  He loves his calling, his job, his family, and we are especially impressed with his super gnarly beard (ha).  Craig and Kelli are still renting in paradise (the Murdock home) while saving up to buy a house some day in the near future.  Kelli: “Life has been crazy but we love our little family and wouldn't have it any other way.”

Kelli enjoys reading to her children in the desert
Kelli's boys
Brad, Whitney, Beckham and Zoe
Brad and Whitney are always uplifting
Beckham and Zoe
          Brad and Whitney spiced things up a bit in 2016 with Whitney deciding to pursue a Marketing MBA at BYU.  It took some schedule juggling and work, but they have managed very well.  Whitney just completed her first semester in the two year program and is enjoying her latest challenge.  Brad continues to work in sales for InsideSales.com, a software company in Provo, where he has been for the past two and a half years and teaches gospel doctrine.  Beckham and Zoe enjoy attending pre-school together (same school, different classes).  They played on the same soccer team over the summer, with hyper competitive Beckham running roughshod all over the field as a mega ball hawk, scoring multiple goals a game (more than 10 in some matches), as Zoe took serious issue with opposing players
Beckham helps Zoe display her super powers
daring to impede Beckham’s progress.
  Beckham enjoyed his soccer success so much, he would run to the opposing sideline to let the coaches know his goal total after each score.  Zoe loved playing the roles of teammate, cheerleader and protective sister.  She loves being with her older brother, and has been known to leave her bedroom at night to sleep on the floor of Beckham’s room just to be near him.  Zoe and Beckham love to sing loud and proud.  Zoe loves all things pink, and can often be heard singing “Let it Go” from Frozen.  She and Beckham love climbing trees, chasing bees and many other thrill seeking activities.  Brad related the following recent discussion with Beckham:

       Brad:           Beck, what are you taking for show and share at school when it’s the letter B?
          Beckham:    Myself!  But, I’m not going to put myself in my school bag.  I’m just going to walk myself in.     
One of my favorite pictures from 2016, Beckham and Royal at the BYU/SUU game
Brad and Whitney enjoy occasional family strolls on the Salt Flats
Thanksgiving Day was busy, but there was still time to relax on the Royal hammock

We did a post church selfie and this was the best we could manage - the kids were just not in the mood

Maralea and Mike
Our June family reunion grandchildren picture (pre-Finley) is a keeper
Cincinnati was fun in the October sun
Maralea built me a rainbow in early October
          Maralea was released as the ward Young Women’s President in August and recently accepted a new calling serving once again as Sister Royal, this time a service missionary for the Institute at UNLV.  She absolutely thrives as Sister Royal.  (Actually, Maralea thrives in every new challenge, but she particularly loves serving as a missionary.)  I continue to serve as Elder Royal in the mission presidency (executive secretary), and added accompanying Maralea two nights a week at the Institute to my weekly schedule.  We are teaching the Temple Preparation Class in our ward, beginning in January, which will be awesome.  Our favorite trip of the year was probably the BYU/WVA game in Washington, DC (even though BYU lost on a tipped pass in the final minute).  It was my first visit to Washington, DC.  We were both deeply impressed with our experience at Arlington Cemetery, the Capital, Lincoln Memorial, and George Washington’s estate at Mt. Vernon.  (It felt like we were on hallowed ground.)  The best things we do, however, involve grandchildren.  Maralea and I loved teaming up to raise four children to adulthood; however, watching our next generation raise their own children somehow elevates our love and devotion for family to a new level.  There is no greater title than being Nana and Papa Royal.
October weekend for Finley's blessing
Zoe loves pink stuff . . . and Nana
          We often need to be reminded that life is good - even when it’s bad.  Blessings always abound and are ever present, even in the darkest of times.  While we love celebrating and highlighting the goodness in life, we nevertheless endured some difficult challenges in 2016 that will continue into the future.  However, also know that this mortal experience is designed to present us with personal “tribulation.”  (John 16:33.)  We overcome “tribulation” in the world by embracing the glorious “peace”

Lake Tahoe is way too cold
offered by the Savior Jesus Christ.  (John 14:27.)  His “peace” offers comfort, solace and joy, even in the most turbulent of times.  It is available to all.  We are grateful to Him and this time of year when the world remembers His entry into mortality as a little child, contemplates the profound meaning and powerful impact of His ministry, sacrifice, atonement and resurrection, and how we fit into His great Plan of Happiness.  May we all see the Savior in the glow of every light, the evergreen of every tree, the red of every Christmas ornament, the smile of every soul, and allow Him to use our hands to do His work in leading others to safety at His side.

            With ever true Cougar Royal blue love,

          The Royal family

It really was a great year - because that lady to my right is super awesome
          And now, some year end blog overtime, because we simply can never get enough family pictures.

After throwing tiny little rocks all over our neatly manicured putting green in the backyard right after I had cleaned it up so it looked perfect, Aubrey offered to clean it up.  After a couple of strokes, Aubrey said: "Papa, it's too hard.  You do it."

Royal gives Aubrey a hug goodbye after her visit for Halloween

Beckham, Zoe, Aubrey and Macie scream for more ice cream at our pre-Thanksgiving family bash
A pre-Thanksgiving family gathering.  We are missing Whitney in this picture and have an extra baby (held by Kambria, which belongs to the photographer)

A Thanksgiving Day classic photo for Craig and Kelli's growing family 
Zoe and Papa hanging out in the pre-game "Kids Zone"

Royal and Beckham loved the big slide at the BYU-pregame "Kids Zone"
Beckham scores a goal while playing soccer with some older boys at the "Kids Zone" before a BYU game

Royal has Nana very high up on his "very best friend" list

Aubrey's cute little pink bow was just what BYU needed to beat UMass

Jordan and Ashlee kind of became a thing in October - and since she came to visit us this month, we decided to put that in our year in review

Beckham and Zoe wore their BYU jerseys when they learned that Nana and Papa were coming for a "sleep over" during Thanksgiving week

Let's get the Nana and Papa "sleep over" party started!

Aubrey and Macie enjoy a little Nana supervised bath time

Babysitting grandkids means chocolate milk and donuts, and Aubrey got a pretty good haul on this occasion.  (Sure, it kept her up all night, creating all kinds of havoc at home with her parents, but we got to have fun and sleep great in our hotel room, making it a big time Papa/Nana win/win.) 

Maralea and I stopped by to see Brian and Vicki Higbee over Thanksgiving.  Brian was my first seminary teacher, who put up with more Mike Royal shenanigans than anyone should ever have to endure.  (We stole his car keys routinely and would drive his VW Van all over the parking lot (and that's just the tip of the iceberg); yet, he still loved us.)
Aubrey was hesitant to "break the triangle" of balls on the pool table at first, but once she realized they can all be quickly put back together, she was all in
Aubrey abandoned the pool cue and decided rolling balls into the side pocket was way more fun

As you can see, it took Aubrey some practice to get into the hang of rolling a ball into the side pocket

Beckham enjoyed attending the BYU/UVU game with his dad, but after BYU lost 114-101, Beckham told his dad: "I wish we were cheering for the green team [UVU]."

Aubrey in a reflective moment during a family photo shoot

Macie looks good in everything, but the color blue seems to agree with her quite nicely

Aubrey is ready to get out of her car seat and play after meeting up with us at a park in Murray, UT

When Royal is thirsty, he reaches for the best kind of soda known to mankind

Maralea and her sisters played "dress up" during the Kelly family reunion in June, here trying on her mother's wedding dress
A visit to the Veterans' Cemetery in Fallon, NV to say hello Maralea's deceased father, Ray

A Kelly family selfie photo taken in June during our visit to Sparks

We did a Lake Tahoe hike with Maralea's sisters, Kathy and Donna in June.  Even in our old age, we all still look pretty cool in sunglasses.

Aubrey and Royal love cousin sleep overs, but Royal now just wants to sleep and Aubrey is still ready to play more games

Macie loved swimming in the Lehi Recreation Center on a hot summer day

The fearsome foursome Royal cousins take a break from summertime play fun so Papa can take a picture as they each say, "Cheese Papa" without actually looking at the camera (well, except Beckham, who is a pretty good photo smiler)

Beckham and Royal got to attend primary together in September

Beckham with some Surfin' USA action during a Horito family trip at Lake Tahoe

Beckham, Zoe and Royal plan their next big cousin caper after having finished dinner

Royal loves giving talks in Primary
Beckham and Zoe are ready to rock and roll, BYU football style

Beckham and Zoe having some group FaceTime with Royal

Love this first picture of Finley on his literal birthday in August

David on a very bad hair day

Pool party selfie (point a camera at people and you never know what's gonna happen)

Macie loves Shark Week

Macie and Papa relax by the pool on an all too warm Las Vegas summer day

Royal had a Jawsome time swimming all summer long

Aubrey's face whenever Papa volunteers to make her one of his awesome somoothies

David forgot to bring church clothes for his family's visit in October, so he wore this band tux from days long gone by.  Royal went to church dressed in a black suit, too, so we got this picture of David's Mini-Me.  We got plenty with Royal's eyes open, but this Royal pose turned out to be the coolest.

Royal's first day of school, 2016

Aubrey was totally psyched for her first day of school

Finley was totally psyched for his first days of life

Beckham and Zoe busted into LES and totally partied

Macie demonstrates for Papa the proper way to do a push up (going all the way up - none of this halfway stuff)

Aubrey found the bronze Cosmo in the BYU bookstore and decided she needed to stop and say hello

Wrestling "tag team" with Beckham and Zoe is hard

We stopped by the White House to say hello (before the Secret Service made us leave)

Royal looks forward to serving a mission, once he has grown another foot or two
There's always time for grand kid swimming fun

Night time stories are a Royal family favorite

The "A" stands for Aubrey
Maralea at the Sweetheart's Ball (I cut myself out of this one, because I just would have ruined it).  Doesn't she look awesome?
Aubrey loves dressing as a princess

Kelli is the real life Wonder Woman

Give these kids a foam No. 1 thingy and they will march around chanting, "B-Y-U Cougars"

Macie on her baby blessing day
Zoe's look when Papa complained about getting beat at bowling because she got to use the bumpers

Royal and his baseball buddy Kennedy after another successful outing

A visit to So. California included meeting up with the Molina family for church
Newport Beach sunset selfie

After Royal got to meet Cosmo, he said: "That was the coolest thing ever!"

Maralea and Kelli at Town Square

Royal was a cow in the ward Nativity but still got to hang out with the star of the play

Zoe gets ready to fly down the slide ("Watch me, Papa!")


Is there nothing Nana and Papa can't do?

Singing, swinging cousins

Beckham takes a moment from pool fun to pose, smile and show off his cool tats

Waterbugs Royal, Beckham and Zoe take a short swimming break

Zoe is close to swimming without floaties, but still likes jumping into her daddy's arms from the side

Finley meet Cougie

The Royal led League of Justice

Did we already mention that Aubrey likes to dress up as a princess?

Our Trick or Treat was tough to beat

Royal and Aubrey are ready for some Halloween fun

  This slow-motion leap by Royal and Aubrey is hilarious

Royal demonstrates the look he gets when candy is in his immediate future

Beckham and Zoe enjoy the ongoing Nana/Papa BYU Show
Zoe sees the world from a different perspective

Aubrey made things a bit sticky at the BYU-SUU game

Aubrey gets in some bed time reading with Nana

Beckham and Zoe making snow angels on Thanksgiving Day

Royal prepares the house for Christmas

Finley gets some Nana love

Finley playing Peak-A-Boo

Finley is already getting the hang of selfies

Finley can finally see clearly
Finley is ready to go attend his first ever BYU game - a Poinsettia Bowl win
At the Poinsettia Bowl, all nice, warm and dry, before getting completely dumped on by the rain storm of the century

Beckham, Zoe and Royal playing house
Macie's blessing Sunday

Our little bitty baby caboose Jordan turned 24 in June

Whitney provides the swimming cousins with a little snack break

Brad prepares to make a spectacular grab to save the day

The family reunion service project was a great success
I love it when these very special clients come by to visit at the office

Nana gives Zoe some dance instructions during the family sing/song/dance-off

Well, we've climbed the mountain of life and like the view.  There is higher ground ahead, where the view is even more spectacular.  It has been nice to reflect upon the blessings we have received through 2016 and look forward to all the adventures ahead of us in 2017 and beyond.