Thursday, May 31, 2012

An Amazing Journey to the Temple - 3 Boys and 46 Hours in a Mini Van

During the month of April (2012) so much was happening on a daily basis that I wasn't able to keep up with it all on the blog. Two things were ever-present questions throughout the month: Will we be going to Missouri for Jason and Jared's temple ordinances? and Will we be getting any financial aid for the summer. Both questions were intertwined with each other.  Early in the month I was one click away from purchasing a plane ticket for myself to fly to MO to be with my family. Just as Leif was about to click BUY we both felt VERY clearly that we shouldn't buy the ticket. Thank heavens for the prompting and thank heaven's we followed it!

Sunday April 29th we watched a movie in church about a family's journey through repentance and healing that ended with them going through the temple to be sealed together for eternity. Once again I was struck with how much I needed to be with my family and my brothers in the temple. I actually went after church and talked with my bishop for some advise. He agreed that it would be extremely important to be there. However, neither one of us knew how I would get their financially.

The next day I was on the phone with my sister when Leif checked his email and found that we had been notified that Leif had been offered financial aid for the summer. This made it possible for Leif and I to take our little family together and make the trip to the temple with my brothers. I was over joyed to say the least. Within one day we had made the decision to drive the family to MO and back again within six days time (instead of leaving me and the kids in MO for the Summer.) We would leave in 5 days! 
Let the journey begin!

MAY 1st:  We received Financial Aid. We spent much of the day in the ER with Jakob because he had a strange episode again. This time his reaction was due to a bumped leg. He turned green, vomited profusely and almost passed out. Blood work showed abnormal but not alarming red blood cells. Bizarre!

MAY 4th: I spent every spare minute sewing aprons for Caleb and JJ that replicate the aprons that my mom made for Jason and I when we were toddlers.

MAY 5th: Leif and I drove the kids to St. George so a good friend could watch them while we shopped together for the trip. We actually had the amazing opportunity to work together to help a man who was driving his motorcycle and was hit by a car. We came upon the scene within a minute after the accident. Leif worked as an EMT. I helped put a blanket under his head and held a blanket up to shade him from the sun. It was a bad accident. But a special experience for Leif and I to serve together like that. We also met up with my brother's friends and picked up Gooby (my brother's dog) so we could take him to my brother. Gooby ran away the day before my brother moved to Arkansas. But amazingly, he was found three weeks later just out on the streets. Amazing! So we told Nate we'd bring him home. We stopped in Apple Valley on our way home to take pictures of the AMAZING moon.

MAY 6th: Fredonia Arizona - Albuquerque New Mexico. We started our Journey around Noon. Not before Leif went on an EMT call though:) We left as soon as he got home. We drove to Flagstaff to get the keys to Leif's room at his "school house." We played at a near by park to stretch our legs. We drove in to NM somewhere after bedtime. Mama and Papa listened to the Audio book 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper and Cecil Murphey

MAY 7th: Albuquerque New Mexico - Oklahoma City Oklahoma. We drove through the winds of New Mexico and Texas to meet up with Nate in Oklahoma City to reunite him with Goobs. We excitedly met up with Grandpa and Grandma Hunt and my sister and her baby. We visited and watch the kids bounce off the walls and Sang Climbin' up the Mountain with Grandpa. Then we eagerly went to sleep!

MAY 8th: Oklahoma City Oklahoma - Carthage Missouri. Today was Jared's temple ceremony in the Oklahoma City LDS Temple. This was an amazing opportunity to be with family in the temple that I will never forget. After photos we went to dinner to visit more. We Drove to Bruce and Chris's house and put the kids to bed. We then ate Blue Bunny Peanut Butter Panic ice cream and talk late into the night. Priceless! We also found out the Annie Kitty had 6 kittens. :) Leif and I listened to the audio book The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason on the drive.

MAY 9th: Carthage Missouri - Kansas City Missouri. We played at Bruces for the morning and visited some more. We then Drove to Oronogo to Grandma and Grandpa's house for the first time. It is beautiful with a lovely yard. We Got to say hello to Aunt Trena. We  BBQ and Visited just like ol' times for the afternoon. We then Loaded up and everyone drove to Kansas City. We Check in to a dump hotel before Mom, Dad, and my sister arrive. We have a REALLY bad feeling about it, scramble and grumble as we all find a new place to stay. We decided to eat pizza and watch a movie in the van as we wait to find out where we're going. We drove further into Kansas City/Liberty after dark and we Loved the awesome lights and bridges! We got to the new hotel and recognized how very meant to be it was to change hotels! We decided that Leif would stay with the boys instead of go to the temple in the morning with me (just a feeling that it was best.) We then Fell in to bed!

MAY 10th: Kansas City Missouri - Limon Colorado. Leif drove Dad to the temple to meet up with Jason to be his escort. Leif returned and stayed with all of the kids at the hotel (Luckily! Because Uncle Nate ended up having to stay with Baby Justin at the temple for a while until his babysitter came.) Mom, Heather, and I  left to the temple feeling a little frazzled. We walked into the temple and it didn't take long for all of the stress to float away. The best was to see that Jared and Heidi had made it to the temple even though they weren't able to make it to the session. They had made it in time for them to do  other service and then met us all in the Celestial Room. That was a big hug for all of us to have them there.  Leif brought the kids to the temple after the session and we took more photos and ate a yummy picnic together. This was our final visit and our goodbye to everyone for now. We left feeling that Family is precious, indeed! We drove until we saw a Dairy Queen sign and stopped in a little town in Kansas for ice cream! From there we drove to a chilly Limon Colorado. It was late and we were disappointed because somewhere along our hotel stops we were supposed to have a Jacuzzi tub. We hadn't to this point so I assumed it would be this hotel since it was our last hotel. Unfortunately, it wasn't and I didn't know which hotel jipped us. But we recovered from our disappointment and went to sleep.

Written While Driving: 
Thursday May 10, 2012, Kansas
My sweet Caleb is a Priceless travel companion. His latest comment was “Watch out for Sheens Mama. They’re working really hard. Us watch out for asheens ok Papa. Otay Papa?”  Last night I asked the boys what their favorite part of the trip has been and Jakob said, “ I know this is funny, but for me it has been the driving.” I said, “it’s a good thing because 90% of this trip has been driving.” Caleb said his favorite part has been the sheens (machines.)

This trip really has been amazing. I know that I wouldn’t have a clue what I missed if I hadn’t come. But the thought now makes me shudder.  This afternoon I was able to stand in the Celestial Room in the Kansas City temple with my parents and three out of four of my siblings. We have one more brother we hope will join us on the path when he’s ready. But to have my brothers, Jason and Jared, in the temple with us was truly a celebration of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. They have lived against the commandments of God as well as sorely below their spiritual potential for many years.

My mother expressed it perfectly as she walked into the room and saw her family standing together waiting for her. She burst into tears and held her sons who have been lost for so long. Surely that must be what heaven is like. The love and pure joy was overwhelming. The relief that I felt was healing as well.  My heart has ached for many years because of the choices that my brothers have made. I felt relieved to know that we were together in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. 

The support from my mom’s side of the family was overwhelming as well. The reminder of their life-long support and love was refreshing and heartwarming. My family grew up living among our aunts and uncles and our cousins. We went to the same schools and family gatherings and celebrations were common. Somehow as the years have progressed many of the family members have gathered together again to live among each other. Only this time they live thousands of miles away from where we grew up in West Jordan, Utah and are in Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Today we were joined in the Kansas City MO temple by family members who traveled from Oronogo MO (Mom and Dad Hunt),  Maryland (Sister) , Arizona (me), Kansas City MO (Jason and Hannah) (Darin and Sheila), Oklahoma (Jared and Heidi), Arkansas (Nate), Iowa (Jim), Carthage MO (Bruce and Chris), Webb City MO (Karin and Mike), and Price Utah (Scott). On Tuesday we went to the Oklahoma City temple and along with several of the above mentioned people we were also joined by Heidi's parents and brother and Sister from Utah. And finally, we were most definitely accompanied throughout the week by our precious Grandma and Matriarch from Heaven Rhea Stanger.

When all is said and done and we drive into our driveway tomorrow we will have traveled approximately 2500 miles. We will have traveled from Fredonia AZ through Flagstaff AZ, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and back to Fredonia.   We will have stayed in 4 different hotels, and one night at Uncle Bruce’s house.  We left on a Sunday and we will arrive home tomorrow (Friday.) We will have traveled in the car more than 46 hours total. AMAZING!! And yes, my kids have watched movies and slept almost all of those 46 hours.  Jakob has watched the whole series of the BBC version of Chronicles of Narnia and BBC’s series called Dinotopia. He also enjoyed Flubber. I think tomorrow he will watch the Jackie Chann version of Around the World in 80 Days. Caleb and JJ have enjoyed several episodes of Little Einsteins, Nick Jr, Bob the Builder, and Richard Scary, among others.  The first leg of the trip Flagstaff to Oklahoma City we had my brother’s dog (pug) Gooby with us on the trip. We were happy to help my brother get his dog back. Yes, we were really happy to give him to my brother.:)

We stocked up on LOTS of snacks from Costco for the trip. This has been a VERY good thing! We even bought the PB&J sandwiches that are sealed at the edge and pre-packaged. Those are particularly helpful for the older boys. We ended up buying PediaSure drinks for JJ. He’s a really picky eater and we knew he wasn’t getting enough quality nutrition. So hopefully that has helped him.  The other thing that has helped break up the monotony has been  surprise dollar toys that we hand out to the kids every once in a while.  Tonight we’ve had fun with the toys that glow and twirl brightly lit colors in the dark. Yesterday  was little battery operated pin ball games. We have had plenty of memorable experiences on this trip.

Fredonia to Flagstaff: Jakob and Caleb both turned green with car sickness. Both managed not to throw up. We stopped in to see Papa’s school house. The house is nice and his room will be fine. Small but not unexpectedly so. There was a fun park across the street from Leif’s house that we played at. The mountain scenery was nice.

 Albuquerque to Oklahoma City: We had high winds in Albuquerque that twisted up Goobys dog kennel that was strapped to the roof and blew its door away (sorry Nate;) We met up with G&G Hunt and Aunt Heather in Oklahoma City and gave uncle Nate his long lost dog. That was a great moment in itself. 
MAY 11th: Limon Colorado - Fredonia Arizona. We woke up to Very Cold wind in Colorado. The drive was really neat through Colorado until we got over the mountains and headed toward Utah. The Utah part of the trip through Green River was UGLY! The kids were asking Not to watch any more movies at this point. That was an interesting twist. Jakob did decide to listen to the Audio book of Lion Witch and the Wardrobe of the Chronicles of Narnia series. Leif and I listened to the majority of the audio book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. We still haven't been able to finish it though and hope to soon, because it's a good one. We realized that my ancestors were buried in a tiny town called Joseph, Utah and it was on our route home. So we decided to take the little detour to the cemetery that I remember visiting as a little girl. We arrived at dusk and the boys were WILD! I could not get a picture with them holding still, literally.  But we all enjoyed looking at the headstones and their dates as I told Jakob who the people were and how they are related to us. I'm glad we stopped. We drove into our driveway somewhere after bedtime. And once again, we fell into bed... After we looked at the new kitties:) 

Written While Driving:
COLORADO May 11, 2012

We’re driving through the Rocky Mountains at the moment. This is the first time Leif and I have seen these particular mountains and this particular drive. They are beautiful! Although, it’s really cold and it has been snowing for the last hour of the drive. Now it’s raining. It’s May. Leif and I like the idea of warm weather by May. So Colorado probably isn’t for us. But it is Beautiful!! It was neat to drive past the gold and coal mines. The houses were tall, small, and colorful. They look just like a photograph of a mining town. There were updated mines as well as old mines that had crumbled and toppled down the mountain side. It was neat. Now I have to run out in the cold in my shorts and summer shirt, and flip flops out in the COLD to go potty. Lovely! Poor Jakob has lost his cheerful side today and I REALLY hope he is able to find him again!!

So let’s get back to the memorable moments of this trip.
Oklahoma City: We stayed in a beautiful hotel. Jakob thought we should just make it our new home. He noted that it didn’t have a stove. I noted the same thing but concluded that it didn’t really matter as I use the microwave a lot more then the oven. Anyway, Oklahoma was a pretty place to drive through. Caleb especially liked seeing the oil and drilling rigs. Although, Kansas seemed the place to put oil rigs in. Kansas also had a lot of fields of windmills. That was fun to see throughout the whole area that we drove through Missouri through Kansas.

I was thrilled to see Jason and Hannah for the first time in a long time at this point. I was even more excited to see their sweet little baby Justin for the first time ever. This is where I met my sisters little boy for the first time ever as well. They are both adorable content babies. So fun to meet them!

(note from Leif)  Rocky Mountain Restrooms- Completely made of rock, not clean water, hand sanitizer,

The Oklahoma City Temple is where we met up with Jared and Heidi. Leif and I were both able to go to this session together (Leif stayed with the boys in Kansas City.) So I felt calm and complete as I went into the temple. Then to have so many other family members in the temple was wonderful. Then Jared came in. WOW! I almost didn’t recognize him. He had a light about him that I’m not sure I’ve ever clearly seen in him. Like I’ve already said, being in the temple surrounded by so many family members and the love we share for each other was as close to heaven as we can get here on earth. I am so glad I was able to come.

After we came out of the temple we brought the kids from the hotel back to the temple for pictures. From there we went out to lunch and then most of us started on our way to Carthage MO to stay at Uncle Bruce’s house. The funny story of that trip was when we stopped at a rest stop to take Caleb to the bathroom. It was a huge rest stop/tornado shelter. But the funniest thing was the toilet kept flushing while Caleb was sitting on it and then it kept flushing over and over when I was sitting on it. Caleb and I were laughing so hard! It was one of those sweet funnies in our day.

We made it to Bruce’s house around bed time. So we let the kids play for a bit and then put them all to bed. That night several of us stayed up really late just talking together. It was just like old times. Me, Leif, Nate, Heather, Jason, Hannah, Scott, Bruce, and Chris.

MAY 12th: Home. We woke up feeling as if the trip was a dream. A very good one. But we had no time to ponder much more because it was time for Leif to finalize his preparations for his departure to Flagstaff. I honestly kind of kept myself detached from his preparations and tried to keep myself together as he gathered and packed. We had a special evening as a family that I will cherish. 

MAY 13th (Mother's Day): Leif made all of us his special Oatmeal for breakfast. He also surprised me with two neat books as a Mother's Day gift. As the morning progressed I became more and more emotionally undone. I realized that it was a bad idea to keep Jakob and Caleb home from church. Leif was leaving during the church hours. I couldn't handle their normal wildness and say goodbye to Leif at the same time. I couldn't even talk without tears. So we asked Grandma and Grandpa to take the boys to church. This was a very good thing. When it was time for Leif to go we finally let the tears flow and he held me in his arms. Feeling that our house key represented a symbol of our family bond I asked Leif if he had his house key so he would always be able to come home any time. He pulled out his key chain and showed me two keys. He then said "I have a 'house' key, and a 'Home' key. Home will always be wherever you are." I cried, not knowing what the future would hold and how I was going to hold up to it. But I knew one thing, he Loves me!

Leif drove away and I went to his EMT and Fire scanners and turned them off. No need for reminders of his absence. I fell into bed trying not to look at the other half of the bed that was empty. Gratefully, I was able to sleep for two hours. Through divine providence I was able to greet my boys with a smile and strength when they arrived home from church. However, I still couldn't talk much to anyone else without having to hold back a sob. The tears flowed freely that night as I Skyped with Leif while wearing his EMT tee-shirt that he had left behind for me to put in his "Save" box. Instead, I wear it to bed. 

Written MAY 14th:
HOME May 14, 2012

Driving from Colorado to Fredonia felt like the longest part of the trip. I guess that’s because it was. We drove for almost 12 hours that day. We drove from Limon over the Rocky Mountains through Colorado into Green River Utah (which reminds me of the moon like scenery just outside of Flagstaff.) It’s amazing how many beautiful places we drove through as well as some really ugly places. The Rocky Mountains were beautiful, of course.  After we got out of the snow we came down to the Colorado River. There was a beautiful rest area along the river.  It had a nice sandy beach area where people load and unload their rafts. We walked along the bridge and along the beach. The sand was so neat. It sparkled just like it had gold in it. I wonder what it was that made it sparkle.

Looking back on the trip I can’t believe how much we packed in to such a short amount of time. We were blessed with so much. My health was great. The boys were fantastic. The van was reliable and so helpful (space, media, etc.) The weather was great. The time together as a little family as well as extended family was much needed and so fun.  I am so grateful for the chance we had to make the trip. So grateful!

Well, My Love left for school yesterday.  Yesterday was hard. Leif and I were quiet most of the time he was packing up. I was quiet just because I knew if I opened my mouth I wouldn’t last long before the tears flowed. The night before we all went out to dinner with Leif’s parents and brother’s family. That night we had scripture study together and Leif talked about how Heavenly Father will help our weaknesses become strengths. The boys were calm. This alone was a blessing. Leif was able to give all of the boys and myself a priesthood blessing before we went to sleep.  Jakob and I cried through our blessings. The spirit was strong. We will be taken care of. We will have angels from heaven surrounding us as we go through this journey. Leif felt especially strong that my health would improve and I would be given the strength that I will need. 

I have found that every day is a new day. The hardest moments are when I am out and about with the kids doing things that we would usually always do as a family, mostly ball games. I am VERY glad ball season is over. VERY! 

Life is good. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that we were given to make this trip together. It was just what we needed before this new journey that we're on. Caleb called me in to his room tonight to tell me that he was thinking about the time that "we went to friends house a lot a lot far far (who live far away) and went to a river." With fondness, he was remembering our day at Uncle Bruce and Aunt Chris's house and their four wheeling trip down to the river. Thanks for the memories everyone! Thank you Dear Father, for Everything! 


Dawson Family said...

Wow quite the month you had! I am so jealous! I want to go to see Karin so bad. Plus Glenn served his mission right around there so our family needs to make that journey soon. I am sooooo happy for Jared! The Temple is truly amazing and it is such a relief and blessing to be sealed as a family forever. When Tyler gave permission for Angeylnn to be sealed to Glenn and I it was the best thing ever. Glad you seem ok and are doing well. It's fun to catch up on your blog. Amy

Lena Baron said...

So good to hear from you Amy! Yes, it has been an amazing month!!

Sandra said...

Sorry I didn't read the whole post but I read quite a's bedtime and I'm pooped he he. What Mother isn't at the end of the day right? I'm glad you guys had a good time. I see you got to got on the four wheelers and the hot tub..favorites at the Westwood house :) I hope your doing well with Leif being gone. I hope there are those around you that can take the kids for a little while so you can have a break.

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