So now we're back at home, but warm and happy thoughts of UT linger. I hope my brother's muscles have recovered.... He woke up with me about 6 in the morning (Mon, Nov 24) to drive around Utah lake to pick up a chest Joy's brother Doug had carved for her and that a kind cousin has been storing for her the last six years. S and I hauled it upstairs and into the van (where it ... almost fit) and got back in time for his work. We passed it off to my parents later in the trip so it can stay in storage with my stuff. Assuming we ever leave Ithaca (a probability 1 event), there will only be one other place for us to haul stuff from. After a bit of economics work, we drove up to Logan, Mendon, and all points north to be with Joy's sister and her family.
We really love Fran's kids, Abby and Christopher. When Joy had stayed with them for a couple weeks years ago, Abby cried when she left. Christopher (a very tall 6 yr old) wrestled with me a lot. Abby was less rowdy than in past visits, but we had a wonderful time early Thanksgiving morning while Hyrum needed to be fed just talking and then reading the scriptures together. We read most of Alma 42 and she was really touched by the scriptures and the power in them. It was a really great morning.
Tuesday, sister Fran wanted time with her nephew while her own children were at school, so we took off for the Logan temple where we were selected to be the first couple at the session. It was a very nice time there. Joy remembered very fondly how her grandfather would drive up to the front door and drop grandma off while he went to find a parking space. We would have done that too, except we were trying to get ahold of her mother and forgot. I redeemed myself by picking her up from the front door. (Isn't redemption what the temple's all about anyway?)
After the temple, we picked up Joy's mother (left) from her convalescent home and met Fran (right) and brood at the clan-famous TINY SPICY. The restaurant isn't called Tiny Spicy, but the primary reason for going to this Mandarin restaurant is their chicken dish called Tiny Spicy. Rather than the usual orange color a sesame or General Tso's chicken would have, this chicken is deep red. It's Very Good and worth its addictive reputation. We spent the rest of the evening playing Life: Pirates of the Caribbean style.
Wednesday I took the whole day off and we went to a place called "Fun Park" that has rollerblading, bowling, laser tag, and a pitiful collection of arcade games. I don't skate thanks to my mission accident on ice, but the kids and Joy had fun there. I got a little work done despite it being my day off. Hyrum was really excited to watch everyone rollerskate/blade. Abby skated up just as I was taking a couple shots, and they're priceless.
Then we had a good game of bowling. Joy beat me for the first time. I had a HORRIBLE first 5 frames, but once I decided to forget approaching the lane properly and just chuck the ball from the line (a lot of my game depends on how frictional or slippery my shoes are), I got a couple strikes and several spares on the last 5 to almost catch up. I had given up on catching her and was only intent on doing better than the six year old who had bumpers. That's how pitiful a game it was for me. (I should mention that Christopher and I tied at Wii baseball twice so we had a nice competition going on that day already.)
That night we decorated for Christmas and took some great pictures. Hy is saving his favorites when he tells about the vacation in his own words, so watch out: some great pictures will be forthcoming. Fran had bought Hyrum a Santa suit, and it's really adorable on him. I took a few pictures with Joy and him, and then Christopher really wanted to get in on them. Joy asked him, "Would you like Santa to sit on your lap?" This was the resulting shot.
Thursday we drove just a little bit south to Brigham where the big family gathering was held. In its hayday, hundreds of cousins would descend and fill the cultural hall. This time around, we did justice to the multi-purpose room. I found it very entertaining how few people Joy knew. She knew the older kids in most families, but if they were under 20, she probably didn't. Several of the more important branches of the family tree were there, though, and we had a nice time getting reacquainted.
Joy's mother and grandmother were at the head of the table. Grandma Elzinga saw us and just had to hold the baby (her 92nd great-grandchild). She showed him to a few family members, then returned him to Joy, commenting, "I forgot how heavy these things can be!" Joy later took this picture of me with her grandmother in the kitchen cleaning up. (Why with me? Well, the baby was on me and Joy had already hugged her goodbye, I guess. There are other pictures of Grandma and Hy, but I think this one turned out the best.)
We also made a happy re-acquiantance and first acquaintance: Joy's brother Dustin, whom she hasn't seen in ages, and his newlywed wife. I've never met either of them. It was a casual hello until she blurted out, "Macademia!" in the serving line and we chimed in, "Oooooh, Macademia!" We then proceeded between us to redo most of the Vestibules' hit recording "Bulbous Bouffant," and fast friendships were instantly formed. For those of you unfamiliar with alleged songs that have been played on the Dr. Demento show, here's a link to an animated version. We talked about other things too, of greater interest to us likely than to any of you, like their romance. I will wait on posting this until Joy has had a chance to insert her own comments about the luncheon ... here:
" I was actually suprised at how few of my family were there, but I was able ask after some of my favorite cousins that I haven't seen for a while whose parents were there. We got there a little late, so it felt that before we even got around to visiting with everyone, people were already being ushered in to get pie. Then before I even finished eating half the room was cleaned up. I guess when you have 14 children and resulting grandchildren (over 70) and great grandchildren (over 90), and even have great great grand children, you have to know how to get things done. It felt more like home later when we went over to grandma's to visit with Aunt Noni and grandma Elzinga. Uncle Howard was there who Hyrum liked very much. My favorite part of the actual Thanks giving fiest was getting to know my sister-in-law and brother better."
After filling up on pie and Hyrum MUNCHING ON HIS FIRST ROLL OUT OF HAND (admittedly, he only ate about 5 crumbs, but he opened his mouth and bit down on something we were trying to feed him from our hands for the first time), we went back down to my brother's place. Next stop: St. George, Vegas, and back to Provo.
On a sobering note, my own grandmother (Dad's mom) suffered multiple strokes Tuesday night and Wed. We heard about it on Thanksgiving. Dad flew back to CA to be with her. In what can only be described as a miracle given the number of strokes and even a heart attack they uncovered and the length of time before she received medical treatment, she was able to walk just fine very quickly and was released back home on Friday. For her and Dad, the most frightening aspect for her was how her speech was affected, though that has mostly come back as well. How thankful we are Dad was able to go spend time with her and that she's alright now. It could have been MUCH worse. We really missed her at the Watson family dinner held in Las Vegas as a result of the trama that she had been through, but felt so blessed that things turned out so well in her recovery (leaving the hospitals with not physical restrictions on activity).