Sunday, December 28, 2014

Missionaries in Waiting

It has been so long since we have made a post on this blog that you probably think we have dropped off the face of the earth. Well, in a way we have. We were planning on starting our mission in Brazil on October 6, 2014. We were all ready to go, but one week before leaving we got word from the missionary department that our visas had not arrived and our date was changed to November 17th. On November 14th (three days before we were to go) the date was changed to November 28 with confidence from the travel office that the visas would be there. Sure enough, three days before that day we were changed to December 17th (won't be home for Christmas). We didn't hear anything until we called the mission office on December 15th (two days before we were to leave) and received a new date of January 28, 2015 (we will be home for Christmas). We knew there was a potential for delays in visas, but we weren't prepared for the short notice from the travel office in each date change.

Meanwhile, though sitting on pins and needles, we have been able to celebrate with the family. In October we celebrated Diane's birthday and our 42nd wedding anniversary. We went out to eat at the Elements restaurant in Logan instead of eating out in Brazil as expected. In November we celebrated Brynlie's 6th birthday.
Brynlie with her jungle cake
We also celebrated Lauren's 8th birthday.
Lauren turns 8
Shortly after Lauren's birthday she was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - a very special occasion for her as well as for us.
Lauren in her baptismal dress
To celebrate this day we all went to the Willow Park Zoo in Logan and saw a reindeer. Afterward we went to Golden Corral for dinner.

Lauren with the reindeer
Alyssa eating cotton candy

Also in November we were able to attend the sealing on our niece, Sharon with her husband, Mitchell in the Bountiful Temple. It is always a special experience being with my brother David and his family.
Sharon and Mitchell with family

In December we also celebrated Kohler's 10th birthday.
Scary, isn't he?
This waiting period also brought three holidays. Halloween is always a fun holiday with our family. Andrea always makes clever costumes for the kids.
Brynlie with the dog "Mini"
North Logan has a standing tradition of the Pumpkin Walk where many pumpkins and gourds are carved and painted to form scenes. 
The family ready for the Pumpkin Walk

Diane at one of the pumpkin scenes

Who are these cartoon characters?
Not only are the kids decorated for Halloween, but our house has spiders crawling all over.
Cobwebs in the entry
Our ward started a new tradition with Trunk & Treat, where people dress up and get treats in the church parking lot from the back of trunks.
Sis Harris really knows how to treat out of a trunk

Sherlock and Watson (Alyssa and Kamary)
Thanksgiving was really different this year. Since the family was planning on going to Salt Lake for Thanksgiving Day we decided to have our Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday instead of on Thursday. Lest ye think we are really rebels when it comes to traditions, remember that Canada had Thanksgiving on October 13th. What's one day?

Since we weren't going to be here for Christmas we didn't do a lot of planning. We weren't even going to get the tree out and decorate. We spent a lot of the season attending Christmas related programs, including several choir concerts, orchestra concerts
This orchestra includes many family members
and a band concert (where Andrea played in a special clarinet quartet).
Andrea in the band (on the left)
We were also able to go to a Christmas Fair at This is the Place Monument in Salt Lake,
No snow for the Christmas Fair

see the Christmas lights in Ogden,
Christmas at Union Station

Christmas village on 25th street
and Willard Bay.
Willard Bay drive through

Meanwhile, it was fun to be home for Christmas. Andrea and her family carry on the German tradition of advent. It starts four Sundays before Christmas by lighting a candle. New candles are lit each Sunday until on the Sunday before Christmas all four candles are lit, a special German dinner is served, and many festivities are participated in. 
Lighting candles on the 4th advent

Decorating gingerbread men (instead of a house)
On Christmas Eve we had our special Christmas program which included everyone playing a Christmas song on the piano and a string quartet (3 cellos and as violin). We also had fondue for dinner.
Our string quartet
By tradition, each of the children can open one present on Christmas Eve. Also by tradition, it is always pajamas.
The pajama gang
A Wheeler tradition is to line up by age (youngest to the oldest) and march into the room with the Christmas tree (yes, we finally put up the tree).
The lineup (Brynlie goes first)
After opening presidents and having something to eat the rest of the family went to Salt Lake for a second Christmas. Diane and I were able to relax a bit.
Present time
Now that you know what we did while waiting for our visas, you may be wondering (probably not) what the status of our mission is. After we were delayed the first time we were called as Church Service Missionaries working with the ICS department in Riverton and preparing for our mission as Area Technology Specialists in Brazil. We have been to Riverton several times for training, attended the LDSTech conference in October (two days at the UofU), attended the ICS Christmas Devotional (which included the ICS choir and Bishop Davies of the Presiding Bishopric), and have corresponded with 85 technology specialists in Brazil. Diane has been putting in a lot of effort studying Portuguese.

Is it impossible to get a visa to Brazil? Two other senior couples who were in the USA at the time we got our call are now in Brazil. My cousin, Bob and his wife, Sandy visited us one day. They were planning a mission to Brazil, but when the call came it was to work with a Portuguese branch in Massachusetts. They are already on their mission.
Sandy and Bob
Meanwhile, we will be leaving on our mission tomorrow (not to Brazil!). We are still waiting for our visas, but instead of waiting at home we will be temporarily assigned to the Utah Salt Lake South Mission to work with the Mountain Shadow 1st Ward (Portuguese-speaking). As soon as our visas arrive we will go to Brazil. That is our saga for the past three months.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Crashing at Glacier

Since visiting Mom & Dad Mitchell last last June they moved in with Blair and Janae in Spokane, Washington. We decided to pay one last visit and see how they were doing before we went to Brazil. We left after church on Sunday, Aug 31st and went as far as Meridian, Idaho. On Monday we took the scenic route (back roads) through McCall, Idaho on our way to Spokane. Diane continued her Portuguese as we traveled. We decided that McCall might be a nice place to live.

Scenic river along the highway
Bear encounter in McCall

The GPS could find Spokane OK, but got lost trying to find Blair & Janae's house. The neighborhood is too new, I guess. They have a nice house with woods as part of their back yard.

Their house in Spokne
Woods in the back yard

We had a wonderful visit for a few days. They seem to be settling in OK. One afternoon we went out to some of the stores close by: Jo-Ann Fabrics (of course) and Trader Joe's. Brianne's fiancé, John, came over one evening so we had a chance to meet him and talk about his mission to Norway.

Mom & Dad in the kitchen

We took a couple of walks around the neighborhood in the mornings. They live in a new subdivision close to an older part of town with some colorful houses.

Metalwork in front of a house 
We heard of bunk beds, but bunk parking?
Watch out for those ruts in the dirt road!

We left Thursday morning to take the long way home.  We took Interstate 90 across Idaho and Montana until St. Regis where we headed toward Glacier National Park. We were just outside Hungry Horse (within about 20 miles from Glacier National Park) when we were rear-ended. A truck ahead of us suddenly stopped on the highway for a left turn onto a dirt road. The car in front of us stopped and we stopped, but the truck behind us didn't stop in time.  Luckily everyone was fine.  It took about an hour to get things taken care of with the sheriff and EMT making sure everyone was OK.

At least the trunk stayed closed
EMT checking on the truck
You can almost read the license plate number.
Are they extra bolts in our car?

We then continued on through Glacier National Park where we saw beautiful lakes, rivers, waterfalls and mountains.

Glacier National Park

When we were at Logan Pass we saw some mountain sheep. 

Logan Pass
Mountain sheep on top of the waterfall

As we continued on we saw a black bear (that was brown) feeding in some bushes. 

Next time a grizzly?

We then left the park and started looking for a place to stay. 

Yes, we actually saw a glacier at Glacier NP 
Say goodbye to Glacier NP

We finally got found a room in Shelby, Montana. We were able to get the trunk open to get our bags out, but we had a bit of a struggle to get it closed. We then went and sat in the hot tub to help relieve our stress. We had pudding, hot chocolate, and pretzels for dinner then hoped for a good night’s sleep.

On Friday we packed up the car and got the trunk closed. We bought some treats then headed to Great Falls. We stopped at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. It was a very nice place and very informative. 

Lewis and Clark slept here
Modern-day explorer?
Sunday best?
Let's carry the boats around these falls

We then found a Wendy’s for lunch. After lunch we drove on to Helena. There we decided to just keep on I-15. We worked on some technology whenever we had service available on the iPad. We got into Idaho Falls around 7 pm. We found a room in the Shilo Inn. We had a steak dinner in the restaurant in the hotel.

Friday night was steak BBQ night at the hotel

On Saturday we got dressed, had breakfast, packed up, checked out, took a couple of pictures of the river and the temple, then headed home. We arrived around 12:30 pm. 

The Idaho Falls temple from across the river