Monday, August 27, 2018

Homecoming weekend and family bonding

The few days Alex was home before going to BYU-Provo were packed with immediate and extended family time, unpacking from his mission, packing for college, and lots of time talking.   We hosted an evening for a few close families to come and hear mission stories and ask questions.

Then Saturday we had a fun extended family hike to Umptanum Creek Falls (the smoke had been so bad in Yakima from fires that we had to search for a spot to escape the smoke).

Of course, Poppi and Nate had to join the pioneer club first - many others followed.

Tyler and Alex have loved spending time together.

The hiking crew
Saturday evening we were honored to host a dinner for the Grandmas (Ami, Grannie, Great grandma Ditto), Poppi, Aunt Laurie, and Sis. Day (Alex had served with her when he first arrived in Romania).  We had korean bbq pork, quinoa and salad.
Alysee put together this fun display of treasures that Alex had collected from his mission.

The lovely ladies in the kitchen preparing for the homecoming feast the following day.

After dinner with our special guests, Alex shared memories and answered questions about his mission and then Grannie shared a very special priesthood line authority chart that Great Grandma Harvey had made with Grannie.  It was a wonderful night!
Sunday - Homecoming Talk and festivities


Alex gave a wonderful homecoming talk.  He had not been feeling well since he had gotten home four days prior and had asked Birch for a blessing.  He was blessed with the energy that he would need to share his message and be able to visit with all who made the special effort to come hear him speak.  Alex said he felt totally lifted the whole day -- and then crashed at bedtime.

Here is a link to listen to his talk.  It was just A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

Alex's Homecoming Talk - Aug 19, 2018

He didn't type out his talk but I did find some notes 😂



The afternoon was filled with family, food, and fun!!  Caroline and Alex had an arm wrestling match.  We had Korean Chicken lettuce or corn tortilla wraps, Coconut Rice, Slaw, veggie trays, chips, cookies (thanks to all those that helped!)

It was so special to have Sis Larri-Lea Day and Alex's trainer, Elder Giron drive up from Vancouver, WA for Alex's homecoming.

Aunt Laurie made the long drive from Helena.  She has been so supportive of Alex while on his mission.

This woman, Great Grandma Ditto is just amazing.  We're so thankful that her health allowed her to drive from Montana as well.

Showing off our handmade Romanian shirts Alex purchased for each of us.




Blayre and Ryan are the best!!

Grannie said that Alex's homecoming weekend was the highlight of her summer.
I wish we had taken a picture with all who came to hear Alex's talk.  Really it was so amazing to see friends from other wards in attendance, Alex's first mission companion from Oregon, friends from the Tri-cities, previous school friends, other missionary's parents that live in Washington state and drove over to listen to his talk, many non-member friends, lots of cousins, aunts, and uncles, etc...  It was a packed house and moment totally worth celebrating!

The following morning we got up at 3 am and drove to Seattle to catch a flight to Oahu, Hawaii!!!  We had been saving for the past two years to make this trip possible.  It was surrell to actually be in the air knowing that the sacrifices that we had all made to make this trip happen was finally coming to fruition.  We had a wonderful time despite Hurricane Lane that did it's best to shut down the island!
Surfing!

Hiking to Lulumahu falls
We're sure proud of our kids!

Lots of time playing in the sand

Visiting the Laie Hawaii Temple and doing baptisms

Jumping off Waimea Rock

Hiking Kaena Point

Hiking up Crouching Lion 
Surf Lessons



Parasailing

A family that plays together, stays together.
As much as I am so glad he is home, I am really going to miss those Monday letters and pictures.  We're so thankful for the example he has been to our family and for the love that the Romanians, Moldovans, and Hungarians have shown to Alex.  I know that God is pleased with his efforts to spread His light and love for the people in Eastern Europe.  I'm pretty sure Alex would say it has been his...BEST TWO YEARS!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The BIG Day FINALLY arrived!!!

The big countdown finale ended on August 15th around 3:20 pm.  The anticipation at our house was busting with joy as we prepared our home for Elder Ditto (and all the family and friends visiting over the following three days).

The day we received the letter from Alex's mission president with his official travel plans was such a happy one.  I think our whole family was bursting with Godly pride at a mission well done.

 What a long flight from Budapest, Hungary to Yakima, WA!
When we arrived to the airport it was filled with family and friends.  I was already weeping seeing all the support from loved ones.  In the corner of the airport I saw a mom of one of Alex's good high school friends that he loved to speak religion with prior to leaving on his mission.  I soon learned that her son just "happened" to be on the same flight from Seattle to Yakima on his way home from visiting the Holy Lands.  This was such a tender mercy and reminded me that God is in the details of our lives.

It felt like we had to wait forever for the plane to land.

And then even longer for Alex to come through those airport security doors.  Pure joy!!!!  No other words!
Pretty sure Birch and Alex had thought about this hug for the past two years!



Lots of cousins!  Caroline and kids made it just in time to the airport driving all the way from Corvallis.

Teary-eyed and oh so happy!

Crazy kids!
Mila and Elder Ditto

Truman and Elder Ditto

Hazelnut and Elder Ditto

Good high school buddies - Matthew and Elder Ditto

First family pictures!!

We have the best neighbors and they had been waiting to come to the fence for their hug too.  It was so fun to see Alex fling himself over the fence and give them both big hugs.
This A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. video was made by Tyler's high school friend.  He shot the footage (and took the pictures) and them put them altogether in this video.  We can't thank Jack enough for capturing the emotions of everyone! I will treasure this forever!! And in case you are wondering why all the disco lights, my grandma had a vision of Alex coming home from his mission with lights shining on him representing the light of Christ that he shared throughout Romania and Moldova. She sent is the disco ball and you know you can’t let down Grandma!
https://youtu.be/8N0kCcqtzW8



After we collected his luggage we were off to President Hendricks' office for Elder Ditto to be officially released.  President Hendricks gave us each an opportunity to share how we had individually been blessed by Alex's service.  It was a tender time.  President Hendricks also presented Alex with his certificates of being honorably released from his mission - it was fun to get them in several languages.


The night ended with a family dinner with the Watts, Andersens, and Sherry Jrs.  Alex had requested Crockpot Thai Chicken soup.  It felt like we were in a dream -- altogether eating dinner with Alex sharing mission highlights.

Now we compulsively watch the video over and over again so we can relive all those emotions of joy, longing, and happiness.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Bio-Girl's Weekend Trip

For Mother's Day this year we gave my mom a "Bio-Girl's Weekend" trip.  Really, dad helped pitch in some $ to make it possible but getting all of us biological daughters in the same state at the same time was quite a miracle.  With Laura living in Yakima for the summer it made it much easier to have Leah fly in and all meet.

This is the brochure I made and then we all gave it to mom for Mother's Day.



The cabin location was just beautiful!!  Actually the cabin itself was amazing!  It was so clean and the architecture was amazing!  Leah did sacrifice her hand for a couple of wasp stings.


One day we headed back out to the White Salmon river to go rafting together.  We all felt very adventurous!












Mom and I hopped off the raft before it went down Husum Falls.  Everyone else was much more brave -- actually mom is really brave too but I think didn't want me to feel like a wimp for getting out of the raft.








THEY MADE IT!!!

Another day we hiked to Duncan Creek Falls.  This was an awesome hike that we did going directly out of our cabin.  It took us a bit to find the trail head but the hike was beautiful and buggy!





 


The evenings were spent looking through Grandma Howe's jewelry and eating yummy food.  Emily and Laura were super awesome in preparing ALL the food ahead of time.  I had been running non-stop from event-to-event and so I appreciated this gift of time and talent so much!

Check out our twinner shirts mom gave us all!!
GIRL POWER!!!
We loved walking around the town of Stevenson and eating lunch at a delicious restaurant.  We went to Skamania Lodge and shared a bowl of salmon chowder on mom and dad's honor as they shared one years before on an anniversary trip.


This trip was just what we all needed.  I can't remember the last time we went somewhere together without kids and just enjoyed being with each other.  I feel blessed to call each of these ladies my friend, sister, or mother!!