Monday, December 31, 2012

The R.M.

21 Nov 2012: Jacob finds himself up a tree!

A couple of moms of recently returned missionaries warned me that my son would have a difficult transition after his return.  "He won't know what to do with himself," they told me.  So I prepared myself.

Chris, Jacob, and Dylan share a tree.

I needn't have worried.  Jacob has been on-the-go, nonstop, since his return.  He hit the ground running!

21 Nov 2012: View from the path on the Mogollon Rim Overlook near our home.

One of the first things he did was join his brother and sister and new brother-in-law for a hike to the Mogollon Rim, one of our favorite hikes from the time my kids were just babies.
Jacob is also extremely social, so he spends a great deal of his time getting back in touch with old friends from the area, as well as getting on Facebook or speaking by phone with his old mission companions and other people he met on his mission in northern California.  When Jacob makes a friend, it's a friend for life!

And what missionary doesn't miss his mom's home cooking?  On the day he returned, we hadn't even gotten home yet before he requested that I make him some of my fried chicken!  I was happy to oblige.  (My fried chicken is low-carb, dipped in a batter of eggs and heavy cream and spices, then rolled in ground pork rinds and parmesan cheese!)

24 Dec 2012: Jacob fries up some chimichangas.

In return, Jacob has returned to the kitchen and cooked up a storm for us.  On Christmas Eve I asked him to make us some of the beef chimichangas he used to make so often before he went on his mission.

Fudge made from scratch.

Of course, Jacob's favorite type of cooking is baking from scratch.  Our kitchen now always seems to have a layer of flour everywhere, just like it did in his pre-mission days!  We have enjoyed his homemade bisuits and gravy for breakfast, as well as endless desserts.  He has also been called upon to bake for other activities, such as the singles home evening group he attends on Mondays.

Pumpkin pies for Christmas Day.

Jacob baked like a madman for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  For New Year's Eve, he's been in the kitchen most of today preparing pans of fudge.  I've started discussing with him the need to slow down on the baking after the holidays so Ed and I can start eating right and losing some weight!  How can a person diet when the house always smells like baked goods? 

16 Dec 2012: Santa and his elf!

One of the things Jacob most looked forward to after his return was resuming the role of Santa Claus.  Several years ago, Jacob inherited a nice Santa suit from an elderly man in church whom Jacob had befriended.  After he passed away, his wife told Jacob her husband really wanted him to have the suit.
Since then, Jacob has enjoyed dressing up and surprising the children of our neighborhood with a visit from Santa Claus, with a stocking full of candy canes.  He missed doing his Santa thing while he was gone, so he was thrilled to don the red suit and make his rounds again this month. 
And this year he had a new companion: a Christmas elf!  It turns out that Jacob's new brother-in-law, Chris, has an elf costume his mom made him many years ago!  They had a great time treating the kids!
Where did 2012 go?  It has been a year filled with challenges and blessings, and I almost hate to see it go.  On the other hand, I expect even greater things from 2013.  What could be luckier for us than "13," a baker's dozen!  (Thanks, Raymond Lee, for that insight!)
May the New Year bring you and your loved ones every good thing!  God bless you all!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Return with Honor

He's home!

I actually started writing this post during Thanksgiving weekend, but when I tried to upload these photos, I got a "Sorry, if you want to post pictures you must purchase more storage" message.  It took 4.5 years of blogging to do it, but I finally used up all the free storage provided by blogspot.
I decided to wait until December to put this new charge on my credit card (only $2.49 per month), but by then the holiday hectic was in full swing and I just couldn't find time to blog.  Until now.  Thank goodness for Christmas break!

Elder Carter was the last person to come off his plane!
He was looking a little dazed as he wandered down the walkway.

Ed and I drove my older son, Jacob, to Utah right after Thanksgiving weekend in 2010 and delivered him to the Mission Training Center in Provo on December 1st.  In the 2 years since then, we have enjoyed the emails and photos he sent us and his twice-a-year phone calls on Mother's Day and Christmas Day.  We loved hearing the stories of his mission from afar.
But nothing can compare to the homecoming day!

The sight that greeted Jacob's eyes as he came out of the security area.

Monday, November 12th, was a no-school day to commemorate Veteran's Day.  Ed had spent the entire weekend in the Phoenix area, taking a class to prepare him to become licensed as an insurance agent, so he was already in the Valley.  Sarah, Dylan, and I arose early and left for the Valley just after 8am.  We joined Ed at my sister Karla's house in Mesa by 11am.
Jacob's flight was supposed to arrive at 12:45, but when we checked online and discovered that his flight was 30 minutes ahead of schedule, we all jumped in our cars and headed to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix.

Elder Carter reunited with his mom Mary and little brother Dylan.
Except Dylan isn't so little anymore!  He grew 7 inches while Jacob was gone,
beating out Jacob's height of 6'0" by one inch, at 6'1".

We arrived about the same time as his flight, but Jacob forgot about the time difference between California and Arizona (it was 12:15 in Arizona but only 11:15 in California).  Thinking he'd have to wait more than an hour for us to come for him, he dilly-dallied in the plane and made us wait half an hour for him! 

12 Nov 2012: The whole family back together again! Sarah (age 23),
Ed (age 52), Mary (age 58), Jacob (age 21), and Dylan (age 15).

It was such a surreal time for me.  The whole homecoming thing didn't feel real at all until we walked into the airport.  Then it suddenly hit me: I would actually be hugging my son in a matter of minutes!  All at once I felt this rush of emotion and I was overwhelmed by both excitement and nervousness.

The 3 siblings reunite: Dylan, Jacob, and Sarah.
When we finally saw Jacob at the far end of the hall, walking our way, it was hard to keep the tears out of my eyes.  I was fumbling with my camera to get the first picture, and then I was giving him a big hug!

Jacob with his Aunt Karla and some of his cousins:
Brianna, Julien, Addison, Celesta, Gabby, and Mariah (left to right).

After discussing the flight and collecting Jacob's luggage, we drove back to Karla's house in Mesa for a family luncheon.  More family and friends stopped by to join us and celebrate Jacob's return.

More signage at Karla's place.

Jacob meets Lyla, his newest little first-cousin-once-removed.
Scott and Genevieve are her parents.  Karla is her grandma.

Karla and family prepared a yummy luncheon feast for everyone!

We weren't able to stay long at the celebration at Karla's place, only about 4 hours.  Then we headed back up the mountain toward home because Jacob was anxious to be officially released as a full-time missionary.

13 Nov 2012: A full family dinner back at home:
Ed, Jacob, Chris, Sarah, and Dylan.

Once we were back in town, we drove straight to the home of our stake president, Stephen Shumway, who interviewed Jacob at length and then gave him instructions for tasks to complete before removing his missionary name tag and transitioning from "Elder Carter" to just plain "Jacob." 

All together again the day after Jacob's return:
Jacob, Chris, Sarah, Dylan, and Mary.

Two nights later, we all attended a meeting of the stake high council, where Jacob and two other young returned missionaries reported on their missions.  It was one of my most thrilling moments as a mother!
It has been such fun having Jacob back home.  In so many ways, he's still the fun-loving, charming 19-year-old boy who left us two years ago.  Yet in many more ways he has become a man, with a mature nature, an eternal perspective on the world, and an even greater understanding of the importance of human relationships.  I am so proud of him!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A White Christmas

Snowfall on Christmas Eve

There was already snow on the ground from a 4-day storm (Dec. 13-17), but it was still nice to have a brief but solid snowfall early on Christmas Eve.  Somehow it just makes Christmas feel that much more cozy.

The stockings are filled and the gifts are under the tree on Christmas Eve.

Last year we had only 3 stockings: Dylan's, Ed's, and mine.  The nest really felt empty with Jacob serving his mission in northern California and newlywed Sarah in her own home with new hubby Chris.
In the 6 weeks before Christmas this year, our nestlings doubled!  Jacob returned from his 2-year mission on November 12th.  On December 15th, Chris and Sarah moved into our fifth-wheel trailer while they are between residences.  That made 6 stockings to fill! 

Waiting to open gifts on Christmas morning: Chris, Sarah, Jacob, and Dylan.

Chris and Sarah are only with us temporarily, but I still loved having all of my children back under the same roof for Christmas!  Everything is so much more fun when the whole family is together.

Christmas morning: Sarah (age 23), Chris (age 34), Jacob (age 21), and Dylan (age 15).

Dylan tries out his new remote-control helicopter (the green thing just above eye level).
All 4 of the guys got helicopters for Christmas.

Ed's mom, Caryl (age 77), opens her gifts.

I always make everyone gather up and display their gifts so I can take pictures of them.  It's odd, I know, but I love looking back at old Christmas pictures and thinking, "Oh, yeah, I remember when I got that gift from so-and-so!" 

Dylan with his gifts.

Jacob with his gifts.

Sarah's gifts.  She was too sick to pose with them. 
Poor thing came down with a nasty cold on Christmas Eve.
She spent Christmas Day coughing and huddling under a blanket on the couch.

Chris with his gifts.

Ed wins the prize for most gifts this year!
He made out like a bandit!

My gifts.  I am so excited to use my new digital camcorder!
Expect to see more Reynolds/Carter family stuff on YouTube!

We are so richly blessed.  The gifts we all received were fun to share, but our real wealth is in family and friends and the gospel of Jesus Christ!  May God bless each of you with the priceless gifts of love and joy throughout the coming year!