Thursday, July 29, 2010

Canada - day 9 - July 4, 2010

Sunday morning came early and was very crazy. Try and imagine eight adults and four children trying to get ready for church. On top of that we had to make arrangements to pick up Grandma Leavitt (I volunteered for that job) and guide Fara, Kari & Barrett into the correct Location. If it was crazy before church however that was nothing compared to after church but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The blessing was wonderful. Justin did a great job and Landon received a wonderful blessing. Since there were many non-members at the meetings who would have left right after Sacrament Meeting we decided to ditch Sunday School and Priesthood meeting and heated to the house right after Sacrament Meeting. I won't even try and list who was at the house for a wonderful luncheon. Let's just say that you had to walk very carefully or you would step on someone.

Rod and Joanne Dyck came to Sacrament Meeting but weren't able to come over to the house after.
We'd seen them earlier that week in Rosemary but they were so busy with their responsibilities on the July 1 celebrations that we didn't get to visit very much. I also got to spend a bit more time with Fara as well. It was so good to have everyone there but I didn't know who to visit with. I kind of rotated around them all but I really wanted to visit the whole time with everyone. As I mentioned earlier, Maurine was there and the Lundrigans also came over. They are special to us because when we moved to San Diego they were in our Stake. Lisa had known them in Edmonton so it was nice to have a little bit of a connection.
Since both our parents were thousands of miles away we kind of adopted them as our childrens grandparents and they willingly accepted the responsibility. They have certainly been a great blessing to our family.

Justins step father is a professional chef and he made all of the food. It was quite a spread. Everyone ate way too much and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Unfortunately it is a fact of life that all good things must come to an end and we soon realized that if we were going to make Jackie's house (in Blackfoot) before sunrise the next morning we'd better get moving. As usual we got left late and didn't arrive at Jackie's until about 3:00AM. She was a good sport and got up to greet us and guide us to our various beds. We kind of took over her house and she was very gracious about it.

I have to go back to our drive however. If you remember Brandon was travelling without a passport and the US has put in place some very strict rules about entering the US without a passport. While I was quite sure that they wouldn't leave him in Canada I was expecting them to run us through the ringer at the border. We really lucked out and ended up with a really nice guy at the border. He was a bit of a comedian and when he realized that Brandon didn't have a passport he called over his shoulder to some guy behind him. "you better go get the hand cuffs". It was pretty funny. Other than that the trip was rather uneventful. Everyone soon fell asleep and I had the night to myself.

I don't know what other people do to keep themselves awake when they've got several hours alone but I love to try and invent things in my head. Sometimes it is something practical that I'm working on at work but usually it is far out stuff. My kids are quite familiar with some of my far out inventions that I'll obviously never actually build but I've got them all designed in my mind and I really think that many of them would work.

Kira and Fara

Grandma Leavitt and Fara

The Leavitts and their San Diego grandparents who now live in Calgary. Bob and Virginia Lundrigan.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Week in Review

This week Sarah was at girls camp so once again Lisa and I were empty nesters. Sarah really is low maintenance but even still, with her gone this week everything seemed much more relaxed. I really did miss her though and it was a thrill to see her when she got home. I suppose all Stakes are the same but when ever we send a girl to girls camp they always ask us to write a letter that they can take into a secluded spot in the wilderness and read. We always try and make it special. This year Sarah reciprocated and wrote Lisa and I each a letter before she left. She taped them to our bedroom door with a note that said not to open until Thursday. It was very special
and I loved it.

Saturday was the 24th of July. For those of you who are not Mormon, this is significant because that was the day the early pioneers first entered Salt Lake Valley. There is always a huge celebration in Utah but even out here we celebrate the 24th of July. I've mentioned before that we do the 5K fun run. Some one mentioned at church the a "fun run" is an oxymoron. I thought I was going to die but for the most part I had a blast. I'm really feeling it now though because I haven't run at all for a long time and I was totally out of shape. Sarah ran with me to make sure that I ran the whole way and didn't walk. I happy to report that I did not walk but I'm really hurting right now. It is a good hurt though. I do like to run and I wonder why I don't do it more often. I'll have to fix that. After the run we went to a baptism for Jamie Havertz's boyfriend Anthony. It was a very wonderful baptism and a special day.

Saturday evening My niece Lyndsey Walker came with her two year old Aiden. I hope I spelled Aiden's name right. Lyndsey is Greg's daughter and her husband in Iraq. She is out here from El Paso to meet up with Leslie and Paul and they're going to Disneyland. It was really good to see her. Sunday morning Leslie and Paul and their three kids came by for a visit before we headed off to church. It was like a little family reunion. It was also pretty cool to see Leslie's oldest daughter Serena. Serena and I have been emailing off and on for several years now. She was just a little girl last time I saw her so it was cool to see her now as a young woman. She is a
senior in high school, very bright and she's planning on becoming and Engineer. A girl after my own heart.

Sunday night Sarah had a going away party for a girl in our ward who just moved to Georgia. So that was my week. The weather is beautiful and I miss Alex.

The Population of the world can live within the state boundaries of Texas.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Canada - day 8 - July 3, 2010

Today was the day we'd all been waiting f0r. The purpose of the whole trip. Today was when Landon was sealed to his family in the Temple of God. We got up early and tried to get on the road early enough to give us time to stop at the cemetery. As you may have guessed it didn't happen. We were on time for the temple however. As I was parking the car I walked past this couple who made a double take and said in an uncertain voice, "Fred?" Well if they weren't sure it was me I certainly had no idea who they were. I told them I was indeed Fred but they would have to help me out. It was Arnold and Linda Pitcher. They had been in our ward in Edmonton when we were newly weds. How cool it was to see them after so many years.

The sealing took place in the same room where Lisa and I were married twenty nine years ago. It has been changed a lot since then. The Alter used to be on one end of the room but now it is dead center. The walls were also completely white when we were sealed but now they have a lot of wood trim. I suspect that was done during the remodel in the 1990's. The sealing was beautiful. Kira and Justin knelt across the alter from each other and then Landon was brought in and sat on the alter between them. Kira's greatest fear was that Landon would refuse to sit still or be quiet but her prayers were answered. Landon just sat there calmly on the alter and looked at his parents. It was very touching and very spiritual. It was as if he knew what was happening. They also brought Evan in for the ceremony and he too sat calmly (actually he was being held by a temple worker). After the ceremony was over they all (Justin, Kira, Landon and Evan) had a group hug and cried. Yes, even Justin had huge tears streaming down his cheeks. Actually we all did. The sealer then suggested that we might all want to go up and "reverently" congratulate the new family. Mothers of course went first but fathers were right behind them.

The coolest thing about watching a family get sealed is that you get to witness a new and eternal family being formed right before your eyes. It has to be the most spiritual thing I've ever witnessed.

After the sealing we all went out side and joined poor Sarah, the only member of the family who couldn't be there (other than Alex of course). I know she felt very left out but she's such a wonderful girl that she would never complain about it or say anything. She will certainly be blessed for all her faithfulness. We all hung around the temple for a long time taking pictures and then the biggest part of the group headed back to Waterton for a special luncheon that Justin's aunt had prepared.

The Leavitt family (minus Kira and Justin who had to play host) went to visit my Aunt Orva. Aunt Orva was my mothers only sister and I've
always really loved her family. She looks nothing like my Mom but she still reminds me of her every time I visit her. I was very surprised by how old she looks but I keep forgetting that she is in her 80's now.

I then drove by the house that I grew up in. The address of this house is 432 2nd avenue west. I'm surprised that I still remember it. It doesn't look anything like it did when we moved into it when I was seven years old. My dad was a carpenter and that house was continuously being remodeled until the day that he sold it. In addition to all the rooms he added he also added all these fun little gadgets like solar heating and a wood burning furnace. He never paid anything for gas except what little the gas cooking stove used. The house and all the water was heated by the sun or wood. I'm not talking about a wood burning stove either. This was a regular furnace and the heat was controlled by a thermostat on the wall. Very cool.

We then stopped by the cemetery on our way to Waterton. It is a shame Kira and Justin couldn't be there but I guess you can't do it all. I've always been torn by the whole cemetery thing. I would
love to be buried in the Leavitt plot. We looked around and there in that area were Mom and Dad, Grandpa and Grandma, Great Grandpa and Grandma and of course Thomas Rowell Leavitt. Nick was even there right by Mom and Dad. I would love to be buried there with them all. The problem is that I have lived in San Diego for nearly twenty years and this is my home now. Besides, if I croaked first then Lisa would want to come and visit me once in a while. And who's going to haul my remains all the way back to Canada? Thats why lately I've been favoring the idea of cremation.

Ben's good friend Abram was tragically killed a few years ago in a hiking accident. He was cremated and they sprinkled some of his ashes in the ocean, some of them in the Canadian mountains where he died, some of his ashes are in a cemetery close to home here and some were made into glass beads to be given to his friends. I have a bead on my keychain and every time I use my keys I think of Abram. I'm thinking if I was cremated I'd have some of my ashes put in the ground with mom and dad, some of them in a cemetery here in San Diego, some would be in a real cool stainless steel sphere that Lisa could keep on the mantel and some would be in beads for my kids etc. I'm really warming up to that idea.

Enough of the morbid topic and back to Waterton. We had a wonderful luncheon and every one had a good visit. There were a few pictures that I wanted to get so while people were visiting I took the camera and took a few pictures. I loved this sign warning that the deer might kick you. When I lived here tourists were constantly getting kicked by the deer.

This is a picture looking across Emerald Bay towards the Prince of Wales. This water is freshly melted off a glacier and is very cold but Lester and I used to go swimming in this bay all the time. brrrrr.
We built this motel when I was about twelve. We named it the Windflower Motel because of the crazy wind in Waterton. It was also the name of the street that we were on. When we built it, it had a flat roof. I guess I kind of like the peaked roof.

After a few years in Waterton the motel next door came up for sale and we bought it too. It was called the Ponderosa Motel. That is Crandel Mountain in the back ground with Bears Hump in the foreground. We ran both of these motels. The cabins in the Ponderosa also had flat roofs. The best thing about the Ponderosa is that it had a Sauna. We would come up in the winter time sometimes and fire up the Sauna. We would then dive into the snow drifts stark naked. It is a weird feeling to see all the steam rise off your body and what a refreshing feeling it is.

The two motels are now called the Aspen Lodge and they've built a new building between the two
where we used to have living quarters for the house keeping crew. Oh what fond memories I have of this place.
Since we had to drive back to Calgary for the blessing the next day it soon came time for us to leave. I left with great reluctance. Landons birth mother and father were at the luncheon, their names are Caleb and Sarah. Before we left Kira asked Caleb to sing a song that he'd written about the whole experience. The song was a rap song and I'm not too much into that sort of thing but the words were straight from his heart and very touching. This song could be famous some day. It was very tragic to listen to him sing this song about a boy that another man will raise. It was quite surreal to watch Landon in the arms of his birth mother sitting next to his birth father singing about him. Leaving the whole morality issue out of it, this was a real testimony about why you don't have sex until you're prepared to welcome children into your life. Caleb and Sarah are great people and I'm sure that some day they will be wonderful parents but they're only teenagers right now and giving up their baby was a very brave thing for them to do. They're obviously mature enough to want what is best for their baby but you could tell it was killing them. By making this move they've blessed the lives of many people but most of all Landon and that is what it is all about.

We then hit the road and made the three hour drive back to Calgary. As you can tell, during this entire week I was only getting more and more tired but my heart was getting more and more full.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Canada - day 7 - July 2, 2010

Friday morning we slept in until kids started showing up at our motel room. Justin was a sweetheart and took Landon for a walk so that Kira and Evan could sleep in. Since we didn't have kids in our room we had all the food so at some point everyone showed up in our room for food. When I was a kid we had two motels in Waterton and we would move from Cardston to Waterton early in the year somewhere around the May long weekend (Victoria day in Canada) and didn't move back to Cardston until well into September. I've hiked pretty much every trail you can hike in that park and I've been many places where no trail exists. In honor of those good ol' days I convinced everyone to hike what is probably the easiest hike in the park to Crandel Lake. I remember it being a very easy trail and while it turned out to be a very easy hike it really wasn't well suited for the stroller even if it was a "running" stroller. There were many places where we had to carry the stroller over the rocks. Before heading out on the hike we convened at the Palmer cabin to touch base with Justins Aunts family. They had booked the cabin before we did so that is how we ended up in the motel rooms. As you can see from the first picture of Sarah, the deer in Waterton have little fear of humans. That is also true of all the other animals including bear, moose, elk and sheep. I've seen all of those animals in the townsite. I've also seen mountain goats but only from a long way away and never in the townsite. We saw a mountain sheep on today as well but he didn't hang around long enough for a picture.

Unfortunately the day turned out to be wet and cold and in places there was a bit of a nasty wind. The foul weather however, didn't dampen our spirits and we had a blast. The hike was a beautiful hike and the lake was equally stunning. It may look like we're having a cozy picnic in that picture but we're barely keeping from freezing to
death. I did warn everyone that the weather in Alberta (and especially in Waterton) is very unpredictable but even with the warning, too many years in California (especially Malibu) gives you a very short memory. I was well prepared with a nice warm coat but you may notice a certain teenage girl in these pictures happens to be wearing a coat that seems much too large for her.

After the short hike to Crandel lake we headed on up the highway to Cameron lake. The glaciers you see at the head of the lake never completely melt and last through the summer. That is mostly
because the cliffs you see face north and the slopes with the snow on them never see the sun. I'm not sure if Alycia and Sarah are hugging each other for warmth or just because they like each other. On the drive back down the mountain we saw this bear on the side of the road. I was driving and didn't get a great picture but Alycia got a real good one. She was supposed to email me a copy but hasn't so you'll have to do with my picture. You can see that the bear wasn't terribly worried about humans either.

Back in the townsite we made a stop by Cameron falls. I saw a picture of these falls in the National
Geographic a while back and blogged about it. Well here they are with Lisa and I standing in front. They are very unique falls and I love them. During some really rainy seasons when the snow is melting I've seen the water so high that the rock in the middle of the falls is covered. While we were at the falls I decided to see if my name is still carved in some rocks near by. When I lived there I chiseled my name in this rock wall. I carved in nice and deep so I half expected my name to still be there but when I looked the rocks are heavily coated with moss and lichens and my name is long gone. We then headed up to the Prince of Wales Hotel. When they put the
railroad through the railway built a series of these very fancy hotels to try and draw tourist out west. My mom loved to tell the story about how her dad (my Grandfather) hauled the windows for this hotel from the train (I think in Cardston) to Waterton on his horse drawn wagon. Lisa Grandmother also liked to tell how she used to work at the Prince of Wales when she was a young woman. The picture of Waterton Lake taken through a window is taken from inside the hotel. They truly have a beautiful view.

After our little driving tour we decided to rent some Surrey's and get a closer view of the town-site. As luck would have it, as soon as we got on
the Surrey's the rain started to come down a little bit faster. I just bundled up the babies and enjoyed it anyway. Poor Sydney though. The rain would collect on the top of the surrey and then when Brandon and Serene drove down a steep incline the water would run off the roof and land right on her. She didn't like that too much.

We rented the surrey's for an hour but most of us didn't last the full hour. We returned all of the Surrey's but one so then Brandon, Sarah and I took the last Surrey to get our moneys worth. The Surrey's are a lot of fun to ride around but
they really aren't made for climbing hills. We drove that Surrey to the highest spot in town right above the falls and then made a mad dash down the hill to the lake shore.

After we had fully tired ourselves out and were fully drenched we returned the last Surrey and headed back to the motel. We quickly changed into our swimming suits and dove into the pool. We then spent most of our time soaking in the hot tub. Rarely has a hot tub felt so good. After we'd all warmed up we headed to the cabin where Justin's Aunt and invited us for a wonderful
spaghetti dinner. That was very kind of her and very much appreciated. Everyone finally trailed off back to the motel rooms but Justin and I hung back playing Rook and then finally "Ticket to Ride". It was a very fun day but as you can tell, so far this vacation was anything but relaxing. I was gradually getting more and more tired but oh what fun I was having. Thanks Justin and Kira for such a wonderful time.

My all time favorite mountain, Vimy Mountain.

Upper Waterton Lake from the Prince of Wales.

Bears hump and the Prince of Wales to the right.

Playing a game of chicken on the Surrey's.

A very wet Sydney. I think Hayley is in that bundle of blankets somewhere.

The whole group. These Surrey's are actually parked on the site of the Alpine Motel. Dad bought the Alpine where we lived as we were building the Windflower Motel. It was a very old and very rundown building but very unique and a fun place to live. I remember it fondly. Apparently the Alpine is no longer with us.

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Canada - day 6 - July 1, 2010 - Canada Day

Today was Canada day. Canada celebrates their independence from England on July 1 and the celebrations are just as exuberant as they are here in the States. Today was also the most action packed day of the vacation and to be honest I was just a little bit worried that people would get tired and cranky and make it a miserable day. As it turned out I had no need to worry. The problem was that we planned to leave Calgary for the two hour drive to Rosemary in time to catch their parade. We would then celebrate all day in Rosemary and then leave for the three and a half hour drive to Waterton in time to get the kids to bed at a decent time. It would be a lot of driving and a lot of partying. We got left pretty much on time and I was glad because I really wanted to stop in Bassano where I worked after I graduated in 1983 until 1992 when we moved to San Diego. It was really a trip down memory lane. Everything was closed of course because it was Canada Day and I suppose that is best. Some of them may have not forgiven me yet for bailing on them.

While in Bassano we drove the kids by the house that we lived in for the first year after we moved to Bassano. It took a couple of passes before we realized that our house was almost completely hidden behind some massive trees. It was quite ridiculous. The first shot is the picture of the house from the back alley. The other two are from the front.

I'm not including too many pictures of the parade since we've all seen parades but I did want to include the fire truck and the the mounties. The firetruck because I used to be on the fire department and the Mounties just because they're mounties and we're in Canada.

That is our house somewhere in behind those tree's. You can barely see the roof. It's ridiculous.
This is Lynn Easter Crapo. I barely knew her when we lived in Rosemary but I know her well now. She was a blogger long before I got into it and she leaves a comment on nearly every single entry that I post. I love her for that and I only wish I were as good as she is. She grew up in Rosemary and married a boy from Rosemary so her roots are firmly planted in that wonderful little village.
Her are my Mounties. Don't you just love it?
The Rosemary fire department had this antique truck even when I was with them. I did notice that they have replaced the truck we did use with a new truck since I was there.
We were very good friends with Rod and JoAnne Dyck. They live on a farm less than a mile out of town.
Me being patriotic next to an antique car at the car show.
They had a petting zoo and Landon was really into the horse.
As was Sarah. I'm not sure but I think the horse liked Sarah too.
And of course we had to go by our old house. They sure have let it degrade since we sold it. It was an old house when we lived there but at least we kept it looking nice. The house and the yard are trashed. It makes me sad. Alycia just had to peek in the back window that used to be her bedroom. She was surprised to see that they have the same wall paper that she had as a baby. It is rather amazing that she remembers her wall paper since she was only three when we moved. She has described it many times in great detail and sure enough, there it was.
I noticed that they've replaced our concrete steps with some wooden steps. I'm not sure why they did that. Those concrete steps looked like they'd last another century. They did put a deck on the front. That was a good idea.
Harry's General store has been sold and the new owner is no longer Harry so I guess he felt obligated to change the name.
Justin and Evan Evan trying out the slide.
The old Fire Hall. Ah the memories.
After visiting with about half the town we decided we'd better get heading to Waterton. Just to add a few more miles to the already ridiculously large number of miles we were already traveling, the kids wanted to drive into Brooks and see the hospital where most of them were born. Brandon, Ben, Alycia and Alex were born here. Kira was born in Edmonton and Sarah was born in San Diego.
To break up the drive and to keep Lisa from killing anyone we decided to stop in Lethbridge to eat. I also really wanted to see Fara who lives in Lethbridge so we called and invited her to come eat with us. I haven't seen her in a very long time. My granddaughter Sydney really took to Fara.
Here is another attempt to try and get four very wiggly kids to hold still for more than five seconds to get a picture of them in their adorable "T" shirts that Grandpa and Nana Shaw got them.
As we drove through Leavitt I just had to stop and get a picture of the farm where I lived until I was seven. The house has been added on to and that big quanset wasn't there but not much else has changed. There was a big old barn just behind where the quanset is and there were some sheds where the quanset is now. Behind the house is an artesian well that I always thought was very cool and of course best of all are those rocks up at the top of the hill. I used to climb up there and play as a kid.
I also thought it would cool to share with you the Leavitt Ward chapel. Isn't it impressive to have a church named after you?
Once we arrived in Waterton some of us really wanted to get a hike in even though it was dark. We climbed bears hump which is a small outcropping from Crandel Mountain that overlooks the town site. From where we're sitting on the edge of this cliff it is a thousand foot drop pretty much straight down. We had a perfect view of the town site and the lake.
Being Canada day we felt obligated to light off some fireworks. Fireworks are completely illegal in Canada and even doubly illegal in a National Park but that never stopped me as a kid and it didn't stop me here. We were a bit concerned about attracting the attention of the Park Wardens and there is only one trail off of this mountain so we were prepared with an answer. We were going to play dumb tourists from California (which some would argue is a true statement) and plead ignorance. We didn't plan our fireworks as carefully however and the first few rockets we sent up were loud ones that would wake everyone up (it was around midnight) and the last ones we launched were big flares that would show everyone just where the earlier explosions were coming from. In the end we were saved by the fact that everyone must have been in bed. Our carefully planned excuses were not required.

For most of human history, the average life expectancy for a new born child was about 10 years old.