Family letter to Elder Ben

Elder Ben Berky,

We love you and are proud of you. Since we missed talking to you last week, and I don’t know when we’ll chat again, I thought it’d be good for you to hear how we are all doing.

We are praying for your continued safety and an abundance of the Spirit to be with you. Remember to always find the good and nurture the good each day. ❤ This helps to invite the Spirit 😉

Monday

Sam made his first $325 payment for his Fine Arts (Band/Choir/Orchestra) NYC tour in March. It all came from his own earnings! He has recently posted an ad for his motorcycle washing/detailing biz in a few motorcycle groups and has been getting a lot of interest. He has his next 5 detailing jobs scheduled. ($50 per motorcycle, though he is going to raise his rates to $75. People say regarding his $50 charge, “that’s all?”) We still hardly see him between school, band, working at Mike’s, and now his new side gig. He leaves at 6:50am for early morning seminary, sometimes catch him for 30 minutes around the afternoon time, and then not again until 10pm! He got picked as Student of the Month for September (see attachment).

Tuesday

I had group at the CJC in Provo as I usually do in the afternoon, so I asked Dad to take Jacob to swim practice. He took your Caprice. It was raining. It wouldn’t get above 45mph on the freeway, then at the Springville exit it decelerated to 25mph. Every time he tried to accelerate, it decelerated. Sam thinks the last time the Caprice acted this way it was also raining. Did it do this for you? 

Fortunately James was just getting off work and picked up Jacob at the Springville exit and took him to swim practice. Dad called the tow truck, and while waiting he was browsing on KSL.com for a new used car. I think we are becoming partial to Toyota’s hybrids. 

Wednesday

I did inititories in the morning at the Payson temple. I put a whole slew of names on the prayer roll. 

Jacob AND Ryan went with the YM to do baptisms in the evening. Sam didn’t go as he had Band practice 6-9pm.

James brought home a flyer for Institute classes that are on Wednesday evenings. I asked if he was going. He said, “they didn’t say on the flyer which building”. I said, ‘Which building did you get the flyer from?” He replied, “the YSA church building.” I smiled and nodded and smiled even bigger 🙂 

He didn’t go, but we’ll keep working on him! 

Thursday

Ammon had his 2nd practice with the Millenial Choirs (Children’s choir). There are probably 50 kids in the children’s choir and I was really impressed with the organization in the drop-off and pick-up of the kids. The conductor is Mr. Mendenhall, who James had at MMHS and LOVED. 

Friday

Dad went to Fairview with Dave Lewis and LaMont to do more building of the yurt floor. He came home exhausted again with a month’s worth of physical exercise in one day. Dave Lewis did a time-lapse video that we’ll send the link to watch (if you are able to watch it). 

Sorry I missed your video call in the early afternoon! I didn’t have my laptop with me when the Facebook Messenger call came through, and I didn’t even hear it ring through. 🙁

I took Ammon with me to the Friday Homecoming game to also watch Sam and the marching band perform at half-time. Ammon brought his Macey’s sack and picked up garbage in the stands for the 2nd half. He earned $9 from people who thanked him for his work. He was pretty excited about that, but as we were walking back to the car he said, “The money was nice, but I really liked the thank you’s more.” Then he asked when the next game was going to be 🙂

Score: Wasatch 55 MMHS 17

Saturday 

Cubscout popcorn sales season is here! Dad took Ammon to the Payson Smith’s from 8-10am to sell popcorn. They made $290 in sales with some cash donations. It would be easier to just pay his yearly dues without doing the sales, but the popcorn sales really helps him to learn marketing, money, and hard work! There’s a new popcorn flavor that is “Flamin’ Hot” that is our new favorite. Probably similar to Taki’s.

Ammon’s last flag football game was at 10am. He was tired from standing for 2 hours selling popcorn, and didn’t really run much (he usually doesn’t anyway). But he did almost have a few catches! He also likes to hang out at the back to be “Safety”. I’ve included a short 1 minute video compilation. I have been playing catch with him every few days. I’m also practicing when he catches the ball, to know which direction he needs to run. We practice the muscle memory: catch the ball, turn and run! There have been 2 times in games that he’s caught the ball and ran to the wrong end-zone! His team (the Raiders) made it to the play-offs and have another game this coming Wednesday. 

Sam had his first marching band competition in Payson (Mt. Nebo Invitational). There were 12 bands. MMHS got 2nd place – woohoo! Dad was exhausted and stayed home to take a nap so June came instead. We went to see her property in Salem (great views!) We also stopped at the Payson Pet Hospital for Eliza’s final round of puppy shots. 

James went up to Fairview in the early afternoon and helped some more with the yurt. Exchange work for LaMont and Tanner coming over a month ago to hook up the CAT5 network cabling to James’ trailer. 🙂

I took Ammon, Jacob & Eliza to the Utah Valley Refugees potluck dinner in Orem. The majority of the refugees in Utah County are from the DR-Congo. Utah Valley Refugee’s organization has 2-3 advocate American families who serve as mentors/helpers/ministering families to help the DR-Congo families adjust to American life. We are just monthly donors to help the organization. 

In the evening Jacob went over to Lyla’s to hang out with her and Jakob Meyer. Actually, Jakob Meyer wanted to hang out with Lyla, but Lyla was uncomfortable being alone with just one boy, so she invited her best friend Jacob Berky to also be there 🙂 

Speaking of our Jacob, he leaves each morning at 7:20 to walk to SF Jr. High. I’m already walking with Eliza during that time, so I’ve changed my route to meet up with him and we walk together until the corner of Canyon Road. Eliza gets really upset leaving him behind as he continues to school and we continue home!

Eliza is getting really good at jumping up to catch the frisbee in my hand. She can get up to 4 or 4.5 feet high! Now I just need to encourage her to run after the frisbee. Sometimes she’ll chase it, but not until it already has hit the ground, and her retrieval rate (bringing it back to me) is only about 50%. I sent a text to the lady from whom we bought Eliza to give her an update (the lady requested let her know how the puppy is doing). She was so happy to hear from me:

“Thank you for letting me know how Eliza is doing. I always enjoy hearing about and seeing the pups. Thank you for the photos (I sent her a google album of just Eliza pictures). She looks like she is very loved, content and happy. Thank you for giving her such a good home. My husband passed away a month ago. I know this makes him happy too!”

Sunday

Lynette sent this message to the sibling chat group about 10:30am:

Mom was really struggling to speak this morning. Could barely talk. Was really quiet and had her eyes closed most of the time I was curling her hair. Then we finished watching the Music and The Spoken Word in her room. Long story short (I typed up the details) she was trying to tell me goodbye again. In a very clear and understandable voice said that her sister Dawna was coming today and that Henry had everything ready.

Side note: This is one of the rare times in the past 10 years that she has mentioned grandpa Henry by name without prompting from one of us. 

I went over at 1pm and sent this:

I just spent a couple hours with mom. Yes, I can barely understand anything she is trying to say. Very animated, but no understandable words. She tried to talk to me, but when I just nodded and smiled she began to look upward and mumble towards the ceiling and to the other unseen beings in the room. So very hard to see her in this state. She did mention again something about a party and a car coming for her.

Kylie came over at 3pm and played a game with Dave, Julles, June and Jacob until 5:20pm. I was at stake choir practice from 3:40-5:10. We sent Kylie home with 2 dozen eggs (which I hope were still good- they may have gotten frozen in the outside fridge), tomatoes and blackberries from the garden.
Anthony & Gracey came over for dinner. We had breakfast casserole with garden fresh sautéed onions & peppers (serrano, bell, banana & Anaheim). I know, I know, I’m killing ya mentioning all this fresh food. I also got for my birthday some new restaurant quality stainless steel pans. While doing more Alzheimer’s research prevention, heavy metals of aluminum and iron have been found in excess amounts in the brains of dementia patients. Since we have been using cast iron exclusively I thought it would be prudent to take preventative steps now and start cooking on stainless steel.   Last week we tried to watch “South Pacific” musical, but it was really slow. At intermission it was 10:15pm and we all went to bed, except dad. He stayed up to finish it. I think we are done with all the ‘good’ musicals for now. We are going to start watching Shakespeare plays on Sundays. Probably just the comedies and not the tragedies! Jacob is in TWO drama classes and loving the acting. In his theatre classes they have been doing a unit on Shakespeare since school started. We watched the comedy “Twelfth Night” from 1996 with an all-star cast. Such a good production. Even Anthony was laughing at some of the Shakespearean jokes! Helena Bonham Carter (who played Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter) was playing a lead role. To see this actress not play a deranged Bellatrix was interesting! 
If you make it all the way to the end of this – congratulations! That must mean you love us. 🙂

Caprice putters out in the rain
Eliza tries the frizbee
Sam awarded Student of the Month at MMHS
Ammon and Eliza
Ammon’s last flag football game

Nauvoo Trip

We bought the cheap tickets on the flight so we were all scattered around on the plane.  They didn’t even put LaReita and Ammon together, which I think is against the law, but Ammon was fine and we decided not to make a big deal out of it.  James, Anthony, Ben and I ended up in a group of 4 seats in the back of the plane, but the other 4 were scattered around the middle area. We got into Kansas City airport about 12:30am and to our hotel for the night around 1:30.

In the morning LaReita and I went back to the airport (on the hotel shuttle – had to take an Uber from the airport to the hotel since no hotel shuttles were running at 12:30am) to pick up our rental cars.  We ended up with a couple of smallish SUVs.  One has room for 6.  Renting 2 cars was cheaper than renting a passenger van.  The SUVs were free upgrades since they didn’t have any of the mid-sized cars we reserved.Friday we had a burger lunch at a local restaurant which was in the basement of a building in the town square (of Independence) then visited the Harry S Truman Presidential Library.  Then we went to the church Visitors Center near the temple site and next to the spiral Community of Christ tower across from the temple site.  We also walked on the temple site and sang the 12th article of faith about the New Jerusalem being restored.  We then checked into our AirBnB which was across the street from Truman’s home and served as the offices/home of the Secret Service detailed to Truman back in the 70s.

Saturday morning LaReita went to Legoland with Ammon and I and the older boys went to the WWI museum a couple hours later.  In addition to touring the museum we did a 15 min VR tour of being in the trenches.  LaReita and Ammon joined us after they were done at Legoland.  We then went to a local Mongolian grill-type all-you-can-eat restaurant and we ate all we could eat.  We then returned to the Secret Service House and watched afternoon conference.  We worked on a 1000 piece puzzle, napped and just hung out for the evening.

Sunday we watched morning conference and then went to Liberty Jail and took the tour there.  Then watched afternoon conference in the basement of the visitors center where they had a small auditorium and projector.  The boys were able to get one of the older missionary’s phone to connect with the projector so we could stream conference through Youtube – it’s a modern world.  After conference we made and sandwiches out of the back of one of the cars then headed to Richmond to see a monument to the Three Witnesses in an old pioneer cemetery.  Then headed home to relax for the evening.

Yesterday we cleaned up the AirBnB and headed to Hannibal MO.  On the way we stopped at the Far West temple site, then a local general store which was church oriented, and then on to Adam-Ondi-Ahman.  We had the boys separate for a while and spend some time alone thinking and praying.  We also took the opportunity while there and overlooking the valley, to give each of the boys a father’s blessing, and LaReita a blessing, then James gave me a blessing.  It was a great spirit.

We then drove into a local town and had a fried-chicken buffet and got our money’s worth.  Then kept driving to Hannibal and checked into a hotel.  Hit the pool and hot tub, and LaReita went to the next door restaurant to get some cake and appetizers to celebrate James’ birthday (23 y/o).  Then we hung out, watched TV then went to sleep.

Today, we got up around 8:30 – everyone was tired – had breakfast and are hanging out in the room. We have 12pm tickets to a riverboat ride.  Then we’ll go to a “Mark Twain” cave system and then finish driving on into Nauvoo.  We’ll need to plan meals for the next few days – we’ve been eating out a big meal once a day and having meals at the AirBnBs or hotels for the rest of the meals to save some money.  But there’s no grocery stores near Nauvoo so we’ll need to plan and then purchase food for the next few days.

Truman’s Oval Office

Independence temple lot

Ammon at Legoland

Family at WWI museum

Puzzle during conference

Liberty Jail

Three Witnesses Monument

Nauvoo Trip – More Pictures

Kansas City Temple after doing Baptisms
James and Ammon in the Truman Library/Museum
Anthony and Truman’s post-presidency cars
James and Sam posing
Ammon at Legoland
Ammon posing with Lego “mini-figs”
Ammon and a wizard “mini-fig”
Ammon building a race car
More building
Ammon and a giant Lego football
Boys (and Dad) at the WWI Museum
WWI cannon
Another cannon
Machine gun
Another machine gun
Trench mortar
Tank (armament photos courtesy of Anthony)
Lunch/dinner at local Mongolian Grill-type restaurant
Anthony takes a selfie with Jacob in the background along with our rental cars and Pres. Truman’s home in Independence, Missouri – We stayed at an AirBnB across the street that was the post for Truman’s Secret Service detail in the 60s and 70s
Far West, Missouri Temple Site
Scenes from Adam-Ondi-Ahman
Adam-Ondi-Ahman valley overlook
The family at Adam-Ondi-Ahman
Ammon and Jacob get cozy at the hotel in Hannibal, MO
Sam and Jacob in the Mark Twain cafe
Sam, Dad, and Jacob
Mom, Ammon, Ben, Anthony and James
Mississippi river boat tour
Dad and Jacob
Ben and James
Jacob, Sam and Anthony catch some rays (and Zzzs)
Ben, the ‘ol man of the river
“Are we there yet?”
Jacob’s bed in the kitchen of the old Nauvoo home we stayed in
Touring the Browning gunsmithing home
Appreciating the Browning guns
More guns
Browning machine gun
Ammon’s ready to roll
Gunsmith shop
Learning how they made the barrels
How they added the rifling
Inscription on one of Browning’s rifles
Early shotguns
Ammon approved
Guns + boys = smiles
One of the restored homes in old Nauvoo
In the wheelwright’s shop, showing how a wagon wheel was assembled and weathered
Monument to Sarah Leavitt on the “Trail of Hope” leading from town to the river
Visiting Carthage Jail
In the jailer’s bedroom where Joseph et al were their last night
Anthony checks out the the original door and bullet hole through which the bullet that killed Hyrum Smith was fired
Looking out the window Joseph Smith fell to his death
Standing below the upper window
Period “record player”
Period piano
Horses that pull the visitor tour wagon around part of old Nauvoo
More horses
More horses
Ammon poses at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Money Museum
Sam curls some actual gold
Old US coins on display
Gold dollars in various denominations
Ben talks to the pilot after our flight back to SLC

Random pictures

Dad and James (12/2/2021)
Jacob – nice hair (12/3/2021)
The family gathers for Grandma Grace’s 91st birthday (12/5/2021 – her birthday is on the 7th)
Ben helps to bring home the family tree (12/6/2021)
Mom helps out at Ammon’s school (12/7/2021)
Sam’s Christmas concert (12/8/2021)
Mom and Dad on Dad’s birthday at Zuppas (12/9/2021)
Celebrating Dad’s birthday at Tucanos – Anthony, Ben, Stewart, Sam, Jacob, June, Julles, Ammon
Grace, James, Dave, Lynette, Kris, LaMont, David, LaReita (12/11/2021)
Jacob at Walmart in the Lego isle – a bit short this year
Mom and Dad catch a movie during their anniversary trip/stay in SLC (12/27/2021)
Anthony gets his wisdom teeth removed (12/29/2021)
Pumpkin enjoying a warm body in Ben (12/29/2021)
Big snow (12/31/2021)
Ben wrestling tournament waiting his turn (12/31/2021)
Guys waiting for their match – Ben on far/top end

New kitchen countertops

Removing the old wall paper
Cleaning the walls
The desk too
Removing the backboards
Preparing to remove the countertops
Kitchen cleaned and ready for old countertop removal
Removing the old countertops
Removing the old sinks
Removing the old countertops
Taking them all out
Starting on the island
Replaced the desktop
New countertop in corner