Sunday, June 29, 2008

Trying to take a deep breathe

Bare with me as I take a moment to share with you one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. Really, truly. I'm over it now (okay not really, but I hope to be soon) but I thought I'd record the happenings of today so that when Joni is my age, and raising her toddlers, she'll know that her mom really does understand how frustrating it can be.

Our friends Jason and Janessa invited us to go up to Bridal Veil Falls for a little Sunday walk. We love it up there and were excited to go. They have a little girl, Hannah, who is about a year younger than Joni. They enjoy playing together, but for some reason Joni gets really territorial with Hannah. We think maybe because she's younger, and Joni actually feels like she has some power in the situation.

When Joni started her little power-party, trying to take things from Hannah and getting anxious about every little thing she was doing, I tried to talk to her about it - but to no avail. The more I tried to calmly talk to her about it, the more Joni worked herself into a tizzy. I kept telling her I would take her back to the car if she didn't calm down. She persisted to adamantly show me that she was not backing down. So I strapped her into the stroller, and began the looooong walk back to the car. This is where it gets embarrassing.

Imagine the biggest, craziest fit you've ever seen a toddler throw....now triple that....ten times. That was Joni. She was screaming, non-stop, at the top of her lungs. Of course our Elder's Quorum President and his family just happened to be there. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I swear his wife gave me the look of death. I had to pass the base of the falls, where about 40-50 people were (previous to this moment) enjoying a quiet summer evening. As we approached the busy area, everyone stopped talking and playing, and paused to watch the screaming maniac who at this point was flailing around in the stroller. I am sure it caused many to wonder if I was kidnapping the poor child. By the looks they were all giving me, you would think Joni and I each had two heads.

Then the day would not be complete without me running into a family from...get this...my MISSION! Hello! After trying really hard to talk and "catch up", and saying "what?" about ten times (because of the screaming), I finally gave up and sheepishly told them I better just go.

We finally got to the car, and after threatening to take away anything and everything Joni holds dear if she didn't stop screaming right that instant, she finally calmed down - only to start up again when Tom and crew also showed up at the car, because then she knew we really were going home. Let's just say that we, uh, came very close at that moment to becoming a family who spanks.

I hesitate to even post this, because any words I say could never do it justice. *sigh* Maybe you just had to be there to appreciate the true hysterics of it all.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cute little ducklings!

It is so nice to be able to spend more time outside. Joni and I tend to get quite restless if we're inside for too long. Today I took the kids to our favorite duck pond, and we found these cute little ducklings! I took about a million pictures of them, but I'll only share a few :P

My own cute little ducklings. We recently bought Joni this cute hat so she'll have one in Jerusalem to protect her from the harsh sun there. We haven't found one for Jackson yet, so he sported an uber-cool bandanna so we wouldn't have to worry about lathering sunscreen through his hair. He's our little gangsta!


The ducks were everywhere! And very well fed, I might add.


Aren't they adorable!?! I think there were about 15 of them.


Okay, just one more of my little man!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thankful

OK, I guess I'm done freaking out...for now ;)

Sara had an excellent idea on her blog to list some of the little things we're thankful for. Despite all the little worries that swim around in my mind at any given moment, I obviously have about five million things to be grateful for. I'll take a moment and name a few of the "little things"....

1) The Internet. I have been so grateful for all I have been able to learn about Israel (and just about anything else), just from the Internet. Tom teases me because anytime some weird, random question comes up, he says, "I'm sure Amy will Google it!" And I do. I can't stand to not know the answer to something. I've also loved becoming more connected to people through blogs, emails, and the like.

2) My happy, happy kids. They are both so darn funny, and light up my life every single day. I often wonder how on earth we ended up with TWO wonderful kids. Anyone who knows them, knows how special they both are.




3) My blanket, "fluff". I know it's juvenile, but I soooo love that thing, and I'm sad it's on its last string. I think the next time it needs washing, it'll just have to go in the garbage. It is therefore banned from kids or husband at the moment. I'm going to have to throw some kind of good-bye ceremony for it when I leave this fall. It will make some landfill out there very happy, comfy, and warm :) :) :)

4) Despite my last post, I am VERY grateful for Tom getting into Hebrew U. A few weeks before he officially got accepted, we both started to feel very strongly that we are supposed to be in Israel. The Spirit is my biggest comfort - He reminds me regularly that we are on the Lord's errand and going in the right direction (so why did I feel the need to freak out you ask? I just had a moment, okay!)

5) Weight Watchers shredded cheese. I love the stuff. I can put a good 1/3 c. on whatever I please, and it's only 2 points.

6) My cell phone! I'm sure I'm going to get brain cancer from it someday, but I love that I can call Tom any time, day or night, and always find him. Same goes for my mom and my sisters.

7) Google Reader. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend it. It allows you to quickly check for new posts on all your favorite blogs, in an instant. Saves me a LOT of time.

Some of these are silly, but I really do feel so blessed, in so many ways. I have the best husband a girl could ask for, and he is living his dream. We have the gospel, wonderful families, and a very exciting future in front of us!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bare with me, as I FREAK OUT for a moment

The title says it all. I am having a major freak-out moment today. It probably doesn't help that I'm shut-in today with the flu. It gives me way too much time to think, and to stress. I mean, I would normally consider myself a pretty easy going individual, who is willing to roll with the punches. But our upcoming life changes are a little too much for me to grasp at the given moment. I'll probably decide to feel fine about it again tomorrow, but today....ummmm....not so much.

First of all, I'm not sure I want to find out what it will be like to not see Tom for over two months. Besides the fact that he is my best friend, someone I can talk to about anything, and the person I rely on for support in all things, it's just plain going to be hard to do everything on my own. A few specifics that come to mind...Tom is the one who runs to Jackson or Joni's side if they cry in the middle of the night. If Jackson needs nursing, Tom brings him to me and then takes him back when I'm done. He also gets up with Joni first thing in the morning and gets her going for the day. He's even really good at rescuing me in the evenings, which happens to be mine and Joni's hardest time of the day. By then we're both getting tired, restless, and ready for daddy to come home and intercept.

But that's just the beginning of my freaking out. When I'm thinking clearly, without nauseousness and fever, I know I can do anything for two months. But then my mind quickly realizes the changes in my life that will last 2 YEARS! Now, that's another story. How does one pick up their two little children, fly to the other side of the world, and go about the business of life as usual? How will I know where to shop? Or know what I'm buying at the grocery store when the writing is in Hebrew? What if I get lost and can't find someone who speaks English? And more importantly, what if we can't afford an apartment with good air conditioning!?! :)

Last but not least, finances. I am so sick of forking over thousands of dollars that we don't have to pay for things...plane tickets, tuition, summer dorm fees, etc. It is hard for my mind to wrap around the idea of living completely off student loans. Yes, you read that right. Tom is not allowed to work while he's over there. Apparently, he will be required to get a student visa, which will make it impossible for him to get a work visa at the same time. Ouch.

Well, for everyone's sanity, I think I'll end there. And I apologize in advance if I've ruined anyone else's day. And if you've made it this far, thanks for reading.

I know that amid all this, I have SO much to be grateful for...including Tom getting into grad school in Israel. Maybe tomorrow I'll be feeling a little better, and can write another post on more positive things. Hopefully by then, I will wonder why I was so freaked out - today.

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Joni Art Day"

The other day Joni was having a very hard day because she HAD to see her cousin Abby, but we weren't exactly willing to take her since she lives an hour away. So to distract her from her current woes, Tom declared it "Joni Art Day". We busted out the crayons and water colors, and Joni went nuts. As she got each painting done, she would bring it to me or Tom, and then tell us where to hang it...and most ended up plastered all over the living room. Here is a sample of a few of them:Tom even narrated the artful event, by announcing things like, "Joni was especially inspired by her family for this one," or, "the sweet stench of Jackson's diaper was particularly inspiring for this one" along with a few others that made us giggle. Once they were all up, Tom went around to each one and auctioned them. Joni and I would try to out-bid each other, until finally Tom would declare someone a winner.


Jackson had a little art day of his own with some avocados.


(I just thought this one was cute)


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Update on Tom's arm

I'm happy to report that Tom's arm is back to normal. Several people have been asking, so I thought I'd relay the info here. It's officially healed, and Tom is quite relieved. If you missed the "freak show" click here.

On Sunday Tom asked our hometeachers to come over and give him a priesthood blessing. In it, the Lord told him that the arm would heal, and that he would be able to get back to exercising. It also mentioned he would live into old age. I guess I don't have to worry about him riding the bus to school everyday while we're in the Middle East. The little booger is with me for good - and boy, am I glad.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Our new favorite food!

Tom and I are always on the lookout for new yummy, healthy, foods to eat (who am I kidding? I am on the lookout...Tom just eats). I found this new recipe recently and had it stashed away in my recipe box, just waiting to be experimented with. Last week I finally decided to give it a go, and we are so glad I did! We call them Pita Pizzas, and they are sooooo easy! Here is the recipe (by the way, it tastes about a hundred times better than it sounds).

Pita Pizzas

Ingredients:
2 6-in. pitas
4-5 tomatoes, depending on size
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 to 2/3 c. mozzarella cheese
2 tsp. olive oil
garlic powder, salt, pepper

Instructions:
Place pitas on cookie sheet. Put a layer of sliced tomatoes, basil, then cheese. Drizzle olive oil over top. Then I added a sprinkling of garlic powder, salt, and pepper for a little more flavor.
Cook at 420 degrees for about 12 minutes, or until heated through. Let it sit for a few minutes before serving.
Makes 2 generous servings.

(I recommend spending more for the vine-ripened tomatoes, at least until it's tomato season).

Goes perfectly with a green salad or roasted veggies.

So good, so fresh.

Monday, June 16, 2008

My-oh-my how I love my dad!

I recognize this is a day late, but I couldn't let Father's Day pass without saying a word or two about my dad. I could probably sum it up by saying he is the best dad a girl could ask for, but that wouldn't do him justice.

Some of my best memories of my dad are our trips up to Washington. When I was young, Dad made regular trips up to Vancouver for business, and I would beg him to let me come. Listening to Beach Boys tapes with the windows down, and stopping at McDonalds for lunch sounded like more fun than, well, anything.

As a teenager, I appreciated having a "yellow" dad, who somehow seemed to understand my need for fun. When my friends would ask me to do something, they would often say, "Be sure to ask your dad!" because they knew his response was usually, "Only if you have fun!"

He's the handy-man to beat all handy-men. And not only can he fix anything, he has a geographically-genius mind. I'm not sure how this is possible, but he's been to every town, whether big or small, in the Western United States. You could say, "Have you ever been to La Barge, Wyoming?" And he would proceed to tell you which gas station is the cheapest, the elevation, the rough estimate of the population, and any significant landmarks within 100 miles. Seriously... he's that cool.

I'll admit, though, that solving our childhood sibling rivalry was not his strong point. The following quote from Bill Cosby will give you an idea of what I'm about to say....
"Parents are not interested in justice. They are interested in peace and quiet."
If us kids ever started yelling and fighting, he would usually pretend for a while to not hear us, then he would suddenly come storming into the room, ordering each of us kids to go to a different room, and not say another word. If we did say another word...well, I don't know...I can't think of a time that we did continue to talk. I stand corrected - I guess he was good at solving fights. :)

Since Tom and I are very familiar with the student life, I've appreciated his favorite saying, "I like to take care of my students." Let's just say we occasionally get some extra perks.

And last but not least, he is a great example. Even though he came from less than ideal familial circumstances, he is one of the sweetest people I know. He does what's right, he serves the Lord with all his heart, and you can't help but feel good in his presence.

My-oh-my how I love my dad!!!

On a trip, of course. Dad LOVES to get in the car and go somewhere. And once he gets something planned in his head, forget it - there's no turning back.


This has always been one of my favorite pictures - catching some Z's on a roll of 2-ply.


With little Joni...up at Snow Basin, I think? So cute!

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, DAD! I LOVE YOU!!!


Thursday, June 12, 2008

I know it's mean, but I've got the giggles

(Just as a precursor to this post, Tom has talked to two docs in our ward tonight and they both think it's just strained from too much weight-lifting, so you don't have to think I'm a mean old wife. And he says it doesn't hurt AT ALL).


OK people. Prepare yourselves. Today as we were on a family walk, Tom suddenly stops in the middle of the road and says, "Hey Amy, does the back of my arm look weird to you?" "Ummm, yeah!!!" Except for the hour or so tonight that he thought it was tendinitis (and thought his life would cease to exist because he wouldn't be able to weight-lift anymore), I have just plain had the giggles. The best was when Tom called his friend Jason and said on his voice mail, (in a teenager, skater-dude voice) "Hey buddy, you wanna see a freak show? My arm looks like Popeye dude. You've got to come over and see it." I don't know why, but it just made me laugh.

In case you're wondering what you're looking at, the little dent in the middle is where his elbow should be. Pay attention to the bottom of this picture where you can see the swelling come to an end. We're talking huge puffiness here. It reminds me of when my PIC-line went bad while in the hospital a couple years ago.

Me, Tom, and my sister Andrea (via phone) joked about it off and on for quite a while. I got giggling pretty hard. I was going to post all the little jokes here, but it's almost midnight, and what is funny tonight, might not be funny tomorrow. But one thing is for sure...something's not right with that arm.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tagged!

I've been tagged by Lori, and I loved reading hers. So here I go....

1. What was I doing 10 years ago? I had just graduated high school, so I was getting ready to head off to Dixie. I worked at Convergys with Lori, and pretty much played, played, and played some more...all summer. Good times.

2. What was I doing 5 years ago? I was living in Provo and working at NuSkin, having been married 4 months before.

3. What was I doing 5 months ago? How the heck should I know? Hmmm, let's see...in February I think I was just starting FlyLady. It was the beginning of a decluttering rampage, and the start to having a cleaner, more organized house. Other than that, I was just wiping tushies, doing dishes, and cooking...ya know, mom stuff. Oh! And how could I forget! We were nervously waiting to see what grad school Tom would get into. Our lives were soooo hanging in the balance, not knowing where we would be living in the fall.

4. 5 Things on my To-Do List:
(this is easy because I make lists for everything, everyday)
1- Completely wipe down and sanitize the high chair
2- Make my visiting teaching appointments
3- Get the package ready for Omi that I keep putting off and putting off and she probably thinks I am a big slacker!
4- Send off this month's bills
5- Bite the bullet and buy mine and Joni's plane tickets for October. It might kill me to spend that much money all in one shot, so that's why I keep putting it off - to live another day. :)

5. 5 Snacks I Enjoy..
1- peanut butter toast
2- bananas, cantelope - ok, pretty much any fruit
3- All-bran crackers with cottage cheese
4- Rice Plus and Flax Seed fruit smoothies
5- Fiber 1 granola bars - yum!!!


6. 5 things I would do if I became a Billionaire...
1- pay off all student loans and prepay all future tuition
2- tithing
3- pay off close friends' and families' houses
4- invest so my kids will have plenty of money for college
5- I need one fun one, so let's see... buy a ridiculously expensive car. Maybe even a "his" and "hers"! I've always like BMW's.....


7. 5 Bad Habits...
1- I lose my temper when Joni throws fits about going to bed. It just makes me so mad!
2- When going to bed at night I leave my dirty socks on the floor by the bed, then Tom comes and picks them up in the morning for me.
3- Whenever I have a million things to do that I don't want to, I like to surf the net and talk on the phone instead.
4- Diet Pepsi. Need I say more?
5- When I fold the laundry, I often leave it in nicely folded piles all over the place, that Tom puts away the second he gets home. Why oh why do I hate putting those simple piles away?

8. 5 Places I have lived...
1- Plain City
2- St. George
3- Salt Lake
4- The mish - so all over Missouri and Kansas
5- Provo
(OK, so these are all pretty boring, but Jerusalem will soon be on the list. Can that count?)


9. 5 Jobs I've Had...
1- ZCMI gift wrap department
2- Convergys
3- Dixie College Financial Aid Office
4- Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Online
5- Nu Skin

10. 5 People I Tag..
1- Sarah
2- Megan
3- Tara (you don't post nearly enough, so here ya go) :)
4- Erin
5- Taylor

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Can vaccines lead to autism?

I saw a video today that really made me mad. Julie Gerberding admits on CNN that vaccines can lead to autism (in a round-about way, of course). Why does the government continue to just skirt around the subject, while so many children suffer? It boggles my mind! Here is a link to the video:

CDC Chief admits that vaccines can lead to autism

Just to be clear, I'm not necessarily anti-vaccine. But I DO think the government needs to step up to the plate and stop putting dangerous toxins into the vaccines (aluminum, mercury, formaldehyde, ether, etc), and start being more honest with the public. And as parents, we need to pray earnestly about how to approach each of our kids' vaccination schedules. Obviously every kid is not affected by vaccines. But so many clearly are.

This book has been a great resource for me. I don't agree with all of what Dr. Sears says on differing subjects, but this is a very simply laid-out book of information on each vaccine. He's not anti-vaccine...he just thinks there are ways to vaccinate more safely.

If you're interested, here are some telling pictures taken at a rally in D.C.

Wow.

Jojo's personal paparazzi

Joni has learned that whenever there is a cute photo-opp, her picture goes onto the computer for everyone to see. So yesterday when she was getting ready for a friend's birthday party, she wanted pictures taken of her along the way. It reminds me of celebrities that shamelessly put themselves in the lime-light because they know they look good and they want the attention. The paparazzi seem to become their best friends. Well, I am now Joni's personal paparazzi...except she really does look cute and does deserve the attention :)


With her friends Ele and Anna.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A couple tid-bits of cuteness

Joni and I recently started trying to teach Jackson some new skills. For several days he just looked at us like we were crazy when we tried teaching him to wave, clap, or do "so big!" Then all of a sudden, he started doing all three within a day or two of each other. Here is a video of one of his new skills:

video
(The best part is that he reaches as far as his little arms will let him, and he hardly gets to the top of his head.)


Also, the other day Joni pulled out a pretty silk scarf that Megan had brought us home from China. She said, "Look mom, I'm going to be Arabic!" In about five seconds (literally), she did this:

(I've never taught her to do this. We watch a lot of foreign movies, mostly Middle Eastern and German. Joni has a couple of Arabic favorites, so I think that's where her idea came from).

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Q&A about Jerusalem

OK, let me just start off my saying that I know it probably seems a little nuts to most people that Tom and I are packing up our two small children and moving to the Middle East. But I have to assure everyone that that is where we are supposed to be. And I don't feel like this has been suddenly sprung on me. I have felt for years that we would live in the Middle East at some point.

Most people seem to have a lot of the same questions. So here is an attempt at answering some of them:

Q: "Are you taking your kids?"
A: Um, yeah.

Q: "So is it safe over there?"
A: Just like any other place, there are scary areas. Some of the other places we thought about going to grad school were in Chicago and Baltimore. Tom's boss who has spent a lot of time in Jerusalem assured us that we will be safer in Jerusalem than in one of those big cities. And yes, we know there are some dangers there that we just don't experience here.

Q: "When do you leave?"
A: Tom is leaving August 3rd to begin his Summer Ulpan, and me and the kids will be joining him the first week of October. (We will be staying with my parents through the months of August and September). His fall semester starts November 2nd.

Q: "What will he be studying?"
A: It's a Master's program called The Bible and It's World. Here is a brief description of it from the school's website. He will be on track #2.

Q: "Will you be anywhere near BYU-Jerusalem?"
A: Yes. His school is located on the same hill-top as BYU-J.

Q: "Is there a ward/branch there?"
A: Yes. It consists of a handful of locals, a lot of tourists, and the students/staff of BYU-J that rotate in and out of there every four months. The branch meets in one of the auditoriums of BYU-J (which is apparently one of the most expensive "chapels" our church has in all the world).

Q: "Where will you live?"
A: Uh, good question. That's part of the reason Tom is going ahead of me and the kids. He will live in the school dorms for his two-month Summer Ulpan, and from there we will rely a lot on advice from other people, particularly church members. As soon as he gets there he will start asking around to find out where other people have lived that come in our same situation. He will also obviously pay special attention to where it would be the safest and most convenient. We know it is going to be quite pricey, but we will just follow where the Spirit tells us is right.

Q: "Are you shipping your furniture over there?"
A: No-way-Jose! We don't have anything worth shipping, for one thing. Plus, it is most likely cheaper to just buy things there. We oh-so hope for a furnished apartment, so maybe everyone could just start praying right now in that regard! :)

Q: "Will you have a car?"
A: We're not sure on that one yet. Public transportation is relatively safe these days, but that can change, and there's just no way to know for sure. My preference would be to sell our current car and buy a new one over there. But we'll probably wait to see how we feel about it once we're there.

Q: "How long will you be there?"
A: Two years.

Q: "If Tom is going over there ahead of you, are you flying over there by yourself with two kids?"
A: Yes-a-roonie! I know, I must be completely insane. I'll be relying heavily on priesthood blessings and benadryl for that one!

Q: "How much does it cost to fly over there?"
A: My right arm and nine toes :) Actually, the prices are going up all the time because of gas prices. Tom's one-way ticket for August cost about $1100. A round-trip is about $2000 right now.

Q: "What is the health care system like over there?"
A: We have no idea.

Q: "What school will he be going to?"
A: It is Hebrew University, but the division of the school he will be attending is called Rothberg International, which is for international students and the classes are taught in English

Q: "Do people speak English?"
A: Yes and no. People definitely speak it, but you can't just assume everybody you come across to know it well. In the more touristy parts it is much more likely. And obviously people going to school with Tom will know English. And we're hoping that the kids and I will be able to pick up some modern Hebrew.

Well, I guess there have been more than just a few questions. In fact, I will probably think of more once I'm done with this post. And just to be clear, we definitely don't mind people asking. I just figured that if some people are asking questions, there are probably some people who are wondering a lot of the same things but don't dare ask. And if anyone has anymore than what I've put here, feel free to ask away!!!

When all is said and done, we are really just going by faith every step of the way. Tom and I were just talking today about Nephi trying to get the plates from Laban, and how terrifying that would have been. He basically said, "I don't know what the heck I'm doing or how it's going to work, but I'm going to do it anyway because I know I'm supposed to." Well, that's us at this point. We don't know how some of it is going to pan-out in the end, but we KNOW that the Lord wants us there and that He will take care of us somehow. Not that I'm saying I think it will be easy. I'm pretty much planning on it rocking my world. But I also think it is the chance of a lifetime and one that I would never pass up.

Elder Wirthlin said, "We make the journey by taking each day step by step and then repeating it again and again until we reach our destination." So that's how we're approaching this journey ahead of us - step by step, until we get there. And from there, we'll just keep going, try our best to do what the Lord asks of us, and plan to reach our destination (both physically and spiritually) with the help of a loving Heavenly Father.

1 Nephy 4:6 And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.