Friday, October 31, 2008

Think about it....

Which one would you miss the most?

  • car
  • dishwasher
  • iron/ironing board (no way to iron your clothes, even for church)
  • Target + Walmart + Shopko
  • microwave
  • blender + handmixer + crockpot
  • TV
  • the absence of large machine guns on every corner
  • your books
  • flat iron/curling iron/hair dryer that works (well)
  • cheese and meat - TOGETHER
  • regular dish set (as in, more than a few plastic plates, a few spoons/forks, and ONE butter knife)
  • washing machine & dryer
  • mexican food
  • carpet
  • wall hangings...or any other home decor, for that matter
  • your mom
  • cheese that has FLAVOR
  • mountains
  • income
  • BYU football (Tom's suggestion)
  • grass
  • makeup that doesn't cost you your first born
  • a bank that actually lets you access your OWN money
  • (while we're on the subject, DECENT customer service)
  • 90% of your shoes
  • your native language (both spoken and written)
  • couches (seriously, couches! could you do without?!?)
  • clean neighborhood
Really, take a minute and think about, and I think I will feel better.

Because I miss them ALL.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Guilt

All parents do dumb things, all parents make stupid mistakes...so why is it that Tom and I feel so guilty?

Maybe because BOTH of our kids have knots on their heads.

Jackson has literally fallen on his head four or five times (lost track) in the last several days.

I'm even brave enough to show the evidence.

So sad.

This little dandy was acquired when he landed head first out of his stroller, onto the grocery store floor.

We don't even know how Joni got hers - any time we ask her, she says something different.


On a happy note....

As I've mentioned before, Jackson has an abundantly good appetite. Food is a very serious matter for him. He often talks to and yells at his food before he eats it. If you're feeding him yourself (as opposed to him just stuffing things in his own mouth) he will begin to yell at you for the next bite, before the current one is completely swallowed.

With that in mind, I have to share this quick video. We had given him several falafel balls on a plate (yes, on the floor - no highchair, remember), so he stuffed them all in his mouth and crawled off to play. As you can see from the video, the balls kept spewing out, unable to stay put, and he would shove them back in. What he's doing here is not necessarily unusual for him - I just felt like capturing it this time....


video


Oh, how I LoVe that little man.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Joni's big #4!

My little girl is getting so darn big. The night before her birthday, all I could think about was the night before she was born four years ago. We had no idea that our little Jojo was about to make a surprise entrance into this world, five weeks earlier than expected.

I remember that night very clearly. Due to some severe swelling, the doctors were keeping an eye on me. I had gone back into the hospital to finish up some lab work. Just as they were sending me on my way, my OB made a frantic call to the nurses, telling them to keep me there because I had to have the baby that night.

A few hours later, Joni came into this world via c-section. I missed most of the birth because in the middle of surgery, I began to feel very severe pain, and they basically knocked me out. Several hours later Joni was sent to another hospital because she needed more and better care. I didn't get to hold her until she was several days old. Her entrance into our lives and the proceeding weeks were a bit of a roller coaster, but we loved her every step of the way. She's our little Jojo, and we're so glad she's part of this family.

Little Joni just a few days old in the NICU

Growing up.....

In the bath at about 7 mo. or so / in her BYU shirt at 13 mo. / and eating cake on her 2nd b-day.


Her 4th birthday was a couple of days ago. It was celebrated quite simply here in Jerusalem, but we tried our best to help her feel special...because she is.

Joni enjoying her very expensive cheesy noodles. :)


Joni with her cake she picked out from the grocery store (with no mixer, no oven, and no measuring utensils, I have a good excuse to buy instead of make). Technically, the cake says congratulations (in Hebrew) but she was convinced it said Happy Birthday.


She spent a good part of the evening talking to family back in the states over Skype.


Just as Tom's family was about to sing Happy Birthday to her, she yells, "Wait! I'm not ready! I have to put on my lipstick first!" Funny kid. You'd think she was turning 14 instead of 4.

Happy Birthday Jojo! We love you!!!



Monday, October 27, 2008

Joni's "Utah" birthday

Before I post pictures of Joni's real birthday, I thought I'd share some pictures of her "Utah" birthday we had for her about a month ago.

Knowing that we would be in Jerusalem for Joni's big #4, we decided to let her have a little party in Utah before we left. So we invited her two little cousins her age that live nearby, Abby and Ava, and took them to Jungle Jim's Playland in Salt Lake. They had a ball!


First, we had a picnic at a park.


Then we busted up a pinata (okay, the kids hardly made a dent - my sister Kristin finally ended up whacking it to death).

The girls loved all the rides. It's like a Six Flags, but for 4 year-olds. Awesome.


Kristin being a good sport.


Bumper cars.


Joni, Abby, and Ava with Grandma and Grandpa.


The babies were very patient. We basically just stayed and stayed until the girls had had their fill of rides and fun. Here is Jackson giving Grandma a "love".


Jackson starting to get veeeery tired.


The look on Joni's face here sums up the day she had. I think she rode the merry-go-round about ten different times, and she was ecstatic about it every time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ever heard of a toilet???

That's what I feel like saying to people around here. I have been here a mere three weeks, and I have already seen FIVE people taking a "wiz" (Tom's word) out in public.

The grand total is actually six if I count Tom's little "emergency" a couple days ago.

Oh wait, I guess it's seven if I count Joni's accident the other day at the playground.

(And none of that includes the picture that's stuck to the inside of our bathroom door - it's of two little boys peeing out on a sidewalk, and there's no earthly way to remove it).

Yes, this is my life.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Kingdom of Joni

Once upon a time, in a land far, FAR, away, there was a princess named Joni. She was so cute and so well loved, that her servants, Tom and Amy, were willing to grant her many birthday wishes, both big and small.

One of these wishes is to have her Grandma's homemade mac'n'cheese - the very same mac'n'cheese that her brother, Prince Jackson, got on his birthday last month. But there is one small problem. In this land that is SO far away, there is a need for things to be very kosher. So most cheese is missing the ingredient rennet, which aids in the rich flavor of American cheddar. Servant Amy had tried making said mac'n'cheese before with local cheese, but Princess Joni didn't like it.

So today, Amy and Tom hiked all over Jerusalem for 3 HOURS in search of imported cheese, so Princess Joni could have this special birthday wish, tomorrow, on her birthday. AND, imported cheese costs a LOT of money. To get about 10 oz of good cheddar cheese, it cost Joni's very poor servants almost 30 bucks.

You better have the cheesiest, happiest, most delightful birthday ever, Princess Joni.

Joni with her 10 little ounces of real cheddar.


Monday, October 20, 2008

The fam

I've been at a loss the last few days. There are so many things to write about, but for some reason my mind has hit a wall and I don't know how to put any of it into words.

So I'm going to step away from the Jerusalem details for a moment and just talk about my family. I feel so grateful for them - more than ever. I'm serious when I say that I can't think of anything that makes me happier than seeing Tom wrestle around with the kids in the evenings. I missed seeing them wrestle while we were away from each other for two months. Now it's back, and I can't wipe the smile off my face.

TOM is amazing. As soon as I got here, he immediately treated me like a princess and hasn't stopped since. I can't believe I'm saying this, but it's kind of nice to have his neat freak-ness back (even though I can't always find everything). He is quite the cleaner. I think I've only done the dishes once or twice since I've been here! And this is random, but he is fit as a fiddle...I'm telling you, I don't know how the heck he pushes the stroller, with BOTH kids in it, up all the hills here, through the bumpy stone sidewalks of the Old City, up and down all the curbs, etc. The walk itself is a workout for me, but he does it pushing probably close to 80 extra pounds. And most of all, it's nice to have my best friend back. He's such a good friend...I don't even know how else to put it.

Our first of many bus trips

JONI is a fireball these days. She can be the cutest darn thing you've ever seen one moment, and then she makes you want to pull your hair out the next. Her favorite things are:
  • singing! She sings at the top of her lungs, ALL THE TIME. Anywhere from the Little Mermaid songs, to made up tunes of her own repeating the words, "I am wonderful" or made up gibberish that she's trying to make sound like Hebrew or Arabic.
  • going to the Western Wall. Now anytime we go to the Old City, she asks to go to "the wall". She loves to walk up to it, put her hands on it, and just today she "said a prayer in her head" while there. Then we walk backwards away from it, which is quite exciting to her.
  • pita and hummus. She never touched the stuff in the states, but here she has taken a liking to it, which is great because it's cheap and easy. Neither of the kids are as picky as they used to be because we don't have much of a selection here. They pretty much eat what we give them, because they know if they don't, they starve.
  • laughing. That girl has been a laugher since she was tiny - we're talking 4 or 5 months old. Sometimes she just likes to laugh, for no reason in particular.
  • princesses. Her bedroom has two 4-foot Belle princesses on the walls, a shelf at the head of her bed with all her princess figurines lined up, and a barbie/princess bedspread that Tom bought her in the Old City just before we got there. Oh, and a princess fan (it was just a cheapy old thing we got, but I put a round princess sticker in the middle, and VOILA!).
  • her little bro. She gets mad as heck when I put him down for naps, and as soon as she hears him start to wake up, she begs to run in and play with him.
  • cats. There are wild kitties EVERYWHERE here, and they're quite disgusting because they live off garbage, but they make her life complete. She watches for them at every turn, and screams out every time she sees them (about every 10 seconds or so).
  • books. Without her gazillion toys from home, she is suddenly quite taken with the books I brought for her (thanks to Omi I had tons to pick from). I brought quite a few, considering how little space we had in our luggage and I am glad I did. She LOVES to read books more than ever before.
Joni at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

JACKSON is my adorable, blue-eyed little stud. He makes me smile at least 100 times a day. He's taking his sweet little time learning to walk, but I like that he's not growing up too fast. His favorite word right now is, "bump!" While we walk around everywhere, Tom or I yell "bump!" anytime we go up or down a curb with the stroller so Joni knows to brace herself. We used to joke that it would become Jackson's favorite word, and it has. It's very cute.

He also loves to play with anything with wheels....cars, trains, whatever. He loves balls, balloons, and...

FOOD. Oh, this kid can eat. This morning we think he ate about 4-5 scrambled eggs. For dinner he had an entire pb&j sandwich, a yogurt, a hot dog, and some milk. I hope we strike it rich before he hits puberty, or he's going to eat us out of house and home (reminds me, today Tom said something to the effect that Jackson's going to put us in the poor house, then said, "Oh wait, we pretty much already are." Okay, maybe you had to be there...it was funny.)

Jackson out on a porch at the BYU Jerusalem Center

Although there are the obvious downsides, it has been so nice to downsize all of our stuff, not have a TV, start walking everywhere, and be in a new place. It has allowed us to (okay, maybe forced us to) turn to each other and learn to do everything differently. Everything feels like a big, fun, exciting adventure, and I love that. But most of all, I love that I'm doing it all with the fam.

My cute fam in a little corner of the Garden of Gethsemane

Friday, October 17, 2008

Kids say the darndest things, in the darndest places

A couple days ago it was the beginning of a major holiday here, Sukkot. Most stores and businesses were closed, so we thought we'd make another trip down to the Old City (in case you're wondering, we go there a lot) because that place is always hoppin'. We figured we could make a big day trip out of it and go see a couple of the sights that we hadn't seen yet - namely the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall) and the Dome of the Rock.

As most of you probably know, the Western Wall is pretty much the most sacred, holy, and recognized spots in all of Judaism. Many Jewish people make a special trip, or many trips to Jerusalem, specifically to go and pray at the Western Wall. It's still common to see people weeping as they stand at the wall and call upon the Messiah to come, and/or to help them with something going on in their lives.

So to put it simply, it's a very sacred spot. There are signs everywhere asking you to dress modestly, turn your cell phones off, talk quietly, and approach the wall with reverence.

The area is divided into two sections - one side is for males and one side is for females. Since Tom had already been to this sight once, I left Jackson with him and took Joni down to see and touch the wall. As we head down the walk way and begin walking up to the wall, Joni, to my horror, yells,

"Hey mom! This is where JESUS used to live!!!"

I then crawled in a hole and died. Okay, not really, but I wanted to.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The little things

As I mentioned before, we have no oven or microwave. I know, bummer. It has also been hard to find certain foods, which is something we expected - but still, bummer. For my birthday I really wanted to find some refried beans so we could make some burritos. No such luck.

But I'm happy to say that we finally found a good toaster oven the other day in the Old City. We love it. Then today we decided to go exploring and find another grocery-type store we had heard about. It was a tiny little corner market that was so small that all the produce was outside, and our stroller wouldn't fit inside. But they had refried beans (for me) and barbeque sauce (for Tom). So we are happy campers. We now love our little corner market.

These simple things make us so happy!

Also, we found hangers yesterday. I think they have had them at our grocery store all along, but we had never been able to find them. We finally found them hanging above the cheese. Duh.

AND I've been invited by another lady in the branch here to go to playgroup tomorrow morning. So nice! I guess it's a group of expat ladies, mostly Americans and Brits. So it'll be nice to have some girly conversation, and Joni will loooooove having kids to play with.

Another thing we were finally able to find was decent towels. Tom had bought some before the kids and I arrived (and they were beautiful), but get this...they didn't work, and I'm not kidding. They didn't absorb anything! They would just wipe the water all over, so when you put your clothes on after showering, you were still sopping wet. Yuck. And when I would wrap my hair up in one of them on top of my head, my hair would just drip out the back and sop the back of my shirt. So we've looked and looked, but the non-absorbent towels that don't work are apparently common here, because that's all we could find. But a few days ago we found a shop that carried American toiletries and makeup, and they had decent towels! (Not great, but a lot better). Yeah!

Now if I could just figure out a way for my flat iron to work here, maybe I could start doing my hair again...

Monday, October 13, 2008

The search for housing

It was quite a task to find a good place to live in Jerusalem, but the Lord totally helped us, so I thought I'd share.

Tom looked for weeks, trying to find the right place of us. We almost took a place in the Old City, but were nervous about it because we would actually share a living room with two other people - weird. Then there was a nice place in a Jewish settlement northeast of the city, but it was right up against the north end of the West Bank wall. I didn't feel good about it. Then it finally came down to a so-so place out in a rich Jewish neighborhood, but it was so far away from church we didn't know how we'd get there every week OR a very, very nice place (on the inside) out in a very poor settlement that was closer to the university/church. But I was worried about the surroundings of the second place because I thought it would be hard on Joni. We finally decided on the so-so place far away from church, and just accepted the fact that it might take us hours to get to church.

The day Tom went to sign the contract (two days before we got here), the guy who he was staying with (the Elder's Quorum Pres, Kyler) urged him to go ask the university housing people one more time about possibly getting a place in the dorms. He had gone into that office MANY times before, and the lady just kept blowing him off. First she said there's no such thing as family housing, then she said they're way too full, then she said we could maybe get on a waiting list...blah, blah, blah. In other words, we don't want you here, so go away. But he decided to listen to Kyler and go anyway. He walked in, approached the same lady who had blown him off so many other times, explained that he was about an hour away from signing a year long contract, and out of the blue she says, "Okay, I can't make you any promises, but I am going to put you at the top of the waiting list, and on Sunday, you might have a two bedroom apt in the married housing." WHAT?!? He started freaking out because now he had no idea what to do!

He tried calling me about five times, but it was 3:00 am in Utah, and I didn't have my phone in my room, so I didn't hear it. He finally called Kyler to ask advice. He also ended up calling the Branch President because he was planning on co-signing with Tom on the other place in just one short hour. The advice they both gave was to do anything he could to hold off on the one far from church, and hope the family housing thing worked out.

So on Saturday, the 4th, the kids and I flew in to Israel without a place to live. We stayed in a hotel in the Old City, and called the housing lady the next day to find out that,

WE GOT IT!

We could hardly believe it. This lady who had blown off Tom so many times, had now pulled some major strings to get him in! We know the Lord softened her heart so that we could get in the place we should be.

So we live in the dorms. They're old, and very utilitarian, how dorms often go, but we are soooo grateful for this place. Oh, and when we showed up to sign the contract to live here, they suddenly offered us a three bedroom place instead of two bedroom! And it was still hundreds cheaper a month than the other place we almost lived.

We are now within walking distance of school and church, which is obviously a major plus. The grocery store is only about a ten minute walk. And we live really close to a couple other young families in the branch. Our neighborhood is pretty eclectic because we live near the university, so there are locals, plus a lot of internationals.

We circle around to the back of the dorms, and this is the door to our building (behind the flowers). Big rose gardens like this are NOT common, so we are very lucky to have pretty surroundings. Joni looooves the roses.


Tom climbing the steps once inside the building. We live up on the second floor.


Just inside our front door and to the right. We have no oven and no microwave. Let's just say I'm going to be an EXPERT on cooking everything on the stove (and we're currently looking for a decent toaster oven, so that could help quite a bit).



This is on the way out of the little complex we live in. You have to go through a guarded gate every time (very normal here).


I thought I'd include a picture of our local grocery store, since it has become our second home. We can only buy as much as we can carry home, so we go almost every day. I HATE...let me say that again...HATE not being able to read labels. Tom is my translator. But I am getting a feel for things. I already know my way around the store, and I know how to read the prices and the weight, so I can at least compare prices. And things are very expensive here. A 1/2 gallon of milk costs roughly $3.50, and I think a box of macaroni and cheese would cost around $4.00. So we buy a lot of produce, pita, hummus, and lamb, because that's what we can afford.

We are so grateful for our home and our neighborhood. We feel like we are exactly where the Lord wants us to be.




Saturday, October 11, 2008

The big 29!

I have already taken about 5 million pictures, and I don't know how to even begin to break them down to share. We've been to the Old City three times this week, which I love, and a bunch of other places. But for now I would like to document the very unique birthday I had today. It was an amazing day.

(Sorry, this post got long. I promise to try and condense later posts. But since today was a special day, I didn't want to leave anything out.)

It actually kind of started last night. We went shopping for jewelry in the Old City. I finally ended up buying some brown dangly earrings and a "pearl" bracelet. At first the guy wanted 250 shekels for just the bracelet! I don't think so mister! I finally got BOTH for 50 shekels, which is about 16 bucks. Yes, it's been a week, and I'm already catching on to the haggling around here. AND, while we were walking around we ended up at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is where a lot of Christians believe that inside this church is the spot where Jesus was first laid after he was crucified, and a little further in is the place where the tomb was that he resurrected from. Even though we don't believe that these are authentic places for these events, it was very touching to see how much it meant to the people visiting there. I was completely overwhelmed by the place and the people.

Here is what the outside looks like as you come around the bend. These photos don't do it justice.


Me and Jojo just inside the doors. She is such a good sport with all the running around we do. She almost never complains.


I loved this spot. This is where some believe that Christ was first laid when he was killed - right on this stone. I loved to watch the people here, and see their love for the Savior.

So that was last night. First thing this morning Tom fed me breakfast in bed - Honey Bunches of Oats (costs almost 10 bucks here so it's a TREAT) and deviled eggs. Yum.

Then HE got the kids ready for church (another huge treat!). We headed out just after 9 am to be sure and be there by 10:00 with some time to spare to freshen up. It's a good size walk, (we have no car, so we walk everywhere) mostly uphill (think MOUNT of Olives). We watched a recording of Conference, not sure which one, but it was good. We then had lunch in the "Oasis" at the BYU-JC. (For those who don't know, we have church there every week, and the Sabbath here is on Saturday, even for us.) Then we tried to go back in and watch another session, but we could tell Jackson wasn't going to make it. Here are some picks of the BYU-Jerusalem Center:


This is the outside patio of the "Oasis". It has a gorgeous lookout, which I included below...



Here is some of the beautiful landscaping out front where the entrance is. It's SOOO beautiful compared to what a lot of Jerusalem looks like...it's very dirty with trash everywhere. So coming into the BYU-JC grounds is quite a contrast.

The one thing I for sure wanted to do for my birthday was go see Gethsemane. So straight from church we started the walk there (Jackson does amazingly well in the stroller, so we knew he'd happy himself right up, and he did). We walked through a big Arab neighborhood, which I love to do. It's very fun to see the people all out and about.

There's shops and people and living quarters everywhere, all mashed up together. It's very crowded and dirty, but exciting at the same time. The kids love to walk up to us and say, "Haallo! Wus you name?"


Traffic here is NUTS! I can't emphasize this enough. The driving is completely insane. Everyone drives like 100 miles an hour, weaving in and out of traffic, pedestrians, you name it. I've realized that the people here are just good at it, but I still HATE it when a sidewalk disappears for a couple blocks and here we are pushing our kids on the street with cars WIZZING by us. We had to maneuver ourselves through this crowded intersection.

Anyway, on with the day. We walked clear across the city, down a huge hillside, and we finally made it. There's two Gethsemane gardens, a north and a south. The north one is the one we believe to be the actual spot, but they keep the south one up better. What an amazing experience to be there. Once you get past the hustle and bustle of the tourists and take a moment to take it all in, it's mind boggling - to be in the very area where Christ once was, doing such an unbelievable, eternal thing for all of us.

I LOVED this sculpture in the wall of the church right there next to the garden. It's hard to capture in a picture, but it was beautiful.



South garden
(I can't figure out what that white thing is in front. Tom and I don't even remember seeing it until we saw this picture).


North garden.
(I had to take this through a gate because they keep it locked up, and the guy who can usually let us in wasn't there).

The church there at Gethsemane. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. If I remember right, it was first built shortly after Christ, then destroyed years later, then rebuilt in the 12th century. It's totally silent inside. Even Joni enjoyed the quiet reverence of this place.

Sorry, I know this is seriously getting long, but it's been a big day!

After Gethsemane, we didn't want to walk back the way we came because it would have been up VERY steep hills, so we walked up around the Old City and went to the Garden Tomb before catching a bus home.

Golgotha


Some of the beautiful garden surrounding the tomb. It's beautiful. All you can hear is birds chirping.


Joni standing right outside the tomb. She was very excited to see this because she has a Living Scriptures movie she has watched about a million times that's about the resurrection.


This is just inside the tomb and to the right. It was an amazing feeling being there. Again, even Joni felt the reverence of it. She didn't want to leave. If you look behind her, Christ is said to have been laid there on the left.

This has probably been the greatest birthday I have ever had. For one thing, Tom has spoiled me rotten, and it feels sooooo good to spend the day with him - just walking all over the city, enjoying things together, taking it all in....TOGETHER.

Our kids were troopers. We started out the door this morning at 9:00 am, and we didn't get home until dinner time (and a good portion of that time was walking around the city, getting from one place to the other). At one point, Joni fell asleep on her back-end of the stroller, which has nowhere to lay your head, so she just leaned right over the bar and zonked out. Just like at the airport with Jackson, people were pointing to her, assuming we didn't know. After a little while, we woke her up because we were worried the bar was pushing too hard on her neck and would disrupt the blood flow to her brain! :) What a girl she is.

Although Tom and I have talked about how sad it is that the kids may not remember much of their experiences here, I still feel like Joni soaks in the spirit of this place. Even though she doesn't totally understand, I know she still benefits by seeing, first hand, the places Christ has been, and learning about it from her parents.

Happy Birthday to me! What a great day!!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Miracles

I just have to take a moment to recognize Heavenly Father and the many miracles He offers us.

Miracle #1 - He helped us find my passport. I really think this came straight from Heavenly Father. I felt the Spirit tell me that He was helping those airport workers find it. I am so grateful.

Miracle #2 - He helped us find my luggage. As miserable as it was to wear those disgusting clothes for several days, I am so grateful we eventually found the luggage. I can't explain how hard it is to get all your belongings into five suitcases, and then have three of those suitcases go missing. I didn't know what I was going to do. It wasn't like I could just run to WalMart and Target and restock myself up on everything. A lot of our shopping here will be done in the Old City, and when you don't have a car, that's a lot of walking just to stock up on the basics. It would have been months before I had all the necessities in order.

Miracle #3 - He helped us find a place to live. This was so clearly a miracle from the Lord. It's a long story, but Tom has been looking for weeks, and nothing he found felt quite right. But I KNEW there was a place that Heavenly Father had prepared for us, and that when we found it, it would feel right. We finally got into married student housing, and it's such a blessing. The location is a million times better than the other places we had looked at. It's also much cheaper, which is huge when you're living off student loans. The Lord softened hearts for this to happen...not very long ago, this place wasn't really even an option for us because of the decisions of others. Now we're here. (It was so last minute that we actually had to stay in a hotel that first night we were here. It was in the Old City. Can you say "culture shock"???)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Getting to Israel: Part 3

More phone calls came and went in an effort to find my passport. He found nothing. He told me he was sorry but that he would have to take me to the International Services desk and that they would help me work out the details of being in Vienna for a few days. My heart sank. This couldn’t be happening.

So we walk down there and the lady is bothered that the mystery hadn’t been solved. When I told her that we had originally heard about a possible passport that had been found, and that we never heard much of an explanation as to why people had been thinking that, she wanted to investigate it further.

More phone calls.

One after the other, after the other. I went into a corner with Joni and we prayed our little hearts out. Jackson had hardly slept in about 18 hours and he was losing it. So was I.

Finally the lady found out that they did actually find a passport in the plane I was in, but that they didn’t really think it was mine. The name didn’t sound familiar to the person who had seen it. So we grabbed the guy who had originally tried to help me, and sent him down to an office on the other side of the airport to see. I told him to come back with my passport or I was going to have a heart attack and it would be on his head. He laughed. We felt like old friends by now.

Soon after he left, I heard the last call for my flight. The lady at the Int’l Services desk called the gate and told them my situation and to wait for me.

I think we waited less than 10 minutes, but they were the longest, most agonizing 10 minutes of my life. Then the phone rang. The guy who went to check on it was calling to say,

IT WAS MINE! I cheered right out loud! Joni and I did a high-five and jumped up and down. We waited ten more minutes for the guy to come back, then ran to the plane. I never thought I would be so happy to fly AGAIN. I think I smiled all the way to the plane. I was even smiling as I was walking down the aisle of the plane, even though everybody was staring me down as being the reason for them having to wait.

I didn’t care. I was going to Israel!

The best part about that last flight was that they were nice enough to rearrange things as I got on so that Jackson could have his car seat in his own seat. It was awesome. Both kids were totally tired and hungry and ornery, but it was much more manageable with Jackson in his own seat. I was so happy that whole flight. Nothing could have disturbed my happiness.

Oh, wait. I still have one more surprise.

So we fly in to Tel Aviv, and people help me off with all my stuff. Another lady offered to help me walk to the passport-check place by wheeling my suitcase for me so I would have two hands for the stroller. So nice. I love Israel already. The whole time we’re standing in line I am just happy as can be. We made it. Tom was probably on the other side of this wall I’m looking at. He promised to meet me before baggage claim so he could help me with the suitcases. We get to the other side of that wall, and there’s no Tom.

I wait around for a few minutes and decide to go walk around the baggage claim area just in case he’s already there gathering our luggage. No Tom in sight.

I decide to sit down and wait. I kept thinking I should just get up and get my baggage myself so that we’re ready by the time he gets there. But I knew I couldn’t do it. There was no way I would be able to fill up a luggage cart and then steer both the cart and the stroller. It was physically impossible.

So I waited some more. I tried calling home to get Tom’s cell number which I had forgotten to pack, but no one answered.

I waited a full hour before I realized that my baggage claim carousel had stopped turning. So I decide to go gather what I could and at least put it in a pile. As I get up to walk across the baggage claim area, I look down the hallway where everyone had been walking to with their luggage. They were going through customs! Duh! Tom COULDN’T come that far to help me! He was probably just sitting there waiting on the other side for me!

Okay, we’ll figure a way for the baggage thing to work.

So we go walk around the carousel, but there’s a problem. There’s only one of my bags. The other three are…yup, you guessed it, missing in action. They are nowhere to be found. I immediately walk over to the lost and found area. It had at least 100 pieces of luggage sitting around outside, so I start looking through the rows. None of them are mine. I go up to the counter, and she basically tells me to sign some papers, and they’d let me know IF they found them. I knew I was in trouble when she asked me to describe them and she writes down my oh-so detailed description of a “big black duffel” and an “old Atlantic black suitcase” and a “medium sized blue suitcase with red trim.” They probably already had five suitcases that fit each of those descriptions.

I had no hope of finding those suitcases that held ALL of the clothes that Joni, Jackson, and I owned, ALL of the toiletries that I had meticulously stocked up on and packed, my mission scriptures, ALL of our shoes, and many, many other things.

So once I finally made it through customs, that smile I had painted on my face an hour and a half earlier was long gone. Now I was fighting back the tears. I wanted to hurt somebody.

For the next two days I wore the exact same clothes, including underwear, that I had sweated so profusely in when in the Chicago airport, running my dang-near half marathon. Joni and Jackson were also filthy.

But I am happy to say that Monday night I did get them back. We finally got a hold of the right people, they had found the luggage, and they had someone drive it all out to me. I was so excited at every little thing I had packed. Under garments suddenly felt so exciting. I cheered when I saw my pajamas. I am so grateful to have all my stuff!

Well, if you made it to the end of this adventure, thanks. Now a whole knew adventure is starting, and this one will last two years. I hope it goes a little better than my arrival.

I already have so many things to share, pictures to take, and things to tell, and I've only been here five days!

So far I love Jerusalem. It's a whirl-wind, but I love it.

Getting to Israel: Part 2

So now that we’re ON the second plane, I start to wonder how I’m going to either get Joni to the potty, or get a pull-up on her. I had been telling her that for this leg of the flight she would be wearing a pull-up because we would be having a “sleep-over”. Well, she was sound asleep before we were fully in the air. I was staring at the seatbelt sign the whole time, begging it with my mind to turn off so I could wake Joni up, take her to go potty, and put on the pull-up. Next thing I know, I look over at Joni, and see a wet spot between her legs. I start shaking her and telling her to wake up, but it didn’t phase her. She had SERIOUSLY wet the chair – within minutes of starting a nine hour flight. I had no idea what to do.

After taking a moment to reconsider this whole thing, I decided I couldn’t very well jump out of the plane and back out, so I asked a very nice southern lady who was sitting next to me to hold Jackson while I hunted down my suitcase, dug out an extra pair of clothes for Joni, and found a stewardess to tell her what happened. She was obviously horrified, but told me she would change the top cover of the seat and put a towel down while I went into the bathroom to change Joni.

If you’re thinking this sounds like a nightmare, trust me, it was.

Then there’s the logistics of actually going potty when you’re flying alone on an airplane with two kids. There’s no other way of doing it other than being all up in each others’ business. There’s nothing more personal than having your knee in your baby’s face (who’s sitting on the bathroom floor – yuck), and your toddler standing face to face with you while you’re sitting on the toilet. Good times.

It was also VERY hot on this flight. Everyone was complaining, and no one was willing to do anything about it. I kept overhearing people say that they couldn’t sleep because they were too hot, and other people saying that they fell asleep for a short time and woke up with a sweat soaked pillow. This factor alone made this flight miserable.

I kept getting in trouble by the stewardess because Jackson wouldn’t stop pushing the help button on the arm rest, no matter how hard I tried to divert him.

Jackson pooped his diaper five or six times in those nine hours. So there were many of the above mentioned family trips to the lavaotory.

I got sick on all three flights. I kept taking more and different motion sickness medicines, and for some reason, none of them were working. I contemplated many times running to the bathroom to puke, but then again there’s the whole logistics of taking the family into a lavatory, and I just held it down, keeping the barf bags close at hand. Again, this factor alone - miserable.

Finally, the nine hour flight was over and we were in Vienna. Happy day. We get off and right away I see that the gate for our next flight is very close. Hooray. I check in at the counter and get our seats changed so that they’re together. Everything seemed to finally be going right.

But I still had a couple more surprises in store for me.

I sit down on the floor with the kids (absolutely no seating) and start rearranging the bags so I have things accessible that I want to use for the last leg into Tel Aviv. It made me remember that in Chicago someone told me that I should sign the kids’ passports before I get to Israel. So I pull them out, sign them the way he told me to, and as I go to put them back in, I realize I don’t see my own.

That’s weird.

So I keep looking. It’s clearly not in the pocket where I had been keeping it. So I rummage through the entire diaper bag, and still nothing. My blood pressure starts to rise.

So then I decide that I must have accidentally moved it when I was rearranging things. I start looking in the other bags – the laptop bag, Joni’s backpack, and the suitcase.

Nothing.

So here I am, sitting in an airport in VIENNA with two kids, and no passport. So I go back to the counter and tell them I have a serious problem and that I need their help. The guy looked like he was no older than 17, but he got right on it for me. He understood the severity of the problem I was facing and I was so grateful that he was willing to do his best to look. I stood there for about 45 minutes while he made probably 20 or 30 calls. He’d make one phone call, then hang up and immediately make another, then another, then another. At one point he found someone that thought they’d heard about a passport being found on the airplane I had been on, but then later talked to someone that said that wasn’t true.

I asked him what happens if we don’t find it. He said there was no way I could get on that plane. He said I would have to claim my baggage and stay in Vienna for at least a few days, and that was if the embassy was willing to rush a passport for me. I tried to picture myself with five VERY heavy pieces of luggage, two children, a stroller, and two more bags. No taxi in town could fit us. I would never be able to load all of that on a bus.

We HAD to find that passport.


Stay tuned....

Getting to Israel: Part 1

Okay everybody, prepare yourselves for the ride of you life. Sit back, grab the popcorn, and allow yourselves to be entertained at my expense. You might feel pity, horror, laughter, and hopefully some relief in the end.

This last Friday was the dreaded day. For months I have thought forward to October 3rd, wondering at what events would transpire. Flying from Utah to Jerusalem with two small children and no husband would surely be no small task. But do-able…barely.

So the morning of October 3rd comes, and I’m up bright and early. I actually woke up an hour earlier than I needed to, which was an accident. So right off the bat, I start off with little sleep.

Once at the airport, my poor parents wait around for forever while I get everything settled. Then comes my blessed opportunity to go through that wonderful thing called security. Of course I am selected for the special screening. So I say goodbye to my parents, they help load me up so I can manage two bags and a car seat on my back, rolling a carry-on, and pushing a stroller with two kids. The special screening ended up not being too bad, thankfully. I had about five security guys helping me through, and it gave me extra time to get everyone’s shoes back on, and the kids back into the stroller.

Oh, if I only knew of the things to come, I think I would have run for the nearest exit.

So my first flight was from Salt Lake to Chicago. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible, either. Neither of the kids would fall asleep, so they started to get fussy since it was nap time. I finally resorted to giving Jackson a cup of ice to play with. You can imagine that cold and wet adventure. But it kept him occupied, and I figured we can always get dry later. And it gave the German family next to me a good laugh.

I was also the flight favorite on this leg of the trip because of all the toys and goodies I had brought for the kids. There were several other families on that flight, and many of the children quickly realized that I had an endless stash of surprises. And the other parents were obviously more than willing to relieve themselves for a few moments while that nice lady in the back of the plane entertains their kids AND her own.

As we arrive in Chicago, I feel like I have plenty of time to make it to the other side of the airport to catch the next flight. If someone had told me ahead of time that the Chicago airport is the size of a small city, I guess I chose to forget about it. I asked directions about five different times in order to find the right elevator to go up, then the right elevator to go back down, then up to the bridge, cross the bridge, go down another elevator, catch the train, go up another elevator, check in with the airline, stand in line for passport check, stand in line again for another security, then run like mad down the longest terminal ever built.

Okay, I made that last detail up, but it COULD be true. It was LONG. It had three different moving sidewalks. Of course I go to jump on the first one because moving sidewalk plus physically running HAS to be faster than just running, right? Ideally, but not necessarily. As I go to jump on, Joni (who is on foot at this point because I had to put the carseat on her part of the stroller) starts screaming and refusing to get on the moving sidewalk. Panicked, I grab her arm and try to draaaaaag her on, but once my feet hit the moving sidewalk, she yanked her arm away. So I start moving with the stroller, bags, and Jackson, while she’s standing at the end, screaming her head off. I’m yelling at her to get on, and she won’t, so I start running against what feels like an ever increasing current of moving sidewalk, dragging the stroller and suitcase, trying to get back to Joni. Finally, an airport worker goes to get on behind me and just picks Joni up by the armpits and plops her on the sidewalk. Problem solved. She instantly stops screaming. I told her I understand it’s a little scary, but she has done these many times, and to please never do that again. Ten seconds later, we have run to the end, and she panics and drops to all fours, wanting to crawl off. Flashes of news stories come to my mind of kids’ fingers and feet getting ripped off because they get stuck in escalators or moving sidewalks. At this point I am screaming, telling her to get off, and the same airport worker comes to save the day again, and picks her up and plops her off to the other side.

PHEW. Okay, were okay. My kids still have all their appendages. We're good to go now. Oh wait, we’re still just about to miss our flight. We keep running.

I also have to include here that Jackson has been sound asleep in the carseat for quite a while now. To conserve room in our Sit’n’Stand, I had his seat all the way up, which caused him to slump waaaaaaaay over to the side. People kept stopping me, assuming I didn’t know that my kid was folded in half sideways, and wanted to help me fix it. I humored them at first, but after the first couple of people, I would just quickly say, “I know! I can’t fix it now!”

Back to story…here comes moving sidewalk number two. Joni insists she’ll get on without complaining, and she does. Her fear factor is very fickle, especially when she’s tired. But just after she gets on, I hear an announcement that our flight is about to leave.

MORE panic. We run faster.

Joni starts yelling at me, telling me I'm mean, because I'm making her run. She keeps this up for the rest of the way. We hop off sidewalk number two, keep running, hop on sidewalk number three, keep running, get off, keep running, and I can see our gate clear down at the end. Someone from the gate starts yelling to me, “Are you going to Vienna?!?” “YES!!!”

As I get to them, I practically throw my passports at them and they start to look it all over. A guy then comes out to get my stroller and freaks out that I am unable to blink my baby out of his harness. Sorry dude! I’m trying! Can’t you see the beads of sweat dripping from all parts of my body? He doesn’t seem to care. He just wants me to give him the stroller. As he walks off I ask if he wants to know how to fold it down, and he says, “No. I’ll just take it apart if I have to.” That’s nice. I quickly imagine myself punching him in the face, and move on.

I am the last one on the flight, so while everyone is calm and collected, waiting for the NINE HOUR FLIGHT to leave, here I come, two kids in tow, sweaty, stinky, and hitting everyone in the head with my huge bags as they flop from one side of the aisle to the other. Finally a man takes pity on me and offers to help me with the suitcase I’m trying to drag behind me. “Oh yes kind, kind man!” It took him a while to find a spot, since the plane was packed to the brim, but he did, and saved me much added stress. I love you stranger!

Oh I forgot something. In the middle of the airport mayhem, while standing in one of the lines, Joni starts freaking out because she has to go potty. Ain’t happenin’ sister – no way, no how. I talked her out of it. If we went potty at this point, we would have completely missed the plane. But then again, maybe that would be better than what I'm about to experience.

Stay tuned.....


Friday, October 3, 2008

I guess this is it!

This has to be quick, because if I'm not in bed in the next few minutes, my mom will skin me alive. My parents have helped me soooooo much today, to get ready for the big move to Jerusalem. They've told me many times today that they don't want me to start out the big trip being tired, so I need to hit the sack. Because heaven knows I'm going to get tired soon.

So I guess it's possible to move to another country in only five suitcases for three people, because that's essentially what I'm doing. And I've got the diaper bag all packed with random toys and snacks, and we head out for the airport tomorrow at about 8:00 am. My flight leaves at 11:00, and we will be getting to Jerusalem at about 3:00 in the afternoon, Saturday.

I feel relatively calm, and at the same time, a nervous wreck. I keep asking myself, "Do people actually do this? Move to the other side of the globe? Going off nothing but student loans and faith?" I think the answer might be, um, NO. But I like to convince myself that this is a perfectly normal thing to do.

Believe it or not, we're still not even sure where we're living! It's a long story that I will have to tell later. We thought we had made a decision, and then something else came up, so both possibilities are just kind of hanging out there until Sunday. So we'll probably be spending the first night there in a hotel. But no worries, the Lord is working things out for us. It just makes the adventure that much more exciting.

Quick story. Okay, I guess it's not a story, it's something cute Joni said today. We were on our way home today from WalMart, and Joni says, "Hey mom! Guess what! I don't have to miss daddy anymore because we're going to Jerusalem tomorrow! So now I can hug him, and kiss him, and play with him! Yeah!" It has to go down in the cutest-thing-ever-said-hall of fame. I love that kid. I might be ready to strangle her by the time this trip is over, but I do love her.

Okay, I guess I'm going to hope that this post makes sense, and head to bed. I've got to be up in about five hours. I hope to still be sane the next time I post - in Jerusalem!