Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sisters

I looooooove my sisters. I girl couldn't ask for better sisters than mine.


(by Rick Mobbs)


That's all. You can go about your day now.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Our Christmas in Jerusalem

We had a great Christmas this year. On Christmas Eve some friends (the Meyers) invited us over to have all the kids act out the nativity and have some classic holiday treats. They had some awesome Arab head coverings that we used for the shepherds. Joni was an angel and thought she was pretty hot stuff. We also read from the scriptures and sang Christmas carols.

Jackson sporting his shepherd's get-up.


My sweet little angel


We had a great time Christmas morning watching the kids open their presents. They each got three or four toys, which pretty much doubled their toy stash. They were stoked. Mom and dad were happy, too, that the kiddos would have more toys to keep them entertained.
Jackson with his own broom (he LOVES to "clean" with it) and his tractor.


Joni has desperately missed all her dress-up stuff. We only brought one dress-up outfit here and she got sick of it after about a month. So Tom and I searched high and low for some here, but to no avail. We finally decided it was a great chance to deter her from the Disney princess obsession, and we got her some genuine little girl pieces from the Old City. She has a little Muslim dress, along with a head scarf (which she prefers to wear on her neck at this point) and another scarf that's actually for belly dancers, but she doesn't have any clue. She just knows it's all pretty, and that it makes cool noises when she shakes her stuff...and trust me, she can shake it. She shook her tushy so much when she first put it all on, that she got a side-ache.


And I better show off my Christmas present from Tom and the kids. Tom did well. He got me a Bedouin ring I had been eyeing in the Old City. LOVE it.


Me and Jojo just before heading out to our branch Christmas party. Tom had a class in the middle of the day, but in the evening we all gathered at a member's house for more good food and carol singing. We got to eat all the ham we wanted (not always easy to come by here, for obvious reasons) and a bunch of other food we ordered from peoples' favorite restaurants.


This was during the party and I just had to capture it. The kids are playing with a BYU-J service couple, the Squires. Joni and Jackson have adopted a couple of the service couples as their own grandparents. My kids miss their grandparents at home, and the service couples miss their grandkids. Put them together, and everyone is happy.



All of us sitting around after dinner singing Christmas carols. A couple members in the branch have Jewish family members, who also came. I guess they were warned about the Christmas carols and the ham ahead of time, so it worked out okay :-)

After the Christmas carols, the Jewish girl who speaks no English sang an opera song in Italian, then a couple of the Spanish members sang a South American song in Spanish, followed by the Filipino members singing a carol in Tagalog. Doesn't get any better.



We originally wanted to go to Bethlehem for Christmas this year, but because of Tom's school we weren't able to do it. But Christmas was still very special for us. Missing out on all the Christmas hype back in the states was a breath of fresh air. I loved doing two small shopping trips and being done. I loved having simple decorations and being surrounded by other people who were also away from their extended families. It was easier than ever before to concentrate on all of our blessings, especially our sweet Savior, Jesus Christ. Without Him, we would be nothing. He is the source of our joy, this season and throughout the year. Living in the Holy Land has definitely helped turn our hearts towards Him, for more reasons than one. We love Him, and we hope He was proud of the way we celebrated his birth this year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sweet giveaway!

A good friend of mine from high school, Trent (one of our many "ward-boys"), has an adorable wife who I have never actually met in real life but have come to really look up to. Trent and April have experienced a lot this year, and have been an inspiration to me of how to stay close to the Lord during difficult trials.

April has an adorable Etsy shop and baby accessory blog named Sweet Ruby where she sells some to-die-for baby stuff. She is having a giveaway that you all have to check out! I'm not officially entering myself since I'm so far away and not easy to ship things to, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to support two wonderful people.

So go check out "Sweet Ruby" now!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My heart is heavy today

Our Shabbat started out fine today. Tom and I spoke in sacrament meeting this morning, and we had a great congregation. The Tel Aviv Branch was visiting because they're having some problems with their meeting house. There was also a large tour group today, which is always fun.

A friend of ours gave us a ride home from church, which added to my happiness that my talk was over and I had the rest of the day to relax. We came home, ate lunch, and we all went down for naps.

When I woke up at about 4:30 or 5:00, I saw right away online that Israel made a major attack on Gaza as I peacefully slept in my bed. At this point they're saying about 200 are dead, and many other hundreds are wounded. I almost felt guilty for not being aware in the very moment so many were living in fear and horror, not too far from us.

As I got up to make dinner, I heard many helicopters flying overhead. So after dinner I got back online and heard that there have been some incidences in Jerusalem, also, in response to the attack on Gaza.

Here is a quote from the Jerusalem Post online:

Following the IAF assault on Gaza, outbreaks of rioting were being reported in East Jerusalem.

Hundreds of Palestinians at the entrance to the Shoafat refugee camp were hurling rocks at police and Border Police forces, who were attempting to disperse the demonstration. On Salah-adDin street in the city, dozens of protesters set ablaze garbage bins.

Earlier, several demonstrators were arrested after hurling rocks at police at the Flowers Gate in the Old City, and in the Muslim Quarter.

These places are very familiar to us. We go to the Muslim Quarter in the Old City regularly, and Salah-adDin is probably one of my favorite places to go in all of Jerusalem. It has fun shopping and is full of very nice people. We call it "our street" because we like it so much. Here are a couple pictures I took one of the first times I ever went there...

Tom recently got a text message from the University which said to avoid going into East Jerusalem and the Old City, which is funny because we LIVE in East Jerusalem! In fact, the main campus of Hebrew U is in East Jerusalem, along with all of their dorms. Hmm. Not quite sure what they expect the students to do.

Apparently, there is a lot of talk on Facebook about all the sirens, smoke, explosions, and police cars racing around our neighborhood. We haven't heard or seen much of it, so I'm not sure how much of it is hype. Our windows also probably face the wrong direction to see what's going on, so maybe that's part of it.

I'm not sure why I'm rambling on about this. I have a hard time making sense of a lot of it in my mind. I do understand where both sides come from, to an extent. I guess the hard part for me is I love Israelis, and I love Palestinians. Part of me just can't fathom why they want to hurt each other, and then the other part of me knows EXACTLY why they want to hurt each other.

Ugh.

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that my heart is heavy today.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Look what we have!

A tree!!!


Our friends, the Crawfords, called a couple of nights ago and said they had a special delivery. They had gotten a hold of an extra Christmas tree and decided to bring it over to us! We were soooo excited! They had even strung some popcorn, dried some orange and apple slices, and included a string of lights and an origami star. They are gems, I tell ya. Oh, and the Branch Presidency had even sent along a stocking full of treats for us. So now we have a tree AND a stocking! Happy day!


As you can see, Jackson loved the popcorn. I had to give him his own little section to munch on because he kept trying to eat the ones that were for the tree. I guess edibles on the tree and a 15 month old who is ALWAYS eating are bound to cause some troubles. :)


Joni starting on the ornaments, with Jackson carrying around his popcorn in the background. My kids were very happy campers.


Tom trying to put the origami star on top, but it wasn't going so well. We finally just taped it to the wall up at the tip of the tree...so it's not exactly hooked to the actual tree. Shh...don't tell.


The finished product with two very happy kids in front of it.

We used Jackson's adorable blanket from Tom's cousin, Haley, for the tree skirt and it worked great. Lisa had even figured out a way to use an empty formula can as a tree stand. See? It all works out!

Jackson kept trying to eat the fruit slices and yank the popcorn strands off. I think he's finally given up on that, though.

We are ready for Christmas now!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Shepherd's Field

There are some fields not too far from Bethlehem that are thought to be where the shepherds were when they saw the angel that declared Christ's birth....

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2)


We went with some friends of ours to visit the place overlooking where this was said to have happened. It was getting pretty dark as we arrived. We all sat together on a blanket and sang Christmas carols from the hymnbook. They take on a whole new meaning when you're overlooking the very place that the songs were written about. There are still shepherds who tend their sheep in these fields.



Joni just kind of wandered around and played with rocks.



video
A video overlooking Bethlehem


Just as we were leaving, Joni started yelling, "Look! Look! There's the star!!!" Sure enough, there was ONE star in the sky, right over Bethlehem. There wasn't a single other star in the whole sky except this one bright one. I hurried and took a picture, and as we finished walking to the car, Tom noticed that the star was fading behind the clouds.

It was incredible.

Merry Christmas everybody!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What a tumble!

Yesterday, just as the kids and I were getting home from our daily grocery shopping trip, Joni accidentally pushed the stroller down some stairs in the stairwell outside our door, WITH. JACKSON. IN. IT.

I came around the corner just in time to experience the sheer horror of it first hand, but I wasn't close enough to catch him. The front wheels rolled down the first couple of steps, then the back end of the huge stroller came up and over, causing Jackson to face-plant into the stairs, followed by the landing, and come to a stop with the stroller on top of him.

It still makes my heart pound to think about it.

I SCREAMED as I ran down the stairs and began to pull the stroller off of him. I had never seen ANY kid take such a tumble before, and in those few short seconds, I had come to the conclusion that as I uncovered him he would be dead, unconscious, or have his face mashed in by the marble-like stairs.

Just as I got to him, he joined me in the shrill screaming, with Joni joining in the choir, also. I quickly rolled the stroller over to see a very bloodied face with what looked like throw-up all over. I unbuckled him with my hands shaking like mad. As I picked him up, I had no idea what to do. I was expecting all my neighbors to come running out to help, which they didn't. Finally, a sweet Asian lady from two stories up came running down with her teenage daughter. They helped me get the stroller and both kids up into our apartment.

Joni kept screaming, "It was an accident mom! It was an accident!" The sweet teenage daughter took Joni into her room to comfort her while me and the other mom assessed Jackson.

I kept saying in a panic, "I don't know what to do. Is he okay? Do you think he's okay? I don't know what to do!" Since she was thinking MUCH more clearly than I was, she suggested we clean off his face to figure out where the blood was coming from. I grabbed the closest dish towel and started wiping....and wiping....and wiping. We first concluded that it was not coming from a cut in his head - good sign. There was definitely blood coming from his nose. And after a lot more wiping and flushing of his mouth with water, we finally decided there was no bleeding coming from his mouth. Whew!

So the two nice Asian ladies left, and I did my best to calm Jackson down who was still crying VERY HARD. I realized at some point that my hair was drenched in sweat and my jeans were sticking to me. I was a nervous wreck. I went to the computer to see if Tom was on his computer at school because instant-messaging is the only way we can communicate when he's gone. He wasn't online. To say I felt VERY alone would be a huge understatement.

So me, Jackson, AND Joni sat here and cried for longer than I care to admit. At some point I told Joni that she and I had to stop crying or else Jackson would never stop. I needed to know if his crying, and occasional thrashing around in my arms, was from pain or just from being upset. His nose was still bleeding but had finally started to slow down.

After several attempts, Joni and I finally stopped. Then Jackson made many attempts himself before finally calming down. I was still quite nervous that there was something else wrong with him. I just couldn't imagine how that kind of a fall could do so little to a helpless little baby. He had a bloody shirt, and I had dried blood all over my arms, and a couple bloody dish towels, but that was it. I seriously couldn't believe it. Oh, and I even decided that he hadn't thrown up on himself after all (or at least I don't think he did). I realized at some point that he had been eating a sandwich on the way home, and I think the force of the fall had caused whatever was in his mouth to fly up onto his face.

Once Tom got home, he gave Jackson a priesthood blessing. It said what I had suspected - that the Lord had protected Jackson from much more serious harm.

So that's the good news of it all. Jackson is okay. His nose is a little swollen, and he was a little more fussy than normal the rest of the day, but he'll be okay.

The bad news is (and sorry for being negative here), that I'm a little annoyed at my neighbors! You have to remember that from inside our apartment, we can hear EVERYTHING that goes on outside in the stairwell...every time someone walks up the stairs, talks, opens their door, or anything else. And yet the only person who responded to a hysterical lady with two screaming, crying children was the only other foreigner, who was two stories up. It might take me a while to get over that one.

Hopefully writing this has been therapeutic for me. It literally makes my heart pound every time my mind replays the sight of Jackson going face-first down the stairs, strapped in a stroller. But I am monumentally grateful that the Lord protected him from something much worse from happening. I think I've hugged that kid to death today. I'm so glad he's okay.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Feeding the family

It looks like this is my 100th post! You lucky little suckers!

What better way to celebrate than to talk about food? My sister-in-law, Tara, is one of the skinniest people I know, but she's also one of those people who loves to eat and talk about food and she has requested that I share some of what we eat here. Your wish is my command.

We eat A LOT of pita. I just have to put that out there. We basically use it like Americans use bread, for everything from peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, to replacing buns for our hamburgers. It must be said that pita is monumentally different here than in the U.S. It's a very soft flatbread here, and you can often buy it fresh.

And with pita, inevitably comes hummus. As would be expected, they have some smokin' good hummus here. And just in case you're wanting to venture out and buy hummus back in the states - don't. It's disgusting. The only good brand we ever found was Meza, but it's hard to find. If you're going to do it, make it. Find a good recipe online that basically has garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. If it has much else, steer clear. You've been warned.

Next thing on the list would probably be produce. As I've mentioned before, food is SO EXPENSIVE, can I say it again, SO EXPENSIVE here. We spend more at the grocery store here than we do on rent, which is saying a lot. But produce is one thing that is a little bit of a better deal. We buy lots of cucumbers, pears, bananas, potatoes, onions, apples, or whatever else is in season.

If you'd like to put the above three things together, you have the cucumber and hummas pita sandwich. It's pretty tasty. Yes, I'm serious.

Cheese here leaves much to be desired. The only local cheese we can stand at our nearby store costs more than our first born. But we buy it anyway because we're cheese people and it's as good as it gets here. Unless you buy imported cheese. But if we're forking over that much cash, we may as well just retire early.

We also eat a lot of lamb. It's the one meat that seems to be a little bit cheaper. I often throw some of that in a fry pan with some olive oil, onion, and red pepper. We then stuff that in a pita with some hummus, and there ya go.

I make A LOT of soups. It's a good way to make use of produce, and still have it be kid friendly. One of our favorites is kind of a combo of this one and this one, but we make them with the above mentioned lamb instead of sausage or turkey. A few of our other faves are my sister Becky's amazing Corn Chowder, and an albino chili recipe we got from a senior sister serving at the Jerusalem Center.

We also flavor things up with a new homemade BBQ sauce recipe I found. Remember when I was so excited to find BBQ sauce at a store here? I think that jar is still sitting in our fridge, hardly touched. So, just as I have had to learn how to pop popcorn in a pan, or make my own hot chocolate and Lawry's season salt (not together), I also must make my own BBQ sauce. But it's so good it's actually worth it.

So as you can see, I still try to find ways to eat some familiar foods, but have a few things here and there that make our eating experience here a little different than it used to be.

Now, on to falafel. I know, Tara, you were waiting for me to say that. For those of you who don't know, falafel is a very Middle Eastern food that the Jews act like is theirs, but the Arabs make a point to let you know it came from them. It consists of little balls of ground up, seasoned, fried fava beans or chickpeas stuffed into pita, and garnished with any of the following condiments - hummus (you knew that was coming), cucumbers, pickles, onions, french fries, tahina (not to be confused with tahini), hot sauce, fried eggplant, and pickled olives. There are falafel stands all over the place, and each of the ones we've tried, seem to have some sort of signature sauce or condiment that makes their's a little different. So it's not always exactly the same, and I am no expert, but this is how we do falafel in our house......

That bag has the mix to make the balls. You mix it in with some water, let sit for 8 minutes, then roll into little balls. They're usually deep fried, but I just pan fry them in a little bit of oil to cut down on the grease.



Here is our table just before eating - hummus, falafel balls, oven baked fries, tahina, whole-wheat pita, pickles, cucumber, and onions.



This is what mine looks like just before eating it.


This is how happy Tom always looks just before eating his.


He says I make the best falafel in town. If you ever come visit us (which I hope some of you will!) I'll let you be the judge.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My poor senses!

As Tom and I were walking around the city a few days ago, we started talking about the things that encapsulate the experience of day-to-day living in Jerusalem.....

3 Smells:
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Falafel stands
  • Garbage

3 Sights:
  • Cats
  • Stone
  • Head coverings

3 Sounds:
  • Call to Prayer
  • Honking
  • Yelling
Will my senses ever be the same? What I wouldn't give for a drive up into the Utah mountains to hear nothing, smell snow, and see trees.

Oh, and I guess there is a new sound I can add. We are 99% sure that last night as we were heading to bed, there were several gun shots not too far from us - as in, less than a block away - surrounded by a bunch of yelling.

Not good for the nerves.

It makes me think of a stress management class I had to take in college to fill up some elective credit requirements. We practiced a lot of meditation and other stress reducing techniques. I could have used some of those last night.

But I was too stressed to think of any of them.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Open mind

I try to keep an open mind with what to eat around here. Even though I can't usually read a single word on food labels, or figure out what different signs in the stores say, I'm willing to try it out and see how it ends up. But today I saw something in the Old City that is not okay.....

Bon appetit!



video

Yes, it's a shark. *shudder*

Monday, December 1, 2008

Our day o' thanks

Thanksgiving this year was different, but good. I did normal mommy things, but I took a little more time and effort to appreciate my super-duper oh-so cute kids. Because heaven knows, I AM so grateful for them...I think I tell Tom at least a couple times a week, "You know, honey, we really do have the cutest kids who have ever lived." He always agrees.

Exhibit A:



Exhibit B:

Even though we were having a branch dinner the next night, I decided to sort of pull together a Thanksgiving-type dinner on the day of. I managed to get some home-grown sage from my friend Lisa in order to make my mom's stuffing (it was pretty good, but mom does it best, of course). I also made my famous mashed potatoes (which I happen to make best, thank you very much). And for protein, we had chicken nuggets (hey, they don't do Butterball here, and I was not about to manually pull the little, uh, thingys out of a turkey...don't know what they're called, but I hear it's tedious). To top it all off, Tom and I porked out on the pumpkin pie I made once the kids were in bed. Awesome.
We're thankful for our seriously ugly table, plastic plates, and ghetto chairs, just in case you were wondering. Oh, and check out those fancy-shmancy glasses. Killer.



And prepare yourself, because you get an extra perk today on this bless-ed blog. On our way out of the grocery store that morning, Joni begged (as she does every day) to hang out at the benches outside the store. She likes to sing and dance and have everyone look at her. I figured, "Hey, it's Thanksgiving. Maybe we'll make a new tradition of singing and dancing outside of grocery stores during the holidays." Just kidding. I just didn't feel like getting in a fight about it - it being a holiday and all.
video