Monday, April 27, 2009

Two words....

REPEAT. OFFENDER.




I guess rehab didn't work.

(P.S. Any other moms SICK of washing off their kids? Some days I feel like it's all I do!)

Monday, April 20, 2009

My grandmas

Today I am feeling grateful for my grandmas, but for reasons you may not expect.

Let me preface some. I have become accustomed to letting our stove burners run to warm up our kitchen. Tom prefers to turn on and open up our toaster oven. To each their own, I suppose.

We formed this habit during winter months because we don't have control of our lovely radiator heaters. The landlord (I'm sure some random dude who works for the university) decides when it's cold enough to turn them on, and even then it's never on during the day. This has created many cold days in our carpetless, wall-hangingless, bare apartment. So don't think we're too weird for turning to kitchen appliances.

Back to present. This morning I decided I HAD to make rolls. I'm not sure why, but I really did HAVE to. I had no choice in the matter.

Even though it was a relatively warm day outside, I turned on a burner somewhat near the rising dough to keep that area of the kitchen from getting cold. Then I went about my day as usual.

Can you see where this is going? (I bet Tom's mom, Cyndy, can. She is really good at predicting the ending to a story).

Quite a while later, both kids were down for naps, and I was in my bedroom with the door closed. The weirdest thing happened. I became aware of a bee buzzing around near the ceiling. Within seconds of noticing it, it dropped like a rock to the floor.

Weird.

A few minutes go by and I suddenly have a piercing headache. A few more minutes go by, and I think for a moment that I smell gas. But that couldn't be, I thought. I am all the way down the hall with the door closed. If I smelled gas, it would have to be BAD. Suddenly, the smell of gas in the room was so strong it made me nauseous to take in a breath. PANIC!

I rushed into the hall, and as I did so, so did Joni in a half-sleep, possibly half-gassed stupor. I ran to the kitchen and the stove flame was off, and of course the knob was still turned on. I played hero-mom and opened up all doors and windows. We will all live to see another day.

So now you see why I am grateful for my grandmas? Okay, maybe you don't. You see, I inherited all my strange traits, qualities, whatever you want to call them, from my grandmas. To name a few....freakishly long legs, sleep talking, abnormally thick hair, early gray hair, nervous sweat, and addiction to brown caffeinated beverages. None of these things are my fault.

My parents' mothers are completely to blame.

But I have left one out. A superb ability to smell. That's right... smell. If you have eaten anything within the last hour, I know what it was even if you're across the room. If your toast is burning, I'll be the first to alert you even if I am the furthest away from it.

And most importantly, if your (or my) house is about to explode, I WILL know about it. And I will save the day.

Thanks Grandma.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Peanut butter

Have you ever wondered what would happen if your older child decided to sneak a partially eaten jar of peanut butter to your younger child? Well, you can scratch it off your list of things to find out when you die because I'm about to show you.....

Caught red-handed

Realizes we think he's cute

Decides to go in for more

Tastes as good as the first handful

Hand is stuck in the jar

All better

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shopping during Passover

A couple of aisles at our local grocery store this week....



Keeps things interesting, I guess!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Weekend

Easter weekend this year has been one-of-a-kind. We've done some of the traditional Easter celebrating with friends that included lots of food, eggs, and laughter. But we've also tried to remember the spiritual significance of this holiday, which is easier in the Holy Land, I will admit. It still boggles my mind that the most significant things in Christian history happened right here in the city that I live in. It really is amazing.

My friend Sheri invited me and the kids over last week to make and decorate Easter cookies. Jackson had just gotten done helping me frost his, and as I turned away for HALF of a second to grab sprinkles, he lunged forward, grabbed the cookie, and pretty much shoved it into his face.


On Friday night, our friends the Fitzgeralds invited a bunch of people from the branch over for a little Easter dinner. The hostess, April, even prepared an Easter egg hunt for the kids, as seen in the above and below pictures. They had so much fun!


Here is Joni on Saturday morning before church in her Easter dress.


Then on Easter Sunday morning, we headed out to the Garden Tomb. We were sad to find out when we arrived that you can only come at certain times on Easter, and we had missed our chance. So we'll plan ahead better next year.

So we decided to go see a couple churches in the Old City. I mostly just wanted to walk around and take in the importance of the day. We ended up stopping by a couple places on the Via Dolorosa again, since Joni wasn't with us when we did it the other day.

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(video)

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It was PACKED at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We knew it would be, but we were excited to go see all the people who had come from all over the world. This video is taken just outside the front door. There were just crowds of people, not able to move. Crazy.


We took Joni to see the chapel built at Station Three of the Via Dolorosa, and she loved it. At the end of the day, she said it was her favorite part. We discovered some stairs that went downstairs and there were some amazing statues. Here is one of them.


I love that Joni is old enough to understand the real reason behind holidays such as today. We have talked A LOT about Jesus this week. She knows everything that happened to Christ during the last few days of His life, and she understands that He did it for her. I love to see the awe in her eyes as we explain it to her. Even though some of the details are a bit gruesome, it doesn't scare her. It creates a reverence in her of the sacredness of Christ's sacrifice. What a great place this is to teach her about the most important thing she will ever have in her life - her Savior.


Happy Easter everybody!


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Stations of the Cross

I hope none of you use dial-up, because this post is LOADED with pictures and videos!

With it being the Friday before Easter, I thought I would post pictures of the Via Dolorosa, or the Stations of the Cross. Traditionally, this walk is the walk that Jesus took as he carried the cross on His way to be crucified. I will only be posting pictures of some of them, but you'll get the idea. Like most sights here, I don't know if any of the spots are authentic at all. If they are, they would be many feet above the original spot, since Jerusalem has been built upon so many times. Also like most sights here, it's always amazing to put yourself in the Lord's shoes and imagine Him living His mortal life here.

Tom insisted that I take this pictures just outside the Old City. In the days of Christ, many people would have sold doves for people to use as a sacrifice, as mentioned in the New Testament where Christ was upset when they were doing it right outside the temple.

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Station One: Pilate condemns Jesus to death, then washes his hands.

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Station Two: (looking down from station one) After flagellation, Jesus was crowned with thorns and clothed in a red robe as a mark of derision. They mocked Him as "King of the Jews". He then begins His walk from here.

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A courtyard just inside the door shown in the above picture (video).


A crown of thorns represented on the ceiling of a church inside the above courtyard.


A plant in the courtyard that is thought to be the same kind of thorny plant they would have used for Christ's crown of thorns.

Station Three: Jesus falls down for the first time.
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Mural inside the above church.



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Station Four: Jesus sees His mother.

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Station Five: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross.
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Station Six: Veronica wipes the sweat of blood from Jesus' face. I don't think this is from scriptural reference - just tradition.

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Station Seven: Jesus falls down a second time.

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Station Twelve: (inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) Christ was hung and crucified.


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This video is looking down from where many believe Christ was crucified. Those lamps on the bottom right is where tradition says Christ was first laid right after His death. As also shown in the video below, when we went last Friday priests and monks from different denominations took turns doing a processional walk through the church, singing in different languages.

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Station Fourteen: Tomb of Joseph of Arimethea.
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As I type this up on Friday morning, my eyes keep wandering to the window above my computer. It overlooks some of Jerusalem, and the weather is very nice today - possibly similar to the day Christ was crucified more than 2,000 years ago. I can hear many birds singing outside, and there's just a few clouds in the sky. At this time of day, way back then, Christ would have been completely exhausted, having stayed up all night. It would be the beginning of the day that He finishes the suffering of the atonement. The very atonement that allows you and I to find happiness in this life, to find peace amid heartache, to find healing of our wounds, and to live with our families forever in the life to come. If I could make my heart bleed onto my keyboard and express my feelings as I contemplate this, I would.

I guess my hope in posting all this on this special day is to turn our hearts towards Christ as Easter approaches. Hopefully we can worry a little less about candy and Easter eggs this weekend, and a little more about what we're each doing to make use of Christ's suffering in our lives.


Passover

It is Passover week, and with it comes much celebration here in Israel. Our friends, Kyler and Mylen, invited some of us over for a "Mormon Passover Seder meal" (doesn't the name just make you smile?) on Wednesday night. Jews celebrate the beginning of Passover by having a Seder meal the first night of Passover week. It is somewhat geared towards children and teaching them about the Jews' exodus from Egypt - teaching them that if it wasn't for Moses leading them out of Egypt, they would all still be slaves. They read the story of the exodus, drink 4 cups of wine, eat a symbolic meal which consists of many parts (praying over each one), sing songs, and eat matza. In Jewish homes, the meal itself starts very late, and the celebration usually lasts several hours.

Our hosts did a great job at helping us have our own little Seder. We went through many of the steps, drank lots of grapejuice, and sang songs. So aside from the main dish being Hawaiian haystacks, and the fact that every person in the room was LDS, we had a pretty sweet little Seder!

Gathered around the dinner table. Kyler, the guy on the front right, walked us through a lot of the traditional Seder ritual, and we read lots of scriptures through dinner.


Tom and Kyler eating matza - a Jewish flatbread that is not allowed to rise. Because it is unleavened, it's customary to eat it throughout Passover week. I'll be honest, it doesn't taste very good. It's pretty much just flour and water (and that's Mylen popping her head into the picture in the background. It's her hidden talent - she's hilarious).

Tom has two whole weeks off of school for Passover, which is great. What's not so great is a lot of stores are closed at the beginning and at the end of the holiday, and so are many of the streets, just like on Shabbat. We had somewhere we really needed to be today, but because of closed off streets, we drove around for hours and never could find a way to get there. It was very stressful because we kept taking detours through very religious neighborhoods (we were totally lost) and you should have seen the looks of death we got, even from children. Even on roads that were not blocked off, there wasn't a car in sight - mostly just crowds of Jews in their religious clothing walking around, not happy with the "pagan" Americans ruining their sacred holiday. We felt horrible.

Also, most grocery stores have literally half of their aisles blocked off because you can't buy anything leavened - in other words, carbs. The holiday officially started on Wednesday night, but they start blocking everything off in the stores the night before. So Tuesday when we tried going to the grocery store to stock up on pasta, crackers, bread, and pita, we barely made it. There was actually a guy covering the pastas as we got there, but I pretty much begged him to let me grab some that he had already covered. He took pity on me :). Our friend Mylen said she tried sneaking something from behind the aisle coverings on Wednesday, but when the item scanned at the checkout, a big Israeli flag blinked on the screen and said in big letters that it was a forbidden item. The cashier questioned her to death about how she got it. I'm guessing she won't be sneaking anymore. :)

Kyler was telling us that even restaurants that are open during Passover have to make big coverings outside to make sure that anything leavened can't be seen by people walking by.

One thing I have learned here is that Jewish people definitely know how to celebrate. They have a LOT of holidays, and they go all out! That's one thing I love about the people here - many of them take their religion very seriously, and do all they can to recognize things of religious significance, using scripture to back up everything.

Monday, April 6, 2009

BYU - Jerusalem

If you've ever wondered what the BYU Jerusalem Center looks like, now is your chance to get a peek.
View of the front gate and sign. That gate off to the left a little bit is where you enter the school ground. They have guards there 24/7 who have to let you in.


Once you're in the gate, you walk to the left down a sidewalk, and come to the front entryway.


This is a side-view looking back at that gate/front door.


As you walk through the front entryway, there are little fountains on both sides.


When you come in the front door, you're actually on the 8th floor. It's basically a huge lobby area. In this picture, the front door is about half-way down on the left. The doors that you see open on the right go into the auditorium where we have sacrament meeting.


This is taken from where we sit in the auditorium, but it's an awful picture. I don't know how to do it any better, taking it into the light. There are never any lights on inside the auditorium, because it is so lit-up by the natural light coming in through the windows. These ceiling-to-floor windows wrap around on both sides, too. It's hard to do it justice in a picture, but I thought I would at least attempt to capture the view we have through sacrament meeting (see the little chairs up front on the right? That's where the branch presidency and the speakers sit). I told my mom it's like taking a picture of the Grand Canyon - it may be completely breathtaking in person, but in a picture....mmm, not so much. But you get the idea.


This is the same auditorium, but taken from the stage. Notice the beautiful pipe organ in the center. It has over 3,000 pipes, but you can't see most of them. It was built in Denmark, and it's supposedly one of the finest organs in the Middle East.


A picture of a sunset taken from the parking lot.


The Jerusalem Center is huge. Besides what I've posted here, there are seven more floors. The two just beneath the one I've shown include a cafeteria, a forum for large classes, several smaller classrooms, a gymnasium, and a library. The rest of the floors are dormitories for the students, service couples, and the professors.