Monday, October 18, 2010

Joni's thoughts

A conversation I had with Joni today....

Joni:  You know, mom, when Heavenly Father gives you goals, you have to use them really good or He will take them away.

Amy:  What do you mean goals?

Joni:  You know, like, when Heavenly Father gives you something like how He gave me a good memory.  Or if you're good at ballet or you know, doing stuff.

Amy:  Oh, you mean talents?

Joni:  Yes, talents.  When Heavenly Father gives you goals and talents, you better use them because if you don't, He'll take them away.

Amy:  Where did you learn that?

Joni:  *rolling eyes* Well, they should be teaching me that at school, but they didn't so they had to teach me at church.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jackson's preschool

Some women from church asked if Jackson and I would like to participate in Joy School this year and we jumped at the chance.


(he's the second one from the right)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

University of Texas shooter

I'm guessing it is hitting national news by now, so I thought I'd let you all know that Tom wasn't up on campus yet this morning when the gunman showed up.  Campus is closed so he won't be going there at all today.

We keep getting texts from the university and it sounds like they're looking for a possible second suspect.  Please pray for all involved.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Looking back at August

A horrible thing happened today.  I somehow erased the contents of my photo card.

That's what I get for procrastinating getting my photo organization done for, well... months.

I got a bunch of it back, but certainly not all.  I tried... oh, how I tried.

I lost the month of July in its entirety.  So, you'll just have to picture dance parties with all the Balderree grandkids and lots of swimming at Willard Bay.  We had some good times.

So although I have backed up all remaining pictures, I feel the need to quickly blog about our crazy month of August.  It felt like we were all over the place.

We did lots of driving, and saw beautiful scenery... (the spots you see are my dirty windshield)

We got to see a bunch of Tom's family, including his grandparents on the Montoya side...

And his grandparents on the Sowards side...

Finally landing in Austin, getting acquainted with all of our old things, and feeling at home in a nice, new, non-crusty, non-moldy apartment, WITH air conditioning.  August saw us become quite comfortable here....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fun flash back

I've been neglecting my photo memory card for a while now, so it's time to do some organizing.

I found three short little videos left over from our time in Jerusalem.  It was so weird to watch them.  I thought I'd post them here so I always have them.

This first one was taken on accident.  I meant to take a picture, but my camera was on video setting.  It's looking down into the cave where Christ was born.  It was about a million degrees too hot because there were way too many people.  A tourist group is just getting done singing songs....

I really wish this next one was longer.  When I was finally able to take Tom to Bethlehem at the end of our two year stay, a Christian Palestinian wedding party was coming in just as we were leaving.  So cool....

And this last one I took the day we packed up to come home.  The kids were at a friend's house (hi April!) so we could do all the last minute packing and cleaning.  I was waiting for Tom to come down after locking up, and decided to take a quick video.  It starts out looking around outside, then I walk up the stairs a bit to get one last look at our crusty old front door.  I won't lie - my heart started to pound a little when I watched this.  It's very weird to suddenly go back to the place you went through so much....

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Playing catch up....

Three things -

1)  School

Both kids are now in school for the year.  Joni is in the local kindergarten all day and she LOVES it.  It's such a contrast to what school was like for her last year in Jerusalem.  Every single day was a huge struggle.  But now she gets excited when it's bed time because it means she's that much closer to going to school the next day.  When people ask her if she is liking school, she often says, "Yes, it's in English!"

First day

Also, some moms in the ward asked me if I would like to do Joy School with Jackson, so I jumped at the chance.  He loves it so far.  He feels all grown up.  Speaking of Jackson...

2)  Jackson's birthday

My baby is 3!  I can't get over how big he has gotten.  He loves to say hilarious things like, "Yes, sir!", "Oh my gosh", and "What-ev-er".

For his birthday he got a Superman costume, a train set, a new swimming ring floaty, and a little Cars container to hold his all important goldfish crackers.

This picture taken while he was opening his presents pretty much summarizes how thrilled he was all day.

Whenever Jackson or Tom is in need of a haircut, their thick hair starts sticking up in weird ways, especially first thing in the morning.  Joni says it looks like they have plants growing out of their heads. :)

The race car birthday cake

3)  Free time

If we ever have free time (and if Tropical Storm Hermine isn't crashing down on us), the kids' first preference for fun is swimming.  They LOVE it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Life made easier

Joni has freakishly thick hair, and regularly gets comments on it.  When other moms act jealous, I always want to say, "Do you really want to dedicate half your life to brushing out tangly hair, washing it, conditioning it, brushing it out again, blow drying it (because if you don't, it'll never dry), and then curling, styling - only to start over again the next day?"

So when we were staying in Colorado with family, I made a decision one morning that I had had enough.  Luckily, Joni's cousin, Ava, had just chopped her hair, so Joni was in agreement that it would be cool.

I did not encourage the diva look, I swear.  I did, however, find it hilarious.

We cut off her 8 inches just in time.

For this....

Tom takes the kids to the pool most nights after dinner. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 53 of moving

That last post was written Monday night even though it wasn't posted until last night because our internet is still touch-and-go.

So it's two days later and things are going a little better.  Tom has been at orientation all day yesterday and today, so I've been trying to get "manly" things done on my own.  I went to Lowe's yesterday and bought all the parts I needed for the washer and dryer, and then I spent waaaaay too much time hooking it all up.  It is finally done, and I did it all by myself (if you don't count the 300+ calls I made to my dad - thanks dad!).  I even wired on a new power cord for the dryer because the old one didn't reach.  I am successfully washing and drying clothes at this very moment.  Holla!

I must also apologize for the horribly outdated header on my blog, and let y'all know it will probably be a while before I have time to change it.  If I was rich I would pay some hot-shot blog designer to make me a new one, but we all know that isn't the case.

On another random-info-front, I think my big toes hate me.  You see, a YEAR ago I somehow managed to kill the toenail on my left foot after a rigorous day of site seeing.  It never fell off, so it has been slowly growing out.  After a YEAR of pain, I realized last week that it had finally stopped hurting.

Then yesterday in a Target parking lot as I was hurrying to put the kids and shopping sacks in the car, I kicked the little bar on the shopping cart with my right foot and it HURT.  I looked down a couple minutes later because the pain wasn't going away, and blood was oozing out from underneath the big toenail.  So now I get to start all over with the other foot.  Maybe a year from now I can slam my whole foot in a sliding glass door.

And although I like to make fun of crappy things in my life, I have to say that I am so grateful for all the good. I occasionally have moments where this place feels very unfamiliar and weird to me (Texas could NOT be more opposite from Israel), but then I remember that all of Tom's dreams are coming true.  We couldn't have mapped out his school path any better.  The Lord has worked miracles for us over and over again.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not the shy submissive type.  I will admit I have a few feisty bones in my body.  So it must be known that I don't just submissively follow this unconventional path with Tom secretly wishing we were doing something else.  I feel just as driven to follow this path as he does - in fact, I think sometimes I feel it even more.

We are where we are supposed to be, I am sure of it.  If I lose a few toenails along the way, so be it.

New day, but same movie, same clothes, and a little bit different surroundings, including a wet towel to soak up a spilled drink.  I think he also has spilled milk all down the front of him from breakfast.  Don't be jealous of my awesomeness as a mom. ;)

Monday, August 16, 2010


I feel......


And tired.

Scratch that – let's say exhausted. Yeah, that feels right.

Since leaving Jerusalem at the end of June, we have been living the nomad life. We've laid our heads in several different places – St. Louis, Ogden, Mora, Manassa, then back to Mora again. Then we made the trek across Texas and arrived here in Austin last week with the mighty generous help of Tom's mom, Cyndy (or as the kids call her, Omi). She is officially given the title of saint-hood, says me. I think you all should agree.

After staying in a crap-hole hotel for a few days (sorry, mom, there's no other way to put it), we decided on a nice little apartment on Friday.

It felt right. I love that.

But our semi trailer couldn't get here for three more days, so we made a trip to WalMart and spent what seemed like a fortune on annoying things like an air mattress (that didn't work – boo!), towels, and paper plates.

We've been living off of Easy Mac, corn dogs, and cereal. Oh, and let's not forget the all luxurious McDonald's.

Moving our stuff into the apartment today has been slow. Did y'all know that the heat index here is a steady 110 degrees?!? Now you know why my first statement is as true as it could possibly be.

We've lost binkies, raised our voices way too much, and eaten all of our meals sitting on the kitchen floor.

We have no idea how to hook up our washer and dryer, and I have MOUNTAINS of laundry to do.

Worst of all, I can't remember for the life of me whether or not I've brushed my teeth today.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Girl's night out

Let me tell you all something.

I have some great friends.  I have been best friends with many of them since I was in elementary school.  At the very latest, junior high or high school.  When I get together with them on a girl's night out, I feel like we haven't missed a beat.  

They are proof that someone can move to the other side of the world and still have her friends when she gets back.

L to R: Jeni, Stacey, Me, Geana, Amy J, Cara, Tiffany, Erin, Kaedell, Tasha.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lovin' this place

Today the kids learned what a lawn mower is.  Even Joni, who is almost 6.

Jackson kept yelling, "It's a big truck!" (it was a big commercial riding mower)
"No Buddy, it's a lawn mower."
"Ohhh, lawn mower......  look mom, it's a big truck!"

Joni also keeps asking where all the people are.  When we get in the car and start driving down the long country road to go into town, she'll often ask, "So where did all the people go?" or "Where is everyone? Are we the only ones here?"  Life feels quite solitary here.

I've discovered something about myself.  I love to drive 25 miles an hour in my parents' small town.  This isn't something I've ever enjoyed before, but I do now.  It's so slow and relaxed.  Nobody rides my tail, or swerves around me, or honks if I don't go exactly how fast they think I should be going.  If someone does happen to be out, or if I see another driver, they wave and smile.  It's fantastic.

And I still love WalMart.  I still can't help but think that they are giving their milk away - $1.78 people!  How are they making money?  $0.68 for a can of white northern beans?  It just makes me smile.  I love the cute little old people who greet you when you go in, and tell you to have a nice day when you leave.  I always reply with a big smile and a nice comment back.  It makes me sad that they often look surprised.  I think people ignore them most of the time.  I know I used to.  Not any more.

Yesterday I drove a little extra and went up to the Brigham City WalMart with Joni.  It's such a beautiful drive.  Huge rocky mountains to one side, with Willard Bay on the other.  If I lived here, I would make that drive once a month just to enjoy the scenery.

I'm excited to move to Texas, but for now I am enjoying the beauty of Utah.  How silly that I lived here most of my life and I'm just seeing it for the first time.  

My kids with some of their cousins happily eating corn dogs for lunch on the back lawn.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

So refreshing!

My kids had soft serve ice cream for the first time the other day (at least that they remember).  

They were in heaven.  

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Planet Utah

I can tell that both of my kids think they have landed on a new planet.  It feels like there is a TV and a computer in every room.  They are also having a blast in the yard, the kiddie pool, the nice playgrounds, and the mountains.  All these things are very new to them, and I love watching them experience it all.

Joni has been relearning some "new" words.  Her two new words today, that she had no idea what they were when she climbed out of bed this morning: basement and toaster.

Jackson's biggest fascination at the moment are all the horses on the drive to my parents', and the ski boat out in the pond behind the house.  He can't get enough of them.

I also keep feeling really weird when I think about it being Saturday today and I didn't go to church. 

Thrilled over candy collected at the 4th of July parade

Cucumber boat races.  The kids and their cousins would put their cucumbers in the stream and then race them down the water.  Joni seemed to be getting a kick out of it, but feeling a little stressed at the same time.  Finally she looked up at everyone and said, "Why are we doing this???"  It cracked us up.  

The boys taunting the ducks and geese.

Comparing dirty bums.

Watching the water from the bridge.  He kept yelling, "Is water mama! Is water!"

I just keep picturing Jackson's brain thinking all the time, "What the heck is going on around here? Where did these mountains, stores, toys, playgrounds, and new foods come from?"

Monday, July 5, 2010

American cheese

Today I found Joni biting into a piece of American cheese.  We have been fascinated by cheese since coming back to the states because it has so much flavor.  In Israel, "cheddar" is very light in color and mild in flavor because they leave an important ingredient out in order to keep it kosher (or at least that's the explanation I heard once upon a time).  

After taking a big bite, and studying the appearance of it for a moment, she asked, "Mom, why is the cheese so dark?  Do they sunburn it to get it that way?"

Friday, July 2, 2010

The land of the free

It's kind of fun moving back to America right before the 4th of July.  Not only am I noticing all the little differences here, but it makes it all the more easy to appreciate certain freedoms.

After getting my haircut yesterday morning, I literally spent the rest of the day shopping.  I went to Ulta, Children's Place, Cafe Rio, WalMart, and Target.  Were any of you aware of the fact that Super WalMarts are the size of a small city?  Because they are.

I spent the same amount of money on several things at Children's Place that I would have spent on one item of clothing in Israel.  And the selection!  Oh, the selection!  Picking out things like tortilla chips, or a sippy cup, or baby wipes somehow felt a little bit agonizing (and thrilling, let's be honest here).  I kept stressing that I was going to get the wrong thing and that it was my only chance to get it.  I kept having to remind myself that I can go to WalMart any ol' time I want to now.  I almost leaped for joy when I saw Clorox wipes.  If I ever would have come across Clorox wipes in Jerusalem, I would have bought out the store's entire inventory, out of both excitement and for fear that I would never see them again.

But my main thought of the day is how much we take for granted simple freedoms...

You can drive around for hours, or even days, and never reach a checkpoint where you have to show your passport, get your fingerprints scanned, or face the possibility of being strip-searched.  

Store owners can buy whatever goods they want to sell to the public, regardless of race or nationality. 

It's quicker to go from Ogden to Salt Lake (35 miles) than it was for me to go from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (6 miles).

People aren't rationed less water than others because of their race.

If someone were to ask me a question about my church, I can answer!

Speaking of, everyone here can go to whatever church they want, no matter where it is - no one is going to stop them because of where they live.

Anyone who wants to vote, can.  We are allowed to have a say in what happens in our communities.

You can walk right into a store without having your bags searched.

People can choose what airport to go to, instead of being denied access to the one in their own country, and being forced to go to another country just to catch a plane.

I don't bring up these things to discuss it from a political standpoint, because I know it's not that simple.  But I do think it's possible for us all to recognize and be grateful for all the little things we are blessed with here - which, when you add it all up, equals something much bigger.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Safe and sound

We've been in St. Louis for a few days, enjoying being with Tom's parents and sisters.  So far we have:

Gone to church on Sunday, minus the awesome view of the Old City.

Gone to the zoo, which included a trip to Build-a-Bear for the kids courtesy of Omi and Abba.

Omi and Abba also bought the kids Happy Meals, which indeed resulted in very happy kids.  Joni enjoyed having the food passed to us through the window.  Jackson was thrilled that the colorful box contained "CHICKEN!!"

We have also eaten at a Mexican restaurant.  A-MAZ-ING.  We ate two years worth of chips and salsa.

Gone to Walgreens.  Oh my word, people.  Have you seen the makeup aisle at Walgreens?  Heaven!  This trip may or may not have included the purchase of some peanut butter M&M's.  

Eaten several delicious meals prepared by Omi, and have had fun catching up with Tom's family.  I am lucky to have such great in-laws.


The trip back was much less eventful than the last plane ride experience.  Although, Jackson refused to sleep again, which was loads of fun.  I was deliriously tired because of the phenergen I took for nausea so I feel like I took about a hundred 5 minute naps, always wakened by a screaming/crying Jackson.  The funniest part of the whole trip was when Jackson beeped going through a metal detector in Frankfurt so security had him hold his arms out to the side while they PATTED. HIM. DOWN.  A 2 year old.  Maybe you had to be there, but it was pretty hilarious.

Jet-lag has been quite an experience with two small children.  I woke up to Jackson running around the house at about 4:30 this morning.  He suddenly discovered how easy it is to escape a porta-crib.  We knew this somewhat obvious knowledge would come eventually, but the timing still stinks.

It has been interesting to see food and places we haven't thought about in so long.  And everything is so stinkin' green, I can hardly believe it.  The humidity might kill me, but I figure I better start getting used to it sooner or later.

It's also interesting to see how different the general public looks to me.  I couldn't help but people-watch while at the zoo.  People are much bigger here, both in weight and height.  And no one covers their head.  I feel like I've never seen so much hair before.

Friday, June 25, 2010

They're coming to America....! (Neil Diamond, anyone?) Now you're going to have that song in your head the rest of today.  MUWAHAHA.

We leave in the middle of the night tonight.  I am exhausted.  And my back is in knots.  Tom is letting me rest for a few while he cleans the bathrooms.  Isn't he great?

I really, really hope the flight goes better than last time.  If not, someone start reserving me a spot at the mental hospital now.

We'll be in St. Louis for a few days, then we'll be in Utah through the month of July.  On our way to Texas near the beginning of August, we'll be stopping to see family in Colorado and New Mexico.

We have quite the summer ahead of us.

Now if we can just get through this flight.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Bethlehem with Tom

Tom inside the Church of the Nativity, touching the spot where they believe Christ was born.

Down in Jerome's cave, where they think he translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek, into Latin.  Here Tom is telling Sahar what it says - it included the first verse of the gospel of John.

I always joke that Tom is my walking Wikipedia.  He knows the weirdest stuff.  This picture was also taken in Jerome's cave - in Greek, it is the first two letters of "Christ", and then Alpha and Omega (beginning and end).  I promise I didn't make him strike this cheesy pose.  He was running his finger along the writing as he explained it and I snapped a picture before he could argue with me.

Approaching the checkpoint at the separation wall to get back into Jerusalem.  Sahar was so nice.  She even went half-way through and stood in a long line with us.  She is one of the most amazing people I have ever met.  I would love to tell her story, but I'm not sure she would want me to do it here.  If any of you want to hear it, just ask me when you see me.

Shepherd's field

We visited some churches and some caves out at Shepherd's field.  Here are some beautiful murals inside one of the churches...

Tom reading the Latin.  It says, " God, and on earth peace, to men...".

 Down in one of the caves.

It's obviously impossible to know exactly where it was that the shepherds saw the angels.  But this area is where many believe it would have been for a couple of different reasons.  First, there are a lot of caves that would have been used as stables.  There is also a really good water source here, and the remains of ancient water cisterns.  Even back in Byzantine time, they thought this was the area because there are remains of a big church here.

One thing that Sahar told me on this trip that I hadn't heard before, was a theory about why those particular shepherd's would have been chosen to see the angels and witness Christ as a baby.

It's possible that they were "royal shepherds" raising and preparing sheep for ritual sacrifice at the temple.  They essentially would have been doing a holy work, and who better than them to witness the birth of the Sacrificial Lamb for whom their sheep represented?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Joni's memories of America

I don't usually do two posts in one day, but I have to share a conversation I just had with Joni.

Joni:  Hey mom, do you remember one time in America we were driving around in the car and we got really hungry?

Me: I'm not sure.  There were probably lots of times like that.

Joni:  Yeah, but this time we drove up to a store and they gave us food in the window.  They even gave us drinks with lids.  There were bubbles on the lid and I popped them!

Me:  Oh, yeah, that's called a fast food restaurant.  You drive up and buy food through a window.

Joni:  Yeah, that's what I'm talking about!  Do they still have those in America?

Me:  (trying to hold back the giggles) Um, yeah, I think they do.

I think America is going to rock her world. :)

Tom finally got to go

This last Saturday, Tom was finally able to see Bethlehem.  It was so fun to go together.

Our friend, Sahar, always shows us around.  She is a member of the church that was born and raised in Bethlehem, and joined the church while attending BYU several years ago on a scholarship that BYU offers to Palestinians.  She currently serves as the Relief Society President in our Branch.  Her mom, Fawz, prepared a huge elaborate meal for us to eat for lunch, even though it was her birthday!  She is now 73 years young, and she's so funny.  She always tries to tell Sahar that she doesn't like all of her "mormon friends", but she always treats us like royalty when we come.  I think she secretly likes us. :)

The picture below doesn't even show all the food Fawz cooked for lunch.  Then when we're done with the meal, she always has us sit in her parlor to eat several more courses - usually fruit, nuts, chocolate, and cake.  I always leave their home feeling like I'm going to explode.  I also always leave their home loving them even more than before.

Fawz loves to raise her own animals so she can kill them and eat them.  Sahar hates that she does this because she gets blood all over the kitchen, but her eyesight isn't very good so Sahar ends up cleaning most of it up afterward.  Here, Fawz is feeding her new rabbits.  She's starting out with three, but she wants them to multiply to at least 50.

More pictures of Bethlehem to come...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's official

We have had our last Sabbath in Jerusalem - for now, anyway.

Jackson running to nursery in the Jerusalem Center.  He has loved his time in nursery here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My mind needs a resting spot

I feel like my thoughts are all over the board right now.

First of all, Happy Father's Day to all the fathers in my life.... Tom, Dad Balderree, Dad Sowards, Grandpa Sowards, and Popper.  You guys all mean the world to me and I am so grateful for such good examples in my life.

People keep asking whether I am sad or excited to leave Israel.  Well, it depends on the moment, to be honest.  I feel very busy with cleaning and packing right now.  Tom has been calling me Cinderella.  I really hope it all gets done in time.  

I am really going to miss all my friends here.  My good friend, April, insisted on watching the kids yesterday so Tom and I could go to Bethlehem together (Tom had never been!).  Our good friend, Sahar, has always been generous to show people around Bethlehem, and yesterday was no exception.  Even as we stood in a long stinky line at the checkpoint to go home, she insisted on waiting with us.  Her adorable mom cooked us an amazing lunch, even though it was her birthday.  One of my other friends who lives in the West Bank, Carolyn, sent me the sweetest email today wishing us well.  I hate that the busy-ness of life, and a big cement wall kept me from seeing her more.  Two good friends, Wendy and Beth, just had baby girls and I am so happy for them, but wish I was going to be near them longer to help them out.  They have both been so good to me.  Analyn is pregnant but we'll be many states apart by the time she has her baby.  Erika served in the Primary presidency with me and made me meals when my back went out.  Four other friends, Brooke, Alexandra, Melyn, and Judith are already gone and are currently in Italy, Chicago, D.C., and Germany.  I miss them already.

The list goes on and on.  I have good friends whose husbands work for the State Department, some are wives of professors at the BYU-J Center, and then there are the service couples.  They have all meant the world to me.  Truly.  They have each made my time here so much more meaningful.  I feel like I could write a book just talking about the great relationships that I have made here.

But as I was doing one of my last grocery shopping trips today (walking to and from the store in 90-degree weather), I couldn't help but be excited to not spend 2 dollars on roughly 1 cup of cottage cheese, or 10 dollars for a pound of beef.  My days of spending close to 2 dollars on one cube of butter are almost over.

As I did my makeup this morning I thought about how nice it will be to restock my dwindling makeup supply when I get home, but this time I'll walk out of WalMart after spending maybe 30 bucks, instead of walking out of a pharmacy spending 100 bucks.

We're going to sit on couches, lay on the carpet, and walk on the grass when we get home.  I'm going to hug my siblings (and siblings-in-law), play with their kids, and try not to steal Kristin and Tara's cute babies from them.

I'm going to go on a date with my husband.  Enjoy air conditioning.  Drive a car.

See?  I need a nice big branch for my thoughts to land on and stay a while.

I'm tired.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Oh, the wonders!

Today Joni was mourning, once again, the loss of a doll that her grandma tried to send to her last year that got lost in the mail.  I couldn't handle the tears for one more second, so I made her a promise.

I told her that for her birthday in October, we'll go get her a new doll and she can pick it out herself.

She was worried they wouldn't have the right doll.  So I explained to her that there are these stores called Target and WalMart that have a whole aisle of dolls.

She couldn't believe it.

I went on to explain that these stores are unlike anything she has seen here in Israel.  You can get anything you want.  You just get in the car (yay!) and drive for a few minutes, and then you're there.  The best part is that you can get anything you need.

Joni:  But, can you get cooking stuff, like food?

Me:  Yes.

Joni:  Can you get dishes??? *eyes getting wider*

Me:  Yes.

Joni:  Can you buy makeup there?!?

Me:  Yes.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

To Whom It May Concern:

Dear man at the park: I appreciate you saying "shalom" to Jackson, but I don't appreciate you blowing your cigarette smoke directly in his face and making him gag.

Dear college students: I'd rather you save your 10 F-words for AFTER my children are not around, if it's all the same to you.

Dear other college students: throwing your empty beer bottles against the wall next to the playground scared the livin' daylights out of my kid.

Dear taxi driver: WATCH WHERE YOU'RE GOING.  You came within INCHES of running over my 2 year old today because you were checking out a girl.  NOT OKAY.  I'm sure you figured as much when I screamed at you.  I also thought some obscenities in my head, but I figure that's better than half the neighborhood hearing it.

Dear guy at the meat counter:  I know it's the Israeli way, but I still think it's rude when you sit and chat on the phone for five minutes while I'm standing there waiting for you to hand me some chicken.  If we spoke the same language I would teach you about a little concept called customer service.

Dear cashier at the grocery store: you have been my favorite for a long time, but today sealed the deal.  When you told me to move the cart that was abandoned in line in front of me, I wanted to hug you.  When you then took their bag of onions and cucumbers out of their cart and rang it through with mine so I would qualify to get the daily deal on produce, I wanted to kiss you.

Dear owner of the abandoned grocery cart:  I'm sorry you had to go back and re-bag your produce, but maybe next time you could finish your shopping BEFORE you get in line!  (Crazy thought, I know.)

Dear flowers outside my apartment: you were the prettiest part of my outing today.  Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Almost two years?


We have now been here almost two years, and we have a mere three weeks left.

Today I was thinking that some of the things I will miss the most, are some of the things that took the most getting used to.

For example, it takes forever to get anywhere, and always requires walking.  Today I had two errands to run: buy cantaloupe, and pick up Joni from school.  So Jackson and I set out at noon, which is usually his nap time but I have to keep him up some days because Tom is unable to pick up Joni.

We walked to our favorite produce market, then over to pick up Joni, and came home - it was an hour of walking in the blazing hot sun.

I enjoyed it, even though I was carrying three large cantaloupes and holding sweaty little hands.

It's so easy to be lazy when you have a car.  I'm hoping that wherever we end up living in Austin we are close enough to stores and/or parks that we can walk.  

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Superman returns

Remember Superman Frank I talked about in this post?  Well, he was back today.

It was war.

I found the nasty cockroach casually crawling around on the wall above my kitchen sink.  Of all the nerve.  Most roaches seem to stay in the dark, but not this guy.  Maybe because he's so big he thinks he can take me.

Moments like this always make me think of how Tom used to give me a hard time about killing bugs when we were first married.  He would joke that I was going to have to answer to every one of the crawly creatures when I get to heaven.

But when it comes to roaches, I think it's a different story.  There is NO WAY there will be cockroaches in heaven.  And what if I don't go to heaven for killing so many bugs?  Well, so be it.

On with the story....

Jackson and I stood on the other side of the kitchen watching the nasty little big bug crawl all over the place.  As I stood and watched him, I was trying to get up the nerve to kill him.  But I know what a "splat" they can make, and I just didn't know if I could muster up the courage.

I decided I would count to five and just do it.  So I counted to five.... over and over and over, chickening out every time.

Finally, when I knew I couldn't miss, I did it!  But I only got the back half.


He ran away, leaving a TRAIL OF GUTS behind him on my counter.  No joke.

So I tried again, but this time it made more guts SPLAT against the wall behind the counter.

Are you grossed out enough yet?

Even after two guts splats, he ran and hid underneath our wooden knife holder thingy.


So after IM-ing Tom about the whole thing, I decided I'd go check to make sure "Superman Frank" was still there.  To my horror, an army of ants had suddenly attacked my counter, and they were



My own story is making me sick as I write it.  I won't be offended if you stop reading.

By now it was time to go get Joni from school and I knew I had to make one last attempt to either kill or capture.  So after counting to five again... oh.... 10 different times, I heroically knocked over the wooden knife holder thingy and as the maimed roach tried to get away with the two legs he had left, I threw a bowl down on top of him, and then put several of Tom's expensive language dictionaries to good use.

I put them on top of the bowl so there was NO FREAKING WAY he was getting out this time.

He's still there as I write this, several hours later.  I injured him enough that he's probably dead by now.  And if he's not, I'm hiring a hit man tonight (a.k.a. Tom) to take care of him.

See you in hell, Mr. Roach.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Western Wall Tunnel Tour

I won't be able to do this justice, but here it goes...

The famous Western Wall that I've shown pictures of several times is a part of the retaining wall for the Temple Mount that Herod built.  But it's only a very, very small portion of it.  I'm talkin' teeny tiny.  Most of the wall is hidden underground and behind private residences.

So in recent years, there has been a lot of excavating to reveal more of the wall and some of the things surrounding it.  Just one year ago they found an ancient mikvah (ritual bath) that dates back to Christ's time.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get a picture of it because you can only see it from a distance through a window in the ground.  And they are discovering new things all the time.

You can take a tour underground to see much, much more of the wall.  First, you see a series of arches that held up a bridge 2000 years ago.  The bridge led right up to one of the entrances to the Temple Mount.  These pictures don't even begin to show how interesting and beautiful they are....

Here we are walking along side the wall.  The stones on this level were ENORMOUS, usually weighing somewhere between two and eight tons each.  There is even one that is 42 feet long and weighs 570 tons, if you can wrap your mind around that.  When the tour guide told us that, she said, "Now I'm sure your next question will be how they got it here.  The answer is, we don't know."

A model of what the Temple Mount would have looked like 2000 years ago.  The tall white part in the middle would have housed the Holy of Holies, and that white structure would have been TWICE the height of the structure that currently stands in that same place now, the Dome of the Rock.  The little yellow box that I drew in shows the small portion of the wall that we can see today.

A part of the wall that is the closest that women can currently get to where the Holy of Holies was (aside from being up on the Temple Mount itself, and I'm not sure they're even allowed to go there - they certainly would not be allowed to pray there).

At the very end of the wall they have uncovered the ground that would have existed 2000 years ago.  Scholars disagree on what this area would have been used for, but many believe it would have been a market place.

Also at the end of the wall we walked through a HUGE ancient aqueduct.  It was impressive.  Our tour guide said that we don't even know how old it is.  Then at the end of the aqueduct you come to the moat that Herod built around one of the northern corners of the Temple Mount.  We were able to see a portion of the moat, but I didn't get any good pictures of it.

The Tunnel Tour was pretty amazing, and it was something I hadn't gotten around to doing before Mom and Becky came.  We did this on their last day here.  Their entire stay was so fun for us.  I'm so grateful that I got to show them the sites here, and also what our day to day life is like.

Hopefully we'll be back someday and we can show more of our family members around the Holy Land!