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....

...today! (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, "...to 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.