Thursday, February 27, 2014

gloves and shorts

It's been warm and then cold and then warm and then cold. Yesterday was cold and wet. Today was colder (it's only 57*) and not wet. Tomorrow will be back in the 70's and sunny before heading up near 80 again. I think that's why Josh is confused. Should he wear shorts or gloves? Long sleeves or ankle socks? Might as well wear both and be prepared. It's better than socks with sandals, I guess.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

a decade of sweet ashee-nut

One of the things Ashley wanted for her birthday last week was roller blades. So she opened them on the morning of her birthday, before school, in hopes that she could come right home and skate the afternoon away. She was bummed when it rained all afternoon and evening after school. 
Her birthday also fell on the same day as our ward's Chili Cookoff. She was kind of bummed about that, too. She loves chili, but it wasn't her very own special day. But she chose for us to go anyway.
 We didn't bring any chili, but I brought a large sheet cake so that everyone could have a slice. She was happy to have me bring a birthday cake, but was bummed that she only got one tiny piece.
But everything was made right when everyone sang happy birthday to her. Then it was her very own special day again, despite the rain and the small piece of cake. When we got home we skyped with the grandparents so they could sing happy birthday, and Chris's mom got to watch Ashley open the presents she sent: A rainbow loom and a million rubberbands to go with it! It was a dream come true.

The next day was filled with rubber bands and rollerblading. I stuck on Chris's giant hockey skates and tried to show her how to balance and turn. It was nice to hangout with her.

We also went and bought a delicious small cake so she could blow out candles and have a bigger slice of her cake. 
 We're sure glad this little girl came to our family. She brings such a sweet spirit to our home and we love our Ash-a-lee.

Friday, February 21, 2014

rock climbing

Our church youth group went to a rock climbing gym this week, and I forgot my camera. My phone has a horrible camera, but it's better than nothing sometimes.
 Ethan was really good at climbing. He's been rappelling several times in his life, and climbing once, but I was still amazed at how fast he got to the two-or-three-story ceiling, four times! Our home teacher is also Ethan's scout leader (he's the guy holding the rope in this picture), and he was really good at helping Ethan see where his next hand or foothold would need to be.
I'm not sure I want Ethan climbing and rappelling too much out in the wild, but it's pretty cool to watch him do it in a controlled environment. He's got some hidden athletic talents -- they don't hike and climb much in PE classes or community sports clubs, so nobody would ever know how good he is at these things. But that's okay, because he knows, and that's all that matters!

spring is coming!

We've had lots (and lots and lots) of honking geese (and someone told me there are also sand hill cranes in the mix) flying north over our house over the past few days. And dozens of these graceful white ibis have been perched in the trees and wandering around any grassy areas.

One of the most amazing things about living in The Swamp are the birds! Wherever you go year round, they are singing and flying and swimming in the lakes and watching from the trees. We have beautiful birds like the ibis, and lots of beautiful-in-their-own-way birds, like the vultures that are always hanging out in the trees around our church building eating the road-kill armadillos.

I remember sitting in my living room when we first moved here. I had my windows open and I couldn't believe the noise! I'd never heard anything like it. Our apartment was near some woods and a lake, so we had a huge variety of birds and animals making their own sounds all at the same time. It amazed me, and I happily listened to those noises every day.

I also remember when I went out west to visit family last summer, I took a walk in the morning and the mountain air was absolutely silentl. I'm going to miss the birds so much when we move, but there is also beauty in the stillness and peace of the mountains.

Anyway, seeing all these beautiful birds heading north is a good thing because it means it's warming up. It's almost spring! We haven't had even half of the coldness that the rest of the country has had this winter, but I'm SO. excited. to be warm again! Not quite so excited about the sweat that'll come when I carry my heavy baskets around, but I'll take sweat over shivering any day. (just remind me of this in a few months when I'm tired of sweating and wish it was cold outside...)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

josh's secret life as an object lesson

Our home teacher asked if he could use Josh in his college class presentation the other day. He was giving a 5 minute speech on bike maintenance, and thought he could get the "awwww" factor with a cute little boy and his bike.
 This picture is blurry, but I was afraid to take another one because my camera sounded so loud in the quiet room. But Brother Jolley got the reaction he wanted. When Josh walked into the room, all the girls said, "awwwww!" and when Josh said anything, the college girls giggled. And when Josh gave Brother Jolley a high five before we left, the girls said, "awwwww!"
  Josh was nervous but excited going to a college class. When it was over, he said, "That was fun!" So I guess he likes being an object lesson and having girls "awwww" all over him.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

the magic of disney and blog books

 Ashley got some kind of a stomach bug this weekend, and a nice high fever to go with it. I stayed home from church on Sunday to take care of her since Chris had to teach and I didn't. In the evening, some wonderful friends stopped by to bring us cupcakes and hang out with us for a while.

Josh immediately pulled a game from our game box and made Austin play. Austin was kind and played several games, which thrilled Josh because nobody ever plays when he asks.

Ashley stayed in her room for a while, then came out looking much less feverish. Along with the cupcakes, Asia also brought a mix CD of Disney songs. We stuck it in and Ashley perked right up as Asia, Ashley and I sang along. She seemed almost back to normal. After Asia and Austin left, she started to wilt again, and so I played part of the CD again, and her eyes lit up. She was perfectly content until she finally went to sleep.

The next day she was pretty much all better, and she told Chris she was healthy because of the magic of Disney.
This is what made me happy this week: Our blog book came! It's beautiful, and the kids love looking through our blog books, remembering things that happened last year. I enjoyed putting it together slowly over this past year (so I didn't have to sit in a chair for three days straight putting it all together at once, like what happened last year.), and have been pleased with the quality of my Blurb books. It's a bit of an expense, but totally worth it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

treasures from a field trip

One of the coolest things (in my opinion) about living in The Swamp, is being (mostly) surrounded by the ocean. And since we have ocean everywhere, and we were once under the ocean, we can find all kinds of amazing things in plain old rivers and streams.

Amazing things like shark teeth. And coral. And sting ray teeth.
Right by our house. Any time we want to.
 This picture is blurry, but it's just to show how big these things are that Ethan found on a walking field trip the other day. Since his school is next to some woods with streams and animals, university science students take the middle school's 6th grade science classes on walking nature field trips on a regular basis.

We're going to miss these unique experiences when we move, but feel lucky that we get to have them right now!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ethan's fun run

Ethan ran a marathon in P.E. over the course of this last quarter. He got to finish off the last mile and a half in a real race.
Here's Ethan and Maria -- our cute neighbor who goes to Ethan's middle school.
 An orthodontist office had a tent set up and offered these smile props to anyone who wanted to decorate one. Ashley said she hopes her braces look just like this some day.
 Ethan is right behind the short girl in the green t-shirt at the start of the line.
 We were impressed and proud of Ethan for wanting to run, and for finishing pretty quickly. I think he ran it in about 15 minutes. Here's a short video of the start and finish of the race :)

a little love for v-day

 Ashley is so organized when it comes to making valentines for her class. She had them all chosen and signed several weeks early, and had to be patient because I wouldn't let her stick the candy on until the day before her class valentine party (due to the fact that we live in The Swamp and may or may not have bugs occasionally).
 She made this card for us and left it in our room to surprise us. Looking at the hearts on the card, I wonder who she loves more?...
As you can see, Josh isn't as organized in his valentine's process. He was pretty mad at first that we made him write the names of his classmates on the cards, because it would take all day (shed a tear or two)! But when he was finished he said he felt good inside because he did something nice for other people.

We had a mellow valentine's day, nothing fancy. We had greek pizza and watched Despicable Me 2, which went surprisingly well with the holiday since it was all about falling in love. Our village bought little boxes of chocolates they offered to deliver on valentines day. The kids were thrilled to have someone knock on our door and give us chocolates (some loving neighbors sent us some, too!). It was an all-around good day.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

20 years ago

I forgot to post this in January, but it's my 20-year Tokyo-versary.
I only remembered to post this today because I helped feed a hundred hungry missionaries at a Zone Conference in my area. Being in a room buzzing with young missionary energy is an exciting, joyful thing, and it brought back lots of memories.
 Twenty years ago I packed up my college apartment and moved to Japan to be a nanny and housekeeper for my parents and two younger sibs. My dad was a mission president, so we always had missionaries hanging out at our house. These pictures are the only ones I have on my computer (the rest of my japan pics are in storage right now).
 These pictures are of us hiking Mt. Fuji. Yes, I'm cool because I hiked a volcano in Japan. I'm even cooler because of the giant t-shirt and huge striped Mickey Mouse baseball cap I'm wearing. And also that I tied my water bottle around my waist inside of my hugely enormous rolled-up sweatshirt (hey, it was the early 90's. Baggy was IN.)
 I loved Tokyo. Everything about it was amazing:
The people were beautiful and helpful, the language was lovely, the festivals were full of tradition and history. I could hop on a train and go wherever I wanted without the struggle of driving and parking on super-crowded streets. The garbage truck played a sweet tune as it passed by and picked up stinky trash. Not having a "real" job (whoever said doing a ton of dishes and laundry isn't a real job never did a ton of laundry and dishes...) or schooling gave me plenty of time to learn a little Japanese and read lots of good books to improve myself. And having missionaries around all the time made life interesting -- a plethera of stories to hear and a menagerie of personalities to watch.

Even the hard parts were wonderful:
The aroma of food cooking and sewers stewing all at the same time. If I ever smell that now, I want to gag and also take a deep breath all at once because it instantly brings me back to Tokyo.
Living with my family after being away at college for a year was hard but great, too, as I tried to find a balance of becoming a grownup and remaining their child at the same time.
I struggled with my testimony more in Tokyo than at any other time in my life. I read the scriptures and prayed with all of my soul, and when I thought my answer would never come, {this} primary song I'd totally forgotten about flowed into my heart as peace washed over me: "Pray, he is there. Speak, he is listening. You are his child. His love now surrounds you. He hears your prayer..."  Because of that experience, I will never ever doubt there is a God, even when the world starts to confuse me again and again. But He spoke to my spirit. I felt it. I know it without a doubt. He knows who I am and he loves me despite my weaknesses.
All these memories rushed back to me as I served lunch at the zone conference today. As you can see in this picture on the day I flew back to America, I was sad to leave. I was ready to go back to college life and move forward with school and marriage and a career, but leaving Japan was hard. I long to go back, even 20 years later.

I think I'll feel the same way about The Swamp when we move. I'm sure we'll feel the same way about many other places as Chris and I get older and go through intense experiences in different places.

Shakespeare knew what he was talking about. Parting is such sweet-sorrow. Happy Tokyo-versary to me :)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

medieval faire

 I had the opportunity to chaperon Ethan's middle school field trip last week. We went to a medieval festival, since they just finished learning about that time period in history. I had a great group of 5 boys (three of them were triplets!) and a girl (who was efficient at making sure we were doing things in a timely manner so as to not miss the bus ride home).
 The sights and sounds and smells were amazing. Shiny things being sold, live musicians wandering around, and handsome knights in shining armor fighting with swords. All of the shop keepers were in costume, and they seemed to enthusiastically enjoy educating people on whatever it was they were selling.

 This ring wraith caught me taping him, and marched up to me, then put his long metal fingers on my head, bent over, and began to breathe in that creepy-wraith-way in my ear. It was great :)
Here's a glimpse into our day at the faire (for some reason, my video edited really low quality, but it will do for now...)