So much has happened in the last few days I thought I had better give an update before I forget some of it. Sabbath was great and tiring. I work with the most wonderful people imaginable. Yet people are people, and the most exhilarating experiences are also the most tiring.
Sunday was a great day. We had a nice, lazy morning. Then we played basketball together as a family. That was really fun. It was so good to have some low-key family time together where we just enjoyed each other. It is never easy. There was always someone who needed a drink, to go to the bathroom, or had some other need, so that the actual minutes we were all playing together were less than the minutes where someone was gone. But when I let myself stop worrying about those things I realize that I am having fun all the time.
Jacob the shepherd with Bethlehem behind him
When that was over we had a little down time. Then we got all dressed up and began our Nativity filming again. This time we went to shepherd’s fields (not any that anyone else calls that, but some where we know sheep graze and where you can see Bethlehem in the background) and filmed some of the girls as angels, and the boys as shepherds, and Tashara and I as Mary and Joseph. It was beautiful, if windy and cold. The little girls kind of froze to death being angels. But that is such a beautiful place.
Real little angels
Getting ready to film
We got there later than was ideal, it was colder than was ideal, the battery on the camcorder was dead so we had to use our new camera that came the day before, but which we didn’t really know how to use as a camcorder, and there were a few other glitches. But mostly it was great. I get nervous being there as it gets dark with just our little family, and that happened, so I got a bit stressed at the end. But the filming was great. At the end a shepherd actually came by and let BJ help herd the sheep, so we got that filmed. It was fun.
Mary and Joseph inside a real shelter just outside of Bethlehem
The next day was of course both Valentine’s Day and Julianne’s birthday. We woke up to find that people had put hearts all over our door and written nice things.
We got the kids all ready, and let them eat cereal. They were so excited for their mom’s birthday. They got ready really well, and got out the door on time. Jill Judd, bless her wonderful heart, watched the two youngest ones while Julianne and I went up to eat at the Oasis. I had arranged with some students to decorate a table, and had bought some flowers for them to put there. The flowers apparently died before the day arrived, so they went out and bought some more. We sat at our decorated table, they sang happy birthday, and then Taylor, one of the students, came and sang a song to Julianne in my behalf. Then they sang happy birthday together. These guys are so great, they so got into it, and made it such a special morning for her. They love to do good things, and have such enthusiasm for it.
Julianne being serenaded in my behalf at breakfast
Then we went off to our field trip at Neot Kedumim. Jacob had a bad cough, so he stayed home with Jill. Sabrina and Kaleb came with us. I put an additional sign on our bus, calling it the Muhlestein Love Bus, and we kept singing the chorus to Love Shack, except with the words “love bus” all day long.
I had arranged for about 7 little treats or cards to be given to Julianne all day long, and these great students had a great time finding her at different moments and giving her the treats. She felt so showered by their love and excitement. They sang happy birthday to her about a dozen times.
Julianne getting one of her gifts
Neot Kedumim was great. We herded sheep together, we drew water from the well together (and she and I posed for the Rachel/Jacob love scene at a cistern/well). We ground hyssop together, made fires to cook wheat and pitas together, one student even caught a chameleon! We found a million beautiful flowers together, and saw a million beautiful vistas together.
At the well
Me reading a several hundred year old Torah scroll at Neot Kedumim (it was Exodus 18)
Kaleb the shepherd
Poppies growing on a hut roof
Sabrina winnowing at Neot Kedumim. She also rode the threshing sledge, and helped hold the plow
Kaleb helping cook pita at Neot Kedumim. Many students made heart shaped pitas for Valentine's Day
Cool flowers at Neot Kedumim
Jul and I with the chameleon
It was a perfect day.
A sign some students were using they let us borrow
When we got back we had a crockpot dinner I had made. Then we had ice cream and cake. Jill had made the cake (can you tell how many good things she does for us. I think she and Julianne do so many nice things for each other, they just go way out of their way to help each other, and it is great!).
Julianne blowing out her candles
Kids with their valentines gifts from grandparents
Then we went up to the student Valentine’s Dance. Julianne and I got to choose the first song and do the first dance together. We did “Sold” and found out we can still do country swing together a little tiny bit. Our kids had a ton of fun at the dance.
The opening dance (photo taken by one of our great students, Ashley)
Alexia at the dance
Julianne also got to talk to her parents, and we gave her a combined gift from my parents, her parents, and me, for buying something here she really wants. And the kids gave her their presents. We also enjoyed using our new camera! It was a perfect day, and I am so grateful to be married to the perfect wife. On the way home from Neot Kedumim I told the students that Valentine’s Day was just the right moment to talk about the importance of motherhood, and we spent most of the time on the way home talking about motherhood and how important it is. I have come to believe it is one of the most important things we do for the students here. But it was also a way for me to pay tribute to Julianne. She is such a great person, and the students learn so much from her. So many of them gave her notes and talked to her about how much they learn from her. She is incredible for them, and for me!