Sunday, September 25, 2011

What a couple of weeks. We somehow find ways to be way too busy. BJ and I were made home teaching companions and given some families to home teach. Some are struggling with some issues. We went out and visited them, and I think we made some progress towards becoming friends with them. It will be good to work on this together. BJ is really a great guy. I enjoy him so much.

On Monday we found a bed we really liked for sale.

This is what it looked like before we got a bed frame. It is also testament that our youngest two still keep coming in to bug us at night.

The bed once we got it together five days later

You can see the bed is tall, not so sure that is good

It was about an hour’s drive away. So we borrowed my parents truck, went out and got it (it is larger than we had anticipated), came back just in time to pick up kids from various places, and do an FHE that also fulfilled a requirement for a school assignment for Tashara and a merit badge requirement for BJ. We went to the little local museum of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. It was so cool. It is amazing to think of all our pioneer ancestors went through to come and build things up here. The persecutions they went through, the hardships of migration, the difficulties of building up a barren land with so few resources at their disposal, it is all amazing. These people had so much faith and dedication, they had such a great love of Jesus Christ. That is the only thing that saw them through. Seeing their lives makes me realize how little cause I have to feel like the things the Lord asks me to do are hard.

Tashara at the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (DUP) Museum

More of the same

And more

We left there to have some desert with Tammy and Jed and family. Sometimes I wonder how things could be so silly that I have a sister who lives up the street and we don’t spend that much time together. Silly.

Dropping Sabrina off at school again. It can still be a bit hard for me sometimes.

I ended up with the opportunity to go and teach at Maeser again. This time it was not Tashara’s class, but it was the class BJ would have been in if he had been wise enough to go to that school. I taught two two-hour sessions, both times talking about history and pyramids in Egypt. It was pretty fun. They are a good group, and I tried to teach in a way that taught them about learning as well as about the topic. I am so impressed with that school. They are doing an archaeology unit this Friday, so I helped them get ready for that.

One of the classes I taught at Maeser

The kids have tons of stuff going on, and love to play with each other. I love watching that. I stay way too busy. So does Julianne. We have not made that much progress towards getting really moved in to our house, we keep on doing other things. As an example, we bought the bed on Monday, but it took me until Friday to put it together, and I did that working as fast as I could because I had to sandwich it in between just a few other things. I do love teaching my class. I taught it on the Fall this week. What a great topic. It is so wonderful to help students understand how this fits in to the Plan of Salvation, and how this was a glorious and good necessity, and how, while it brings about good but necessary things, that we are redeemed from the Fall because of Jesus Christ. Misunderstanding the Fall causes a completely different world view than if we see it in its proper perspective. It also helps us appreciate the atonement of Jesus Christ more.

As always, afterwards I got to spend a little time visiting with some Jerusalem students. What great friends. I love them so.

Sometimes they are pretty tired during morning scripture study. That comes from our doing too many things and keeping them up too late at night.

We had a wonderful time at our children’s school carnival. It is good to let the kids do these kinds of things that seem so huge to a little child. I think they loved it, and I loved watching them love it. Our kids are getting older and it is a bit weird to go to something like that and not have to supervise as much as we used to.

The carnival

Jacob at the carnivalJaker and Sabrina jumping at the carnival

Sabrina doing the same

Alexia got her hair colored at the carnival. Huh?

We left the carnival so that Julianne and I could help Camille, my department chair, to host some new visiting faculty and spouses at a dinner. During the dinner I was able to keep checking the score of the football game. We finally won. But what was great was visiting at the dinner. It was so much fun to get to know these good people better. I really, really enjoyed that. What amazing people I get to work with. I wish I could spend more time with more of them, it is so enjoyable when we get to know each other a bit better. The greatest blessings the Lord gives us are the wonderful people in our lives. I have always known it, but since he taught me that so powerfully in Jerusalem I have come to know it and notice it even more.

Saturday was a day of church stuff. Julianne and Tashara went to a humanitarian aid service project all morning. In the meantime, Kaleb and I worked on his pinewood derby car. We spent a lot of time on it together, and it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed working with him. He so wants it to be fast, and I think we did the stuff we needed to do to make it fast. We had it smooth. We sanded the wheel axles until they were polished. We had weights in just the right places. We worked and worked on it, and I really enjoyed spending the time with him.

Workin' on the car

Sanding down the axles

They had the weigh-in all decked out

Others working on their cars at the weigh in

Some of the cars that had been weighed in

Kaleb's car after it was weighed in

I helped the kids mow the lawn, we cleaned up a bit, and then Julianne went to a Relief Society dinner and meeting. When she got back we packed up (that is always an adventure, with sometimes amazingly frustrating things happening just to get the kids to get ready) and went to a reunion for the summer term Jerusalem Students. It was so wonderful to see them again. We swam and visited. I love these guys so much, and it is so good to catch up with them and to spend good time with them. They are so pure, so good, so full of light. We are blessed to be with them.

The get together with students

BJ doing a backflip off the board at the party

Sabrina at the party

On Sunday BJ was put in as the secretary in the Teacher’s Quorum. I am very happy for him. He will get some good training in and have good opportunities for service. He is a great kid and I think this will help him learn to do good things.

We have played miniature golf as a family this week, worked on the yard, visited with neighbors we haven’t been able to catch up with, and a variety of other good things.

Ice cream cones outside for Family Home Evening desert after miniature golf

The highlights of the week were Kaleb’s pinewood derby and Tashara’s birthday party. The pinewood derby was a lot of fun, except that Kaleb’s car didn’t do that well and he really struggled with it. He had his heart set on doing well, and was on the slower side (I don’t know why, when we did this same stuff in the past he had a really fast car), and he was overwhelmingly sad with how poorly he did. In the end, that is what this kind of thing is for, to learn how to deal with losing. Everyone needs to learn it, and this was a chance for him.

The scouts loved this track and were so excited. A computer posted the results of each race on a screen. It was well done.

Kaleb gives them his car to load on the track

The cars are off in a blur of speed

Kaleb's car, in the blue, holds its own in the race. He was never more than half a second behind the leader, usually .2 seconds.

Kaleb tries to work with his wheels in between races to see if he can get it to be faster

Sad Kaleb not finding consolation in his certificate or his sister's hug

Tashara’s party was a hit. Julianne took her and a few of her friends to a beauty school, where they did fingernails, hair, and makeup for all of them. Then they did a photo shoot, and our wonderful student/friend Ashley Crist came down to help with that. Then they came back here for cake, ice cream, presents, and a movie (National Treasure). I think it was a hit. Tashara has been working so hard at school, and has been able to do so little with her friends here, that I am glad she had a chance to do some fun stuff with her friends here in the neighborhood. I had a chance to get two football tickets to the game, but didn’t go so that BJ and I could help with the party. As the party ended I was at least able to listen to the amazing ending of that game. We were also fortunate enough to have our friend from Israel, Rebecca Call, come by and visit. It is so great to keep up with friends like her.

Tashara getting all gussied up

See the gussying?

The girls at the photo shoot

Tashara at the Photo Shoot

Tashara blows out her candles

The week was also full of meeting with people at work who needed a little help. There are parts of the new job that I don’t like, but I do like doing all I can to help people become better and to make sure students get the best experience they can. That is worthwhile, even if I am losing out on getting other things done.

Saturday conference was great. Amazing messages, great family time, some less than great family time, so things done, and some resolves made. The low point was when our garage door broke. I two hours trying to fix it, and missed a planned dinner-before-priesthood-session time with BJ. I was bummed about that. But I loved seeing BJ get a lot out of priesthood session. It was a great session (other than the fire alarm going off), and I think he really learned a thing or two.

All in all we are even more fixed in our resolve to serve the Lord, are more full of love for the Savior, more full of gratitude for ongoing revelation and prophets and Apostles. Thank the Lord for all he has done for us. The messages of how much he wants us to return to him, though we already knew it, are still so uplifting and comforting.

This Week's Remembering Our Time in Israel picture

View of Bethlehem from Shpeherd's Field. I will never forget the times we spent in this filed, still used by shepherd's today. In this picture you can see Bethelehem in the background as the sun sets over it. Two thousand years ago some shepherds saw basically this same view, and shortly thereafter were greeted by a host of angles as they received the most glorious news the world would ever know. In that town which we can see in the background there, the Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, had been born. How real it is! How wonderful it is! How much it changes everything and how blessed we are!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Maeser, Laser, and Crazier

Weeks aren’t as exciting as they were in Jerusalem, but they seem to be as busy. The big news of the week is that after lots of deliberating, praying, etc., Tashara decided to go to Maeser Preparatory Academy. I am so very proud of her. She really didn’t want to go to begin with. But she agreed to give it an open-minded try, doing that alone when her brother refused to do the same thing. I think she had to be a bit brave to do that. And she was so open minded about it that she found she loved it. But she loved so many things about the other school too, and misses it and her friends there. This was a tough and brave decision, but I think this will be so good for her, and I think for the whole family too, since we will plan on the other kids going also, and since Tashara is in there they will get sibling preference and should get to go also.

I am so impressed with this school. The students get the door for each other, they all seem so kind, and really want to learn. They work hard, and the teachers really seem to care, and it is going so very well. Tashara is in a journalism class, and this last week, as she tries to make up for starting school late, she had two feature articles to write. She decided to do one on Richard Cowan, a religion teacher who has taught at BYU longer than anyone else, and who is blind. She interviewed him, a colleague and two former students (the latter three happen to be me, Julianne, and her uncle David). She did a great job, with such poise, and did a great article. Then she did an article on our friend and neighbor Steve Sherwood, and his Harley. He has a Harley with Book of Mormon scenes painted all over it. She interviewed him, took pictures, and again did a great job. I was so proud of her. She has had a ton of homework as she tries to get caught up, and she is in school longer than everyone else, but she is doing great and not complaining. She is so great!

Steve Sherwood and the bike (both the above picture and the below pictures)

Other things this week include buying and installing a new dishwasher, returning our bed that was too soft and getting a new one, getting a new garage door opener and making it work, getting a new computer-chip key for our car and battery and getting all that working, and doing a ton of cleaning up, some final unpacking and organizing. After buying a new lawn mower last week – one that is light enough the kids can use it – and after trying it once to make sure it was usable for the kids, this week I had Kaleb, Tashara and Alexia all mow part of the lawn. It took longer to teach them and help them do it than it would have for me to mow it myself. But at least they are learning. It is good for them, and I have hopes that one day it won’t take more time.

Alexia mowing the lawn for her first time ever (the others did it two years ago, but needed some reminding)

BJ didn’t help because he fell while going downhill on his scooter at night and hitting a rock. He has serious road rash on his back, shoulders, and elbows. He was pretty tough about it, but it kept us up late one night getting him cleaned up. We also got some more things hung up around the house, Tashara and BJ’s room cleaned out (they were our storage rooms) and organized, and the garage fairly organized. Things are starting to come together, but we have a ways to go also. We are still shopping all around for a bedroom set so that we can have a bed frame and dressers.

BJ wouldn't let me take a picture of his road rash, so Kaleb said I could just take a picture of him. He's a good sport, so in he goes!

We ended up buying a Utah Pass of all Passes, which gets us into a lot of cool things for free. So, for FHE we went and played laser tag at the old Liberty Land, which is now Trafalga Lehi. The first time there were three teams, and our family was one. We had a lot of fun playing together, and we won. Somehow I did not take first place, which doesn’t often happen. The next game was just BJ, Tashara, Alexia, Kaleb and me. So Tashara and I played against the other three. We beat them and I was first place. That was a relief. We are going to have a lot of fun going to these places.

Sabrina and Jacob enjoying a new bean bag we got at a garage sale as we try to get our downstairs ready for kids to play in (we have no furniture there right now)

I also already had a cool opportunity at Maeser. Parents have to do 40 hours of service during the year. We learned this after agreeing to go, but that’s okay. An opportunity arose quickly. Tashara’s class was doing archaeology, and she mentioned that I do that. So he teacher emailed on Wednesday night to see if I could come do something for the class. I was able to go in Friday morning and teach two different classes on archaeology. It was actually a lot of fun. I like to get involved in the school that way. Very fun. And I am all the more impressed with the students and teachers after getting to know them a little better.

Work is good but tough. Already we are involved in too many tough decisions. There are some really hard things that must be evaluated that really affect people’s lives. That part I don’t like all that much. But I love helping Camille Fronk, our dept. chair, and I love doing what I can to help teachers and influence the department’s and college’s direction for good. I also am starting to get the ball rolling for the dig. We will have to see where that goes. I think we can do great things, but I really don’t know what Egypt will be like in February when we are hoping to go. By then they should have had elections. That could (if it happens) make things better or worse. We will apply to excavate, but we will have to see if it happens. But I am excited for all the wonderful opportunities that are before us in regards to the excavation.

I love teaching my class. I love the students. I love the material. We covered the creation, and it is such an important topic. I think things went well (who knows, maybe the students don’t think so). Afterwards I visited with students for a long time, and finally made it home. I sure love my students. On Saturday, Janelle Knight came by and helped do hair cutting and visited with us. It was great. I look forward to doing things like that with more of our students. We WILL NOT talk about Saturday night and the game. I would like to, but each time I talk try to I fumble over all my words and loose them. I considered going to Mike Gilbert, my U fan neighbor, the next morning and giving him a football and telling him that if he tried to give it back to me I would certainly keep giving it right back to him, and that I was determined to not hold on to that ball. But I couldn’t hold on to the ball long enough to get it to his house. Ah well.

I should have just jumped on the trampoline with Jacob instead of watching the game with BJ and Kaleb. This is where we put Jacob while we mow the lawn, so he can't get in trouble. We have been doing it since he was old enough to crawl. This is the best playpen ever.

The wonderful thing is that we keep having so many wonderful opportunities to teach the Gospel to our children. Teaching about Jesus Christ and talking about the Gospel is so much fun and so exciting. I love doing it, and while we always have a long way to go, I feel like our little family is always coming closer to Christ.

New Section: I have decided that at the end of each blog I will post one of my favorite pictures from our time in Jerusalem with an explanation as to why we loved that place. For this week:

This is a great view of the Sea of Galilee from Mt. Arbel. I love this view because when the Savior came from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee he probably walked along the base of this cliff and the side we are looking at. Straight down from us is Magdala, where Mary Magdalene was from, and where a fish drying factory was, which may be a place Peter and his friends took their fish when they had caught so many the nets were about to break. They could then have enough fish to feed their families for a while as they set out with the Savior. It is also a great view of the lake the Savior loved so much. How wonderful to sit and think of Jesus Christ, our Savior, as he walked along these same places. Sublime.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Can we keep having a party all the time? (and live?)

Highlights of the week include spending time with Julianne’s brother’s family, Keith and Kristin and kids, who we had not yet seen. We did a BBQ with them for Labor Day, and David came over with his kids, and we all had a great time. It was good to see them again after so long. It was particularly nice to visit with Kristin, the only one of our family who also went to Jerusalem as a student. You just understand something more if you were also there.

Another highlight was beginning things at Maeser. I got quite sick for a while, catching whatever Sabrina had last week. We had been fasting and praying to know what we should do about Maeser. I believe Julianne was fully inspired in how she interacted with BJ and Tashara regarding it. In the end, after some wonderful conversations, she gave them the choice. BJ felt the weight of that, but quickly decided not to go (even though I think he knew it would be a good idea). Tashara bravely decided to give it a try for the week. So I ended up taking her in the first day she went. I was amazed at that school. Everyone holds the doors open for everyone else. Everyone is amazingly polite. All the students look sharp, and the girls all look very cute. One of the first things I saw was a 16 year old or so girl in her nice uniform standing there spinning a basketball on her finger. Not quite the nerds BJ was predicting. The environment seemed incredible. I heard nothing but friendliness and kindness. We found all Tashara’s classes quickly, and it went very well. I just could not get over the great feeling in the school. I kept wishing I could get BJ to go there one time, if he just went once he would feel and see something. It really was incredible. Tashara ended up loving it. Her report, and the report from every student we have talked to, was that no one ever swears there. Just that makes it worth it.

The more days Tashara went the more she liked it. There is more homework, and it seems a bit demanding, but she likes it. It has become a very hard decision for her. She has to give up friends and few things she loves about her classes and choir at PG Jr. High if she goes, but she has to give up that great environment if she doesn’t. I don’t envy the tough choice she has to make. We keep trying to get BJ to give it an open minded try, but he just won’t. I wish he wasn’t being so silly. Anyway, we tried one last ditch effort. They were having a BBQ for students and families Friday night, and we hoped that the students would show up and BJ could see how cool and fun they were. So we went, but no one really showed up, only a few students. That totally backfired. He thought it was more nerdy than ever. Too bad, it is now a lost cause for sure with BJ. Tashra will have to decide within the next day what she will do, and it will be a tough decision for her.

Things at work got a little more earnest for me. We had a hiring committee meeting. I tried to help with that. I take that very, very seriously. There will be so many people hired in the next while, and it will shape so much of who we are in the next while, and I want to make sure we do it correctly. But these end up being heavy deliberations. The students are so precious, and it is we have to be so careful in so many ways. We are trying. I am glad to be involved, but some aspects of it are difficult. I would love to give all these people a job, I would love to help them. But we can’t, and the deliberations sometimes make me sad. The good thing is that I think that by the time we are through we will have an even more incredible faculty than we have already had.

The amount of meetings and the things I need to do for this new position just keep adding up. I don’t know how I will keep up, but I will find a way. I want to spend some time this week with our new hires. I feel very, very strongly that I want to make sure that they succeed. I will do all I can to help them, I want to make sure they do well.

I was also part of some wonderful and serious discussions about the Pearl of Great Price this week. We are considering making that class required for every student. If we do that, we have to get a lot more people teaching that course. We don’t have that many people who are ready to teach it. So we talked about different approaches to teaching it, and what we need to do to help people to be prepared to teach it. This is important stuff, and I am determined to make sure it goes right. There are many reasons to ask everyone to take the course. It addresses so many important concerns. But it will take a lot of work to make sure we do it right. We can’t let those who would make it mostly a Church History course do that. But we can’t force them to teach away from their strengths either. We just have to equip them to succeed. And this will take some work.

We had several students drop by the house this week. That was fun. Mostly they came by on the day of Sabrina’s birthday to wish her happy birthday. I can’t believe she is 6 now. She has been struggling with still wanting to go to school. Some kids there are being mean, and that has her rattled. I think something else must be making her feel like it is something she hates as well. She cries and cries now when we take her there, begging to not go. Something is going on. But at least Saturday was a happy day. She got the kind of lunch and breakfast she wanted. She had a bunch of people come by to wish her happy birthday. She got to do all sorts of stuff she enjoyed. We had a party with her friends. She loved her presents. Tashara worked hard to make her a creative and fun cake. Her brothers and sisters used their own money to get her gifts. I think it was a wonderful day for my wonderful little girl. And that makes all the other crazy stuff worth it.

Jaker swings at the pinata

Blowin' out the candles on the cake Tashara made

The village cake Tashara made
Nothing can replace a good game of Duck, Duck, Goose