Trying to get back into the swing of things after not having a computer. It's taking a bit, although the house painting project is really taken over. We are letting the walls set and harden before working on the trim. The girls are the best painters and are the reason this project has been so successful.
John's letter to Whitney (from a couple of weeks ago). It needs a little explanation, which I have included in orange.
A fun little birthday surprise in this week's email from Whitney. I know it is posted on her blog, but I wanted to add it here for when I print the blog.
"Lame as a picture and not mailed, I know but I love you!!! Meant to write more and send it, but the week kind of got away from me! Sorella Rost is sending you the other part. I love you more than words could ever say! Happy Birthday."
From Sorella Rost: "I heard we share a love of red poppies! On your birthday, we just happened to be in fields of the most gorgeous wild red poppies among the olive trees. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the most amazing women ever, as you look through these, know you were here with us in spirit!! Hope you had the best day ever!!! You deserve it! Love you!! Tori"
Someday I want to walk in this same poppy field. How beautiful!
John's most recent letter to Whitney that contains anything funny. The last few weeks have been exclusively spiritual and things that can help her. Those are more personal so I won't include them.
Things are great here. Mom did a great job with the conference booklets and incentive system for the kids. Of course the participants were problematic at times. At one point Loaf winked at me and quietly said, "when this guy is done talking we get a treat." There was also typical physical conflict and verbal abuse. All in all, I think it went very well as long as you look at it with the right expectations. Today Brick and Rock and I played Bobo in the Middle, which I had never played before. It was Brick and I playing keep away from Rock until Brick was open to shoot a basket. They both have very entertaining laughs, and it was a lot of fun. I got to hold little "S" for about an hour. She fell asleep, and it was nice to hold a baby again. Not that it was that nice that I am in favor of another one of our own. I can wait for grandchildren, and I am in no hurry. Tank is quite pitiful and emotionally manipulative these days. You can spend a lot of time with him, and then when you tell him to go to bed, and he tries to prolong his time, he asks to do something else, and when you say, "go to bed", he says, "never mind, I can tell you just don't have time for me."
"It is probably starting to get warm there. Right? I arrived in Italy right at the end of July and started in Taranto, and I remember it was mighty toasty. I heard about your singing program and the windows remaining open, and it reminded me of how in Siracusa at the end of my mission the four of us in our apartment would sing together before we went out in the morning, and we would leave the windows open. I think the neighbors liked it a lot. It was a good foursome for singing, so I am sure it wasn't unpleasant to hear. One of the elders in that foursome was actually called "singing Wells" as distinguished from "eating Wells". Singing Wells had a wondeful voice. Eating Wells often would eat a cookie snack while tracting. Do they still have cookie snacks? And are they still a delicious and well known and loved missionary favorite? It was an ice cream sandwich where the two cookies were delicious chocolate chip cookies that encased vanilla ice cream. Anyway, music can be such a powerful influence.
I am glad you were able to go to Taranto for a day. Maybe it was just that it was my first city, but I loved that place. When I got there at the beginning of August we didn't have any investigators so we did a lot of finding. In the evening we did a lot of walking, and Taranto is the place that I remember the evening walk along main street being such a popular activity. There were all kinds of people out doing the passagiata"
Unfortunately most of Mother's day was spent like this, laying in bed being sick. Another flu bug is hitting our family and it's taking everyone down quickly. With children attending 4 different schools and communal cups (sharing at it's best... ugh) we tend to spread viruses very quickly. Thankfully I have not been as ill so I have been able to take care of everyone, however it has affected the blog. Sorry for the lack of posts.
There was lots of napping, although that is a pretty typical Sunday afternoon activity.
Because most people were sick we didn't go to church and spent most of the morning waiting to talk to Whitney. She sent a quick email when she was suppose to call saying things were delayed and it would be a hour or so before she could call.
So there was more waiting. No one wanted to leave the office and miss her call. The little guys worked on a maze book, they love mazes and as you can see there was plenty of reading happening.
I wrote little notes to the wonderful people who made me a mother. It might become a tradition. I loved being able to express my love to my family. I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to be their mother. It's a honor and I am humbled by their love and support of me in my weaknesses. I am truly blessed.
Then the moment we had all been waiting for.... Whitney called! The connection was horrible and it was touch and go for a little bit while we lost the connection several times, but it was so wonderful to hear her voice and see her smiling face. One of the best parts of Mother's day. It will also be her last call home. The next time I hear her voice will be in person.
We were able to say a family prayer together something that hasn't happened since she left. Another missionary mom made the suggestion and I don't know why I had not considered it before, but I am so thankful because it was a special moment to have all my family together in prayer again. It's these simple things that I take for granted.
Tears flowed as we tried to express our love. Words were impossible. We decided it was good that these calls only came occasionally because saying good bye again is hard. Dash was clinging to me crying telling Whitney not to go and to come home. He was nearly hysterical and it was certainly not helpful for Whitney, but it was all that I could do to turn off the chat fast enough (when we were done) so that she didn't have to witness his break down. We are a few months away for being reunited so it will help his tender heart.
The guys pulled out the jenga game and we had a fun afternoon seeing who could be the jenga master. They were not pleased that their mom could still win, but they were kind in their congratulations... it was of course Mother's day.
I loved all my Mother's day surprises. You can read a snippet of this letter here. I am so thankful to be blessed by these wonderful children who call me mother.
A few more funny stories from John's letters to Whitney.
I was thinking about my first Thanksgiving in Italy. We cooked a turkey, but our bombola ran out of propane so we somehow rigged it in between two bicycles at 2:00 AM to take it to the other elders' apartment. Their bombola ran out of propane a couple of hours later, so they took it to the sisters' apartment around 5:00 AM. Anyway, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving that we shared with the Italian missionaries and some members and investigators. Good memories.
Today both Brick and Tank bore their testimonies. Brick was thankful for his moms and his dad. The girls worried that visitors and new members thought we were polygamists. After Tank was done and coming down the stairs from the stand he jumped down and hit a crouching power stance with a big grin on his face.
The boys have spent a lot of time downstairs playing with crazy things like bay blades, which they have thoroughly enjoyed and which has given the rest of us a little more free time upstairs. Every once in a while I will sing down the stairs at them, "bay blades, bay blades, let it rip", and they break into that song as well, and that way I feel a bit of solidarity with them and that somehow I am involved in their lives in that regard.
I am taking the little boys to junior jazz, and they are doing well. Brick has discovered one of his major advantages. Yesterday I saw him use his body to move somebody out of his way in a major way. The poor little guy was trying to take the ball away from Brick, and he just moved into him with his rear end. He had a huge grin on his face as he did it. _________ birthday yesterday and got bey blades. They are like well engineered tops, but nothing more than that. The boys have been playing with them non stop since then.
Probably the funniest story of this week is that Mom asked me if I had seen a green towel in the garage. I said, "is it this one that I take to the gym with me?" And I pulled it out of my gym bag. Mom said, "yes, I had Brick wipe up urine with it two weeks ago." So, I have been using this pee clean up towel at the gym for two weeks.
We were coming out of junior jazz on Saturday, and Brick saw a 20 year old woman coach who wasn't his coach. He flashed her his classic Brick grin and said: "I didn't catch ya name." She told him her name is Megan. I believe we could have a real ladies man in our midst.
(John and Whitney, Summer 2012, Italy)
Another couple of letters from John to Whitney, this letter was from a few weeks ago (12/31). I am going back and adding all the great stories. Whitney's latest emails can be found here.
"First, yesterday evening Arnold was doing the dishes, and we were talking. I was reiterating the fact that the best love song of the seventies was Hold on Hold Out by Jackson Browne, and Arnold sassily commented that there wasn't much competition. Immediately I looked on youtube and found a collection of 116 seventies love songs, and Tank and I put our arms around each others shoulders and began to sing along and serenade Arnold. We only got into it about 8 songs before we had to do something else, so I have committed to her to continue through the entire collection through subsequent opportunities until she has fully realized all that the seventies had to offer.
Second, I was driving with Tank and Brick today and listening to the radio, and someone on the radio was talking about Obamacare. Tank said, "Obamacare stinks." Then Brick countered, "Obama has a very important job. He is in the lighthouse. He has the most important job in the city. He guides the boats to safety." I love that guileless little boy."
Last week I drove Gus to school. It looked like she was texting, so I asked her who she was texting, and she said she wasn't texting, she was writing an essay. Then she stopped, and I asked her if she was done. She said, no, no worries, it wasn't due until fourth period. It is interesting to compare the differing stress levels between children. Rock, on the other hand, is close to a stroke most of the time.
Funny stories: I am reading Eragon to the big boys, and every time I read the name Katrina, they break into song, something like: "You'll never forget that little coquette, Katrina." Speaking of the big boys, they were in the school spelling bee, and they did very well. Tank only got out in the round before the final three, but he was devastated. You know Tank. He returned to his chair, tore his glasses off, and bowed his head in shame. Then he came down and sat on my lap and sobbed. Tank is one of a kind.
One of the things that makes me happy about those boys, is that we don't have to worry about what they are sneaking a peak at on the internet. It isn't porn or anything. Tanjk will sneak a peak at toy tanks. He is obsessed. He likes to watch battle reenactments and such on youtube, even cheesy ones done on gym floors.
We are working on language lately: "Butt bum" as an insult has reared its ugly head. I think the boys feel like that is pretty harsh because it is a combination of those two singularly harsh insults. Brick even wrote a note to Dash saying: "You are a butt bum."
Tithing settlement today was tremendous. Loaf told Bishop that Jesus likes puppies. The bishop asked Rock if he was a full tithe payer, and Rock said: "No, but I will pay it back in a couple of years." At that point I asked Rock if he had earned any money this year, and he said no, but that he was planning on earning some in a couple of years. After a little more discussion, we decided Rock was OK."
The most amusing thing that happened this week occurred about 3:00 AM on Friday morning. It was a severely windy night, and Loaf wasn't sleeping well. Suddenly I woke up with her straddling my side/back like I was a horse, bouncing up and down, and saying: "Yehah, yehah."
Some weeks I do okay and I don't think about Whitney every minute, but other weeks I'm a bit of a mess. I don't know what my problem was, but I was missing Whitney terribly this past week. Tears would trickle down my face at random moments as I thought about her. It's silly. She is more than half way done, before you know it I will be posting photos of her joyous homecoming.
She is having an amazing experience (you can read about it here) and learning more than she could if she was home. She is growing in ways we didn't anticipate and in others hoped for. She is seeing new things and visiting places on her preparation days that are filled with history and beauty. She is becoming the woman I hoped she would be and I wouldn't want her any other place, but my heart was still pulled this week.
Then as I opened her email and read the first lines, "Mom, I needed you this week." Tears gushed and my heart was comforted. Even though she is thousands of miles away and I can't talk to hear, the Lord is aware of us. He knew she needed extra prayers and keeping her constantly on my mind allowed me to say a few more prayers. It kept me up at night, sleepless not understanding why and it found me on my knees praying her well being. This is not the first time since she left home that this has happened and I suspect it won't be the last.
I miss my darling girl. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
The girls have been hard at work this Christmas season making toys, pajamas, treats and so much more. Several months ago they decided that they would draw names as children and create homemade presents this year. It was fun to hear them planning and helping one another. It was a wonderful gift for me to observe. They are wonderful sisters.
Loaf got in the way more than she helped, but it was hard not to love her especially in these cute striped pajamas.
Fred made Gus the most horrible pajamas I have ever seen. It's some jumpsuit out of this fleece horse fabric. They are both giddy at the idea and it had to be modified a few times so they would fit . I have laughed more than once at this project.
We got the machine repaired or so I thought. The girls have been sewing nonstop since school got out only to find out that the reverse is not working. This proved quite problematic for the button holes. I'm taking the machine back in to get it fixed once again. Sorry girls.
Gus whipped up some quilts for the little guys. It was fun to see the fabric combinations she chose. I also loved walking into the studio and hearing them singing together. The harmonies were beautiful.
They of course loved it when I would walk in with the camera, but I didn't care and took the pictures anyway. The boys looked cute in their pajamas. Loaf adored hers and the girls added cute little ric-rac edges.
Christmas eve night, actually I guess technically it would have been Christmas morning at 2am I finally went in and told Arnold to go to bed. She said she was on a roll and was going to finish. Later I found out that at 3:30am when her head was leaning against the machine she finally decided it was time to quit.
As I was relaying all this to John he just laughed and commented about being just like her mother. He knows me well.
The girls made Christmas extra special. Their hard work and love was shown not only in the gifts they gave, but the love they showed throughout the day. Christmas was emotional not only from the event here at home, but because we were able to talk to Whitney.
She looks beautiful and it was so wonderful to hear her voice and remember the little things that we have missed. She spoke to John in Italian and he confirmed that her Italian is indeed good. Of course we also heard it from one of the members where she is serving.
Loaf came rushing into the room when the call started and immediately told Whitney it was time to come home and that it was taking forever!
Whitney showed us the two packages of tissues the sweet family had provided her before the call started. They certainly know my darling girl. However there were very few tears shed until the very end as we were saying goodbye. It was hard to watch John break down and start to cry. We expect it from the rest of us, but our strong husband and dad is another story. We miss our darling girl, but are so grateful that we got this chance to talk to her.
She is half way done and will be home before we know it.
Arnold made a pillowcase for Whitney (using this method, here is a downloadable instruction pdf) and after ironing freezer paper onto the main portion of the pillowcase the children started to decorated.
We each included our hand print in part so Whitney could measure her hand to see the children's growth. You might remember a few years back when we started documenting this phenomenon.
The little people didn't want to stop until every inch of the pillow case was filled with pictures and messages from them. The big people did NOT want to have their pictures taken, but they participated.
I hope she will treasure it, of course she will. Each of little people drew a picture of Whitney by her name. It made me smile.
It's probably a silly gift and she might get a headache if the marker smell has not dissipated over the ocean, but I hope she will know she is loved and missed.