Wednesday, October 31, 2007

happy halloween!

I'm in love with these vintage Halloween greeting cards...

I just have to say that I can't wait for tonight. I just love Halloween. It was one of my favorites as a kid. Especially because my parents always went all out...from the costumes and the scary movies, to the parties and the haunted the pumpkin carving, and warm bowls of dad's homemade chili. But Halloween was no different than any other holiday for my mom. She went crazy over every single one - big or small. I loved that she made all of our costumes by hand. Each one unique and creative. Each one carefully thought out. Each one made with love...

I hope that over the years, I will be able to create similar memories for my children, and that we, too, will be able to live each holiday to the fullest!

1978 - Tweety Bird

1979- Aunt Jemima (me) with a Hobo (Aaron)

1981- a gypsy (me) with two jack-o-lanterns (Aaron and Matt)

1983- a witch with one of dad's gruesome homemede scars (I was a witch for three years in a row!)

1985- an 80's punk rocker chick

1991- a hippie with Jen dressed as Strawberry Shortcake

1992- probably some kind of disco queen

And a few other randoms...

2003- Dan, John, Mike, and Scott dressed as, I don't know...pimps?

2006- a biker family

2006- Ruby in her chick costume (it fit her much better last year)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

a little "rae" of sunshine...

That's what we've been calling her ever since she was a little girl. Rachel truly is a light to all who know her. I'm proud to call her my sister, and I want to wish her a Happy 21st Birthday!

21 of my favorite things about Rachel...

1) She is so pretty; and her bright, beautiful, perfect smile, can illuminate an entire room.

2) She loves to sing, and has a beautiful voice. Just this last Sunday in Sacrament Meeting, she and Angie, along with two other friends, sang a moving rendition of I need thee every hour. They had perfect harmony, sounded like Angels, and moved many to tears.
3) She's been dancing ever since she was a little girl. She mainly enjoys clogging and has amazing talent.

4) She also loves dancing and listening to 80's music. I feel proud to have introduced her to one of her all time favorites...this one's for you Rae!

5) Rachel loves to laugh. She can find humor in almost anything; and has an exuberant, hearty laugh.
6) She is a very hard worker, and doesn't give up...even when things get really tough. Two summers ago she worked as a CNA in a nursing home. Her job description required her to do some pretty disgusting (not to mention nauseating) things. I honestly didn't think she'd last more than a few days. She stuck with it the entire summer! Rachel hasn't ceased to amaze me in this aspect.
7) When all of us sisters decided to train for, and compete in a half marathon, Rachel ended up being the only one possessing enough dedication and will power to make that dream become a reality.
8) Something kind of funny. Rachel loves onions. She will dispute this til she's blue in the face...but I swear, what I am about to tell you is true. One day I walked into the kitchen to find Rachel taking a giant bite out of a whole onion, as if it were a juicy red delicious apple.
9) Rachel is a peacemaker. Everyone in our family would agree - growing up, she was acknowledged as the peacemaker in our home.
10) Rachel loves going to concerts. She's been known to travel far and wide to see her favorite bands perform.
11) She has a lot of friends, and is a very loyal friend. Two of her very best friends have been her friends since they were barely old enough to walk and talk.
12) Rachel is a natural leader. She served in many leadership capacities in high school including class officer, as well as a student body officer her senior year. This past summer she had the rare opportunity of leading hundreds of 12 and 13 year old girls as a counselor at Oakcrest, a summer camp for girls.
13) She has completed two years of college at Utah State University, and is a loyal Aggies fan.
14) She would like to become a nurse.
15) Rachel has the most beautiful olive skin. We used to all lay out together, and it always took the rest of us hours to achieve what Rachel could get in 15 minutes - and that was a completely gorgeous, beautifully golden tan. It always made me so mad.
16) Rachel is a daddy's girl.

17) She is loved and admired by many, including her two younger (and two older) sisters, who look up to her in so many ways.

18) She also has many male admirers - a few of whom are nearing the end of their missions, and I'm sure will be heartbroken to come home and find out that she did not wait...but rather decided to serve a mission of her own.

19) She likes to have fun and be goofy. The other night we were putting away all of left over food from her open house, when she grabbed a giant pumpkin cookie and smashed it on me. Yes, I did get her back, and yes, it turned into a cookie fight.
20) She loves going to movies, or renting one to watch at home with the family. In fact, as I write this, I happen to know that the family is home watching a movie in celebration of Rachel's birthday.
21) She loves the Lord and has a pure testimony of His gospel. Just this last Sunday she shared these sentiments with her ward congregation. The Spirit was so pronounced as she testified, that I honestly don't believe there were many dry eyes in the room.

Rae, I'm so proud of you. I'm proud of you for the righteous choices you've made in your life. Especially for the decision to serve a mission. 21 is the age that the world finally accepts and acknowledges you as an adult. It's the legal drinking age, and the age that you can gamble and party. Sadly, these are the things that many people look forward to upon turning 21. But not you. Here you are, on your 21st birthday, counting down the days (only 7 to go) until you will become a full time missionary for the Lord, and be able to count yourself one of His personal representatives. You definitely stand out from the rest, and honestly, I couldn't be more proud.

Happy little "Rae" of sunshine!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

good clean halloween fun...

We had our Young Women Halloween Party last night. It was actually for the Miamaids and Beehives, but the Laurels ended up dropping in after their activity was over. Cute Julie Hamula (the Miamaid president) is the party planner of the bunch. She lives for the holidays, loves to plan parties, bake cakes, dress up, have fun...whatever she does, she goes all out! She planned this whole party by herself, from the games, to the decorations, to the food, to the prizes...and she did a fabulous job!

Here are some pics from the night...

Briana, Kailey, and Kaitlyn

Mary and Kareena

Kailey and Ammah

Sarah with Julie - the party planner

Mary (Ruby's best friend), Ruby and Me

momma and her baby chick

Here are a few of just me and my baby chickie...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

my john...

just happens to be the sweetest person I know; and how blessed I am that he also happens to be my husband. Saturday was a really hard day for me. I was feeling pretty sad about something personal, which seemed to take it's toll on my spirits that day. John left to get a haircut, and returned with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, some Jones Blackberry sodas, and a few of my favorite treats. The bouquet consisted of an assortment of fall flowers, each one unique and vividly colorful. Being in Arizona has many perks, but I would be lying if I told you that I didn't miss the distinct seasons...especially Autumn. I miss the cool crisp air and the rich vibrant colors. I miss my thick slouchy sweaters and boots. I miss walking through leaf piles and hearing them crunch under my feet. Anyway, how thoughtful is my John for knowing these things, and then to pick out the perfect flower arrangement, and then to bring a little piece of Autumn home to me?
The last few days have been super chaotic around our house. I have a million things that I have to do and have been running around like a crazy person as of late. Last night we went over to the church to update our temple recommends, and then I had to stay for a visiting teaching meeting. I really just wanted to go home and get started on the cleaning and laundry that I had totally neglected the last few days; but I knew where I needed to be, and it wasn't in my laundry room. I needed to fulfill my church responsibilities; and I'm glad I did because the Spirit moved me to tears. I seriously love it when I can allow the Spirit to touch me in such a way.
I walked in the door that night just as John was putting dinner on the table. Once again, he had picked up the slack. The baby was down for the night, our bedroom and bathroom were clean, as well as the kitchen and family room. And then, after we ate, he straight away started folding and putting away laundry! Isn't he just the greatest? Seriously, I don't know what I would do if I didn't have my John. I guess instead, I would have a pretty lonely, sad, stressful, and burdensome life.

Thank you you.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

the veil is thin...

About a month and a half ago, during our Stake Conference, Ruby started getting restless and somewhat disruptive. So as to not distract from the Spirit which was present in the meeting, John took it upon himself to remove her from the chapel. A short period after they had returned to their seats, John leaned over and recounted to me what had just happened while he and Ruby had been out in the hall. In an attempt to calm her down he had picked her up in his arms and began walking down the hall and into the vacated Young Women's room. He wandered over to a picture of Christ that was hanging on the wall and turned Ruby's body so that she was facing the painting. Ruby looked at it, and immediately proclaimed "Sheshus". Her whole face, and especially her eyes, lit up when she saw Him. John was floored and couldn't wait to get back to tell me what had just happened. I was equally as floored especially because we had never taught her that before. Sure we talk a lot about Christ in our home as we strive to pattern our lives after His. We pray, we read our scriptures, we hold regular Family Home Evenings (but mostly after we've put Ruby down for the night), we even have multiple pictures of Christ hanging up in our home. So hopefully through example, we have taught our daughter some things about The Savior; but never before had we actually displayed His picture in front of her for the sole purpose of teaching her who He was...she just knew. All on her own, she just knew.
Sure Ruby is young and has a hard time holding still in church, and many times I don't think that she even comprehends what is being taught; but this experience witnessed to me that she understands a lot more than we give her credit for. It wasn't that long ago that she left her Savior's presence, and I have no doubt that the veil must be a bit thinner for her than it is for me. I am so blessed to have this special little spirit in my home. She has taught me so much about Christ because she exudes His light. In fact, in the very same conference she taught me another valuable lesson. A few rows behind us were sitting a father and his daughter - who looked to be probably in her 20's. This girl seemed to bear the weight of the world on her shoulders. She seemed sad, and lonely. She was wearing big baggy jeans, and a big baggy t-shirt. Her hair appeared to be dyed black, and was cut super short, except for the middle section - which was formed into a perfectly styled mohawk. Her makeup too, was black, and especially dark and heavy around her eyes. She had multiple piercings, not just lining the lobes and outer parts of her ears, but also her lips, nose, and eyebrows. I tried not to stare at her when I saw her. I tried not to judge. In fact, I was pleased that I made eye contact with her and then offered a smile. But Ruby, my dear sweet Ruby, walked straight up to the Girl - who was sitting on an isle seat, and put her little hand on the girl's leg, and then looked up while patting her leg, and said "HI" with a bright beaming smile. The girl smiled, too. I learned a lesson from my 15 month old daughter that day. I learned that to the Lord, we are all of infinite worth. It doesn't matter what we look like on the outside. It doesn't matter the decisions we've made in our life. It doesn't matter if we're rich or poor. The Lord is no respecter of persons. He loves the sinner as He does the saint; and we need to do the same - love unconditionally as the Savior does, and as little children do. It's no wonder that He taught us to become as a little child. Children are pure, innocent, without guile, full of love, and alive in Christ. That's what my Ruby girl reiterated to me that day...and, well, every day. I thank the Lord for her.

She loves seeing pictures of Christ now, and pointing Him out while exclaiming "Sheshus"! In fact, the other night, we were in an LDS bookstore, and she was reciting His name at every turn as there were several pictures of Him on display throughout. John and I were just beaming with pride.

Friday, October 19, 2007

some funny little comparisons...

Okay here's the first one. The picture on the left was taken in Burzaco, Argentina (my first area) - probably about a month or two before I even arrived. It's a picture snapped by my trainer, of our landlord and his wife, trying to fix a plumbing problem. The picture on the right was taken a couple of months later, and is the result of two sister missionaries (Hermana Bingham and I ), who had to be in before dark (because of the dangerous area in which we served), who had already completed their planning, studying, etc., both feeling rather dippy...therefore could think of nothing better to do with their time than to pose as the Argentine landlords for a pic. (Don't you just love all the silly details we thought of - from the blue container sitting in the the stick (albeit much thicker) that we rounded up for the water reserve tank? And I love that we had clothes similiar to those worn by people probably 50 years our senior!)

The second comparison. The picture on the left was taken by my husband while serving as a missionary nearly 8 years ago - in Richmond, California. This is a homeless man that would stand on this particular corner, always displaying a sign with some type of clever saying on it.
The picture on the right was taken by me, a week ago while touring my husband's mission. Yes. It's the same man, on the same corner...just looking a bit older, and holding a different sign!

And Finally...The picture on the left is of a little clay house that was given to John by the Franco family. While serving in the area, John had always commented to Sister Franco how much he loved the casita hanging on the wall of their family room. She was so proud to present her little prize to John as a farewell gift just before he went home.
When John and I returned to this particular area, we learned that the Franco family had since moved; and Sunday morning, before church, we decided to pay them a visit. While we were conversing, John mentioned to the family that he still had the little casita gift they had given to him, and that it was hanging on one of the walls in our office. The sister proceeded to tell us that she had been searching high and low (in Mexico as well as the US) for a casita as beautiful as the one she had given away. Especially now, she told us, because our new house is the same peach color as the little casita, and even has a matching sun displayed by the front door. John offered to return it to her, but she insisted that it was a gift meant for him; and assured him that he had the prettiest little casita ever to be found! So the picture on the right is of John with Brother and Sister Franco in front of their new house. Can you see the two little matching suns? And how funny that the houses are so similar, from the exterior color, to the white trim, to the potted plants adorning the front porch...
We just might have to find a way to get that little house back to Sister Franco :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

sweet 16...

My darling niece, Karen, turned 16 back in May. Recently, she was asked to her high school's Homecoming dance...which will be held in a couple of weeks. It will be her first. I was so honored that she asked me to go dress shopping with her. We were finally able to get together this week and had the best time. It was a breeze too, if you can believe that. I can remember shopping with my mom for hours and hours, and days on end to find something I liked. Not Karen. After leaving Nordstrom empty handed, we decided to check out Anthropologie...and it was there that we found the perfect dress. She tried it on. It looked great on her. We both loved it. And that was that. Easy as pie....
It was so neat for me to be involved in this first with Karen. She is such a beautiful person, not only on the outside, but also from within. I have no doubt that her date will be beaming with sweet Karen by his side!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

the paris of the pacific...

Last Friday John had a conference for work which was held in San Francisco. Typically when these conferences are only one day - he flies out the morning of, and returns late that very same evening - making his time away from home just slightly longer than that of a standard work day. However this time around, John's Dad (and boss) suggested that he stay a few extra days, and take me along! John actually served his mission in Oakland, which is just across the San Francisco Bay. Though they are not far from Utah or Arizona, John hadn't yet had the opportunity to return to the areas of his mission, and visit the people whom he served and had grown to love so deeply. Finally he was going to get that chance, and how honored I felt for the opportunity of being right by his side.
We arrived in San Francisco Thursday, and spent the entire afternoon and evening strolling around the city. We spent most our time at the Union Square shopping district...and shop, we did! Being accustomed to, and very much enjoying the 90 degree Arizona weather we've been having, I was not at all prepared for the biting cold which we experienced in San Francisco, and therefore I had no other alternative than to purchase a new coat :)

Friday, John had his conference. Prior to our trip, I had every intention of going out on my own that day - to hopefully be able to experience more of the city; but when I looked out the window to the grey skies and buckets of rainfall, I felt perfectly content with the idea of staying in for the day.
That night, after John was finished with work, we went back to the city and met up with Jose for dinner. Jose is a man that John started teaching in his 3rd area, but who had a lot of doubts about the Gospel during this time. John felt, and actually told the branch President, that not only would Jose eventually become a member, but that he would also be a great leader in the Church. John was transferred from the area and had never heard what had become of Jose, until he was only two weeks from going home. He received a phone call from one of the AP's who informed him that Jose had decided to be baptized, and that he had requested John to perform the ordinance! We learned over dinner with Jose, that indeed he has served in many capacities including 2nd counselor in the branch presidency, and is currently serving as the mission leader in the San Fransisco Spanish Ward. He remains active, attends the temple, and has been instrumental in the baptisms of over 50 individuals! I watched John become emotional, as the Lord allowed him to witness, in this instance, the fruits of his labor. What began with just one soul, has led to the conversion of many, many choice sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.

The day of Jose's Baptism

John and Jose at the Oakland Temple

Saturday morning we attended the Oakland temple, and went through the Spanish session with Jose. John and I were chosen as the witness couple, which was a very rich and rewarding experience. I loved hearing the endowment in Spanish, as it brought back some very beautiful memories of attending the Buenos Aires temple as a Missionary. (The Buenos Aires Temple was actually in a different mission, however we missionaries, were allowed to attend every three months as a district or zone.) I enjoyed walking around the grounds of the Oakland Temple which was indeed every bit as beautiful as John had described to me over the years. We even went up to the terrace and enjoyed the breathtaking view which overlooked the bay and the city of San Francisco.

My handsome John at the Oakland Temple

The two of us in front of the temple

We then visited the Oakland Visitor's Center, took a ride down Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue - home to many restaurants, bookstores, clothing shops, and street vendors who occupied the sidewalks. We witnessed a diverse group of people from college students, Cal fans, tourists, street punks, and many eccentrics. It was there that we stopped and ate lunch, and then headed out to Richmond (home of John's 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Areas). After driving up and down the steep rolling hills, getting lost, getting car sick, making u-turn after u-turn, stopping to study the map, finding no one at home...we were pretty discouraged. John decided to at least take me by the church and show me where they used to meet on Sundays. That turned out to be the best decision, as we found several members in the parking lot having a ward car wash! John was able to reconnect with several members and delighted in the fact that so many of them remain strong and stalwart in the gospel.
Saturday night I was able to meet the Jerez family from Hayward. This was a member family who was not at all active when John began serving in the area. John and his companion began teaching their 10 year old son, Moroni, and were conducive in the reactivation of the entire family. Now they have 5 children, and are doing well as faithful active members of their ward!

The Jerez Family

Sunday morning, we returned to Richmond and visited the home of Gonzalo, one of John's baptisms. While trying to contact Victor and his wife (a couple who had requested a Lamb of God video), John and his companion happened upon Victor's two brothers, Mario and Gonzalo. They were both baptized along with Mario's wife and children. Although Gonzalo's brother and sister-in-law are no longer active, he faithfully attends every Sunday and serves as a ward missionary. It is our hope and prayer that he will remain faithful, and therefore be influential in the return of Mario and his family, and, maybe even one day, the conversion of Victor and his family as well.

John and Gonzalo 1999

John and Gonzalo 2007

After visiting the members of the Richmond Ward, and delighting in their joy and happiness upon reuniting with John, we raced to Hayward to attend their Sacrament Meeting. John took advantage of the fact that it was fast and testimony meeting by sharing his testimony with the members. His words were pure and true and beautiful, and I know that the members were touched by the spirit that he exudes.
After church, John introduced me to Ena, whom he had taught and baptized. Ena told John that her husband Marvin joined the church about a year ago, and that they have have set a family goal of taking their two daughters to the temple to be sealed!

Ena's Baptism - July 2000

Ena, John, and me in front of the chapel where Ena was baptized

From Hayward, we rushed back to San Fransisco, as John previously had been asked by Jose to share his testimony with the members of his ward. In fact, we were made aware that John's name had already been printed in the bulletin, making it official! He told the congregation that just as he had shared his testimony with Jose the day of his baptism, so he'd like to do again, over 7 years later. Jose was just beaming with pride as his missionary spoke directly to him.

I was beaming, too...the entire weekend. It was truly an awesome experience for me to live pieces of my husband's mission with him. To walk the streets that he walked, to meet the people that he taught, to visit the places that he frequented, to fall in love with the people whom he loved and served.

Can't wait to go back someday...

Friday, October 12, 2007

she's creepy and she's kooky...

mysterious and spooky,
she's all together ooky,
my silly Ruby girl...

I couldn't resist these pictures of my silly Ruby girl. We broke out the costume box the other day, and as you can, she happened upon some treasures! So here they are, In honor of the fast approaching, All Hallow's Eve...

Ruby in her daddy's shoes!

This is Ruby's new halloween baby, a puppet which John intruduced to her. Scary, if you ask me...but she loves it!