Wednesday, December 31, 2008


We had such a great Christmas! Our family was in charge of the Christmas Eve Program, so that added a little fun to the holidays. It turned out pretty good, I think. Jadon and Wes were missionaries at Rockefeller Center. They sang I'll be Home For Christmas and Jadon sang Mary Did you Know at the end.

We were able to help a family for Christmas this year that turned out to be a neat experience. We Just had a great time having everyone home for Christmas. We know it may not last very long, so we treasure those moments. All the kids slept in the game room. I guess it was quite the fun!
We had a friend of Amanda's here, too, to experience a real American Christmas. She was sure sweet.

A touch of snow made it quite the Christmas this year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How to Create a Password

Kameron was playing a game on the computer and needed a password. The instructions said that it needed to be 5 characters long. After being frustrated that it wasn't working, Paul came over to help him out. The problem was that his 5 characters just weren't working. Here are the 5 characters: Sleepy Fish, Big Bubbles, Magic Cheetah, Hyper Skunk, and Jumping Cheetah.

Yes, we are still laughing. But now you all know how to create a really good password!

Monday, December 15, 2008

An amazing week in SLC

This weekend has been a glorious gift from God! I have witnessed God's hand in so much this weekend. The spirit has been so strong and I feel so blessed! I thought my heart would burst with joy.

I actually came up to SLC Thursday afternoon. The kids came up early on Thursday and had been singing at a few places before I arrived. I met them at the hotel, then went with them to sing at the Department of Transportation which was actually down by Mykelle's apartment. Following that, we went to a concert called "The Soul Messiah." It is was an upbeat "gospel" version of "The Messiah." The conductor for it was a guy named B. Murphy who sang with "the Platters." It was upbeat and fun.

Hartvigson School for the Disabled

Friday morning, we boarded the bus and headed to the Hartvigson School which is a school for severely disabled kids. Mr. Reimer told the kids to watch in the audience for someone they could go say "hi" to after their performance. At the end of the 3rd song, "Sleep Little Jesus Boy," I noticed Jadon and Jared wiping away some tears. The words were touching and as the kids thought of them and looked out, they were touched. During the song, "December Child," Jenny Lee started to cry. She sobbed through the whole song. There are some words in that song that are something like, "the world laughs and makes fun of you Lord, and they laugh and make fun of me, too." I imagine that when you are thinking of those words and looking out into these faces of kids who have been through that, then you can feel the spirit of what was happening.After the performance, the kids went out and talked to some of the kids there. We found out that they were preparing for a prom that day and that they were teaching the boys to ask the girls. They said that the boys were all nervous. It was so cute and sweet to see what was happening there. There was a neat spirit knowing that they lifted them up that day.

RS Building

We were through a little early, so I called to see if we could get into the RS Building a so Jadon could practice his "Mary" song. Sis. Dalton's secretary, Amanda, said that would be fine. As we went into the building, there was such a neat spirit there. It was this beautiful building. It felt like the celestial room in our temple. One of the workers there said to me, "They don't let just anybody play this piano. You must be special." As the group started practicing, the music just permeated the walls and filled the building. It was soo pretty. The choir ran through a couple of songs, then Jadon went over to the piano to practice his song. Just as he started, Sis. Dalton came down the stairs and into the room. She gave me a big hug and had tears in her eyes. She went over to the kids and said that they could hear the music all the way upstairs and it was so beautiful. Also entering the room was some of the secretary's and workers in the building. Then came in Sis. Thompson and Sis. Allred, counselors in the RS General Presidency. While the others were entering the room, Sis. Dalton went to each of the moms and started shaking their hand and talking to them. She went to Julie Wiest first and Julie was just in tears. I'm not sure what she said, but Julie was touched.

I had Sis Dalton get all the ladies to sit in front of the choir. We parents hung to the back. Sis. Dalton introduced Sis. Allred and Thompson to the kids. Then they began to sing. I think Cierra Beers cried through the whole performance. After a couple of songs, Jadon came up to sing "Mary Did You Know." I could tell he was a little emotional and to top it off, Adam had never played the song and Jadon hadn't practiced with him. Mr. Reimer was over at the piano trying to follow the music and show Adam where to go. Jadon was singing beautifully, but I could tell he was a little emotional. He cracked a little on the really high note because of it, but it was still good. After his song, Sis. Allred said, "I just have to tell you this story. I had three grandbabies born in December. One on the 22nd. I had bought the books for my kids with that story. We read the story and were all in tears when we read the part about "kissing the face of God." I just want you to know that that song is really special to me and you sang it so beautifully. Thank you." Of course, I was crying and thought that I was glad she didn't say anything before he sang!
The kids sang a few more songs and the sisters were just loving them. When they finished Sis. Dalton stood and had the kids applaud their parents. Then she mentioned Mr. Reimer and how she noticed that he wanted the kids in the spotlight and would move to the side so they could be seen. She said that she could tell he cared more for the kids than for his own recognition. She said that Christ was that way and was grateful for his humility. She went around the room showing gratitude. Then she asked Sis Allred and Sis. Thompson to say something to the kids.

Sis. Allred bore her testimony of the Savior and how these kids had brought such a sweet spirit. She was grateful that they were sharing the message of Christ and His birth to others. She was grateful for this wonderful time of year to remember the real reason for Christmas.

Sis. Thompson was so cute! She told the kids that she didn't want to come to work that morning. She said that the work they were doing right now was a lot of writing and it just didn't sound too fun. She said that she was so glad that she came to work that day and now she knew why she came. She also told them that they had a wonderful gift that not many had. She said that singing was not one of her "gifts." That she was allowed to sing at Girls Camp and in the shower, but her family asked her to keep her "gift" to herself. She then bore her testimony of the Savior.

Then Sis. Dalton spoke to them. She told them that they were such beautiful singers. She had them turn and look at a picture behind them that had angels descending in it. She said that that picture reminded her of them because she knew that they were not singing alone. She said that the angels were singing with them and that as they sang of Christ that the angels would always attend and sing with them. She could hear their singing all the way upstairs.

She then told the kids that they were truly a Royal Generation and were saved for this time. She said that this was time for the youth of the church to Arise and Shine. She told about the celebration video that they just produced with 42,000 kids. She asked them if they had heard that there was a new value out. It was the value called "Virtue" and the color would be gold. She said, "Young men! You are not off the hook either, because YOU are the guardians of Virtue. You are to protect and guard the virtue of these young women."

She told them about the 3 things they were committing the youth to. "To arise and shine, we are asking all the youth to first, say their prayers morning and night. Will you commit to that?" She said, "I committed Sis. Webster to this last month." Then she gave me the thumbs up sign. I gave the thumbs up back. Then she took her finger and pointed to the kids and began to move around the room to see if they had their hands raised. She turned and looked at the ladies seated and watching. No one had their hands up and she looked at them and was trying to get them to raise their hands and commit. They were like, "OHHH!!" and hurried and raised their hands. She circled past all the parents to make sure we had our hands up, too. Then she said, "the 2nd thing is to read 5 minutes from the Book of Mormon every day." She went around the room again for commitment. "The 3rd thing we are asking is that you smile everyday." At this point, I was trying to delete old pictures off my camera because the card had filled and I wanted to get as many pictures of the kids and her as I could, so I wasn't paying great attention. But heard some giggling and Sis Dalton say, "Whose dad is this??!!" Mike Stanley raises his hand, bows his head and covers his eyes. Sis. Dalton said to him, "will you please watch your dad and help him with this one!" It was funny because his dad is constantly cracking jokes and is smiling ALL the time. He is a real character. So we were all laughing. Following their commitment, Sis Dalton told them that they need to be better. She said, "I can tell that you are probably all perfect, but we need you to be better-- to be the BEST and to rise above the world." She said that they had given her the sweetest Christmas gift-- One she would always remember. She quoted the poem that is something to the effect of "if I were a shepherd, I'd give him a lamb....... I'll give Him a gift. I'll give Him my heart." She said that she was giving her heart to them as a gift. She also had made book marks for them. On one side it said "100%" On the other it had a picture of someone running (think street sign figures here) and arrow facing right and then a temple. She wanted them to hurry or hasten to the temple. She then bore her testimony of the Savior.

Following her talking, all the ladies got up and Sis. Thompson and Allred shook the kids' hands. Sis Dalton went through and hugged EACH kid. She went back to the parents and visited with Mr. Reimer, too. At some point, (I think when they were singing a song she had missed), she stood by me and said that she loved Jadon's song and that you could feel the purity of him coming through. I was in tears as she spoke. I told her that if she ever needed a singer, to call us. When everyone was clearing out, she went up to Jadon and gave him a hug. She told him what she had said to me, that she could feel his purity and goodness that comes from within. He had tears in his eyes and she hugged him. She said to him, "it's time for our youth to Arise and Shine. Can't you just feel it? It's time to step up and be better and prepare for something big!" I looked at her and said, "Christ's coming." I can't remember her acknowledgment of that (meaning if she nodded or commented), just that an understanding passed between us.

We finally cleared out. The others had headed to the bus and Mr. Reimer had said before he left that the bus would be right outside the building. Jadon and I walked out and sat on the bench. I put my arm around him and commented on what she had told him. He said, "Mom. I just don't want this to end. This feels so wonderful." I told him that now he knows what it feels like, he can create more opportunities just like this.

Primary Children's

We were now running a little late-- mostly because we didn't know how to get to Primary Children's. We found it, and hurried out of the bus. The kids set up right inside the front doors and the miracles just kept coming. The location inside the door is right by the cafeteria. The reception desk and ER admitting was right there, too. There were a lot of people moving in and out. Right in the beginning and boy in a wheelchair came up with his mom and two brothers. I moved and gave them our seats right in front of the choir. This family sat there the whole time and were SO attentive. They clapped after each song.Shortly after this, I looked over and saw Ellie Wiest talking to a girl. It happened to be Brandy Phillips who is in her ward. Brandy is a 16 yr old and SCHS and has Hodgkins. She had just finished up chemo treatments and was headed home with her mom and dad. Ellie got to talk to her for a few minutes as they listened to the kids sing. What a treat to be able to sing to their friend.
A while later a mom came through with a toddler in a wagon and watched for a few minutes. Then a lady in pajamas and in a wheelchair came and watched.
During the last song, and boy in a wheelchair was pulled up right by me. His mom was next to me and I assume and hospital worker was on the other side. This sweetheart had a shaved head with a big horseshoe shaped cut and stitches on the side of his head. He looked a little down. They had gotten there right at the end of the song. Mr. Reimer had thanked everyone and told them that was our last song. I turned to them and said, "Oh darn! You just got here!" The lady looked disappointed. So I went over to Mr. Reimer and said, "this young man just got here. Can you sing a song for him?" He came over to the boy and asked if he had a favorite song. He shook his head and said "not really." Someone by him said, "sing him something cheerful." So Mr. Reimer went over to the choir and told them that they were going to sing to the boy. The whole choir turned toward him and sang "Joy to the World." Part way through the song, the boy's dad walked in. The mom said to him, pointing at the choir, "they are singing to him!" The dad looked at her, then moved to the side. You know when you catch a moment when no words pass, but you can just feel what they were saying to each other-- an understanding passed between them. I moved to the side to get a picture of the whole scene and as I did, I could see through the camera, this lady next to the mom look at her-- again with no words but something passing between them that said, "this is for you and everything is going to be okay." She put her arm around the mom, and the mom touched her hand on her shoulder. (You'll be proud-- I got that picture.) I was just in tears AGAIN!! Following the song, the kids went up to talk to both boys in a wheelchair. The last boy I found out was Nathan. He had had a seizure and when he got to Primary Children's found out that he had a brain tumor. They had operated and removed it and he was just going home. The other little hispanic boy that was there at the beginning was Jesus. He was 10 years old and his brothers were 11 & 4. The kids talked to him. Jadon asked him if he liked it. He said he did. I'm telling you. It was just SO touching!!

And I forgot to mention, that the Jazz Dancers walked through and so did Memot Okur. I didn't see him because I was busy watching the others. But Jared Radmall saw him and said he wanted to run out and talk to him!

While we were waiting for the bus, the kids just could not refuse a snowball fight! Yep! Here they are in tuxes and dresses and snow! You just can't refuse snow when it is sitting at your feet and you have a little extra time!

Afternoon & Evening with Madrigals

We left Primary Children's and while waiting for the bus, the kids had a big snowball fight. Yep, in dresses and tuxes. Quite the scene. We ate lunch at "The Pie" on University Campus. And I have to tell you, it is REALLY good pizza!

Following lunch, the kids had about 45 minutes of free time before reporting to the Assembly Hall for practice. I wandered with Julie Wiest and Kristen Risener. It was chilly, so we walked to the North Visitors center to visit. As we were walking, Kristen was telling us that she was called as the Stake Camp Director and she was having trouble getting a counselor on board with her. She said that she saw this iron rod idea on the internet that had a "Hold On" song with it. I chuckled and said, "that was ours." She said, "What?" I said, "that was the song I wrote when we did the iron rod." Needless to say, she had a lot of questions, so I told her all about it. Another cool thing happened as we were walking to the visitors center. Over the sound system, we heard, "And it came to pass that in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed......" There was a big nativity between the North Visitors Center and the Tabernacle. Julie hollered, "Hey wait a minute!" We all stopped. She said, "That's my dad!' It turns out that her dad had recorded a lot of things for the church before he passed away. I thought that was a neat tender mercy. Probably just to let her know she was being thought of!

Afternoon & Evening
As we arrived in the Assembly Hall, the kids were practicing some songs. They had ended a song and a gentleman stood up, clapping, and yelled, "BRAVO! BRAVO!" We found out later that this was the composer of the song. He was Clay Christiansen the organist for the tabernacle choir and that was the arrangement he had written. He told the kids that they had sung it so beautifully.

Also seated in the Assembly Hall was B. Murphy who had conducted the choir the night before. He went up the kids when they were done and talked to them and took pictures with them.Following rehearsal, they sang in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Boy is that a pretty place??!!

Then they headed to the South Visitor Center. They had the most beautiful backdrop to sing with. (Actually it was to their side) but it had these HUGE glass windows that looked out at the temple. The temple was lit up and so were all the lights on the trees. It was the most picturesque setting! During the last song, the boys just started laughing. I was trying to figure out what had happened. I later found out that one of the boys sang, "Do you see what I hear?" Mr. Reimer mouthed to them, "For The LOVE!" because he had lectured them earlier on the bus about singing the right words because Jadon had sung the wrong ones earlier in the day.
We had a few minutes to wait until the last concert in the Assembly Hall. Jadon and a few of the kids decided to carol on temple square on their way to the Assembly Hall. People honestly stopped and listened to them. It would have been better if they knew what they were singing.

When we got in the Assembly Hall, we came in just as another group was finishing. They were singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" and didn't sound very good. When we started the guy who opened asked the congregation to not take photos or videos. The kids began singing. Adam Hansen played the Organ. The kids sang their hearts out. It was a flawless performance. I thought it sounded like a mini MoTab. At the end of the performance, the gentleman who conducted went to Mr. Reimer and asked him if he knew anyone who had a camera. Mr Reimer was thinking that I was out there taking pictures and we were in trouble. Finally, after asking a couple of times, he said that someone needed to take a picture of the group. He came to the microphone and said what a great performance this was. I'll bet there's some parents out there who are proud. I think you need to get a picture of these kids." So we were able to get some pictures. (Well, I didn't because I didn't get my camera out quick enough.) As we were leaving two different people that were working there told Mr. Reimer that they weren't supposed to say anything to the groups, but said that this was the best performance they have had all year. Bear in mind they said that there were over 500 performances on Temple Square between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Isn't that cool???

It was snowing when I left Salt Lake. I tried to hurry and get ahead of the storm. It actually snowed until just after point of the mountain, then it was clear all the way home. Very windy, though. The choir didn't leave until 1:00 pm. They stopped at SouthTowne Mall for lunch, then got back on the road at around 2:30 pm. The roads were so bad that they had to drive really slow and I think actually got stopped at one point. Jadon said there were cars off the road all the way down to Nephi. I think they were in snow until past Cedar. They didn't get home until 10:30 pm. That is 8 hours from SLC to home. Crazy!

Jadon's gift

Jadon texted me Saturday on the way home from SLC and said that he has been feeling like he needed to go sing to Bro. Ence (Kenny). He was talking to kids on the bus and because Sis. Dalton had told them to share their gift, they decided that they wanted to keep singing. So I called Susan and asked if they could come and sing. We went over this afternoon and had another great experience. The gal on the violin and the guy on the cello also came. They had a small group of them come. They sang beautifully and Susan was crying and so was Kenny. The kids had tears in their eyes, too. So did Paul, Mom and I. It was pretty neat. Susan had actually asked if they could give him the Sacrament since no one had come after church. Jadon and David Allred administered to him, then they sang. Susan's daughter was crying, too. It was such a neat experience. I realized that the kids were trying to keep creating the feeling they felt that weekend. How blessed I feel to be a part of it! My camera wasn't working, so I didn't get any pictures. I wish I had some because it was so sweet.

Kameron's Concert

Thursday morning before I left, Kameron mentioned that he may have a concert that night. It ended up being true and I was in SLC. Mykelle & Kallan went in support. Mykelle has some great video footage. We have been laughing so hard. Since I'm not sure if I can load the video, I will just post a picture. This picture tells you what the video was like.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Big Bang Theory and Fireplaces

So I'm sitting at the computer the other night and I hear this loud BANG! I turn around and Britton is standing by the fireplace and the fireplace doors have blown open and Britton is looking a little funny. I yell, "What is going on?" Jadon walks over yelling, too, and we realize that Britton has thrown an old bic lighter (dollar store version) into the fireplace.

Now it really is funny except for the fact that I walk over there and see this huge log in there and realize that the wood could have blown out, the doors could have blown off, and the whole fireplace could have blown to bits. So I am mixed with this 'gratitude it wasn't worse,' 'I'm gonna beat this kid', and 'this is hysterical' emotional roller coaster going on. I mean really, does our family have to test EVERYTHING so we can pass on "what not to do when raising children" information for all of you??!!

A Discussion in White Teeth

The other day Mykelle, Whitnee, and I picked up Kallan from school. We were waiting for Amanda to come out and somehow there began a discussion about teeth whitening. Kallan made some comment about the Chinese not having white teeth, then he said, "what are they smoking over there? Cabbage?"

I thought we were going to die laughing. Really! Cabbage?? Where in the world did that come from? So now we all say, "What're you smoking, cabbage?"

Now you can all share the phrase with us.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


We had such a fun Thanksgiving! It has been a long time since we have been all together with the Whipple's. We were able to have a great dinner and get to visit. I think I had more fun looking at all the kids and just marveling at how they were so close in resemblance to this parent or that. It was just so enjoyable and joyful!

Believe it or not, I was so on top of things that I got to go watch the "Turkey Bowl" for a few minutes and shoot some pictures. They had a lot of fun. Misi was running for touchdowns. Wes had a couple of interceptions (this was all during the time that I saw so I don't know about the second half stuff). Brady had a nice reception and ran backwards for a few yards until he realized that no one had pulled his flags. Even Jadon and Kallan had a couple of nice plays. Paul was right in the thick of things as usual. What fun!

We also had fun with the basketball game at the church that night. Let me just tell you there were a lot of sore people by the next morning! Enjoy some pictures from each of the events of the day.

Beauty & The Beast

If you missed this play, you missed a GREAT one! The kids did such an amazing job. Everyone we talked thought this was the best play they have done at Snow Canyon. Each character did such a great job-- they were ALL stars!! Enjoy some pictures.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Corfu, Greece

I woke up this morning with a fever and feeling rather warm. I got up about 7:30 am and went upstairs and walked around the top deck. I did a mile walk. It was awfully pretty in the morning. I think it was Greece on one side and different islands on the other. I had a good walk, then came back down to the room. Paul woke up about 9:30 am, then we headed down to breakfast. We didn’t dock in Corfu until 12:30 pm or so. Our tour left at 1:00 pm
Corfu is another Grecian island located off the western coast of Greece and Albania. It is a prettier island with a lot more greenery. The houses and buildings are more of look of Venice as the building style and color is similar to Venice.
First we went to a old home that was once owned by someone I can’t remember, but is now owned by the government. It was a pretty home– large for the time period, even for now, I suppose. The view was really beautiful.
From there we went to the main part of town. We walked through the streets and went into one of the churches there. It was pretty interesting. After that we wandered through the streets into different shops. We stopped at a little café and had a gyros sandwich (pronounced "yee rows"). It was pretty good. There was a cute little fruitstand there. Well, actually it is a marketplace where there is a lot of stuff for sale. Interesting and fun. The streets are very narrow.
We came back on the ship and Paul wanted an ice cream, so we headed upstairs. I had a little salad. Sheldon and Carma were there having a burger and a salad. Joni and Eric showed up, so we had a snack and a fun visit with all of them. We came back to the room and I started chilling and fevering. I sent Paul to dinner without me. Sheldon had some oil, so he and Paul were able to give me a blessing, which helped.
We are glad to be headed home, I think.
Tomorrow we will be at sea, headed back to Venice for flights home.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Santorini, Greece Day 5

I woke up at 6:30 am this morning. Partly from this nasty cold I started in on a few days ago. I looked out the window to see where we were at. I saw these sheer cliff walls and what looked like snow on top. As I looked closer, I noticed they were HOUSES, not snow. WOWEE!
What I learned today is that Santorini is one of the Greek Islands– probably the most expensive real estate in Europe. It is actually the top edge of a volcanic crater– the center of the crater under water. The water is so deep by the sheer cliff walls, that the ship has to anchor further away and tender boats take you from the ship to the island. There is one spot on the island where cars can come down to the shore– that is where they took us. On the way home, you can either take a cable car (like a ski lift), ride the donkeys, or walk down the steps leading down the cliff walls. The towns on Santorini are built on top of the cliffs or crater top. It is all volcanic soil–lava rock, pumice stone, etc. There is hardly anything green growing due to lack of water. They catch water in cisterns during the rainy months and rely on the fog that settles on the city almost everyday for the moisture to soak into the pumice that holds the moisture so well. Their electricity is generated from diesel fuel generators. All their food and products are imported. They do grow grapes, tomatoes, and one other thing I can’t think of right now.
The homes are built right inside the volcano wall. They just cut out some space and put a door over the front of the opening. There are quite a few homes on top that are normal homes. Almost all homes are white stucco with blue roofs. There were a few places that were a light yellow/cream color, a light peach color, and even a couple of light blue. It is 98% Greek Orthodox and 2% Roman Catholic. Almost every family builds their own church if they have the property. In the town of Profit (population 240) there are 40 churches. All churches are white with blue roofs. The blue symbolizes the sky or the place in which God lives. Their main industry is tourism, of course. The wind blows all the time. It was an interesting place. Very beautiful in some respects, but rather bland in others– with no greenery. I don’t think we saw any grass, for example.
We visited the city of La which is on the tip of the island. There were some beautiful homes there and a gorgeous view. Then we went to the highest point on the island for some really pretty pictures and an amazing view of the island and those surrounding it. We stopped at a restaurant for an appetizer plate of Greek foods. Some were good, some were not so good. They had these pitchers on the table of what looked like apple or white grape juice. We were a little scared to try it. Some guy took a sip and told us it was apple juice, so Joni tried it, well, let’s just say it wasn’t and now she’s wondering if she needs to see the Bishop. ;o) From there we went to the main city of Fila. We shopped around a little bit, then took the cable car back home, joking about Joni’s drinking problem for the rest of the day.
I came back to the cabin and crashed. This cold is a little miserable, so I needed to try and rest it off a little bit. It helped a little. Dinner tonight was formal. I made it there, but really, I’m not hungry and don’t care if I eat. Pretty good for being on a cruise, huh? I set a goal to not gain weight on this cruise as I really can’t afford any more, so I guess I got my wish. ;o)
We get to sleep in in the morning as we won’t be to Corfu, Greece until noon. Our excursion is at 1:00 pm. Corfu is another Grecian Island, but supposedly more green and lush. It is also a much bigger island. Should be a fun day, then it will be at sea and back home. Truthfully, I am right about to the time that I am ready to be home. I’m only good for 7 days max, so I’m starting to feel it. Especially when I read my note from Whit about Jadon chopping his finger nearly off and her having a bad glucose test. Although I don’t miss laundry and mopping too much, I sure miss my family.
Until tomorrow.....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kusadasi & Ephesus Turkey Day 4

Today was a wonderful day. We woke up late again as our wake up call didn’t work. We got up at 8:00 am and had to be to the excursions by 9:00 am. We hurried and ran up to breakfast. The Wittwer’s, Dalton’s, and Christensen’s were all there, so that was fun. We all finished up breakfast and headed down to the buses.
For the first part of our tour, we headed to Ephesus (correctly pronounced "eh FEH soos") (I had to think of "Festus" and " Dr. Suess"to get the sounds down) to tour the House of the Virgin Mary. This is supposedly the house where Mary, the mother of Christ lived following His death. She came here with John, the Beloved, whom Jesus said, "behold thy son....behold thy mother" to. So John took care of Mary and brought her to Ephesus. Ephesus at the time of Christ was a large city of 250,000 people and in the Roman Empire. They came because the large number of people would give them a great missionary opportunity. However, they also didn’t like Christians very much, so Mary’s home is built in the hills away from Ephesus and secluded where it would be harder to find. As a matter of fact, the story goes that a nun had a dream about this house and saw Mary and knew it was her house and where it was located. The nun lived in England or something, so she never visited, but her story was written in a book and years later someone who had read the book traveled and began looking and found this place in the exact detail as given in the book. Earthquakes and time have destroyed much of the home, but a lot of the foundation was there, so a replica was built atop the old foundation. It was pretty interesting. I really wanted to feel the spirit there, but it is a little weird when there are candles and statues and such– more like a shrine. Sis. Dalton came up to me (she was on the other tour, but saw us there) and said, "didn’t you just feel the sweetest spirit in that place?" So then I felt really bad, so I went back through and just tried to reflect on how Mary would have felt living there after seeing her son die. That was a little better for me, but I am a reflector and often feel things after I have done them and begin to reflect.
Our second stop was in the old ruins of Ephesus itself. WOW! What a place! I could have stayed there for a couple of days just wandering around there. There are so many things preserved and still being uncovered in that neat place. The library was HUGE and just Awesome! Then we got to stop in the theater (Colosseum). This is where Paul preached to the Ephesians. I stopped and sat down and read Acts 18 & 19 while there. That was REALLY cool! It was interesting trying to imagine Paul preaching to the vast number of people who were so wicked and idolatrous. They had many Gods. The one they loved in Ephesus was Artemis (or Diana, the goddess of fertility). There were a lot of statues there because of their worship of Gods. The Theater holds 24,000 people. WOW! For back in that time, huh??!! I couldn’t help but think of the Conference Center... I just loved this place.
After Ephesus, we went to lunch in a little town called Sirnce (pronounced SHA rench JAY) or something like that. It was a cute little place in the hills where they grown olives, peaches, grapes, and such. Turkey is also one of the biggest producers of figs. We had a salad that was different from ours, some olives, and eggplant something, and some really good bread for appetizers. The lunch was a lamb kabob, a chicken kabob, and couple of Turkish meatballs, some rice and french fries. For dessert they served melon and Baklava– which was really good and very rich. We were told that Baklava originated in Turkey and the Greeks stole it– kind of funny. Our guide said, "how could this be Greek? Only we produce pistachios and hazelnuts. We are the largest exporter of hazelnuts. The Greeks don’t even have them." Then she said she couldn’t talk for a minute because she was mad. She was laughing and so were we. Oh, the country rivalries. We did mention that we liked Memot Okur, just so we could get in good with the locals. A couple of people told Brian Paxman (who runs the blimp at the Jazz games) to tell Memot "hi" for them. Yep, you bet– the next time we see him, huh?? Funny!
After lunch, we visited St. John’s Basillica. This is the ruins of an old church that they said John the Beloved died at, but they could not find his body. (Go figure– he’s still around according to our scriptures, huh? AND if you go see Forgotten Carols......) Well, it was a neat place. She said that the "legend" is that John was visiting with God and He told him that he would not be here for much longer, so John dug a hold and laid in it until he died. A few days later, some apostles found the hole and a smell, but did not find John. There were supposedly some caskets uncovered, but I didn’t hear the date as I was contemplating that he was translated, so I’ll have to check Sheldon Wittwer’s notes on that and update later. Anyway, the ruins were still pretty cool and they looked out toward the old city of Ephesus and toward the hill where the House of the Virgin Mary is, and also toward the Mediterranean Sea.
After this stop, we went back to Kusadasi (pronounced "Koosh A dawsee") and went to a store where they make carpets. We watched how they grow the silk worms, then kill them, then spin the silk. There is one mile of silk in each cocoon. He showed us the various natural dyes that they use to color with. I was pretty tickled to see our good old red root among them, as well as saffron, indigo, daffodils, and even rock salt. Then we saw the lady who was tying knots and creating a rug. WOW! What a process. We could have bought a rug really "cheap." You know, they are on sale since we are one of the last boats of the season and they are trying to get rid of stock. One couple bought a 4x6 rug for $1,100 and they threw in three purses, too. Yep, we have to get blinds first. But it was fun to know that Turkey is the capital of the world for handmade rugs. Pretty neat.
Now we are back. Paul is up on deck getting photos of the port and eating ice cream. He hasn’t come back since I started typing, so I assume he found someone to visit with. We will go to the show at 8:15 pm, then to our 9:00 dinner.
Tomorrow we are in Greece......until then.......

Picture 1: Library in Ephesus

Picture 2: Theater in Ephesus

Picture 3: House of Virgin Mary side view

Picture 4: Roman Latrines-- they were only for the men-- a 42 holer

At Sea Day 3

Today we were at sea so it was one of those sleep-in relaxing days. We actually didn’t wake up until 9:30 am and had to race to get to breakfast. After breakfast, we came back to the room. Paul started to read and fell asleep for a couple of hours. I started typing–working on my book and on the blog. About 2:00 pm, I finally woke Paul up. We called the Wittwer’s and met them on Deck 9 for a round of miniature golf. We were laughing so hard Paul couldn’t quit crying. Of course, I have mini-golfed about twice in my life, so I was taking several strokes per hole. About hole four I started to show some improvement and Sheldon complimented me about my improvement for having never played. The next hole, Paul and Sheldon were saying that we needed to hit it a little harder, so I did and banked the ball off the wall for a hole in one. It got a lot funnier from there. We had balls jump a few of the greens for a great set up two holes later. Paul actually got a hole in one, then about 15 strokes on the next hole. Needless to say, we were laughing pretty hard by the time we got done. One of those "guess you had to be there" moments.
After golf, we went and had a snack. Paul, Sheldon & Carma had a hamburger and fries. I had fries and a salad. Bro. & Sis. Dalton came up and she had fries and an ice cream, so we all felt a little better after that. We sat and visited for a long time. Sis Dalton shared some exciting news coming up for the YW and YM. They just finished filming a video on Thursday night before we came that is for the youth. She said the video will be out for New Year’s, so we are looking forward to it. She told us that they are challenging the youth to commit to 3 things– and Sis. Dalton made us all commit if she told us–Here it is, so I hope you are ready to commit, too:
1. Say your morning and evening prayers everyday.
2. Read from the scriptures for 5 minutes everyday.
3. Smile everyday.
She talked about the youth and the great strength that they have. We visited about Costa Rica and had such a neat discussion with all of them. The Christensen’s (Joni & Eric from St. George) came walking up and they sat down and shared with us, too. They told us about their experience and call as missionaries as a young couple with two kids. Then she got pregnant just after they entered the mission field. They served in Adam-ondi-ahman. It was a really neat story– and funny, too, when she told about wearing a Missionary Badge and being pregnant– all the looks and the stares and stories. Pretty funny!! She said her brother told his wife on their first date that his sister got pregnant by another missionary. Isn’t that a crack up??!! Anyway, it ended up being a really spiritual and neat evening.
Because we were out on the deck, we were freezing, so we all ran back to our cabins and got in the hot showers to warm up and head to dinner. It was formal night. Which means we wore what we could find from our kids’ weddings. ;o)
I was pretty tired, so I crashed. The waters started getting rough while we were on deck and it was a little rocky all night. I woke up in the middle of the night listening to the wind and feeling the rocking. I had to peek out the window just for fun.
It was a great and relaxing day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dubrovnik, Croatia Day 2

We didn’t get to bed until midnight last night. We have the late dinner–9:00 pm. Following dinner, we found Dan & Dusty Hawk as well as several other friends. Paul sat and chatted with Dan and Dusty for a while–just laughing his head off at them and reminiscing. After dinner I came back and wrote about our day– thus the late night. Paul found a football game on and watched it, but I didn’t know that until today– I was out cold!

I slept like a log and when I woke up, I noticed the sun was up and so was Paul. I looked at him and asked what time it was– 9:30!!! I jumped out of bed and raced to get ready as our tour started at 10:30 am. When we got up on deck, I was blown away by the beautiful port we were in. Dubrovnik is a city built in the hills in the bay of the ocean. The port was surrounded by these beautiful mountains and an giant bridge off to the side of the ship. It was such a clean and beautiful looking town. All the buildings seemed a white/cream color with orange roofs–very clean and neat.

As we boarded our bus for the tour, we were taken into the old part of Dubrovnik– the city walls. This wall was built hundreds of years ago as a protection to the city. There are houses and churches inside the walls which used to be the town. The homes, businesses and churches are still occupied today and is a very bustling place. While walking the walls of the fortress, we were able to listen and talk to our guide a lot. Just as we entered the old town fort, there was a map that showed all of the destruction caused from the war that started in 1991. I asked her a lot of questions about the war. She was there during the outbreak and you could feel the pain of it in her eyes still. I knew it was important for me to understand what had happened here. She told of them going to the bomb shelters and living there for 5 or 6 days with no food, water, or power. The Bosnia-Serbian border is just miles away and the military had placed forces on the hill just above the fort while the ships in the harbor were firing on them as well. They were also being fired on from the air. The ships were blocking any humanitarian aid from getting through until finally (after five days) a Jewish group from Zagreb (the capital city) was able to get past the ships. However, all packages were gone through to take out newspapers and batteries for radios so they could keep their communication cut of and keep them in fear. It was so interesting to hear from someone who lived through it what it was like. It was hard for her to talk about it much because it is still very vivid. We also learned a lot about the history of the country. It was very interesting. Tourism is 85% of the economy in Dubrovnik, so they are very hopeful that our new president will help things out in America. (I told her that we weren’t too sure about that.) She said, "don’t tell me that! We depend on America." WOW! Do you realize how blessed we are and how the rest of the world really does depend on us in so many different ways??!! It was a big lesson for me. I was very touched by these people who have lived through a war. It made me wonder if they were the ones who, in the pre-existence, chose a "hard mission." Makes my life appear much easier. So today I am very grateful. Grateful for a good country in spite of its troubles and grateful to live where I live and for the gospel in my life!

You will love the fact that part of our tour was a "taste of the country." Our taste was at the "Wine and Bar Tavern" inside the old city. Paul and I thought, "this will be great to tell everyone that we attended the Wine Bar Tavern on Sunday." You’ll be glad to know we didn’t sample the wine, but got to taste some bread and cold cut appetizers and had a cute bottle of orange Fanta and some bottled water.

Upon returning to the ship, we took some pictures of the port, had a snack, then came to the room so I could work on this post. We read our scriptures and I started to fall asleep, so I had a cat nap. Then we got dressed and headed to dinner. We had dinner with Dan & Dusty, the Wittwer’s, Brian and Jen Paxman, and Spencer Egan. We had an enjoyable time. The entertainment tonight at 11:15 pm was an Elton John impersonator. He was good and it was fun to sing along with the fun songs that we know!

We just called the kids and got a little bit of an update. It appears Kallan and Britton lost. Kameron is still in– playing in the championships next Saturday. Jadon went up to State volleyball. He sang the National Anthem for the State game. Ticked that I missed that one!!! He said that Snow Canyon won state for a 3rd year in a row beating Dixie again (for the 3rd year in a row.) Mykelle said her team lost so they are headed to Arizona tomorrow for a Tuesday play-in game. Jadon said the primary program went well, but didn’t give details, so I’ll have to get filled in on that later. It costs us 40 cents a minute for the internet. We used Amanda’s SKYPE to call home. Just isn’t very cheap, but glad to hear voices and get back in touch.

Tomorrow we are at sea all day. Tuesday we will be in Kusadasi (Ephesus) Turkey.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Venice, Italy Day 1

We left Las Vegas at 8:00 am our time on Friday. We flew to New York and had a 4 hour layover before leaving for Venice. We arrived in Venice at 9:30 am (Venice Time) which is 1:30 am our time. We boarded the buses and were driven to the ship dock. We got our room keys, put our stuff in the Conference Room, then headed out to see Venice. We were with Sheldon & Carma Wittwer, Eric & Joni Christensen, Elaine & Steve Dalton, and Bob & Stacy from Boise.

We took a water taxi from the docks to San Marco Plaza in Venice. We walked up to the plaza and looked through the shops. We then exchanged some money for Euros so we could ride the Gondolas. Six of us took a Gondola ride for a half an hour through Venice. It was so fun. The houses are very old, but it is a very clean city. There are little barnacles attached to the block near the water line. After our lovely Gondola ride, we raced back to the plaza to get some pizza and get a couple of gifts. We found a cute little shop and grabbed a little individual pizza. It was good. We then had to hurry back to catch the water taxi. We taxied back to the ship, got all loaded, participated in the Emergency Drill, then went to the top deck to get some photos of the city as we left port and sailed past. It was really pretty.

After standing on the top deck for a half and hour or so, we were freezing, so we came back and showered, then went to the evening show and to dinner. We’ve had a really fun day–a couple of hours in Venice and reacquainting ourselves with some dear friends. We are SO tired–I’m having a hard time typing.

Here are a couple of funnies, though. You know how I get sick of EVERYBODY thinking that Paul looks so young? Well, yesterday Bob asked Paul if he was Sheldon’s son.
Paul, always the comedian, say loudly while we were in the hall passing people, "Well, lets go get in our hot tub." That’s funny because the rooms are very small. The shower is about a two foot by two foot triangle shape in the corner. When you turn the shower on, it sprays the toilet. The other great thing about the shower is that the shower curtain sticks to your butt and back because there is so little room. That’s a lovely feature! (Said with my best Brian Regan refrigerator salesman voice.)

I’m cracking jokes, but actually we feel REALLY blessed. One group of 30 had to stop for a light repair and missed their connecting flights and were flown directly into Dubrovnik. There were several couples who lost their luggage. One couple REALLY lost their luggage– there was a fire in the hull of their plane and their luggage was burned. So we are feeling really blessed to be in such a great situation with a shower curtain sticking to our rears.

Tomorrow’s stop is in Dubrovnik, Croatia. We are taking a tour there. Until tomorrow’s report......Ciao!