Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Our family's annual New Year's Eve tradition: sparkling cider and homemade cheesecake (this year, with chocolate chips)!

To each of our beloved family and friends, we wish you all of God's greatest blessings for the New Year: love, peace, family, faith, joy, wisdom, charity, humility, health, safety, personal growth, and prosperity in 2011.  Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Weekend in Mesa

My nephew Jeremy with his 14-month-old daughter Makayla.  His wife Cami is seated in the background.

On the weekend before Thanksgiving, we made a quick trip to Mesa to take care of some shopping for Jacob's missionary needs.  It turned out to be a fun weekend filled with family activities.  Unfortunately, Sarah had to work over the weekend and was unable to travel with us.

Jeremy and Cami's two older children, 4-year-old Analyce and 2-year-old Jaren, just after they woke up Saturday morning.

My oldest nephew, Jeremy, and His wife Cami invited us to stay at their nice new home in Santan Valley.  It was fun to have the extra time to visit with them.  They recently moved back to the Mesa area when Jeremy found a piloting job closer to family there.  He flies air-evac helicopters.

20 Nov 2010: Ed and Jacob in front of the Mesa Temple.

On Saturday morning we went to the temple in Mesa with my sister Karla and her daughter Genevieve.  After our session we enjoyed lunch in the temple cafeteria.  This was Ed's third temple session and Jacob's second, and for both it was the first time to attend a temple other than the one near us in Snowflake.

I have special memories of the Mesa Temple due to serving there as an ordinance worker from November 1983 to December 1985.  The best two years of my life! 

Jacob with his benefactor, Lorin Hatch.

While in Mesa, Jacob met with a man who collects donated missionary clothing as a hobby, then provides it to missionaries free of charge!  We met him at his home and he took us to a large closet literally overflowing with suits and other missionary clothing staples.  He gave Jacob two nice suits, two white shirts, and a pair of hardy shoes.  We can't begin to express our gratitude for his generosity.

Blue Ridge versus Florence High School.

After meeting with Brother Hatch, we headed into Phoenix for the semi-final game of the high school football playoffs.  Blue Ridge dominated!

Jacob, cousin Julien, and Dylan at the game.

We invited my nephew Julien to watch the game with us, and the boys had a good time.  While there, we ran into my brother Jeff, his wife Dana, and their kids, who were waiting for the Show Low game to begin after ours ended.  We all filled up on the kettle corn that little Callie generously insisted we share with her! 

20 Nov 2010: Jacob and Dylan spend a few hours with their dad, Mark.

After the game, we drove back to Mesa and dropped Jacob and Dylan off at their great grandma Helen's house so they could spend a few hours with their dad.  They always see him when they can, but this visit was extra special because Jacob won't get to see his dad again for the next two years.

After we dropped off the boys, Ed and I headed over to Organ Stop Pizza for some ice cream.  We had just realized that the next day, November 21st, would be our 6-month anniversary!

Ed protects his ice cream from my niece, Celesta!

It just so happens that my nieces and nephews have been working at Organ Stop Pizza for many years, with the younger ones replacing the older ones as they grew up and moved on to bigger and better things.  We got to spend some time visiting with my niece Celesta while there.

My niece Brianna with her friend Bryce at Organ Stop.

We also ran into my niece Brianna just as she was leaving at the end of her shift.  She was the last of Karla's daughters that Ed had yet to meet, so it was a fortuitous meeting.  (He still hasn't met my nephew Josh yet.)

We visited at Karla's house for the rest of the evening before picking up the boys from their visit with their dad.  Then on Sunday morning we attended church at Karla's ward, after which we returned to Jeremy and Cami's house, where everyone gathered for a delicious luncheon featuring Mexican chicken casserole.

Scott takes a dive into frigid November waters.

While we were there, Genevieve's husband Scott decided to do a polar bear plunge into the pool.  We all agreed he was nuts!  It may be warmer in Mesa than most places this time of year, but that water was still very cold!

Dylan goes for a cannonball approach to his soak.

I didn't think Dylan would do it, but he borrowed a swimsuit from Jeremy and followed Scott in!  I'm sure I don't know what those two were thinking!

Karla with her grandbaby Makayla (and Jacob in the background).

Makayla with her mommy, Cami.

Ed tended to our 8-month-old great-nephew Max while lunch was being prepared.

Max's older sisters, 5-year-old Brooke (left) and 3-year-old Jaycee.

Genevieve and Scott, proud parents of Brooke, Jaycee, and Max. (And Karla hamming it up in the background...)

We enjoyed a great visit with everyone, and after the meal we packed up and headed home with mixed feelings.  We always look forward to sleeping in our own beds again, but we're also sad to say good-bye to loved ones.  I'm so glad that families are forever!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Two More, Perhaps Three

When I wrote my Christmas Day post, I totally forgot to share these two special gifts we'd received.  Earlier in December we received a box shipped from Italy, but all the printing on the box was German.  When we opened it, we found this colorful tin box inside.

Inside the box was this pop-up of a winter scene.  Isn't this the coolest thing ever?

Nestled under the pop-up were these packages of German cookies.  Wow, delicious!  The givers were Ed's younger brother and sister-in-law, Ken and Eloisa.  Ken is in the Navy and has been stationed in Italy for quite awhile, but he recently received orders to return to Virginia.  They've already left Italy and are currently visiting Eloisa's family in Spain, where she is from, before Eloisa moves with Ken to the far-away United States next month.

I'm not sure whether they got the German cookies in Italy or Germany or somewhere else (they've traveled extensively throughout Europe), but Ken assures us the Germans make most excellent sweets.  That must be where I got my sweet tooth!  My great grandfather Jacob Beierschmitt came to the USA from Germany when he was about 8 or 9. 

This is my most favorite Christmas gift of all!  It's the first photo I've ever seen of my new husband as a child.  What a cutie!  Don't you love those big brown eyes? 

Ed's mother, Caryl, sent me this school picture of Ed in our Christmas card.  She knows I've been longing to see pictures of Ed as a youngster, so when she found this one she sent it to me immediately.  Ed's father took lots of slides throughout his children's growing up years, and Caryl has graciously allowed us to bring the huge box full of those slides here to Arizona.  Unfortunately, we don't have a slide viewer of any kind so I haven't been able to look at them yet.  As soon as I locate the technology (I know what I need, but haven't found it available here in our rural community), I plan to convert the slides to digital photographs on the computer.  Then we can share them with everyone in Ed's family!

Elder Carter with President and Sister Bunker on the day of his arrival.

Finally, although this wasn't a Christmas present, it was still a great gift to receive this picture in the mail yesterday, along with a letter from Jacob's mission president.  President Bunker wrote:

"He arrived safely and looked well and happy.  We had lunch and an orientation at the mission home with the new missionaries and were very impressed with them... Our desire is to help your son reach his full potential, to have success and to accomplish his goals.  We know that as he shares the gospel of Jesus Christ, he will experience great happiness as his testimony will grow and be strengthened.  We love and pray for your son and ask you to pray for us as we work together to build the kingdom of God."

Not all gifts come wrapped in pretty paper, but each one warms the heart!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Concert

Sarah in performance on violin (second violinist from the left).

Back on December 11, Ed, Dylan, our friend Gwen, and I enjoyed watching my firstborn perform with the White Mountain Symphony in a wonderful Christmas concert.  Here are two short snatches of their performance for you to sample (feel free to scroll to the bottom of the page and pause the music on my playlist):

This is a strings-only performance from "Pastorale ad Libitum" by Archangelo Corelli.  You can't really see Sarah during this piece since the gal next to her leaned forward the entire time.

This bit is, of course, part of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" from The Messiah.  The soloist had the perfect voice for the part.  You can see Sarah at the left side of the stage, especially when I zoom into her area.  Don't they sound wonderful?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas, Plus One, Minus One

We enjoyed a quiet, relaxing Christmas Day at home this year.  In many ways this year was like years past, but in other ways it was quite different.  For instance, this was our first Christmas since Ed joined our family, so we added a person.  Yet we were also short one family member, since this was Jacob's first Christmas away from us as a new missionary.

We slept late and didn't start opening gifts until 9:00.  Here we have the results of this year's gift-giving:

Here's Dylan with his gifts.  His sister Sarah gave him the Fushiji Ball, used for contact juggling.  He's already quite good at it!  Before Jacob left for the Mission Training Center, he left the Mr. Bean's Holiday DVD for Dylan, plus a pair of headphones Dylan really wanted.  Ed's mom, Caryl, sent Dylan $10.00, which he plans to use to buy a new Play Station 2 controller.  From Mom and Ed, Dylan received the Paper Jamz guitar and drum set.  And yes, he's been jamming on them!
We also gave Dylan this new mountain bike.  Being something of a daredevil on wheels, Dylan is pretty hard on his bikes and wears them out quickly!

No, Dylan didn't wear the bike out already!  It turned out the fifth gear wasn't working properly.  Since Ed couldn't repair it, we took the bike in and exchanged it today.

These are Sarah's gifts.  Before he left, Jacob got Sarah the Cats and Dogs: Kitty Galore DVD.  Dylan gave her the Kyle XY: Season Three DVD set.  Ed's mom gave her the beautiful pearl necklace and earrings.  Real pearls!  Mom and Ed gave her a poster, the Shrek Forever DVD, and two books she wanted: Chords of Strength by David Archuleta (about his struggle to overcome paralysis of his vocal cords) and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephanie Meyer (an off-shoot of her Twilight books).

Sarah with her new Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows poster.

Sarah made sure her Diego received a gift.  He loved his new cat-shaped tug-o-war toy and played with it all morning.  It was like he rediscovered his inner puppy!

I was well blessed in the gift department!  Dylan gave me a DVD he loves about missionaries, called The Best Two Years.  I can't wait to watch it tonight for Family Home Evening.  The gift Jacob left for me was the Wizard of Oz DVD.  I love that old film!  It brings back happy childhood memories, yet I've never purchased it for myself.  Sarah gave me the extended version of my all-time favorite movie, Avatar, and the "Irish Charm" figurine for my Willow Tree collection.  Love them both!  Ed spoiled me with the tall Willow Tree figure of the man and woman, called "Together."  I had told him long ago that figurine reminded me of us as a couple.  He also gave me Marie Osmond's latest CD of LDS music; a beautiful silver-and-pink CTR ring; a pair of purple-and-gold Yellow Jacket earrings I can wear to school on game spirit days; and the strawberry Milano cookies!

After living alone for so many years, Ed wasn't prepared for his tall stack of gifts, but we had so much fun shopping for him!  Dylan gave him a rifle cleaning kit and Sarah gave him Thomas S. Monson's life story, To the Rescue.  I got him a book, too, called The Most Valuable Man: A Priesthood Leader at Home, by George Durrant.  His other gifts included a coyote caller, a camouflage face mask, a pair of binoculars, two new pairs of slacks for church, and the 3 movies in the Jason Bourne series: The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum.

It's my tradition to take pictures of our gifts each year because it's fun to look back and remember when we received certain things and who gave them to us.  It's kind of a sentimental thing for me.  Still, Christmas is most certainly not about how many gifts we receive or how much money we spend on each other.

No, Christmas is about the greatest gift of all and the incomprehensible love that prompted the giving of it.  This is the time of year when much of the world remembers the birth of our Savior, sent by a loving Heavenly Father to prepare the way so that each of us can one day return to live with Him.

Our family wishes you and yours the spirit of Christmas throughout the coming year.  May God bless you all in every worthwhile endeavor.  We love you!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Another Christmas Eve

Dylan suffers from an overabundance of feminine attention!

We had a great Christmas Eve this year.  Although we missed Jacob, who is serving a mission in the Santa Rosa, California area, we filled his empty place with two missionaries who are serving right here in the White Mountains.  We invited Elder Lewis of Hawaii and Elder Corbett of Arkansas to join us for a dinner of ham, yams, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, rolls, green salad, and pie (apple, cherry, and Hershey's chocolate cream, yum!).  It was a great blessing to enjoy their company.

We also invited our good friend Gwen to join us for dinner and an evening of Christmas traditions.  Gwen came bearing gifts, and we had a good time opening them together.

Dylan got such a kick out of this trick car, he laughed so hard he could hardly stand up!

Sarah immediately put her new nail care kit to use.  She loves painting her nails, and usually paints Gwen's, too, when she comes to visit.  For Gwen, we had a plate of homemade sugar cookies (a la Ed) and a set of cranberry-scented candles.

Gwen gave me this book called Blessed are Ye by Chris Huston.  It's so good, I'd read almost the entire book by the end of Christmas Day.  She also gave me a beautiful friendship magnet for my fridge and a small, beaded Christmas tree of gold wire.  I love them!

When I told Ed he looked "hot" with facial hair in some photos taken a few years ago, he decided to treat me to a beard for as long as he can stand it (probably not much longer, but I'm enjoying it as long as it lasts!).  So Gwen gave him a beard trimmer!

A family in our ward blessed us with a nightly, anonymous gift for the Twelve Days of Christmas.  The first night they gave us a poster board with a stable sketched on it, and then each night dropped off a different figure to place on the board, as well as a Christmas story and a goodie of some kind.  On Christmas Eve they revealed themselves and came caroling when they delivered the Baby Jesus figure, completing the nativity.  It was fun to listen for their knock each night, then wait just long enough for them to escape before opening the door.

The rest of our gifts were jumbled beneath the tree, ready for Christmas morning, so we got out the video camera and filmed the kids hanging their stockings on the fireplace, as we do every year.  This year we added a new element to the annual filming: Ed and Mom kissing by the Christmas tree!

Two new stockings joined the family this year.  After everyone was in bed, Santa stopped by to fill the stockings with goodies!  Meanwhile, we slept on, dreaming of good things to come...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Christmas Elder

Elder Carter (center) arrives at the Oakland Airport with 13 other new missionaries.
Sister Luscher is at far right.

My son, Elder Carter, has arrived safely in California and is now settled into his first assignment, just in time for his first missionary Christmas.  I've been collecting information over the past few days to share in this post, and now I'm finally ready!

Sister Bunker, the wife of his mission president, keeps a wonderful blog about the missionaries under their care.  Since she often includes photos of the missionaries at different events, I will be checking her blog often!  In fact, I "borrowed" the above photo from her most current post, called "Arriving Fourteen."  There are several pictures of Elder Carter there.  If you'd like to check it out, just click the link below.

Santa Rosa Missionaries

If you're interested in Sister Bunker's blog, there is also a link to it in the left sidebar with all my other favorite blogs.

Among the new fourteen missionaries who arrived in Santa Rosa on Monday was Sister Luscher of Utah.  Although we've never met her, she is the niece of our good family friends, Andy and Cindy of Arizona.  What a fun coincidence that she and my son reported to the MTC on the same day and flew to California together to start their missions!

On their first day in Santa Rosa, the newbies were immediately sent out to do some tracting.  In his first email from California, Elder Carter wrote:

"I'm in Santa Rosa and enjoying every minute of it. There is a lot of rain though, but it sure is better than snow. The plane flight was amazing. It was really scary at first because it was snowing really hard, but after a while it was not bad at all. My companion is a nice guy. His name is Elder Reed. He is from Riverton, Utah. We went tracting the first day. What an experience! Doors getting slammed in my face, and the funny one was when this lady freaked out because we came to her house and she had a rat problem. So she was all like 'who are you' and then we said that we were missionaries and she said to come in and show her how the Savior really works lol. So we got the rat out and then taught her a lesson."

Unfortunately, they were unable to follow up on the lady with the rat problem, since they were sent to their newly assigned areas the next day.
Here is Elder Carter's new address.  He loves those letters!
Elder Jacob Carter
160 S. Lenore Ave. #28
Willits, CA 95490
We enjoyed a beautiful Christmas Eve and a pleasant Christmas morning, which I will post in a day or two, but the highlight of today was Jacob's phone call at 10:15 this morning.  He was able to speak to us for a whole hour, but I admit I monopolized 40 minutes of the conversation, leaving only 20 minutes for Ed, Sarah, and Dylan to divide up!

Elder Carter and his new companion have really hit it off.  Elder Reed has only 3 months left on his mission, and they hope to finish out his time together.  Apparently they have their work cut out for them in the town of Willits.  They are the only two missionaries assigned to this small town of less than 5,000 people, and the bishop of the town's lone, small ward told them it has been all tracted out.  So Elders Carter and Reed are praying hard for direction, to find a way to be led to those whose hearts have been prepared and are seeking the truth.  They would appreciate your prayers, too.

It was hard to say good-bye, knowing the next time I'll get to hear my son's voice will be on Mother's Day, more than 4 months from now, but I'm confident that he is safe in the hands of our Heavenly Father.  What more could any mother ask?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Few More Days in Colorado

The freeway through the mountains between Salt Lake City and the border of southern Wyoming.

Here I am, finally writing about our last road trip more than 2 weeks after our return.  The holidays are hectic!  To pick up where I left off:

After we dropped Jacob off at the Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah, on Wednesday, December 1st, Ed and I headed north to Salt Lake City, then turned east toward Wyoming.  While crossing Utah's mountains we met a little snow, but we got out of the state just ahead of the next storm.  It was clear skies all the way as we drove across the southern part of Wyoming.

It was about 10:00 that night when we took a right turn at Cheyenne and crossed into Colorado, reaching Ed's mom's house just 5 miles south of the border.
Ed with his mom, Caryl, at the Denver Temple on 3 Dec 2010.

We enjoyed a wonderful 3-day visit with Ed's mom.  As usual, Ed had plenty of projects to keep him busy around his mom's place, as well as some business of his own to complete.  We also went into the nearby towns of Fort Collins and Wellington to run errands on Thursday and Friday.
Ed in front of the Denver Temple, which is actually located in the city of Centennial.

For me, the highlight of the trip was on Friday, when Ed and I were able to attend the Denver Temple with Ed's mom.  It was a very emotional experience since it was the first time Caryl was able to attend the temple with one of her adult children.  The last time they were in the temple together was in 1972, when they were sealed as a family in the Manti Temple in Utah.  She told Ed how proud his father would be.  Ed's dad, Ed Senior, passed away a year ago, but I think he was there with us that day. 
Steve and Lance with their hunting dog, Yuma.

Friday was the highlight of Ed's week, too, but a close second was pheasant hunting on Saturday with his old high school buddies, brothers Lance and Steve.  Ed was up and gone by 4:30 a.m. and didn't return to his mom's house until almost 10 p.m.  He was beat!

Ed poses with the poor little birdies!  (Ed tells me you're not supposed to smile in hunting pictures.)

Now we have three pheasants in our freezer.  I can't wait for Ed to whip up some of his famous pheasant enchiladas!

This 1989 Mustang is the main reason we made this trip to Colorado.  Ed had taken it to a body shop back around the time we met, and it was finally ready to be picked up and towed to Arizona.  This is Ed's "baby."

We finished up a few last chores, packed everything up, and got on the road around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.  It was well after midnight when we returned home, and then I was up at 6:00 Monday morning and off to work.  But let's not talk about that... 

Elder Carter Update:
Jacob completed his 2 weeks and 5 days at the MTC, and on Monday morning (Dec. 20) he flew to Santa Rosa to begin his new life as a full-time missionary.  He was actually allowed to call us from the airport in Utah for a short 5-minute conversation.  What a special surprise that was to wake up to!  He was most excited to be taking his first plane flight.

I haven't heard from him since then, so I'm still waiting to get his new California address.  As soon as I have more info, I will post it here.  I can tell you that he is thrilled by each letter he receives from friends and family, so many grateful thanks to those of you who've taken the time to write him.  He'll love it if you continue to do so!