Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Happy Birthday Carlie!

1-DSC00358

The past few days have been filled with celebrating this sweet daughter of ours.  Carlie is the epitome of ‘little girl, and she brings so much joy into our lives.  Even though I’m always telling her to “talk softer please,” her cute chipmunk voice brightens my day.  She loves to “dress-up like a princess,” build forts, and scare me to death (jump off of high things, do front hand-springs on couch cushions, & play monkey on her top bunk just to mention a few).

But Carlie is very feminine.  She’s easy to please, and she loves life.  Her hearty laugh is so contagious, and everyone that meets her just loves her! 

1-DSC00282

We started off her big day with a tradition I always looked forward to growing up.  Every birthday morning, I awoke to a wrapped gift at the end of my bed. 

It’s been fun to continue this tradition with my own children.

1-DSC00320

I took her to a local beauty salon later that morning which was a big success…other than the fact that I walked up & down the same street at least five times until I found the place.  Sometimes the street numbers do not make sense here – it’s so funny. 

But I think she felt like a princess. :) 

1-DSC00322

Gabe was a sweetheart.

1-DSC00323

She enjoyed a daddy daughter lunch date

1-DSC00325

while I hurried back to AnnMarie’s school for the annual mini-marathon.  That was an experience to say the least, but I’m just grateful she finished.  We had major bike issues, but luckily a really nice mom stayed with Gabe while I ran by her side the last leg – all while the sidelines chanted “AnnMarie”  in castillano style.

1-DSC00330 1-DSC00328

1-DSC00333

Finished party preparations…

1-DSC00335

and then enjoyed an awesome evening as a family…with the missionaries.  We love their company on special occasions, and birthday cake always tastes better when it’s shared.

I started a new tradition by drawing a little illustration of how I depict the two of us this past year.  I’m calling this one, My Happy Helper, because she’s been such an eager helper ever since Gabe was born.  (I need to color it, but I’m going to experiment with my pastels, and it could get interesting.)

Love you Carlie.

1-Happy Helpers0001-001

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Invest in the Best

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but something I love about living here in Argentina is the lack of technology distractions.  We have a big phone with a little cord that does not allow for multi-tasking while talking on the phone.  When I talk on the phone, it’s usually short, sweet, & to the point.  I have to be present for my kids 24/7 down here.  It’s not that I would have it any other way, but as a mother in a foreign country, it’s especially pertinent to me.

In a relatively small apartment with three children ages 5 & under - all hard floors (had to throw that one in there again – you can tell how much I love hard floors) and no yard, it’s up to me to keep things rolling – household jobs, responsibilities, meals, entertainment and learning opportunities – not  to mention the cultivation of their physical, emotional, cultural, intellectual, & spiritual development which I’ve been worried about even more so since we’ve lived abroad. 

Giving them my full attention is a heck of a lot easier without all the distractions most people can’t live without, and in a nutshell, it’s something I’m SO grateful for.  It’s taught me patience & creativity.  It’s taught me how to really listen because I can.  It’s taught me how to enjoy slow days.  

I came across this article titled ‘Distracted Parenting’ to which I saw AMEN.  It describes my sentiments exactly, and I know it will be worth your time. 

AND since it’s the Sabbath, I thought I’d share this beautiful picture of the Buenos Aires temple. 

1-DSC01075

The temple has always stood as a reminder to me of the importance to invest in the best – my family, especially each of my children, giving them my ALL here and NOW because “there are no do-overs,” and I truly want to be with them and my husband for eternity.     

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Same Soil

Twelve & a half years ago, my older brother Kyle received a mission call.  I remember it like yesterday.

Our little family was gathered in the living room with anticipation.  I could hardly stand the excitement.  When he read the words, “You have hereby been called to serve in the Resistencia, Argentina Mission,” my mom did the famous, “Are you serious?!”  number with the super-fast hand slap on the arm of the couch.  I was in awe  & extra proud to have a brother embarking on a mission for the Lord. 

I knew he would be a great missionary, but he ended up being much more than just great.  He weathered some unbelievable storms that to this day, stand as a testimony to me of the power of faith & the priesthood.  Kyle was severely burned on his mission and was treated by a Peruvian specialist here in Argentina.  His recovery included 2 months of complete isolation (with the exception of his specialist entering twice daily to care for his wounds). 

Elder Jackson, my brother, is on the right.1-julie3

Little did I know that I would not only see some of the same soil he trekked through, but I would LIVE in his mission country.  Resistencia is further north than Venado Tuerto.  When we drove to Iguazu Falls last month, we passed through a town next to one of his old areas. 

It was amazing to see the differences between Northern & Central Argentina.  The people are much darker up North.  The soil is red & clay-like, and it’s hot, hot, HOT!  In general, poverty seems to be the standard; we had to be cautious of thieves. 

1-DSC00089

In this next picture you can see how truly uncomfortable my girls were.  We had been in the truck for a LONG time and the sun was strong.  Notice the man on the left.  He approached Jared twice for money.    

1-DSC00074

Lots of trucks everywhere…

1-DSC00073

More Northern country and proof Jared still has his wedding ring… 

1-1-DSC00087

As for me, mine’s a goner.  More on that later, but before you have a heart attack, my real wedding ring is secretly hidden away in the United States. :)

Every single day, I’m grateful for my brother’s example.  It’s been nice to get-to-know Argentina, his old stomping grounds.  I wonder if Argentina must have something to teach our family, because hmmm…we keep finding ourselves here.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Giraffe Park

1-DSC00225

There’s a little park on the other side of town; it’s a happy spot for me.  When I was pregnant with Gabe, I cried a lot.  :)  I was pretty sick on top of being an emotional pregnant lady.  Last year was a tough time for our family for many different reasons, but like one of my favorite songs says:

…like stones in the river, we are tossed & turned, shaped until the edges are gone… 

I’d go to that park to contemplate the perplexities of life while my two innocent daughters explored the litter, graffiti, & train tracks.  j/k – but still not too far from the truth.   

We call it the Giraffe Park because it’s got this crazy graffiti-covered giraffe slide. 

1-DSC00212

It’s one of the few parks that actually has grass, and despite a few hazards here & there, it’s relatively safe. 

There’s a train that travels through it sometimes.

1-DSC00220

1-DSC00223

Something about it reminds me of my childhood.  I’m not sure why, but whenever I’m at this park, I always think about a fish fry with homemade root beer at my Grandma McNair’s house in Moreland, Idaho.  I always feel like I’m headed to a family gathering when I go to this park, and it brings a sweet smile to my face.  

1-DSC00211

I hope Carlie will feel similar sweet feelings when she thinks about this little park we’ve visited almost every week for the past two years  - the cool breeze that’d brush her rosy cheeks as I’d push her in her favorite swing for at least 20 minutes each time, the songs I’d sing to her, the laughs we’d share. 

Though times weren’t always easy, I know she’ll remember being happy at this park.   

1-DSC00229

…each day of our lives is a gift from the Giver, to smooth all the edges, like stones in the river…

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Hardest Part About Leaving

Well, my old template didn’t last too long.  ;) I liked it, don’t get me wrong, but I missed my white background; I missed the clean look.  It’s funny how a person can get use to certain fonts.  I needed my blog inspiration back.  

Some of you are having a few quirks with the private settings…how about you?  Certain accounts are not ‘Google’ worthy resulting in semi-annoyed readers.  :)  Maybe it’s meant to be until the next service project gets underway. 

(All accepted invites are still valid when this blog is in private mode.  I truly love you all, my faithful readers.)    

Okay, switching gears now to the hardest part about leaving. 

AnnMarie is an amazing friend.  She will be sorely missed when we leave Argentina.  Her teacher cried last week when we informed her of AnnMarie’s last day.  When we first moved here, play-dates were a difficult thing.  The friend we invited over would usually end up crying at some point in the play-date.  My Spanish was rough, and our home environment was a stark contrast from what they were accustomed to. 

It was one of the hardest things as a mother to see my ever-courageous daughter, she herself in a completely foreign environment as a whole, unable to understand why her friends from school didn’t like to come over for a play-date because…the environment was different, and it was too hard.  I think it was then that she realized how truly courageous she was.

Fast forward 20 months later to a different time.  Life is much different now.  We have grown tremendously.  It’s amazing what time & the refiner’s fire can do. 

AnnMarie is a special influence here.  I know the Lord has big plans for her. 

One of her closest friends is little Emilia.  Her mother is pure Italian and one of my best friends here.  I will miss their family so so much..words cannot describe.  Emilia is on the far right.  AnnMarie was helping me take the picture.  I’m tearing up just starring at this photo.  

1-DSC00059

Magdalena is another sweet friend of AnnMarie’s.  ‘Magda’ is somewhat of a protector to Mariana (a little down-syndrome girl in their class).  The sight of AnnMarie, Magdalena, & Mariana walking out of the school together, holding hands, the day I picked the three of them up for a play-date will forever be burned in my mind.   

1-DSC00207

And then there’s Catalina who tries her very hardest to speak English.  It’s absolutely precious, and I love her for it. 

1-DSC00200

Oh my goodness, we have gotten so close to these little classmates of hers.  AnnMarie has been emotional at nights - worried about leaving her friends.  I know she’s only 5, but the fact that she’s had to work so hard to make friends – learning a new language and integrating herself into a completely unique life - has made these friendships incredibly significant. 

Carlie reminds us all that the best part about moving is making new friends, and I know AnnMarie will do just that, but something tells me that these friendships of hers will be eternal.  She has been a pillar of strength to me as I’ve watched her struggle and now thrive.  I am so blessed to have her example in my life.

And of course, Carlie’s example, too – our spunky little one who can’t wait for the change!

1-DSC00204

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Streets in Venado

1-DSC00877

1-DSC00879

1-DSC00905

1-DSC00985

1-DSC06705

1-DSC06706

The streets in our little town are distinct.  I’ll always remember the inconsistent sidewalks, families on motorcycles, bicyclists with baskets & bread, and the random spread of homes intermingled between commercial properties.  The zoning here is non-existent. 

From the beginning, I’ve always stood out with my bundle of three.  I won’t miss that part.  The attention makes me uncomfortable, but I secretly beam with pride over my two bright daughters who illuminate a vandalized walkway everywhere we go. :)

DSC00865

My new music site is looking good!  I’m anxious to start posting soon. 

Chau!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Gospel in Venado

I’ve been thinking a lot about the dynamics of the church here.  We attend a branch with roughly 400 baptized members – at most, 50 are active.  The retention rate is low. 

1-DSC00988

The Argentine people are very passionate.  I’ve found that their passion tends to create lots of waves within the church – waves of high numbers, then low numbers.  Sometimes the missionaries get discouraged because their main objective here is to baptize, not to re-activate.  The mission president here has especially encouraged them to focus on baptizing which means it’s solely up to the members to “go & rescue.”

1-DSC00989

I have a very good friend here who was somewhat of a mentor to me when we first moved to Argentina.  She was a counselor in the district primary presidency.  I love her.  She had the most enthusiasm for her calling than anyone I’d ever met. 

Recently, she was sorely offended by another member over a business deal involving her inactive husband.  This incident cut her to the core, and she decided to become completely inactive along with her three primary age children.  I’ve been so sad over this!

1-DSC00986

She still communicates with me, so I’m trying to find a way to “rescue” her.  I’m hoping that she’ll realize the significant impact this is having on her & her children.  However, it’s been a testimony builder for me & my family to realize that we all have our free agency, and regardless of other people’s choices, the Church is perfect, the gospel is true, and Christ is at the head of our Church. 

Like Elder Holland said in the last general conference, (I’ll paraphrase here), ‘I’m sure it must be awfully frustrating for Him to work with imperfect people, but that’s all He’s got.’

1-DSC00987

My Mom & Dad were good sports to let me take and use all these pictures of them in front of our chapel.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Feeling Blessed

 

1-DSC00929

I came across this picture the other day from a disc my mom sent me in the mail.  She took this picture when her & my dad came to Argentina a few months back.  I love it.

I’m so grateful to have these two handsome boys in my life.  It’s hard to describe the little twinkle in Jared’s eye when he has his boy around, but this picture captures it pretty perfectly.

I also found this picture:

1-DSC00910

I think it’s going to be one of those pictures that my great grandchildren will talk about someday as they brag about their Grandma AnnMarie or their Grandma Carlie who lived in Argentina when they were cute little sisters that couldn’t live without each other.