Saturday, May 30, 2009

Family Dinner

While in Spain, Shawn and I, President Shallenberger's family and President Clark had the opportunity to eat with the Somoza Family. When we were here for our honeymoon we also were invited here, and I absolutely fell in love with the warmth and hospitality that this family gave. That is when I was heartbroken to hear the what had happened to their daughter when she visited the states a few years ago.

Their daughter had arranged to come to the states for a period of time to live with a family in Murray, UT. It wasn't a student exchange so she was not attending school, but I think it was more just to see our country.

When she arrived they took her to the grocery store and told her she could get anything she wanted. She assumed that she would be eating family dinners with them so all she did was get a box of Golden Grahams to eat for breakfast. It only took a short time for her to realize that this family did not have a tradition of eating together as a family. They just helped themselves to whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

She did not understand this, and as a result didn't eat much while here. She ended up losing 30 lbs!! Even when she told them she wanted to go to the grocery store again they instead went for her, and just brought her back more Golden Grahams!

Needless to say she doesn't enjoy Golden Grahams anymore, and her desire to return to the states is not very big. I felt terrible that she had such a bad experience while here. I am sure that it was a big misunderstanding. If the people she was staying with knew her situation they would have done what they could to rectify it, but for whatever reason it did not happen.

It got me to thinking that day how IMPORTANT it is to sit together each night as a family. There is so much that happens at the dinner table. Right now it is easy for me. My kids are young and we don't have many different schedules to work with. I know as time goes on things will change. Life gets busy, yet hearing of this girls experience made me realize that I do not want to become a family that is too busy to sit down and eat together. Maybe not everyone will be there each night, but I want my kids to know if they are available...we will have a nice meal prepared. We will be able to share about our day, and learn from each other.

So my challenge for you today is this. If you don't already have Family Dinner's daily....make more of an effort to fit it in. Even if you have to buy take out and bring it home...sit down with your family and get to know them. You and your family will benefit from it, and if you ever have someone from another country visit...they won't starve. :)

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Keeping in Touch

Shawn and I met only 3 months after he returned home from his mission in Spain. Three months later we were engaged, and 3 months later we were married. That meant that he was only home for a total of 9 months before we returned to Spain for our honeymoon.

Going there for our honeymoon was fabulous. Since Shawn had only been gone for a short while it was quite easy to contact old friendships. Everyone was right where he left them. I met many of his investigators, and had a wonderful time getting to know them.

9 months vs 10 years is a very big difference. As life gets busy, some things get pushed aside, and keeping in touch with his friends in Spain fell short. We talked about Spain alot, but never put the effort in...shame on us!

So when it came time to returning, Shawn had no idea if anyone he knew would still be around. There was one family in particular that he really wanted to see. Whenever we asked people about this one seemed to know who he was talking about. Shawn was afraid they might have gone inactive (not going to church regularly), and then he wouldn't be able to find them. So we went to the ward that they used to attend, and to our surprise Maria Jose was actually speaking that day!

We missed getting a picture of Debora - I wished she would have stayed longer!
I was so glad that we were able to find them because I think out of all the families that Shawn taught...they were the most dear to his heart. We were able to go over to their house for a good meal, and try to catch up on the last 10 years. I was amazed at how much their kids had grown, and they even had another, Marta, who is 8 now.
While we were there, Shawn and Alberto left to go get our food. I was left there with Maria Jose, Marta, and Debora. They don't speak English, and I don't speak Spanish. We had fun showing them my blog, and trying to use an online translator to get our points across. I have to say I love this family so much. They are the epitome of Spaniards, and the love that they have for people. It is because of this family that I have such a desire to do what I can to learn Spanish.

It was frustrating because I know if we could communicate better we would be able to have alot more fun. When I came to Spain 9 years was the same thing. So many people wanted to talk to me, but because of our language barrier we were not able. We plan on returning again in 10 years (if not sooner) and my goal is to learn Spanish. Any suggestions on how I should go about it???
Shawn and I are so thankful that we were able to find this family. Hopefully now through the Internet we will be able to do a better job at keeping in touch!

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bus Tours

President Shallenberger was awesome enough to charter a bus for the group (about 20-25 of us). This allowed us to see some really cool places while visiting Spain. Tours are great because they allow us to see some of the best sights in a short period of time. We really appreciate the time and effort that President S. put into planning this for everyone.


No trip to Spain is complete without going to Toledo. It is the mecca for the making of swords, and has one of the most picturesque views of a city. We spent a couple of hours there wandering the narrow streets and taking in the sights. We managed to find the Cathedral, but somehow got lost trying to find the Alcázar (castle). Instead we found a little restaurant, and stuffed our bellies with some authentic Spanish cuisine. On our way back the the meeting spot we finally found the castle, but didn't have time to go inside. :(


This was a pretty cool place to visit. I don't think that I have ever seen a 'real' windmill up close before and this place had a bunch of them. Most of them were closed, but one happened to have a little ice cream/souvenir shop inside. President S. talked the guy into letting us go up into the inside of the windmill.

While in Segovia we went to see the Aqueduct. This amazing structure was thought to be built between the second half of the 1st Century AD and the early years of the 2nd Century. It was used to carry water from the Fuenta Fria River to the castle. They have stopped using it for the transport of water due to pollution, but the sight is wonderful to see. It is amazing that this structure was built without any mortar. Somehow this thing stands just from the precise planting of each stone.
While walking to the Aqueduct we came across this carousel. I have to say it was one of the strangest I have ever seen. I could imagine the crying that would ensue if I tried to put my little Sydney on one of these things!
Alcázar of Segovia
This castle was rumored to be the one that Walt Disney used to model the castle in Disneyworld after. We toured the place from top to bottom. There is something about walking around such an old building. To imagine the things that went on in there was unfathomable. Afterwards the bus drove us down to the grassy front where the boys all had some fun while taking pictures.
They were doing great until Jo tried to get on top! Didn't Bruce get the memo that he was to be there! :)
Segovia Cathedral
There is a beauty about Cathedral's that always has me in awe. The architectural designs are always amazing. I don't know if I was allowed to take pictures while in there, but I did anyway. *no flash* :)

The Royal Palace and Gardens of La Granja de San Ildefanso

I was really fascinated with this place. We couldn't go into the palace itself, but we were able to walk the gardens. It was fun imagining what it would have been like to live in a place like this. We would have had some great parties or should I say 'balls' in the courtyard. The gardens here are known for their fountains. The 1500 acres of property have 26 different fountains throughout. Only a few were functioning while we were there, but about twice a year they 'are set to play'. It would have been nice to see them running instead of the stagnant water. :)

AVILA, The walled city

We made a pit stop in Avila, and stayed the night. The city of Avila is completely encased with a wall. It reminds me of the town's that I would seen in movies with the fortresses to keep people out. We got there pretty late so we weren't able to see a whole lot, but enjoyed walking around the town and looking in shop windows.

Royal Monastery of St. Lawrence of Escorial

Here President S. hooked our 'educational' group, "BYU Students" *wink,wink*, with a private tour. This was probably one of the most interesting because we got so much of a history lesson here. In most of the things that we have went through we would just casually walk through things...but our tour guide told us so much about what went on here. At one point we were able to see the Panteón de los Reyes (Royal Pantheon). It is the room that contains the body of each King since Charles I except 3 who are buried in different parts of Spain. In some ways it was weird knowing we were in a 'tomb' like room with a bunch of dead bodies. But it was one of the most beautiful rooms. The walls, and caskets were all made of marble, and gold! Amazing! There are 3 spots left, and they are 'waiting' for the bodies to be ready for the transfer. (They only transfer them once there is only bones left...the 3 people are already dead, but are placed in a 'rotting' room. Apparently the word in Spanish doesn't sound so gross.)
Again I wish the thank President Shallenberger for putting these trips together. I don't think Shawn and I would have seen half this stuff without it. We had a great time with everyone!

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

First Stop Philadelphia

Ten Years ago in March on 1999 the Spain Madrid Temple was dedicated. Shawn happened to be serving a mission for our church at that time. He was able to watch as the temple was being built. He helped pass out flyer's and walk people through the temple when they had the Open House (before a temple is dedicated anyone can enter and see the different rooms, after the dedication only those with recommends can go inside).

Everything about Spain holds a special place in his heart. 10 years ago his Mission President had announced that he was planning on coming back to Spain for a "Madrid Mission Reunion". All missionaries who were able to make it were invited. Shawn of course has been planning for it for years, and it all came together over the last few weeks.

Since were were flying standby we chose to leave out on the last flight on Tuesday (May 12) to Philadelphia and overnight there. It allowed us to get a better nights sleep, and see a little bit of Philly before our international flight left out the following day.

We got some traditional "Philly food" minus the beer.
It was mighty tasty.
Then we checked out Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

While we were at Liberty Bell we witnessed something I feel was extraordinary. Before you actually get to see the Bell they have a few different displays telling about the history of the Bell and the importance that it has for our country. The last display has a replica of the quote that is engraved on the Bell.
"Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof."
At this display it asks us to refrain from touching the bell, but if we would like we could touch the replica.

Imagine our surprise as we round the corner only to see a man touching the bell from top to bottom. It only takes a moment to realize that this man is blind, and has been escorted behind the 'rope' to be able to 'see' Liberty Bell for himself. I was touched that they would allow him to do that. We joked a bit for Shawn to pretend that he was blind.
As I stood there watching this man take it all in. Feeling each crevice. His hand going up and down the crack in the bell. Part of me was envious....yet I realized how blessed I am to be able to SEE it for myself. I am sure this man would do anything to have seen it with his own eyes. It is funny what perspective can do for a person.

It was great to be able to take in some history. I love the East Coast for this very reason. There is so much to learn. We are so blessed to live in our country. Many people have sacrificed for our behalf. It will be nice to take our kids here when they are old enough learn and appreciate the history of our forefathers.

Can anyone tell me what this is a picture of? :)

It was a great little pit stop before we jumped on a plane to Shawn's favorite place in the world
Madrid, Spain

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is anyone still here?? *grin*

Whew! Things have been crazy 'round here.

Got back from Women's Conference

Hosted BUNKO here at my house for the 1st time since joining! (Talk about the stress!)

Went to a Children's play with the kids.

Then Shawn and I packed our bags and headed off for a wonderful trip!!! We were gone for 12 days, and the kids got to terrorize my mother (Thanks mom!). Things are starting to settle down, but I still got a lot of catching up to do. Here is a sneak peak of some of the wonderful things we were able to do.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Things we missed

Going on our trip to Spain was one of the best things ever, but going there also meant some sacrifices. Since we were kinda along for the ride (Shawn's mission president planned the whole reunion) we had no choice on the dates that we were to travel there. Our travel dates just happened to overlap with Sydney's Dance recital, and Caden's last days of school.

I thought about them alot the during the day of their special events. I imagined their faces, and the excitement they had to be feeling. I could see little Sydney in her cute little tights. Her finger in her mouth the way it always is when she gets nervous. I heard her cute little voice singing the songs that she has been practicing for months in my head.

I was sad a little that day, knowing I was not there to cheer her on. To see it in action. To do her hair, and help her get ready for the recital. I had meant to stay for her dress rehearsal the week prior, but made another commitment without thinking. I was devastated when I realized what I had done, but could not change it then. Atleast I have wonderful family that were able to fill in for me. She did a wonderful job. I love my little dancer.

On Caden's last day of school my thoughts turned to the bag that I had prepared for him before I left. Swimsuit - check, sunscreen - check, water shoes - check, towel - check....everything he would need for a SUPER FUN WATER DAY. He had been telling me about it for months. Asking week after week when it was. I have tried to go to all of his class activities through out the year. I think I helped at each one except the Christmas one because we were moving that day, and now the end of the year 'Splash'.

I was glad that my sister, Nancy, had agreed to go in my place. She took the responsibility of following him around from activity to activity. I was happy yet sad at the same time as Caden relayed the fun he had that day over the phone.

I know these aren't super big events. Heck, the kids will probably not even remember that we weren't there. It just makes me sad because each day that passes I realize that I only have these children in my care for such a short period of time. I want to soak in every moment. To etch in my mind how precious they really are. To support them in every way that I can.

I can't say I regret going to Spain...I only wish I could have been in two places at once.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Hosting BUNKO

I joined a BUNKO group about a year ago. It has been so much fun going and hanging out with these girls once a month. When I joined, the month I was supposed to host was the following month so I was given a break. My turn finally came up a year later...and gosh it was a little nerve wrecking.
First I had to figure out what I was going to make. Month after month I would go, and have the yummiest of foods (they were yummy, but think things are even yummier when you don't have to cook them). After much thought I decided to 'steal' Amanda's recipe for the Cafe Rio Sweet Pork salad (I hope you don't mind Amanda). YUMMO! While I was in Utah, I was able to get some shopping done for Bunko, and the rest I got at Hobby Lobby. In our group everyone contributes 12 dollars each. That money goes towards our prizes. You buy things with specific price points, but the 1st person who picks their prize doesn't have to have the most expensive thing. We even have door prizes that are worth $5 so no one leaves empty handed. Most of the time we try to get home decor that what I planned for. I barely do any shopping for myself let alone someone else. I bought things that I would have liked to win. I laughed out loud when I saw this sign. These were the door prizes. They were normally $10, but I got them for $5. Woo Hoo!After we are done playing we all tend to hang out and talk. This time we were given lessons on how to curl your hair with a flat iron. I know I am a little behind on the game when it comes to styling, but I find it amazing how the flat iron curls your hair. One of these days I will have to try it on Sydney. It was a bit stressful being the host. I fretted over what to make, and what to buy. I didn't want people leaving that sucked. I hope everyone had a good time. I know I did, but I am thankful I won't have to do it again for another year!

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

LPM Recital

Years ago my cousin had started teaching this program called Let's Play Music. I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. A three year program that is started when your child is around 4 or 5. The great thing about it is the kids internalize so much about music theory, rhythms, and 'playing' music without really realizing it. By the end of the third year the children can transpose and even write their own compositions. Talk about AMAZING!

This year Caden was finally old enough to start the program! I was so excited for him. Unfortunately my cousin did not have any openings at a time that would work for us so we had to find a different teacher. I was lucky enough to find, Stephanie. I have known Stephanie since I was in 1st grade. We had been stand partners in Orchestra off and on through out Junior High and High School. She is such a dear friend, and I was delighted to have Caden take from her.

He worked hard all year long. We went to Steph's house each week, and he 'played' while he was there. He really soaked everything in, and looked forward to it every week. There was a short stint that we tried to change teacher when we moved, but Caden would not have it. He loved Ms. Stephanie so we drove the extra distance.

At the end of the year they had a recital, and Caden was so proud. I can't wait for this coming year.

Green Turtles here we come!

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