Monday, October 29, 2012

Joshua's email - 10/29

Hello everyone!

This past week was great! I spent a lot of the time with lots of the missionaries from our zone on Monday, and then I packed.  We had a testimony meeting with our district before bed, which was really cool.  I really miss the Provo missionaries from our district, Elders A and K.  We went to bed and woke up at 2:45am on Tuesday morning. We got on the bus that took us to the Salt Lake City airport, and I got a chance to call my family for about 45 minutes before we got on the plane.  That was fun.  I was a little nervous for what the rest of the day was going to be like, but it turned out to be pretty good.

On the first flight from SLC to Chicago, I sat in the very back of the plane with a rancher who was on a business trip to Milwaukee to open a new ranching store.  He was really nice, and we talked about his business, his family, and my mission and the church for three hours! the other 13 missionaries that were on that plane all tried to sleep because it was so early (6:00am) and they were tired, so they thought it was funny that I talked with the guy for the whole flight.  He was familiar with a lot of the gospel already because his family has LDS friends, so we talked about that a little bit.  At the very end of the flight, he got a phone call that the store he was opening lost power, so he was in a hurry and I didn't catch his name.  I later saw the man in the airport, and as he passed he said, "Good luck, you're a very fine young man, and I hope you get a chance to talk to your family again soon.  Everyone deserves a chance to talk to their momma."

I talked to one of the flight attendants who told me that he was inactive all his life before he went on his mission.  He told me that he was sent to Vancouver.  He had some struggles in the beginning with doubts and with following all of the rules.  He said that as soon as he made the goal to "obey with exactness" and started to be obedient, he enjoyed his mission much more and now he thinks about the things he did and learned on his mission every day.  This really helped me to feel more confident about what I was doing, and the importance of being obedient.

On the next flight, from Chicago to Milwaukee, I sat next to a man in his 50s.  I tried talking to him about the gospel, but he was very reserved and didn't seem to want to talk.  I made the mistake of telling him (jokingly) that "it felt weird to be in public after being in the missionary training center for so long."  He then proceeded to give me the most confused face, as if I had just told him that I have been kept in a basement for 2 months and they (the MTC) had finally let me out back into public.  HAHAHAHA. So we didn't talk much after that.

When we arrived in Milwaukee, I saw President Jones and his wife, and his two assistants, Elder H and Elder H.  They hug a lot here.  It's gonna take some getting used to.  Elder H and Elder H constantly told us to relax and to enjoy our time here in Wisconsin.  I was pretty nervous at first, but they really helped me to be more confident and comfortable.  President Jones and his wife are very nice, and the assistants are AWESOME.  I like them the best so far, they're both very humble.  We had a delicious dinner that night, so that day was pretty good, despite my shampoo exploding in my suitcase, which I had to clean up.  We also had a very spiritual testimony meeting, which I enjoyed.  We went out to street contact and place copies of the Book of Mormon.  That was an awesome experience.  I talked to a very nice man and a younger girl separately and gave them both a copy.  They were very interested to learn more!! I wanted to teach them right there on the spot, but we didn't have time.  I hope something good comes from those experiences.

The next day we had an in-field orientation.  Following that, we went to the church building and got our new companions.  I looked up into the stand to guess who was going to be my new companion, and my first guess was the kid that looked Samoan.  When President Jones announced that my new companion was Elder G (pronounced "- - -"), I was super excited! If he was anything like Elder K, I knew I was going to enjoy having him as my companion.  Don't take this the wrong way, because it's not meant to sound negative, it's just something I've heard from President Jones and I now understand a little bit more. He said that every companion will be different. Every companion will have strengths and weaknesses, and every companion will teach you something different.

Elder G. is a very good trainer and teacher and I have learned a lot with him here in the Sun Prairie area.  We're both very focused on our goals and our purpose as missionaries.  One of the things that I have been focusing on more as I study the scriptures, is to liken them unto my life, and to my investigators' lives.  I think of how the scriptures can benefit me and others as well, which I think is a large step in my progress.  Another thing that we are both focused on is being completely obedient, and striving to understand the importance and reason of every rule.  We're both working hard on finding people right now.  We have two return appointments with people that we tracted into last week.  We also have a progressing investigator by the name of K (age 60ish), who has a baptismal date set for December 1.  We've met with him a few times already, and he definitely has a solid testimony of the gospel, and especially of the Book of Mormon.  He's studied with other churches before but he says that he likes how the Book of Mormon describes society as it was back then and as it is today.  He relates it completely to himself and the people of today, and he even told us straight-up, "I know the Book of Mormon is true.  I've read it (I think he's in Alma, he reads it a LOT), and I know that everything that it says is true.  I know that since everything this book says is true, everything that I've been taught about the gospel of Jesus Christ is true." That was way awesome.  I feel like I get more excited about hearing stuff like that than my companion does.  He's probably heard it a lot of times now since he's been out almost 10 months, so maybe it's not as big of a deal as I'm making it out to be, haha.

One thing about K is that he LOVES to talk.  Last time we visited with him, I started to fall asleep on his comfy couch.  I was trying so HARD to stay awake (missionary work is hard work!) but my eyelids were really heavy.  My companion says that he was falling asleep too, so I'm not the only one, haha.  K interrupted himself and said, "Hey buddy, you look like you're about to fall asleep!"  Haha! I felt so bad, but K knows we work hard, so he wasn't mad.  Anyway, K is super awesome and I'm excited for him to be baptized!

Sun Prairie is AWESOME! It's supposed to be one of the best areas in Wisconsin, and the ward is super nice and helpful.  There was a baptism the weekend before I got here, so there's definitely work going on here.  I love the ward here.

Yesterday we had Stake Conference in Madison.  We drove there with the N family. Brother N is the ward mission leader, and he's super nice.  Stake Conference was AWESOME though.  Elder Robert C. Gay came and spoke about miracles, and he testified boldly of the truthfulness of the gospel.  He shared some very personal experiences and miracles that he's seen throughout his life.  You could cut the Spirit with a knife yesterday.  One thing that he said stuck with me.  He said, "The veil is thin," and "the hands of Heaven are close by."  It's true.  God wants to help you with overcoming challenges, addictions, and trials.  We are blessed with agency, so we have the choice to follow Him (2 Nephi 2).  If we have faith in Him, and are patient as we endure to the end, He will bless us, and I know that to be true.  Another thing that was mentioned in Stake Conference is that God makes great leaders from humble, simple men.  I'm trying to be an instrument in God's hands and allow him to refine me and grow in areas where I am weak, and strengthen other areas.  The church is true.  If you don't know that, study the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  I'm serious!  It's either all true, or it's not.  I wouldn't be serving a mission if I didn't know it was true, but it's up to you to find out for yourself if it's true.

I love you all and have a great week!

Elder Whicker!

PS, Mom, can you post my apartment address at the church? THANKS haha

New pictures!

These were completely unexpected but so appreciated!  They came thanks to a woman who has been doing some work in Thalia's orphanage.  It's the first time we've seen her in pants!  (Thalia, that is - not the woman. ;o)  )

Sunday, October 28, 2012

weekly menu

Here's the menu for this week.  I'm only posting one real recipe because it's been a busy, crazy weekend and I'm just too lazy.  ;o)

The BLTs are of my own creation and require several key components: Fakin' Bacon (tempeh bacon), Daiya Havarti-style cheese, avocado wedges, lettuce, and tomato slices, all on sourdough bread.  A panini grill makes it all that much more exciting but isn't necessary.  These are seriously the BEST sandwiches!

The roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts and beefless tips "recipe" is a variation on a dish I do often, depending on what veggies I have.  Sometimes I use a Asian-type glaze using soy sauce, a little sugar, some sesame oil, ginger and garlic, but a balsamic dressing of some kind is also good.  That's what I'm planning this week.  We usually serve it over rice.  I'm making brown rice.

I don't know why I forgot to add in the side dishes for the enchiladas, but since these are stuffed full of beans and squash (I'm using summer squash), I'll probably just add some fruit and call it good.  I might be coaxed into making some rice, too.  We'll see.  Here's the recipe, but I'll be using Daiya cheese in place of the goat cheese called for.

The stuffed acorn squash have been on the menu for the past two weeks and since they are somewhat labor intensive, they've been pre-empted both times.  Hopefully I'll actually get to it this week.  And since I now have carnival squash in addition to acorn, I may use those instead.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Yesterday we received our "Letter of Seeking Confirmation," otherwise known as the Letter of Approval, from China!  We still have another 2-4 month wait, but this is a major milestone.  :o)  Our agency director asked me in an email to call her so she could help me do the required paperwork, but I've tried both yesterday and today with no luck reaching anyone.  We've never used such an unresponsive agency.  It's so frustrating.  I would never recommend them to anyone else.

One step closer!

Joshua's in Wisconsin!

On Thursday night, we got two photos and a short, scanned note from the mission home in Wisconsin. Joshua says he's doing well.  His companion is Elder G, and they are serving in the town of Sun Prairie.  Call me a creeper, but I've already used Google Earth to scope out their apartment.  Doesn't look too bad from the outside.  ;o)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Joshua's email 10/22

Hello! I just have a couple minutes before I have to switch my laundry, so this might be kind of short.
This week was awesome! I'm jacked to go to Wisconsin tomorrow at 4:00 am! And also, I get a chance to call my family for a little bit so I'll definitely be looking forward to that!
Last Wednesday, I noticed around lunch time that a lot of new missionaries were coming in.  So I waited outside for M... I mean Elder H, and I left because I didn't see him.  I told one of the workers that I was waiting for my friend, and she said she'd look out for him.  I came back after lunch and she told me I had just missed him!  Luckily, that night, I was with my companion and I said, "I hope I get to see my friend before I leave."  I immediately turned to the right... and there was Elder H!!!! His companion is named Elder C, and he's their district leader.  He's definitely an awesome guy and M says he keeps him in line, haha.  Their district is pretty cool and M is LOVING the MTC.. as am I!  I'm not ready to leave!! I'm excited to leave but at the same time I don't want to leave the nest for maybe a week or two more, because I've learned so much here.  And I love my district.  I know I'll continue learning in the field though, but it's nice being with a whole district all the time, especially since we're all really good friends. 
Last night, Elder J said goodbye to his twin brother (they're both tough, quiet, super athletic kids).  I feel like Elder J and I are kind of on the same page because we grew up away from Utah and we never really lived in the "Mormon culture bubble."  Our teacher, Brother H, told us that we've come the farthest of anyone in our district while at the MTC.  He told us that usually the missionaries who progress in the MTC, continue to make progress in the field as long as they don't feel comfortable with 'where they're at.'  So, I've always felt close to Elder J even though he's a little quiet.  He's awesome and when he bears his testimony you can feel the SPIRIT!  Which is funny because his companion is our district leader who knows everything about anything there is to know about the Book of Mormon (at least that's what it feels like), and he talks a lot in lessons.  One day, Elder W (his companion) and Elder J came out of a lesson with an investigator, and Elder W said, "I wish you would have talked more, Elder J.  You need to learn how to teach too."  Elder B immediately shouted, "Yeah, but Elder J brought the SPIRIT!!!!!" in his goofy deep voice.  So now that's a joke with our district, that Elder J can BRING THE SPIRIT.  Elder J is seriously way awesome.  Anyway, last night he said goodbye to his twin brother who is going to Chicago.  His brother is much more outgoing, but they are still very similar.  They both were crying so hard, it made me sad!!  I know they're both going to be awesome missionaries though and I'm looking forward to hearing how their missions go.
On Wednesday night, Elder K decided he wanted to sing a song at the Fireside last night  with me.  Our whole district is super tone-deaf except for me and Elder K, haha.  Some more than others............. hahaha.  Anyway, we decided to sing Nearer, My God to Thee.  We practiced in the MTC residence hall bathroom with Elder S and Elder W from our Zone.  Elder K sang Melody, W sang alto, S sang bass, and I sang tenor.  IT WAS INSANE!!! We sounded so good that most of the people on our floor came into the bathroom and told us how good we sounded.  So, we auditioned to sing at the fireside.  Unfortunately, because Elder Kimzey and I were leaving only a few days after Sunday, they said that we wouldn't be able to sing because they already picked someone to sing for last night.  They told us our voices blended incredibly and we were all very talented.  So, that was a good experience.  Instead, we sang with our district (light emphasis on the word 'sing,' more like 'howled') "I Stand All Amazed" in Sacrament meeting with our zone.  It was really really tough not to laugh at how bad we sounded, but it was still fun.
On Friday, we had our in-field orientation.  It lasted all day long, and pretty much taught us how to find investigators and how to use church members to help teach in our lessons.  It was an awesome day.  One of the kids that I role-played with was named Elder H. His companion was Elder W.  I can't remember their first names right now, but I have them written down in my journal in my room, so I'll tell you their names later.  Anyway, guess where they're going!!! BILLINGS, MONTANA!!! So you could imagine my excitement when they told me they were going to Montana.  I told them to look for the huge family in Miles City and I told them that you would feed them  well!! They're awesome! I was so excited to meet 2 of the 4 missionaries going there!
Earlier this week, Sister R (our other teacher) bore her testimony and talked about Zion's camp.  I ended up using this story in my talk about enduring to the end yesterday in Sacrament Meeting.  Anyway, when she bore her testimony about her mission and about trials and how they can help us come closer to Christ, you could definitely feel the Spirit.  It was one of the most powerful moments I've had in the MTC.  I'm going to miss my teachers Brother Hoffman, Sister R, and Brother H (he went to Arizona on his mission and he met J Y!).  The MTC is incredible.  I told Brother H that I think everyone should go to the MTC at some point in their lives, even if they're not going on a mission.  You learn SOOOOO much!!!!!  I often tell people of how I never bore my testimony when I lived at home.  I think I did one time, and a couple times when I had to give a talk.  I've always known the Book of Mormon is true and that the gospel is true.  But I remember my dad's words every day that one of the people told him on his mission to, "Bear your testimony more!!!"  Now, I bear my testimony 10000000 times a day, and I actually WANT to bear my testimony!! I'm not scared to do it anymore.  My testimony feels like it's a million times stronger than I ever could have imagined, and now I know for sure that when you bear your testimony, it gets stronger.  I know the Book of Mormon is true.  I know Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.  I'm a representative of Jesus Christ...... That's crazy! I never imagined that simple fact of being a missionary.  I want to serve Christ and bring others closer to Him.  I LOOOVVVVEEEE my family and friends! and I miss you a ton! Go on a mission!! They're the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Elder Joshua Evan Whicker
Wisconsin Milwaukee Mission
5651 Broad St Ste 1
Greendale, WI 53129-1889
United States!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

weekly menu

I'm excited about this week's menu, although I did recycle a couple of meals that we didn't end up eating last week.

Here are the recipes:

For the roasted veggie burritos, I just roast whatever veggies we have on hand in a 425 oven until they are tender and starting to brown.  Tomorrow we are using zucchini, mushrooms, and yellow bell peppers (which I have left from last week).  We put the veggies, black beans and rice into giant Bountiful Baskets tortillas along with some avocado slices or guacamole - Heaven!

Vegetarian pho - I'll be using leftover napa cabbage and bok choy, plus Thai basil (no cilantro) and I'll also add tofu.  The spring rolls are frozen veggie ones.  Don't tell anyone.  ;o)

Smoke apple chick'n sausage soup - I'll be using Field Roast brand apple "chicken" sausage and will add kale and probably cannelini beans.

Hazelnut-quinoa stuffed acorn squash - I'll use walnuts instead of hazelnuts and use some vegan parmesan.

Here's our Bountiful Baskets list.  As usual, we got two organics and two conventional, plus I also ordered a harvest pack of decorative corn, pumpkins and squash for a centerpiece for our dining room table.  It doesn't look like a very big list, but there was a lot of duplication (bananas, pomegranates, grapes, Romaine came in both baskets).

Tuscan kale
romaine lettuce
green leaf lettuce
butternut squash

Asian pears

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Second email from Joshua

October 15, 2012

Thank you for the Dear Elders! I get them almost immediately after you send them, so that's pretty cool (they get printed in the office and delivered to our mailboxes at like 4pm).  And thank you for the letters and packages!

This past week has been awesome! Last Tuesday, David A. Bednar came to the MTC!!!!!!! It was so awesome! He's one of my favorite speakers, and he was actually super funny! He told us that none of the people who speak at general conference have any idea of what the others are going to be speaking on. So, in other words, they speak on whatever they feel inspired to speak on.  He told us that it's everyone's responsibility to be guided by the Spirit when choosing a topic, and that Jeffrey R. Holland's responsibility is to "Light the place up." Hahahaha! Everyone still talks about how awesome his talk was (and about how awesome his previous talks usually are).  We have been super blessed with awesome activities and speakers this week, and you could imagine how strong the Spirit is.  Teaching is becoming much easier for me now and I'm learning how to ask questions that will actually help people understand how the gospel can relate to them and why it's truly important.  A teacher here at the MTC helped me understand this pretty well because we were all having trouble with asking questions that would help build the investigators' faith.  He said that a mediocre missionary can explain why the gospel is important, a good missionary can help others see how it's relevant to them, and an exceptional missionary can help others understand how to make the gospel real to them.  So that's my goal for this week. Also, I'm trying to write in my journal each day, but it's hard because we never have much time.

I have a few stories that I wanted to share from the past week.

I've met a bunch of awesome people in the MTC that I hope I'll get to see again someday. Remember Elder L? He finished his mission in Montana a year or so ago. He's the one that challenged me to a push-up contest when I was like 16.  I did like 54 in a minute and I was feeling pretty confident that I would win.  He got down and did 122 push-ups with perfect form in 60 seconds.  I later found out that he's a gymnast, so he's insanely strong.. haha.  Anyway, I met his little brother in the MTC one day in line for lunch.  He looks just like Elder L!! And equally as awesome.

I met a few other missionaries that have made the MTC really fun.  Elder Christopher P is a really strong kid from our district that made the B Club (I talked about that in my last email).  Elder W is a really cool guy from our district that taught me a lot about teaching, and he's just awesome in general.  Elder M was our Zone Leader, and he was hilarious!! By the way, Elder B (my companion) wrote a song called "Oh Baby" and I recorded it a few nights ago... It's HILARIOUS!! I'm hoping I can send my memory card to you soon so you can see it. I promise it'll make you laugh uncontrollably, and it'll show you what my companion is like.

Elder W is our district leader.  He has great leadership skills and he knows more about the gospel than some of our teachers do.  He tries especially hard to set a good example for us, and usually he does a pretty good job of keeping everyone in line.  One night, Elder K walked into our room to get some snacks (his mom sent him a huge box of candy and bread and nutella).  Elder W, our *perfect* District Leader, was found sitting in a chair, eating Elder K's bread! Elder K asked what he was doing, and as Elder W tried to explain himself, nothing came out of his mouth except stuttering because he knew he had been caught red handed in a dirty deed.  HAHAHAHA. So you can imagine how relentless we are to our District Leader now.

Yesterday we got to bless the sacrament for our district.  That was pretty cool.  We also had an interview with the second counselor of the branch presidency, Brother B.  Brother B told my district leader that I have "the patience of Job."  I guess that was pretty cool.  I think I could be more patient though.  This morning we woke up and went to the temple.  That was a good experience.  Later today I plan on cleaning and taking a nap. I've really learned to love my bed since I've been in the MTC.  I love working, learning, and studying! But it's definitely nice to lay in bed for a few minutes at the end of the day and relax and write in my journal.

That's pretty much all I have for this past week.  I can't wait for M (my note:  Joshua's best friend) to get here on Wednesday! We'll tear it up!!!!!!  Remember Ether 12:27. Best scripture ever! I still read it every day.  Keep praying and be safe everyone.  I love you all, and hopefully I have some better experiences for you next week.  Keep sending me letters!


Elder Whicker

New pictures and video!

Today is an exciting day!  We got updated information, measurements, pictures and video on Thalia.  It definitely helps make the waiting a little easier.  :o)  You can hear her vocalizing a little in the video, and of course the speech pathologist in me is watching for her to combine those vocalizations with gestures (which she does) and to see whether she's using them meaningfully (which she is).  I wish the person behind the camera would have interacted with her more, but from the information that came, we know that she doesn't really use words, but understands a lot of what is said to her.  They also told her that she likes to listen to music and has a good sense of rhythm, that she is outgoing and active, that she likes to play with dolls and that they think she will adjust easily to a new family (I know - what else would they say?)

I forgot to record this, but a few weeks ago, Curtis gave me a blessing.  It was just as the kids were starting school, and I was feeling overwhelmed with quite a few things.  Interestingly, the blessing focused on Thalia.  I was told that she was in good hands and being well cared for, and that she would be an incredible blessing to our family.  I was promised that her transition into our family would be a smooth one and that she would be free of some of the troubles that some of our other kids have struggled with, and that our family would be richly blessed because of following the prompting we received to make her ours.  I wasn't expecting any of that, so it was a wonderful surprise.  I love knowing that the transition will be a smooth one.  What a gift!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

weekly menu

Today I thought I'd get all crazy and post the menu first, and then the recipes, and THEN the produce list.  Wild, huh?  I like to keep you guessing.  ;o)

Stuffed mochi - I'm baking plain mochi in the oven until it puffs, and then stuffing them with the veganized copycat version of PF Chang's lettuce wrap filling.  I'll use Yves meatless crumbles instead of chicken.

Stir fry - this will be whatever my husband cobbles together on his night to cook!

Soup - I'm undecided about what kind it will be except that I know it will have zucchini.  I picked up some Field Roast vegan smoked apple sage sausage, so I will probably make this Martha Stewart recipe and add zucchini  

Roasted root vegetable salad with maple balsamic dressing  - I'll be using beets (which I hate - the things I do for my husband!), carrots, potatoes and onions, serving it over our leafy greens and topping with toasted walnuts and pomegranate arils.

Hazelnut-quinoa stuffed acorn squash - I'll be adding spinach (I have frozen spinach in abundance) and topping with a mixture of ground pine nuts, nutritional yeast and salt instead of parmesan cheese.

I'm also hoping to make a key lime pie with a bunch of the key limes we have left from last week.  There's one in Vegetarian Times that looks really yummy.  

Here's our gargantuan produce list.  There is lots extra today because I ordered two Asian veggie packs and 5 pumpkins (and five loaves of bread).  We'll be hollowing out the pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns and freezing the guts for future recipes.  

napa cabbage – stir fry
bok choy – stir fry
water chestnuts stuffed mochi
green onions – stuffed mochi
onion – stir fry, root veg salad
ginger – root veg salad
snow peas – stuffed mocha side
celery – school lunches
green leaf lettuce – root veg salad
multicolored carrots – root veg salad
beets – root veg salad
gold bell peppers – stir fry
roma tomatoes on the vine - pizza
acorn squash (both baskets)
potatoes – root veg salad
radishes – give to friend
zucchini - soup
grapes – school lunches
gala apples – school lunches
pluots – school lunches
bananas – school lunches, snacks
pomegranates – root veg salad
red pears – root veg salad side, school lunches
avocados (not ripe)
pineapple (not ripe)
lemons – stuffed mochi

mushrooms – stuffed mochi
blackberries – stuffed mochi side
raspberries – stuffed mochi side
strawberries – stuffed mocha side
sugar snap peas – school lunches
watermelon - soup side, school lunches
bosch pears – school lunches, snacks
apple pears – school lunches, snacks
plums – school lunches
key limes - key lime pie
grapefruit - snacks
oranges  - snacks

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

First email from Joshua

Well, I'm not sure when you're going to see this, and I've got thirty minutes to email, so I figured I'd just tell you as much about the MTC as I can think about.  When you guys left, my host, (I can't remember his name now), took my to my room and I noticed that Elder K left his luggage there, so I was excited that I knew somebody here.  Then I went to my classroom and met my district.  Elders K, L, W, J, K, A, and my companion Elder B.  They're all super awesome and our district is pretty tight, even from the first day here.  I just wanted to say a couple things that impressed me about my district.  Elder A is from _______ and he's here serving a mission despite some family problems. His dad had to arrest one of his older brothers and he said both of his older brothers have gotten into drugs and alcohol.  One of them went on a mission and came home twice.  He's decided that he wants to serve a mission to set a good example for his younger brothers.. By the way he has eleven kids in his family!!!! So that's cool.  Elder K is from ______ and one of the coolest guys I've ever met.  He's got a super awesome outlook on everything in life and I can't imagine him ever being upset.  They're both super awesome and they're both going to Provo.  The rest of the elders in our district are going to Milwaukee, so I'm definitely going to miss them a TONNN!!!!!!

In our building, we started a new club.  It's called the "B Club."  You have to do one pull-up with Elder B on your back (he weighs 112 pounds).  I can get about halfway up and of like 8 guys who have tried, only one can do it.  There's a record in the gym of doing 74 dips without stopping, so I've been working on trying to beat that record.  It'll take a while! I'm at 42 right now, haha.  Anyway, the last few days have been crazy.  Classes are fun, and we have super comfortable chairs!!!! The only thing that I'm having trouble with so far is teaching.  It's really hard for me, but I'm learning a lot, really really quickly.  The role-playing was super weird at first, but it's really helpful for learning also.  I have learned about and found lots of really awesome scriptures.. and one of my favorites, ETHER 12:27!!!! Best scripture EVER!!!!!!!!!!!  I read it and think about it almost every day.  I had an interview with one of my teachers and told him I was worried about teaching and he showed me 2 Nephi 28:30. I think that's the scripture.  But that's an awesome one too, and it's helped me grow a lot already.  I LOVE study time. We have like 3+ hours every day and so I learn a ton about Preach My Gospel and about the Scriptures.

Conference was UHHHH-MAZING!!!!!! Did you hear Jeffrey R. Holland speak yesterday!!!!!! OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! His talk pretty much stunned all of the thousands of missionaries in the room with a kick to the chest with Spirit.  There were a few others that I really liked but I don't have my notes with me so I can't remember who gave them.  I love conference! and did you hear the news about missionary ages!?! 18 for men and 19 for women! How sweet is that?!  We also had a fireside last night after conference and Chad Lewis spoke, and it was awesome! He went on his mission to Taiwan so he speaks Mandarin Chinese. He was seriously hilarious.  Which reminds me, there are lots of people going to Taiwan or Vancouver (Mandarin speaking), and when I see them I surprise them with my Mandarin. Then wonder why I speak Mandarin if my nametag is in english.

That's pretty much all I have for right now... I LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!! Everyone at church! And miss you a ton!!! Please tell my friends to write me!


Elder Whicker!!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weekly menu

Here's our basket list for this week.  I decided to indicate which meals each item is intended for.  In addition to this week's meals, I'll be making a small batch of salsa verde with the tomatillos we got.  I will probably also make banana bread since I have some senior citizen bananas.  :o)

Tomatoes - salad
Spinach - casserole
English cucumbers - salad
Avocados – fajitas, salad
Cucumbers - lunches
Tomatillos - salsa
Cilantro - will give to my mom
Broccoli – lunch, potato bar
Romaine lettuce - salad
Green leaf lettuce - salad
Red bell peppers - fajitas
limes - salsa
gala apples - lunches
granny smith apples - lunches
fuji apples - lunches
pears – (poached, with casserole)
bananas – lunches, snacks
strawberries – fajita meal
plums - snacks
grapes – potato bar meal, lunches
potatoes – pot pie, potato bar
Zucchini – pot pie
jalapenos - salsa
garlic onion

And here's are a few things we have left from last week:
sweet potatoes - lunches
watermelon – salad bar meal

I'm going to cobble together my own pot pie recipe using frozen pie crusts (most of them are vegan) and throwing some veggies, seasonings and flour into some veggie broth for the filling.

Squash and spinach mac casserole

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The rest of the story...

What a difference a few days make.  And just a warning:  this is going to be really long!

Today I can get through an account of our time in Utah without losing it, but a couple of days ago?  No way.  I cried at random moments the entire time we were there, but particularly (obviously) after dropping Joshua off.  The littlest things would set me off, and I'd be sobbing and shaking.  I'm still tearing up quite a bit, but starting to feel like I'll live.

So, the story.  Last Sunday we attended Sacrament meeting and then took about 30 minutes to take pictures of Joshua with his family and friends. Then we ran home and threw our stuff in the Suburban and headed out by about 12:30.  (Six of our kids stayed home - mostly the older ones because they couldn't miss that much school and work.)  We'd completely forgotten about needing to have Joshua set apart before we left, but thankfully we were able to arrange to stop and see our stake president in Billings as he just happened to be headed out on a business trip (he lives three hours from us in the opposite direction).  This was just the first of many tender mercies that we were blessed with on this trip!

We stayed overnight in Idaho Falls and then headed out early the next morning so we could be in Provo early enough to do Joshua's suit shopping.  This was definitely a highlight of the trip; we all helped him with his clothing choices, and he let the little ones help pick out his ties.  He ended up getting a medium grey and dark grey suit, about 12 ties, 12 shirts, a couple of belts and some socks. It was lots of fun but also a real reality check to see Joshua in those clothes!

That night, Loundia and Maizie went to spend time with some friends of ours who recently moved from our town to Provo, and the rest of us went to a soup and salad place for dinner and shopped for winter gear for Joshua.  Later we drove out to our friends' house and retrieved the girls, and had a nice talk with the family.

Tuesday was also a great day.  We met up with Curtis' dad, his sister Mandie, and her youngest daughter and drove to Salt Lake to go to Temple Square.  We walked around the grounds and took lots of pictures (see previous post) and just enjoyed being together.  We met missionaries from all over the world, and all of them gave Joshua great advice.  The neatest encounter was with a missionary from China who shared Maizie's surname of Feng.  (There's a picture of them together in the previous post.)

Since Mandie and my father-in-law had to get back to her house before her older girls got out of school, we decided to leave Temple Square and go have lunch together.  We went to a vegan restaurant called Vertical Cafe, and it was pretty good, but very expensive.  My father-in-law insisted on paying and I felt badly we'd picked that place.  It was fun, though, and definitely a first for my father-in-law.  He ordered a veggie burger.  :o)

After lunch, Mandie and my father-in-law took Loundia and Maizie with them to their house, and the rest of us headed back downtown to go to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to watch the movie.  It ended up being the movie about the life of Joseph Smith, and I got choked up several times as I watched all that the early church members went through in order to gain the freedom to worship as they wished and to share what they had with others.  I pretty much had a lump in my throat the entire day.

After the movie, we drove back to Provo to pick up Joshua's altered clothes and then went to Cafe Zupas (the same place we'd been the night before) and met up with our girls, Mandie's family, my father-in-law, and a bunch of friends.  I didn't have much of an appetite, but we had fun hanging out with everyone and taking more pictures.  After dinner, we went back to the hotel and went straight to bed so we'd be well rested for the big day.  I couldn't sleep, though, so I went to Joshua's room and laid down by him for a few minutes while he was sleeping and had myself a good cry.  I still couldn't get my mind around the fact that this was my last night with my son for two years!  Thankfully, Curtis gave me a blessing and miraculously - truly - I was able to sleep quite well after that.  I hadn't slept that well since we arrived, but that night it felt as though my brain was wrapped in bubble wrap; any time my mind tried to veer into sadness territory, it was as if there was a cushioned barrier that prevented it.  I was so grateful.

Wednesday morning we got up early, packed, ironed Joshua's clothes and got all of his things into his mission suitcases.  I still felt OK when I woke up, and even had a sense of excitement about everything that I'd not had up to that point.  I'd been so worried that I would cry all day, but I really held it together pretty well.  :o)

We checked out and went to a noodle place for an early lunch (Joshua got Wisconsin mac and cheese - ha!) and then decided to drive up to the MTC and scope things out.  Driving past it about gave me a panic attack, but I still kept myself together.  Joshua was pretty quiet and obviously very stressed.  I hated to see him like that, but we tried to say encouraging and supportive things.  We drove around for a while but finally decided just to pull into the parking lot across the street from the MTC and wait it out.

Curtis gave Joshua a blessing in the car and I held his hands the whole time.  All I could think of was that I wouldn't be holding those hands again for a very long time.  Then we got out and took some pictures and let the kids run around a bit.  Beck kept telling us he needed to poop and eventually got so desperate that he asked if he could either go in the bushes or in the "MPC" to use the bathroom.  This provided some much-needed levity!  :o)  I hugged Joshua a ton and just felt sick inside, but I still didn't start blubbering like I thought I would.  He talked about how scared he was, but he was stalwart about it.  I was so proud of him.

Finally it was time, and Maizie started wailing at the top of her lungs.  It ripped my heart out.  Once we got in the car, most of the kids were crying, and as we crossed the street to pull onto the MTC grounds, Maizie yelled, "Wait!  What is this place?!"  We told her it was the MTC, which we thought she knew, and then she wailed, "I didn't know THIS was the MTC!"  She obviously thought we had a little more time in the car.  The poor guide that was showing us were to go heard her screaming and said sympathetically, "Uh oh."

We were shown where to park along the curb, at spot #22, and a cute and very young looking red-headed elder with a "host" sticker stuck to his shirt came out to help us get Joshua's luggage.  He told us we could take a couple of pictures, so we did.  Then we hugged Joshua as hard as we could and let the red-headed boy lead our boy into his life as a missionary.  Ugh!  We got in the car and everyone was bawling, and it struck me as so funny that I started laughing through my tears.  Crazy what stress and worry and heartache can do to a person's emotions...

We drove back to Idaho Falls, ate a blah meal and went to the hotel.  That night I required (yes, required) another blessing.  I wanted so badly to sleep in the same bed as Curtis, but as we always have two-three rooms on trips, it wasn't possible.  The blessing helped, and I was able to get to sleep.  I worried like crazy, though, that Joshua was terrified and miserable.  I couldn't get it out of mind.

Thursday we got up early and got on our way back home.  We got to stop in Billings for a while and take Teffy out for her birthday, which happened to be that day, so it was nice to have a little diversion.  We went to Huhot and gave her her presents, and then we went and got her a cake that she could eat with her friends when she went out with them the next day.  It was fun to see her, but as she's planning to move to Utah in a couple of weeks, I'm going to be saying goodbye to yet another child soon.  Oh, my heart!  At least with Teffy we'll be able to Skype and talk on the phone and see each other at Christmas.  But still, it will be hard to have her further away.

We arrived home around 8:00 on Thursday night.  I'd been doing OK, but when we pulled up and say Joshua's car in the driveway, I lost it.  I had to go in and see my kids who I'd not seen in almost a week as a blubbering mess.  I couldn't get myself under control!  Thankfully they hugged me and said all the right things, and eventually I was OK.  The next morning - more tears when everyone left for school and work and I was all alone.  Normally I'd be hollering up the stairs for Joshua to get out of bed, but instead I just bawled.  I finally forced myself to clean the kitchen, start the trip laundry and go to the grocery store.  But even that made me sad because usually Joshua would be home to help carry my groceries in on Fridays.  I was a mess.

I had been praying like crazy for Joshua to be OK, and for me to be able to pull out of the funk I was in.  I put together a little package of stuff that Joshua needed (stamps, thank you notes and medicine) and thought about how I wished there was something I could send to him that wouldn't take up space in his suitcases.  He doesn't like to eat treats and junk food, so I didn't feel like feeding him was a good option, either.  All of a sudden, an idea hit me, and I know it was inspired.  I went rummaging through a cabinet in our living room and found Curtis' mission journals, and immediately sat down and started typing.  I sent Joshua the days of Curtis' MTC experience that corresponded with his, and as I read and typed, I started to almost see Joshua doing the things that Curtis wrote about.  It gave me IMMENSE comfort to be able to see Curtis progress from bewilderment and fear to enthusiasm and increased spirituality in the matter of just a few days.  I finally knew that Joshua was OK, and I know that he will gain great strength from seeing that his dad did just what he is doing now.  I plan to continue with a letter each day with the corresponding journal entry while he's in the MTC, and then I'll mail him a week's worth once a week when he gets to Wisconsin.  The bonuses are that I get insights into Curtis' mission experience that I never had before, and the journals get digitized.  It almost makes me feel like I have two missionaries serving.  I'm so grateful that my Father in Heaven would give me this idea.  It has totally pulled me out of my funk!

And that leads me to today.  General Conference was totally awesome!  President Monson's announcement about the lowering of the ages that men and women could serve missions knocked our socks off, and we know that as Joshua was watching with his MTC buddies, there must have been all sorts of excitement!  He'll always remember that this news came just as he entered the MTC.  :o)  I'd already been wondering how I'd handle two boys leaving in five years, and now suddenly it could be only 4!  Lily was beyond excited about the news since she wants to serve a mission more than anything.  She's always been indignant about having to wait so long, so she was thrilled.

I loved all the talks we heard today, but I especially loved Russell M Nelson's talk:  Ask the missionaries.  They can help!  I hope Joshua loved it as much as I did.

So Conference was great, but perhaps more exciting was that we got our first letter!  I hid in the bathroom and read it alone and cried tears of happiness over the words I was reading.  He said the first day was rough, but that as soon as he got into his district classroom, he knew everything would be OK.  He's rooming with a kid he'd found on Facebook ahead of time, so he knew this kid was also a soccer player.  He said he's a great guy.  He told us that his companion reminds him a lot of a kid in our ward, and that he's a really laid-back, no-worries kind of guy.  He asked us to send him a whole bunch of stuff and said that his p-day is Thursday.  He referenced 2 Nephi 2:25:  "Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy."  He said that God wants us to be happy, so he's going to work on not worrying so much, and knows that with his companion's personality being what it is, he'll learn a lot about that.  :o)  He specifically asked us to send him another photo book and thanked us for the one we'd tucked in his suitcase.  I was really happy because I had already mailed him another photo book on Friday.  Today I made cookies and even though I know he won't eat many, I froze a boxful that I will mail on Tuesday.  He can share them with his district.

So that's it.  He's OK, I'm OK, Curtis is OK, and I think this is going to be awesome.  :o)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

730 days...

Story and captions will come when I can type without bawling.  Today I am a missionary mom.  I am the happiest and saddest I've ever been.