Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 22--Dear Elder: Answering Matt's Last Email

Hi, Matt.  Thank you so much for your last letter.  I loved it!  I am so sorry that Thomas and Miriam didn't write.  I was gone to meetings most of Sunday, and wasn't there to remind them.  I know it's sad that they have to be reminded, but if you remember how you were at that age, it will help you understand.  Thomas feels pretty bad about it.  After I read your letter to the fam, he went and wrote you a letter.  One, because I told him he should, but, two, because he wanted to.   Miriam is just plain overwhelmed with life.  I know they will do better.

How did Dad break his tooth?  Well...he made some hard tack, and I guess it was REALLY hard, ha ha.   He wanted something to have in his car to eat in case of emergency, and you know how he is about history, so that's why he made hard tack.  He threw the rest away, ha ha.  His tooth is fine now, btw.

Thanks for telling me about the times you felt joy.  I think that it is easier to feel that out in nature.  Of the four specific times that I remember feeling that rush of joy, three of them have been when I was out in nature.  I am going to girl's camp in a couple of weeks, and I look forward to being in nature.  The camp has a special spirit to it, and I feel very close to Heavenly Father there, and very aware of His love.

I'm glad you enjoyed Great Grandma's email.  The words, "Read it!" were part of her email--she wants us to look up the translation in Great Great Grandma's history.  Unfortunately, when we redid the kitchen, I put a bunch of stuff in the big upstairs bedroom, and now that's Jon's room.  Between his stuff and our stuff, its hard to find anything in there.  I do need to find and read it though.

Wow, thanks for sharing what President Holland said to you.  It was amazing!  Sunday after breakfast, Dad and I sat down with Katrina and Thomas and showed them a video that had Elder Holland speaking about missionary work called "Worthy to Be a Voice for God."  It was beautiful, and I hope it touched their hearts.

I especially liked what he said about the road to salvation always requiring sacrifice.  It reminds me of Doctrine and Covenants 122:8 "The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?"  I was studying about sacrifice a week or so ago.  Just now I am thinking that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the only true sacrifice, isn't it?  Anything we do, no matter how hard, may seem like a sacrifice, but it is always repaid a hundred fold.

A tornado hit Oklahoma City on Monday.  Don't worry, Uncle Allen and Aunt Becky are okay, but it has got to be a very hard time for them.  The tornado hit an elementary school full of children and ten were killed.  It is so sad.  Last night, there was a tornado watch in Cassandra's area.  She said at one point, the storm was really bad, and they got ready to hunker down in the bathroom, which is their only room without windows.  I haven't heard from her today, but I did talk to her after the worst was over, and they were fine.   Okay, I just got a text from her.  All's well.

Miriam got to talk to Preston on the phone yesterday and then again this morning.  Yesterday, he called the house and I gave him Miriam's new number.  He only had like a minute to talk to her.  Today he got to call again, and she had more presence of mind and was able to ask him how he's doing (fine) and what he needs her to bring him when she comes (electric razor).  She is going to his graduation early June.

I only have today to work and then I am done.  Hooray!  After that it's crunch time because of girl's camp and the cruise.  I really have tons to do.  The weather is beautiful!

May 21--Letter From Matt

OK mom, Thank you for your letter, I really liked it! Thanks for the pictures too! Katrina and Dad wrote me but Thomas, Miriam and Jon have, unfortunately, forgotten to write me... It's ok :)

In response to your letter:
I am grateful to be the dubious receiver of the only ''family mad-libb'' this year! Haha, I really did like it, although I wonder what you guys are gonna write for my madd-libb next year... Maybe: ''Well, we haven't seen that Matt-kid for a year, who knows if he's still alive anymore, and a better question: 'who cares??' Ha!'' Yeah, I'm thinking something like that :) no, that's just a joke.

I liked your comment about my apology in my last letter, I felt a loving mental slap from you hahah! no, no, but I did laugh when I read that.

Dad broke his tooth? How?

As to feeling joy, well one time it did happen to me, it was when we were just about to teach, and we were sitting down and I just looked up into the sky and I saw how beautiful everything was, and I felt over-whelmed with a gratitude for this world, I was amazed by the feeling of control, I could´ve stopped feeling that feeling at any time, it was almost a choice. It has happened a few times here in the mission and like you said, not only when we are doing something really cool, rather in the quiet moments when there is just time to think a little bit.

I do remember that ''Good Bye, Mr. Chips'' Makes you cry :) I don't think that you are alone in that, the world is filled with ol' softies like you.

The memories from great grandma were interesting and cool to read, I didn't quite understand if you were referring me to the book, or telling me to read it because you had written it in the letter. I'm assuming that it was the latter. Thanks.

 I'm gonna write a little about what Elder Holland told us this Saturday, he had a few messages for us

(He says Elder Holland spoke of President Monson's sorrow at the death of his wife.  President Holland encouraged the missionaries to work harder and dedicate their work to President Monson.)

There was so much love in his voice as he explained those things, you could really feel the great respect that he has for the Prophet. After that he talked about a few things, but the most important thin is that he told us that we need to have at least one convert from the mission, and that it needed to be us. The amount of other converts is between us, the people we are teaching and the Lord."

(Matt said the following things that Elder Holland taught made a real impact on him:
Elder Holland wants their mission to be everything for them, like his was everything for him.
To do better with the flock you need to do better with the shepherds.
Promise the Lord to at least convert yourself.)

Then he answered a few questions and said a few other things. He said that he had been thinking a lot about it and as his personal belief that missionary work isn't easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. He said the road to salvation always goes through Gethsemane, the road to salvation always has a cross in Calvary. He said that we weren't going to suffer anything like the Lord did during the atonement, but that if we hoped to be his disciples, that we should expect to pay a price, a token of that great sacrifice. When we struggle, when the road is hard, when we are cast out and spit upon, and mocked in His name, we should be proud that the Lord and Savior knows everything about our suffering and sacrifices.

It was truly amazing, that man is an Apostle of the Lord.
I love you all and can't wait to hear from all of you next week!"
-Elder Cole.

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20--Dear Elder: Last Installment for the Week

Well, Matt, it's Monday, and I need to get this email off to you!  As far as I know, all the family is sending you an email separately.  It is raining like crazy right now, and Thomas is very late to seminary.  Today I work half a day in resource, and then I am going with Miriam to meet with a counselor for the college of business to work out her schedule for school.  I am also going with her to orientation.  Dad has to attend graduation tonight, so Family Home Evening will be just a few of us.

Yesterday was nice although it was busy.  We had a wonderful breakfast together where we re-read your last emails and also some from my grandma.  Here is what she wrote:

"Is there a child who has not called the teacher "Mother"?  Katherine openly called Sister Willis her other mother.  she was a special piano, mentor and friend. I had one of those when I was young.  she told me that if she had had a daughter, she hoped she would be like me.
I am thinking of Mother's two special Stepmothers, Juliana, and Lola May who was sweet grandmother to us all.
Juliana came into Mother's life at a very difficult time.  Mother was a child-teenager still mourning the loss of her mother and she thought she was doing very well
taking care of her household duties and her father's needs.  Juliana was a recent convert to the church whose husband would have none of it so she divorced him and gathered with the saints in Zion.  there was a language barrier but you can feel her love  in the little autograph book she gave my mother, Gertrude, on Dec 24 1906.  It is sad that Mother never had that beautiful message translated and written for her.  It is on page 75 of the History of John and Gertrude.  Read it.

Crops grown in the valley the past.  I remember beautiful fields of blue flax flowers.  I think it was raised for the seed.  then also there was the overpowering sweet smell of the sugar beet bloom also raised for the seed. the plant grew to be about 4 feet tall, very thick and heavy and the smell, too much.
We used to drive into the town of Gilbert and smell the "fried chicken" smell of the plant that made margarine from soy beans, I think.

Back to the fabric,  During the World War 11, the fabric factories used their efforts in uniforms.  My friends Eula and Lorene were happy when our mothers came up with some nice looking linen fabric dresses.  We cut them up and made  matching jumpers.  Mother was very clever in remaking things and making things do, for another purpose and another year.
during the war some food was rationed, sugar, coffee, meat, milk and gasoline.  the farmers got more and the gas for the tractors was colored so it could not be used for a car.  We had gas stamps and could not purchase it without the money and the stamp.  I think we were allowed 3 gallon a week.
I was talking to Max one day and thought to myself "I can say just about anything to him, there's no one here to dispute"  You can look it up if you want to but this is the way I remember it.    SMILE AND SING A HAPPY SONG.  LIFE IS GREAT.  LOVE, GRANDMA."

She also wrote the following:

this morning I changed the sheets on my bed, taking off my favorite ones with flowers and putting on some fresh sweet smelling ones.  my mind went back a few years.  in my childhood home we always had clean sheet and plenty of beautiful hand made quilts on our beds.  We had double beds and slept two or three to the bed.  In the case of my brothers Howard and Elmer, they tried not to touch each other during the night so they tied a rope down the middle of the bed, or maybe slipped the dog in for a divider
.  there were no fitted sheets.  our sheets were made of 5 chickenfeed sacks.  it was my job to wash and prepare the sacks.  I learned to take the sewing out by pulling the strings to remove the sewing.  it wasn't easy to remove the "Rose" or whatever the brand name was.  It takes five
 100lb feed sacks to  make a sheet.  I just thought you ought to know.  Use what you have, enjoy, and be happy.
Bless what you have and be thankful for it.  Love Grandma

Isn't that wonderful?  I hope she writes more.  I love hearing about her life.

I am glad I will be done working at the end of this week and that I work only a half day till then.  The house is starting to get out of hand, and we don't eat many vegetables.  The vegetables are an example of little things we need to nourish our bodies and spirits that get neglected when I get too busy.  I love being at home where I can focus on the needs of the family.  Even Dad who really likes it when I earn money, because it lifts his burdens just a bit, agrees that I need to cut back.

Matt, I hope it is a good week for you in Sunny Mexico.  Remember what the prophet,  President Monson says, "Never postpone a prompting" from the Holy Ghost.  Smile and find joy in the little things.  Write to us more about your mission, we love hearing it...experiences, people, places, everything!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 19--Dear Elder: Week's Installment #2

Now it's Sunday.  Thursday night we went to Katrina's piano recital at the church where she played, "If I Can't Love Her" from Beauty and the Beast.  It's a beautiful song, and Katrina did a good job.  I even remembered to take a picture thanks to Dad reminding me.

That night we ended up at the kitchen table talking together.  Dad, Jon, Miriam, Katrina, Thomas, and I were all there.  That doesn't happen very often!  It went late, but it was worth it.

Friday night Katrina went to a yearbook signing party, and Miriam and Jon were working.  Thomas and I met Dad at the laundry and set out to get food before meeting Sarah, Rosie, Jessica, Henry, and Elizabeth's family at Kiwanis park.  I was a bit sad that not more of my kids could go.  As we ordered our food, first Miriam called to say she was coming, then Jon.  The guy at the register was very patient while we kept adding to our order, ha ha.  We had a fun time at the park talking and visiting with everyone.  I'm so glad that three of the kids could be there!  It was good to see Sarah and Rosie and Elizabeth' family; I'd been looking forward to seeing them all day.  The only sad thing about it--I forgot to take pictures!!!

Yesterday was cold and rainy.  Miriam went to work.  She says she is taking an $80 class to help her pass the test.  $$$!  It is really supposed to help, though.  Thomas went to orientation at the water park, and Dad went to work at the laundry.  Katrina went to choir.  After Katrina got home, Dad got home, too.  He said he didn't feel like working anymore.  We went shopping instead and bought some beach shoes.  We are going on an under ground water expedition on our cruise and needed shoes for it.  Katrina got shoes, too.  Later, Dad and I went out and it was lots of fun.

Today we are going to Miriam's seminary graduation.  I'm so proud of her for graduating from seminary.  I also have tons of camp meetings.  Since we won't have much family time, we are going to have a breakfast together this morning.  We will re-read your letter so that they will be ready to write to you today.  Sorry they don't say much when they write to you, Matt.  They don't say much to me either, ha ha.  On school days, I have to bribe them with skittles to tell me about their day.

Work went well last week.  I had a party for the afternoon kids because it was their last day for the school year.  They were all supposed to bring a treat if they could.  All the girls brought a treat (including me) and none of the boys, ha ha.  The girls were very disgusted with the boys, of course, so I said that the girls should choose the games and activities and who went first.  Everyone, boys and girls, thought that was fair, and good feelings were restored all around.  It was a fun party.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16--Dear Elder: This Week's First Installment

Dear Matt,

Hi!  How are you doing this week?  Thanks for your letter.  I appreciated your telling us about stopping to talk to 3 different men.  It was interesting to read each of their responses.  I liked your conclusion, "I think the Lord sometimes tests us to see if we are going to follow Him or not."  I think that you are right, and I have been pondering on that idea a bit since reading your letter.

You don't have to apologize for telling the me the man was smoking "weed."  I like hearing the truth.  What I don't like, however, is hearing the truth spoken in inappropriate or irreverent ways.  Even then, however, I would rather hear it than not, it if that's the only way my kids can express it to me.  Thankfully, you all know how to express yourselves courteously.

It has been a nice week so far.  Monday was a nice day except for the fact that Miriam failed her test again.  This is getting really expensive!  Poor Miriam, when she finally passes this test, she has another one to take.  On top of all that--she works late every day.  Last night (Wed) she worked till after 8:00 and missed attending LDS Institute.

Monday was Thomas's birthday, as you know, and he didn't have much planned to celebrate it.  In fact, he had work after school till 7.  I started thinking about it and decided it was a shame for his friends to not even know it was his birthday or for them to celebrate it with him in any way, so at lunch time I ran to the store and bought him peanut butter bars. They are huge, so I had the bakery cut them down the middle so that he had 20 bars.  I scribbled "Happy Birthday, Thomas" on the package with a Sharpie and dropped it off at the school just before lunch.  He said that, yes, he shared them with lots of people at lunch, yes, they tasted good, and yes, lots of people wished him Happy Birthday.  So there you go.

I know that I didn't do enough stuff like that for you older kids, but time and resources were very scarce back then.  I always wished that I could do more.  Like I told Jon awhile ago, every time you see me do something for the younger kids that I didn't do for you older kids, you can be sure that I do it with you in mind.  I love you guys so much!

After teaching, Dad came home to finish up the front flower boxes.  It was a real sacrifice for him because, #1 he was exhausted (after getting to bed late, someone accidentally woke him up ridiculously early in the morning.  Can't remember who...ha ha), and #2 Vic really needed him to work at the laundry.  But he stayed home and did what he said he would do.  I had to leave to take Thomas for work.  When I got back, Katrina was outside keeping Dad company, which was very nice.

When we were done with the yard work, we drove with Katrina to the high school where Dad and I split up, Dad to go watch a play Katrina was in, and which he really enjoyed, and I to attend a football meeting for Thomas.  After that, we dropped Katrina off at home to make dinner, and Dad and I went to get Thomas at the water park.  When we got back home, Miriam came out to meet us, and shooed Thomas inside.  I couldn't figure out why till we got in, and there were Abby Melton, another girl from the ward, and another girl from school with cupcakes for Thomas.  It made his day!  After they left,  we ate delicious Meatloaf and baked potatoes and sweet potatoes made by Katrina who is a very good cook, and then we ate ice cream and all told Thomas what we would get him if we could get him anything in the world.  I said I would get him on Student Council.  Lame, I know, but that's all I could think of.

After that most of us went outside to enjoy the weather, and it wasn't long before Thomas had wandered across the street to talk to the "cup cake girls," who were over in the front yard of Abby's house.  So I guess it turned out to be a pretty happy birthday for Thomas after all.

All weekend I had been planning to make Thomas, and Miriam too, a Madlibs, but never got around to it, so I figure this isn't the year for that tradition.  We didn't send one to Cassandra either.  So, count yourself lucky, young man, you are probably the only Mad Libs recipient of the year.

Tuesday was way cool because I took Thomas to a weights competition, and guess who won for his weight category???  Well, I'll let Thomas tell you about that, but here's some pictures for you:

BTW, yes, I forgot to take pictures on Thomas's b-day.

Katrina made dinner again Tuesday night--Mexican food.  Well, our version of Mexican food which is a far cry from the real thing, I am sure.  Still, it tasted good--meat, beans, cheese sauce with green chilies, chips and tortillas, lettuce, tomato.  Only she, Dad, and I were there to eat it since Miriam was still at work and Thomas was at a Jazz thingy.  Later when Miriam got home, she and I worked on making her graduation announcements.

When I got home yesterday, Wednesday, I got to Skype with Cassandra and Lily.  My favorite part was when she would run around and around the couch yelling, "running!  running!  running!"  Just to mix things up a bit, I showed her my cow puppet.  She liked it alot, and said moo, cow, and wow alot.  Her mommy got her to say, "Oooooh, yaaaa!" to me in a very low voice, and it was hilarious.  While I was having fun Skyping them, poor Dad was at the dentist getting a broken tooth fixed.

So, guess who made dinner last guessed it, Katrina!  I asked her what she is going to make for dinner tonight (Thursday), and she said, "Nothing!" ha ha.  Last night she made spaghetti for herself and the other kids because Thomas and Miriam were at work and Dad and I were at a work dinner for Dad.  We got there an hour early, which is just as well since he was still a bit numb from the dentist.  We took a nice walk along the river trail while we waited for it to be time to go.

Matt, have you ever been sitting there, standing there, walking around, and suddenly, joy just washes over you?  It's very cool.  Interestingly, it usually doesn't happen when I'm doing something particularly amazing, just in the normal course of things. Last time I remember it happening, was about a year or so ago when I was driving the kids home from something. Suddenly I realize that I'm deliriously happy, and the happiness washes over me and the joy lifts me almost physically.  It is the reward that comes randomly for all the work, sweat, and tears of life, I guess.  Anyway, that happened on my walk with Dad, and I told him about it and that the feeling was wrapped up in love for him.  He said the feeling comes from loving Heavenly Father more than anyone, even him, and I said that loving Heavenly Father more than anyone else increases our capacity to love each other, and he agreed.

Back at the dinner, we ate steak and salad.  There is a lady in Dad's department that makes the most amazing bread pudding that you have ever eaten in your life, and I know what I'm talking about because I'm not usually real fond of bread pudding.  It has pine nuts and dried cranberries on it and a sauce to pour on top.  Well, Dad and I don't really eat sugar or white flour, and I would have eaten some if Dad had given in, but he didn't, so we had to go buy some sugarless ice cream to eat after that, ha ha.  BTW, Dad got a pin for teaching 18 years.

After we ate our ice cream, Dad, Katrina, and I joined Jon and Thom outside.  They were playing pictionary on their phones, so I got it on my phone, too.  It is the first game I've ever downloaded on my phone and it is addictingly fun, ha ha.  Jon, Thom, and I played till pretty late, with a brief scriptures and prayer hiatus.

So, today is Thursday and I have spent a couple hours writing to you, ha ha.  I will go make dinner soon since I'm sure that if I asked Katrina to, I'd have a mutiny on my hands.  Work has been nice.  One of the kids I teach is a tiny little girl who is a dwarf.  She is in our stake and her mom and I are good friends.  Today she wanted to go down the slide on someone's lap, so we did that a couple of times.  It was fun.  When is the last time I slid down a slide, ha ha.

I finished reading "Sarah Plain and Tall with the sixth graders.  I don't know whether or not they appreciated it, but I absolutely loved it.  I read out loud to them some of the time, and had to swallow the lump in my throat because random parts of the story choke me up.  Another book that always makes me cry is "Good Bye Mr. Chips."  Weird, right?

Sarah called me awhile to let me know that she and Rosie are visiting her inlaws.  They will be in our area tomorrow night, and we get to go to the park and visit with them and Jessica and Henry.  It will be so fun!  Tonight at 7, Katrina has a piano recital, and then we plan to spend family time together reading your last letter and a couple of emails sent to us by great grandma.  I look forward to it all.

May 13--Letter From Matt

This is Arturo.  We took it this last Wednesday.

Hi.  How are you?  Thanks for Monday's email!  Hey, how's it going? ok
I already E-mailed Katrina so we are going to move right on to.....

Thomas, Happy birthday!!!! How's it going buddd???? Are you enjoying your new gifts and puberty? Hahaha, so, you noticed that did you? Yeah, it really sucks to grow up and not be able to do dumb things any more. Hows the big: ''One Five''? you are now officially annoying according to people that are older than 15, but don't worry, those who are your age or younger will adore you. Stay safe budd.

Miriam, I'm thinking of making a copy paste that tells you to write me more, tell me about your work if you spend so much time there, who are your co-workers? your boss? Are they doing anything interesting right now in work? what else is going on? TELLL MEEEEE!!!!

Dad, Thanks for the letter, its cool how you can plan out a whole day that Mom really likes, you must have been married to her for like... more than half of your life or something like that...haha. Well your letter was fascinating and I spent like 2 hours reading about gardening and stuff like that haha.

Mom, don't worry, you are a great mom, and we all love you! I did get a chance to read your letter, for one hour I print off the letters that everyone sends me and write a few letters, and then through the day I read the letters that I've printed off and think about how I want to answer, and then we get on the Internet for another hour and I answer your letters. There you go!

Well I don't know what to write now that we talked and cried and all that good stuff this Sunday, let's see, so after I got off of skype with you guys, we hit the street and something happened that was very interesting. We were walking down the street and I saw a guy sitting on the curb and I felt the impression to talk to him, but I didn't have the guts to or I thought that it was more important that we went to the appointment that we had then talk to him, or something like that, and we passed him. Immediately, I felt the Spirit retreat from me and a wrenching in my heart as the warm feeling that had been there, suddenly, disappeared. In fronted with that feeling I turned around, tapped Elder Campos on the shoulder and we went and talked to him, it was pretty normal, I mean he didn't tell us that we were an answer to his prayer or anything cool like that, but we left a pamphlet behind and left, after that, we passed another man sitting on a low wall, smoking a cigarette, after we passed him my companion turned around and headed back to talk to him. This time the man was a little crude and used a lot of foul language and didn't accept our message and said he was ''just fine thank you.'' After that, we passed a young guy who was like 23-25ish and as we were walking away, I turned to my companion and said: ''I think we need to turn around and talk to him.'' He said, ''He's number three!'' So we did. Honestly, I think that he had been smoking weed (sorry mom, it's the truth) because he was just a little bit too calmed down. Anyway, he showed us where he lived, talked to us about his family and told us how important they were to him. We have an appointment to go see him again.

Anyway, I think the Lord sometimes tests us to see if we are going to follow Him or not, we had to pass through 2 people before we got to the person that needed to hear us.

May 13--Dear Elder: Last Letter Installment

Matt, It was so fun to Skype with you!  Sorry about the mix-up with the time.  I am so glad we didn't miss you.  It was wonderful to see you, you are looking so good!  Thanks for sharing some insights and experiences with us.  It means a lot to me.  I am so excited about Arturo!  I know he is a bit nervous about the future, but if he will continue to read the Book of Mormon and obey the commandments, everything will be just fine.  How did you guys find him?  It's exciting to think that if he remains faithful, he may bring his whole family to the gospel.

I am glad that Jon got to Skype with you for so long.  What happened with Skyping Cassandra and Emerson?  Jon told me, but I can't remember.  It makes me sad to think that you didn't get a chance to see Lily.  We got to Skype with them yesterday, and it made me so happy.  We sang songs to Lily, and I love how she claps her hands and yells, "Yay!" At the end of them.  She "talks" so much, and I think she said Katrina's name and also Grandpa or Grandma, I'm not sure which.  Cassandra and Emerson looked wonderful.  I wished so much that we could be with them right now.  Skyping you and them was the best part about the day, which is saying a lot because Dad and the kids bent over backwards to make it a special day for me.

We also got to talk to Grandma on the phone.  I have no idea why we didn't Skype with her instead.  Well, they had family over, so that's one reason.  She did get to Skype with Emerson, Cassandra and Lily for just a sec before Lily went to bed.  We gave Grandma 60 monkey hooks for Mother's Day which sounds weird, but she has a lot of pictures to hang, and I know what a pain that is.  Monkey hooks are so easy, and do such a great job so I hope it will help her get pictures of all the grandkids, etc. up.  

Today is Thomas's birthday, and we are celebrating around 7:30.  Jon will be at work, which makes me sad, so we gave Thomas the little gift we bought for him as a fam.  He wanted cash for his birthday, so this was just a little token, but it's something I've been wanting to give him.  It's called "The Art of Manliness," and I told him it is to replace "The Encyclopedia of Immaturity" in his life.  You know how much he enjoyed that book.  This new book is an awesome guide to manliness that Jon recommended and it tells you everything from how to shave like your Grandpa to how to find your way in the woods to the meaning of giving different types of flowers.  Next year he'll be sixteen, and he has a year to study up before he begins dating.

Back to Mother's Day.  Dad really outdid himself.  First, he worked in the yard all day and plans to work again today, next he tried to go get me some shoes that I liked after Katrina's concert, but I talked him out of it.  Next, he made breakfast, and then he made dinner!  It was filet minon, sauted asparagus, and salad, and it was delicious!  We ate it outside, and I loved it.  At breakfast time, the kids gave me two gifts--earrings, and a giant pot of flowers!  I love them both.  The earrings are silver and you may have noticed them when we were Skyping, but I doubt it.  They are elegant and tasteful and will go with anything and that is good since they are my only pair, ha ha.  I adore the flowers--I can never get enough flowers in the yard.  Also, Dad made sure the day was just the way I would like it, topped off with a family home evening lesson.  What an awesome day.

This morning as I watched a video put out by several denominations including the LDS church, I felt that old familiar pang of regret for not being a better mom, and longing to hold you all in my arms again as little children, and never let you grow up which is just plain silly because you have all grown in to such delightful people.  I love you very much, Matt.  You bring me tons of joy.  Thanks for being my boy.

Work is going good.  Since we have less than 2 weeks left and state testing is over, things are pretty easy going.  In resource I helped the kids make folding flowers for Mother's Day on Friday.  I think they liked it.  Everyone likes to have stuff to give to their mom.  This week, I think we will play some math games, and I am going to read "Sarah Plain and Tall" to them.  It's short, so we can get it all finished, and it is a very sweet book.  Or maybe we'll read Stone Fox.  Hmmm....

I didn't take pictures yesterday.  Why didn't I take pictures?  All I had to do was take out my phone and "click."  I am so out of the habit of picture taking because it used to be such a pain with film and everything and it was expensive and we were broke.  I'm sorry, Matt.  I keep trying to remember pictures, but I forget.  I put it in my phone just now to take pictures tonight when we celebrate Thomas's birthday.  That had better do the trick!

Well, Matt, it's 4:30 am now and I am hoping to go back to sleep.  I love you very much.  Your former mission president is right, you are very serious, but you are seeking out the Lord's sheep and saving souls.  That is definitely serious business, but I hope you will stop to smell the roses and to find joy in the journey.  I hope that you pray for your companion, Elder Campos, every day because I know that will help you two be united in the work of the Lord.  Please tell the family who opened their home yesterday in order to give you the opportunity to Skype that we are very grateful.  I hope that our bunch of crazy teenagers didn't disturb them too much.  Have a great preparation day and a wonderful week!


May 12--Dear Elder: From Thomas and Miriam

On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 11:01 AM, Marsi Upial <> wrote:
Hey matt,
So when we were skyping you and mom was talking about how she thought that we were not going to be able to skype you because of the time difference she said: We thought that we were going to miss you! I thought that she was talking about when you left she thought that we were going to miss you cus you were gone but then we didn’t miss you. Yeah I was laughing but apparently no one else got it. This week I didn’t do much but I did go to lagoon and that was really fun I got really sick along with everyone else who was hitting puberty, I say that because the smaller kids weren’t getting sick and I figured that was why. On Monday it is my birthday so when you get this I will be fifteen, so wish me a happy birthday!


It was fun talking to you on Skype yesterday! It looks like you were in an awesome house :) were the people there nice? How has everything been going? You have less than a year left, how exciting! Have a good week.


Matt, Katrina said she sent you an email.  I hope you got it.  She says she is sorry that some of it got erased :(  Das also is sending you an email.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

May 12--Dear Elder, Next Installment

Wow, how could it be Sunday already?  We get to Skype with you today.  Yay!!  I can't wait.

Let's see...Wednesday is just a blur.  Dad and Cassandra both told me that looking for houses is a maybe thing, if it comes to that, which it probably won't.  That's cool.  It is very possible that the best place for them to be is right where they are.  They live in a beautiful area, have a wonderful ward, and a very nice home.  I do remember ordering a Mother's Day gift for Grandma.  I hope she likes it--it's kind of practical.

 I'll have to skip to Thursday.  On Thursday I thought that I was going to take Thomas shopping for clothes since he's down to only one pair of jeans, and then go visiting teaching that night, but that's not the way it turned out.  First, I felt like I should go to the temple instead, so I did.  It was wonderful to be there, I felt so much peace and so close to Heavenly Father.  After that, I stopped by the laundry to say "hi" to Dad before going home.  My visiting teaching appointment fell through, so I ended up staying there to help him put up a railing.  It was fun to be with him and visit and help.  Thomas was at the school dance so we couldn't have gone shopping anyway.  Then he went to young men's.  Katrina was at school getting things done, and Miriam was working.  After work, Miriam was kind enough to get Thomas from young men's and go shopping shopping, so he got his clothes after all.

Friday I bought some flowers for the yard.  That night, Dad went to a guy's night out with a bunch of nerds like him--his description, not mine, ha ha, Miriam worked late, and Katrina went to the Last Chance dance, so me and Thomas hung out together.  We watched a movie and ate food including jalapeno Cheetos, Thomas's favorite.  It was lots of fun.  Katrina said the dance was a blast, and Dad enjoyed his time with the guys.

 Katrina and Ashton leaving to get their dates.

Yesterday Thomas got to go to the amusement park with the jazz band.  He came home really happy, so I think that he enjoyed it.  They performed at a school nearby and then went to the park. Miriam worked, surprise, surprise, and Katrina's friends came over to practice lines for a play.  I bought more yard stuff and did lots of weeding.  Dad was at the laundry.  When he got home, we cleared out the tomato patch, which was over run with grass, laid down black weed barrier that I bought at Costco, and planted tomatoes.  We also cleared and leveled the front flower bed and planted some new bushes.  Pretty boring, huh?  Well, that's what I wanted for Mother's Day, so I'm happy.  We also planted lots of flowers in pots.  Hurray!!!  We didn't get it all done, but we got more of it done than we would have thanks to Miriam who drove Katrina to her concert early while we stayed home and worked.  Later Dad and I met Miriam and we three had a nice time listening to Katrina sing.

Can you find Katrina?

This morning, Dad is making a nice Mother's Day breakfast with Miriam's help.   Miriam is going to our ward in honor of Mother's Day, and after church, we are going to Skype with you!!!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 7--Dear Elder Letter Installment

Dear Elder,

Hi!  Thanks for the letter.  I hope you got a chance to do more than scan my last letter, ha ha.  That's too bad about the people you couldn't baptize because one didn't go to church and the other didn't pay his tithing.  It's good to be sure they are committed to the gospel before baptizing anyone, that's for sure.

Today is Tuesday and I've been home from teaching for about 3 hours just getting things done.  Thomas is on the computer listening to "That Thing You Do" songs.  He'd better get busy with his trumpet, laundry, and English or he's not going to be able to walk down to main street with his friends to buy Hawaiian shaved ice.  I just told him that and he ran upstairs.  Now it's just me and the music.  I'm rocking out like Guy Patterson's mom on the movie, ha ha.  Katrina is upstairs chillin'; I have to get her to work.  Miriam will be home soon.  We are going to pick Dad up at the laundry and then go to visit with a college counselor so that Miriam can know what classes to take summer term.

Yesterday we had Preston's family over for dinner.  Dad had a great time swapping military stories with Chris, Preston's step dad, Miriam and I enjoyed visiting with Rebecca, Preston's mom, and Katrina and Thomas had fun keeping their three youngest kids entertained.  Their older girls weren't able to come.  Rebecca texted Miriam a couple of times on their way home last night saying how much they enjoyed the visit especially Chris who loved talking to Dad.  Everyone loves talking to your Dad, including me.  He is such an interesting guy!

Dad said that Cassandra called.  They still have no idea if Emerson will get the job closer to us, but they want us to check out houses for them just in case.  Dad told her we would.  Maybe we will do that tomorrow.  Wow, it's getting more and more exciting.  Emerson posted some videos of Lily on Facebook.  One was of her miniature golfing.  So cute!

May 5--Letter From Matt

Katrina, that's too bad, you can't cook Mexican food with out being spicy, that's part of what it is. Man, gyosa, I remember that vaguely. Haha, you are all lucky! this next Sunday I get American food because we are going to be eating with the Galbrath family (I sent a picture of them a little while ago) I heard that you asked Kenny White, it sounds like the dance is going to be pretty exciting.

Miriam Surprisingly, your letter was the longest of (almost) all of the letters that I got this week, singles wards are a little different, we actually just met the single ward couple this last Sunday, they seem to be cool people. Don't up and get married on me now, one year down, one to go ok? How are the activities that they have in singles ward?

Thomas, I'm glad to hear that you are going to be an annoying 15 year old (hey, they aren't my words, I'm just quoting someone else... Who am I quoting? ... you aren't classified to hear that information) What do we do P-days? We do in one day what mom does in one week, haha, and This time I bought a camera, so that's pretty cool. How do I hold the other sixs? Hold what? My back-pack? I hold it on my back, My companion? I don't hold him. So as you may see, I am a little confused with that question.

Dad, I have started writing a journal, and I will definitely write the little miracles but there are too many, sometimes, to write. anyway, I will do it, don't worry, I've been writing in there for a week solid.

Ok, mom, I'm sorry but i didn't get to read your letter yet, so I'm gonna cruise through it and look for questions really quick. Nope no questions. Ok, I did buy the camera... I only have one comment... It's worth the money... and yes I did spend.... $300 more or less.... but, as an elder told me right before I bought it, The mission only happens once. a few things: 1)I promise that I will never ever carry it in my pocket, 2)It is going to be in it's case when it isn't in use, 3) I'll never ever show it off to anyone.
I'm sending a cool picture that I took with it.

(Blog note:  Matt didn't send a picture.)

Ok, as for this week, news... 2 people were going to get baptized this week, but one of them didn't come to church, and the other hasn't payed tithing yet... so... that was a big disappointment other than that, we are working more with the members now, and it is very hard not to waste time, and to make it work, it feels like we are trying to move a 2 ton bolder with nothing but our bare hands sometimes.... HELP THE MISSIONARIES!!!! If you don't, I will personally come over there to spank you all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't care how you do it, just help them. One thing that helps us is simply completing your responsibilities in your calling... sorry I'm going to stop writing right there but I love you all!!!! I can't wait to be able to talk to you all next week!

May 5--Letters to Matt

Dear Matt today we are sitting down and writing you a letter as a family.

Dad: As far as your journal writing, you need to write down the little miracles that happen to you, because if you don't, someday you might forget, and that journal will help you remember that the church really is true. Where would we be if Nephi hadn't kept a journal?

Thomas: Hi. Track is over. Summer is not too far away. The next time you get a letter from us, I will be fifteen. Today we fasted a lot and we played frisbee, too. It was lots of fun. What do you guys do on P (preparation) days? How do you hold it the other six days?! Amen

Mom: I shared Isaiah 58:13 with Thomas just the other day when he asked me if he could watch a movie on Sunday. He decided not to watch it.

 Miriam: I had a long week. All I did was work. I even worked on Saturday. Today I went to "break the fast" dinner at the single adult ward. I've been going to that ward for about a month now. It's different because it's quiet and everyone is older than me. My friend, Cali, is going to start going to that ward, too. She and I went to the resevoir after church and walked around.  We went shopping as a family yesterday.

Katrina will send you her letter.

We love you, Matt!  Love, the Family

Sunday, May 5, 2013

May 5--Dear Elder

Katrina ready for church
Dear Elder,

Hi!  Thanks for taking the time to talk to us on Monday and for the nice letter.  I deposited money in your account so now you have $250.  Let me know if that is enough.  My brother, Tom, says to buy a cheap camera from the fayuqueros.  I have no idea what fayuqueros are, but you probably do, right?  It doesn't mean drug lords or anything, does it, ha ha.  I know what you mean about that last step to keeping things tidy.  It's all about resisting the urge to procrastinate.  Procrastination is the thief of time.  It is also the thief of order.  If you learn not to procrastinate now (instead of procrastinating it, ha ha), it will help you in every aspect of your life now and in the future.  Sorry about preaching, but I've been thinking a lot about it in my own life lately.

Thanks for sharing the experience you had with the family you visited.  We love reading about those kinds of things.  I'm so glad that you were guided by the Holy Ghost to know what message to share with that family to help them in their lives and to help them want to refer people to you so that you can teach others the gospel.  You are a wonderful example to me of living by the Spirit.

Hi, Matt.  Today is Friday, and I can't believe that the week has gotten away from me like this.  It has been a busy, but happy week.  Yesterday we went to Thomas's band concert and enjoyed hearing him play the trumpet.  He's not taking band next year, so who knows when we'll hear him play again.  Also yesterday I talked to my sister Julie on the phone because it was her birthday.  I found out that her husband, Kelly, left the firm and started his own bankrupcy law practice.  Pretty cool, huh?  Yesterday was also my first day subbing in the class I will teach for the rest of the year.  It went well, and I look forward to doing it again today.

Thom and his jazz band teacher

The rest of the week is a bit fuzzy, lets see...Tuesday or Wednesday Miriam took the test again and missed it by 2 points.  It costs more than $100 every time she takes it.  I thought it was $80, but no.  What a racket.  Wednesday Katrina went to a birthday party that night.  She gave her friend a sonic screwdriver for a present, ha ha.  She and her young women group also went to the temple still under construction.  They were able to learn more about the temple being built.  I went to the church with my sewing machine and, along with other moms, helped Thomas's Varsity scout group sew hammocks.  Thomas's hammock is red, and he enjoyed trying out decorative stitches in black thread as he sewed it up.  His was definitely the snazziest hammock there.  Dad stayed late working at the laundry.

Hi, Now it's Sunday.  Guess what?  Cassandra and Emerson may have a chance to move closer to us.  Isn't that great?  Dad promised Cassandra that if they do, we will babysit Lily for them every weekend so that they can go out on a date.  Sounds good to me!  Today is fast Sunday, as you know, so I am praying that the right thing will happen for them, whatever that is.

 Tuesday I bought some clothes.  Weird, huh?  I don't do that real often, or at least I didn't till this week.  I not only bought clothes on Tuesday, but on Friday and Saturday also.  It's because of the cruise.  I now have some nice pants, shirts, a dress and some shoes.  My fashion consultants were my sister Sarah on Tuesday via cell phone, and Dad on Fri and Sat.  Yes, Dad.  I tell him what kind of style I want, and he tells me what he thinks looks flattering on me.  He picked out the dress I bought all by himself.  Miriam says it's very pretty and flattering.  I'm wearing it to church today.

Miriam ready for church

I hope we spend lots of time together as a family today!  Already, Jon and I had fun chatting in the living room this morning.  He's so fun to talk to.  He didn't want me to take a picture of him to send you, so I took one of Thomas who just woke up.
Bleary Thomas
Now it's Sunday night.  We had gyoza for dinner and we visited outside with neighbors.  Thomas played "possible and impossible with the neighbor kids.  It's been a good evening with wonderful weather.

April 29: More Letter From Matt

Mom, Well... I do need a new camera. I really don't know what else I would need.... Let's see, the mission gives me enough for food, hygiene, and, every once and a while, clothing. my shoes are in excellent condition and it's likely that they last until the end... And so My question to you, mom, is what else would I buy?

Our house is clean thank you for giving me those three steps, I just seem to mess up on the last one, keeping it going. haha.

I have started to keep a journal. I do but it's not as stead as I'd like it to be.

Dad, If it makes you feel any better, you'll always be on the dark side in my eyes... ahha. I am glad that you are able to not go to Disneyland for a change. and I'm glad to hear that the kids finally got to choose.

Katrina, what makes you think that I have money for those sort of things?!?!?! (Blog note:  in her letter to Matt, Katrina told him that he could take her to Tucanos  restaurant when he gets home)  haaha, ok, no, how about I make you a nice dinner in the house, there'll be a lot of Mexican food and it will taste really good, but you'll probably have to start eating spicy ok?

Miriam, my previous argument still stands, I've known you for longer. haha, still, just force yourself to sit down for 5 min. Five, put a timer, and we'll see what I get this next week.

Sorry I'm going to have to count my E-chatting as part of this letter.

As for what's been happening this week, well we were talking to a father and a mother, they got married two or three years ago. They are both RMs  (returned missionaries) and the Father has an x-wife, and other children that live with their mom. We were talking to them and, well the conversation just wasn't going anywhere and I decided (finally) that we needed the guidance of the Spirit. So during a lull in the conversation I started listening for that subtle voice that I've come to know as the Holy Ghost, and nothing came, my companion Elder Campos, also staid pretty quiet, then, without saying anything, they started to tell us about their matrimony and how they met, the hopes of being able to be sealed in the temple and the worries of the father for his other kids. Again, we waited for the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and we both thought of Isaias 58. We read verse 12 to them, after that we read another scripture in Esdres or something like that. we didn't say much, we just committed them to fast with deeper intentions, and to pray together more often.

After that, I pulled out a picture of Lehi's dream, and we pointed to the people holding on to the Iron Rod and partaking of the fruit and we said that they were in that process, partaking of the Joy of the Gospel, and then I pointed at the people in the Darkness and temptations and we said that we look for those people, the people with out the Gospel in their lives, and then, we said simply: ''Who are they?'' To make a long story short, our hands got tired from writing down names and addresses (of people who might be interested in hearing the gospel).

I know that the spirit was guiding that lesson, we said things that we had never said before, used examples that we hadn't thought of, and I know that the only way that we could've done that is with the help of the Holy Ghost.

I love you all!!! Keep up the good work.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

April 29--Letter From Matt

This is us right after we cleaned somebody's front yard. Yeah, we were pretty high off of the ground, oh and bad news,  my camera broke.... woops.... XP 

Behold, yet another picture is before thine eyes, and after so many testimonies wilt thou continue to mock me in saying that I do not send thee pictures
(Joking joking haha....)

Blog Note:  I got on the computer Monday to find that Matt was on, too.  I have put our conversation here, but you have to read it from bottom to top if you want to read it in order.

Matt:  Bye!

Me: I know! the time has flown!

Matt:  did you know that this next week, I'll have been out here for a year!!! Do you know how fast that went?!?!?!

Me:  Dad, Katrina, and Thomas.  Miriam is studying.

Matt:  hahahah!!!!!! ok mom :) Who's all there with you?

Me:  I don't want a card.  I want a call!

Matt:  haha, well I'll be sure to make you a card or something :) actually no, because it'll take like 2 years to get there haha.

Me:  That is so awesome!  Suddenly I can't wait for mothers day!  Yippee!

Matt: hahaha. yeah. :)

Me:  Oh, my gosh!  We get to talk to you on Mother's day, Don't we?  I forgot you can do that!

Matt:  Ok mommy :) So, are you guys excited to talk to me soon?

Me:  Sounds like you'd better go shopping, then. I'll start by depositing $200 in your account. If you find out its not enough, let me know and I'll send you more next week.

Matt:  Ha, I wouldn't do that :) ha... ha... ha... ;D joking, no I don't swim, I only get wet when I shower and when I baptize. Oo I don't get that wet that often.

Me:  Dad says, if you are swimming, you're grounded.  (Blog note:  Swimming is against missionary rules)

Matt: Of mom not flipping out every week that she doesn't see my face... of Elder Cole swimming in the sea.. Of Elder Cole climbing trees, stuff like that.

Me:  Dad says, "of a dead cat?  A spider? YOUR FEET?????  :)

Matt:  Memories, that's why. How much do memories cost?

Me:  Dad wants to know why we should pay $500 for a camera you'll just break, ha ha.

Me:  Touche!

Matt:  you're the one that told me to spend money!!! hahahahahhahahahahahah

Matt:  Haha, well I don't know... I don't know if it would get to me. I can look again to check the prices.

Me:  Really?  Can't you get one for less?  Cameras are like 100$ here.  Can we send you one?

Matt:  nope....

Me:  You mean pesos?

Matt:  500 bucks I'm thinking.

Me: Of course we still love you!  How much will it cost to replace it?

Matt:  Soooo.... Do you still love me after I broke the camera?

Matt:  yes, I do happen to be on :)

Me:  Are you still on?