Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Week Two - Christmas in the MTC

Here's our second e-mail from Tom.  I have to admit I was a little depressed after reading this one.... he still hasn't gotten the package I sent (I am starting to lose hope that he will ever get it) and one of the missionaries took pity on him and gave him a gift to open and it was Chap-Stick - how sad!  I really screwed up and realized I should have just sent all that stuff with him and he would have had it on Christmas - oh well, live and learn.  Of course, we didn't learn he could have more than 50 lbs in his suitcase until we got to the airport, so taking extra stuff didn't seem like an option at the time.  Well, at least he got to have popcorn and watch a movie on Christmas Eve.  And his companion even brought a mini Christmas tree with him - how funny is that?! 

Olá, minha família!
I am glad to hear you liked the gift I left you. It was Em´s idea, she´s such a genius! :) Christmas here was pretty good but I still wish I could´ve been home for Christmas with you. On Christmas Eve we watched A Very Muppets Christmas, I think thats what its called, but because it was in portuguese I couldn´t understand what was going on so I just enjoyed the popcorn beause its probably one of the last times I will get to have popcorn and watch a movie. On Christmas Day, all the elders in my district came to my room to open the presents they brought with them or got in the mail because my roomate brought a mini-christmas tree, which was nice because it sort of made it feel like Christmas. One elder was nice enough to give me a small present since I didn´t have any, but it was only chapstick. Oh well, better than nothing. Other than that and some movies, not much felt like Christmas, especially the lack of snow. For sacrament meeting here, everyone is told to prepare a talk and you won´t know if you are speaking until the meeting starts. I didn´t have to speak luckily but the missionaries that did did a good job.
We also watched A Christmas Carol, the really old one that was made in the 50´s, which was pretty good and a little funny, just because the acting wasn´t very good, and we watched the First Presidency Christmas special, which I enjoyed a lot.  I haven´t received any mail yet but I hope to receive your letters and the gift soon. In the letter I sent home last week is the mailing address you are suppose to send things to. Hopefully you get it soon. But anyways, we only have a half hour for emails and my time is up so I can´t say much more. I love you and miss you all so much and can´t wait to write home again! Até Logo!!
Love Elder Williams

Christmas Minus One

We made it through our first Christmas without Tom.  It was still a great Christmas with lot's of wonderful things going on but, we sure missed him!  The first strange thing was only having two piles of gifts under the tree and only two kids opening them Christmas morning.  We had a wonderful surprise, though, that made both me and Dave cry... Emilee had gotten one of those Hallmark books that you can record yourself reading and she had Tom record himself reading the book.  It was the most thoughtful, special gift we could have received and we both loved it!  There's something about being able to hear a loved one's voice, when they are thousands of miles away, that just takes your breath away.  We have the best daughter who always figures out how to come up with something amazingly special for us at Christmas!
Grandma and Grandpa Williams were there to share Christmas morning with us.  We got to give them their new computer that was from the whole family and Grandma was surprised and really happy.  Grandpa got surprised by some neat gifts from Grandma and he was happy, too.  David was surprised by at least one gift (he picked out most of his other gifts) which was a membership to Gold's Gym for a year and both Emilee and David loved their new blankets (they have tons of blankets but can't get enough of them for some reason).  Em got lots of new clothes and some boots, too.  The kids spoiled us with itunes cards, slippers, scarfs, basketball shorts and new t-shirts for Dave.  Toby helped unwrap gifts and earned the name "Shredder" from Grandpa because of his skill in taking care of the wrapping paper. It was really a wonderful morning for all of us.  We did have Tom in our thoughts all day and we were wondering what he was doing.
We all went to church together, which was nice.  There wasn't a big crowd at church, probably because a lot of people might be out of town on that day.  Dave's bishop sporadically called on Dave to give a two minute talk, along with two other people.  He did a great job and had both me and his mom crying (I seem to do that almost constantly lately).  He thanked everyone for all of their help and support for Tom and getting him off on his mission. After church, I had lots and lots of hugs from mom's who know what we are going through.  The love we feel from this neighborhood/church community is extremely powerful and overwhelming.  I so much appreciate all of it and it has made the whole thing a little easier.  
We came home and played a great game of Mess Up Your Neighbor, a really fun card game that David taught us.  It is so much fun to get everyone playing cards!  David is a fantastic score keeper and we just had a fun afternoon.  That evening we went to my mom's for a wonderful dinner (of course!).  My parents went overboard with their generosity and spoiled all of us rotten!  Richard and Alexia came and it was really wonderful to have a little child around on Christmas, again!  She had a lot of fun playing with the crazy dinosaur popper game - we probably had more fun just watching her!
The day made me thankful for a lot of things.... family, neighbors, good health, a roof over our heads and food on the table.  We are so blessed and lucky to have all the we do have!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Week One - Tom's First E-mail

Well, it finally came.... Tom's first e-mail home.  It was the absolute longest week of our lives, waiting to hear from him.  When I got it, I sent Dave a text and he called me and wanted me to read it to him.  It really made my day and lifted my spirits.  He sounds happy and like things are going well, which is just what a parent needs to hear.  I can't wait to get his letter and I guess I better get working on a package for him!  One week down and only 103 more to go!

Dear Mom and Dad,
      I´m so glad to hear from you and I am glad you received the picture. I sent you a letter that describes my experience for the first week but you probably won´t see it until next week. If you want to see who my companion is, he is in the picture on the right side in the middle. He´s the guy who isn´t showing his teeth... like me. His name is Elder Fox and he´s a good guy. Elder Shaw is not my companion but we did have seats next to each other on both flights over, and we have classes together. He´s a really cool guy. I described everyone in the letter you should receive soon so I won´t do that here.
      The food is good, I don´t eat a whole lot but I´m usually just starting to get hungry by the time we have the next meal. Everyone thinks I´m weird because of how little I eat, but last night we had grilled cheese sandwiches and potato chips... it was soooo good to finally have something i normally eat. I am also trying a little bit of everything though, so don´t worry about that.
      My roommates are nice, as are all the Elders in my district who i go to classes with. We have two teachers, Brother Mauricio, who is from Belem which is cool, and Sister Jardim, which is "garden" in Portuguese. The classes are going along okay but Portuguese is still a little slow, while some Elders are picking it up fast even when they didn´t take a class at home, like I did.
      We went to the Sao Paulo temple today and it was very neat. We get to go on every P-day which is Tuesdays. It looks like a smaller temple but it was still very cool. I will send a picture with me in front of it when I can, I forgot to take a camera with me today.
      Anyways, I love you all and miss you so much. I can´t wait to tell you about what went on this next week.
                             Love Tom
P.S. send some liquid wart remover if you can, the bottle I have doesn´t seem to work very well. I can´t get any of it off the brush, it seems to dry to quickly. OBRIGADO!!! (thanks)

Christmas Choir Concert

Monday, December 19th, was David's Christmas Choir concert at Cottonwood High School.  David sings in the men's choir and this is his second year.  The men's choir has about doubled from what it was last year and about half of them are baseball players!  The concert started out with the beginner choir, then the women's choir and then the men's choir.  The boys are always an audience favorite and this year they definitely brought it!  The best number was one they sang while sitting in chairs and doing an elaborate, choreographed thing - hard to describe, but it was awesome and very fun!  Then, the Madrigals sang and they were amazing.  The Concert Choir sang a really pretty Brazilian Christmas song and our neighbor, Nick Foster, played the bass guitar - it was really beautiful.  My dad came with us and we missed my mom not being there.  It was a great concert and really helped get us in the Christmas spirit.  It was a really good night!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Winters Dance

Saturday, December 17th, David went to the Winters Dance at Cottonwood High.  His date's name was Sydney.  He asked her by filling a bunch of gift bags with tissue paper and putting his name on a tiny piece of paper in one of the bags (this was Emilee's idea).  His entire group dressed like elves and David had on bright yellow leggings and a green t-shirt with the elf food pyramid on it.  They all looked really cute and had a good time.  They went out for Mexican food before the dance.  I am so glad David is doing fun things his senior year.... it goes by so fast!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Proof That Tom is in Sao Paulo!

We received an e-mail this morning and this picture from the Sao Paulo MTC. It's proof that Tom made it! I was so excited to see this picture of him. He and all the others look no worse for the wear after that grueling long flight down to Sao Paulo. Tom's companion, at least on the way down, is Elder Shaw and he on the far right on the second row. I am not sure if he will still be his companion in the MTC, we'll have to see what Tom says. The e-mail says he can write home on his first P-day, which will be either a Tuesday or Wednesday. Since they just got there today, it may be a week before we hear from him, which is not good. Hopefully, it will give him time to settle in a little. The e-mail says they are assigned to a district with capable language instructors. They will also be getting a second greeting from their branch presidents and their wives. They say the cafeteria has abundant food that is very good - hope Tom can find things he likes!
Today has been a little tough on Dave and I and this e-mail really helps. It is going to be a while before we get used to this, but we are really looking forward to hearing from him.
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tom Is On His Way!

Well, we did it.  We took our sweet son to the airport and said goodbye to him.... what an experience!  My neighbor, Kris, described it best by saying it was like taking a Bandaid off really slowly - you just want to rip it off really quickly because you know it's going to hurt!   I think I have been dreading this day for a long, long time... maybe even about 19 years.  It was very hard this morning - I kept making Emilee cry and then Dave made us all cry and it was really, really difficult.  We all broke down the worst when Tom said goodbye to Toby and Sherman.  We went out to breakfast at The Original Pancake House (the best place for breakfast!) and we all only cried once at the restaurant (people probably thought we were crazy).  We got out to the airport pretty early where Harold Weight caught up to us to say goodbye to Tom, which was very touching. Getting down to the area to get Tom's tickets, we immediately spotted another missionary and his family.  We had to find out if he was going to Brazil and he was!  Elder Anderson from Centerville and we were amazed that his suitcase only weighed 39 pounds.  Tom's weighed in at 49 lbs and that was with taking a bunch of stuff out that he really needed, but can probably get down there (although the lady that checked his bag said that 49 lbs was amazing for going down to Brazil!).  Then we spotted a few more missionaries and got to talk with them and their families, which was really comforting.  I think there may have been as many as 8 to 10 in the group going to Sao Paulo through Dallas.  The security line started getting long so we were forced to say goodbye to Tom and let him go get in line.  It was hard, but still good at the same time - kind of a relief.  Then we talked to a family who told us another family was looking for Tom because their son, Shawn, was supposed to be Tom's companion down to Sao Paulo.  We finally met up with them and said hi to Shawn really quickly as he was getting in line - super cute kid and he seemed really happy and excited to be going!  Tom was a ways ahead of him in line, but I am sure they got together once they were through security.  We talked to Shawn's family while they got all the way through security and then watched Tom's head as he headed off to the gates.  I feel really confident that he is ready for this and will be fine.  I have hope that he will make life long friendships and will grow and mature even more than he has in just these last few months.  Our family seemed small on the drive home, but it's only for two years so I am sure we will be fine.  I am deeply grateful to everyone who has helped us and supported us through this time - I am overwhelmed by the generosity and sincere love that has come from family, friends and neighbors for Tom and for us. We will have hard times ahead of us, missing Tom and going on with life without him, but I know it will all be worth it in the long run!  All I can say is lucky Brazil - they get to share our son's with us and they are in for a treat!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tom's Farewell

Wow... what a day!  I have to admit, it wasn't a day I was looking forward to.  I knew it would be emotional and I was seriously worried about how Dave and I would hold up!  All I can say is we were blown away by our boys!  David had to speak, also, and the topic was service and sacrifice.  Tom worked on his talk most of the week and David started his on Saturday and finished it Sunday, right before church.  Tom was nervous before his talk, but you never would have known by how he handled himself.  He seemed very calm and also very experienced and his talk was wonderful! It really made me realize he is a mature, capable young man and he will do fine on his own! Two of his cousins remarked to Dave that it was probably one of the best farewells they had ever been to.  The three youth speakers - McKenna Jones, David and then Tom, were all excellent!  We held up pretty well in church and I only cried a few times!  It was wonderful to see Justin and Taylor's parents and also our wonderful friends Jeri Wiscomb and the Bracken's!  We are so blessed by the support of the most amazing extended family and friends!  Our wonderful friends the Watkins gave the opening and closing prayers and our neighbor, Travis Ackerman, played a beautiful piano number.  Tom is truly loved by a great community of people that I am so deeply grateful to. 

After church, we had family and close friends to our house.  It was packed!  Cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends and neighbors all packed in our tiny house to tell Tom goodbye for two years.  I really missed my sister and her family, but they were there in spirit! Everyone has been so generous with their love and support, it is truly overwhelming.  People keep telling me how blessed we will be with having a missionary out in the field.  I felt this yesterday and he hasn't even left, yet!  The blessings come in the immense love and support from the people who know your son. It ended up being a wonderful day and I can't thank everyone enough who came and supported Tom - you know who you are and you are simply the best!! Thank you!

Early Christmas

Saturday, we had an early Christmas at our house for Tom.  Because he leaves on the 13th, he will be in the Sao Paulo MTC on Christmas Day.  It seemed a little more like a birthday than Christmas to me, but hopefully it felt like Christmas for Tom.  Tom, Em and David also exchanged presents, so Em and David were excited!  He got a new camera, an alarm clock, new tennis shoes, t-shirts, a journal, pens, pencils, a planner and basketball shorts.  It was a little hard to figure out what to buy him because we had most of what he needed already.  Christmas is going to be different this year.... I hope it will still be a happy day for Em and David, but I know Dave and I will probably have a hard time.  I keep telling myself that it will be one down and only one more to go!  After Tom opened presents, we went to his all-time favorite restaraunt, Francesco's, for garlic cheese sticks and pizza.  It was crazy busy and we waited for about 45 minutes, but knew we had to for Tom.  After dinner, we went and saw The Muppet Movie.  It was so wonderful to have a night out with our entire family, even though it may be the last time for a couple of years or even longer.  I have the greatest kids on earth and love them to death!  Good, good times!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Braza Grill Adventure

This past Wednesday night, December 7th, we went to Braza Grill in Murray to let Tom try some more Brazilian dishes.  His Grandma and Grandpa went with us.  We had a great time and the food was delicious!  All of the young kids working there were from Brazil and they were SO nice!  They told us what part of the country they were from and asked where Tom was going.... when they found out Belem, the first thing they said was it's really hot there!  One cute girl told us that a lot of people in Brazil speak English because when they start school, they have a choice to learn English or Spanish as a second language and she said that most choose English.  She had only been here about 2 1/2 years and was very fluent in English.  I am sure it depends on what part of the country you are in, but that was encouraging - even though I really want Tom to become fluent in Portuguese.  Anyway, the food was fantastic and we would highly recommend it - a little on the pricey side, though.  I was really proud of Tom and he tried a lot of different things.  My dad, Dave and David ate chicken hearts and the rest of us drew the line at that.  David was brave, though, and tried them even though it gave him "the willies" to think about what he was eating.  He said they didn't taste bad but were a little chewy. So, if you want some great Brazilian food - check out Braza Grill.  Very nice atmosphere and fantastic food.  Thanks to Brenda and Ian for a great recommendation!  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tom's Visa Is Here!

I just about passed out last night when I got home and Dave told me there was a message saying Tom's visa was here and they were going to mail it to us.  What?!  A little over a month ago, we did some visa stuff on line and Dave took it to the church travel department to try to expedite it as much as possible.  Before this, we had heard story after story about boys who ended up going to the Prove MTC and even to another state side mission because they had to wait for thier visas to come.  The person that Dave talked to said she could all but guarantee that he would be going to the Provo MTC for eight weeks because they had just received about one hundred visas and they told them not to expect any more for three to four months.  At first we were a little disappointed, but then kind of liked the idea of having him not being so far away at first. We even bought him a coat!  Well, that all changed yesterday with the realization that his visa will come on Thursday, which means he can get on a plane on December 13th and head for Sau Paulo, Brazil!  It is getting way too close and way too real.  I am dreading that day for us, but I am still really excited for Tom.  He is nervous, but who wouldn't be?  We are still trying to wrap up loose ends and make sure he is ready to go.  He has one more vaccination to get that he couldn't get a couple of weeks ago because we messed up and let them give him a chicken pox booster.  We hope he can get the yellow fever shot on the Friday before he leaves or even the day he leaves.  He will take his Portuguese final at SLCC the day before he leaves.  I think having him go to the MTC in Brazil will help speed up the language learning process, which isn't a bad thing and he'll get to see Sau Paulo and check out the area on his P-days. 
I just keep telling myself how fast time flies and how fast a year goes by so before we know it, he will be home.  His friend Justin, who seems like he just left, has been gone for six months, which is a quarter of his mission done already!  This makes me feel optimistic!  More to come in the next couple of weeks.....

Friday, November 25, 2011

Missionary and Family Photos

We recently killed two birds with one stone.... got Tom's missionary pictures taken and also had a bunch of family photos taken.  We went to Barrus Photography, which I would highly recommend!  They did a great job and made it relatively painless.  I wanted to get some of us outside with the fall leaves.  First of all, I waited a little too long - most of the leaves were on the ground.  Then, the weather did not cooperate at all - rain, snow, wind were forcasted for that day.  When we got there, Tom had his pictures taken first.  Then, when he was changed, the photographer ran outside and came in and said there was a break in the snow and if we hurried, he might be able to get some outside shots.  I was so happy we were able to go outside and I think they turned out really well.  We were all freezing and it actually started to snow a little at the end, but you would never know by looking at the pictures. 

I am a family photo fanatic - nothing makes me happier than pictures of my kids!  I have them all over my house - on almost every wall, every surface, in my basement, my bedroom, the family room, the living room, you name it!  I have formal pictures and informal of all stages in our lives.  I am worried that I am going to run out of wall space and will just have to get a bigger house!  What on earth will I do once they have their own families?  Anyway, fun times and I am so happy with how they all turned out!