Sorrow is possibly the only emotion that words can’t adequately describe.
Rest in peace my brother. ’Til we meet again.
Steven Thaxton Parker
December 12, 1966 – November 28, 2013
Turns out, my kids aren’t perfect. I received a physical reminder of this fact earlier this week in the form of an official warning of bad behavior letter from a school teacher.
One of my kids (I’ll just randomly say it was a girl and her name is Molly. That way, no one will ever guess which of my gaggle of children this was) brought home said letter and showed it to her father. Now, I don’t know why she showed it to him first, because anyone would agree, I’m the nicer parent. Nonetheless, her father told her that she had to show it to me, thus passing the buck and forcing me to be the heavy.
Here is the letter, in most of its entirety:
It seems as though Molly may be a bit of a chatterbox. And it took the teacher three months to realize this. Or maybe it took him three months of restraint before he finally broke down and was forced to get the parents involved. Because, honestly, we have known she was a chatterbox since she was fourteen months old. We get it. This comes as no surprise. Truly, the biggest surprise is that this warning didn’t come after week two.
However, I must point out that if this letter of warning is to be believed, it clearly wasn’t Molly’s fault. The other children made her talk during reading time. The whole situation was obviously out of her control.
But here’s the thing; I’m no stranger to naughty kids. In fact, very few people know this, but I was a naughty kid myself. In kindergarten, I had a bad pinching habit. If someone crossed me, they were going to get it! And I was particularly vicious on the school bus where there was very little supervision. Apparently too many kids were leaving the bus bruised and bleeding, or some such nonsense. So part way through the year they made me sit at the front of the bus with the two naughtiest boys in my grade. For the rest of the year I had to sit where the bus driver could keep an eye on me.
Back to the warning letter of this week. So as I said, I had to be the heavy because someone else ducked out in a cowardly manner. So I took Molly into my bedroom, shut the door for dramatic effect and in a stern voice and with a look of disappointment I began reading the letter out loud. Unfortunately, by the second sentence, I had to physically turn my head so that Molly wouldn’t see that I could no longer control my laughter.
“Mom, are you crying?”
“No!” muffled giggles. “But I’m pretty close to tears.” (All true, by the way.)
I then buried my face in my hands in a dramatic fashion while I composed myself before issuing the stern punishment which included spending the rest of the evening in her room, thinking about what she had done, grounding for the rest of the week, yadda, yadda, yadda.
I’m sure that none of this will ever happen again.
But here’s the thing: Truth is, it’s the chatterboxes of the world that are most successful in life. Chatterboxes become good communicators. And good communicators rule the world.
If only that were true of the pinchers of the world …
This year we celebrated Thanksgiving a few days early. We are planning to go to Israel for the Thanksgiving break, so we had our turkey dinner on Saturday. We invited a starving University of Utah student intern and an awesome Marine who was once a Buddhist monk but is now a Mormon father of four (an amazing story for another time.) So there were eight of us total.
The dinner was typical: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and all the rest. But this Thanksgiving was not so typical in another way. This may have been the last Thanksgiving my family will spend all together for a very long time. Next year, Cecily will be in the U.S. for college. Two years after that, Ben will be gone. Another two years and Noah leaves. My children will slowly trickle away. I tried not to think about it while I was busily cooking and while we were eating, but it was hard to lock those thoughts out completely.
Fact is, my family is growing older. We are no longer a family of young kids. We are in the thick of the teenage years. Those years go by so quickly. Last week, I had a group of BYU students to my house for a luncheon. I swear that was just me, and now I’m the mother of teenagers who are prepping to fly the coop. How did that happen?
And living abroad means that kids can’t come home for Thanksgiving. We may get a few Christmases, but not Thanksgivings. When we joined the Foreign Service, I knew we would eventually have to send our kids far away from us. I tried not to think about it then, but now it’s unavoidable. Cecily submitted her first college application today. She’ll be gone soon. I’m happy for her, but sad for myself. Starting next year, when people meet Jason and me, they will assume we have only three children. I will have to inform them that we really have four and our oldest is away at college. I’m guessing it will hurt a little every time I say it.
During our trip to Kenya we had the chance to visit a local school. It was humbling. Cecily took pictures of the kids with her instance camera. We played games, taught the kids songs and some English. It was one of the best experiences we have had while traveling.
You can read more about the camp we stayed at and the school here: http://www.majimotocamp.com
Jordan is dry. So, so dry. It is one of the driest countries in the world. We have to be very careful with our water usage. But that’s ok. I grew up in the desert. I can do dry. I can conserve water with the best of them.
Jordan is also dusty. Dustbowl dusty. I constantly feel like there is a film of dust all over my skin.
But there is one thing that perplexes me about Jordan. Why are all of the buildings the same color as the dust? The color of the architecture in Amman varies from off-white to slightly more off-white, and all the shades of off-white that fall between those two shades … of off-white. My guess is that the architects figure that the buildings are going to be covered in dust anyway, so why not just make them that color to begin with. If you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em.
I haven’t purchased Legos in Jordan, but it makes me wonder if they only come in off-white.
As you can imagine, with all the off-white structures, it can be rather difficult to distinguish one building from the next. But, the resourceful Jordanians have come up with a way to distinguish one building from the next, and it has nothing to do with the actual building. It’s all in the greenery in front of the building.
Amman is filled with amazing topiaries! And yesterday while I was running errands, I took a few pictures of the topiaries in my neighborhood. These are all within about a two kilometer radius of my house; some on my very street. Enjoy!
We have now been in Jordan for three months. We’re still newbies and we still have a lot to discover and explore. But we are starting to get the lay of the land and we are feeling more and more comfortable in our new home. So, after just three months of observations, here are 10 Things We Love About Jordan (in no particular order):
1. Weather: Jordan has fantastic weather! We have seen rain only twice since we arrived. One of those rainstorms flooded our apartment, but that’s another story for another time. Though it is early November, temperatures in the afternoons are still in the mid-70′s. And the skies are always blue. It looks like this pretty much all the time:
2. Food: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The food is fantastic! Hummus, falafel, shawarma, ful, knafeh, tabbouleh, flatbread and amazing, fresh produce. Jordanians don’t use preservatives, so things go bad quickly. So you gotta eat it fast. Bread only lasts about 24 hours and produce begins to rot after about two days. But while it’s fresh, it’s amazing!
3. History: Arab history, Palastinian history, Christian history, Greco-Roman history, Ottoman history, Hashemite history, Lawrence of Arabia, Six Day War, etc. Jordan has a wealth of history to learn and study. And ruins from many of the various historical periods are all over the place.
4. Rolling Hills: I grew up surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. To me, mountains are like a huge security blanket. I loved the mountains of Taipei. We don’t have mountains here in Amman, but we do have rolling hills, the next best thing. There is nothing more disconcerting to a mountain girl than looking out and seeing the curvature of the earth. I appreciate the rolling hills of Amman.
5. Proximity: It seems that for most of my life I have lived a long way from everything. And Taipei was no exception to that. We were 20 minutes to the school (40 minutes for the kids on the school bus), 30 minutes to our church, 40 minutes to the embassy. Here in Amman we are close to everything. We are 5 minutes from the embassy, 10 minutes from the school and 15 minutes from our church. In Amman, it seems like everything is close.
6. School: There are a number of international schools in Amman. Our kids attend American Community School of Amman. It’s a great school. It doesn’t have the reputation of the school we came from in Taipei, but it also doesn’t have the academic pressures. We appreciate that! ACS is a small international school, with a close, family feel. On any given afternoon, I’ll find our superintendent, Larry McIlvain out directing traffic in front of the school. Not many international school superintendents would do that. I also appreciate my daughter’s Arabic teacher who didn’t throw her out of class today when she accidentally responded in Chinese to an Arabic question. ACS has everything my kids need. Not every State Department post has adequate schools, especially for high schoolers. We are so grateful that our kids are able to attend a good school.
7. Church: The Mormon church was formally recognized by the Jordanian government in 1989, the first Arab country to do so. The country has three branches (congregations) two of which are in Amman. We attend the Amman 2 Branch which is conducted all in English. We are a small branch, around 75 members, but we are strong. In addition, every fall we have around 40 BYU students who are in Amman for a semester learning Arabic. Our district includes the countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. I’m so grateful that we have a branch to meet our spiritual needs.
8. Grocery Stores: Amman has beautiful grocery stores, as nice as any I’ve been to in the US. And they carry a lot of US products, which is a big deal to high maintenance Americans like ourselves. The stores are clean and well organized. This may seem like a small thing, but to the mom of a big family, a good grocery store is greatly appreciated!
9. English Speakers: Most people in Amman speak English, and speak it well. I agree that it’s pathetic for Americans to go into a country and expect the citizens of that country to speak English. After all, it’s their country, we should learn their language. But here’s the thing, Americans are lazy. We expect the world to speak English. And I’m somewhat ashamed of that fact. We are working on our Arabic, some more than others. And we hope to become somewhat conversant about things like locations of bathrooms, menu items and general pleasantries. As it stands, we are able to tell taxi drivers how to get to our apartment, and that’s about it. But hopefully, we’ll improve on this one.
10. Jordan Is in the Middle East: How cool is it that we can say we live in the Middle East?! How many Americans can say that?