Monday, December 31, 2012

With All Our Love

Dear Tanner,

It seems so much more than a few days since we've spoken. It was absolutely wonderful talking with you on Christmas Day! I often think about my life before you left and my life after you left. I'm still on the same journey, but it's like my gait has changed. I'm limping a little, or listing to the left. I'll keep prodding along on my journey, but oh the day when there's a bounce back in my step! I hope you were uplifted in seeing your family, and were able to feel of our love for you. We're proud of you and your example to us, the members here and in Brazil, and your companions. That everyone had to stop and tell us how special you are confirms to us how much you are obedient to all that Heavenly Father expects of you. You've always set the bar high, and are again leading others to raise themselves as well.

We did have our yuletide log sandwiches after your phone call. There were no new ingredients, just lots of good bacon ;-)

In watching your face on Skype, it lit up every time Breyer crawled into camera view. She does make us smile as well. After six boys, her sweet little smile and spirit are a wonderful girly change. Every time I call for a boy to take the trash out, she comes running. Sometimes she'll pick up the bags even before I call for help, and try to get me to go with her. It's her favorite chore!

Monday was Christmas Eve. We fed six missionaries, and took them caroling. None of the boys were excited to go, but really how could you not end up enjoying the evening after seeing how much those we visited loved our visits. All 14 of us were even fed cookies and ice cream! I think this might be my new Christmas Eve tradition. Why sit home? Go out and bug everybody else. (And no, four elders and two sister missionaries still weren't as good as having you sing with us!)

Christmas morning the boys were up by 7. Not too bad. I think Porter, Mr. Sleep-in-until-the-very-last-second woke up first, and preceded to wake everybody else up, including Breyer. He forgot that Breyer, she-who-needs-every-second-of-her-beauty-sleep, is a bit difficult in the morning, but the boys were so excited, and showed her the tree, so she woke up quick.

Porter's friend, who was moving and give Porter his toys, was responsible for the rock tumbler under the tree for Sawyer, who spent the rest of the day polishing rocks. Porter also wrapped up some kind of a game system with a few games, so they've each had 20 minutes of computer games every day. Unbelievable! You thought you'd be the only family in the world without computer games. Now you can just tell everyone your family has never bought a video game instead. Porter also wrapped up a ton of Legos for Cooper, so we didn't have to buy any this year!  I love recycling!

Hunter went to the hobby store, and bought rocket parts and engines, and has kits to do with each brother. That was a great gift! He's already spent one morning with Miller building his rocket, and had lift off a day or two later.

Sawyer was very generous with his baseball cards and pennies, and painted rocks for everybody else. He's so sweet! If you were to ask Porter what his favorite present was, he'd probably tell you the five sided rubik cube and round face cube he received as gifts. He's only spent a few minutes on each, but has them both almost mastered.

The best Christmas card, says your Dad, was from the on-line dog food company we use. They hand wrote a personalized message to us and Ranger. He thought that extra touch from the business owners was exemplary!

Hunter got his ACT scores this week. He told us that he used "Captain Moroni" as his sign-in name, however, before he could finish the name, the space ran out, so he's had to sign in as Captain Moron. Still makes me laugh typing this. He hates signing into the website now! He's also visiting the weight room regularly after school, with a friend, just for fun ;-)

Friday your dad drove the boys to the temple. Porter hadn't gone to the temple this fall because of basketball, and wanted to so he could earn the stake president's seminary award. They had a wonderful time. They're considering going by themselves from now on. They stopped at Penn Station on the way home, so everybody's bellies were happy as well. While in the store, when asked for the name on the order, Dad heard Hunter say, "Eisenhower." So Dad turns to Porter and Cooper, and tells them their names are Nixon and Truman. Pretty funny!

This week the buddy basketball league had a holiday tournament. Miller's age group wasn't invited, but since Sawyer's team had a few players out of town, Miller got to play up with Sawyer. It was fun having them on the same team. It took Miller a game or two to get over playing with nine year old boys, but once he did he played well. Sawyer's team has been undefeated until the championship game, and they lost by a basket. It was a great game by both teams. Sawyer plays really well when the boy under the basket isn't there. He's all over the boards and makes a lot of baskets, but when he's on wing, he has a lot of steals and great passes. And he never sits.

Our washing machine broke this week, so Saturday Dad and I spent a bit of time finding a new washer. We went from store to store looking at their scratch-n-dent selection, and ran into someone we knew in Lowes, who happened to be the manager of the appliance floor. He had a few in the back he showed us and we were able to get a $630 washer for $300, because it had been unpacked, and had a dent. Yeah!

It's been a quiet week at home. The weather's been chilly, and the boys have been inside all week playing. It will be good to get back to a bit of a schedule this week.

Today in church both Dad and Hunter spoke. Hunter talked about setting patterns and traditions in your life. He spoke about the Lamanites and how the "traditions of their fathers," hating the Nephites, perpetuated for generations. What kind of pattern are you perpetuating in your life? With your children? On your mission? What kind of effect would the patterns of scripture reading and temple attendance have on you? Dad used Holland's quote, "God doesn't care nearly as much about where you have been as he does about where you are and with His help, where you are willing to go." He talked about the movie, "It's A Wonderful Life," and how when he joined the church he aspired to having a home like George Bailey. He had every body laughing when he said Hunter played the piano like Janie Bailey, and his house was just as drafty and his pockets just as empty.

Your news from the field: Your last companion wanted you to know that "your companion is sweet. He sings a ton in Spanish, and like Argentinians will debate  with everyone over soccer at lunches, haha." Your last district leader was made a district leader in Campo Mourao. Your CTM companion was transferred to Bauru São Paulo in the area called President Geisel and has a Brazilian companion. He had to  travel to Londrina, and then travel five more hours to Bauru the day after Christmas.

I'm enclosing a portion of Jeremy's letter. I loved how he was very creative in his tracting techniques, and had success. Yeah! "Today we woke up to 6 inches of snow everywhere!!!!!! It was insane! We have been shoveling snow all morning and we are already exhausted! It is easily the most snow that I have ever had in my life! It is really interesting to see people out in the snow. They act much differently! We woke up this morning and basically just went out and shoveled a bunch of people's driveways and sidewalks from 6:30 a.m. till around 10:00 a.m. We will probably be taking a nap for the rest of the day today! ... Yesterday, we finally put to use the tracting list that we have been putting together! Since we are Chinese Elders, normal tracting is not very effective and so we got a phone book and went though all the names that are common Chinese last names and we have been tracting those doors. Last night it was pretty much a blizzard so driving was pretty unsafe and we were sliding around all over the place but we were able to tract a couple doors. One of which is a Chinese family and they told us to come back later in the week and they would love to talk to us! YES!!!!!! One of the goals that I made in the MTC was to baptize a Chinese family that has a working and supportive father that could become a Priesthood leader. Most of the people that we run into are students so this was sooo exciting! We are really praying that this family will open their hearts to us and accept the gospel! I will let you know how the appointment goes! They have 2 little kids and that is all that we know at the moment. We are thrilled to find someone though!"

Another week in the books! Keep up the great work. You are our greatest treasure!

Love, Mom and Dad

P.S. One missionary mom said that when her son came home (from the Goiania Mission) he had a "tie tan," as the sun does go through the white shirts but not where his tie was.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Look to the Temple

I love that the boys got up early in the morning, and drove three hours to the Louisville Temple.

No crowds, no groups, no schedule, just family. 

President Hunter, whom Hunter is named after, said, "I invite the Latter-day Saints to look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership (1994)."

( has great photos of the temples! I got a calendar for Christmas and LOVE it!)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

It's A Small World!

This new elder in our area has a father that served a mission at the same time as Jarrod, and in the same mission: Florida Tallahassee!

And Jarrod made his day with a picture from 1987!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Princess Present


(This is our FOURTH Jump-o-lene! They're the best toy, especially in the winter.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Doll Face

The Princess opening her first doll!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!


This year as we reflect on our Savior’s birth, we thought of the wise men and their two year adventure to find the Christ child. Leaving their homes and families, they journeyed to a strange land following the new star that had been prophesied of for so long. Who these men were or how many we are not told, but it is certain they were not ordinary.

Tanner is also on a two year journey in Londrina, Brazil. His journey is not on a camel, or involving so much traveling, but it does include eating unusual foods, speaking a foreign language (Portuguese), and sharing the sweet message of the gospel with others. He began his mission in Sao Paulo, and is currently in Tupa. Tanner is hoping this year’s adventures include lots of white, lots of mail, and a little less sun. Having an investigator say she came to church because Tanner was “glowing” in her hallway is not ordinary.

Hunter, as ponderous as a camel, traveled with a new license, no accidents, no tickets, and no dates. He is enduring braces, enjoying quiz bowl, serving as junior class president, playing golf and baseball. Hopefully his journey in the following year includes no dates, no tickets, no accidents and no braces, as well as a new repertoire of hymns. Working hard on having new football kicking skills for his senior year, and filing for a school board candidate when he turns 18 will not be ordinary.

Porter’s expeditions, who drinks water as often as a camel, included making the freshmen basketball team, managing the cross country teams, pole vaulting in track, going to scout camp and finishing his eagle scout project. His journey this new year may include more piano, braces, a driving permit, high school baseball, contacts and completing his eagle scout paperwork. Being chosen as the first freshmen ever to be on the varsity quiz bowl team is not ordinary.

Cooper, who actually was a camel in the church nativity, and the tin man in a school play, has basketball, baseball, and soccer in his wanderings, as well as art, Legos, scout camp, piano and clarinet. He’s still in braces, began middle school this year, asked for contacts, grew new finger bone, and received the Priesthood. His travels next year might include a few more inches in height and his own library card.  Having the kind of heart that knows where to help, when to rescue, and how to care is not ordinary.

Sawyer trekked through this year like spit from a camel. He was everywhere and in everything: Playing basketball, baseball, soccer and golf; losing eight teeth; needing glasses, needing glasses four times, earning his wolf and playing the piano. Perhaps his journey next year will include earning his bear, learning  something new, turning double digits in his age, or finally being old enough to see what the school’s gifted and talented program is all about. Practicing diligently whatever he plays, every day, without being asked, and making sure Miller knows how to do it as well, is not ordinary.

Miller’s quest this year included baseball, basketball and soccer, where his kicks were as strong as a camel. He had weekly speech classes, lost and swallowed his first tooth, celebrated his 7th birthday on the 7th, and told everyone he was home schooled.  His daily quest involves rescuing his fair maiden and working on his Super Miller skills. Next year’s journey will definitely include less Breyer time, more kindergarten, homework, and new friends, and finding his super suit.

Breyer’s venture into the world of her brothers has given her amazing animal sounds, brilliant duck-and-dodge moves, perfected finger wrapping techniques, and camel-like cries, which are not so ordinary. As she continues in her weekly nursery, speech, neighbor Larry and library story time dates, her journey next year will include less of Miller and more of Mom: cooking, cleaning, painting toe nails and whatever else girls are supposed to do.

Amy Jo’s daily trips to the kitchen, the laundry room, the bedrooms and bathrooms, the bunny’s backyard, and the dog’s den make a camel’s trip across the desert seem easy. She wishes her journeys in the upcoming year include more emails from her missionary, more trips to Massachusetts, and more sleep. Her feeding nine more for breakfast each morning, in addition to preparing for her daily seminary class, is not ordinary.

Jarrod’s busy with campaigns for world peace in politics at the dinner table, mandatory play time at work for Marshall University, and eliminating bishopric meetings in his spare time. His head, full of ideas and wisdom, and his heart full of love and concern, go much faster than his teaching workload permits. But, his ability to juggle six boys, five with sports schedules, scout requirements and camp outs, plus working to keep up with mammoth food bills from boys who eat like camels, is not ordinary.

We are thankful our journeys include you, and hope that this New Year is one in which you may more fully live your life, helping others along the way, and discover the secrets for a life that’s not so ordinary.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Letter #22

Dear Family,

Oh, its good to be alive these days. We´re working hard down here, and not just tracting. Saturday we helped put a roof on a house and spent the day carrying 5 gallon buckets of concrete up ladders etc. Basically, I´m sore, sore, sore as can be and worn out and Brasilian-sun burnt, which is a little different than American sun burnt- it burns more. But the roof looks good and I enjoyed the exercise. And Tanner will be even Tanner for tomorrow.  Oh, and I cut my hair for you this morning, so we´re looking trim!

I have a new companion! Elder A., from Mendoza, Argentina. You may be wondering what´s that like? . . Well, if you´ll remember Inigo Montoya from the Princess Bride, its something like that. Just imagine his voice saying, "My name is Elder A., you´re an answer to my prayer, prepare to be taught." Good times down here. But he´s cool and 9 months in, having just finished training a missionary from my group. He likes to sing Andrea Bocceliu renditions of the Lord´s Prayer and say "good" in ingles. And he´s willing to work which I think is one of the most important attributes as a missionary. Basically, it means that we are really hoping to baptize lots of special people in Tupã the next 6 weeks.

That said, Tupã is living up to its reputation right now as the hardest area in the mission. I was sailing along pretty smooth with Elder Parker and I think he was bearing the brunt of the Tupã burden and now it's my turn. With transfers, I now have more time in Tupã than any other missionary. But it has been and continues to be a refining fire, burning, literally, away all that´s not needed for the work. I´m coming out of this inferno with a fire of my own and I know if I don´t see the fruits now, then I will see them soon. It is harvest season in Brazil.

I saw an orange armadillo. It walked with a wonderful penguinic wobble and was just happy wandering on its way.

Also a very long-- think foot longish-- centipede under my desk, and a blind snake lost in the street. Helped him back to the grass.

The name of the game this week and the week to come is learning on the fly. I've learned a lot from Elder Parker, more than I realized but haven´t had to put it all into practice on my own. Now it's go time!

Tomorrow, I expect to call around 5 o´clock our time, using skype, so be ready in advance and stuff. I've never really done this so I´ll just let you all take the lead! And please excuse my English, because it certainly will be interesting. We have 4 countries in our house now with Brasil, Argentina, USA and Chile being represented. No one speaks English, so I take to relieving linguistical stress by singing in English. Just saying, my vocabulary is hymnical right now. (Elder Q. from Chile is fantastic and a cool guy.)

Well, that´s about it. It's my first Christmas eve at above 90 degrees, but rest assured, I will be drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies tonight!



Sunday, December 23, 2012

With All Our Love

Dear Tanner,

Even though we will be speaking with you on Tuesday, I thought I would write this letter as if it was a normal week. That way, when the day is long, and the work hard, you'll still have something to reread.

It was wonderful hearing about your zone Christmas celebration. I'm grateful you were so uplifted, and so involved. Your musical abilities have always needed to be shared more. Thank you for all the party details! I wrote Sis. Tavares to thank her, and this is what she said in reply: "Thank you for sharing Elder Schenewark's feelings. He is a great missionary. Since we arrived, he has shown great maturity and a great spirit. We are delighted to have him with us. Sending Elder Schenewark's love, and wishing you a Merry Christmas. With love, Sister Tavares."

Your CTM companion had this to say about his changes last week: "So, as you know (or maybe you forgot) today is transfer day...I will stay here in APUCARANA!! Elder W. will leave and be a zone leader in Maringa with his trainer."

Speaking of companions, yours wrote me a lovely letter. You should have a copy of it in your email. What a wonderful treasure for me. I wrote his mother a letter, so she could share it with him, as she doesn't have an address for him yet. "Elder Bennett, Thank you so much for your service to my son. I can't tell you how relieved I was to find out he would begin with an American companion. Then, when I figured out what kind of missionary you were, my heart was happy. Your understanding of how a missionary should work, and behave are exactly what I hoped my son would become. I'm grateful for your example to him, your willingness to share with and teach him all he needed to do to be successful in a foreign land, speaking a foreign language. Someday we will meet, and it will be like greeting one of my own sons. Keep up the good work, and know somebody else is cheering for you on the sidelines of life. Love, Sis. Schenewark."  I'm sure your new companion probably doesn't have his letters posted on line, but just in case, let me know. Hopefully, you'll share some details about him with us on Tuesday.

Have you heard about the CT shooting? Such a tragedy! Mental health issues are what needs to be addressed, not taking away our 2nd amendment rights. I digress. One victims was LDS, and had just moved there from Ogden. Her father was teaching her to speak Portuguese. It was interesting when the very next day the schools your brothers go to made immediate changes. Upper level gym doors are locked, blinds all down, teacher's classroom doors shut and locked while in class... Until they sit down and analyze their security procedures, they wanted to ensure extra precautions were taken.

This week has been a blur, but there were a few moments I can recall to share. Monday morning two missionaries came for seminary breakfast, as one is going home. For FHE activity Dad got out his computer and moderated a game of baseball Jeopardy, something he created for his baseball class this past semester. Hunter came out on top, with his partner Sawyer. It was a hit. He'll have to think of some more questions, so it can be played again.

Tuesday morning two different missionaries came for seminary breakfast, as one was being transferred. The Cub scouts went on their yearly trailer ride to carol through the village of Proctorville. I rode in the back of a pick-up truck with Sawyer and Miller, and led the procession. We ended up at Gino's for pizza and popcorn salesmanship awards.

Wednesday is the day Grampy came home from the hospital - yeah! That was a long week. He was so ready to go, and his lungs are great. He'll be working on the c-diff for a while, but he's so happy to be in his cozy house.

Thursday was the last day of seminary and school. Yeah! I am ready for a break. I love seminary, and the students, but burning the candle at both ends gets old really fast. I need a little more sleep! It will also be nice to not have to cook so much for a while.

Hunter's popularity at school is reaching a peak. He's already well-known as he drives the largest vehicle in the school parking lot, and even has the monster truck drivers jealous. When he rolls up in his 12 passenger van, and can still look down on them in their trucks, the local population starts to notice. This week he wanted to bring in cinnamon rolls for his teachers and a few friends, so Thursday morning I made a double batch before seminary, and he brought in about twenty. He said that while he was walking in the hallways, kids at the high school were literally chasing him down the hall. Very funny! His student council adviser had them wrap Christmas presents for the teachers, as a new service project, and he also wanted rolls for this gathering. I think only four teachers brought presents in to wrap, but there were about sixty packages to do.

Friday six missionaries came for dinner. Sis. Hess gave us a pork loin for Christmas, so we shared the best with the best. They were super excited. We also had your birthday cake, chocolate cake with butter cream frosting sprinkled with crushed peppermint candy canes. Did I mention that in between the layers of cake was some hot fudge sauce? Yummy. Yum.

Saturday we had a two hour choir practice and three basketball games. Your three younger brothers are all undefeated. Cooper doesn't let anyone score, Miller always shows up with the ball, and Sawyer dominated the boards. Coach Alt and Buchanan are at Miller's games, as Buchanan's son Brody is on his team. It's fun to hear them cheer for Miller. Alt even stayed and scored Sawyer's game for fun, and cheered him on as well. I think he calls him "Tall." After sitting on some form of bench for five hours, your father and I went out to finish some stocking stuffer shopping. Actually, that was just an excuse. We were having a date night.

That brings us to today. What a day! I spent two hours straight playing the piano for choir practice, sacrament meeting and program. More bench time. We left after sacrament meeting. Naughty. Everyone was sick, and came! and I just did not want it. So I took the kids and left. Poor Dad had to stay all by himself. There's talk of this being an early flu season, but we'll see.

Porter has been helping Jeremiah take care of his dogs while they were away for the weekend. He and Hunter were headed there tonight to do the dogs and swear they saw a ghost. They  had to drive through a small patch of fog, that was no where else to be found. As they were driving through it, it turned blue, and made a weird hiss. They were so spooked by the time they arrived home! Can't make this kind of stuff up!

We plan on having our skype on as soon as we wake up. We'll be listening for your phone call! We're all sooo excited! We're thinking about drawing names to see who gets to go first, and giving the boys some private time with Tanner.

We love you. We'll SEE you in one day! Talk to you sooooooon !!!!!

Love, Mom and Dad

Dear Tanner,

How has your week been? Even though we had snow Oct 31, it is only just starting to feel like winter. With the temperature 50 degrees and sunny, it feels like Christmas is coming early. Everyone at school is always asking questions about what you are doing and how you are doing. For people who know no change, and do not leave, it is very exciting to even remotely know, or know of someone living in Brazil. I got your letter about influence. Thank you! It is interesting what you write about sometimes, and always appreciated and thought about. I took the ACT two weeks ago, and boy, it was a lot harder than I thought. Hopefully I got somewhere close to your first time score. One person from our school, a senior, got kicked out. After we took a break, she went back in and finished a previous, already finished section of the test. After she was gone, the conductor of the test spoke to us for a couple of minutes, urging us to follow the rules and finish strong.

Thursday I went Christmas shopping for National Honor Society. I got to help two children shop this year.

I was Christmas shopping at Wal-Mart with Porter and Dad, when they started looking through CD's. I decided to buy an Elvis Presley CD. Well, I liked it so much, I got to thinking and realized I have all this great music around me (records), but no way to listen to it. I talked to Mom and Dad, and they said if I get another tape player for the upstairs boys, I can get their record player. So, Dad found one at work, and now I have a record player. I enjoy listening to the new music. We are super excited to talk to you on Tuesday!

Love, Hunter.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Finding the Christmas Spirit

I haven't found the Christmas spirit in Breyer's beautiful Christmas dress...

or her Christmas sweater.

Although very fun, I didn't find the Christmas spirit when we decorated our Christmas tree...

...or waited for winter weather,

or when we got crafty.

But singing Christmas hymns, and being in a nativity helped,

as  well as making gifts for others...

and making treats with friends.

And when our neighbor shared a bag full of Santa hats with us, 

and I found Sawyer reading to his little sister,

I felt a little more.

But I know when I see this face on Christmas morning,
my Christmas spirit will be here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cub to Pub Caroling!

Jingle Bells all through the village...

We Wish You A Merry Christmas on the trailer...

Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer in the pizza pub...

Cub Scouts love to sing!
(And eat!)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Class-y Ceramics

Hunter and Porter were in the same ceramic class this year...

And have made interesting pieces, including these pie birds that let the steam out of your pie while cooking!

Their bowls and mugs have been very nice...

And have made decorating fun!

Their honey pots were very nice,

And their animals very creative!


But I love their face projects!

Victorious Nacho Libre...

And a happy girl.
These put smiles on my face!