For New Year's Eve, since our hotel was downtown, we decided to take the opportunity to go and reacquaint ourselves with one of our favorite places, Temple Square. Temple Square is more than a full block of buildings that is owned by the church, that Salt Lake City is centered around.
This is the Tabernacle (home of the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir), where many meetings are held, including weekly broadcasts by the choir, and sometimes the orchestra as well. I love this building and have fond memories of playing with my Rick's orchestras here, as well as attending many concerts, my favorite being the retirement broadcast for my Uncle Jerry, and the very touching concert that followed. While we were gone, they finished the renovation and I am happy to say the benches are now MUCH more enjoyable to sit on. I think those concerts will be even nicer now!
This is the assembly hall where they also hold regular concerts, but on a smaller scale as far as I can tell. I also have fond memories here of performing at Christmas time with my family in this building as well as several years in the visitors centers. I love Temple Square! At Christmas time, they light up the whole square with lights on almost every tree and bush. It's a dazzling sight to see them turn on around sundown.
When you visit Temple Square, there are missionaries everywhere, just waiting to help. They all have their name badges, which also include the flag of their home country. I think you can find almost any language on the square spoken by someone, and can receive a tour in your home language! How fun will that be when everyone comes to visit? You can see a few of the sister missionaries in the background, as we were enjoying looking at the pictures all representing scriptural stories.
One of the main highlights of the Square is the Christus statue. I have walked up the big winding walkway hundreds of times, and I love it more each time. It was fun to see how anxious Jack and Jane were to come around the corner and see the statue. The room is gigantic, and covered with stars and planets. It's stunning. I used to love to come up here when I had a few extra minutes before my rehearsals started. I look forward to doing that again very soon.
In a different visitor's center, they have a display right now that the kids loved. Jane and Jack went from screen to screen watching old and new commercials about the church. Yes, here our church has commercials on television that are centered around encouraging us to spend time with our families. As cheesy as they, they get me every time! There are also stations where you can choose from different questions and learn about what our church believes on that topic. This is a very common place for tourists to come, so exhibits like this are great for those wanting to learn about our beliefs. And fun for us too!
The highlight of all of Temple Square, of course, is the Salt Lake Temple. This is the temple where Jeff and I were sealed just over eight years ago. It is a very sacred place for us, and just being near it after all this time felt so good. In Bangkok, the nearest temple is in Hong Kong (a three hour flight). In Utah, we have several temples within just an hour's drive of our home.
In fact, the 12th temple in Utah was just completed and they are now letting people (anybody, not just members!) enter inside to have a look before it is dedicated as an official House of the Lord. Thursday was my sister's birthday, and for her birthday she decided she wanted the entire family to tour the temple together. This temple is just 30 minutes from our home, and it was such a treat to be there with people we love!
This is NOT the best picture, but I think it's okay enough that you can see it is quite different from the Salt Lake Temple. It is very beautiful inside and out, and I found myself wishing everyone could have the chance to see what a temple is like.
Due to the number of people who want to go inside, you must reserve a time and a day by getting free tickets. We all arrived at the church not too far away, and were able to watch a short film about our temples, before boarding a shuttle bus that drove us up the mountain to start the tour. The cousins are always thrilled to be together. Almost TOO excited, as it was hard to keep a good balance between enjoying one another and being reverent. I learned that this is especially hard for three-year-olds! (Before I left Bangkok, I had many ask if I would post pictures of our family, so here are a few!) This is Jane with her cousins Grant, Christian, and Clark. We were waiting to get on the bus at this point, so I thought it was a good chance to get their wiggles out!
We're not allowed to get any pictures inside the temple, although there are pamphlets and magazines available with many pictures of the insides of our temples. As far as this post goes though, it's just of the family before and after!
This is my gorgeous sister, Joanna, with her youngest, Mia. She is two years older than I am and since coming home, she shared the happy news that they're going to have another baby! That means this is the second time all three of us (my other sister, Vanessa, is due in two weeks!) have been pregnant together. Oh, how I love my sisters, and love sharing such an amazing time of young motherhood with them!
Jane's personality really comes out when she's with her cousins. She's silly and nutty, and luckily, her cousins are too! This is Jane, BJ, and Clark.
After the openhouse of the temple, Mom and Dad took everyone out to dinner to celebrate Vanessa's birthday. I thought we were a little crazy to attempt taking all ten kids (the oldest is nine) and ten adults out to eat around other people, but it turned out pretty well!
This was on the way to the restaurant. We love to swap all the kids into different vehicles to maximize their time together. This was the back of our van, one of three in the five car entourage. These boys (Jack, Christian, Grant, and John) were SO silly together. They were singing some song and eventually started adding in random words and verses. It's amazing how funny the word "underpants" can be when a five-year-old throws it into the mix!
Jack and Clark are also a little nutty together. It's interesting to see that age just doesn't seem to make a difference with any of the ten cousins. These two are only nine months apart, but they get along just the same as the cousins who are five years apart! I hope the age spans never make a difference in how comfortably they relate.
Jane loves her Papa. There's never any hesitation when Papa is around, even when we hadn't seen him for nine months! And Papa's definitely got a special bond with his four granddaughters.
This week has been a fun-filled one and we've all enjoyed it. Pile extra activities on top of the fact that Jane still isn't sleeping normally (it's been over six weeks!), and you'll understand why she has been plum tuckered out! This was on the way home from our temple tour and dinner.
And, this is how I found Jane the next day after her bath. I asked her to get dressed and never heard from her again! Is she sweet or what?
Other things in Utah that our Bangkok ward members (especially you that are new to the church!) might find interesting. We have church buildings everywhere. If you get to an elevated area, you can count the steeples. Just since we've moved into our home, they've built three new buildings (one more on the way) in our stake. The building we attend now is a ten minute drive away, which is considered "far". (and we pass two buildings on the way)
Most of our ward members here are within walking distance.
Even though our family members are all members of our church, we all attend different wards and buildings.
In addition to the temples already near our home, we have one that is nearing completion that will be even closer, maybe a 20 minute drive.
Our Bishop lives across the street, which is very lucky, considering we've borrowed can openers, cookie sheets, butter, and even some of his little girl's pants in the last couple of weeks!
We sure miss you all in Bangkok. We think about you all the time and wish we could have you here with us as well. We know Utah is where we should be right now, but because we knew you, we can't help but feel like we've come back as different people to a world that is quite similar to how we left it. Thank you for sharing our lives with us, and we hope that this has helped you feel like we can share a little of our lives here with you.
Lately, our little Jane's personality has really started to blossom. Her speech has gone way up since we arrived, and she's become a singer! She sings and sings, and we can't get enough of it. All the songs we've been singing to her since she was born are all now coming out! So, for your viewing pleasure, this is Jane singing her own original song created by her Daddy. She asks for it every night, and now sings it many times throughout the day. We couldn't help but document this one, and I particularly thought how much Napa and Dipu would enjoy this one. (P.S. I don't know what she's doing at the end, but she sure is cute!)
Lots of love to all of you!