Missing Uganda

Today some good friends of ours will be leaving Uganda after serving 18 months as senior missionaries. This couple was so much help to Joseph and I and felt almost like parents to me. I am so excited to see them. Sister Casperson posted this goodbye to Uganda and the people there on her facebook.

Packing suitcases for our flight on Thursday night. Hard to believe that our mission is already coming to an end. We will miss Uganda and the lovely people we’ve met here. But, we’re looking forward to seeing our two grand babies we’ve never met and our children and grandchildren who have always been on our minds. Thank you for the support of all who have written, texted, skyped, and talked with us. Thank you to the Ugandan members who have loved us so much for the little we’ve done. We have gained much from them, and hope that as we go home, they will remember us from time-to-time and keep faithful to the gospel. We will be cheering right along with you when it is announced that Jinja District is Jinja Stake. Good luck to those of you getting married soon. We are sad we will miss those weddings, but so very, very happy that you’ve found your eternal companions! Remember to FB photos! Trust our Heavenly Father, believe Him, do what He asks you to do, and we will meet again as the Lord brings us into His fold to help accomplish His work until the end.

As I read this a realized how they must be feeling right now I remembered my own bitter sweet homecoming from that country. I was so excited to get home and see my family and eat familiar food and hopefully start feeling better. Yet I was so sad to leave my husband of two short months and all the sweet, wonderful people I had met while I was there.

Life in Uganda wasn’t easy for me but in so many ways it was so wonderful! Here are a few pictures from my last few days there that my husband rescued from a broken memory card.

Most women in Uganda just cook and wash dishes in pots on the floor. I wasnt cut  out for that so with Joseph’s help I tmy own little kitchen.IMG_1640Joseph found this little water jug and put a spout on it for me. IMG_1641The counter top was a piece of plywood that we covered with laminate flooring and nailed to the top of a broken cabinet that Joseph had planned to throw out. I sewed some curtains and strung them up on string.IMG_1643IMG_1642

A cutting board and a few jars from sister Casperson and a basket I found in the market completed my counter top. I pounded a few nails into the side of the cabinet to hang hot pads and towels on and Joseph found us a little fridge. Our little kitchen was complete and served us well!.

IMG_1644A veiw from the other side of the room shows the rest of our living area. Our first little home will always bring such sweet memories!

IMG_1645Our bed, with a broken fan that Joseph had. By cutting a small whole in the sheet that surved as a curtain and stringing some string through the bars on the windows I was able to tie our fan up in such a way that we had cool air blowing on us all night long. You cant see the mosquito net that hung above our bed but I loved the feeling of pulling it all around us at night and sleeping in its peaceful cocoon. IMG_1646 Our closet. This picture was taken the day I left so my clothes were already packed.

IMG_1630IMG_1628Sister Amina and Sister Dunba cam to help me pack the day before I left. We had so much fun that day. I miss these women.

IMG_1665This is the home Joseph grew up in. IMG_1655Juju (Grandma) Joseph’s mother, and us just before leaving to the airport.

Josephs brother Sekimuli and his wife.IMG_1668IMG_1651IMG_1618IMG_1649Joseph with his uncle, his mothet and some nieces and nephew. Jospeh with his sisters Tinah and AsherIMG_1604IMG_1597

Baby Culture: Is There a Double Standard

I’ve decided that babies have a culture all their own. Its like they live in a totally different world. In their world its perfectly acceptable to sleep till noon, poop your pants, throw up on people and never even say sorry. In fact sometimes they do it and LAUGH! Can you imagine the audacity? I mean there is a serious double standard for babies in the world. As my sister and I were discussing this the other day we decided to try an experiment. We decided to talk to people…grown up people I mean… in the same way that most grown ups talk to babies.

Mother enters the room from upstairs.

Me: watcha doing whitto muddo, huh…huh tell me all about it. yeah

Mother: What?

Me: Did you have a bath? Huh been splashing and splashing.

Mother: Whats wrong with you.

but I can’t talk because Hannah is laughing so hard and I am about to bust a gut myself.

So we got thinking what if there wasn’t a double standard

Would we meet a stranger for the first time and instead of shaking their hand you pick it up and start to suck on their fingers! How weird would that be?

Would you see someone you like and run to them and hang on their leg and stick your head in their crotch? Awkward right?

It’s funny that we don’t bat an eye when kids do things but if adults did them its weird.

What if adults let their noses run all down their face… (ok wait I have actually seen some adults who do this and it is so NOT cool)

what if adults laid in bed and cried when we got hungry until someone came to feed us. And lets not even talk about how babies get their food.

I was at a friends house last night and their two year old was entertaining himself by running around the couch. It’s not weird until you think about an adult doing it right?

Preston's first photo bomb

Preston’s first photo bomb

I can tell you its been awhile since someone told me the rolls on MY thighs were cute.

I was playing with Preston the other day and I told him I was going to eat his toes and then I actually did put them in my mouth and make noises like I was gobbling them up…could you imagine…ugh. But baby toes just aren’t gross. why is that? 10564793_10154365362515344_1384080184_n

Don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating for a change. Its quite obviously a double standard that SHOULD be there. But we did have a good laugh imagining a life where it wasn’t. The many faces of Preston

I’m a Mom! Preston turned 6 weeks old yesterday and I am still wrapping my head around the fact that I am a mom. This isn’t just a temporary experience that will one day go away this is the real deal. The truth is that I have mixed emotions about that.

As I have seen so many others have babies i mostly saw just the good parts. The blissful mother sitting quietly rocking her sleeping baby wrapped sweetly in a blanket. My experience has been a bit different or at least there were things about being a mom that I never saw with other people.

I never saw…

how sometimes you don’t realize until the end of the day that you never combed your hair. And then when you do realize it you also realize that you really don’t care.

how many times I would find myself racing to the bathroom because since the birth I literally have seconds before its too late; and I never knew how many times I would have a nursing baby in my arms at the same time because he would scream if I tried to put him down.

those moments at 3 am when the baby hasn’t slept all night and just won’t stop screaming and you feel like challenging him to a match to see who can cry harder.

I never knew the “joy” of nursing a baby while milk from the other side drips down your belly and onto your baby.

But there was no way that anyone could have prepared me for the feeling that I would get when my finally satisfied baby looked up at me with milk dripping from his chin, opened one eye and grinned.

I couldn’t have foreseen how much joy I would get from hearing him finally poop after it has been a few days and I am worried.

And nothing compares with laying in the bath tub with my baby laying next to me, his arms and legs wrapped around me like a little monkey and his little face propped up so that I can see his wide open eyes, his fat chin and pink lips propped up on my chest looking as content and happy as I have ever seen him.10564793_10154365362515344_1384080184_n

I lay awake at night marveling at the tiny pink balls that are the undersides of his perfect little toes, the tiny dimples on his little manly hands and his funny elf shaped ears.

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His one little curl that WILL stand up in the center of his head and the little muscles of his arms make me just want to squeeze him.

He loves to cuddle and he sighs in contentment when I am close to him. Its so amazing to know that he loves me so completely and that I am the one he wants above all others. I never new I would sit and cry just because I don’t know what else to do with all the love I feel.

It scares me a little to love someone so much. Especially someone so vulnerable. Before I had a baby, I was never really afraid of much because the worst thing that could happen was that I would die… and that didn’t seem so horrible. Now there are dozens of worse things that could happen and all of them make my blood run cold with fear.

What if he gets sick and I don’t know how to make him feel better?

What if He gets hurt? I could get in a car accident, I could drop him, he could fall off the bed, he could choke, he could just stop breathing in the night for no reason, he could have any number of complications that would be outside of my control and the thought is horrifying. Nothing is worse than the thought of losing my baby or of seeing him suffer.

I have always heard stories of soldiers laying dying and calling for their mothers with their last breaths. Now I have a little son and suddenly that becomes the most heart breaking thing I have ever heard. I pray every day with all of my heart that the Lord keeps my little one safe. 10551783_10154365363500344_372717421_n

Grandma is worried about how empty the house is going to feel when this little one goes home.

And I am worried about what I am going to do without all the help taking care of him.

Being a mother is scary, difficult, exhausting, wonderful exhilarating, fulfilling and indescribable…

So I guess I better stop trying. Besides I think I hear him stirring…

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Yep! I’m A Mom. You Can Tell From The Stale Milk On My Shoulder

Families Can Be Together Forever

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The experience I had today was indescribable. So since words can’t do it justice maybe pictures will have to do.

Surprisingly the morning flew by. I had so much to do to get ready that I was rushing to make it to the airport. I wanted everything to be perfect.

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Hannah made posters…

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even one for Preston!

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although he didn’t seem to impressed. She even bought him a little suit to wear for the occasion complete with a pocket handkerchief and a tie.

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We all had a job, Mother’s was to hold Preston so that when Joseph and I met my arms would be free. Hannah was the designated photographer (so you can thank her for all the great pictures) Esther did video (you will see that later) Aliyah was well…the life of the party as usual. Keeping us all entertained and even singing the utah song as we waited for Joseph to arrive.

And me well my job was to well, I guess just be there and be ready.

On the way there Mother asked me if I thought Joseph would cry. I told her he would for sure. She asked if I thought I would. I told her I didn’t know but I didn’t think so.

Hannah asked me if I thought Preston’s suit was a bit over dressed. I assured her that Joseph would be wearing a suit if I knew him at all.

We didn’t have to wait long. The first couple of passengers started coming down the stairs. And then before I even knew it Someone shouted “there he is”

and I got my first look at my handsome husband.

10564747_10154365404025344_808493899_n 10545011_10154365405105344_1815029229_nIt wasnt until he was nearing the bottom of the stairs that he saw us. I thought surely I could wait for him to walk the short distance to me but I couldn’t I was shaking and then I started to cry and before I knew it i was running into his arms.

10551936_10154365443310344_810365907_n10536642_10154365473790344_138386708_nHe hugged me so tight and remained dry eyed as I cried like a baby.

When I Had pulled myself together Joseph saif “Lets go get my luggage. I think you are forgetting there is someone you need to meet I told him.

And then Joseph met his son for the very first time.

10555017_10154365485065344_305551745_n10545014_10154365497550344_1598288390_nDoesn’t he look like a movie star! Even though I had seen him often on skype I had forgotten how handsome he was.

10563603_10154365503555344_1600455400_nAnd then we went home…

10554933_10154365514090344_507155516_n 10559345_10154365534135344_2054781788_nAnd lived Happily Ever After

10566313_10154365528865344_1539194882_nDuring this long seperation I have come to know first hand just how not interested I am in a heaven where Joseph and I won’t be together. It makes the covenants we made in the temple in South Africa 10 months ago just that much more meaningful.

 

The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn

My sister came to me the other day and told me she had a song that I would love. She warned me that it would make me cry. I shrugged it off. Not much makes me cry these days. I’ve kind of found a way to turn my emotions off…at least for the most part. Her song caught me off guard. I was crying within seconds. Almost every word of that song could have been written directly from the sentiments of my heart. I found myself wanting to turn it off so that the tears would stop and at the same time I wanted to listen to it over and over again; amazed at how perfectly it described what I have felt over the last few months. The song is called Can I Do This On My Own.

Deciding to leave Joseph in Uganda was one of the most difficult decisions. I agonized over it for weeks. I knew I was pregnant, I knew I wasn’t getting what I needed there. I knew that if I didn’t give my baby every chance at making it I would hate myself forever if something went wrong. And yet I thought about that day in Rwanda when Joseph refused to leave my side. When he promised me that somehow we would figure things out and get us both home together. How could I leave him now?
We had just been sealed for time and all eternity and the first thing I was about to do was leave; not knowing when I would see him again. Joseph promised me it would be a short separation. I will be home by Christmas he told me. I feel confident we can get through this in three months. The Lord will help us.
I will never forget standing in the doorway of the airport trying to figure out how to walk away. Turns out there is only one way to do it. You just have to make your feet move and take one step at a time. Time was slipping away and I knew I had to leave. I tried not to look back knowing it would only make it harder. I took my bags and struggled to get them onto the conveyor belt. The woman at the counter told me to open it so that they could search it. I opened it and lying on the very top was a framed picture of Joseph and I on our wedding day. Was that man your husband the woman asked when she saw the picture. I nodded that he was, closed my bag, took a deep breathe and headed for the stairs that would lead me to the area where we would board the plane. I had no idea then that Joseph was still watching. Standing outside behind the big windows he stood there tears streaming down his cheeks as he watched until he couldn’t see me any more.
I didn’t cry. Not then and not until I was seated on the plane. Joseph had slipped me two envelops as I had left. They both contained letters to me. Once I was settled on the plane I read the first one. The second I would save until I arrived and had to go to bed alone at my parents house the next night. I knew I would need it then.
I arrived in Salt Lake on October 3. When I finally reached the pick up area of the Salt Lake airport I was exhausted. I didn’t see me sister who had agreed to pick me up. After a few minutes though I randomly ran in to someone that I knew. She recognized me. And as she said hello I burst into tears. She asked if something was wrong and if I needed help. I was crying to hard for her to understand. “I left Joseph in Africa!” It was all I could say.
Three months went by. Christmas came and went without even the slightest hope that Joseph would make it home. I hang on to hope that he would make if for the birth of our baby in late April. I felt that I really couldn’t get through that without him. The weeks slipped by one after the other. And one day I had to acknowledge that he wasn’t going to make it. It was a horrible moment trying to imagine going through the pain of childbirth and experiencing the joy that follows as that beautiful, perfect child is placed in your arms; and all of it without the one person that I wanted most to share it with. It was almost worse imagining the first weeks and possibly months of our child life going by without his father being there to see him. The thought of it was too hard to swallow. So I didn’t. I just took it a day at a time and somehow the day came for our baby to be born and we got through it. 10527720_10152185296310658_1792769584445851377_nHis first month passed and then his second and we got through it. Now what? Well they say the darkest hour is just before dawn. I think its true.
Because on Thursday July 17th I will be at the Salt Lake airport once again; standing in the pick up area. I will probably be crying again. But it will be different this time. I will be crying tears of joy…because my Joseph is FINALLY coming home!!!

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My Dad

In our house everyone alwaNielsen Family 021ys referred to my Dad as Father. Even the Mothers called him Father, at least when us children were around. So it was natural that as a small child of about three years old I thought Father was actually his name. One night as I lay in bed my brother Marcus was in the same room with me. “Want to know a secret?” he asked me.

Yeah

“Father’s name,” he paused for dramatic effect, “isn’t really Father!

You’re lying! I said Yes it is,

Not its Ivan

“Ivan, I said the word over to myself and suddenly had recollections of hearing people call him that. I knew Marcus must be telling me the truth. I felt betrayed. My parents had lied to me and told me that his name was Father. That is one of my earliest recollections about my dad.

I vaguely remember him taking me and my sister Liz to the park next door to our house. I remember having his 50th birthday party and how excited I was for that. I remember him always whistling as he came through the back door after work. I remember him finishing his breakfast in the morning and taking off the bib that he always wore when he ate folding it up and crossing the ties on top. Then he would settle his hat on his head and do a big wave and say see you later alligator! Then he would do a little jig as he walked down through the long kitchen to the back door in the playroom.12303_10150150985230344_1710961_n

My dad rarely if ever spoke of his feelings for us. I don’t think I ever heard him say I love you until just recently. But we all knew. I think every one of us knew without question that he loved us. He was my hero and was and still is in my eyes pretty near perfect. One of my friends, after meeting him, described him as a mix between an apostle and Santa Claus.

One day I was getting ready to go to Japan. In the weeks leading up to my departure it had seemed to me that every time I saw my dad he had something mean to say to me. “Isn’t it almost time that we get to get rid of you?” He would say to me at dinner time.

Or do you think we could pay those Japanese to keep you?”

It hurt my feelings. One day I realized that it was only his way of covering up his tender feelings of love for me and his having a hard time letting me go so far away. I went to the family room where he was sitting in his chair. I sat on the arm of the chair and put my arm around his shoulders. “I’m sure glad that I understand when you say things like that to me that it’s just your way of saying you love me. Otherwise I might get my feelings hurt.” He was quiet for a minute but I saw tears brimming in his eyes. “Yep”, he finally said “its a good thing you know that.”

I remember one day I was throwing a fit of some kind and mother had about had it with me. She took me to Father. “I know exactly what she needs” he said, “she needs a little sugar to sweeten her up.” And he pulled a box of ding dongs from the closet and gave me one. then he let me climb up on the bed next to him and cuddle while we watched tv. 149692_449132820657_467824_n

I think my dad always knew that if he showed me he trusted me my guilty conscience wouldn’t allow me to disappoint him. I loved him so much that the thought of disappointing him was worse than any punishment I could be given.

I was never a touchy feely kind of person. I didnt like hugs except from my dad and because he was the only person that I would accept hugs from I wanted them all the time. He would always ask me how I was doing on getting my quota of hugs for the day. One day I was about 20 years old I was working in the kitchen when my dad came to me. He put one arm on each shoulder and looked me right in the eyes so that he had my full attention. “One day I’m going to die,” he told me. I started to protest but he cut me off. “You will come to my funeral and see me all laid out in the casket in my white clothes.” He walked me through the whole funeral finally he said, ” when you are standing at my grave side I want you to wait and when everyone has gone I will be there and I will give you a hug.”Thats my dad. I love him with everything in me. He is my rock.

1002636_767888493221636_1477277037_nAs I grew up and I made choices different than what he would have wanted me to make I have worried that I would disappoint him. One day we were riding in the car. He had had a stroke and the doctor had told us that he could go at any time. we were driving and he told me ” Im glad that we get to spend some time together, I know ive never said it much but I wanted to make sure that you knew that I love you.”

I do know that. I told him. But I worry that I have disappointed you in some of my decisions.

He knew exactly what I was talking about. Vilate, he said, You decided to be a Mormon, so just be the best Mormon you can be and I will never be disappointed in you. unnamed

AS my dad’s health continued to decline I worried that he would never see me get married, never get to meet my children. But he has continued to hang on, continued to pull out of each stroke that he has had. When he came in the room just an hour or two after my baby was born and held him I thought my heart would burst. When he knocked on my bedroom
door later that night because he wanted to tell us goodnight I was touched at his sweet affection for us. I smiled when he held Preston in his arms and called him puddin head. It had been awhile since I had heard him call anyone that.

I know that one day my dad will leave this life, and leave me behind. But until that day I will enjoy every minute I have with him. I will tell him how much I love him, I will enjoy watching my baby play with him and I will know that when he goes he isn’t very far away. I love you Father!wykDibs6NOvmOTTC3Ie7KV3eCo3zUGcmahsy_M-G4Yk,3dCQrrcEuJYpMAneLr7gi3dqsuzXu7FqPZ6qNxlGerw

 

Good night Grammy enjoy your sweet reunion!

Life and death are so closely related that you can’t separate one from the other. As I watched a dear friend and family member pass from this world tonight I was stunned at how similar death is to birth. When Preston was born there was a sacred quiet to the room. Spirits from the other side were present to see my son safely into mortality. I’m sure as happy as they were to see him start his chance at mortality there must have also been a moment of sadness at his loss from that world. The happiness he has brought to me, his daddy and so many others in this world is indescribable.

When Mother Annette slipped peacefully from this life, her breathing simply getting more and more shallow until it stopped. I know there was celebration on the other side of the veil as she reunited with her mother, father, her dear husband and her siblings. I know many were there to welcome her just as we were sending her off with heavy hearts and comforting ourselves in the knowledge that she has simply passed through a door into the loving arms of those that wait for her. Her life isn’t over, just this portion of it.

And yet we grieve because we will miss her. Because our experiences with her here are over. There will be many days filled with tears for those who knew and loved her best. There will be sweet memories to cherish. We love you grammy! and we won’t say good bye but we will see you again one day when we too make that journey.

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