Monday, May 26, 2008

I love my soldier :)

Today being Memorial Day, where we most specifically honor military serviceman, I had to make sure to recognize my own man-in-uniform. Some of you know, others of you don't, that Vaka is currently serving in the Army Reserves as mechanic with the 146th Transportation Company. In many ways it has been a big blessing in our lives, but it has definitely come with its sacrifices. When we met, he had just returned home early from a deployment to Iraq, due to various injuries he suffered while out there. While thankfully he didn't have to give the ultimate sacrifice of his life like many men and women have, he has been a hero to me through some of the other sacrifices he's made to protect our freedom. Because of his injuries, he's gone through surgeries, endless physical therapy, given up playing rugby and he still suffers daily pain. Before his deployment when his mom was sick, he didn't have the opportunity to spend as much time as he would have liked with her because he had to attend training.

The amazing thing is, even after his injuries and the sacrifices he's already made, he would volunteer to go back on a second deployment in a heartbeat and do it all over again... if I'd let him. :) I can give him away for 3 weeks of training that he'll be leaving to do next week, but an entire 18 months in a warzone... is a sacrifice I haven't yet been willing to make. We'll see if he can change my thoughts on that... but until then, thank you for your example babe!!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tribute to my MIL

On the 4th anniversary of her death, I couldn't let this day pass without recognizing my sweet MIL. I have yet to meet one person that didn't have amazing things to say about my mother-in-law Janet. Some may attribute this to the fact that she is deceased, and that it is common for people to idealize those who have passed on. However, I believe she is an exception to that rule. I have no doubt whatsoever that she was just as genuinely kind-hearted, selfless and loved by all throughout her lifetime.

Uniquely, I was blessed to have the privilege of knowing Janet, even though she had passed away before her son and I met. This is one of the dearest, sacred tender mercies I treasure in my life. Vaka's oldest sister, Annetta, was my YW leader growing up and her husband Pate was our home teacher for a long while as well. Being in the same ward for so many years, I remember the numerous times Janet came to visit her daughter and grandchildren. (Vaka did too, but apparently he wasn't as memorable) :) I never had a real personal relationship with her, but rather just knew her in passing and as a recurring visitor in our ward. Yet I am so grateful to have felt her spirit and presence and possess my own memories of her, rather than only coming to know of her through what I hear from others.

One of the main things I admire about Janet was her ability to adapt to and internalize the Tongan culture. Just a bit of proof to illustrate how great she was at this: I remember being shocked when Vaka told me that his mom was palangi... in all the years I had seen her, I had always thought she was just an extremely fair Tongan. :) She is well known among many Tongans for her ability to speak the language like a native... and those that have tried to learn the language, know how difficult that is. It is one thing to understand it, and quite another to speak it and speak it correctly. I will be so proud of myself if I can just come to understand it in my lifetime!! Janet paved the way in uniting two cultures into one family, and I am so grateful for the courage and faith she exercised to do so, making the integration of two cultures into our own family so much easier for Vaka and I.

Even though Janet is no longer on this earth, she has left quite a legacy. She was a wonderful teacher, wife and mother. I am sure raising her 12 children was one of her greatest accomplishments... something only someone quite angelic could do.

('Ulu'amu & Janet family)

We are so blessed to have the gospel and the sweet assurance it brings that there is life beyond our earthly existence. I love to often sit and think about the wonderful things our loved ones are continuing to do as they live on elsewhere. I imagine Janet is hard at work making just as many friends and blessing as many lives as she did while she was here. I am also grateful for our knowledge of eternal families and for the opportunity Janet has to continue to bless our lives from another sphere. I have had numerous experiences where I have felt her presence-- our sealing being one of the most special. It is comforting to know she was able to witness that special event in our lives.

(visiting mom on our wedding day)

The Tu'ifua family motto is "our family can be forever." In one of her last letters to Vaka before her passing, she reiterated this in writing "remember to keep yourself worthy to help our forever family." I am grateful for her humble righteousness in teaching her children, and instilling such values in her son which prepared him to be the amazing husband and future father that he is. Thank you Janet, we love and miss you!!

Monday, May 12, 2008

A belated shout out to the mothers in my life....

I have been blessed to be influenced by many amazing women in my lifetime. These are just two of them, but perhaps the most important two. My beautiful mom and my sweet grandma. I am so lucky to have had such great examples as I prepare to become a mother myself. I love you both!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Snakes and snails and puppy-dog tails....

.... is what our baby will be made of!! Yes it's true. See below for evidence, clearly marked for those of you who just couldn't tell. :)

Needless to say, Vaka is more than thrilled to have a son/future rugby player and I was disappointed to not be able to shop for ribbons and bows just yet. I am very excited to finally know a gender though so that the shopping can begin!! And I'll be even more excited if we can ever agree on a name. (don't you worry, I will not let him get away with Butch!) It'll be interesting to see how well I can manage to take care of both Vaka and Vaka jr. on my own... at least I should be safe through the first year until he becomes mobile, right?? :)

In other news, we are officially moved, though not necessarily moved-in. :) For those of you that didn't know, don't worry, we didn't go far!! Just further up the hill in Draper to a townhouse (with a garage, hurray!) so we now have a birdseye view of Ikea rather than being across the freeway. Even though it was a short move it was still a lot of work, but luckily we had the help of my family, as I didn't realize how limited I would be!! Currently the baby boy's room is filled with boxes... it was nice to shove them in there and have them out of the way for now but unpacking those will be my project over the next few months. We LOVE having more space and now finally have room for people to come visit, so let us know when you'll be arriving!!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Our new favorite missionary

This week has been busy, mainly preparing for the big event of welcoming Elder Manatau Tu'ifua and dropping him off at the MTC yesterday. Unfortunately because he didn't fly in until late Tuesday night we didn't get much time with him, and most of that was spent either eating, sleeping or shopping!! It is weird to know that he is still so close, but not be able to see him. At least we can spoil him for the next 2 months before he takes off for Nicaragua!! One other exciting bit of information - my favorite cousin Amy who just returned last month from her own mission is one of his MTC teachers. What a small world. So we'll definitely be getting plenty of updates on him through her. :) We are so excited for him and are so proud of his commitment to unselfishly serve.

Notice how "palangi" Vaka looks next to Manatau. I hadn't realized how white he had gotten until I saw them standing next to each other!! The missionary couple that was waiting at the airport to make sure he was picked up commented to Vaka as he walked up "Oh YOU are the brother? We were looking for a Tongan!" LOL. Guess we need to get him out in the sun!!