Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Vacation of a Lifetime

There are times when it is good to have a husband who travels frequently for his work. This was one of those times, as I was able to join him on a long-held dream of visiting the Middle East.

On my first day there, I toured Jerusalem while Lester finished his meetings in Tel Aviv. Jerusalem is about 45 or 50 miles up in the hills from Tel Aviv. It’s one thing to hear or see pictures of famous sites, but to actually see them in person is the experience of a lifetime. Seeing the golden Dome of the Rock, where Abraham supposedly took Isaac to be sacrificed, was such a place.

We also visited the Garden of Gethsemane. Like many a site, there was a church on or near it. The garden, however, was open and well-cared for with a small grove of amazingly old olive trees. Their trunks were huge! What was amazing was watching young branches growing out of the old twiny trunks. There was one there that Lester said dated back to the time of Christ.

Then we went to the Via Dolorosa in the Old City, where Jesus supposedly walked on his way to the crucifixion. We saw the Wailing Wall/Western Wall, a massive brick wall made of pale gold Jerusalem stone. Written prayers were stuck in cracks in the wall. I made sure to touch the wall.

The Mount of Olives was nothing like I thought it would be; it’s one huge graveyard. The entire side of the hill is crammed with graves, until it looks like the hill is covered with cement slabs.

Later that day we visited Bethlehem. At the Church of the Nativity situated in Manger Square, you get to stick your hand through a hole and touch the rock that marks the birthplace of Jesus.

The next day Lester was done with work, so we rented a car and headed south to Eilat, an Israeli resort on the Red Sea that borders Egypt and Jordan, and from which you can also see Saudi Arabia. On the way there we stopped at Masada, an ancient ruin on top of a mesa-like cliff overlooking the Dead Sea. It was the site of the last Jewish stronghold against the Romans, although the Romans ultimately prevailed.

We also visited the Dead Sea. We saw huge crystal chunks of salt on the sea bottom. Instead of a strip of sand on the bottom, we walked on a bed of salt crystals. And no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t sink. It was like floating on an inflatable mattress without the mattress. It was very relaxing, but eventually the sulfurous smell drove us to shore.

We finished our drive down to Eilat. It has a beautiful Mediterranean climate, with palm trees and balmy air. The next morning we crossed into Jordan to visit Petra, the ancient ruins made famous by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. When we got to Petra, we saw, of course, an Indiana Jones souvenir shop.

Ali, our guide, took us on an amazing hike down a slotted canyon, where the stones changed from yellowish brown to the most amazing pinks and reds and dark browns, just like the colors of Zion’s National Park. Petra was built by the Nabataeans as their capital city about 100 B.C. What was amazing was the rock-cut architecture, with little stands for idols etched into the rock. Also amazing was their water system of old sluiceways and pipes running along the base of the cliff walls parallel to the path.

The Treasury at Petra, as seen in Indiana Jones, staggered my mind. It was huge! It looked as if it had been stamped into rock from a mold. It was cut back into the rock in a place the Nabataeans knew was safe from wind erosion. The ruins included far more than the Treasury, which was actually a tomb. The ruins were massive, marble-like sandstone that had been carved into a theater, including “skyboxes” (Lester’s term); tombs, living quarters, and more.

The next day we took a tour bus from Eilat across the Sinai Peninsula to Cairo. It took about six hours. On our tour was a Canadian couple who had been on our Petra tour.

Cairo is a huge, smoggy city of 18 million people. Traffic was a nightmare, and traffic laws were mere suggestions. We met up with our guide, Mohammed.

We went to a mosque, which was the oldest in Africa. The women had to put on these kelly-green rayon/polyester robes with hoods to cover our heads. We looked like overgrown elves. Built around a courtyard, the mosque is open to the air. The carpet is patterned in these squares so that the worshippers would face in straight lines toward, I think, Mecca or Medina. Fascinating!

We also visited a Christian (Catholic?) church that was traditionally the spot where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stayed when fleeing King Herod’s edict to kill babies under the age of 2.

We went to a synagogue. I thought it was interesting that we had to go to a Muslim country to visit a synagogue. There are only 12,000 Jews in all of Egypt.

We also visited the Cairo Egyptian Museum and saw amazing mummies and treasures, such as King Tut’s funerary mask and coffins that fit inside each other like nesting tables. The inner coffin is solid gold and weight 100 kg.

That night we took a dinner cruise on the Nile River, complete with a belly dancer and a whirling dervish. After dinner we sat outside on the deck with Michael and Alisha. We saw a mosque, a TGI Friday’s, and a gym.

The next morning we visited the pyramids of Giza. The stone blocks were tall, about shoulder height to Lester. And they were huge, perfectly flat and joined together without cement or other kind of compound. The four of us took a camel ride around the back side of the pyramids. The camels are so high up; it’s intimidating to climb on their backs and trust that you won’t be propelled off. We took a back-jolting ride through the sand dunes, with a beautiful perspective with the city in the smog-shrouded distance and just us and the sand and the blue sky. After a twenty-minute ride in the desert, we got to see all nine pyramids lined up.

Lester kept petting the head of my camel and let one “kiss” him. Yuck.

Afterward, we went to see the Sphinx, which was smaller than we expected, but still amazing.

And, then of course, we went shopping in the old part of Cairo at a bazaar. We then started our six-hour journey back to Eilat.

The next morning we waded in the Red Sea. Some day I’d like to return and go snorkeling. It’s supposed to be pretty incredible, and it was warm enough to do that in December. I really love the warm climate there!

After returning to Jerusalem, we visited the Garden Tomb. It was peaceful and amazing to think that was where Christ was resurrected.

We drove back to Tel Aviv, turned in our car, and settled in for a 28-hour trip home. It was a long flight back (three flights, actually), but we had a wonderful time!

To see more photos of the trip, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/dimitfamily/.

We especially want to thank all of our friends who watched our kids and our house while we were gone. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Daughter, Junie B. Jones

For those of you who don't know who Junie B. Jones is, she's this extremely creative, free-thinking character in children's literature. My friend likened Alexis to Junie B. Jones. After much reflection I have to agree. Here's why:

- One day at Brandon's swimming class, I discovered Alexis in the lobby holding the front of the vending machine open for the guy to stock it with drinks.

- In the same day, I had to return a book to someone who wasn't home. After leaving a note, I found that Alexis had been talking to a construction worker who was doing some roadwork nearby.

- And after all that, we went to Hazeldale Elementary School for the free lunch. The THPRD rec mobile was there. Alexis took some jump ropes, hula hoops, Frisbees, and balls and set up an obstacle course for everyone. As we left, she said, "Wait just a second. I have to talk to the counselor" (ostensibly so she could explain the obstacle course to them).

- We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Utah during our recent vacation that has an indoor pool. Alexis wrote up an invitation inviting everyone in the hotel to a pool party from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (the pool hours). She said we had to be there at 8:59 a.m. to make sure everything was okay.

- The kids were going swimming with Grandpa Engstrom (my dad) last week. I asked the kids to change into their swimming suits. When I went to check on them, Alexis was standing stark naked in front of the fan taking an "air shower."

Life, whatever else it may be, is not boring with my adorable Alexis.

I love you, Junie B. Jones Dimit. :-)

Friday, June 19, 2009

It Took Me 5 Years

I realized it has been awhile since Elizabeth or I have blogged. So, I thought I would do a quick blog about the long 5 year journey to re-landscape our back yard. When we bought our house in June 2004, the yard hadn't been taken care of in quite some time (since the previous owners had died 4 months earlier. Hence, it was in shambles and I didn't think I would ever resurect it. Here are some pictures of the sorry state we found our back yard.

Well, after many years, lots of trial and error, hard work by the whole family, we have transformed our back yard into something we actually want to look at and spend time in.

I just love before and after pictures ;-)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Trip to the Tulip Field and Down Memory Lane

This is Lester blogging today. It has been awhile since we have blogged, so I thought I would do a short blog about our trip to the Tulip Festival in Woodburn.

Dimit Family 2009

It is a family tradition to go to the Tulip Festival each year, and each year it gets bigger and better. Although it was cold and cloudy today, we didn't get rained on. The tulips are in full bloom and were spectacular. The kids got to take a ride on an old steam powered tractor, which was the highlight of their visit. I was able to shoot dozens of pictures of Elizabeth, the kids, and the beautiful flowers. My favorite part of the visit each year is taking the kids' picture in the wooden shoe. I take their picture every year in the wooden shoe and it brings back a lot of great memories each year as I see them grow up.

Below are the wooden shoe pictures for this year. As an added bonus, I have also included a picture of the 1st year Alexis and Brandon came to the Tulip Festival (they were about 4 months old).

Alexis 2002 (4 months old)

Alexis 2009 (7 yrs old)

Brandon 2005 (4 months old)

Brandon 2009 (4 yrs old)

Friday, January 2, 2009

How Do I Love Thee...Let Me Count the 40 Ways

Yes, that's right...my man is turning 40 tomorrow! Since 40 is such a LARGE number, I won't list 40 reasons that I adore my husband, but I'll do the top 10.

10- He's the son of a plumber. If there's a leak or a clog anywhere in this house, I can rely on him to fix it!

9-His financial conservatism. In an economic downturn, I'm so grateful that we have money saved, no unnecessary debt, and a man who knows how spend our money wisely.

8- How hard he works. Whether it's on the job or around the house, he gets the job done.

7- His thoughtfulness. He rarely asks me what I want for gifts...he just "observes," as he puts it, and gets me the things that I really want or need: a kitty, an iPod, framing the first (and only) article I ever published, a down comforter to keep me warm. (Just don't mention the piano).
6- He is a loving son and brother. He is always calling on his parents' birthdays and on other holidays and praying for them.

5- I can depend on him. When I was so sick, he was father, mother, husband, nurse, chauffeur, employee, and everything in between.

4- He's a splendid father. He takes the kids on special "trips" like the circus, fishing, and the Children's Museum. He also knows how to make them laugh, and I love their little jokes.

3- He's funny and makes me laugh. For instance, he knows my aversions to snakes, mint, and Tabasco sauce and uses every opportunity to tease me (in a loving way).

2- His faithfulness. Ever since I've known him, he does his home teaching and fulfilled every calling he's ever received. The quiet, faithful acts he does day after day are a consistent example of Christlike service.

1- He loves me for me. Whether I am up or down or a little whacked out, he is the consistent rock in my life.
I love you, honey, and am so grateful to know that you will be mine forever!
Happy Birthday, sweetie.