Summer fun revisited

 I have the external hard drive out so I figured I'd post more photos from our summer vacation in America.
Cass enjoyed the hike (I'd like to think) that took us all day and led us to several meeses, aka moose, wild strawberries, rain and ended with a bloody knee. But this photograph was taken before all of the drama and exhaustion. Notice the big smile and the tidy hair. Not so six hours later.

This is our Little Bean. All of you that said she must be getting teeth because of her constant tongue wagging were right. Two days after landing back in Jerusalem her two bottom teeth pushed their way through her sore little gums.

These boys make plaid look good. We miss all of our nieces and nephews, especially the newest one, Noble Jonathan, who decided he wasn't quite ready to meet us yet. He waited until we landed safely in the Middle East and then made his beautiful arrival. He's such a great guy that he shared his Papa with us just a month and a half after he joined the other Simons.

Surprisingly we remembered to have someone take our photo. Aren't we so good looking? Colorado was cold and wet but still gorgeous. And we had a great time in Colorado with my family. We're such a subdued and sophisticated tribe.

Or not.
We also enjoyed a night of KL soccer, which is always a highlight. Few things make me smile more than watching Tom use his dormant soccer skills, or celebrating with Lauren after she puts a ball past Paul while he's in goal.
Truly one of the biggest highlights was meeting Valor William and Iva Leigh in person. This last year was filled with so many ups and downs in our family and it tested my reliance on Yeshua. Seeing these ladies and their babies reiterated how good He is and that He gives us our every breath. 

If this wasn't enough photo fun for you, then go through and look at some of the older posts. This one should make you smile.


Not the Uncle Tom you know...

You may or may not know this, but I love to read, especially in bed before falling asleep, or in the afternoon in the sun with a cuppa to sip. In the last 5 years I've stuck almost exclusively to non-fiction. My interest in non-fiction was awakened in college because even though I took a variety of writing classes, non-fiction writing was my favorite. I just couldn't muster up any interesting stories out of thin air to be a decent fiction writer. But as I read more stories that actually happened I realized, I can do this. I can research and weave and re-create something that has already happened in an interesting way. Or so I'd like to think.

But this is not really the point. The point is this: I like to read and somehow, in my 30 or so years of reading I NEVER READ UNCLE TOM'S CABIN. Maybe I should have put that in smaller font. It's not something to brag about, really. Especially for someone who loves books.  But there it is, out in the semi-forever world of the internet.

While we were in the States I received a Kindle and it has changed my reading life and Cassidy's school life. It is an answer to prayer, seeing as English books are usually found in uncategorized bins and "real" books cost money, take up space and would weigh down a suitcase. So I looked up the free classics available on Kindle and Uncle Tom's Cabin was at the top of the list.


It may be over 150 years old, but it is a powerful, insightful, deeply emotional book. I highlighted so many parts (and conveniently placed in a tab called "My Clippings") and there are many excerpts I could share with you.  I can't remember the last time I cried and smiled this much over a piece of "fiction." Harriet Beecher Stowe stepped out boldly with this work, and I must repeat myself: READ THIS BOOK.

There is one section in particular, which draws the reader's heart deeper into the story, that reminds me of the Holocaust books I read after the boys left Earth. It hurt and comforted at the same time. So, because I feel it is a powerful passage, I will not say anything else about it. Perhaps it will mean something to you, perhaps it won't. But if you've gained nothing else out of this post, I hope you will feel compelled to consider reading this book. You can get it free on Kindle or at your library. Or probably at a lot of second-hand stores. Read it.


Has there ever been a child like Eva? Yes, there have been; but their names are always on grave-stones, and their sweet smiles, their heavenly eyes, their singular words and ways, are among the buried treasures of yearning hearts. In how many families do you hear the legend that all the goodness and graces of the living are nothing to the peculiar charms of one who is not. It is as if heaven had an especial band of angels, whose office it was to sojourn for a season here, and endear to them the wayward human heart, that they might bear it upward with them in their homeward flight. When you see that deep, spiritual light in the eye, -- when the little soul reveals itself in words sweeter and wiser than the ordinary words of children, -- hope not to retain that child; for the seal of heaven is on it, and the light of immortality looks out from its eyes.


American Vacation

We spent 5.5 weeks in the States and I think a photo survey of our time will have to suffice. It will come in here goes so far.

I love these boys. Sam joined us for part of our time in Colorado. Can you tell these guys missed each other? 

There was major cousin time.
Eliana, Liam and Emmylou loved spending time together.

 Valor, Emmylou and Loch were waiting around for their cousin Noble to arrive.
 But the waiting proved too much for Loch...
 And then things got out of hand. Well, not really.
And Pop caught a raccoon.

Sidenote: We are reading 'Little House in the Big Woods' and one of the stories is about Pa taking the animal skins to town to sell so other people could turn them into coats and rugs and whatnot. I told Cassidy it was like when Pop trapped the raccoons. I pointed out that, unlike Pa, Pop didn't kill the raccoons but took them to the park and let them go free. She was quick to say that it would be ok if Pop killed the animals to use their skins because Mima knows how to use a sewing machine. Yes, that will be the day, when Mima wears homemade 'coon skin clothing.


Just like I promised...

I believe I said in my last post that there would be a link soon to the video where Tom talks about the trial of Yeshua. Well, BOOM, here it is. Seeing the spot and having him explain it was eye-opening. Granted, it doesn't look like it did 2000 years ago, but to have some sort of idea about where He stood while Pilate questioned the crowd is powerful. And to hear Tom talk about it, with his usual passion and wisdom is really fun. It makes my heart smile. Not the trial part, obviously, but the knowledge part. Tom is one smart cookie.


Summertime with Maasen

For starters, we are having some incredible weather. We haven't even turned on our fans yet; the nights are cool and there is a refreshing breeze almost every day that makes living on the Hill a huge blessing. 

A big activity right now for Maas and Cass: Legos.
They've built homes, tree houses, cars and a horse cart thing. Watching Maasen work alongside Cassidy is pretty hilarious. Order meets randomness and somehow it works.

We've also visited the Old City twice (not counting Tom, Maasen and Cassidy's trip through Hezekiah's tunnel and the Southern Wall). Today we saw the probable place of Yeshua's trial and took some video. I'm excited to share that with you soon at our RJ website.
A classmate of Tom's gave him an old camera (old to him) that he suggested we give to Cassidy so she can take her own photos. Here's the little photographer in action:
This most likely means we will have a new feature where Cassidy posts some of her favorite photos. It helped make the long day more enjoyable for her. She's already been to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Garden Tomb a few times, so having the assignment of taking photos was fun and kept her happy.

And of course we're having a great time just being with Maasen and enjoying the little things she brought with her. One of Emmylou's favorites: this black and white blankie with red tags made by new Mama Cass.
Emmylou loves it, obviously. She tries to eat it or suck on it with her thumb on a daily basis. (Notice she is wearing pants. I told you it was cool here.)

We still have almost two weeks left with Maas and we've only just begun the adventure. We're loving every minute of it!


Silent Shimmy

Maasen arrived and apparently she brought some dance moves with her. She laid down on the mat with Emmylou and this is what happened...


The Girls

I just have to post these photos, no particular reason except that I know Lauren will appreciate them, and Stephanie is a faithful reader, and I have them sitting on my external hard drive screaming to be seen. I love these girls and all the little amazing things they do. They are a joy and delight, they increase the laughter and the volume in our home and constantly remind me to slow down and love more.
This was taken when we went out for my birthday to Cafe Kadosh. She is so gorgeous and did a wonderful job humoring the grown ups as we talked and sipped our coffee. Of course the fancy dessert at the end helped things. 
Who doesn't love naked babies? And naked babies with fluffy hair?! I want to kiss her pudge just looking at this photograph.
 I had to see what her hair would look like in a spike. It's a bit similar to Cousin Valor's, although his hair grew into a natural mohawk. Very cool.
Happiness is chilling on the couch with your sister.

Nothing much more going on, just chilling this Shabbat with Maasen, enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze. It's a great day to say Thanks to the One Who makes all things possible.


Happy Anniversary

So what did the jet-setting Jerusalemites do for our ten year anniversary? Really exciting stuff:
we went to the city center, got some falafel, bought a second-hand matzah plate...

 and a play mat for Emmylou so she can roll around and nap in the living room...
picked up some fancy dessert at my favorite cafe, Kadosh...
and headed home. I made Chipotle-style burritos for dinner and after we put the girls to bed we enjoyed our dessert by candlelight and talked till midnight about our future. We lived through the past ten years together so we didn't feel the need to re-cap that. The night we spent a lot of time looking ahead. Not knowing what the Father has in store for us excites us and gives us hope (as I write this I'm reminded of Jeremiah 29:11, which was Cassidy's memory verse last week. It really is true -- He does have plans to give us hope and a future, no matter what life looks like).

We also looked through our wedding photos, which was a blast. Everyone looks so young (ten years, as a matter of fact) and thin and happy. And in about every fourth photo Tom is making me laugh. For example:
I like to think he learned the "Pez Head" laugh from me... 
Closed eyes, that must have been a REALLY funny one... 
Oh wait, this is when I forgot my vows, because I thought 
it was a good idea to memorize them... 
 He brings out my inner dork...
You can tell by his expression that he thinks he's funny, too... 
 This is a classic example of Tom's style of humor: awkward. 
The more people that are uncomfortable the better...
Notice his grip on my arm and the way he's holding both of my hands. 
Why is that funny? I don't know, but I'm laughing pretty hard.

I like to think we had a classy wedding, but really we're not known for being classy. More like dorky, and happy, and food-oriented. These photos pretty much sum that up. And for the record, I still laugh like this at Tom on a daily basis. While his commitment to Jesus was the biggest thing that drew me to him, his ability to entertain me was, and is, a close second.


One foot in eternity

I spent this week looking through old photos of Wyatt and found this one. What a shock to my system it was. This is my beautiful sister Rachel holding Wyatt in December of 2005. In the background is my mother (in the white shirt), my Aunt Ann (in the green) and my brother-in-law James. Three of the five people in this photograph are no longer on this earth. But what I've learned from their lives and their deaths is this: walking in covenant with the Creator is not easy, or understandable, but it's worth it. 
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost 
Than never to have loved at all.
-Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H.



Emmylou is just about 3 months old now, and it's been three years, today, that Wyatt has been gone. This is the first anniversary related to the boys that we've had more life in our house, and it's a wonderful gift. Somehow Emmylou's existence keeps Wyatt and Zeke's lives at the forefront -- I think a lot about how they would respond to her, love her, care for her, make her laugh. Cassidy has promised to tell Emmylou all about them and I like to think that deep in her spirit she already knows about her brothers.

A lot can be said about the similarities and differences between the kids. But seeing these photos side by side makes me think how blessed we are to have beautiful children and how bittersweet it is that Zeke cannot be included in these.

On a side note, when I turned on the IHOP webstream yesterday (which is sometimes harder than today, since it was our last day with him) Laura Hackett was singing, "Beautiful Mercy".

Amen and thank you Jesus.


Little Mama and Fluff

There are so many things I love about this photo:
Cass is thrilled to be holding Emmylou in a grown-up way; Emmylou's fluff is catching the light beautifully; there's no hiding all of Emmylou's chub; the blanket on the couch was Cassidy's when she was little(r); it's sunny outside!

Needless to say, I love my girls. (I said it anyway.)


Long, beautiful hair

This really is Emmylou's hair. No alterations have been done to exaggerate her style. We call it her fluff. It keeps getting longer and taller on top and the more she sleeps (and she is sleeping!) the more she rubs off on the back. Wyatt would be so proud; she's combining his mullet as a baby with his mohawk as a boy, at the same time! I don't know what I love more, her chub or her fluff.
She has several stork bites, including the one on the back of her head.



A quick post to celebrate the first month of Emmylou's life. There are many things that can be said about having her around, so I'll try to be brief. For me, it's like being a first time mom again. It's been three and a half years since Zeke left and in this stage of my life that's a long time for me to be without a baby. Her presence brings so much joy to me: I love holding her and kissing her chubby cheeks; I enjoy picking out new outfits and changing her diaper; I laugh at her silly grunts, squeals, shouts and coos; I especially adore the way Cassidy takes care of her and loves on her.
In the last month we've rejoiced and grieved and trusted in His faithfulness, celebrating Pesach (Passover) on Emmylou's 1 month birthday. I really do feel him turning my mourning into dancing, and I'll be honest, I didn't know if that was possible.


My girls

This was such a sweet moment today. While I tried to make my own lunch (after feeding the other three mouths in our home) Emmylou started to fuss. First Cassidy asked if I would bring Emmylou, in her bouncer, over to where she was sitting at the table so she could take care of her, "So you can make your lunch". When Emmylou continued to fuss Cassidy went and got an extra blanket to put on her, "I think she was cold" she told me. That didn't do the trick so then Cass, finished with her food, asked if she could hold her little sister. As we walked over to the couch she jumped up and down, saying, "I'm so excited to hold her! I love holding her!" They sat on the couch, happy to be with each other, but not long enough for me to eat. Oh well, it was worth all the fuss and delayed meal to see Cassidy's joy and Emmylou's smile, small as it was. And aren't they the quintessential girls in their matching pink and purple!


She's officially born

This week we ventured out to Misrad Hapnim, the Department of the Interior, to get Emmylou's birth certificate. It was her first time in the Boba carrier and she loved it. Tom didn't mind it either, joking a lot about the 'hands free' aspect of it (a play on Boba's slogan, "Freedom Together"). Wearing her is about as close as he'll ever get to feeling pregnant. (I told him to add about 10 more pounds and imagine all the weight pressing on his bladder.)
It was an easy process to get the birth certificate, although the paperwork is very different from American birth certificates. Just her name, birth date, my name and our address, basically. In Hebrew and English. It feels good to have it since the paperwork we got from the midwife and pediatrician is handwritten on a paper they tore off of their notepads.

When we finished at Misrad Hapnim we went next door to the convenience store and had Emmylou's passport photo taken. Pretty hilarious to have an official photo of a two week old, but she opened her eyes, which was all that was necessary.

Now off to the consulate or the embassy to get her passport and visa. Pray it goes smoothly!


We have some Jerusalem friends who just returned to the States for their daughter's wedding so I've been praying for their travels and their time with family. As I'm praying the overwhelming sense is this: we need G-d to be in our marriages.

Tom is incredible. From the very beginning he has been more than I dreamed I would end up with (minus the ability to grow a beard). Our first year was one of learning and we emerged as better communicators (well, I did, he was my teacher) and realized that though marriage is fun, it's a lot of work. I used to tell people that marriage is like a perpetual slumber party with your best friend. And while that's true, sometimes there are pillow fights, or you can't agree on what movie to watch, or he hogs all the popcorn.

Enter Yeshua. Because even best friends mess up. Or worse... But the point is, even though you want to believe you can always count on your spouse, you can't. And then you count on the One who brought you together. And trust Him, because all His ways are good, even when you're hurt.

I need this reminder, because frankly, my husband is INCREDIBLE. Right now he's heading back from taking Cassidy to school, in the rain, on public transportation. After staying out really late helping friends paint their baby room. He spent the last 4 months busting his cute buns to learn not just one new language, but two, meanwhile pouring into me and Cass, and a handful of other people seeking love, relationship and wisdom. But all of this is possible because He maintains a healthy, open relationship with the Giver of Life. And I'm convinced that's why this marriage of hard knocks and long distances works. 'Cause sometimes I don't follow through on my end of the deal, and he gives me grace for that.

Thank the L-rd for your marriage today (or keep praying for your future spouse!;) I am) and then thank Yeshua for Himself.


The B-I-B-L-E

At King of Kings, the English speaking congregation we attend, there is an amazing couple in charge of the children's ministry. They've named the Sunday night program Kids Zone and it's been a huge blessing. The topics for each night are built around the holidays and other important basics of life. The kids get educated a bit about what is going on in Israel and what the Bible says about these festivals. Tom and I volunteer once a month so we get to see firsthand how much the kids enjoy the program and how much energy Daniel and Jalene put into every service. They are a fantastic couple who greet the kids by name, do skits, lead worship and teaching times as well as put together great activities and snacks. To say that Cassidy looks forward to Kids Zone is an understatement.

One of the focuses of Kids Zone is Bible memorization. The verses come straight from the weekly lesson and they put the Word of G-d into the hearts of kids. Cassidy and I try to spend time talking about the verses and memorizing them. It doesn't happen every week, and lately she's been sick so we've missed a few nights, but her effort has been rewarded: she memorized the most verses out of the 3-5 year old class for this season! Since she was sick last weekend we stayed home, but Tom went to service and Jalene sent home a bag of goodies to celebrate Cassidy's achievement. She was very excited about each item, and since Jalene didn't get to see her open it (she sent it with Tom to cheer Cass up) I wanted to post her reaction here.

My favorite part of this video is how she thanks them for her presents. It's like she's accepting her Grammy or Oscar or something but she truly means it.

We're so thankful to Daniel and Jalene for the work they put into every week and pray they are blessed and encouraged for their effort. They're just two of the people in our lives that impact Cassidy in a powerful way. All of your prayers for her directly effect her; people often comment on how great she is -- she's polite, sweet, thoughtful, encouraging and adorable. Whenever someone says something about her I tell them it's because there are so many people around the world praying for her. Tom and I work very hard to model thankfulness and kindess but it takes the power of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of friends and family to create such a unique and wonderful little girl! Thank you all for investing in us!