Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dear Family and Dear Friends,

Hello to all of you!  I am finally sitting down to send out an update of our family.  Thank you for your interest and for your support and love and letters and emails.  We love you!!

On August 21st, after the kids got home from their first day at their international school, I asked for their highs and lows of their day.

Evie's lows:
Only knowing English as a language because everyone else speaks like 10 freaking languages. (Then I heard Wilson telling Evie that one of his classmates speaks Czech, English, Arabic, and Japanese!  Amazing.)
Frustrated getting lunch.  Trying to figure out the system.
Standing awkwardly around.

Evie's highs:
Talking to the librarian briefly and checking out books.
Got some nice compliments from people.

Wilson's lows:
School.  I ate lunch alone.
I miss my friends.
School in general.

Wilson's highs:
The art room is really cool.

Hyrum's lows:
no lows

Hyrum's highs:
My Czech class.
Soccer with the fourth and fifth graders, but they call it futbol. (He said to me, "mom, none of my new friends play sports!  They play sporT.  Soccer!"  It's crazy watching how talented all these kids are at soccer.)
Making friends.
Getting a package from Kelly and Grandmother and the McCompound.
Becoming a member of the "McCheese Cheese Lovers Club" (a club started by all the McConkies back home on the McCompound).

George's lows:
Kids being mean to me at school. (I don't think they were trying to be mean.  They just wanted to speak Czech and he was told to leave them alone since he doesn't speak Czech.)
A kid told me I was traveling while doing a spin move in basketball.

George's highs:
Playing legos when I got to school.
Playing soccer-being goalie at recess.
Meeting new friends.
Waiting for Evie and Wilson at the wavy benches in the shade (after school).

So that was a couple of weeks ago, and I am sure that if I asked the kids for highs and lows at this point, things would sound much different.  James and I both feel so blessed by how well the kids are doing at this point.  THANK YOU for all of your prayers for them.  We love being able to remind our children about who is praying for them.  It helps so much.

Evie will maybe blog later about her week this week, where she is not going to regular school but to all kinds of exhibits and tours here in prague, with a teacher and 14 classmates.  She has also auditioned recently for the school musical, and she is hopefully going to start dance next week at a ballet/modern dance school downtown.  James and I are so proud of her for diving into this experience with all of her heart.  She had a really rough beginning when we first came to the mission, but she is contributing so much and learning and growing and thriving now.  She is friends with all of the missionaries, but also with new and interesting people from all over the world at school.  She has become much less shy.  She still bakes like crazy and shares with missionaries.  She loves studying the scriptures over skype with Grandad on sunday nights still, and is taking quilt making lessons over skype with her sweet Heidi Moore.  Evie and Wilson went to Germany on Saturday to serve at the Frieberg Temple!  They took an early morning bus ride with members of the church from Hradec Kralove and some from Prague, and had a nice time in the temple.  I think that because of their past experiences with grandma and grandpa and cousins and the Imperial 2nd ward, they knew that the temple was worth the journey.

Wilson is at a 5 day camp in the countryside, a couple hours away, and I miss him!  He was required to go on this 8th grade trip with all the students and their advisors and some teachers.  They hike and do a high ropes course and swim in a lake and learn a lot of team building/problem solving skills.  I love that they weren't allowed to take any phones or screens because I know it will help them all to bond better and feel more social with who is with them.   But at the same time, I wish he could have taken his phone for MY sake!  When he went on scout and youth trips back home, I knew that Spencer Denison and the other leaders were looking out for him and that they knew exactly who wilson is.  There was such peace of mind when I sent him on those trips because of the leaders who were our dear friends.  We trust this school so much, but we just don't know the actual teachers very well yet.  James and I really hope Wilson's ok!  He has missed his friends back home so much and I have been worried about him on this trip where he is still feeling so new.  Hopefully he is having a great time.  I keep thinking of my friends back in Salt Lake who have sent out missionaries.  It is such an act of faith for them to hand their son/daughter over to God and trust that they will be ok!  For 2 years!

Hyrum is fortunate to have Mr. Ryan for 4th grade, who he says is as high-quality as Mrs. Wheeler (last year's teacher at highland park!).  So Hyrum is feeling great about him.  Mr. Ryan, and all the teachers I have met, have worked in schools in other countries and bring interesting views and cultural insights to class.  Mr. Ryan also was with the peace corp, which means he has extra fascinating stories.

George is happy with school and his teachers, fantastic second grade teachers, but I think it is really hitting him that we are not just on vacation.  School has convinced him that we are really here to LIVE.  He told me the other day that he was going to save up all his money and buy a plane ticket to go home to Salt Lake.  When I asked him where he would live, he said "With Grandad.  Or the cousins."  And then I told him that if he went home, he wouldn't get to spend time with all these wonderful missionaries.  Then he said, "but they keep leaving anyway!!!".  It's sad that my kids are having to master the good-bye thing.  I don't like saying good-bye either!  But we keep talking about the blessing of relationships, and that we are better and happier for knowing such awesome people, even if they do say goodbye.

The day before school, orientation with parents:

A surprise at home, when sister Munro brought over Lion candy bars and koalas from Australia (she's from Brisbane) and a card with 8 personal notes to each kid from Sister Munro, Sister Steglich, Sister Graham, Elder Knapp, Elder Sewell, Elder Bushnell, Elder Howell, Elder Munro.  They told the kids all the reasons why they knew they would do well in their new school, and encouraged them so much.  The kids will cherish these much needed notes!  We are grateful for how well we know these missionaries.

First day of school:

 Middle school opening meeting:
 Upper school opening meeting:
 2nd grade:)
 Mr. Ryan's room:
Hyrum getting to know classmates:

Another wonderful surprise!  Thank you McConkies and Stewarts for the package!  The art work from the kids was especially fun!  Loved every bit!

Wilson had a pretty hard first day, so he and I went on a long walk and ended up at this guitar shop:

Miss Lisa Paulsen, these shots of the school are for you:)  Like I was telling you on the phone, I think you would love the bright colors and that there are places to sit and converse all over!  

 Katherine, maybe we should buy Lance one of these little lawn mower robots for the back yard???

Hyrum's new violin teacher, Miss Jana:

Hyrum took this as we were driving home from violin lessons.  I am determined to get better at driving here!  I get honked at almost every day, and I really am trying to learn what the signs mean, but sometimes it's like the wild west and I feel like no one is following the signs/lanes/lights etc.  I drive in circles and up and down city streets, over tram lines in confusing intersections, over curbs (and I always quote you, amy lunt, by saying "curb shmurb!") and poor hyrum has to be like my therapist telling me, "you can do it mom" and "you're seriously an amazing driver" when I know I am so not!  Maybe I will one day figure out how to get to violin lessons, which are only 7 miles away!, in less than an hour.  At least I get to be with Hyrum:)

Rainy Sunday afternoon volleyball:
 Wilson is in love with the cube:
 We usually cook when we have people to dinner! But this pizza is way too good:
 One of my favorite sights:  looking out the window and seeing the arriving misisonaries.  Elder Greener and Elder Bahr and the assistants were just arriving  for our zone conference and lunch (and the boys were playing ball waiting for me to take them to school).
 James' morning studies:
 Going to the dry cleaner and to lunch with James while the kids were at their first day of school.  
 I love this kid.  He is so geeked out right now with computers!  He has an older one that Grandmother so generously gave him for school, and then the school gave him another one to use for the year that has their programs on it.
 Wilson was at tennis practice after school, and George was at a nearby playdate,  so the rest of us went exploring at an antique shop.  Grandma Janna, this is your china!

 Signs of autumn!
 James' birthday dinner.  James also had a great birthday breakfast celebration with all of the office staff at our weekly meeting! It was the greatest birthday breakfast he's probably ever had!  But he asked me to not put the photos on here of that breakfast so you'll have to ask him about it!:)

 Brilliant idea from Shelli and Jens:  They recorded the utah football game, then when we were awake, and ready, they pushed play on their tv, with their ipad facing it on "face-time".  So then the game showed up on our ipad, over face-time, and then we projected it up onto our tv with apple-tv.  So it was a little choppy and the opposite of HD, but let me tell you, even though I am a true cougar and love BYU, it was a joy to watch my boys screaming and singing the utah fight song and celebrating the win of the Utes.  They were so excited.  Thanks Jenkins!!!

Enjoying the paints from grandmother:

After Game Night on Saturday, Elder Sewell and Hyrum had a long talk about the rules of Cricket.  Hyrum is trying to get on the after school cricket team:) and Elder Sewell, who is from England, knows all about it!

Mission Leadership Council talking about the needs of the missionaries and people in their zones.  This is a monthly meeting where we council together and discuss the next zone conference for all the missionaries.  I gave a message at the beginning and James gave a message at the end.  I always look forward to this gathering.

The very first "sister training leaders" of the Czech/Slovak mission!  Sister Barney and Sister Bateman are AWESOME. 
 Some of our Zone Leaders: (the others left before I could get their photo)

I really really wish James were here to comment on this next photo.  Last week, James went to do a zone conference with the missionaries in Slovakia.  These brave, creative, spiritual missionaries are like pioneers.  They are so far away from the mission home, and so far from each other, scattered in their little towns (some of them).   Some of them go to church on sunday with just one or two members, and they work hard even on days when there is so much opposition.  We are proud of them and in awe when they have great attitudes and enthusiasm for the work.  The training that day, in a nearby church building, according to James, was a spiritual feast, a spiritual high.  In this picture, they are standing where the country was dedicated by President Uchdorf, and where he made 3 promises, 2 of which have come about: The registration of the church in Slovakia (miracle 7 years ago) and the translation of the book of Mormon (just this past year).  The last promise was that there would be wards and stakes in Slovakia someday, so together with the members, the missionaries are doing all they can to bring that to pass.  Zone leaders Elder Peterson and Elder Bateman,  and James,  all three delivered powerful speeches and Elder Bateman ended with a prayer that silenced the whole group for a while afterward.  I wish I could have been there, but I have heard about it so much from many different people that I feel like I can easily imagine it! Hooray for Slovak missionaries!!!

I had a great experience with these two elders and with their new investigator this week.  I got to speak spanish with her, and I felt an instant love for her and her faith in God is so strong.  I am grateful that they invited me to be with them in the lesson.  Then at church on Sunday, she came and sat with me and translated the testimonies for me.  She understood the czech, then would whisper to me, in a mix of Spanish and English, what the testimony was about.  I just know it was not an accident that these missionaries found her and are teaching her.  She is amazing!  They have taught her more this week and she seems so happy to be learning from them.  

A spontaneous lunch with sister missionaries who were in town for visa issues.  3 new missionaries and their 3 awesome trainers!

At the airport saying goodbye to some of the greats!  We will always remember Elder and Sister Martin.  Amazing leaders!!!

The greatest surprise for me---Elder Swensen and Sister Swensen were passing through Prague on their way back to Frankfurt and they stopped to say hello.  I felt like it was God's way of saying, "REMEMBER that I notice and love you!"  Elder Swensen is the doctor over many missions here in Europe, so he and I talk on the phone and text each other a LOT, as he is the one I call whenever a missionary is sick (beyond normal sick).  He is the dearest man, always willing to explain and educate me on things medical, and then he takes the time to talk about how we are doing.  It was a joy to meet them in person, and also to talk to Sister Swensen about her experiences as a mission president's wife when she was about my age and living in Vienna.  She has been a guide and an answer to prayer multiple times, as I have relied heavily on her advice and attitude and insights of how to do this!  They stopped by just 2 days before school started, and everything they said made me feel like it was going to be ok, the whole school thing!  
Just yesterday, I was talking with Elder Swensen about a heartbreaking medical situation and I cannot imagine a better physician, in all the world, to be of help at this time.  We love these two!  

And once again, I congratulate anyone who has actually made it to the end of this post!  I must end by saying that I feel God's love every single day.  Honestly, I also feel very sad/frustrated/weathered/angry almost every day too, when James and I witness (or experience!) trials and heartbreaking circumstances.  But with those aches, I feel God's love.  When I speak to a congregation, or to a group of missionaries, or when I say hi to people on the street, or talk to members mingling in the building/my house, or teach someone in a lesson with the missionaries, I can see that they are worthy of love.  They are loved.  By a Father who loves and cares for them more than they can possibly imagine!  He loves them!  And He loves our little family.  And all of our people back home.  The Book of Mormon makes me aware of that!  It reminds me that God loves us SO MUCH that He gave us this book to help us.  I love it!!!!  

I LOVE YOU!!!! Thank you for your good lives and for helping us so much.  I love picturing all the amazing good you are doing in your lives, how you are serving others and nurturing and uplifting and growing!  We think of you often and pray that you will feel this love of God in your lives! Each day!!!!!

Laurel/Sister McConkie

P.S.  Grandma Janna and Grandmother Judi, Hyrum and George want me to tell you that they counted all the stairs in our house/church, from the top of the attic steps all the way down to the basement.  Not including the steps into the baptismal font, there are 100 stairs!


  1. Besides loving everything, I really liked seeing the Hebrew Magazines available at the library.
    Thank you for taking the time to write and share.
    Love, Joanne

  2. Dear Sister McConkie,
    I stumbled upon your mission blog while using a search engine to check the links for my daughter's mission blog... may I just tell you how happy I felt to see her smiling face in the photo you posted of the Slovak missionaries together with their Mission President?
    The whole group is just glowing, and it brought me a lot of joy to see, and to read your account of their special experience together. Thank you for giving so much of yourself. It brought this verse of scripture to mind:
    "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt 5:16)
    Warmest Regards,
    Sestra Jones' mom

  3. I love reading your blog! Although it makes me cry every time. I miss you all so much and am so happy for you at the same time! Thank you for writing, Laurel!
    Becky Lowe

  4. Laurel, I love reading these so much. They make me cry too. You are so inspiring. Thanks for taking the time. Love you guys!

  5. Thank you for another wonderful update! I thought of you when on Sunday I read the recent Ensign article about Slovak saints in Sheffield, England and all the work they are doing to grow the church there and in their home country. It sounds like such an exciting time there!