Monday, December 29, 2008


11 years ago Ned and Erin were married.  Today we have the eternal blessing of having 3 adorable girlios and 1 adorable tank of a boy make up our sweet Opfel family.   Celebrate, Celebrate--dance to the music you two.  We love you both TONS!


Ashly and Andrew are celebrating their anniversary today too.  I hear they are going to Ruth's Chris--not fair.  It has been ages since I've been there.  Seriously, have a great time celebrating your beginning of your sweet eternal family 4 years ago.  You've got a great start with those two adorable kiddies.  We look forward to at least 4 more in the future. :)  We love you both TONS.


Today is the day that Brooke and Matt got married.  Eight years later-their adorable kiddies, Porter, Lily and Jane make up their eternal family.  What a great reason to celebrate it up big time.  We are so glad you found each other, fell in love and got married.  Happy Anniversary. We love you both--TONS!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


                                             Dad making pumpkin pies--Isn't he the cutest?

                     We were so excited to find a bag of noodles in the freezer.  So you CA 
                      kids aren't the only ones that get to eat noodles on Christmas Eve.  I'm 
                     the lucky ducky too.

                                  A million angel sugar cookies for my angel missionaries tomorrow.
                                  I'll have to get up early to get them all frosted before we head to
                                  our Christmas Day Spectacular.                                                                                                                             

                                     MeMa singing Christmas Carols on the street with some of the Elders.

Elder Whitney's Mom made these personalized stockings for us.  She even mailed us a couple of books and a miniature nativity too.  I thought that was very sweet of her.  I sure hope Santa fills them with good stuff.  I wish I could wake up in the morning and see all of you darling kiddies and kids of mine.  That would be the best present ever.  I hope your Christmas Eve is full of the Spirit of Christ and that you feel of His love.  I'll be sending all my love and lots of hugs and kisses your way.  Just when I think I couldn't ever miss you any more---I do.  Merry Christmas!


                                          Ice skating in front of the GUM on Red Square

                                    St. Basil's on Red Square.  My favorite Russian building.

Lots of beautiful trees.  This one had the music staff and musical notes.  Since they can't run the fountains in the winter they replace the water with pretty lights.

The Blue Tree in front of Red Square.  It was snowing when we took most of  these picture.  Can you see the snowflakes?

The fountain in front of the Bolshoi Theater.  They have been doing a remodeling of the theater for 3 years.  I don't think it is going to be finished before we leave.  I bet it will be beautiful.

                    Our favorite Chinese Food Restaurant got all gussied up for Christmas too.

            The Green Tree--looking down the main street that runs into Red Square--Tverskaya.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


We went to the small Yugo-Zapanaya Branch's FHE last night.  They meet downstairs in our mission office and I like to call it my home branch because it is so convenient to walk downstairs for church.  I don't get to go there very often, but I have a special place in my heart for these people.  They ooze with love.  I feel needed there too because no one can play the piano so they always make over me when I play for them.  Which I did for their program last night.  This is Sister Lena decorating before people showed up.  She made these really cute stars out of newspaper.  You can see one on the clock.

Elder Aitken, Elder Craven and Elder Salinas were angels in the cute little play Sister Natasha wrote and directed.  

The audience.  Elder Mills (in the red) was a small boy in the play.  After the program we went upstairs for refreshments.  Elder Gunther gave me a chocolate chip pumpkin cookie mix from Lehi Utah Mills that his Mom sent him.  They were tasty cookies.  Problem was the mix made about 500 cookies.  I was really over those cookies when I put the last spoonful on the pan to bake.  The Russians raved over them.  They don't really have good Russian cookies.

This is Stella.  I can't remember what her Chinese name is.  She is from Taipei, Taiwan.  She lives close to us and goes to the Yugo-Zap branch. We finally got to meet her last night at FHE.  I had talked to her on the phone, but hadn't met her yet.  She knows Elder Britton Larson.  He helped teach her.  She has been a member for one year and is the only member in her family.  She is going to school here in Moscow and has been here since Sept.  She is so sweet.  I can't imagine how much courage it takes for someone like her to leave her family and come to Moscow all alone for school.  Why do the Asians have such pretty shiny hair?  

Friday, December 19, 2008


Our AP, Elder Despain had a birthday so I made up the Sprinkles cupcake mix that Ashly brought over and took them downstairs to share with the missionaries.  YUM!

Elder Terrill our other AP got some frosting on his chin, but didn't have a clue.  Remember crazy Dustin and the mayo on our snowboarding trip?  This reminded me of that.  

We spent the weekend in Belarus with these two--Elder Lundquist and Elder Williams

And these two--Elder Pollard and Elder Michaelis

And these two--Elder and Sister Capener.  This sweet couple have always been so good to us when we go to Minsk.  They make us a great meal and we always eat and run to make our flight back to Moscow.  We told them good-bye for the last time.  They go home in January.  We hope we have a couple to take their place.  We are going to miss them.  They served valiantly.  Such good good people.  Notice no missionary tags.  None of the missionaries are allowed to wear them in Belarus.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Today we had a Sr. Couple's Conference with the Moscow Mission.  We were a little out-
numbered.  We had one couple and the rest were assigned to their mission.  Our only other Sr. couple was out of town so they weren't able to come.  We had a great time together and loved hearing from our Area President, Elder Pieper.  Sister Cranney (the Moscow Mission President's wife) and I (of course my man came through for me like he always does.) did the food for lunch.  We had taco salad and apple crisp a la mode.  Yummy!  We are looking forward to getting two Sr. couples in Feb.  They are the unsung heroes of the missions---good, good people.

left side:  Elders Terrill, Mills, Despain.  rt. side:  Elder Harker and Dad (still as cute as ever)
E. Harker and E. Mills have been in the office for the past 6 months--time for them to move on.  We usually have the office elders up for dinner to show our appreciation for all they do beyond keeping their area going with tracting and contacting, etc.  Elder Harker requested hamburgers and shakes so we took advantage of one of our favorite spots--the Starlight diner and took them and our AP's there for a late lunch (before fasting) on Saturday.  They loved it.

It's only 4:00 p.m. and already dark outside.  Gotta love the dark Russian winters--did I mention freezing cold too?

Friday, November 28, 2008


Today is a good day BECAUSE I just got back from a meeting.  Elder Terrill and Elder Despain (our AP's) needed my help to teach an investigator--Magitra from Malaysia.  Since my Russian is awful, I don't get the opportunity to help teach very often.  Magitra's english is great.  We taught from Helaman 5.  It was a great meeting.  The Spirit was strong.  I know that God loves all of His children and I know he wants them to experience the joy that the Gospel can bring into their lives.  I feel humbled to think that I am playing a small part in that plan of His.   

The day after Thanksgiving is always a good day---BECAUSE it is the day I get to bust out my Christmas music.  So while you girls have been busy shopping the Black Friday specials I've been listening to Josh Groban.  His arrangement of  "I'll Be Home For Christmas" had me in tears.  I always get emotional when I think about our soldiers being away from their families--(do any of you remember me crying at the Fiesta Bowl when they have the flag covering the whole football field and show our soldiers on the huge screen, and whenever "I'm Proud To Be An American" is within hearing range for me?)-- then to hear them expressing their love to their families---a tear jerker for sure.  I wonder why I can easily relate????  Maybe its because your Dad and I are here fighting for the souls of these good people that we serve and being away from you is always hard, but ESPECIALLY hard at Christmas.  SOB, SOB.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Sisters:  Zonova, Hansen, Novgorodova, Smith, Bell, Jensen.  What a blessing these adorable Sisters are to our MWM and to our lives.  I am so thankful for them.  Only 6 left.

Your Thanksgiving hasn't even started and ours is over.  Of course I would have loved to have been with you and express to you my love and gratitude, but no can do.  Thank goodness we were able to be with our absolutely amazing Moscow West missionaries.  They bless our lives and we are so grateful for them.  They loved the feast and we had a great time being with each other.  Their skits were hilarious.  I love them ALL.  I hope your Thanksgiving is full of blessings like ours was.  Happy Day!  I'm missing you and loving you tons.
Hugs & Kisses

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Unfortunately, we only have 6 Sisters left in our mission and we have 15 less total missionaries now than last year at this time.  Now when we go to Voronezh to do our South Zone Conference, I'm very much outnumbered.  With the 8 Elders plus our AP's I am surrounded by 10 outstanding young men--it reminds me of how blessed I am to have 10 brothers.
ELDERS:  Kurth, Terrill, Clark, Wheeler, Bowden, McKay, Hiatt, Mitchell, Campbell, Despain

We had a surprise visit from these two beautiful girls--Tatiana Balatskaya and Alyona Safronova--former Sister missionaries of ours.  I felt like Alma when he was "astonished" at meeting up with the sons of Mosiah and his joy was even greater because they were still strong in the Gospel.  These cute little ladies were on their way back to their homes (a 16 hr. train ride from Moscow) after making the long trip to the Helsinkie Temple.  We loved being with them again.  I've missed them so much.  I'll always love my marvelous missionaries.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Erin is 33 years old today.  What a great daughter, sister, aunt and friend she is to all of us.  She is also a great Mom and wife to her own precious family.  She has many talents and has always been thoughtful and kind in her willingness to share those talents with others.  She has always loved babies and I have to fight her to get to hold "the kiddies".  She is beautiful inside and out and is a delight to be around.  Happy Birthday!  We hope your day is full of feeling loved.  We are so glad you were born into our family.  We love you tons!
Hugs & Kisses
Mom and Dad

Friday, November 14, 2008


Elder Gillis and Elder Vernon scored new hats from Dad at Zone Conference this week.  Dad picked up these two hats at a Stockman sale accidentally.  They were way too big for Dad, but fit these two "fat head" Elders perfectly.  What is so funny is they are companions and they both have lost tons of weight since they have arrived.  Most of our Elders do.   Aren't they cute?

Elders:  Mills, Salinas, Armstrong, Hunter (so cute too) at Zone Conference this week in Moscow.  The Lord sends us the best missionaries.  I heart them so much.

Dad and I are leaving in a couple of hours for our ZC in Voronezh.  We are going to stay over to go to the branches there on Sunday so we won't be back until Sunday night.  I'll miss you even more and you know why.  Flakes--good luck with getting moved.  You are lucky to have the Larks and Collins' there to help you.  Families are great to have around and I'm so proud of the way you kids help each other.  I have the best kids on the earth.  I'm the lucky ducky for sure.
Have a great weekend and remember to keep the Sabbath Day Holy!  

Thursday, November 13, 2008


We are so glad that Shelly married Jonathan.  She is the sweetest thing.  It was hard to find a picture of her without her arms full of either her own or someone else's baby.  Have any of you ever heard her sound like she has lost her patience or even beginning to lose her patience?  I haven't.   She is a great wife and mother and always looks so dang cute--even when she is 9 months pregnant.  We love you Shelly and hope you have a fun birthday today.  Jonathan will treat you like a Queen.  He is good that way and you definitely deserve it.
Philip and Tricia

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Happy Birthday to my Cutie Pie!  What a crazy nut this girl has always been.  She was born with a darling personality and makes us all laugh.  She is adorable too.  We are so glad Heavenly Father let you come to our family 7 years ago.  What a joy and delight you are to all of us.  One more year until you are baptized.  We will be there for sure.  We hope you have a fun day today and that you feel loved by all of us.  We love you tons Kiley Maree Skousen.
Hugs & Kisses
MeMa and PaPa

Friday, November 7, 2008


What a blessing it was to be on our visa trip to Madrid on our anniversary.  We celebrated our 37 years of being married by going to the Temple.  We are so grateful that we began our marriage in the Temple and having the opportunity to be there again on our anniversary day was a sweet delight.  We felt the Lord's tender mercies when the officiator said the session was going to be in English and then asked us to be the witness couple.  It is always a special time to be in the Temple, but Wednesday was an extra special time.  Who would have ever thought that while serving as the mission president and wife in the Moscow West Mission that we would be able to attend the Temple in Madrid?  Life is sweet.  Being married to your Dad is true joy.  I love him from infinity and beyond and I am blessed beyond measure to have you kids and kiddies all because we fell in love oh so many years ago.  HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US!