dearest family, 

first off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY PRECIOUS BLAKE!!!!!! i know that boys probably don’t like being called precious, but that’s what you are and i will never call you anything else. blake, i can’t imagine our lives and our family without you. actually i can–those first ten years of my life were the dark days. then you were born and brought so much laughter and love and i miss your big blue eyes and eye lashes and i hope you’ll still let me hold your hand always. you’re my best friend and i can’t wait to go on adventures just you and me.
also, happy birthday to troy! i forgot to sing to him when he was here. it was pretty surreal having a part of my world in my other world, if that makes sense. it made me realize i desperately i want to show EVERYONE my russia, especially my family. he gave me a lot of advice and helped soooo much bringing us christmas and bringing home christmas. thank you soooooooooo much for sending all that stuff with him! it was so so sweet! and i made the chocolate chip cookies this morning because we have a little “game’ with our neighbors. one time at night our door bell rang while i was on the phone with my district leader and obviously i hearts stopped. hearing the doorbell ring is one of the scariest sounds ever. and it’s super forbidden to answer the door for ANYONE! except a fireman. so i just started whispering on the phone and asked elder hermansen, “what do i do?!? should i call looba? (the legal representative)” and he was like, “I don’t know” . not helpful. so i looked through the peep hole and much to my horror, it was a man! around our age! but then i think he could tell i was right by the door and so he said, “it’s your neighbor!” and i said, “oh okay…well i’m not allowed to open the door, what do you need?” and he was like, “i wanted to tell you there’s a new lock on the door to our hallway and so if you want you can borrow my key and make a copy of it” i said okay and then realized i’d have to open the door so i did and was kind of embarrassed haha because we had ignored the door bell for awhile and hid in our rooms haha and i was obviously wearing my genie pants but he was super nice and handed me the key and then asked if i knew his wife and baby and i said no and then he poked his head in his apt and brought them out and the wife was so sweet and their baby was adorable. the next day we made a copy of the key and we decided to make them zucchini bread (one of our specialties. we are famous for it. thanks mom) and so we brought them both over. then the next night there was another door bell ring and i looked through the peephole and saw the adorable family standing there and the wife had a plate of homemade jam-filled croissants! soooo sweet! now we have to give the plate back, but it’s super forbidden to return an empty plate or tubberware or anything of the like, according to russian tradition. so the cookies will be perfect! thank you so much! i just hope they then don’t feel then obligated to make us something haha gift-giving is serious business in russia.
ohhhh my russia. i love her. i also love my new companion, sister tolbert. she’s quarky and adorable and a ballerina and should be a jcrew model and she LOVES the work. i feel bad for her because this is her first time serving in moscow and i remember how overwhelmed i was when i first moved here and how strange it was to say “ward” instead of “branch” and “bishop” instead of “branch president” and to come on sundays realizing that you weren’t in charge of everything and trying to study the area book and realizing there was no way you could memorize everyone’s names after the first sunday…. that you wouldn’t be asked to speak every other week and that you probably wouldn’t be teaching relief society and maybe primary and sunday school too. it’s a totally different world and sometimes you feel like you’re not as needed. BUT i’m trying to help sister tolbert fall in love with moscow because i have big time…i’m head over heals and it’s all because of the people here my goodness i love them!!! and now the city itself is stealing my heart more and more. i am so very very happy. and we saw so many miracles this week! our dear lada who was baptized a few weeks ago is on fire and she said she was at the computer store and the man working there helping her was so kind and she felt the Spirit burning inside her and she wanted to share the Gospel with him but she was too scared. Then he offered to walk her and her mother home because she lived really close and it was really heavy and as they walked, he asked permission to light a cigarette, which is super rare and she was even more impressed by his politeness and said, “this is my chance!” and asked him if he wanted to quit and talked about how the Lord wants us to be healthy and happy and that God would help him find the strength to do it and then she told him about the missionaries and he was soooo confused as to why there would be people who would want to help him, for free. but she got his number and told him she’d give it to the elders and she told us how happy it made her and showed us the victory dance she did afterwards! haha she’s the cutest. and i told her that that’s the same dance i do after most of our lessons or awesome conversations on the street. she said that earlier she didn’t really understand why we were so happy at her baptism–but she just thought it was nice. but she says that now she understands! and she testified of the unique joy that just filled her and how she could hardly sleep because she was so excited to see the elders on sunday and give them the number. 
i was the same way. i remember reading the verse, “inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my bretheren, ye have done it unto me” and i understood it to mean that when we serve man, we serve God and when we offend man, we offend God, but i never, until i experienced it for myself as a missionary, understood the reality and depth of what that means. when husbands make their wives cry, they make God cry. and vice versa. And the more we, as disciples of Christ, become like Him, the more we experience that. When i see someone suffering, i really ache and suffer as well. But when i see a child of God show kindness and mercy to another, i feel way happier than when they do it to me personally. and when those i love are successful and happy and are learning and growing and rejoicing, boy do i sing the hallelujahs! compassion is such an incredible experience. the word “vicarious” has taken a whole new meaning for me. 
love you! have a wonderful week! 
p.s. lada is also my soul sister because we were talking and she was like, “sister hawkins, I found the most beautiful song. i just listen to it and read the lyrics over and over and it makes me cry!” and i said, “what song is it?” and she was like, “It’s called, “i was here” by beyonce” hahhahahhahahahahahhahahaaaa i accidentally started belting it on the street with her. it’s more than ever my theme song. hahahah i love lada so much.
AND nastya (who was baptized two weeks ago) came back from italy and told me that when she was there she found a ward to go to in Florence on sunday! i feel like a proud mama. so proud of my lada and nastya who earnestly take notes throughout sacrament meeting and are anxiously preparing to go to the temple. AHHHHHHHHHHHH i am so so happy