Beauty, Cultures, Grandchildren, Hawaii, health, holidays, home, Parenting, photography, Religion, travel

Attitude of Gratitude

As I approach my 70th year of life on this earth, I feel the need to show my gratitude to all of those who have helped me along the way. First, I know my Heavenly Father has directed our travels throughout the world and protected us from accidents, major sickness, and has blessed us with a beautiful family. He blessed us with loving, caring children and grandchildren, for whom I am incredibly thankful. I’m so glad that all of our children love and support one another. How incredibly blessed we feel.

We have been led to Tonga, American Samoa, Arizona, and Hawaii during our marriage. I’m not sure why we moved so much, but here is a rundown of our moves: (I have previously written some articles about our experiences which I will link below)

Provo, Utah 1972-1974 ~ I worked at Utah Valley Hospital while ‘Isileli Tupou completed his Bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University – Provo. We had Liana Olivia Kongaika six months before graduation. https://letterpile.com/personal-essays/Man-You-Have-Come-A-Long-Way-Baby

Liahona High School, Tonga 1974-1977 ~ We were hired to work at the College in Liahona. ‘Isileli Tupou taught Industrial Education including Architectural and Mechanical Design, woodworking, and metal. ‘Isi became the Department Head of the Industrial Education Instruction. We had Robert James Kongaika in 1973 in Tonga. https://hubpages.com/relationships/Friday-Night-Date-at-the-Movies-in-Tonga https://hubpages.com/politics/Do-We-Want-Social-Medicine-Just-Like-in-Third-World-Countries https://hubpages.com/relationships/He-Wrote-Me-a-Love-Song

Provo, Utah 1977-1978 ~ We returned to BYU-Provo to work on Isi’s Master’s Degree. We had Joel ‘Aholelei Kongaika while ‘Isi was going to University. ‘Isi’s field project was a Pictorial Instruction on How to Operate a Metal Lathe for Tongan Students.

American Samoa 1979-1980 ~ ‘Isi was hired by the American Samoa Department of Education to work in Leoni High School as well as at American Samoa Community College to prepare teachers for certification. We had Jacob Epikopo Manuia while working in American Samoa. I attended American Samoa Community College while I was expecting.

Arizona 1981-1982 ~ ‘Isi was hired by the Pinal School District to work at Coolidge Middle School and taught MIE Industrial Education classes.

Tonga 1982-1992 ~ We returned to Tonga to work again at Liahona High School. The last three years we served in the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission as Mission President with our family. https://hubpages.com/travel/My-Visit-to-the-King

Hawaii 1992 – 2013 ~ We were hired to work at Brigham Young University – Hawaii. First, as Foreign Student Advisor and then as Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students. Our children were growing and Liana left to pursue a degree in Nursing at BYU Provo. Robert stayed behind with Lu’isa in Tonga. Our two boys, Joel and Jacob completed high school at Kahuku High School. I worked in the Fine Arts Departments as well as in the School of Education. https://hubpages.com/family/intercultural-families https://hubpages.com/politics/Not-Every-One-Wants-To-Be-A-US-Citizenhttps://hubpages.com/travel/Visit-Hawaii-and-Catch-Local-Festivities

Utah 2013 – 2016 ~ After 20 years of working at BYU-Hawaii, ‘Isi and I retired to Utah. We lived with my father one year and then lived in South Jordan near Liana and Siope Kinikini. We were happy to be with our children and grandchildren closer. https://hubpages.com/money/Changing-Climates-in-Retirement https://hubpages.com/travel/Fun-at-Lagoon-in-Northern-Utah https://hubpages.com/family/Write-Your-Family-History

In between our moves, we have been able to travel to many other parts of the world. I believe our lives have been enriched by being exposed to so many different people and cultures and love our friends throughout the world. https://wanderwisdom.com/misc/How-to-Get-the-Most-out-of-Your-Adventures-Abroad https://hubpages.com/travel/Scenic-New-Zealand https://wanderwisdom.com/travel-destinations/City-of-Music-Vienna https://hubpages.com/travel/The-Magic-of-Italy https://hubpages.com/travel/Southern-Germanyhttps://hubpages.com/travel/The-Magic-of-Austriahttps://hubpages.com/travel/Exploring-Egypt-in-a-Time-of-Transition

God has always been in the picture as we have moved from place to place. There have been trials, sickness, and disappointments, but as we look back on our life, It seems to all have been orchestrated for our own good.

Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, Grandchildren, Hawaii, health, holidays, home, Parenting, photography, travel

Autumn Beauty in Utah and Beyond

We moved to Utah five six years ago when we retired from BYU Hawaii. I grew up here and was familiar with the four seasons. We had moved to the South Pacific where there are two seasons (rainy season and dry season). When we lived in Hawaii, Tonga, and American Samoa, I missed the crisp air of the fall and seeing the autumn leaves, the white snow of winter, and the new buds of Spring. Most of the time it was warm or hot, humid or raining.

We have tried to make it a point to go up the canyon to see the autumn leaves before they loose their vibrant colors. Yesterday we got to drive up American Fork Canyon and along the Alpine Loop down to Provo Canyon. It was a warm Sunday afternoon. We noticed that the peak of the autumn leave vibrance has passed but we still enjoyed the views. Here are a few pictures I took along the way.

My grandchildren are the reason we moved to Utah as well as to be close to our extended family. Thru the years we have taken a few pictures of our grandkids helping with the leaves or playing in the autumn leaves.

October is even better because it is both ‘Isi and my birthdays as well as our Anniversary!

My favorite food of all time is pumpkin pie and I usually wait until fall to eat pumpkin cookies, rolls, muffins, and anything else you can make with pumpkin.

We live very close to the Petersen Family Farm which sells pumpkins in October. They have a corn maze and other fun stuff for the kids. I have taken some of our grandchildren to pick out their pumpkin for Halloween.

So glad that our grandkids and their families enjoy the out-of-doors.

We are fortunate to have visited far away places during the autumn and caught a few pictures of fall’s splendor including Germany, Slovenia, Austria, and Italy. Here are some of them:

The above pumpkins were in a pumpkin contest in Germany. Maybe you can get some ideas for your own decorating.

Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, food, Grandchildren, Hawaii, health, holidays, home, Parenting, photography, travel

Scary Halloween Grandkids

This time of the year is beautiful with the weather cooling down and the leaves changing colors. It is probably my favorite season. Both my husband and I have birthdays in October as well as our anniversary, so it is a special time for us. We have fond memories of pumpkin pie and outings to celebrate our birth and marriage. Also, we get to see our grandchildren turn into amazing creatures for Halloween!

When the kids are small their parents usually pick out their costumes, but when they get older, they create their own look. They are usually ready well ahead of trick or treating time. I have gone through our pictures and share a few of my favorites here:

Then there is our youngest son, Jacob, who makes professional photos out of his kids and their costumes:

Baby Jakey (not a baby any more!
Buff Zion
Princess Bella

Of course, some of our own children (the parents) sometimes get involved and want to relive their childhood by wearing their own costumes too:

Then Grandma (myself) has to take some of the Halloween children and make it into a fun Halloween collage:

Here is a picture with several of our grandchildren altogether:

Aren’t they so cute!!

Halloween is particularly fun for children since they get to dress up and beg for tons of candy. The parents “get” to take them out while they are young in inclement weather. Grandparents can stay warm and dry inside and wait for a treat from one of the grandchildren.

Halloween is not my favorite holiday but it is definitely fun to see the children enjoying themselves. I have written about ghost stories over the years and also some scary experiences we have had at Halloween time. BEWARE!

https://hubpages.com/holidays/Hawaiian-Ghost-Stories-III

https://hubpages.com/holidays/Hawaiian-Ghost-Stories-II

https://hubpages.com/travel/The-Haunted-Lagoon-Experience

https://hubpages.com/holidays/Hawaiian-Ghost-Stories-II

Halloween has evolved over the years and “trunk or treating” has become a big thing!

https://hubpages.com/holidays/Trick-or-Treat-Trunking-for-Halloween-Safety

Here’s wishing you a fun and safe Halloween 2019!

Cultures, food, Grandchildren, Hawaii, health, holidays, home, Music, Parenting, photography, Religion, travel

Our Grandchildren’s ‘Ulumotu’a

According to Tongan culture, the oldest male son in the family is the ‘Ulumotu’a. Here is a link to read more about this.

https://www.eua-island-tonga.com/Tongan-Culture.html

This role is inherited by the eldest male line. In our case, our oldest son is Robert (Lopeti). It just so happens to be his birthday this month. He has shown his ability to be a leader in his family, while serving in the Air Force, and in his ecclesiastical responsibilities.

His role (as far as his siblings are concerned) is to officiate at family activities, funerals, weddings, and special events. The ‘Ulumotu’a has the final say on these events when it comes to the family.

According to this custom, the Ulumotu’a in my husband’s family is his older brother, Sioeli. He helped to bring most of his siblings to the United States and has supported several of them while they made the transition. We appreciate all he has done for his brother while at school and for our family.

Robert James Kongaika was born October 2, 1974 in Tonga and he eventually became fluent in the Tongan language. When the family left Tonga to move to Hawaii in 1992, Robert stayed behind and lived with his grandmother, Lu’isa so he could graduate from Liahona High School.

Similar to John Groberg’s son in the movie, The Other Side of Heaven 2, Fire of Faith (2019), Robert nearly died at one point in Tonga. He had a very high fever and lost consciousness when he was less than a year old. We tried to wake him up, but nothing worked. We were frantic and the doctor (Salesi Havili) met us at the hospital. Baby Robert received a shot and he finally started crying. I was so relieved to hear his cry. Since then, he has been strong in body and strong in will.

Robert was named after his grandfather, Robert H. Anderson. My Dad taught him all about airplanes, having been a pilot in World War II. Robert soaked it all in and it stoked his desire to serve in the Air Force.

Robert met his eternal companion, Abi, at BYU-Hawaii. They had four children, Israel, Princess, James, and Robbie. They have all supported and followed him throughout his career in the military. We are all thankful for the time and effort he and the family have put into helping to keep America free and safe.

We are grateful Robert came to our family and appreciate his great example of service! We wish our family ‘Ulumotu’a a very Happy Birthday, !

Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, food, Grandchildren, Hawaii, health, holidays, home, Music, Parenting, photography, Religion, travel

My Grandchildren’s Fahu

I am a very fortunate mother. I say that because I have been blessed with a very loving and caring daughter. Many people want a son as their first child, but I believe it is better to have a daughter first. This is a tribute to all loving and caring daughters everywhere, but especially to my own. She was raised in the South Pacific Island of Tonga and is the eldest of four children.

My daughter was born after a very long hard labor, but when I first saw her cute little face, all of the pain and misery left. She actually was a honeymoon baby, born nine months and two days after we were married.

Over the years, we have become best of friends, and at times I feel that she is more of a mother than I am. I had a very troubled childhood and tumultuous teenage years. Perhaps my daughter learned from my mistakes, but she has never been any trouble and has always been there to lift me up.

I am eternally grateful that the Lord saw fit to bless me with such a beautiful and thoughtful daughter. I see the trouble other daughters cause in their family, including myself, and know the Lord was watching out for me when he sent this special spirit to our family.

The saddest day I remember is when my daughter left me to go to university. It took me a long time to get over and her absence was literally painful. But, I knew she had to find her own path and future. Her caring nature carried over into a career. She chose to be a nurse, and I have heard from several of her patients who remark about her loving character. Now she is a Nurse Practitioner and she is a doctor to many, including me.

My daughter and her husband have been blessed with their own beautiful daughter, who is also a sweet and devoted child that bring all of us many smiles and so much joy.

Daughter, I love you so much, more than I ever thought I could love another human being. I am so happy to call you my daughter and hopeful for the mother that I am becoming through you and with you. Thank you for helping me in times of need. I can never repay you for all that you have done for me.

For always and forever, you are the biggest part of my heart.

My daughter’s new daughter
How precious and sweet
Beautifully perfect
From her head to her feet

Ten tiny fingers
And ten tiny toes
All dressed up in lace
With a cute button nose

I look at her face
And I see her bright smile
I have to admit
Takes me back quite awhile

I remember the day
Brought my own daughter home
More precious than anything
I’d ever known

Our daughters are the most precious of our treasures, the dearest possessions of our homes and the objects of our most watchful love.
~ Margaret E. Sangster

A daughter is beauty at its finest.
Heart of an angel, soul so pure, and sweet.
Daughters are one of God’s most precious gifts that he has bestowed upon the world.
Angels in Heaven do not compare to thine beauty, and grace my ever so beautiful, and lovely daughter.


Seeing you at birth brought more joy to me
than all the money in the world could ever do.
You are morning, bright, and shining,
you are noon, you reside at the highest point in my heart,
you are the dew kissed night.
You are my daughter, heart, and soul.
~anonlymous

Art by Ruth Kongaika

So, you may wonder why I entitled this post as “My Grandchildren’s Fahu”. In the Kingdom of Tonga, the eldest sister in a family is revered and given many responsibilities as well as many rewards. https://www.mercyworld.org/_uploads/_ckpg/files/mirc/brief/SenolitaVakata.pdf
This document explains so much about the culture of the Fahu.

Liana has already taken upon herself the “burden” of being our family doctor. Whenever we are sick, she is right there to make sure we get the best care. She will stay up all night with us until she is sure we will be alright. If she really wanted to, she could ask any of her brothers for one of their children (although I’m pretty sure she won’t). She also asks them to take responsibilities by preparing food or giving money for a family member and they oblige willingly. I’m so glad that my sons respect their sister and help her when they can. Although we don’t live in Tonga any more, Liana is a very good example of service to the whole family.

My grandchildren’s fahu,
Liana Olivia Kinikini



Beauty, Cultures, Finance, food, Grandchildren, health, home, Parenting, Religion, travel

Tribute to My Mother-in-law, Luisa Olivia Kongaika

My husband’s mother, Lu’isa Olivia Brown, was born on September 9, 1916. Her father was James Herbert Brown and her mother was Ema Lu’isa Manu Tupou. She was half Caucasian and half Tongan. She was a very beautiful lady with many gifts. She could sew, cook, dance, and she always had a smile on her face when I saw her. Besides her eight natural children, she took care of many other children who consider her their mother. She and her husband served several missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She also worked as a dorm mother at Liahona High School in Tonga and for much of her life she took in sewing for others.

When we lived in Tonga in the 70s, I would often leave my children with Luisa and Viliami. I was often surprised when I returned to pick up the children to find she had sewn them brand new outfits. She was an excellent seamstress and would sew without patterns. She could also bake delicious cakes and then decorate them beautifully. She lived most of her life in Tonga until her husband passed away after which she remained in the United States, living with her children and their families.

Lu’isa never had much in the way of material goods, but she was an elegant lady, always trying to look her best.

When I think of Lu’isa, I think of someone who was always helping others. She fed the missionaries and shared her food with neighbors. She loved all people and they loved her. She was invited to the Tongan Palace because she was a very close relative to the royal family. She was very humble and went only on occasion. She loved her sisters, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She and Vili helped many other children than her own.

Lu’isa and her husband, Vili, sacrificed many things to go to the temple to be sealed as a family. Vili passed away before the Tonga Nuku’alofa Temple was built.

Her children rise up and call her blessed: her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all. ~ Proverbs 31:28-29

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. ~ Proverbs 31:30-31

I shall never forget my mother, for it was she who planted and nurtured the first seeds of good within me. ~ Immanuel Kant

Beauty is God’s handwriting. ~ Charles Kingsley

Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed. ~ Storm Jameson

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. ~ Proverbs 22:6

The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom. ~ Henry Ward Beecher

My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her. ~ George Washington.

Let parents bequeath to their children not riches, but the spirit of reverence. ~ Plato

There is an enduring tenderness in the love of a mother. ~ Washington Irving

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. ~ W.R. Wallace

I’m so grateful Lu’isa was my mother-in-law. She was always a good example to me and our children. She raised a fine son who is my husband, and we try to live the way she and the Lord would want us to.

Sayings and quotes from Mother, I Love You by Helen Steiner Rice.

Uncategorized

I was a Non-traditional Student

I was a non-traditional student. After our four children had successfully finished their college degrees, I returned to school and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in my fifties. I had helped my husband finish both his Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree.

Robert and Liana when they were students at Liahona High School in Tonga

After raising a family and watching as each of my children graduated from college, I resolved to get a diploma of my own.

Straight out of high school, I secured a job that trained me in a skill, and one which I found enjoyable. Being the independent person that I am, I kept on working. My brother was in medical school, and I felt that I could not burden my parents with more expenses. I began taking one or two classes at a time at a nearby vocational school. Thirty years later, I finally got my bachelor’s degree in my fifties. What a jubilant day that was for me. Several of my grandchildren were there to watch me receive my diploma.

Who is considered a mature student?

Any one over the age of 25 is considered a mature student. Other similar terms that are used are nontraditional students, adult learners, or mature learners. Currently, the world’s oldest graduate was a Nola Ochs, a woman from Kansas, who graduated along side her granddaughter.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/LifeStages/story?id=3167970#.T1GDwswWW-M

Reasons for returning to school as a mature student.

Liana graduated from BYU Provo – Nursing

Other motives that may drive a person to return to school include: changing a career, personal ambitions, fulfillment of a dream, learning a new skill, improving an inborn talent, starting a business, or just learning to keep the cobwebs out by stimulating the mind.

Who would subject themselves willingly to homework, lectures and exams? Often individuals have taken time out from their education to have a family, see the world, serve in the military or to serve on a church mission, take care of ailing parents, or a myriad of other reasons.

Differences between regular and mature students

Perhaps the biggest difference in younger and more mature students today is their knowledge of the latest technology. I remember how apprehensive I was when I first started taking my courses. I taught myself how to use the computer, but was not sure if I was up to the level required to complete my assignments. Some classes required class discussions online, and I had to learn this skill. 

Dr. Kinikini and husband, Siope (Doctorate of Nursing)

One reason I wanted to get my degree was to be able to have intelligent conversations with other college graduates and even my children. They were always telling me what they had learned in their university classes and I often found it so interesting. My main reason for returning to school was to prove to myself that I could do it. I was a mediocre student in high school because I did not really apply myself. I knew I had it in me to get better grades. I also wanted to improve my knowledge and skills for personal and professional benefits.

I was older than many of my professors, but the majority of them were very polite, respectful and helpful. I think they knew I wasn’t there to play around, so they were generally eager to assist me.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Kongaika

Just walking in and seeing all the youthful faces was trepidation in itself. Often the teacher would ask us to separate into small groups to discuss the topic at hand. I felt a little awkward, not wanting to push my elderly self into a group that may not appreciate my life experiences. Many of the youthful students were there because someone else wanted them in school, and they were more interested in the social aspects of college life.

In one of my classes I got quite perturbed at the childishness of some students. The same ones would come and sit in the back of the room, and talk and laugh the whole time. The professor didn’t kick them out (although I wish he had), and I couldn’t concentrate with that nonsense. I would turn around and look at them, hoping they would notice my frustration, but it didn’t seem to phase them. 

I was always amused at the students that would put their heads down on their desks and go sound to sleep. The professors usually ignored them, since the students (or their parents) were the ones paying dearly for their naps. 

At one point, I decided to take an online course, thinking that was the way to deal with the impish actions of my classmates. However, I soon discovered that it was harder without personal interaction with the professors. 

So, maturity is definitely a big difference between regular and mature students. Hence, the name “mature student!”

At times I would not understand an abstract idea or not know how to use the appropriate technology, and would ask the student sitting next to me for help. Often they were willing to help me out, but a few of them changed seats the next time we met for class. I tried hard not to bother the younger set with my mental deficiencies, and would save my questions for the professor. 

Joel’s Graduation – Communications (BYU – Hawaii)

Disadvantages to being a mature student

Often the mature students have more obligations. They may have to balance work, family, and school, with multiple pressures from each. Late-night study sessions can take a toll on you when you have to get up and perform at your job the next morning. Babies and little children don’t really care that you are taking classes, because they think that they should be the center of your world. Even spouses need to get on board, otherwise they may feel neglected when you cannot be there because of scholarly obligations.

Unlike the younger students, there are not so many other mature students to interact with. It is advantageous if you can find one of your peers at school to befriend. They can better understand where you are at in life. One thing I did not appreciate was when my classmates called me “madam,” but I guess they could have called me much worse!

The physical aspects of an older student may affect learning. The inability to see, hear, move freely, and keep up with assignments may be impaired and affect learning. Cognitive impairment and personality disorders can also affect a mature student’s ability to perform in college.

My biggest challenge in going to school as a mature student, was getting over my phobia of tests. I would fret and worry before a test, and get myself into such a state, that I could not recall the facts I had studied so hard. I would read, reread, and review my books and notes until I had it all down. Then I had to force myself to take a break before the test, to watch a show or listen to some music. I learned that taking a bike ride or walk also helped. Once I got to the testing center, I would take a deep breath and then begin the exam. The more I took tests, the better I got at it. Then, of course, I would reward myself afterward with an ice cream cone or chocolate. 

Jacob, the BYU-Hawaii Graduate
with his teacher, M. Alisa
Bachelor of Arts

Advantages to being a mature student

Today’s educational system offers much more for the mature student compared to a decade ago. 

Flexible schedules are offered, which include evening classes on campus and online. Some universities let you take classes at your own pace, rather than expecting you to complete a fixed number of credits in a semester. 

There are grants and scholarships available for nontraditional students, and some institutions will even consider your work experiences and professional qualifications towards your degree.

Some employers are willing to send their employees to school to benefit their business, and pay for tuition and books. Also, educational expenses can be used as a tax break.

Mature students are not as intimidated by the teacher, since they are often their peers. They have usually gained confidence in their former interactions with adults. Because of life experiences, a golden ager can put the class material into context better than an overconfident inexperienced person. Older students have had time to figure out what they really want out of life and they can choose a field of study that they are passionate about. Another advantage to going to school later in life is that you can ask your kids to help you with your homework!

Is it worth the struggle to return to school?

Even though it was difficult to take care of our children, be supportive of my husband, work, and go to school, I feel it was well worth all the sacrifices I may have made. It definitely was not easy being the senior citizen in the group. I felt I had to validate myself to the other students as well as my professor. The sense of achievement I felt after reaching my goal is immeasurable. It was so fun to see the adoring faces of my grandchildren as I accepted their leis and balloons on my graduation day. 

So, is it wise to return to school as a mature student? It definitely is if you have not quenched your desire for knowledge and college is a good match for you. There is so much more in this beautiful world to learn.

Ruth Kongaika

rkongaika@gmail.com

Ruth Elayne Kongaika was raised in the mainland, USA, but has been living in the South Pacific for the past forty years. She enjoys trying to capture the beauty of the islands through her photography, painting and writing. She has a blog which shares some of her art and favorite subjects at:

http://www.grandmabloggers.com

Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, Grandchildren, home, Parenting, photography, Religion, travel

Children are Like Flowers

“Children are like flowers. Let them bloom by giving them your warm smiles, your soft gentle words falling on them like rain and your art of confidence. You will be amazed at your own garden.”

Abaida Mahmood

I love gardening and watching flowers bloom in the spring and throughout the summer months. I have noticed how our grandchildren are much like flowers. When you care for them and shower them with love (and food), they blossom into such beautiful creatures. This blog post will be about the similarities between grandchildren and flowers. All the pictures of flowers were from our garden or flowers I received. I will compare them with pictures of our grandchildren. Some pictures I have embellished or used another app to enhance their beauty. I also do it sometimes with the grandchildren, although they don’t need it as much! I also include quotes about children and flowers.

Oftentimes, we like to actually decorate the children with flowers or foilage. So pretty!

Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression. Children in a family are like flowers in a bouquet: there’ s always one determined to face in an opposite direction than the way the arranger desires.

Some children get crowded out, just like some flowers!

I enjoyed putting this post together, especially seeing my beautiful grandchildren. They are the flowers I dream about and pray for every night.

Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, Grandchildren, holidays, home, Parenting, photography, Religion, travel, Uncategorized

My Hometown of Orem Utah

Just in case my grandchildren are a little curious about where I grew up, I will post this here. Many years ago, my parents moved our family from a tiny little farm town in Fairview, Utah to Orem, Utah. This is where I attended elementary school, junior high and high school, held my first job, and dated my husband; hence the majority of my developmental years were spent in Orem.

Kirk, Janet and myself in front of our first home in Orem on Orchard Drive

I remember when we first moved there when I was only four years old, many apple, cherry and other fruit tree orchards covered the acres of fields, and an occasional cluster of homes were developed here and there. The relatively small town was in a valley surrounded by majestic mountains where we enjoyed the four seasons.

One landmark I hope will always be there is the Timpanogos Mountain . I climbed up this rather steep mountain as a youth several times, and there is an awesome cave up there.

The cave consists of three spectacular caverns. Helictites and anthodites and other formations can be found in the cool cave. You can take a guided tour of the cave. The hike takes about one and a half hours going up and a half hour down. The length of the hike is one and a half miles. You don’t want to miss it if you live here or are passing through! Here is a link to a site giving you tips before you go: https://www.nps.gov/tica/planyourvisit/safety.htm

Most of the town’s income in the early years came from the orchards or farms and also from the Geneva Steel Plant, which provided many jobs. I remember that the economy of the town seemed to fluctuate according to the steel industry. If there was a particularly hard winter, the farmers would have a hard year since many of their orchards were lost. The farmers would stay up some nights trying to keep their trees warm during harsh weather.

The main religion in Orem is Mormon or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the majority of the townspeople are Caucasian until more recently. It was very rare to find anyone that was not a member of the church in the vicinity. I don’t believe I met my first friend that was not Caucasian until I was in junior high school. I remember being intrigued by a young American Indian boy from the reservation who had foster parents in our town. There is not a temple yet in Orem, but that would be a real blessing if there was. The nearest temple is in Provo. That is where we were married.

Provo City Temple

I have witnessed marked changes in my hometown of Orem. Now there are only a spattering of orchards amidst the many neighborhoods of lower, middle and upper income homes. Malls and parking lots have also replaced them. Freeways make the travel to other towns and cities much quicker. There is now a bus system that goes all the way to Salt Lake City. It used to take at least an hour’s drive to Salt Lake City where we would travel to do major shopping. Now the once lazy little towns like Pleasant Grove, American Fork, and Lindon merge into one another all the way to Salt Lake. The freeway makes it much faster to get around.

Geneva Steel used to be the main industry in Orem, but has been closed due to the foreign competition and higher labor costs. Another problem with the steel plant was the never-ending problem of pollution. Many regulations had to be passed on the smokestacks in order to control the pollution caused by the steel production, and some days the air was obviously dangerous to our health and also the lake that was adjacent to the plant.

Sunset at Utah Lake

The economy changed drastically when the computer emerged and Orem became a center of computer technology. Because the cost of living remained relatively low, many people moved in from California and other more expensive places. People now fly in from all parts of the world to enjoy the great snow just up the canyon from Orem.

The little sleepy orchard town I knew as a youth has grown so much that it is quite hard to recognize. The traffic rivals that of larger cities and the diversity of the population is very obvious. One of the few recognizable landmarks that still remain is the Scera Theatre where I spent many summer nights.

The Scera Theater

Most people that live in Utah have at least one fruit tree in their yards. My father has prunes, apples, and apricots. Some still remember what a great orchard town Orem used to be.

Money Magazine once named Orem as America’s most livable community. It is getting a bit too big now, so not sure if that still applies.

My father still lives in Orem and the back view out of his bay window is the great Timpanogos Mountain (may it forever stand)!

Utah is known during winter for their great ski resorts. Just up the canyon from Orem, there are some ski resorts that can challenge the best or be great training ground for the beginning skiier. Yes, I have been skiing up at Sundance, and it was beautiful and very cold! Park City is not far away as well as many other skiing resorts.

Sundance Resort and ski area actually offer year round activities for everyone, including a ski resort, summer outdoor theater, great dining and shopping.

Approximately 20,000 people attend Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival every year. Several films that premiered at the festival have received Oscar, Emmy and International Film Festival awards.

On the way up the canyon from Orem is an impressive double cataract waterfall. It is called Bridal Veil Falls. It is most impression in Spring and Summer. The falls are 607 feet tall. There is a small park in front of the falls where you can take your lunch and watch the falls.

I have spent many an hour mesmerized by this waterfall, especially in Spring when the runoff is great. It is a wonderful place to chill and enjoy nature at its finest. I believe I have taken all of my grandchildren to see the falls.

Grandpa and some of the grandkids at Bridal Veil Falls

Orem is where my mother is buried and here are some of the grandkids visiting her.

Beauty, Cultures, Finance, food, Grandchildren, health, holidays, home, Parenting, photography, Religion, travel, Uncategorized

Tweens, Teens, and Onward!

I am at that stage where my grandkids are between the ages of 10-21. I miss them as babies terribly. They were much cuter then! I miss their wanting to play with me and even playing with my toys. Now the only toys I have are the ones I use while tutoring English in China. Oh, well!

Most of our grandchildren have made it through the awkward years while some of them are still awkward! Many of them wore or wear glasses, have worn or wear braces, and some have transitioned from squeaky little voices to deep bass tones. It has all been very slow but steady. Adolescence! Some have had acne, others somehow missed that. Of our children, half had it and the other half didn’t. Accutane helped when we needed it, albeit my pimple-popping self got in the way a bit.

I’m kind of sad that this summer went by so fast! I was able to spend some time with each of the grandchildren, except for one who is trying to graduate from college soon. We had get togethers and some even slept over. The house nearly burned down, but all in all, I feel a bit closer to each of them because of our recent family reunion.

Now that the children are back in school, I find myself missing them more and have taken up a few more hobbies to keep me busy. Even Grandpa is busy driving cars for Budget. He also serves in the temple two days a week and also gives Patriarchal blessings in our stake. I am left to ponder more, study the scriptures, write, paint, make jewelry, sell my used clothes on Poshmark, teach English, and pray. Life is good!

We were blessed with goodly children (isn’t it supposed to be the other way around)? The Lord knew I would need a daughter first who would be my best friend and greatest support. She has so much patience and charity for everyone. Each one of my children have been a great blessing to our family. I could not asked for more!

So, how can I help these grandchildren of ours through the trying “awkward years”?

I have come up with a few ideas and will share them here:

  1. Listen to them and validate that their feelings are real. I remember when I was a teen, no one seemed to validate my feelings. My grandparents seemed too “old” to talk to about those things. My parents were too busy and my brother seemed to be the perfect son, achieving high grades, not interested in sports or girls (what?) Then there was me – not academically innate, very clumsy, preferred boys to girls, and emotional. I hope my experiences can help me be more in tune with my grandchildren if and when they are willing to share their thoughts and feelings with me.
  2. Respect! I think it is important to show respect to the grandchildren. I am so happy that my grandchildren are immovable in their faith and commitment to live the Gospel. They have self confidence and are not afraid to put themselves “out there”! I admire how they love others and how they obey their parents. They dress modestly and try to take care of their own responsibilities.
  3. I am aware that our brains do not fully function until we are 25 years old. Any irrational choices we make before could really be excused, but I know these grandchildren are way ahead of where I was at their age! Give them a break! Don’t put them down! Growing up is not easy for anyone that I am aware of. When we understand that, we will give these children space to make mistakes of their own so they can learn from them.
  4. It is not good to compare grandchildren – that happened to me and it was not advantageous in the long scheme of things. I appreciate each grandchild for their uniqueness in abilities and characteristics.
  5. One of my greatest joys each week is attending sacrament meeting with one of my granddaughters. She leads the congregation in hymn and does such a wonderful job. She is cheerful and comes early to make sure everything is set up. Then she comes and sits by me. She is such a great example to me. I know some of my ideas are foreign to her, but she has patience with me. I try to be a good example for her also.
  6. When I was young, I didn’t get the opportunity to share experiences, feelings, and actually just talk to my grandparents. When three of my grandchildren came back from the South Pacific after spending two weeks with their grandpa, they asked questions like, “Why does everyone love grandpa and want to help him when he goes back to his homeland?” I think it was a great experience for them to see that he is not just an old grumpy guy but is well respected in his own society!
  7. One thing I have learned is to watch my words. I know when the grandchildren are around they are listening to everything that comes out of my mouth. I should not gossip, not talk bad about my husband or leaders, never swear, and be as positive as I can (not an easy task). Words said in anger are hard to forget!
  8. Our grandchildren come in varying sizes and shapes. I love each one just the way they are and should never put them down because of the way they look. It is difficult with so much available to eat all the time and I know when they get interested in finding a mate they will take good care of themselves. Body image is a sensitive subject to all of us.
  9. I have enjoyed getting to know more about my grandchildren’s friends. Their friends are very influential and I am always happy to meet them. It is good to know why they like them and what good characteristics they possess.
  10. One thing I have learned recently is that my grandchildren do not want me to know everything about them. They need their privacy and time away from Grandma. Above all is to enjoy whatever time we have together. Make it a happy, beneficial time. Last Christmas I did something totally different than any time before. I am a thrifter and all of my grandchildren know I pick up things that I think they might like during the year. Then during Christmas, I laid them all out and let them choose what they wanted – two gifts. That way I don’t buy something for them they will never use and everyone is happy. I asked one grandchild how they liked it and they told me it was great, so I may have to do it again. Christmas gifting is one of my most difficult challenges.

Sorry to have rambled on and on…feel free to add your ideas on how to interact with grandchildren or what has worked for you. I’m sure there are many more.

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Grandma Moses, the Artist

A German proverb says, “The oldest trees often bear the sweetest fruit.” Besides my own Grandmother Anderson, an amazing self-taught artist, Grandma Moses, truly inspires me. Anna Mary Robertson, a painter known as Grandma Moses, lived until she was 101 years old. She only started painting when she was 76 years old. Her paintings hang in nine museums in the United States, Paris, and Vienna.

The reason she took up painting so late in life is because arthritis had made it impossible for her to hold her needle to embroider, her favorite hobby. However, she could hold a brush just fine, and not wanting to be idle, she began painting. Today, she is one of the best-known American artists in Europe.

Grandma Moses’ Quotes

  • “If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.”
  • “I paint from the top down. From the sky, then the mountains, then the hill, then the houses, then the cattle, and then the people.”
  • “I look back on my life like a good day’s work, it was done and I feel satisfied with it. I was happy and contented; I knew nothing better and made the best out of what life offered. And life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”

Grandma Moses had her own unique style, which proved to be very popular. Well known for nostalgic scenes in gay colors, she illustrated farm life and the countryside. She had a knack for bringing a simple scene to life.

An art collector saw some of her paintings in a drug store priced from $3 to $5 each. He purchased all of her available art, and the following year she ended up having an exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Her art was reproduced on Hallmark Christmas cards, on tiles and fabrics throughout the world.

Grandma Moses had her own unique style, which proved to be very popular. Well known for nostalgic scenes in gay colors, she illustrated farm life and the countryside. She had a knack for bringing a simple scene to life.

A Beautiful World by Grandma Moses

A German fan said of her art:

There emanates from her paintings a light-hearted optimism; the world she shows us is beautiful and it is good. You feel at home in all these pictures, and you know their meaning. The unrest and the neurotic insecurity of the present day make us inclined to enjoy the simple and affirmative outlook of Grandma Moses.

Grandma Moses painted only from her memory. She wanted to share how she lived when she was young with everyone. In her 25 years of painting, she produced more than 1,000 pictures, 25 of which she painted after she turned 100 years old. The price of her paintings $3 to $5 each to $8,000 to $10,000 each. One of her paintings, Sugaring Off (1943), was her highest selling work, bought for $1.2 million USD in November of 2006.

Her work has been compared to that of Henri Rousseau. The particular style they share designates those artists who live in a developed and sophisticated society, but are not trained in artistic perception and lighting. In Grandma Moses’ words, “we make amateur art that sells.”

Shenandoah Valley (1938)

Alas, the story of Grandma Moses would not be complete without the other part of her biography, which is that she had given birth to ten children, half of which died in infancy. She started working as a hired girl at age 12, and continued until she was 27 when she met and married Thomas Salmon Moses. As an adult, she lived in Virginia and made butter and potato chips, selling them to her neighbors. She continued to run the farm with her son after her husband passed.

One of Grandma Moses’ paintings, Fourth of July, hangs in the White House, and was painted in honor of President Eisenhower.

I would be happy to have a tenth of the fame Grandma Moses did with her art. She is truly inspirational and she was not worried about technique or criticism. She just loved painting.

Some of my art instructors told me that I paint in a simplistic manner – much like Grandma Moses. I suppose I am in good company then!

Some of my artwork – Elayne Kongaika
I paint because I love to!
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God Bless the Child Who Suffers

Baby Lily Ruth

The lyrics from a Shania Twain song beseeches God to bless the child who suffers. Halleluiah! Every time I hear it, I cry a little. It reminds me of my youngest granddaughter. In the womb, her backbone did not develop correctly so she would never be walk alone on this earth. I know that we all have something wrong with us, either physically, mentally, or otherwise. None of us are perfect. Our DNA may be tainted so that we are predisposed to certain conditions. God give us hope. We all need someone to hold our hand and help us through this life.

My journey with Lily began before she was born. Her birth was abruptly followed by two surgeries, one to close her back and one to put a shunt in her head to drain out extra fluid. She has had no feeling below her waist since then. Lily and her family have made the best of what she was given.

Lily was a poster child for a wheelchair company

Lily has a pitch-perfect voice and she is not too shy to sing alone on a stage before hundreds of people. Thanks to Friend to Friend, she is able to participate in musicals every six months.

Now it is ten years later and she just finished three surgeries. She has been blessed with goodly parents who have raised her to participate in many activities, no matter how hard. She has played softball, basketball, tennis, wheelchair dancing, and she recently rode in a hot-air balloon! There is hardly any limit to what Lily can do.

Lily skiing.

Lily had been so active going up and down stairs unassisted until her leg got swollen and it was discovered that she had broken one of her legs. Because of where her leg was broken, that leg stopped growing.

Lily is outgoing and makes friends easily. Her personality overcomes any obstacles that may get in her way.

Lily is very expressive in her dancing.

Lily’s father and siblings recently made a trip to the South Pacific with her Grandpa ‘Isi. For those with disabilities, traveling internationally can be very challenging. Third-world countries rarely have ramps or doors that open for wheelchairs. Lily stayed with her mother and waited for news from the islands. America is quite aware of and make efforts to help people in wheelchairs, but not all places are accessible. The LDS church just put out a video which is quite telling.

Thought provoking video.
Lily loves the beach. This was on a visit in Hawaii!

Lily’s family, including both parents and siblings, were born and raised in Hawaii. The medical care there was not sufficient to handle the needs of a child born with severe spina bifida. So, the family moved to Utah.

Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City as well as Shriners have helped immensely when she got sick or needed special medical help.

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Lily has brought so much to our family. More empathy, more kindness, more understanding, more service, and so much more. I can’t imagine my life without Lily!! I love her so much!


She has enriched our lives and make us feel closer to heaven. She recently gave me a ride on her chair lift up and down the stairs. Her parents have done all they could to meet her needs.

Lily Ruth Kongaika

We are so grateful she came to earth and look forward to a time when Heavenly Father will bless her with a whole perfect body.

Here is an exceptional young man with spina bifida who made the best of things, Aaron Fotherinham!

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Vava’u Portion of the Tonga Mission Reunion 1989-92

After a fun and relaxing time in Ha’apai , former President ‘Isileli Kongaika, his son Joel, and three grandchildren boarded a boat headed for the Vava’u Islands in Tonga. Unlike former trips made by the Kongaika family on the ‘Olovaha, this newer boat, the MV. Tongiaki had the latest equipment and was supposed to provide a comfortable ride. Unfortunately, the sea was very rough and all but one of the family got seasick.

The following notes are from President Kongaika. He makes more detailed ones since he was actually on the trip:

Boat ride to Vava’u

Left Ha’apai at 2:00 pm on speed ferry and arrived 6 pm to Puatalefusi harbor at Neiafu, Vava’u.

All the kids including Joel and the newly called missionary called to  serve in New York, Sione Filimoe’ulie got seasick. This missionary has never been outside of Tonga!

Trying to recover from seasickness at Saineha High School in Vava’u

Greeted by planning committee at the wharf and transported to our prepaid house at Neiafu. A home with 5 beds and 2 baths, gorgeous back porch view of the famous Lolo ‘a Halaevalu Harbor.

The Vava’u Group – please tag!

We were invited to have a welcome potluck dinner with all the returned missionaries serving with us from 1989-1992. It was held at the Saineha High School Gymnasium. From 8-10pm

  • Everyone who came introduced themselves with spouses and children.
  • Pres. Mosaia To’a, our Vava’u group chair introduced his officers and gave a welcome remarks while we ate. He also outlined the plan for the rest of our gathering for the next four days. Aug 8-11.
  • At the close of the evening I was asked to respond and expressed gratitude to all who had any hand in the planning and carrying out of the plan. They have learned well from their mission experience the commitment pattern in carrying out their activities.   

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

  • Pres To’a arranged for a seven-passenger van for us to rent while in Vava’u. Bro. Filimoe’ulie was our designated driver.
  • Joel and Kids dropped me and Filimoe’ulie to meet the ministering committee at the stake center and they went to do some sightseeing around Neiafu and do some laundry. 
  • We went to visit a sister who was married outside of the covenant and is no longer active. It was a good visit both for us as well as for this mother. We extended an invitation for her and her family to join us in the activities as we celebrate our 30th year reunion.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

  • We went on to visit three graves of our missionaries who had recently passed away, leaving behind widows and children. We presented flowers in each of these graves. The missionaries were Alavini Vea, Sione Fakatava and Viliami ‘Elisa all from Neiafu and Toula.
  • At about 4 pm we went with kids to join the dinner prepared by the Neiafu group to welcome and start our activities in Vava’u. By now JoJo has become proficient in selecting from the spread of foods on the table that he likes and so did Eryn and Anna. JoJo had learned the best part of a roasted pig was the meat along the spine. 
  • A welcome dance was held around 7 pm to 11pm at the same stake center. It was good to see all the missionaries and their spouses came to have an enjoyable evening with other fellow missionaries. I was able to get reacquainted with many with whom we served together 30 years ago. We received many leis and food to last a while.

Friday, August 9, 2019

  • We decided to take the kids on a trip around the Island and show them where I served in Vava’u some 55 years ago. We started at Neiafu our zone leader headquarters. We drove to Leimatu’a through Mataika and Felecia. Leimatu’a was where I had served for about 2 months and then was assigned to transfer to Longomapu for 8 months
  • We drove on to Longomapu through Tefisi. I was able to show the kids the backwoods of Vava’u and saw a horse being used for transportation as well as the manual laborer.
  • This is where we cleared land given to the Church for a little house of worship and later it became a ward with a beautiful brick meeting house. The location was so amazing and it overlooks the ocean with a view of the outer islands. 
  • We also visited the location of my first missionary make-shift fale and told how the Lord sent us to activate a less active member in Longomapu. Brother Tau’aika was no longer living in his Longomapu estate. 
  • We drove and looked for Bro Tau’aika who now lives in the village of Tu’anuku. It was good to have Joel and the kids meet the person I had often talked about while on my mission in Longomapu. He and his wife are now aging but still very aware and remembered every detail of our time together. 
  • After the visit to the western side we headed to the Eastern side, that includes Ta’anea, Ha’alaufuli, Tu’anekivale, and Koloa. We visited Koloa where Grandpa Sione Kongaika and Grandma Mele had served a mission as couple leadership missionaries. It was here he made a visionary decision that all church meetings will be held on Sunday, allowing them to do ministering work on other days of the week. We had to drive through a crossways from the end of Tu’anekivale to this tiny island called “Koloa” (treasure). I am uncertain what the treasure was in this tiny remote island. 
  • We drove back and stopped at Ta’anea to have another feast prepared by the Eastern group. It was an excellent meal, however the kids and Joel decided after that long tour around the the main island of Vava’u, they had had enough for the day and broke off for an evening of private pizza dinner in Neiafu.
  • Around 7 – 10 pm the Eastern group hosted another dancing activity and invited all to come and mingle and dance. It was so fun to see the future of the Kingdom in these activities. They enjoyed good clean fun.

Saturday AUGUST 10, 2019 Touring the island district.

  • This group was headed by Pres Saipa’ia who served with us. Pres. Saipa’ia is my cousin from the ‘Isileli Tupou descendants. He had gained permission from the Mission President for us to use the Missionary speedboat named Alma to tour the Islands in Vava’u namely, Noapapu, Matamaka, Talihau, Otea, Pangai Motu and others I can’t remember.
  • It was a great day for boating and swimming. First we drove to the bridge that connects Talau to Vaimalo. This is where we used to swim across the channel to get to Neiafu for Missionary work days. Now they drive or ride a bike or walk this road. 
  • We then headed out by Tefisi and Tu’anuku to the Sparrows Cave. Here we drove into the cave and Joel and some of the kids who joined us got brave and jumped in for a swim. The kids just observed as they were nervous about getting out of the boat. We drove around these islands for an opportunity for sightseeing. We headed back to Neiafu and took a rest before we drove out to Pangaimotu for the evening dinner picnic at a place called the Ano (lake) 
  • Again, we enjoyed a gathering with families of our Vava’u 89-92 Returned Missionaries as we broke bread together over another outpouring of anga’ofa (love). The kids enjoyed the barbecue dishes and they had also barbecued a lamb as they do little suckling pigs. Many speeches and tau’olunga (dances) were given to entertain the crowd. As always, I was asked to give the closing remarks signaling the close of the activity.

Sunday AUGUST 11

  • We were invited to join any ward or branch we wanted to. So we attended the Leimatu’a ward for two hours.
  • Joel and the kids went home for lunch which was prepurchased. I joined the rest of the party with a pot luck lunch at Saineha under the huge mango tree. Here we had the traditional favorite dishes like lo’i lesi, veihalo, and vaihopa, to name a few. There were always fresh young coconuts to drink. We also had some good sharing as we ate together under this huge mango tree.
  • At 7 pm we started out missionary fireside and most people did not show up until around 8 pm. It was a time for remembering God’s tender mercies while we served as His missionaries. 
  • I closed this fireside with an invitation to focus our gospel study at home, following  the Come Follow Me course of study, if we are to know, love and serve Christ more. 
  • The other invitation was to live the new commandment to “Love one another as Christ has loved us.” The image is in the Tongan Proverb to “PIKIPIKIHAMA-KAE- VAEVAEMANAVA MANAVA” – remember the poor and the needy, the widows and homeless and the sick and those in prison. Love them as Christ loved us all.
A yachters paradise – Vava’u

Monday 12 AUGUST 

  • We just relaxed, paid our bills, and got ready to fly home to Tongatapu.
  • Some things have not changed over these many years. We were scheduled to fly out at 5:30 am and was later delayed to 3:30 pm. While at the airport we were told it was delayed one more hour so did not get off the island until 5:30 pm.
  • We checked in to a house that Joel had reserved online and they enjoyed a pizza dinner provided by Alavini and Mokiana Sika. Pres Sika and Mokiana took me to a farewell family home evening with whomever were left in Tongatapu before we departed for home the next day. Again, we had a wonderful evening of activities focused on helping single mothers of our group with necessary items for their homes. We raised some money to be divided among these widows. 
  • Of course a good Tongan meal always accompanied a gathering like this. At the end I reminded them of our reunion invitations:
  • Focus in Gospel study in our homes by following diligently the “Come Follow Me” curriculum of the church.
  • Live the best we can the new commandment to “Love One-another as I have Loved You” The image of PIKIPIKIHAMA- KAE- VAEVAEMANAVA is to represent the commandment as we strive to care for the poor and needy, widows and fatherless as well as those who are sick and in Prison. 

Check back for more photos of the Tonga Mission Reunion 1989-1992 in Tongatapu, Ha’apai, and Vava’u tomorrow!!

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Ha’apai Part of the Tonga Mission Reunion 1989-92

Former Elder Filimoe’ulie was asked be a traveling companion to formerly President Kongaika to make sure everything went well. Isi had been quite sick in Tongatapu without being able to speak and the committee felt he needed someone to go to Ha’apai and Vava’u with him. Thanks for taking care of Grandpa!

Ha’apai Boy Back Home!! Joyful Celebration!

President Kongaika of the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission 1989-92 was back home again after a long sojourn in the desert valley of Utah. He had missed this little island where he had grown up. He had thought the whole world revolved around his small island and now that he was home, he didn’t want to leave again. He said it was so peaceful and for the most part unaffected by the world.

As for the grandchildren, this was their first time to set foot on the soil of Pangai, Ha’apai. Son, Joel had been born in Provo, Utah and his children Anna, Eryn, and Joseph (Jojo) had been born and raised in Hawaii. They had heard many tales from their grandfather about growing up in the islands of Ha’apai and Nuku’alofa, but now they were actually seeing it with their own eyes. How wondrous and marvelous to experience the land, sea and air of this nation where time seems to have a different meaning, far from the crowded noisy cities.

Happy familiar faces greeted the excited group and made them feel at ease. Some of our missionaries now have children serving missions. So happy they could carry on in the service of the Lord.

The traveling group moved into the Mission Home near the wharf on Pangai. Isi and Ruth had stayed there several times when they served their mission. They had even entertained one of the general authorities, Elder and Sister Glenn Rudd, in this home. The kids said it was quite different than what they are used to, but it was quite comfortable except for a few spiders and other bugs.

Only three of our RMs were involved in the planning of the activities in Pangai, but ‘Isi said they went all out. Thank you all including the Stake President, Tonga Onevai, for your efforts in making it a very memorable trip. They were also able to visit some of missionaries who had married out of the faith and were welcomed.

The kids were able to go to the local elementary school. They were impressed that the children were so willing to sing for them and make them feel welcome. Anna, Eryn, and Jojo in return sang for the school children. They said they feel that the people are so service oriented and look out for one another.

The first project on Grandpa Isi’s mind was to find his grandfather Sione Kongaika’s grave and clean up the area. This was an act of love and service to honor his grandfather. The Kongaika name came from Sione because he was always in the sea. The name means “part fish”. Before that the family name was ‘Aholelei. He was a very active convert in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His wife Mele had raised Isi’s father, Viliami.

Sione Kongaika the fourth from the left in back. Viliami is the boy in front third from the left with bandage on head.

Once Sione’s grave site was cleaned up, others came to help clean up the graves of some palangi elders who had died in the service of their God, Elder Rasmussen and Elder Oborn. They gave their all!

Beautiful beach on Pangai, Ha’apai

You can see the beauty of Ha’apai from these photos. The kids had a new friend in AJ who could speak English very well and showed them the ropes. Isi was talking with Ruth in Utah to tell her all about the trip.

The travelers were treated to feasting and dancing. The kids were surprised that the children would shoo the flies the whole time they were eating. What a selfless act of kindness that was.

The group traveled to Foa on the causeway and the kids had fun collecting shells for Grandma Ruth and enjoying the gorgeous beaches. Isi laid under a coconut tree and felt very grateful for having been able to return again to his islands of Ha’apai.



There was a special fireside held and the main topic was “The Gathering of Israel”. Many participated and it was more of a discussion than a talk by President. It was noted that there were some BYU-Hawaii graduates now living in Ha’apai and serving where they can. “Isi reminisced about the simple faith of the people he grew up with in Ha’apai and he loved every minute he was there.

To be continued… next – Vava’u and more pictures throughout the trip!!

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Tongatapu, Ha’apai, and Vava’u Mission Reunion Trip 2019 with the Kongaikas

Isi met Joel and kids in Auckland, New Zealand. Ruth, Meilani, and Lily awaited anxiously for any news, pictures, and videos from the islands.

Welcoming Committee

The missionaries had planned all of the reunion in the respective islands of Tonga. They had arranged for a place to stay for the travelers, transportation, food to eat, and entertainment. They outdid themselves royally! Many thanks to all who helped out in any way to take care of this bunch.

Here are some good looking people that took care of ‘Isi, Joel, and the three grandchildren.

Of course, a Tongan Mission Reunion would not be complete without a trip to the temple and a service project. Also, our missionaries ministered to several of our RMs including widows, sick, and those in prison as Jesus has taught each of us to do.

There was feasting, dancing, and loving.

Tonga Nuku’alofa Temple

Pictures of ministering:

Feasting:

More feasting at Kanokupolu Resort

Dancing!

We are as popular as the Jets! haha

It is good to know we are still remembered in the islands. We have the souvenir of the poster with our family on it and a water bottle with our picture on it also. Then there were two different colors of t-shirts that referenced our mission. We are so grateful for all the love that was shown to us by our missionaries.

One highlight of the trip was for President Kongaika to meet with Elder and Sister Fie’eiki who served as our senior office couple. I don’t know how we could have done it without them.

‘Ofa atu Elder mo Sister Fie’eiki mo famili!

Isi, Joel and the kids stayed at Liahona where we used to live for ten years before our mission call.

Temporary home at Liahona High School

The Hahake Group also had a feast and a dance at Pelehake Chapel.More pictures – sorry if I left anyone out. Please tag everyone!

Brother Kongaika even got to visit his home in Kahoua that his father built.

Maybe we could all move back to Tonga and live in our little house in Kahoua!!

To be continued…next – Ha’apai!!

Beauty, Cultures, food, Grandchildren, health, home, Music, Parenting, photography, Religion, travel, Uncategorized

Kongaika Tonga Reunion Trip August 2019

‘Isileli Tupou Kongaika served as the Mission President in the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission from 1989-1992. His family including wife, Ruth and children, Liana, Robert, Joel, and Jacob lived in the Sopu Mission Home those three years.

Since then, he has lived in Hawaii and then retired to the Salt Lake City area in Utah. In August, 2019, he met with Joel, his son, and three grandchildren, Anna, Eryn, and Joseph in Tonga and they stayed for two weeks traveling around Tongatapu, to the island of Pangai, Ha’apai, and Vava’u.  Grandma Kongaika stayed home as well as Joel’s wife Meilani and daughter, Lily.

On the way to Tonga, ‘Isi stopped over in Auckland, New Zealand, where he met with many of his former missionaries and families. They shared memories of their missions and treated their old president with much love and respect. They fed him and encouraged him to speak, but alas, he had lost his voice due to a bad cold. 

The three grandchildren had not been in Tonga before and enjoyed learning more about their grandfather and father’s culture. They endured culture shock, Tongan feasting, mosquitos, cockroaches, high humidity, grandpas long stories, and sea sickness. 

As their grandmother, I was acutely aware of the hazards that the grandchildren might experience. I prayed every day for their safety and well being. Thankfully, all of them survived their trip and made new friends. Grandpa had them very involved with the Tongan missionaries and school children in Tonga. 

All of the traveling group became ill on the trip, but are now on the mend. Grandma was asked several times why she didn’t go also. My excuse is that I had a pretty bad year health wise and didn’t want to get sick again. 

Joel was too excited to return to Tonga and relive his childhood. To be continued…

Cultures, Grandchildren, holidays, home, Parenting, photography, travel

The Best Thing to Give Your Grandchildren

I feel very fortunate to be able to get to know my grandchildren and enjoy their unique personalities. When it comes to giving gifts to them, I have found that they usually do not remember from one birthday or Christmas to the next what we gave to them. I have been trying to think of a gift that will last in their memories and be meaningful. It is very tempting to buy them expensive gifts so they think you are the greatest grandmother in the world. But, that only spoils them, and eventually they all expect it – because the word gets out really quick to brothers, sisters and even cousins. So what are we grandparents to do?

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I have come to the conclusion that the best gift we can give our grandchildren is our time. Keeping in touch often and showing them the attention they may not get from their busy parents is important. I used to be better at this and need to get back in the habit of calling, messaging, using Facetime or Marco Polo (an app).

Pay attention and listen to their funny stories. Ask about their friends, school days and other experiences. Children say the funniest things and we don’t want to miss out.

I did not receive large monetary gifts from my grandparents, but I have something that, to me, is much more valuable. I have their written histories and pictures. My grandmothers wrote journals and even wrote their favorite sayings, poems, recipes, and songs. Through them I am somewhat familiar with their parents, brothers and sisters. I treasure these precious books and pictures, and I am trying to do the same for my grandchildren by keeping my own journal.

My paternal grandparents and a few of us (I’m on the right with the funny hair)!

Another gift I think that is valuable is to teach them how to use money. By gifting them money for special occasions like birthdays and holidays, they will have the opportunity to learn how to use it wisely. My grandkids know that grandma is a thrifter. I shop at thrift shops and last Christmas I just laid it all out and let them choose what they wanted. I think they liked it (you would have to ask them for sure). It is better than getting them something they will never wear, use, or think about again. I have on occasion taken some of my grandchildren thrifting with me and they usually find something they like.

We can encourage our grandchildren to save up for future expenses they will have like college, a car, or their wedding. We can also advise them to spend it on something that they need instead of wasting it on something trivial. We can suggest that they save it up so that they can purchase a more expensive item that they really want. This teaches them about saving and managing their money. This summer we hired our grandson to mow our lawns. He has decided he wants to put together a computer and is saving up to buy each of the parts. He is well on his way to get his computer.

Finally, Grandparents can offer unconditional love to their grandchildren. The world can be a negative place. We can be the light that greets them every time we see them, gives them a hug, a compliment, and listens to them when they are low. We should make time to attend their activities as much as possible and plan playdates to spend quality time with them. I am not consistent in doing this with all of my grandchildren, but hope to get better. That is the reason we retired to Utah from Hawaii – to spend more time with my grandchildren. We don’t know how much longer we will have to be with them and influence them for good, so we should make use of the time we have left.

So, the best gifts that I feel we can give our grandchildren is time, our journal, money management help, and unconditional love. I’m sure there are many more, but I chose to focus on these four at this time.


Artwork, Beauty, buy, Cultures, Finance, Grandchildren, Hawaii, health, home, Parenting, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Doing Good at Goodwill Outlet

So, since my husband has been away for a couple of weeks, I decided to do some thrifting at a place not regularly on my radar. I have previously donated to Goodwill on occasion, but have not shopped there. Some friends have seen my recent posts on Facebook about meeting some of our missionaries there, so here is my story.

My first experience at Goodwill was an exciting one. I stood at the front door since I was a bit early for the opening. There were about fourteen individuals that looked primed and ready to go into this large establishment by the train tracks in SLC, Utah. I had no idea what to expect, but had great anticipation since I knew you pay by the pound, not the label.

Once the door was opened, there was a rush to get carts and then off to grab anything of value. You had to watch your step or you might get plowed under in the commotion that ensued. Since I had not been in there before, I was not familiar with the rules of the hunt, so I tried to keep a low profile and stay out of people’s way. Every 15 minutes or so a gang of highly qualified individuals come and take out a row of the bins and replaces it with new bins full of whatever belongs in that spot.

There are well-marked lines on the cement floor where the bins of items have to go. There are about 40 or so bins filled with second-hand clothes, shoes, toys, purses, books, sheets, and the like. The bins at the far end from the cash register have all books. Some people went straight for those bins in an attempt (as I noticed) to gather all the textbooks, no doubt to sell online to students. After gathering up those, they would have a checklist to mark them all off.

Others went straight for the clothes bins. Arms were flying and some would scoop their arms down under the piles of clothes and turn them all upside down in an attempt to be able to see what was at the bottom. The first day I tried to do that and my arms got really sore. Hey, this is good exercise and not for the weary in mind or body! I spent a lot of time looking at labels and found a few items in my size.

There were also quite a few bins of toys, purses, shoes, kitchen gear, and other paraphernalia all mingled together. Good luck finding two shoes that match. They are supposed to be rubber banded together, but that doesn’t last long in the hubbub. However, the first day I brought home five pair of shoes, several pieces of clothing, bags, a few purses, scarves, ties (one was a Giorgio Armani), hats , a Andy Warhol t-shirt, pants for my husband, and decorative doilies for the house. When my arms felt like rubber and I felt I had retrieved a few treasures, I went to weigh the cart. The kind cashier is very helpful. They weigh the cart and all then minus the weight of the cart from the total and that is what you pay. My first haul only cost $30. Wow, I was hooked! Oh, no!

I think of thrifting as a huge treasure hunt. I know there is something that belongs to me in there and I am willing to keep going until I find it! On one of my first trips to Goodwill, I found a beautiful Native American doll with long black hair and the front locks were braided. She was mesmerizing! My mother has an Indian doll and I have always admired it. I was in love! My husband better come back soon or I will spend all my time in this place.

Isn’t she lovely! I feel she was worth more than I paid for all the things I found. Don’t be jealous! If you want her, $50 please.


I found another doll, only this one I have written about before. She is an authentic Madame Alexander Collectible! (with papers) . I was so excited to find her and glad no one else cares about dolls the way I do. She is amongst the First Ladies of the United States series – her name is Betty Taylor Bliss 1849-1850. The clothes are very detailed as well as her face and hair. Again, if you want her, $50 please.

I would like to welcome all my friends and family to join me (unless you think you’re too good to go in there)! Honestly, there is plenty for everyone and since we are all different sizes and have different tastes, there is only a small chance we will want the same things. The only caution is: please stagger your visits because if all the Polys in the valley go at once, we’re in big trouble!

Just as a side note, if you get 24 pounds worth, you will need to go back to get one more pound since it will be cheaper that way. That happened this last time so I went to the book bins and found a huge book about Mary, Queen of Scots (relative), and that threw me into the next category.

Now I have a Madame Alexander doll with her guarantee papers as well as a new Christmas fairy doll. I have listed many of my items on Poshmark where I resell things literally from my closet. My user name is elayne001. So if you are interested, check out:

https://poshmark.com/closet/elayne001

I could spend every morning at Goodwill if it weren’t so far away (takes me about 30 minutes to get there). Also, my bank account would diminish if I keep it up for too long.

The friends I have made there are forever! We don’t try to steal each others stuff and are very considerate. When someone finds a treasure they don’t shout it out to make others feel bad. Once I saw what another person found and I wanted it. He said you can buy it for $50 – such is the life of a reseller.

I ran into some friends from Tonga I hadn’t seen in years. They thrift to send things home to their families in Tonga. Overseas remittances are the greatest income for the little islands. My husband will be surprised when he sees the nice things I found for him at Goodwill, I hope! He took several of his own clothes to give away while he was in his home country.

https://vimeo.com/manage/353130903/general

Check out the video I made after my first treasure hunt at Goodwill. See you there!

Also, if you want to see where I resell items I purchase that are very good, check out my Poshmark closet:

https://poshmark.com/closet/elayne001

Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, Grandchildren, Hawaii, Parenting, photography, travel

Playdate with My Youngest Granddaughter, Lily

Yesterday was a very fun day. My youngest granddaughter, Lily, her mother, and I went to the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. I had spent quite a bit of time with my other grandchildren this summer, but this was Lily’s time. It was a day of surprises, delights, and laughter.

There was a butterfly room where a guide would let you have a butterfly for a few minutes. Lily was excited. One flew over and landed on my shoulder.

Lily Ruth gets her middle name from me! She is a joy to our family and very precious. God sent Lily to us and we have learned so much from her. Before she was born, I knew I loved her! I was present at the ultrasound on her mother when it was discovered that Lily had spina bifida. But, that little glitch has not stopped Lily from making a big impression on the world she lives in and all of us! She is 10 and loves school, singing, and playing with Barbies! She also is great at playing tennis, basketball, and giving her brother a hard time!!

Lily’s father and siblings are currently on a long excursion with Grandpa to his tiny islands of Tonga in the South Pacific. Tonga is not very wheelchair friendly, so she stayed behind with her mother. So, we made a playdate to have some fun together.

People can be very curious about Lily but she is used to it, so she isn’t bothered by it. I’m so glad because it was annoying to me!

The local aquarium is located in Draper, Utah, not too far from where I live. You can more about it at thelivingplanet.com We got there around 1:00 pm and stepped into a world of wild and amazing creatures. I had bought Lily a blue dolphin and she carried it around the whole time we were there. She named it “Bubbles”. 

A crabby crab! Looking for a fight!

As you walk in, there are several huge whales hanging from the ceiling! The aquarium is huge and has many passageways into different areas. The first corridor we went down was entitled Discover Utah. It was cool! There were land turtles and huge river fish. Some fish had humps on their backs. Utah has a few endangered fish that are in the aquarium. There were also ducks, salamanders, tarantulas, and other land animals. 

Pretty jellyfish, but watch out – the sting is very painful!

I enjoyed the jellyfish display (could stare at them forever)! A running commentary about the critters and sea life went along with “oohs” and “awws”, and a few shrieks and cringes. Lily told us what she had learned at school about invasive frogs in Australia and the traps they make there. 

By far, my favorite displays (along with Lily’s) was a huge two level tropical room where birds flew around you and it felt like we had stepped back in time and space to Hawaii! The air was moist and warm. There was a tiny little sloth fast asleep in a little pouch. So cute!

Lily, you are a star in my book!

Also, there was a great wall where you could peer into the undersea world with sharks and other sealife. It is awe inspiring. 

Another favorite was the penguin window. The penguins wobbled, walked on water (it seemed), and swam to our delight except for one big chubby penguin that looked as though he thought he was the king of the lot (too funny)!

Lily and I at the aquarium enjoying God’s creations

We got to see two movies in 4D. One was about the melting glaciers and global warming. The other was a cartoon of Ice Age (hilarious). As you watched, air would blow at the back of your head from the chair! Just when I got relaxed, it would blow again (stop)!

There is so much to see at the aquarium and we loved seeing the variety of creations that God has made. The whole time I was taking video on Marco Polo (it’s an app) and sending it to Lily’s family in Tonga so they could experience some of it too.

In one station you could touch the round coral and see the stingrays and starfish (they felt like velcro). Lily got to hold a starfish! Then she wanted to get out of her chair and touch the huge turtle on the floor.

Lily loving on the turtle!

At one time, I asked a guide where the place was you could watch the dolphins jump! Silly me, that was Sea Life Park in Hawaii where we often took our older grandchildren. Maybe they should have one here any way.

Here’s Lily with an anaconda much longer than herself (cringe)! She felt bad for some of the turtles that were not moving under the water. 

Lily acting brave by the anaconda!

The last place we went was a tunnel under the water where you could see huge sharks swimming overhead. I felt a bit vulnerable, but tried to act normal for all of our sakes.

As for wheelchair access, the place was great, but some of the exhibits blocked the few at wheelchair level. That was very unfortunate. 

All in all, we had a marvelous experience! Love you tons, Lily!

Cultures, Finance, food, Grandchildren, Hawaii, health, home, Parenting, photography, Religion, travel, Uncategorized

Our 50th Class Reunion

Since I have been a grandmother for over 21 years, it was inevitable (if I lived long enough) that I would have a 50th class reunion from the time I graduated from Orem High School. Fifty whole years! Half a century! The invitation to the 50th 1969 Class Reunion arrived at my house and I just stared at it. Indeed, I felt lucky to still be alive since I was aware of several classmates who had passed to the other side. But, still! Where had all that time gone? What had I been up to all of those seconds, minutes, weeks, month, and years?

I attended a few of my class reunions through the years. Some were good experiences and others not so good. I remember our tenth-year reunion. Classmates gathered in their old little groups and it was held at the Elk’s Club in Provo, Utah. I was excited to see my friends and acquaintances and enjoyed visiting with them. Most were recognizable since only a bit of time had passed.

There were dancing and drinking. Wild dancing and drinking (a lot of it). Weren’t we mostly brought up as L.D.S. (aka Mormon)? I was shocked at the state of some of the less sober people I knew. The bars were open for the whole evening. Some shared their successes and some told of their struggles. They announced who had the most children since graduation. The winner was a girl who had gotten pregnant during high school and then continued to have one every other year since. I won’t mention names here.

My two friends and I playing around before our Sadie Hawkins Dance

Some had a spouse attached to their arm and others were single. A few told their stories of abandonment and divorce. Others had been abused while some of their classmates went on to fame and fortune. There was a little bit of everything that could be expected through life. Good and bad! A memorial was read for those that had died in a short ten years. This included our senior class president from a motorcycle accident which had left his wife and child fatherless. What a cold, cruel world it had been for some.

Same friends and I 50 years later!!

Then there were some dressed to the extreme in fashion who took it to a whole new level of debauchery. I am from the “hippie” era but what I was seeing was shocking. I recall wearing mini skirts in high school and being one of the first of our class to be married (and divorced). I remarried to a gentle Polynesian man and that is where my life changed drastically from what I had known before (but I definitely have the cutest grandchildren)!!

Some of my great friends! I’m in blue and green.

Fast forward forty years from our 10th class reunion to today. This recent 50th class reunion was a whole other story. Very surreal and in some ways shocking, but unlike the lasciviousness of the 60s and 70s, current situations made our reunion much calmer and comparatively docile. There was no loud music playing (up until the end), no inappropriate dancing, and no alcoholic beverages being served. Everyone was well behaved and contrite. An occasional outburst was heard when someone finally recognized friends from years gone by.

There were some of us with canes, walkers, oxygen, toupees, and wigs. Some had lost so much weight due to sickness or running too many marathons. Others looked quite well for their advancing age. I heard my friend tell me that at the previous reunion (five years earlier) she had been elected as the one who had changed the least. I agreed with her since that was the best thing for both of us.

This time, our reunion was held at Orem High School (the new one). They had the nerve to tear down our high school and replace it with a newer model. It was air-conditioned and had the latest technology, and I noticed that even the toilets flushed by themselves (we didn’t have that)!

I went to the reunion with a dear friend who had been one of the bridesmaids at my first wedding. Her husband recently passed away and she was now a widow and enjoying life. Several of our classmates had lost their spouse over the years.

I kinda think the lyrics said it all!

We each wore name tags so that when we met someone we didn’t recognize, we could quickly glance at their name and act as though we remembered them well. It was a blast! There was no dancing, but they played some music from the 60s including The Beatles and The Doors. The funniest moment of the night for me was when the lady in charge was told to turn down the music since it was blowing out some of the attendees hearing aides. I almost died right there!

After the meal, there was a short memorial for those who had died in the past five years. They were all men and it seemed that many of them had been football players. In my opinion, that is what shortened their life, but I am not a doctor. I have a friend who is among the few that has not had any surgeries her whole life. I attribute it to the fact that she was married three times and is now a widow. She doesn’t worry about what people think of her and has a happy-go-lucky attitude about things.

It became acutely apparent that the most important aspect of the evening was the quality of the food and that there would be plenty of it. I’m sure it was because of the many classmates that had to take their evening pills with food. Thanks to those who administered the event, the catering did a great job. We could have our choice of chicken or beef or both. The desserts were yummy and plentiful. No one complained about the quality of the food or lack of it, so it was a success.

My father is still alive and kicking (at least with one leg). He has kept me informed about his recent class reunions. His 75th was attended by two, himself included. I should be so lucky, but that will have to be determined at a later time since I need to go take my arrhythmia medication after all the excitement!

Onward, Orem High School! May our posterity find happiness and prosper!

Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, food, Grandchildren, holidays, home, Parenting, photography, Religion

Finding Andrea

Today was a very somber but special day for us. My father called recently and told me he had read in the newspaper that there was a new Children’s Memorial Park at the This is the Place Heritage Park Monument in Salt Lake City. Dad wanted me to find out if our little ancestor’s name was listed amongst the many pioneer children that died crossing the plains to Utah. We are having a Christensen family reunion soon and he hoped to have that information to share.

This is the Place Monument

With this mission in mind, my husband and I, daughter, and granddaughter left our home about 11:00 am on Pioneer Day, July 24, 2019 for Emigration Canyon. It took about 45 minutes to drive up to the Memorial Park near the University of Utah. We had high hopes that we would find Andrea on the list of pioneer children. What we saw and experienced was much more than we had ever hoped for.

One of the beautiful statues depicting the pioneer children

Andrea was the child of Niels and Christiane Christensen who were from Viborg, Denmark. They had joined the Latter-day Saint Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and in 1857 had traveled with a group of saints across the plains. They had three small daughters when they made the journey. Along the way, Andrea died, and they had nothing to bury her in. They wrapped her in a blanket and put a brass kettle over her head to keep the dirt from her face, placing her in a shallow grave. This information is available on familysearch.org

Niels and Christiane Christensen, parents of Andrea

As we made our way up the hill from the “This is the Place” Monument”, we were awestruck by the beauty of the little memorial to the children. There were beautiful statues depicting what some of the children may have looked like. Large stones bore the names of children who had died on the long trek to a place of religious freedom. We eagerly inspected each one, hoping Andrea would be there. You could feel the spirit and sanctity of the memorial.

A statue depicted a small girl by a wheel

Finally, we found the name of Andrea Christensen, and it showed that her age was 1 (one). We were so grateful to have had this experience and so happy that we snapped a picture and sent it to my father as proof that her name is indeed included with the names at the children’s memorial. There were hundreds of names, but this one had special significance to us.

Some of the names listed of pioneer children who died on the trek
We found Andrea Christensen age 1 (fifth from the top)
My granddaughter listening to the story of someone about her age.



We continued to walk up the hill to the top of the memorial and along the way were kiosks where you could listen to stories of the pioneers. One in particular was very touching to my granddaughter since it was about a girl about her age. She was able to be with the saints when they finally arrived to see the valley. It was a bittersweet story since the girl had left behind a boy she loved and her father died shortly before they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.

It was a very hot day when we left to go to the other side of Utah Valley to find Andrea, but our struggles to climb up in the heat of the day and witness the grandeur of the valley was nothing compared to the sacrifice of our pioneer forefathers. We are so grateful for their faith and fortitude that brought us here to Utah.

We are so glad we were able to find Andrea and hope we will be able to meet her one day and see what she looks like. What a special time that will be. ~Ruth Kongaika

Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, Finance, Grandchildren, Hawaii, health, home, Music, Parenting, photography, Religion, travel

Naming Grandparents!

Some new grandparents want to be called by their real names. My grandchildren call me Grandma Ruth which I find quite endearing, and I especially like the Grandma part.

I did think about it for a while before I officially became the third generation. I even called myself Granny, trying to get used to the term. Now that I have twelve dear ones, I do not mind whatever they call me as long as they are respectful!

I got a chuckle from one cute little grandson who used to call me “Grandpa Ruth” as he had a hard time saying Grandma.

Grandma Ruth (I’m her namesake!)

When I think of my own grandparents, I remember my mother’s mother (Grandma Ruth – after whom I am named) always having her hands busy with knitting. She made hundreds of beautifully knit blankets, sweaters, booties, bonnets and so many more. When she was not knitting, she was cooking, sewing or cleaning. She made the most delicious potato rolls, and although they never had much, she would stop whatever she was doing to feed you.

Grandma Gladys

My father’s mother (Grandma Gladys) baked yummy breads, preserved jams and jellies, and could cook up the most delicious mutton (they raised sheep). She had chickens, and would let me go out to the coop to get the newly laid eggs. She let me enjoy myself in her pea patch and the rest of her wonderful garden. Grandma Anderson spent much of her time tatting doilies (almost a lost art).

Tatting shuttle

Both of my grandmothers spent hours and hours sitting on their tush creating beautiful masterpieces with their hands. No gym, aerobics, just their hard labor cleaning and gardening. They both lived to be in their nineties! Lucky if I should live that long.

Although these are not the typical middle~aged people nowadays, I think the feelings between grandparents and grandchildren are pretty similar.

Could it be that we are more concerned with the way we look, and are hopeful that we look more like their mother than their grandmother? Are we fooling ourselves? As for myself, I sometimes look in the mirror and see my mother looking back!

In the United States and Canada, Grandma and Grandpa are more common. whereas in Britain, New England, Ireland and Australia they use Nan, Nana, Nanna, Ninny or Nanny. I’ve also heard of Tutu, Mamaw, Grammy, Lala, Ma or Mum. Grandfathers are also called Grampy, Granddaddy, Grandpappy, Gigi , Pop, Papa, Oggy, and many more.

Of course, each language has their own names for grandparents. In Hawaii, where I live, the grandfather is either Tutu kane or Kupuna Kane, and grandmother is Tutu wahine or Kupuna wahine. My grandchildren call their Filipino grandma Tutu and grandpa is Papa.

Often the first name that the baby calls their grandparents, while learning to speak, ends up being what they are known as from then on. The first grandchild usually is the one who sets the trend for the rest of the grandchildren.

Some really cute names for grandparents are Poppers, Poppie, Pepop, Pops, Popsie, Sasa, Sugar, Sweetie or Sweetums, and Grandpie.

Of course, when the children get older and want to introduce their grandparents to their friends, they usually fall back to the usual names of Grandma and Grandpa . So, these nicknames that are adopted are special terms of endearment. A special name between the children and their very own special grandparents. More often step grandparents are called by their first names, unless they have grown up with the children close by.

It is not uncommon to have four generations still alive in a family, and in some families five generations are not unusual either, depending mostly on how young the parents are when they have children. Six is a rare thing, but not impossible.

I don’t believe you have to be old and creaky to be called Grandpa or Grandma. I just feel lucky to still be alive and have the blessing to get to know and watch my grandchildren as they grow. I enjoy watching how my own grandchildren handle difficult situations as they become preteens, teens, and older. God bless them, please!

I love being just Grandma.

Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, Grandchildren, Hawaii, health, holidays, home, Parenting, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Photographing Grandchildren

Hold still! Look this way! Trying to capture the perfect shot of grandchildren is next to impossible unless you just go with the flow. Catching that once in a lifetime shot can be done with patience and a few secrets (and perhaps luck). This hub discusses some skills needed for a grandma photographer to get her work to a higher level. The first is to remember that kids are people and to talk to them kindly and treat them with respect. Another is to remember how you were when you were a child – for some of us that may be a long time ago!

One of our grandchildren (his mother is holding him). Loved the expression!

I remember when I first tried to get some cute pictures of my grandchildren. I would see them do something adorable and then reach for my camera but by then it was too late. Just as I snapped the shot, they would turn to the side and I ended up with a nice photo of the back of their head. This became very frustrating and so I tried to remember what I saw in the professional photography studios.

Our youngest granddaughter. Love the colors!

It is important to have everything set up and ready for the shoot beforehand. That way you can concentrate on developing rapport with the grandchild. Learning to connect with the grandchild right off the bat is probably the best way to get a great photograph. Ask them questions about themselves. If you do not feel at ease, they will sense it and act accordingly, pulling into themselves. Use a gentle voice and touch when working with the children and they will usually respond positively. Be sincere because they can tell if you are just “putting it on”. Be charming and show your love for them and they will melt.

One of our precious granddaughters and her parents in Hawaii. You don’t always need a smiley face!

Children will do and say the most unpredictable things. If you catch them at that perfect moment, you will be rewarded greatly. Just let them act the way they usually do and snap as many shots as you can during the time you have with them. You are certain to come up with a few great ones. Children forced to sit still and pose in a certain way usually look unnatural, so you have to get them to think it is fun and playful. If you want them to look a certain direction, put a toy or picture there so they have something attractive to focus on.

Having fun photographing one of my grandsons

Use props that children will enjoy so they feel at ease. To get a particularly fun shot give them a box that has a surprise inside. If they are afraid of the flash, let them see it several times before the real shots to get used to it. Make up a song like “Pop goes the weasel” to go along with the flashes. The looks of curiosity and excitement will show through on the photos.

I think my son took this picture of his monkey child! Great catch!

Do not use candy or treats unless you are ready to deal with a mess on their clothes plus their parents may not appreciate it. Little toys, books and balls can keep their attention and may even add to the character of the photo. I’m sure you will have had frantic moments in your experience in photographing children. You can make them more pleasurable and capture a professional shot with just a bit of preparation and a positive attitude. The extra effort will be evident in your photographs.

The patience it takes to capture children, but worth it!

I remember when we lived in Tonga when our children were very small. We did not have a decent camera but would buy disposable ones on rare occasions. Here are a few precious photos from those days.

Our oldest in black and white.
The first photo of our first son in black and white. (Notice the plastic pants of long ago)!
Our second in black and white in Tonga
Our youngest in American Samoa.

We are so lucky to have phones that can take pictures almost as good as professional cameras. Also, there is plenty of instruction online about capturing different types of photos. Filters and editing apps are numerous. I cherish the photos of my children when they were babies and now my grandchildren as they are growing.

Black and white can be as effective as color!

One thing for sure, I will not stop taking photos no matter what instrument I have to take it with. Many of my grandchildren have become victims of my props (hats, artificial flowers and foilage). If they weren’t so cute, I would stop.

Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, Grandchildren, Hawaii, holidays, home, Parenting, photography, Religion, travel, Uncategorized

Bridging the Generation Gap

I totally adore my grandchildren. Each day I try to think of how I can best help them so they will enjoy a productive happy life. They all have wonderful parents and I don’t want to overstep my bounds. I would like to share a few nuggets of wisdom left by those who have gone before me in this great adventure of being a grandmother.

Granddaughters playing with dolls. Photo by Ruth Kongaika

My own paternal grandparents gave me a feeling that I still long for from time to time. They allowed me to feel that their home was my home. I remember roaming their little home and farm, watering the plants, getting the eggs in the chicken coup and enjoying the peas in Grandma’s garden. They also raised sheep and I remember a time when Grandpa put a saddle on one of the sheep and let me ride her. My grandparents always encouraged me and made me feel warm and sunny inside.

My parents, paternal grandparents and Great-grandmother, aunts and uncles. My father is holding my older brother.

In this world of so many voices, I think it is my responsibility to plan some time to interact with our grandchildren. They need to feel close to us and hear our stories. Each time I see my grandchildren, I try to single each one out of the group to talk to them and reinforce my love for them. Hugging is a way of showing your love for each one. I remember my maternal grandfather used to plant a kiss directly on my lips. That was a bit uncomfortable, but it is what it is.

My maternal grandparent behind myself on far right with an aunts, uncle and cousins.

Grandchildren each have a unique personality and their demands are different. I have a couple of grandsons that are happy just to give me a quick hug and then they do their own thing. Some of the other children need me to listen to every word they say. It takes effort to really listen, not just pretend to listen. I learn so much from them and they sometimes say funny things. One thing for sure, they are honest about how you look when they are young! Alll but two of my grandchildren are taller than I am! The other two are 10 and 11. Wow!

Three of my grandson we visited when they lived in Egypt. Aren’t they handsome?

I may not see some of the grandchildren because they live miles away, but I do remember them daily in my prayers. I also try to talk to them every weekend by phone or send an email to check how they are doing. Sometimes I just share fun things I find on social media

My oldest granddaughter! Isn’t she lovely!

When we are together, I try to do what the grandchildren want to do for a while. In the past, we played card games, dominos, board games, went to the park to swing, or played ball. Now that I’m getting older, they usually go out for a walk around my block together. We still watch movies, play board games and eat goodies. I think it is important that we laugh with our grandchildren. That is a priceless, wonderful gift.

Two sporsters!

My husband tries to get the grandchildren to help him around the yard and in the garden. Hopefully they will remember him as a hard-working person. They try to get away from doing any work while they are with us, but it is important that we teach them the value of work. Recently, the older grandchildren have begun asking for money so grandpa has them mow ing the lawn, cleaning the window wells, or other chores instead of just giving money to them.

The ability to love unconditionally and to show it are the most important qualities a grandparent can possess. It is hard when you see your grandchild being disciplined for something they did wrong, but it is important not to interrupt the way their parents have chosen to deal with their children. I have learned this the hard way. Only give advice when asked.

Christ said “Suffer little children…to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14) Here, suffer is a verb. It is an action word. It means to allow or to experience. Christ instructed his disciples to let the children come, and then provided a great example by drawing the children to Him. Because of the children’s purity and innocence, He said we are to become as they are. We draw the children to us to enjoy and learn from their faith, innocence, and trust. From us they can learn how to live in a corrupt society without being corrupted by it.

Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, Grandchildren, holidays, home, Parenting, photography, travel

Cousins Being Bad!

Nothing makes me sadder than cousins being bad (mean) to each other! Some of my grandchildren have been staying with me this summer and once in a while they say or do something that puts down another child. Life is tough enough without the support of your cousins!

Cousins being kind!

When I notice something being said or done to another child because they think they could do better, it is very difficult for me to be quiet. Almost immediately, I mention how that may have hurt another child’s feelings. I suggest to the child that they apologize and always show love and support to their cousins. Instead, they should have their back!

No sibling rivalry here!

One thing I learned in Tonga is that cousins stick up for each other. They support one another and treat each other as brothers and sisters rather than just relatives. I love that part of the Tongan culture. Also, aunties and uncles are more like parents to their nieces and nephews. One big happy family!

No sibling rivalry here, either!

I remember as a child being compared to my cousins. Since I was always the shortest, and not quite as bright, this became a common topic amongst the adults. It didn’t really help me to grow taller or smarter! Just think if all of my aunts and uncles had supported me more in my efforts, who knows what I may have been able to achieve?

Siblings enjoying being together.

For the most part, I love seeing my grandchildren together. They play well together and help one another. But there are those times when a little more kindness could be shown. As their grandmother, I leave this admonition to my grandchildren: love each other and build each other up!

The same goes for siblings. I have watched older siblings picking on the younger ones and probably that is quite normal, but it really isn’t fair. Why not pick on someone your own size?

Three siblings getting along!

Well, I’ve shared my thoughts. Please take my advice. Think of those cousins you may have offended and make it right! Apologize and be better for it. You will not regret it when you are in need of help.

Happy Cousins!
Robbie (Robert Mateialona) being baptized at the Red Sea with his father Robert and Grandfather Robert.
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The Other Side of Heaven 2

The Other Side of Heaven 2 Main actor Christopher Gorman

We went to see the movie, “The Other Side of Heaven 2”, and I thought it would be good to share my impressions with you.

We were fortunate to be with a group that previewed the movie before it was shown to the general public. The theater was filled with relatives of one of the main characters in the movie, Tonga Toutai Paletu’a. The story was about his conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his relationship with his family prior to that decision and after.

Elder John H. Groberg was depicted in the movie as the LDS Mission President at the time who had served his first mission in Tonga. My husband happened to be one of his missionaries. This movie has special significance to us and to our family. Another interesting fact is that our daughter married the grandson of Tonga Toutai Paletu’a! It was very exciting to have so many connections.

We had been anticipating this movie since we found out there would be a Part II, having loved the first movie ten years earlier.

One thing I was interested in was that the same actor who played John Groberg’s part also starred in the second movie. He had hardly changed in many years and did an excellent job in both. Anne Hathaway who had played his wife in the first has gone on to become quite a Hollywood star, so they chose another actress, Natalie Medlock to play the part of his wife. I thought she did a marvelous job!

Natalie Medlock

I enjoyed the movie from start to finish beginning from when it showed BYU TV and Kolipoki Pictures. Those of us who have lived in Tonga or are somehow affiliated with it will know the significance of the name Kolipoki. It is “Groberg” Tonganized.

Us and the Grobergs

The actors chosen to play Toutai Paletu’a and his family were all excellent! The man who portrayed his father even made me dislike him very much for his portrayal of a very strict minister who would not admit his own faults.

There are many lessons throughout the movie that can benefit all people. Respect, forgiveness, love of family, hard work, the power of prayer, and fasting, Christlike love, and many more.

The fact that I personally knew Toutai Paletu’a and his wife made the movie so much more meaningful. When we lived in Tonga, when you met President Paletu’a, it seemed as if he could see right through you. He knew that I was having a very difficult time adjusting to my new life in the little islands. He told me if my husband ever gave me a hard time, he would talk to him. Somehow he sensed my culture shock and was trying to help me out.

The person that played our late prophet Thomas S. Monson has an uncanny likeness to him. I almost forgot it wasn’t really him. Kudos to the person who found him.

My favorite movies are those based on true life heroes. This was definitely one of our family’s favorites. One of the stories portrayed in the movie took me right back.

The Grobergs had several daughters until they moved to Tonga where they were blessed with a son, John. The baby became very ill and was close to death when the Queen and all the people who knew them fasted and prayed for him to get better.

When we lived in Tonga, I gave birth to my first son. He was very small and became so ill that he was unconscious. We rushed him to the hospital which was a 15-20 minute drive from where we lived in Liahona. I tried to wake him up all the way there, but he would not. Once we got him to the hospital, Dr. Havili gave him a shot of adrenalin. We were so happy to finally hear his little cry and knew he would be alright. I relived this experience through the movie.

The Grobergs worried over their sick son in the movie.

Myself, our missionaries, and my husband when we served in the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission 1989-1992

Spoiler alert: Why was the movie rated PG-13? I was a bit concerned taking my grandchildren to see it because of the rating. The fact that the father threatened his son not to come home ever again and asked his other son to throw a piglet into the ocean (substituting the pig for his son). The other part that was offensive, and I understand it did not really happen, was when the father buried one disobedient son in the sand at the beach and then there was a big storm that could have drowned him, but somehow he escaped. The other scene is when their baby was thrown to a person from the boat to the shore. My little granddaughter was quite upset about that. Someone mentioned the plucking of dead chickens as being offensive, but I was used to that when I lived in Tonga (try eating one of those rubber chickens)!

President Groberg and his son in the movie

My favorite part besides the adorable children’s interaction with their father was when the wife of Paletu’a’s father called him a stubborn pig. Because, he was!

I urge you all to see the movie and you will come away with a new awareness of life in Tonga and a greater appreciation for those that stay true to their beliefs despite many hardships. Congratulations Elder and Sister Groberg on fulfilling President Monson’s wish of a comeback!

Beauty, Cultures, food, Grandchildren, Hawaii, holidays, home, Music, Parenting, photography, Religion, travel, Uncategorized

Intercultural Marriage Significance

I  married a man of a different race and culture when it was not an acceptable thing to do. I do not regret my decision, but that choice has come with interesting and surprising consequences. It took many years for us to get used to each other’s customs and traditions. It has been quite an adventure for both of us.

The children that resulted from this union have struggled to find their own identities. Because I was doing most of the raising, since my husband’s occupation demanded that he travel quite a bit, the children mostly spoke my language and only one child is fluent in his father’s language.

I believe our children have tried to choose the best from each culture. They can also change back and forth between cultures in different circumstances to suit their desires. We have learned as parents what form of discipline worked and what did not since his culture and mine had very different opinions in this regard.

As the mother of these wonderful children that I feel very blessed to have, I have not tried to push my own culture on them. I can see the good points of both cultures and brought those to their attention. I cannot lie that at times I have been a bit sad that they chose their father’s side over mine, but I tried not to let them know that.

My children are very open minded to other cultures and loving towards all kind people. They are all outgoing and have become good citizens of our communities. We lived in my husband’s country for 13 years and now live in my country. This has given our children the foundation they need to really know who they are and develop their own families from there.

When we got married, I was very curious what our children would look like. I have blue eyes and blondish hair and my husband has a darker complexion with black hair and brown eyes. Each of our children drew their looks and characteristics from both of us. Then when our grandchildren came along, I was happy to see the variety in personality and appearance. We have a couple of blue-eyed granddaughters with light hair.

Tau’olunga by one of our granddaughters
Three of our granddaughters – Dancing Queens

A few of my grandchildren are visiting Tonga this summer. I hope they can feel the spirit of the Tongan people and love and respect they show to others. Most of them were born in Polynesian, but now they all live in the United States. I love the freedoms we enjoy in America, but a bit of respect and true love for others is waning. Aloha!

Beauty, Cultures, food, Grandchildren, holidays, Parenting, photography, travel

2nd Day of Our Kongaika Family Reunion

After having exhausted ourselves somewhat on the first day of our reunion while at Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe, some of us were ready for a calmer day (except for some of the kids that wanted to swim all day again and were fried and turning crispy)!

We had a late start on our second day and ended up going to the opposite side of Lake Tahoe than the day before. Our youngest son had a place in mind to get fish and chips, and it reminded us of some of the places we had eaten at while in Scotland years earlier. Deep fat fried halibut and fries hit the spot. The deco in MacDuff’s Public House (restaurant) included tartans from Scotland and there was a little garden reminiscent of those around in the quaint villages and highlands.

It seems plenty of other people had the same idea since we were in a line of traffic that had us questioning our decision to try for Emerald Bay. But alas, once we arrived at our destination, it did not disappoint!

I had mentioned in a matter-of-fact way that the scenery reminded me of a place I had been as a child in California with all the pine trees, etc. The reply was that we were in California. I was surprised! We thought we had a sighting of Big Foot, saw two eagles flying up the mountain cliffs and the water was so blue! Wow! It was simply astounding!

We all climbed around the rocks, took photos and enjoyed the sights. There were plenty of tourists and we remarked how diverse the crowd was.

We were at Emerald Bay for almost an hour before we pulled ourselves away and made our trip back to Reno. Some mention was heard about shopping along the way, but we must have all been overwhelmed by what we had seen and experienced that we just went to the hotel. Some of the kids were still up for a swim in the pool.

Unity in Diversity

We felt our reunion was a success and we had enjoyed our time together as a family. We were sad that we would have to depart and leave one another again until the next reunion.

Thanks to those that made it possible and gratitude to the Lord for protecting us all in our travels.

Until next time…

Beauty, Cultures, food, Grandchildren, Hawaii, health, holidays, home, Music, Parenting, Religion, travel

Wow, What a Reunion!

Just arrived back from a great family reunion, except for one grandson (me crying!) We took the I-80 from Salt Lake City, Utah to Reno, Nevada. We didn’t intend to drive in a caravan, but it ended up that three cars drove pretty close together all along the way. We Marco Polo’d as we drove (it is an app that you can record live to your party and receive live messages back -kind of like a walkie talkie, but with video). It is great because you keep abreast of where everyone is, can tell jokes, and warn of police cars, etc. One of our newest driver permit holders was driving the car we were following, so that was pretty exciting!!

Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

A side note: I-80 Interstate freeway goes all the way from San Francisco, California east to Teaneck, New Jersey (just outside of New York City).

Another car came from Arizona with the rest of the gang except for one grandson (me crying, again), but with an additional boyfriend (yeah!). Our destination goal had been predetermined by our youngest son who had served his mission in the Las Vegas West Mission, which included Reno, part of California, and down to Vegas. I-80 is pretty exciting (not!) except you get to see part of the Bonneville Salt Flats, which are dried up desert lakes that cover 30000 acres. They were pretty amazing!

Bonneville Salt Flats



Once we got past that it was miles and miles of I-80 (about 7 hours worth from SLC) with several hungry kids and technological gadgets and chargers. The time just flew by! haha. A few pitstops later, we finally made it to Reno to a very nice hotel which was welcomed by all.

As if we weren’t tired from a day of driving, we all headed for the local movie theater to watch Spider-Man: Far from Home, and since we missed our dinner meal we ate plenty of popcorn!

The next day was very exciting as we headed for Lake Tahoe. The altitude of Lake Tahoe is 6225 feet above sea level and Salt Lake City’s altitude is 4226. Needless to say, it was an uphill climb most of the way. But, it was all worth it to see this magnificent lake. We ended up at Sand Harbor and some of our party rented canoes and set sail!

While the rest of us enjoyed the sunshine, cool water, and took in the beautiful scenery, the men were busy BBQ’ing our lunch. Yum!!

Liana checking on our lunch – thanks guys!!

Some of the gang that went to see the rocks on the other side of the bay.
After lunch, we took a hike to the other side of the bay. Wow – What a site!

Since this is getting pretty long, l will continue with day two of our trip on the next post. Here is more about Lake Tahoe:

Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, Grandchildren, holidays, home, Parenting, photography, travel

Grandkids Making Faces

https://hubpages.com/family/Grandchildren-Making-Faces

So, I cheated this time, but hey, it is a holiday tomorrow. So excited to see most of my grandchildren and bring a couple home to stay for a bit. I’ll have to keep taking photos to embarrass them with again. haha!

Wishing you a good one!
Happy 4th of July 2019
Artwork, Beauty, Cultures, Grandchildren, Hawaii, home, Parenting, photography, Religion, travel, Uncategorized

I Can See the Light in Their Eyes

I believe children come from heaven to us. They come with light in their hearts that shines through their eyes. I have witnessed this light many times through my grandchildren. When they are new to this world, so innocent and pure, they find joy and delight in small things. I want to share some of the pictures that portrays that light.

Our youngest grandchild

Jesus honored children and taught us about their spiritual development. In one instance, He motioned to a child, held the little one in His arms and said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me” (Mark 9:37). 

Three of my grandchildren sharing the light!

Children can give us a glimpse into heaven, if only for a moment. Here is a talk by one of our dear friends and an apostle of God, James E. Faust in a talk, The Light In Their Eyes: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2005/11/the-light-in-their-eyes?lang=eng

Doctrine and Covenants 93:2

And that I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world;

When the children are loved and shown love, they reflect it back through their eyes and actions.