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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

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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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…

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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:

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Grandkids 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