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2019 Year in Review

Winter in Utah

It is always good to reflect on the things that we accomplished during the last year and to feel gratitude for the bad and the good. One thing for sure is that our grandchildren are growing up. This has brought tears of joy and sadness. They each work hard to enhance their talents. We try to attend as many concerts, performances, recitals, plays, birthday parties, and celebrations as we possibly can with our grandchildren. These thing bring us so much joy and happiness and keep us grounded. Liana, Ileina, and I flew to Las Vegas just to watch a Celine Dion concert and it was fabulous!

Our last family picture of 2018

‘Isileli has spent the majority of his time driving cars for Budget, working as a sealer in the temple, and giving Patriarchal blessings. I serve as his “scribe”. During the spring and summer months, ‘Isi and I  are usually found working in our yard and garden from which we had a good harvest this year.

Poshmark Ad I created showing some of my jewelry

I have spent much of my time teaching English online in Asia for iTutorGroup. I also started selling on Poshmark. This latest venture has been fun but now my home is beginning to look like Goodwill! I learned a whole new terminology as a “reseller” and spend much of my time “thrifting” and sharing my “haul” to interested buyers. I also sell Avon, mainly so I can get a discount on their products. I occasionally do some painting, write posts for my blog: grandma bloggers.com, and write blog articles for smarterparenting.com

Healthwise, this has not been our best year! Both ‘Isi and I are starting to “lose it” and have a hard time remembering where we put things, names of common things, how to swallow – things like that! We don’t drive at night. Getting old is not fun at all, but we are grateful to still be alive. We are fortunate to have our own personal Dr. Kinikini (Liana) nearby who has dealt with our frequent complaints and aches. My shingles returned and Grave’s disease continues to haunt me.

Desperate times demand desperate measures. We have tried “tapping”, “natural” medicine, hormone therapy, counseling, etc. Actually, we are ending the year on a high note (crossing our fingers)! Next on our calendar is cataract surgery! I remember when my mother and grandmother had that. Yikes!

A highlight of the year was attending my 50th year reunion from high school. Yep, I graduated in 1969! I got to meet old friends and had a wonderful time. Meanwhile, ’Isi traveled to Tonga together with Joel, Anna, Eryn, and Joseph. They enjoyed the time together and the kids learned so much about their Polynesian heritage. 

We visit with Dad often. He is doing quite well for a 93-year-old. Jacob and family live in Lehi so we get to see them often. They are all so talented! Little Big Jakey is writing and Zion making a computer! Wow! James Ali’i is amazing at volleyball and Robbie loves basketball! 

Our latest venture was to Arizona and this time I made it all the way there! We had a stopover in Lake Havasu and then went on to the Scottsdale area where we had a Kongaika Reunion. We spent time with all of our grandchildren during the reunion. We just had Israel and Princess visit us on their break from university. 

Lily was recently in a Christmas Performance with “Friend to Friend” This group is made up of children and adults with special needs. It always helps to remind us of the real meaning of the holidays. Lily still holds her own single solos in the program!

We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas! and a Happy New Year 2020!!

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

Kongaika Reunion Our Roots Run Deep 2019

We recently returned from our family reunion in Arizona. My favorite part of the reunion was being with most of my grandchildren. We missed having our oldest grandson who is studying at BYU-Hawaii.

We ate, danced, ate, talked, ate, visited, ate, played fun games, ate, sang karaoke, ate, played sports, ate, etc. representatives from each family shared their talents at a talent night. It was an awesome reunion.

Traditional puaka tunu.
Yummy lumpia made by Abi
Kareoke Kids

We are so grateful to those that were in charge of this year’s reunion. The Theme was “Our Roots Run Deep”. A t-shirt was designed by our son, Jacob. Scriptural references: Colossians 2:6-7: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” and Jacob 5: 46-47: Allegory of the tame and wild olive trees.

Our grandchildren that were at the reunion.
Robbie showing his bad skillz!

Rob had prepared some fun games that the children, youth, and a few adults enjoyed. Then came one game that brought out the beast in a few of our otherwise sane family members.

The game that makes sane people crazy!

Near the end of the reunion, we took photos. I hope someone will post the whole family picture. I only have a picture of our own family.

Isileli Tupou Kongaika family (missing Israel Kongaika)

’til next time famili! Ofa lahi atu!

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London Bridge in the Desert of Arizona

If I told you that someone bought the London Bridge and paid to have it moved to the desert of Arizona, would you believe me? It is true! I am a recent witness to the beauty and majesty of a bridge originally located in England which was disassembled piece by piece and moved 5400 miles. It has become Arizona’s second biggest tourist attraction (the Grand Canyon is number one).

London Bridge in Lake Havasu, Arizona

I first became acquainted with Lake Havasu when I was a child. My father had seen an advertisement for a free flight offered by Robert McCulloch, Sr. (1911 – 1977). This rich entrepreneur flew interested persons to the middle of the desert where no roads led. He had planned a whole community in the hot dry heat of Western Arizona. The area had previously been used as a military base. Since my father had served in the Air Corps right after high school, he jumped at the opportunity to go on a free flight. He was one of many prospective land buyers that purchased a plot of desert. I’m sure he bought it in the hopes of building a winter home to get away from cold Utah winters.

I remember traveling to Lake Havasu once there was a paved road that went all the way to Lake Havasu. This lake was the result of the Parker Dam which plugged up the Colorado River running through Arizona all the way to California. Unfortunately, many Indian lands were covered by the new lake and they had to make homes elsewhere.

My husband and I stayed at the Havasu Dunes, a timeshare trade for us. It was comfortable and adequate although not luxurious.

We set out to check out the lake, the London Bridge, and the local museum. It was very interesting to learn about Mr. McCulloch. He bought the London bridge for a bit over $2 million. It had originally spanned the River Thames, but was sinking so was put up for sale. Not something you think about buying every day, but I guess it was on his radar! He was quite a visionary and the London Bridge has been featured in a couple of movies. If you are superstitious, you may see a British police bobby patrolling the bridge at night. Also, it is home to guano (bats) that inhabit the hollow interior.

Robert McCulloch, Sr . and President Eisenhower

Once we got near the bridge, we saw many boaters, paddlers, water skiers and a ferry. It was a water lovers paradise!

We decided to take the ferry. It was a great ride and we felt like we were back in Hawaii for a minute, but then realized we were in the middle of the desert. The learned that there were 27 lighthouses in Lake Havasu many of which were replicas of other lighthouses in the United States. We took a ride to see how many we could find. There are still plenty of land plots to purchase, some with water fronts if anyone is interested. We opted to try and pay off our mortgage in Utah before we die!

We took the ferry ride to the other side of the lake. There were plenty of ducks in the lake and the weather was fine. I thought it was a round trip, but we were heard “All ashore!”. So, along with the rest of the passengers, we took to land near a new casino. We were told it would be back soon before the ferry took off. A wind really picked up and the ride back across the lake was a bit bumpy. Safely back on shore, we made our way back through the gates to Lake Havasu and to our little cottage in the dunes.

Ferry ride in Lake Havasu

The museum wasn’t too far from the bridge itself. We enjoyed learning more about the beginnings of Lake Havasu, the actual lake and the city. It had grown quite a bit since I first visited many years earlier. So much history, including some from London, the Indians that inhabited the land before the dam created the lake, and so much more. It was amazing!

We stayed for three nights in Lake Havasu and enjoyed the break from our regular schedules. It was very edifying and inspiring. The next time you sing, “London Bridge is falling down”, just we assured that it is well established in its new home and very much loved.

Just FYI – the population of Lake Havasu City was 15,500 in December of 1975 and by 2010, the U.S. Census estimated the population to be 52,527. McCulloch Blvd is the main street and there is actually a Beachcomber Blvd on an island where many of the lighthouses can be found. Interestingly, California is on one side of the lake and Arizona is on the other.

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Christmas Past

I decided to look back on our time as grandparents and Christmas celebrations with the grandchildren. It took a bit to find all the pictures, but here are some of them.

One year we went as a family to visit a dear friend in his 90s, Elder Glenn Rudd. He had been our Area President when we served in Tonga.

Since Lily joined our tribe, we have been going to her Friend to Friend productions which are a highlight of the holiday season. She has never been afraid to get up and sing in front of an audience and astounds us every time.

One year we had the children dress up and we did the nativity scene. It was very fun and special.

One of our favorite places to visit during the holidays is Salt Lake Temple Square.

We have two birthdays in December and one anniversary.

Christmas decorations at BYU-Hawaii
One of my Christmas Days with my brother, Kirk in Orem, Utah

A few more pictures…

Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without grandchildren! We are so blessed to have our grandchildren!

A Hawaiian Snowman!

Wishing each of our friends and family a very Happy Holiday. Christ is the reason for the season.

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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, !

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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



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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.

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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.