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?

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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, 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!

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