So far, on this trip to Hawaii, I have learned…

*Milk is $9.00 a gallon in Hawaii!!!

*When getting driving directions from a member of the hotel staff, make sure to ask enough questions.  Otherwise, a very important turn-off might be omitted from the driving directions, and you will then end up on the “wrong” side of the island.

*You can always stop at a 7-11 and ask the very nice lady behind the counter for the correct driving directions.

*Fresh lei’s smell good!

*The dude that climbs the coconut trees in the Samoan Village at Polynesian Cultural Center will pose for pictures.

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*An authentic luau consists, not only of a pig cooked in the ground and fresh fruit, but also raw fish, purple taro rolls, poi, and purple sweet potatoes.

Poor roasted pig!

Poor roasted pig!

Authentic Hawaiian food.

Authentic Hawaiian food.

*I don’t like the taste or texture of purple sweet potatoes!

*Mack doesn’t like the taste or texture of purple sweet potatoes or poi!

*I can be taught how to weave a fish out of coconut leaves.

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*I cannot pronounce the names of places and streets here!  And my daughters get a kick out of listening to me attempt the pronunciations.

*You have to watch a nine minute video before the “people in charge” at Hanauma Bay will let you go snorkeling there.

*The LDS Temple in Laie is in the middle of 1 1/2 years of renovations.  The windows are boarded up, but it still looks pretty from a distance.

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*Our hotel swimming pool looks pretty cool from our balcony.

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*Mack is positive she keeps seeing “Deceptacon” cars all over Hawaii.

*There is a bird guy who brings his birds to International Marketplace and allows people to hold the birds and take pictures.

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*There are lots of pigeons here.  Some like to hang out on our balconies.

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*And the very most recent thing I’ve learned is that Mack is ready to hit the beach.  Time to go!


Tomorrow I go play games with Grandpa.  The last visit was special to me because I learned something about three of my kids.  And what I learned gives me hope that they will develop into compassionate and caring adults.

I visited Grandpa twice in April.  Twice, because my fifteen-year-old daughter, Mack, requested the second visit.  She had enjoyed the previous time she got to play games with Grandpa and wanted to go again.  Since four of our seven kids had a day off from school during the week that we were “unplugged” I decided it would be a good time to let the kids visit Grandpa again.  Mack, Hoob, and Yawlin accompanied me to Grandpa’s house.  Shroom, my stepson, had already disappeared to a friend’s house, and since he doesn’t really know my Grandpa, I didn’t push the issue of having him join us.

Grandpa wasn’t feeling well when we arrived.  He joined us at the kitchen table for a game of Clue, but I could tell he wasn’t really into it.  Grandpa started to reminisce.  He got out his old year book and showed the kids all the pictures of himself.  He was on the football team and was captain of the track team; there was a picture of him throwing the javelin; he was in the chorus and a member of a men’s club called the D-Men.  He showed us Grandma’s picture and told us the story of when they met.

“I went to the Zenith Dance with another girl,” Grandpa said with a chuckle.  “While there, my date asked me if there was any other girl there that I wanted to dance with.  That was when I spotted your Grandma.  I pointed to her and said, ‘that one!'”

Grandpa says he never dated another girl but Grandma after that.

Grandpa moved on in his remembrances to telling us of his childhood friend, Delilah.  She was the only child his age that lived nearby so they did everything together.  She was like a sister to him.  She grew up, married, and moved to Arizona.  Later in life she contracted cancer and died. 

Grandpa’s facial expression changed.  There was a wistful, sad look in his eyes.  He told how Delilah’s husband brought her body back to Utah so Grandpa could conduct the funeral.  This brought more memories to mind.  Grandpa told of conducting the funeral of a little girl who had been killed by a horse.  He remembered several members of a family who had drowned as their car was washed away in a flash flood and another family that had lost five family members in a horrible car crash.

“Have you ever seen five caskets lined up in a row at one funeral?” Grandpa asked.

Then Grandpa moved on to a story I’ve heard him tell before.  Grandpa is sure Grandma hates him.  She wanted to die at home.  Grandpa’s kids talked him into leaving Grandma in the hospital where she could receive better care.  She died in the hospital.  To this day Grandpa swears that when he bent down to kiss Grandma good-bye in her casket before the start of her funeral he heard her snap, “Get away from me!”  He is positive Grandma doesn’t want to see him when he gets to the other side because he let her die in the hospital instead of at home.

The entire time Grandpa was talking I was watching him and noticing the facial expressions that matched the pain in his voice.  I wasn’t paying attention to my kids until I heard a loud sniffling.  I turned and saw eight-year-old Yawlin leaning forward on the kitchen table with tears streaming down his face.  He made no attempt to hide them.  I looked at Yawlin’s older sisters to see if they had noticed Yawlin crying.  Hoob had turned so her face couldn’t be seen, but I could see a lone tear hanging from her chin.  Mack was staring straight ahead with two tears trickling down her cheeks.

My sweet, wonderful children were touched by what they were hearing their “Grandpa Great” say.  They weren’t writing him off as some old geezer with stories to tell.  They were feeling what he was feeling.  I was glad that I had brought the kids along.  Yes, the stories were sad, and the kids talked about them for quite some time after the visit, but a stronger bond between the three of them and Grandpa was forged.  They are capable of compassion.  They can feel what others are feeling.  I will be forever grateful for the exercise in empathy my kids were provided that day. 

Eight habits, eight action verbs, to develop that can help in marriages and families:

1.  APPRECIATE – Every day look for the good in your spouse and children.  Verbalize the good you see.  Write an occasional note of appreciation or send an email or text.  Say “Thank you.”  Acknowledge good deeds.  Pay sincere compliments.  Write what you appreciate about each family member in your journal.  Let your family members hear you express your gratitude for them as you pray.

  2.  COMMUNICATE – Develop good listening habits.  Stop what you are doing and look at your spouse or children as they speak to you.  Make time to visit with your spouse privately to make observations, plans, and goals.  Make sure your goals are mutually understood.  Enhance the private time visiting with your spouse with prayer.  Make time to nurture physical and spiritual intimacy in your marriage.  Talk with your children.  Ask them specific questions about their day.  Don’t give advice unless asked.  

3.  COOPERATE –  In your marriage work together as equal partners.  Learn how to negotiate a compromise and teach your children how to do so.  Stand as a united front where the children are concerned.  Have shared goals as a couple and as a family.  All family members should help with household chores.  Chores are simply part of being a family.  Help your children develop the habit of stepping in and helping when needed.  Older children can listen to younger siblings read or practice spelling words.  Teach your children healthy ways to deal with conflict.

4.  CONTEMPLATE –  Spend time alone to pray, meditate, read scriptures or other uplifting material.  Reflect inwardly and honestly about your personal relationship with your spouse and children.  Set goals for any improvements that you need to make.  As a family worship together, read scriptures, pray.  Seek to be in tune with the Lord or your inner voice.  Use your journal to write down any inspiration received.

5.  PARTICIPATE –  Attend the sporting events, music concerts, and dance performances of your children.  Join your family members in their hobbies.  Show an active interest in what they are doing.  Spend time as a family doing activities you all enjoy such as bike rides, hiking, attending plays, playing sports.  Get involved with your kids’ schools.  Volunteer in their classrooms.  Be an active participant in the lives of your family members.   

6.  CELEBRATE–  Remember birthdays, anniversaries, and other dates worthy of commemorating.  Develop fun family traditions to set special days, such as birthdays, apart.  Celebrate holidays.  Display the awards family members receive.  Hang up exceptional school work.  Share accomplishments with extended family members.   Almost anything can be reason to celebrate:  a promotion at work, a soccer win, an improved grade, handling a difficult situation well.  As a couple celebrate the day you got engaged.  Celebrate the anniversary of your first date.  Be grateful for every day you have together.

7.  MOTIVATE–  Look for good things that happen throughout your day to share with your family.  Let your family see that you enjoy what you do.  Look for talents in your family members and encourage them to pursue them.  Speak positively about their efforts.  Schedule family meetings to discuss future plans of individuals.  Encourage everyone to show their support.  Make motivational books and videos available in your home.

8.  ELEVATE –  Make your spouse and family your top priorities.  Allow no interruptions during family meeting times and outings.  Teach your kids proper manners.  Promote civility.  Speak with a soft, calm voice.  Teach your values to your children.  Provide uplifting reading materials, movies, and music in your home.  Always listen to both sides of the story before making any judgements.

Appreciate, communicate, cooperate, contemplate, participate, celebrate, motivate, elevate.  Eight ideas.  Eight habits.  Perhaps they will resonate with you to rejuvanate and invigorate your family life and then you can anticipate better days ahead!

Some of the ideas for this post came from an article written by Russell M. Nelson (“Nurturing Marriage,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2006, 37-38).

Once again kids have given me something to think about.  After a few days of spring-like weather we were hit with another storm of mixed rain and snow yesterday.  It would seem that most adults here are tired of the cold weather, as evidenced by the comments being made by callers to the morning radio shows I was scanning.  

“I am sick of this weather!” 

“I am moving!” 

“Time for another SAD song of the day since the weather is so sad today.” 

I have to admit that I wasn’t happy to have to bundle up again in order to perform my crossing guard duties.  But, as I watched the kids at my crossing, I noticed something.  Not one kid was grumbling about the cold weather.  Not one kid was threatening to move.  They were back to wearing coats and hats, but instead of complaining about it, they were stomping slush piles and laughing.  I listened to snippets of their conversations as they passed by me. 

“We went to Ohio to visit my aunt.” 

“…But I like soccer camp, cuz…” 

“Let’s do the sleepover this weekend.” 

Two of the 6th graders assigned to Safety Patrol picked up their orange cones and, using them like megaphones, started to sing, “Happy birthday to Sammy!  Happy birthday to Sammy!”  Sammy, the girl who was celebrating her birthday, laughed and waved.

The kids at my crossing were not letting the weather get them down.  They were still focusing on the things that bring them joy.  Trips to see family.  Participation in sports.  Time with friends.  Birthdays.  So what if the weather was crappy?  That didn’t affect the things that mattered to them.  Did the weather really matter that much to the adults calling in to the radio shows?  Was it really going to affect their day that much?  Was it really such a bother for me to have to pull out my winter gear again to do my crossing?

Kids are masters at adapting.  I witnessed it again today as I did lunch recess duty at my son’s school.  Once a month it is my turn to wander the halls during lunch and make sure all students are where they are supposed to be.  The 5th grade had taken over the lunchroom for their State Report displays and so all students were eating lunch in their classrooms.  It didn’t appear that the teachers were overjoyed by this one-time change, but the kids were having a great time eating lunch and chattering away.  Such a simple thing as a change of scenery for lunch can be such fun for kids.

Can I adopt the same attitude?  Can I turn a perceived inconvenience into something fun?  Instead of grumbling, maybe I should stomp around in a few slush piles when the weather turns nasty.  When something occurs to mess up my carefully planned schedule, maybe I should just smile and chatter away.  Sometimes as adults we get too caught up in little things that truly don’t matter.  Watching kids this week has given me something to think about.  I need to roll with the punches.  I need to weather the weather.  

It is advice we hear often as parents, “Take care of yourself first so that you can take care of your family.”  I have always viewed the advice as permission to have some “me” time–soaking in a tub, reading a good book, going for a walk.  Today I realized there is more to the advice than just saving my sanity.  It is imperative that we take care of ourselves physically so that we will be healthy enough to take care of our loved ones.

Today I had a stark reminder about the importance of taking care of myself physically.  I finally got around to visiting a dermatologist to have a head-to-toe skin check.  Visiting a dermatologist has been one of those nagging items on my to-do list for quite some time, an item that kept getting moved to “another day.”  The reason for my visit was a dry patch of skin just above my upper lip.  I learned, to my surprise, that the patch was made up of actinic keratoses which are pre-cancerous cells that are considered the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer.  There was also a patch of the pre-cancerous cells just under my collar bone that I hadn’t even noticed. 

The treatment was simple.  Each spot was sprayed with liquid nitrogen, effectively freezing the cells.  I now have an unsightly red swelling above my lip and a blister under my collar bone, both of which may last up to eight weeks.  Though actinic keratoses are not considered serious, finding them has served as a reminder for me to have regular check-ups with my doctors.  My dad had to have malignant melanoma removed from his nose a year ago.  I am grateful I discovered my less serious cells early.  Hopefully I won’t ever have to go through what my dad did.  Skin cancer can be prevented.  Wearing appropriate clothing and sunscreen while outdoors is the best way to prevent it.  I am certainly going to set a better example for my family now.  I’m sure the kids will start calling me the “sunscreen Nazi” but it is too important to ignore.  Being vigilant with our health is one of the best things we can do for those we care about.  If we remain healthy we can take care of them.

Last night our dishwasher let out a screech and stopped working.  My husband tried everything he knew to get it running, but finally declared the appliance deceased.  We did what any super busy family would do.  We went to bed.

This morning I had to face the ribs and potatoes dishes from last night and the cookie sheets from our cinnamon crescent roll breakfast.  A part of me felt like complaining at the additional time it would take  to get the dishes done.  But, I knew complaining would get me absolutely nothing, so I bit my tongue and, instead, rolled up my sleeves and began filling the kitchen sink with hot water and dish soap.        

Doing the dishes by hand brought back many memories.  I grew up in a family of eight children that did not own a dishwasher.  Our large family created many dirty dishes at mealtimes and we each had to take our turn washing the dishes by hand.  As a teenager I developed a system that I thought very efficient.   First, let all utensils soak in the sudsy water as the sink fills, then wash dishes in this order: utensils, glasses, plates, bowls, mixing bowls, and finally pans.  I used to tell my siblings my order was best.  I think they all ignored me and developed their own system for doing the dishes.

I was pleasantly surprised  to see that I remembered my system today as I washed the dishes.  Since we have become so dependent on our dishwasher we don’t own a dish rack to let dishes air dry.  I solved the problem by placing the wet dishes inside the dishwasher and I made sure to share my problem solving ability with my husband.  I don’t think he was as proud of me as I was.

Trying to remain positive in spite of my morning routine being derailed by a bunch of dirty dishes, I started to think of what our family could learn from the death of our well-used appliance.  This is the perfect opportunity to let the kids hear how grateful I am that we have an emergency savings account.  We will not have to go into debt to buy a new dishwasher.  We will be able to pay for one in cash.  And, as a little plug for myself, I think I’ll let the kids know that most of the money in our emergency savings account has come from what I earn as a substitute teacher and as a crossing guard.  Perhaps they won’t tease me as much about doing my crossings if they know that my doing so has prevented them from having to do dishes by hand for the rest of the time they live under our roof.

Finding the time to buy a new dishwasher is going to be the real challenge.  Some, maybe even all, of the children will get a chance to do dishes by hand before we find the time to shop.  Yes!  Will they appreciate modern conveniences more?  Probably so.  Will they still take modern conveniences for granted?  Maybe not for a little while.  Will they learn that sometimes circumstances require adapting and problem solving?  I truly hope so!

“Huh” is the poor unfortunate soul who gets to experience adapting and problem solving first.  She is assigned evening dish duty for the week.  I may not tell her that I let the dishes air dry in the dead dishwasher.  I think I want to see how she solves the problem herself.  One thing for sure, we are all going to hear her loudly ask, “why do these things always happen to me?”  And her siblings and step-siblings are all going to be secretly glad that it wasn’t their turn for dishes.