Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Scripture Feasting #13 - Testify

Boyd K. Packer said, "A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!" 

"... It is one thing to receive a witness from what you have read or another has said; and that is a necessary beginning. It is quite another to have the Spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what you have testified is true" ("The Candle of the Lord, 54-55). 

Testifying does not have to be formal in a sacrament meeting. 

It can be expressed in a variety of ways. It can boost the power of your scripture study as you testify of what you are learning. You are inviting the Holy Ghost to testify to your spirit the truthfulness of what you are learning. Having the Holy Ghost witness to you that something is true also can give you power to do it. 
"Divine inspiration and power . . . inspiration to know the will of the Lord, power to provide the ability to accomplish that inspired will" (Elder Richard G. Scott, "The Transforming Power of Faith and Character," Ensign, Nov. 2010). 
  • Share on social media a favorite verse you read today and why you like it.  
  • Testify to yourself in your mind, or to Heavenly Father in prayer. You can even do this in the car. Just say some of the things you know are true. It's amazing how quickly the Spirit fills your heart and testifies to you that what you said is true. 
  • Write an "I know" or "I believe" statement in your scripture margin or scripture journal. For example, “I know that because God helped Nephi get the brass plates even after multiple failures, He will help me overcome my challenges even if it doesn’t work out the first time.” Or "I know that if I follow God's promptings, He will make a way for me to succeed." 
  • Once in a while hold a family home evening that is a family testimony meeting. This may sound awkward, but we discovered that our family really likes doing this. At a recent family reunion we took turns sharing good things the Lord has done for us that year, which is an informal testimony sharing. 
  • Discuss what you learn with a spouse, friend, or family members. My college walking partner and I used to read scriptures alone and then share on our walk what we learned and what it meant to us. This really brought scripture study alive. I know a family who does this for their daily scripture study together. 
  • Join a discussion forum like one of these: 

Here is what Elder Bednar said about the power of sharing your testimony in your family. 
"Parents should be vigilant and spiritually attentive to spontaneously occurring opportunities to bear testimony to their children. Such occasions need not be programmed, scheduled, or scripted. In fact, the less regimented such testimony sharing is, the greater the likelihood for edification and lasting impact" (Elder David A. Bednar, "Watching with All Perseverance," Ensign, May 2010). 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

14 Ways Technology Blesses Missionary Moms

This week my dear friend sent her oldest son to the MTC. 

Oh, the mother heartache! I totally understand. My stake president coined the term just right. It is "torturous joy." You wouldn't want your son wasting away playing video games in the basement; you want him moving forward in life, serving the Lord, bringing souls to Christ, growing into an amazing man!  But still... it HURTS. 

Any time a friend has a child getting ready to serve I like to pull them aside and tell them two things: First, being a missionary mom is more special and sacred than I ever expected; I think I just thought it would be hard. Second, I am astounded at how technology has increased the blessings of being a missionary mom. 

Our MTC day for our oldest son at the end of October, 2014. Elder Adam Edwards is now serving in the Paris, France mission. 

Here are 14 ways technology blesses my life as a missionary mom. 

Note: I got permission from the missionary moms whose stories I share in this post.

1. Weekly emails mean speedy turnover. 

My sister's letters took six weeks each way from Bolivia. Back then if your missionary felt discouraged, it could be three months before he or she could receive some tailor made encouragement from Mom. Now with email I can write a letter on Sunday night and receive one back on Monday morning. It's awesome. P-day Monday is a delicious day indeed. 

2. Digital voice recordings are sweet!  

I love hearing my son's voice soon after he records it. Adam played a Christmas piano song for me. He and his companion sent us a happy new year song, along with an update of how their new year was going. My husband and I sometimes send our letters as an audio recording, which is faster than typing. I don't know if every mission allows digital recorders, but they are a blessing for missionary moms! They also make it easy for missionaries to record journals while they walk or ride. 

3. Blogs are great. 

I love posting Adam's letters and pictures on his blog, which makes it easy to reminisce all I want in one place. Same thing for grandparents or anyone else. I often post his weekly letter on Facebook to invite relatives and friends to take a look at his latest news. 

My son Adam on the left had just arrived in Paris, France and was assigned this Elder for his first companion. I loved seeing this photo on our mission Facebook group. 

Also, before your son or daughter leaves, it can be such a gift to read a few blogs of missionaries in his or her own mission. This meant a lot to me and my son. When my son got called to Paris, France, my instant reaction was to be thrilled, as my husband and I had both been there, and because Adam wanted to serve in a place where he could share his gift of playing the organ in beautiful old cathedrals. Then people started telling me about the pornography in Paris, how some missionaries never get a baptism, and how people can be cold and unwelcoming. My excitement started melting into discouragement and sadness. Then my friend connected us with her niece's Paris mission blog. Her posts were upbeat and showed true joy in serving in that mission. We eventually found a few more, and it became one of Adam's favorite ways to spend a few spare minutes in the months before he left. Each time he read a blog he would say, "Mom, you gotta hear this!" He would read an enthusiastic blog post from a missionary he had never met, but every time, he got more and more excited for his own mission. This was a HUGE blessing. 

4. Many moms email their missionary's weekly email to a list of people who ask to be on the email list. 

Some missionaries are allowed to receive emails from friends and relatives, and others just from immediate family. Either way, spreading your son or daughter's weekly letters is a cinch with email. 

5.  I love making friends with Adam's companions' moms! 

Thanks to Facebook, I have become friends with some of the moms of Adam's companions and roommates. I love this! We have been able to share pictures, support, and friendship. I now have new friends in Sweden (thanks to Google Translate), California, Salt Lake City, and Georgia. 

6. Facebook mission group and mission family group. 

I don't know if all missions have these, but I love that ours does. The mission president's wife (or office staff) posts pictures to the mission Facebook group. They posted a video of our "greenies" walking off the plane in Paris, as well as pictures at the airport, the mission home, and of their first companionships with their trianers. For a brand new missionary mom, these tangible signs of my son safely arriving in the mission field were priceless. They also post pictures and videos of conferences and other activities. 

The mission family group is where family members can post. This is where we see pictures of each transfer, where moms invite each other to tag their sons and daughters. It's where moms often first find each other after their children become companions. Here we got help with our shopping and packing questions before Adam left, and questions about shipping care packages since then. 

At transfer time, our missionaries hold up a number representing how many transfers they have been in the mission field. My son Adam is on the right. In this picture he had been out three transfers. The Elders holding up numbers 31 are holding their numbers backwards. There aren't that many 6-week transfers in a two-year mission.

7. Missionary Momma's Facebook group. 

This is a large group of missionary moms from around the world. The feeling of sisterhood is tangible as we share stories, questions, compassion, and encouragement. Some of the moms were like little kids last Christmas, as they could hardly wait for their Christmas Skype or call with their missionary. Then the posts right after Christmas included some stories that made me weep!

Here is a precious video a missionary mom, Lisa Lee Helton, made to celebrate her son's one year mark on his mission. If you're a missionary mom, go get Kleenex before clicking play.

8. Christmas and Mother's Day Skype or Call. 

Being able to see our son's face on Christmas and Mother's Day melted my heart! I LOVED sitting in front of a screen talking face to face from across the world. It was priceless.

9. Google Earth lets a mom see her missionary's area.

I'm a visual person, and I like being able to picture the area and building my son lives in as I pray for him. Okay, call me a stalker; I don't care. I love my boy. An older couple in our ward are like adopted grandparents to our son. They helped Adam fall in love with playing the organ, so each time he gets transferred, they check out the new area to see if there are any old cathedrals with organs nearby. Isn't technology great?

10. We share great ideas! 

I've seen lots of fun ideas for gifts, packages, ways to make letters into hardbound books, and such using the Facebook groups I mentioned. Here are a few ideas I wouldn't have learned without the gift of technology. 

One Elder sent his mom (my friend Ann Meeks) a Book of Mormon he had read and marked and included personal notes all the way through with his mom in mind. He included his testimony in the back. Wow, what a precious gift. Then he asked if she would annotate the same copy in a different color ink and send it back so he could learn from her insights!  How cool is that? 

I got this idea from my friend. I made a painted fabric tree, and invited family and friends to mail paper ornaments to Adam, so it would be fun to receive many envelopes.

How cool is this Christmas gift for a son barely home from his mission?  His mom said it was by far his favorite gift. 

A missionary mom posted this list of great question ideas for your Christmas or Mother's Day call or Skype. Very handy! 

11. DearElder.com

This is a service that makes it easy to send paper letters or packages to your missionary.

12. Stories that make me weep. 

This picture makes me weep every time. Oh my goodness. 
"Our two missionaries getting to meet their new sisters that have come to our family thru the miracle of adoption! Sweetest moments ever!!!!" 

Here is Elder Blake Solomon serving in Carlsbad, California. 
And his brother Elder Andrew Solomon serving in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Here is another story that touched my heart. 

An Elder in my son's mission didn't get his twelve-days-of-Christmas package until December 23. On Christmas day, during his Skype call home, his mom asked how it was to get all the twelve day packages in one day.

Elder Cardon served in my son's mission. His story is below. 
"My son says to me, Well we took all the presents apart and combined the candies and the other things and put them in bags and took them to investigators, members and at doors we knocked on. He said I'm sorry and I hope your not upset with me for doing that, how could I be upset. I then moved on to the sweaters I sent him and I asked how he liked those? That's when he got a really funny look on his face and said well about the sweaters. They are against mission rules because they had a design or a little pattern on them, so there is a member family that doesn't have a lot so I gave them to their family, for their teenage sons. I could tell that he thought it was going to make me feel bad that he had basically gave all of his Christmas away, but there was no way I could be upset. As I watched him and saw the look on his face and as he tried to explain how he felt and all he could say was I feel so much joy and I know the difference between happy and joy, and I feel nothing but complete joy. I could feel the love that he has for the people that he has met and that in his almost two years of being there he has learned things that I could never teach him. That through our Heavenly Fathers love and through the atonement and sacrifice that Christ made for us, my son knows with all his heart what it means to truly serve others and to love unconditionally. What a great example to me of what Christmas really means and to keep things in perspective, I think this is the best Christmas we have ever had. I'm hoping that in our home we can keep that knowledge and remember the meaning of Christmas and that we should remember that the first gift ever given was the birth of our savior Jesus Christ and that we can find joy through him. I love all that I am learning from my son while he is serving a mission." 
Here is one more.

"Fun Story! My son is serving in the South Africa, Johannesburg Mission. They have had 4-month-long mail strike (that has now ended) so for Christmas it was easier to put money in his account. Grandma put $100 in his account, and he and his companion went and bought 20 soccer balls and passed them out to the kids in the township on Christmas Eve."

14. Sisterhood of support, encouragement, understanding, and giggles.

This note from a missionary expresses how much our support as moms means to those precious sons and daughters serving the Lord. 
"Hi Missionary Mommas!!! I am using my moms account to write this, sorry for intruding on the page but I just couldn't help it! I just returned home last week from the Oakland/San Fransisco Mission. I loved my mission with my heart and I love being home with MY missionary momma Valerie Barlow Harris. I just wanted to give a shout out to all you wonderful mommas who do so much to help the missionaries. I am so grateful for my momma and her constant love and support while I was on my mission, as well as those beautiful sisters who acted as my " mission moms" . You mommas do SO much good!!!! Keep loving your missionaries and know that your prayers are heard by our Heavenly Father and definitely felt by your dear missionaries! Sending so much love to all you cute mommas!!  Love, (Hermana) Echo Harris

Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite way to use technology as a missionary mom! 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Scripture Feasting Tool #12 - Pictures

If you're not a visual person feel free to skip this study tool. 

I am a visual person, thus I like pictures in my scriptures. It helps me locate and recognize stories and sermons. And it makes scripture study more fun! Here are three kinds of pictures I've used. 

1.  Scripture stickers.

2. Drawings with colored pencils.

3. Drawings of symbols with pen in the margin. 

In my Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 2-3, I've utilized all three kinds of pictures on this two page spread. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Scripture Feasting Tool #11 - Footnotes

Some footnotes are too important to miss!

Look at the difference this makes. In Luke 4 the King James Bible says the devil took Jesus places at the end of Christ's forty day fast. Nope, that doesn't sit well with me. The devil doesn't take Jesus ANYWHERE. It just doesn't work like that. To the rescue are the Joseph Smith Translation footnotes for Luke 4:5 and 4:9. The Spirit brought Jesus to a high mountain or on a pinnacle of the temple and the devil came to tempt him. 

That's a big difference. 

Notice the footnote for Luke 4:9 is emphasized by a line to the verse above to make sure I don't mistakenly read a completely false meaning. You can see "GR" and "IE" footnotes also circled. 

Here are the footnotes I always like to mark in my Bible, because they are the most likely to share important meaning about what a word means. 

  • Joseph Smith Translation (JST) 
  • Hebrew Translation (HEB) 
  • Greek Translation (GR) 
  • For example (IE) 

I mark them by drawing a small circle around the corresponding superscripts with a fine tip pen. Since I don't want to miss the JST, I add a line from the superscript in the verse to the footnote below. 

And of course footnotes can be used to help understand meaning, lead you to other similar verses, and help answer your questions. What is your favorite thing about using footnotes? 

Monday, July 20, 2015

A great FHE movie for the week of Pioneer Day! Ephriam's Rescue is full of life lessons to help us with our challenges.

Click above to watch Ephriam's Rescue movie trailer. 

I love the movie Ephriam's Rescue. 

And I loved the discussion our family had after the movie of life lessons we learned that can help us through our challenges. I cracked myself up that I kept saying aloud principles I noticed during the movie. I've been striving to find principles every day in my feasting through the Book of Mormon in a couple months this summer, so I guess my practice is paying off! 

T. C. Christensen also directed another pioneer favorite, 17 Miracles. Click above to watch the trailer.

What are your favorite life lessons from the Martin or Willey handcart companies, or the pioneers in general?

Friday, July 17, 2015

How to Survive if you Couldn't Buy Toilet Paper, Kleenex, or Diapers

Okay, it's not the most pleasant thing to talk about. But wouldn't you rather be ready?? Here are three doable steps to get prepared. 

1. Here is a simple little system that would take care of TP needs. 
This video is less than 10 minutes. Believe me, you'll be glad you watched it. Several inexpensive items will save your hide down the road. No pun intended. 

2. Cut up some old t-shirts and flannel for TP, napkins, Kleenex, and baby wipes. 

I used pinking shears so I wouldn't have to sew the edges under. 

I cut different colors and sizes so we could tell them apart for different uses. 

In the Ziplok on the right is a stack of handkerchiefs I bought to use when Kleenex is gone. Then I started thinking that if cold season comes to a whole family at once those won't be enough. So I asked around some of my preparedness Facebook groups and this idea was suggested over and over to cut soft fabric for these uses. The fabric on the left is strips and scraps that I thought we could find uses for later. 

Click here for another cool option for toilet paper and first aid bandages that may surprise you! 

3. And cloth diapers if you have little ones. My daughter's favorite brand is GroVia.   

Here are my two granddaughters in their cute cloth diapers. Isn't it amazing that the same size can fit a two year old and a four month old?  If these snazzy diapers are too pricey for your preparedness needs, at least get some old fashioned rectangle diapers, fasteners, and plastic pants

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Scripture Feasting Tool #10 - Multi-task and Multi-media

Multi-tasking strengthening your abs and your soul at the same time. What could be better? This was me this morning at the gym.  

How many ways can you think of to multi-task or use multi-media to fit in studying scriptures on busy days?  I thought of nine.

1. Listen while driving. 

2. Listen while cleaning, cooking, or doing laundry. 

3. Read while you eat breakfast. You could also read during other meals, but from my experience scriptures give you more power when you study them early in the day. 

4. Listen while you get ready in the morning. 

5. Watch a general conference talk for family home evening and then discuss it. 

6. Listen to make a large project more pleasant. I've listened to my favorite speakers (like Elder Holland, Sheri Dew, and Wendy Watson Nelson) while organizing the garage or basement, or while painting. Take my word for it - it's much more enjoyable that way. 

7. We often have family devotional while driving in the van. We keep a Book of Mormon under the seat or use a phone to read for this purpose.  

8. Read or listen while nursing your baby. Reading aloud is great for babies, and it helps them become comfortable with the language of the scriptures. 

9. Listen or read while exercising. My husband likes to listen to Book of Mormon on his morning run, and then general conference talks in the car. 

Here is what I've been doing this summer on my workout days. I take my Book of Mormon to the gym. For the first half hour I use the book rack on the elliptical machine. Then I hold the Book of Mormon while I use leg machines and do abdominal workouts. Sorry arms, you aren't getting workouts this summer because I can't do that while studying my Book of Mormon. :) 

Here's my getup on the elliptical machine. I keep the pages from blowing by a string of rubber bands. My little red pencil bag holds my favorite scripture marking pen and colored pencils. I don't like the music or TV at the gym so I use Pandora piano music on my ear buds and that helps me zone into my scriptures without being distracted.

With the Gospel Library app and Mormon Channel app on a phone or tablet, it's easier than ever to listen on the go. And to much more than scriptures!  Try the audio versions of general conference talks, BYU devotionals, church magazines, and so much more! Some of my favorite audio programs on Mormon Channel include Conversations and Enduring it Well.

Good, Better, Best 

Some people learn best through listening. That's not me. But it's better than skipping a day of scripture study. Here's the hierarchy of scripture study for me. 

  • Good: Listen.   
  • Better: Read.
  • Best: Feast. Read and interact with what I'm reading, by marking, writing notes, journaling or blogging about it, pausing to ask questions and ponder and look up answers, and so on. That's what this blog series is all about. I get the most from the scriptures when I feast. How about you? 

Feel free to share a comment with your favorite ways to multi-task or use multi-media for scripture study! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Scripture Feasting Tool #9 - Manual

Use a manual or commentary to dig deeper and understand better. After trying quite a few, here are my two favorites.  

1. Institute Student Manuals

2. Scriptures Made Easier Series by David Ridges 

Here are a few other resources for finding more understanding about what you're studying in the scriptures. 

  • Scripture discussions on Youtube from BYU Professors. 
  • General Conference talks or devotionals about the subject you're studying.
  • Scriptures.byu.edu lists all the times a verse has been used in a Conference talk. 
  • Study by topic on LDS.org. 
  • This post had some other ideas for books to help you get more from the scriptures. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

When is a good time to get prepared? Now.

This graphic makes a powerful case for preparedness. 

And it makes me grateful for people who drive those trucks. Click here for ideas about preparedness. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Make a Spiritual Preparedness Kit

Have you thought of making a spiritual preparedness kit? 

You'll be so glad you have something to strengthen and uplift your family's spirits when a crisis happens. We all know the Savior's Second Coming is getting closer. (Woo hoo!) There are some challenging events between now and then that we'll want to prepare for. This kit can help. 

Below is a basic checklist for a spiritual preparedness kit.

You may already have extras of these items at home. If you live close to a Deseret Industries you can find these items there for cheap, or you can also order them online here. 

  1. Scriptures. The picture above is the pocket size set.  Scriptures are uber important for many reasons. One reason is that you NEED the Spirit to get through tough times. Another is to help you remember that God has helped a bajillion people through tough times before, even working miracles for many of them, therefore He will help you too.  
  2. Pocket hymn book and primary song book. Also uber important. You do not want to be without the comfort and power of holy music in a crisis situation. Have you ever been stressed out and grumpy or seen your kids fighting, and then after a hymn or two, there's a complete turnaround? That's the power of holy music to bring in the Spirit. Having the Spirit with you is vital in an emergency. It's also a good idea to memorize some of your favorite inspiring songs. 
  3. Gospel art kit. This has pictures of scripture stories from the Bible, Book of Mormon and Church History. It's great for telling children scripture stories, reminding them that God did miracles for Daniel, Noah, Nephi, Moses, Joseph Smith, and He can do them for us too. 

Other ideas you can add. 
  • A journal or notebook with pens. 
  • Consider making a small photo album of favorite pictures of the Savior and your family, and memes of some inspiring quotes. You can do this for an FHE activity where you cut up old Church magazines. 
  • For the Strength of Youth.
  • Personal Progress, Duty to God, Faith in God booklets depending on your children's genders and ages. 
  • A binder of your very favorite inspiring quotes and talks. I pulled mine right out of my filing cabinet, leaving a note there telling me where to find the original talk (see pic below). In this binder you could include a copy of The Family Proclamation, The Living Christ, The Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Also family members' patriarchal blessings, your family history, and your own REMEMBER list (see below). 
  • Your own REMEMBER list. You could do this as an FHE brainstorm. This is uber important to me personally. The main theme of Nephi's repeated pep talks to Laman and Lemnuel goes something like this, "Dudes, REMEMBER the miracles God has already done for our ancestors, scripture people, and ourselves in the past? Of course God is going to help us through this challenging situation right now!  Even though this (getting the brass plates, building a boat, making a new bow, you name it) looks impossible to us, nothing is impossible to God, so let's get moving." Don't you just love Nephi? So I wrote my own list a few years ago when we felt prompted to start homeschooling our children, which looked impossible and scary to me. This list has strengthened me over and over, and I know it will boost my faith and courage in challenging times ahead. 
  • My friend ordered a small, thin, hardbound photo book with her family's annual Christmas card picture and newsletter. A great summarized family history. You can do something similar with a binder and some page protectors. 
  • If one is usable, you may want to store an old smart phone or tablet loaded up with spiritual resources. Just download everything on the LDS Gospel Library app and you'll have a wonderful tool box of resources to boost your spirits in a time of crisis. You could download your favorite holy music from other singers too like Kenneth Cope or Mormon Tabernacle choir. Be sure to store a solar or hand-crank charger too. Since I've been learning about EMPs lately, it's a good idea to store these in an EMP-proof box. 
  • If there is room, one or more favorite books that would seriously inspire you to be tough and rely on the Lord during challenging times. You could keep a list of these books and then if you have time and space, grab one or more if you ever needed to evacuate. A couple that I love are Yearning for the Living God by Elder F. Enzio Busche and Journey to the Veil by John Pontius. Others might include The Hiding Place, Man's Search for Meaning, and Unlikely Heroes. 
  • I have a stack of Mormonad postcards with a fun picture and a powerful message on each one. These are great for spur-of-the-moment FHE lessons for teens, by the way.

Here are some of my favorite talks in my binder. 

Of course the most important spiritual preparedness comes from adding drops of oil to your lamp day after day with personal righteousness.

President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Attendance at sacrament meetings adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years. Fasting, family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures—each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the covenant for eternity—these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can at midnight refuel our exhausted lamps” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 256, emphasis added).
Elder Oaks said, “We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming. And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult—the spiritual. A 72-hour kit of temporal supplies may prove valuable for earthly challenges, but, as the foolish virgins learned to their sorrow, a 24-hour kit of spiritual preparation is of greater and more enduring value” ("Preparation for the Second Coming,” Ensign, May 2004, emphasis added).

Click here for a preparedness fun kit! Click here for more ideas about preparedness. 

Feel free to comment below with your thoughts about a spiritual preparedness kit, or any additional items you might add. 

Our Bear Lake Balderree Family Reunion!

I just LOVE my family! We had a blast together at a Bear Lake cabin this week. Our parents had five of their children there with their families. Delicious in every way. (We missed Ted and Kristin's families though!)

Cousin hot tub time!  My mom loves her grand kids. Can you tell by the smile on her face? 

My sister Amy and her husband can get super competitive. 

Four love sacs and a projector screen make for great movie time! 

Mother and son ping pong game.

Animal balloon fun! 

My two daughters and, husband, and son-in-law doting on our two grand daughters.

One of my favorite people on the planet. Ever. Isn't she just plain adorable? 

My sister Amy (closest) makes an amazing curry. 

Cousin dinner!  

This was also the "man cave" when some of the guys needed to do homework or whatever else on their laptops. 

My dad is a family history nut!  So imagine my delight when I discovered he had never heard of Relative Finder. I had so much fun showing him cool people we are related to, like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, President Hinckley, and others. 

I had no idea until I saw this picture that someone put the balloon crown on my dad. 

Multi-layer shoulder rub! 

One of my favorite parts of the reunion was watching the cousins love each other. This cute little niece lives in Texas, so it was fun to watch everyone dote on her. 

A big sister teaching baby sister to be soft to a little baby. Cousin love! 

Beautiful taco salad spread. Isn't that an awesome kitchen island? Thou shalt not covet, Becky. 

My new favorite way of eating oatmeal, with fresh blueberries, strawberries, and bananas. Yum. 

My third Great Grandpa William Budge was an amazing man. He was stake president of the Bear Lake stake when their beautiful Paris, Idaho tabernacle was built. Here is a post about why he is my hero. 

Tour outside the tabernacle. 

Tour inside the tabernacle. 

My son has been begging to get chickens. He found this colorful rooster on the grounds of the tabernacle and couldn't help himself.  He is a bird and pet lover, proud owner of several parakeets, a frog, and a bunch of guppies. That's all his mom can handle. 

Across the street from the tabernacle is a Paris historical museum, where they have pictures of our Grandpa William Budge. 
Here he is in the middle front with all his sons. The son that's our ancestor is O.H. Budge, second from right on the top. 

The whole upper floor of our cabin was a loft with games and beds to sleep at least fourteen kids! 

My grand daughter and I had a special little time at the park "swing a slide!" 

Zia's very first time at a beach. She spent days chanting, "Beach Tursday!" Once she got there she pretty much loved it. 

We rented kayaks and paddle boards. 

Grandpa Mike tucking in grand baby Brielle into his shirt when the notorious Bear Lake afternoon wind picked up. 

One thing I love about Bear Lake is how far out the water is pretty shallow which makes it feel safer to let the kids play. 
Zia freaked a little when we first started our kayak ride, so I sang "Row, row, row your boat" to calm her down. She kept singing it with me for a long time as we paddled around. 

Silly boy! 

Three of my girls and me (notice the littlest girl on the sofa behind). 

Minute to Win It Game Night! 

Cup stacking. Keep putting the top cup on the bottom until the orange cup is on top again. 

How long can you keep two balloons in the air? 

Use a spoon in your mouth to scoop ping pong balls into the other bowl. 

Dad, you're cheating... no hands! 

Who can stack 25 pennies first with one hand? 

Make a pyramid of cups and then re-stack the cups. 

Being entertained by the games. 

Mike VS. Mike. My husband and my brother. How fast can you eat a stack of crackers? Can you say "Dry mouth." 

Leg wrestling. These two 16-year-old cousins are both really strong. They took turns throwing each other over. 

Who can stand on one leg the longest? The two ballerinas in front were amazing at this game! 
Kid  push up contest.  We also did a wall sit contest, but I won that one so I didn't take any pics of that. 

Cousins doting over the babies. 

My first time meeting my new miracle nephew. We have fasted and prayed for this little boy and his mommy and we're so glad they're both alive and well. We were tickled that their family could come to the reunion at the last minute!  

Cousin time making boon-doggles! 

Father and son air hockey game. I was sad it was time to go, cause I wanted a turn too! 

My daughter trying on an adorable owl hat at a farmer's market. 

My son and grand baby totally adore each other. 

Cousin souvenir shopping! One of these girls lives in Utah and one in Texas but they sure love each other. 

You simply cannot visit Bear Lake without eating a Bear Lake raspberry shake!  Sorry Mom and Dad that I didn't warn you before taking this pic! 

My two boys happy for a great reunion but sad to leave Bear Lake. I'm sad too. It wasn't long enough...