Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Hiatus

I have been struggling with this for a while now, but I think I must finally face the fact that I need a blogging hiatus. I don't know if it will last for the month, or the entire summer, but as of now I just need to focus on some other things.

But I will still visit everyone else!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Our Journey to the Land of the Long White Cloud

Although we got back from New Zealand last Monday, I still haven't returned to normal sleep habits. Not because of jet lag, but because of our schedule. We have been out every night past midnight, and gone most of the day. So it has taken me a long time to get this post out. But finally . . . here it is! My first installment of pictures.

We left Phoenix Sunday afternoon and arrived in New Zealand around 7:00 Tuesday morning, beating the sun by half an hour.

Since we couldn't check into our hotel until the afternoon, we decided to take a drive out to Piha Beach. This is the beach from the second Narnia movie and it is beautiful!! We loved not only seeing it, but after traveling for over 24 hours, it was so nice to walk on the sand and feel the cool air on our faces.

And of course the girls had to have a jumping picture. :-)

In the afternoon we drove to Auckland Harbor and boarded an America's Cup Yacht for a sailing adventure. I thought I would be spending the afternoon sitting in a chair enjoying the ocean breeze, but the ride was quite different than expected.

The boat sails at a 45 degree angle, and instead of sitting calmly, you are either working the sails or hanging on for your life! Here Kat and Wes are working as "grinders" raising the sails.

This next picture does a pretty good job of showing the angle the boat was sailing. You can see how close to the water the low side was. I was clinging to the top while taking pictures.

It was a lot of fun, and gave us great views of Auckland.

Finally, it was time to check into the hotel! Wes had made reservations through Priceline at the Hyatt Regency. We were happy to get two rooms for a cheap price, but our happiness turned to complete surprise when they upgraded us to the penthouse suite!

It had two bedrooms, three bathrooms, an office, living room, dining room, kitchen and veranda. We loved it!! We also got a personal letter from the hotel manager telling us what additional amenities were available, including a delicious breakfast.

We were so perplexed as to why we were receiving such great service. But perhaps the mystery was solved when we saw the name of the manager. He had the same last name we did. So maybe the hotel thought we were family. :-) Our only disappointment was we were there just one night.

Our next night was spent in Rotorua, and the hotel there was quite a come down after the Hyatt. The furniture was old and worn, the rooms were very cold, and the bathroom served as a hallway between the sleeping area and a kitchenette. But we did learn to appreciate heated blankets.

Our drive to Rotorua from Auckland was a lot of fun. We first stopped at the temple in Hamilton for pictures. The temple was surrounded by green pastures and rolling hills and was beautiful!

Next on our drive were the Waitomo Caves. We loved viewing the caves, but the best part was the glowworms. After descending the cave, we boarded a boat. They then turned off all the lights and very silently we sailed on a river through the dark. Above us, however, glowworms shined brightly. It was much like seeing the Milky Way on a moonless night. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures of the worms.

And that night we celebrated my birthday in style. We had dinner at the local KFC and then returned to the freezing hotel room for gifts and "cake". The Famous Amos cookie box and hotel wash cloth were wrapping for a box of Junior Mints. And the two muffins, which were divided into five pieces each, served as birthday cake. Wes gave me my gifts ahead of time. My new camera doubled as a birthday/mother's day gift, and in addition for my birthday, he bought a purple coat. I loved it!

Afterward, we snuggled into our warm beds and drifted off to sleep. We had an exciting day ahead of us . . . exploring geothermal parks with hot water rivers, acid pools and geysers, wandering through a Maori village and participating in the traditional "hangi" feast. But those pictures, will have to wait for another day!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

From Freezing Cold to Blistering Heat . . . or We Are Back!!!

Editor’s Note: We spent the past two weeks in New Zealand, where we enjoyed the scenery, the people and even the cold weather. While there, we attended church and had a wonderful experience. This post is about that visit.

For the past two Sundays we visited the Riccarton, Christchurch, New Zealand Ward. What a great, marvelous and humbling experience that was for me!

The people were so friendly, and warmly welcomed us into their congregation. We appreciated how many came to talk with us before and after the meetings---asking where we were from and how long we planned to stay in the country. And although we were just visiting, we were treated like ward members. My husband was even assigned a companion during priesthood meeting and sent out right then to visit some less active members.

New Meaning
One of the songs we sang at church was “Dear To The Heart of the Shepherd” I wasn’t expecting it, but the song made me cry. For two weeks we had driven all over both islands and had a constant scene of sheep before our eyes. Suddenly that song took on new meaning to me. I am sure I will never sing any song again about shepherds, sheep or lambs without it touching my heart.

And I thought all those basketball activities were a waste of time!! :-)
One of the sacrament speakers the second week was the recently called young men’s president, Paora Winitana. He told how he and his brother joined the church when he was 12 and his brother 14. Lacking family support and friends in the church, they soon fell away. However, a couple years later he became friends with some boys who were members and they invited him to attend their weekly mutual activities.

And every week they played basketball. He said he was not good at it, but he wanted to fit in so he practiced and over time became much better. He became so good in fact, that he currently plays for the Christchurch Cougars, in the New Zealand National Basketball League.

He also served a mission to Sydney Australia, was married in the temple and now has a beautiful wife (also a returned missionary) and three very cute little boys.

A Sweet Little Tender Mercy
Our first week in town we were impressed as we listened to a newly called counselor in the bishopric. Although very young, he was a great speaker, had a good sense of humor and knew and understood the scriptures well.

On our second week, we learned he served in the Brisbane, Australia mission, and his time there overlapped with my son, who also served in that mission.

What a sweet blessing it was to us when we visited with him and learned he and my son were companions!! Of all the places we could have attended church, what are the chances we would be in his ward, and meet him? He told us the companion he had before Ryan was very difficult, so he has always thought of Ryan as a gift from the mission president. That was so nice to hear.

A Humbling Moment
One of the most humbling moments for me came during relief society. During announcements at the beginning of class, everyone was asked to pray for the people and the animals in the Gulf of Mexico that a solution would quickly be found to the oil spill, and lives and livelihood would be saved.

I was so touched by that. I wasn’t’ even praying for that, yet here, thousands of miles away in another country, the people were praying for our nation and our people. I thought that was so very sweet.

Grateful Heart
Finally, although I have traveled around much of the world and attended church in many countries, it never ceases to touch my heart at how the gospel is the same no matter where you go. We studied the same lessons, heard talks on the same subjects, sang the same songs and felt the same sweet spirit.

It was wonderful.

So to the members of the Riccarton, Christchurch, New Zealand Ward, with a full heart I say, Thank you!! Thank you!! We loved our vacation to your country, but most of all we loved meeting you!!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Winners, Birthdays and Pioneers . . . Or in other words, My Week!

CONGRATULATIONS TO CHELSEA DALTON, the third and final winner of my give-away. She was the first person to correctly identify NEW ZEALAND as our vacation destination on Wednesday, after I posted the clues.

I am very excited about the trip. I have never been to New Zealand before and have always wanted to go. And since the temperatures here in AZ are now up to 110, winter and snow are sounding pretty nice.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU to Lisa, Jenny, Donise and Viki for taking me to lunch last week for my birthday! And Thanks to Susan for arranging it all, even though she wasn't able to come due to her son breaking his arm and being in the hospial. You are all such sweethearts!
I had so much fun!! I loved the lotions, potions, boxes, plant, gift card and beautiful scarf--and of course, the yummy food. And my favorite card came from Donise. On the outside it said, "You will always be my friend," and on the inside it read, "You know too much." That made me laugh. But, I think just being able to spend time with such very fun, sweet ladies, is the best gift of all!! Thank you so very much for your friendship!
Lastly . . . I had such a fun day on Thursday when I was able to go up near Flagstaff for our stake's pioneer trek. This was the third time I have helped with a trek. The past two times I did candle making, but this time I got to help with the shampooing of the hair. I traveled up with Jenny and my friend Michelle. My favorite part of the trip was stopping at McDonald's for a bathroom break when we were all dressed in our pioneer clothes. Ohhh, the stares. :-)
The whole day was SO MUCH FUN!! There was such a sweet spirit in the camp and almost everyone was having a good time. (There were a few grumpy trekkers, but out of 200 kids, that is not too bad! :-) We stayed through the evening to watch the skits which were a riot. It was such a fun, spiritual, and enjoyable activity. I am so glad I was able to participate in even just a small way.
I don't have pictures of the hair washing, but I do have pictures of the pioneers coming into "The Valley". All three times I have been there to see them come in, it has made me cry. What great kids we have in the youth today!! And what valiant leaders!!
The banner they are carrying in the picture below has the names of the people in our stake who memorized the Family Proclamation. Signing and carrying the banner was compared to Moroni's Title of Liberty and taking a stand for the family. The banner was carried at the front of the company the entire length of the trek.

I bet you can't guess which daughter is mine in this picture. :-)

Or my other daughter in this one. (I think they both enjoy posing for pictures.:-)

I am so thankful they were able to go. We spent hours last night visiting with them about the experiences they had. I was so touched by the fact that this is just a re-enactment, and yet Heavenly Father blessed them all with so many lessons and experiences, answered so many prayers and bestowed so many miracles. I am so grateful for that.

And we all have such a greater appreciation for the pioneers. The journey they traveled has helped bring joy to ours.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

GIVE AWAY Part 2--Five more clues and they are easier this time!!


She was the first person to correctly guess where I am going on vacation this summer and will therefore be getting a souvenir!!

CONGRATULATIONS ALSO TO GRAMEE was the first to guess today, but since she submitted her guess before I posted my new clues, I am still going to give one more person a chance to win.

Thanks to all others who gave it a try.

Now here is the LAST CHANCE to win something. Be the FIRST to guess after I post these clues, and win a souvenir. EMAIL your guesses to

Here are the final five clues.

1. The country is part of the Pacific Rim of Fire" Which means we will be seeing some volcanoes.

2. The first man to ever climb Mt. Everest came from this country.

3. Bungee jumping was invented there.

4. The first European to land there was the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman.

5. The movie "Lord of the Rings" was filmed there.

Good Luck!!