Monday, June 30, 2014

Mormon Monday: What is Seminary?

I haven't been in seminary for years, but I have been asked this question on occasion, so I will explain. For more details, please visit:

Seminary is a program to help students in high school develop their testimonies of their Savior. The students study a different book of scripture every year. Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine in Covenants each are focused on during one year of high school.

The time when students attend seminary differs. In areas where there are a high percentage of Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), release-time seminary can be held during school as a free period. This is how I experienced seminary. This time for seminary is usually seen in places like Utah, Idaho, and some parts of Arizona. Going to seminary wasn't much of a sacrifice for me. It was nice to be able to have a break from school and feel the spirit, but it was held in a building across the street from my high school within easy walking distance. It didn't really take much effort to go there.

However, for those young members of the church who live in an area with many people who aren't members of the church, they are asked to attend what is called early-morning seminary. Usually this is around 5-6 in the morning. I have many cousins and friends who experienced this kind of seminary. I am very impressed with their dedication in attending these meetings.

Anyone who has high school students knows how hard it is to wake most of them up. I was no exception. I slept until the very last possible moment, and then bolted to school. (It helped that the school was in walking distance of my house as well.) I think it is pretty amazing that so many young people (and their parents) sacrifice sleep in order to go and talk about scriptures super early in the morning.

Why would they sacrifice so much?

For me, it wasn't really a sacrifice. I love seminary, and I loved learning the scripture stories and about my Savior. I think for those kids who have to get up early, they do it for the same reasons, and maybe they don't view it as a sacrifice either.

Some of the most powerful spiritual moments of my younger life occurred while I was in seminary. I had teachers that encouraged us to ask questions, pray about the gospel, and read the scriptures. While I was in seminary, I never missed a day of scripture reading. It was amazing to hear the testimonies of other young people my own age who were going through similar things that I was going through.

Seminary is a good introduction to the gospel. Youth are faced with constant moral dilemmas, and it is easy for them to feel confused and powerless. Sometimes, that little bit of light in the morning (or during the day) can really bring a spirit of peace.

I am grateful for my experiences in seminary, the scriptures that I memorized, and the things that I learned. They had some cheesy videos, but that was kind of fun too. Those videos often helped to emphasize important points of doctrine.

High school can be a pretty confusing and selfish point in life. I think I am a better person for attending seminary, and I have a better mastery of the scriptures.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Driving Tanks Across the Country: Part 5

To read the previous parts click on the following links:

Day 13:

We woke up fairly early with the intention of leaving by 8:00 a.m. However, we found it difficult to depart. It was hard to leave behind Grig's family. We packed up everything, and as Grig was walking back around his house, a thought came to him.

He told me, "As I was walking around the house, I had a thought. It said, 'Maybe there's a ring-necked snake under those cinder blocks.'" He had been wanting to show Kevin and I a ring-necked snake since we got to Virginia. He decided to follow the prompting, and sure enough, there was a snake there. He caught it and brought it to show Kevin and I. This may seem like a strange thing for the Lord to prompt him with, but I have often found that the Lord gives us tender mercies. We find these little promptings as miraculous as anything else that the Lord has done for us, and we are very grateful.

However, when Grig went to show Kevin the snake, we couldn't find him. Kevin's grandpa had taken him into the woods, and there was no sign of them.

I joked with Grig that his grandpa had stolen him so that we couldn't leave. However, as we finished loading the car, Kevin and his grandpa showed up. To my surprise, Kevin's face and hand were covered in purple. His grandpa laughed and told us that they had found a mulberry tree and Kevin had thoroughly enjoyed the mulberries. He hadn't wanted to leave the tree.

He looked awesome, so I took a picture of him and his grandpa. Then, Kevin got to see the snake that his dad had found for him, and he loved it. He likes our snake back at home, so he kept making hissing noises and pointing at it.
Kevin and his aunt.
 Then it was time for goodbyes.
Kevin and his grandma found a five-leaf clover just before we left, so she gave it to us for good luck. They also presented a GPS to us. That's was really nice of them, and we were excited to use it on our return trip. A couple days previous, Grig's dad had also noticed that one of our front headlights was out, so we had replaced that the day before. We were grateful that the headlight was the only thing that had broken thus far on our trip.

We didn't end up leaving until about 10:00 a.m., but it was nice for Kevin (and Grig and I) to spend a little more time with family. We had a shorter drive ahead of us, because we were just going to visit my sister in Tennessee and it was only a 7 1/2 hour drive.

We briefly stopped in Buena Vista, VA where Grig had gone to college at one point. He gave us a tour of the facilities, which was pleasant except for the fact that it was really, really hot and humid. Kevin enjoyed running around (he had just woken up from a nap).

Kevin really liked this big horse.
We stayed there for a while, and then got back on the road. Grig had wanted to take us swimming, but we left later than planned, so that was our only stop there.

Then, we drove a few more hours and made it to my sister's home. As we were driving, we found out that our A/C converter wasn't working (we had been using it to power our laptops). We tried to get it out and found out that it was stuck. Then, it was up to good old ingenuity to keep Kevin entertained for the next few days.

Kevin and his cousin became instant friends again and had a great time playing with her toys.

We stayed up talking, and then my sister and her husband invited us to go with them to a national park that was just a few minutes away in the morning. We decided it would be pretty sad to come visit and not do anything with them. I reasoned that we only had a 12 and 1/2 hour drive ahead of us the next day, so if we left a little later, it would be okay. (The day after we had a 16 and 1/2 hour drive).

We watched a few things on youtube, and then went to bed because my brother-in-law had school in the morning and had to get up early.

Day 14:

We got up pretty early to go with my sister and Kevin's cousin to the park. We left about 8:00 and drove through a tunnel that went all the way through a mountain. That was pretty neat. 
Then, we drove up a sharply curved road that brought us to a top of a mountain that borders Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. At the pinnacle at the top, you could see all three states. That was pretty neat. We also found some great rocks for climbing. 

Grig and I took turns climbing rocks and helping my sister watch the two little toddlers. They were so happy to be together. They held hands as we walked down the trail and kept hugging and kissing.

As I was climbing down from a rock, I spotted a flash of movement. With my awesome wildlife adventuring skills, I did what any biologist would do when spotting an animal.

I pointed my finger and shouted, "LIZARD! LIZARD! LIZARD!"

Grig came running. We tried to catch it for a few minutes, and then I gave up to go and look at the scenery. However, Grig was determined. He kept trying and finally he decided to pray for help. As he kneeled down to pray, he was reminded that he had a lot to be thankful for as well. He began thanking the Lord for all the many things that He had given us on our trip.

Then, he brought his prayer to a close and stood up. He didn't see the lizard, and after looking for a minute, he turned to go. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted the lizard underneath a fence rail (it was a fence lizard, after all). He couldn't get it out with his bare hands, so after a moment he decided to get a stick and gently prod it out into the open. It came in slowly, and got to where he knew he could grab it. He hesitated for just a minute, but then he made a grab. He got it! We felt like that was an answer to his prayer and another tender mercy. 

We thanked the Lord and admired the lizard for a few minutes, and then let it go.
This is one of the happiest pictures I've ever seen of Grig.
The blue scales are intense!
Kevin liked it too!
We really enjoyed our outing. However, we had another major surprise ahead of us. As we went to plug in our destination on the GPS, it informed us that it was a 16 and 1/2 hour drive to Nebraska. I was sure that wasn't right, so we drove back toward my sister's house, hoping that the GPS would figure out where we were and tell us the correct time.

However, the amount wasn't changing, and soon we checked our google directions that we had printed off. It turned out the GPS was correct, and I had remembered incorrectly. If we kept to our travel plans, we wouldn't get to my aunt and uncle's until 5:00 in the morning (with stops for gas and stuff). 

We decided we could do it, but it would be tough. About that time, Grig's coworker sent him a text and asked where we were. We told him we were in Kentucky, and he was surprised. He told Grig he was due back in for work the next day (Friday). Grig's work day is only supposed to be Monday through Friday right now, so we hadn't asked for those days off. We were concerned. We asked if they were scheduled to work the next day, and his coworker told us yes, because they were behind. 

We quickly said a prayer asking the Lord to help Grig not to have work the next day. We didn't want him to be penalized for calling in absent.

In less than ten minutes, we got our answer. His coworker called us back and told us that there wouldn't be work Friday OR Monday because they didn't have parts. That was a direct answer to prayer, and we were so grateful. 

With that extra day we had been given in mind, we informed everyone of our intentions and late arrival time. Instantly we began to get phone calls and messages from people who were really worried about that. Grig's parents called and offered to buy us a hotel for the night, because they didn't want us to die.

After praying and talking about it, we decided to stop half-way and take them up on their offer. 

We continued traveling until we reached St. Louis, Missouri. We tried to get on the Martin Luther King Bridge, but as we took the exit for it, we found ourselves stopped in a traffic jam. We waited for a few minutes and watched cars begin to go backward down the on-ramp. We knew that was illegal, but it started to look awfully tempting after a while. Grig wanted to walk up the line of cars and see what was going on. I was worried he'd get shot. We finally compromised with him taking his phone (so he could call me if he got shot) and he went for a walk. 

We were very grateful now that we'd decided to stop for the night. We didn't know when we'd get moving again. 

He came back with discouraging news. He said that there was a bad accident ahead, and the other drivers didn't think we'd be able to move for two or three hours. He also found some spare change.

He was beginning to lean toward going backward down the on-ramp, but I said, "Let's pray. It will be okay."

So, we did. Midway during our prayer, the traffic in the far distance began to move, and by the time he finished, we began to crawl forward slowly. We knew that was another direct answer to prayer. 

Soon after, we stopped in Warrenton, Missouri at America's Best Value Inn. We had a very pleasant, relaxing night.

Day 15:

We ate the free breakfast in the morning and then drove off for Nebraska. After a while on the road, I saw a sign for an Amish Buffet. That sounded fantastic! Amish food is delicious, and I begged Grig to stop for it. He conceded, but we decided if it was too far off the road we would continue on our way. We stopped for gas, and then drove a little further. After about five miles, we didn't see any sign of it, so we decided to go back.

We flipped a U-turn at the next traffic light, and a moment later we saw flashing lights appear in our rear-view mirror. Uh-oh. 

We pulled over, and the police officer came to my window. We asked him if we weren't supposed to turn a U-turn there, and he told us that yes, it was illegal. He asked us where we were going, and I told him "Nebraska." He asked where we were from, and Grig told him Utah. He said, "You're from Utah and you're going to Nebraska?" 

We explained that that was our stopping point for the night. He seemed very reasonable and he asked us if we were lost. We told him that we had been intending to go to the Amish restaurant, but it had been further off the highway then we wanted, and so we had decided to go back. 

He checked our documents, and let us go with a warning. He was very kind, and we felt like that was another blessing from the Lord. 

We got back on our way and quickly found the highway. The rest of our trip passed fairly uneventfully, though we did stop at a fun rest stop in Nebraska that had some rocks we could climb on. We were tempted to stop at the dinosaur museum again, but we finally decided not on this trip. Maybe next year.

We reached our destination in good time and played some games with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. We were going to go fishing, but it began to storm and we decided to have ice cream cones instead. It was a pretty relaxing day.

Day 16:

This was our 12 and 1/2 hour drive. We left pretty early, and stopped at Wal-mart to refill our snacks. We decided to try and free our A/C converter one more time while we were there. We prayed, and to our surprise, it popped right out. We bought a new one to replace it, and were able to play some movies (mostly Rescuers Down Under three times) for Kevin during this long drive. 

We stopped at a fun rest stop just after we entered Wyoming. It had an archaeological dig site, and some fun trails. 

Grig and Kevin found some rocks to climb on. I had a pretty severe allergy attack (resulting in asthma) while we were exploring the archaeological site, and so we had to leave and go back to the car. I took my inhaler and was fine. 

The rest of the drive was okay, though as we reached Jackson Hole, Wyoming the sunset was absolutely stunning! 

It wasn't until the last 40 minutes that Kevin finally lost it. He began to scream and nothing would stop it. Finally, Grig (who doesn't like this movie at all) turned on Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. That calmed Kevin down enough for him to relax until we reached my parent's home in Idaho. We got there about 11:15 p.m. 

We were tired and glad to be only three hours away from our home. We talked for a few minutes, but we were ready for bed, and my dad had early morning meetings. So, we said hello to Dakota and then went to sleep.

Day 17 and 18:

We ended up staying at my parents all day Sunday. We went to church with them at 9:30 a.m., and then had a nap that afternoon. That evening we went to a dual birthday party for some of my cousins, and Kevin got to play with his other cousins for a bit.

We had meant to leave that night, but we stayed up late talking to my brother and sister-in-law, so we decided to just crash at my parent's house for one more night.

Monday, June 23rd, we made what seemed like a really short trip back to our apartment in Utah. It was so nice to be home. We put things away, relaxed for a few hours, and then we celebrated my grandma's birthday with her that night at a park. Grig had work the next morning, so we tried to go to bed pretty quickly.

That's the end of our trip. Dakota is happy to be back home, and Oryx (our snake) is his usual stoic self (meaning that we don't have a clue what he's thinking). They both look fantastic. 

We are grateful that we saw so many miracles, that we had enough money for this trip, and that our car had very few problems. Thank you for your prayers for us while we were traveling. We definitely felt their power. 

We love you all and are glad to be back home!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Driving Tanks Across the Country: Part 4

If you missed the previous parts, here are some links:

Day 10:

Grig was really nice and let me sleep in. He took Kevin out when he woke up, and I got to sleep in for the first time on our trip. It was wonderful! I felt a lot better after that. I had been getting up at 7:30ish (which is 5:30ish normal time for us). 

So, I woke up and then we got ready for church at 1:00 p.m. Knowing that we would be stopping by Grig's grandpa's grave and his grandma's house after church, I made sure that I grabbed the camera.

It was fun to go to Grig's ward and meet a lot of his friends from his youth. Kevin fell asleep during Sacrament Meeting, and then I let his grandma hold him for the rest of the meeting. She took the sleeping baby to Young Women's with her, and we had an excellent couple of lessons in the next to classes. When Grig went to pick up Kevin, he found him awake and surrounded by teen-aged girls. I think he was a big hit.

After church we drove to Grig's grandma's house, and to my horror I discovered that though I brought the camera, I hadn't grabbed its battery out of its charger, so we don't have any pictures to show, but we still had a good time talking to Kevin's great-grandma. After we visited for a while (and she fed us excellent strawberry shortcake on lemon cake), we went to the cemetery and visited the grave of her husband. Neither Kevin nor I have ever met his grandpa, but it was fun to listen to Grig's Utah sister, brother, and he tell stories about things that they remembered.

Grig had an emotional time of it. He really misses his grandpa.

We went home and made another campfire. We didn't stay up as late this time though, because we had to get up early in the morning to go to the beach again. (Thus we never managed to go swimming in their creek or river. The river was always too high when we wanted to go anyway.)

Day 11:

This was now Monday, July 16. We got up pretty early and while Grig's mom and dad were getting the van, we got all the stuff ready to go to the beach. We left about 10:30 and went to Richmond to pick up Grig's sister so she could come with us (she had work off until Wednesday). 

That was fantastic, because now all of Grig's family was with us except for Havelock who wasn't able to come due to work.

We made it to Virginia Beach about 2:00, and there we split into two groups. The first group (including us) went to the aquarium they have there, while the other group went straight to the beach. 

Right after Grig and I were married, we went to this aquarium and I love it! They have a shallow pool where you can touch clipped stingray. They are clipped so they don't stick you and injure people. It doesn't hurt them, it's like clipping fingernails. They feel like wet baloney, and last time we had one sidling up to us to be touched like a friendly, slippery puppy. We were looking forward to Kevin seeing the rays.

The first thing we saw was a turtle display.

They were very cute. The aquarium also had a walk-in area where you were surrounded by fish on all sides, including above you. They had some pretty neat varieties of fish as well. As they swam over your head, it almost felt as though you were underwater.

Admiring the fish.
 Kevin really enjoyed himself, as did I.

 We had Grig's mom with us, his sister and brother-in-law from Utah, and his other brother that will be coming to live with us soon. When we got to stingray petting pool, I got to touch the stingray, but they never came close enough to the surface for Kevin to touch them. However, he enjoyed getting wet, so he still had a good time. He also got to touch horseshoe crabs later, so that made up for it.

We went to their second building to see the otters, but they were asleep. About that time, they were closing, so we went through this area that made us feel like we were in Honey I Shrunk the Kids.
Kevin riding a giant snake
The statue at the entrance.
 Then, we went to the beach to meet the rest of our group and Grig's aunt. I love the beach. I've only been to it about four times in my life, so it is still very exciting for me. Counting Friday, this is Kevin's second time at the beach. We took him out in the water for a while, but then he just wanted to play in the sand. Most of our pictures come from Grig's mom who took pictures of him while we were out swimming.

Eventually, we emerged from the water and I was surprised when he was willing to let me bury him in sand and give him a tail.

Our little merman.
 As the hours ticked away, the sky turned beautiful colors in the sunset. Kevin posed nicely for me while I practiced my photography.
 Eventually, Grig's aunt had to leave. It was a lot of fun to see her, and we had a good time finding sand-fleas and crabs with her.

About that time, we decided it was getting dark, so we cleaned up, changed, and went to see J at the gift shop.

She was super excited to see Kevin again, and immediately she scooped him up and asked him to give her 'some sugah' and planted a kiss on his cheek. He was content and began to point at things and ask "This?" She ran him around the shop and said, "J has something for you." She then handed him a little ball. We browsed the store while she made a big deal over him.

A few minutes later, she came back with a cool little wood carving of a heron and said, "You should of seen him when we passed this! His eyes lit up and he started whistling." Then she had to hand Kevin back to me while she took care of some customers. When she finished, I asked, "Are you sure we can't pay for this?"

She shot me another mock-glare and said, "Kevin, you tell your mamma that she's being naughty. J can give you presents if she wants to!"

So I subsided and then Kevin began to chew on the bird's beak (he's been teething). J didn't like that, so she got him a little rubber bracelet for him to chew on. She told me, "You put that bird on a shelf so he can have it when he gets older, okay?" I agreed and Kevin happily chewed on the bracelet. We talked to her for a few more minutes, exchanged information, and went away with a few other things that we bought.

After it turned dark, one half of our group headed home, while the other group stayed and hunted ghost crabs.
 The picture above is of a ghost crab that we found earlier in the day. It was a tiny one, but after dark we were able to find huge ones. However, we don't have any pictures because my battery died about this time. One of them pinched me, and it hurt a little bit, but we still had a good time catching them and then letting them go. They scuttled around everywhere, and we chased them by the light of our flashlights. It was really neat. I was glad we stayed a little longer. We drove back while watching an electric storm in the sky. It was a really nice trip.

Day 12:

 This was the last full day in Virginia. Grig's brother thought his flight to Utah wasn't until the next morning, but half-way through the afternoon we found out that he was supposed to be there in an hour. He quickly scrambled to put the last of his luggage together, we took a quick family picture, and then Grig's dad drove him to the airport. He missed his flight, but caught a later one and was able to make it.

The quick family picture
 We went out and visited a few of Grig's friends and spent time with family. Later, we chased fireflies and put them in a jar. I accidentally squished one a little bit so its light wouldn't go out, which was nice for Kevin because then he could see it light up. I don't think I irreparably damaged him, and then we later let them go again.

 We stayed up kind of late because Grig's sister and brother-in-law were leaving in the middle of the night, but eventually I had to go to bed. We had a pretty long drive the next day and we wanted to leave fairly early.

Tomorrow starts our return trip to Utah via Idaho (to collect the dog and the snake). Thanks for taking this long journey with us! Final part is up: Part 5

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Driving Tanks Across the Country: Part 3

To read the first two parts, click on the following links:
I forgot to add one event from day 6. As I was walking Kevin around outside, we found a grey tree frog. Here's a couple pictures:

Day 7:

After our exciting day at Maymont Park, we decided we needed a down-day to spend with family. Grig was excited to show Kevin and me the woods around his house. His parents own quite a few acres, so we had a good time getting lost and then finding our way out again.
My man, back in his native element.

As we started away from the house, we gained an entourage. Their two dogs and various cats trailed us as we made our way through the woods. It was kind of entertaining, because we'd hear something crashing through the brush and it was just a couple of cats playing. 
Cat in a tree
Grig explained the different types of trees and other shrubbery to me, and we had a great time. Eventually we found the creek that runs through their property to his driveway and Grig and Kevin went wading into a pool that formed in their creek. I was going to get in, but I was wearing my only pair of jeans. We decided to come back later to swim, but it never ended up happening for reasons that I will explain later.

As we were walking back toward the house (Kevin needed a nap), Kevin started pointing at trees and saying, "This?" 

Grig would answer, "Tree!" 

Kevin would then point at a different tree and ask, "This?"

Grig would respond, "Tree."

This went on for quite a while until I tried to film it. Of course, then he stopped. It was very cute though. 

Once Grig's sister and brother-in-law woke up (they had flown in from Utah the night before), we spent some time with them. They didn't get in until really early in the morning, so they didn't wake up until we came back from the woods. Their flight had ended up being changed to a different flight when their first planes engines didn't work. They arrived at a different airport and their luggage got lost along the way. That was very frustrating for them.

The rest of the day we talked and watched Star Wars episode IV.

Good times.

I went to bed early because I wanted to get up early for the beach. Grig's Utah sister stayed up late because her luggage was supposed to arrive, but it never did.

Day 8:

This was now Friday, June 13. We had been planning to go to the beach the day before, but as we contemplated the hour that Grig's mom, sister, and brother-in-law would arrive, we decided to do it the next day instead. So, I woke up early and drove with Grig's mom to rent a minivan so we could go to the beach together. 

Unfortunately, I found out that Grig's youngest sister had spent the night throwing up, and so she and Grig's mom would be staying behind. That was really sad news. Grig's dad had to work for the day so he wouldn't be able to come either.

It took a while for everyone to get ready, and then we stopped for doughnuts. Even with my best efforts, we didn't get out until 11:30 or so.

That was okay though. It was only going to take 3 hours to get there, so we should have arrived at 2:30. Unfortunately, I had forgotten two important things.

1) It was a Friday.

2) It rains on the east coast.

As we got onto a rather busy highway, the rain began to pour. I was the only one who could drive because I had gone to rent the vehicle with Grig's mom, and so I got to experience driving in really heavy rain. It was rather exciting. We also were listening to the radio drama of Star Wars IV, so at least we were entertained for the long trip. 

The rain combined with the traffic made it so we didn't get to Virginia Beach until 4:30. We decided to try to go to the aquarium first. However, when we got there at 4:40 p.m., it turned out that the ticket stand had closed ten minutes before.

I was super frustrated at this point. Grig's siblings had told me that we shouldn't swim in the ocean after 5 because of sharks. 

We stopped and got something to eat. It was raining a little as we did so. We found a corner with several different restaurants and Grig and I went to McDonald's while the rest of his siblings went to Wendy's. While we were alone, I was almost in tears. It was a long trip for nothing and I wondered if we weren't supposed to go to the beach today. I had really been looking forward to this, and it seemed like it was ruined. 

After we ate, we prayed for guidance and then we decided to just go to the beach and see what happened. 

Another miracle. The weather cleared right up as soon as we got to the bay. We were able to swim in the bay until it got dark and we all had a fantastic time. 
The group who went to the beach Friday.

The ocean was the perfect temperature. We had a great time swimming and playing in the sand.

Grig and his brother wrestle, while the brother-in-law watches from the background.
At one point, I was jumping at waving at Kevin on the beach. Grig got a fantastic idea as I was jumping. As I jumped, he ducked under the water and came up under me, sending me tumbling backward.

I love the face-palm in the last picture

It was well-timed, and Grig's younger sister just happened to take the picture at the right moment.

The day's trip was totally worth it. Once we got to the beach, we didn't want to leave and we began talking about coming back on Monday. All the earlier frustration was forgotten and replaced by gratitude that the storm had cleared up so we could play. 

As it grew dark, we cleaned up and then went on a walkway to watch lightning in the distance. 
The only picture I got of the lightning
As we got back in the car, the rain came pouring down. We were waiting for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law to return to the car, but they were taking their time. Finally we called my brother-in-law.

He answered the phone and asked, "Is Kevin allowed to have suckers? Can I buy him a sucker?" 

I told him sure. It turned out they were in the gift shop. We decided to all go back in and take a look around at it. 

Meanwhile, the woman who owned the gift store told my brother-in-law that he couldn't give a baby a blow-pop because it has gum in it.

The woman at the counter, who we'll call J, fell in love with Kevin. The instant we came in, the swooped over and said in a heavy southern accent, "Oh my goodness! Aren't you adorable? J has something for you!"

Immediately, to my brother-in-law's surprise, she handed Kevin a blow-pop. It was pretty funny. She then said, "He looks just like my babies! Come with me, I have something else for you." 

I followed her over to a bin full of small, stuffed toys. She pulled out a turtle and handed it to Kevin. 

I wasn't sure if it was a gift, and I didn't want to take advantage of J's kindness, so I said, "We'll have to see if we can buy that."

She shot me a (friendly) glare and said, "Don't you dare! This is a gift from J. You're gonna name it J, aren't you, honey?" she said to Kevin. I agreed we would name the turtle after her. It was the least we could do. Kevin let her hold him and she told him to give her 'some sugah' and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. She was absolutely delightful. We had a great time there and we were happy that we went in. We decided to buy a couple of things as well. 

Then, we piled back into the car and I drove home. It had been a fantastic day. Most people slept on the way home and Star Wars kept me company.

We got back late and went to bed.

Day 9:

This was my in-laws anniversary!
 We started off the day late (we all slept in), and then we celebrated with a cake and a family cook-out. More extended family was going to come, but my sister-in-law was still sick, so they decided to stay away so they didn't catch it. That was disappointing, but we still had a good time. We spent time talking and spending time together.

As it began to grow dark, my brother-in-law and I went out and dug a firepit. Then we built a fire and we ended the day around it making and eating s'mores. 

It was super relaxing. Nothing quite compares to talking around the campfire while fireflies shine around you in the darkness.

I like how Grig and his dad are sitting the exact same way.
One really neat thing that happened was that as we sat around the fire, we began to notice movement. A colony of wood ants evidently lived inside one of the logs. As we watched they tried to escape with their eggs from the burning log. It was kind of fascinating. I got some neat pictures.

Most of them seemed to escape, but we didn't see the queen, so we didn't know for sure.

Eventually we went to bed.

That's the end of part 3. Thanks for reading!

Here's the next parts as well if you want to continue: Part 4 and Part 5