Monday, March 31, 2014

"Young Womens" Australian-Style

 My assignment at church has been heading the Primary for most of our time here, which is a treat as 4 of our 5 are in there together. But last year I was called into the Stake Young Women's Presidency and it has been such a fun ride. I've sure enjoyed my opportunity to get to know the girls in all the wards beyond my own and plan things on a larger scale. Gosh, those blessed Youth leaders. I'm perpetually amazed at all they devote to these beautiful young souls. So many activities, so much energy, so many lessons and rides and emotions and fun!

We organize everything from firesides, dances, missionary training events, temple trips, service projects and the like, but our big event of the year is always Young Women's Camp. Last year was especially wonderful as we did it over a four day weekend down at the coast at Narooma. The campsite was a stone's throw from the beach and boy did we capitalize on that :)

I was able to bring along Kenna, despite her not being old enough to count as one of the young women, and she had an absolute blast. In fact she hardly wanted to be my "helper" at all, preferring to blend in with the girls and participate in everything.

One day we did an Amazing Race type of thing all along the coast and through the town, gathering clues and doing challenges.

Another hike brought us to some cliffs where we actually got to watch a pod of whales cavorting in the waves for a while.

Australia Rock (Australia-shaped hole)
 There were plenty of activities at the campsite including go karts and swimming, canoeing and trampolines.

The final day I was in charge of a Survivor-type competition that got moved last minute from the beach to the campsite, so I was scrambling to tweek all the challenges, but it was a great, hilarious day. The girls were so much fun to watch.

 We did a few Minute to Win it type challenges, campy games, obstacle courses and a Nephi's Boat contest, but the food challenge was the most impressive.

These tough girls downed quail eggs, dried fish, pickled papaya, jellyfish and much more. They couldn't be stopped!

 Camp happened to fall over a Fast Sunday and it was impressive to see the girls fast together. Their testimonies sharing during Sunday service at the local branch were inspiring, beautiful reflections of their inner selves.

And just spending so much time out in nature, in beautiful Narooma, with the waves crashing in the background. Watching the girls completing Personal Progress goals on a quiet Fast Sunday afternoon... it was a blessing to experience it with them.
now THAT is a jellyfish
mornings on the beach for art and scriptures were a highlight
Sweet Darren was a champ to pull off the four day weekend with the other kids, seeing as he was terribly ill the entire time. He even took them to the circus!

 Then someone found the seeds/grains shelf and proceeded to make their own circus. When I came home and walked in on this scene, I actually turned around a left again (truth be told, to go clean out the gum smeared on the seat of the car as Kenna had fallen asleep chewing it on the way home.)

We were recovering from that weekend for a good two weeks, but it was worth it!

 Later on in the year we had our Young Women in Excellence night, which was lovely and impressive. These girls have got it together, I tell you! I especially love watching them conduct and run their meetings for the most part. What great training and practice they receive through this inspired program.

I went a little crazy on my "rainbow food table" assignment. Reminiscent of those over-the-top-stay-up-all-night-decorating birthday parties I used to pull off for Will and Kenna when they were tiny (before I got too tired/busy.) Sometimes you just crave a creative outlet and sort of get carried away in the "kids" project, you know? Pretty fun to plan/shop/execute all those beautiful colors though and we all went away fulfilled... in more ways than one. I love Young Womens!!

Monday, March 24, 2014


There is a branch (what we in the LDS church call a small "ward" or congregation) in our Stake that is about 3 hours away down the coast, in a beautiful spot called Merimbula. There are only a handful of LDS families that attend there but one gal, Amanda, and I struck up a friendship through the occasional conferences/roadshows/camps that bring us together. She is an American married to an Australian and loved the chance to connect with other Americans who are few and far between down there. They were kind enough to invite our family down for a long weekend. What a treat! They had recently built a home just 5 minutes walk from the beach and we had a smashing time. The drive was breathtaking and I even pulled over to snap a few pics (only 2 vomits this time~hooray! Good thing too as I was the sole adult/driver/cleanerupper.)

The kids did great. I had a few long and hairy nights sharing the space with multiple kids and babies, but they all got along wonderfully, we enjoyed lovely conversation and the days were beautiful.

Here's our crew heading for the beach (aka: a Sister Wives episode.) After being walloped in the waves, we carved out a sandy, cool put-put golfcourse/soccer pitch for a rousing game to end the day.
Can't get tired of fresh passionfruit vines and this as your backyard!

Amanda's husband, Sam, offered to take us on a hike through the wind-swept cliffs over to this gorgeous spot with a lagoon on one side and beaches on the other.

I think it was a dry-run to see how his littles would do, and we had some adventures hacking away at debris in the path, but otherwise no hiccups. :)

 Peek-a-boo Dezzy! Five little troopers I got right there. It was a tough and gorgeous "walk." Des didn't make a peep.
I want to live right on that spot of sand.

The wall of trees in the distance was so cool looking. Raw and tangled and wild. Like tree-playdough sculpted into a hill by the wind.
 With a few minutes left, we climbed down to a hidden cave on that little island-y spot. Got pretty wet timing the waves to scramble around into it without getting swept out to sea - an adventure my kids will not soon forget. I love hanging with other adventure-seekers!

 That evening we joined their extended fam for a lovely Sunday dinner at the most beautiful property tucked away in the hills. Wild gardens, gorgeous flowers, fruit trees a-plenty, a homemade BMX track out back, dogs, a pool, kids everywhere, playsets, birdcages, snags on the barbie - awesome. Wish I had got a group photo, they were so wonderfully hospitable!

The next morning I snuck out early with their dog to enjoy the beach solo in my pjs. I tell ya, there's just nothing like the sun rising on the beach. The way the light creeps over everything, illuminating the world, inch by inch. With the sea spray on your face, if that doesn't make you feel alive, I don't know what does! Especially after a rough night. Rejuvenation~

 We were kindly invited to join their whole clan for some water skiing on the lake our last day. It was delightful to be back on the water. (I don't know how many years it has been!) Lots of firsts that day: Des's first time on a speedboat, the girls first time on kneeboards, Will's first time on skiis and my first successful 360 (on the kneeboard.) Yee-haw!

 It was just so much fun. Thanks, Parker family!! Seriously, look at this place. I wouldn't mind this drive every weekend! Like Mandy, I've fallen in love with this country.