Thinking About Ralph

As I may have mentioned (once or twice or a dozen times), Ralph comes home from Colombia on Thursday. He’s been there since September 2016, and we haven’t see him in two years. As you can imagine, we are very excited, and there’s a whole lot of anticipation going on at our house.

I’ve been trying to reflect on these last two years, and the experience of observing my son — via emails and messages — when he’s so far away. It was Ralph’s birthday yesterday. He turned 21, which seems like a significant age. So that’s on my mind as well. I wrote up some notes about Ralph the day he left to Colombia, and I wrote some more notes over the weekend, and I’m going to share them here.

I hope you’ll indulge me — I know we all like to talk about our kids, and I am well aware I’m reporting from behind the rose-colored lenses of parenthood.

In my experience, the first kid ends up being a bit of a guinea pig, and so is every first time parent. As we all know, there’s no manual, and there are parts of parenting you just have to flounder through and figure out as you go. Your first child experiences all your mistakes. It doesn’t really seem fair. (Our youngest, June, has had a whole different set of parents — much more experienced, understanding and patient.) But despite Ralph being the guinea pig, he was a really easy baby and toddler to parent — happy, interested in everything, and quick to laugh.

As he got got older, around 4th or 5th grade, I realized he had relationships with people of all ages. The littlest kids at church would run to greet him. He would gather stories from the over eighty crowd. It continued through high school — his peers wanted to hang out with Ralph. So did the parents. Basically, if you know Ralph, you want him on your team, because he makes everything more fun, better, and more interesting. When he’s on your team, he makes you feel like it’s the best, coolest, most fun team. 

At age twelve, he figured out one of life’s big secrets. We lived in France and we were heading out to go hiking. Ralph did not want to go, and was uncharacteristically surly in the car on the way to the starting point. But when we arrived, he sort of took a deep breath and then completely changed his attitude. He was enthusiastic and participated fully; leading out the other kids. He was the first one to dunk his head in the river. I asked him about it later and he said, “When I realized I had no choice, and couldn’t get out of the hike, I decided to make the best of it and enjoy it as much as I could.”

One thing I can say about all my kids is that they participate. If it’s a math lesson, if it’s Sunday school, if it’s a tour of the city, if it’s P.E., if it’s cleaning the house. They participate. They jump in, do the work, add what they can, and get what they can out of the experience. I think a good portion of that comes from having Ralph as the oldest sibling. His enthusiasm has always been infectious. He could get the kids on board for any project or idea — or talk them in to making movies for hours and hours. Maude said his role in our family is leader.

As a teenager, I realized how much Ralph loves life. He’s very aware of being alive, how precious our time is here on Earth, and how fast things change. As he was preparing to leave to Colombia, he would lament a bit about how much June would change while he was gone. “She’ll be so big. And her little voice will be a big voice.” He begged us to make videos of her and our whole family as much as possible. He didn’t want to miss out on anything.

Ralph has a really good understanding of family relationships and what it takes to make them strong. The night before he left, he was all packed and ready to go, but he stayed up pretty much all night working on something, and then the whole family got up really early — like 5:00 — to take him to the San Francisco airport. When we got back to the house, we found sweet, thoughtful letters from Ralph for each sibling, and a personalized playlist for each sibling too. He also issued challenges for each member of the family, to be completed before he returned from Colombia.

As a kid, he became close with many of his aunts and uncles, and would keep the contact up even when we lived far away — skyping them to talk about a particular movie, to get film-making advice, or to share a new band he loved. Throughout his childhood, he would beg Ben Blair and me for stories about what we were like, and what we did, at his age. He has always loved photo books, scrapbooks, yearbooks, journals — any kind of family records. He wished he had an older sibling, so he would think of what he would want from an older sibling, and try to give that to his younger siblings.

He stayed good friends with his dad, even through the teen years — he’s always super excited to tell Ben what he’s working on, or to collaborate with Ben on a video or a project. In the first few years of this blog, on April Fools Day he would secretly log-in from my computer, and write a joke post. Once he announced our baby had arrived. (She hadn’t. She didn’t come for 6 more weeks. Hah!) We would have family lip sync sessions, and though you’d think a 17- or 18-year-old would be too cool to participate, that didn’t apply to Ralph. He would take it seriously and prepare a song and totally get into it.

We learned to depend on him for so many projects. He would edit my vlogging experiments, help me figure out technical issues, storyboard Olive Us episodes with Ben. He MC’d the First Film Festival. We knew we could tackle certain challenges because Ralph would be able to help out.

I didn’t know what Ralph would be like as a missionary. Frankly, I thought it might be a bad fit, and made sure he understood that he could come home at any time, no shame. I don’t believe missions are a smart thing for all Mormon kids. No program is one size fits all, and that includes missions.

But he embraced it and seemed to truly want to make the most of his time there. On missions, the missionaries get assigned to a new area every couple of months. This past July, the mission president called to tell us Ralph makes every area he goes to blossom. He said Ralph makes things happen, gets people excited and involved, brings an enthusiasm to the local congregation.

Ralph’s emails home were atypical for a Mormon missionary. They were not particularly spiritual, they didn’t reference scriptures. I have no memories of him mentioning baptisms, or talking about trying to convert people. Instead, he shared cultural observations, he wrote about how much he loved the people he spent time with — his assigned companion, community members, or people from church, and talked about projects he was working on. Anytime he mentioned someone new, he’d include interesting backstory like:

Alonso from our ward is awesome. He is a baker so we always go buy his bread in the morning. He has like everybody’s phone # memorized. He legit can recite off the top of his head almost all the church members phone numbers.

I’m training Elder Lucaila (Luke – ay – la ) from Ecuador. He is from Guayaquil and is DOPE. His hobby before the mission was downloading animé episodes and re-editing them down to the BEST parts and then adjusting the audio so youtube wouldn’t recognize copyright. These last transfers are gonna be SWEET.

His emails left the impression he was enjoying his time in Colombia, but we didn’t know if he was liking the missionary part. In June of 2016, when he’d been gone about 9 months, we got an email from his mission president:

Brother and Sister Blair,

You have a great son! Sister Laney and I just love him! He always has a smile that brightens the room and a positive attitude. I wanted to share part of a weekly letter that he wrote to me on Monday:

One thing my mom would always tell me is “get in problem solving mode”. 5 words which I probably took for granted but help a ton now. I realize that there is never nothing to do in the mission field. If the cita is cancelled- contact. No one to contact- Visit a member. No one home- Make calls etc etc etc. One nugget of advice my dad gave me before I left was to learn to love work. I feel like that especially rings true for me. I always feel the best when im working hard.

Well, that explains why he is such a wonderful missionary. Thank you for sending such a great missionary to Colombia!

Robert Laney
Misión Colombia Bogotá Norte

From that point on we realized he was not just enjoying himself, he was working really hard, and being a creative, problem-solving missionary.

As you may know, Mormon missionaries don’t get to choose who they work with. They are assigned a companion, and they stick together basically 24/7. The companionships switch up every few months. Some companionships are more challenging than others. Ralph has never once complained about any of his assigned companions. We assumed it must get tough sometimes, because relationships always are, but he wrote:

“It has always helped me during my mission when I’m mad at my companion to ask him about his life.”

I’ve mentioned this before, but the only communication with Ralph while he was in Colombia has been weekly emails, and 4 videochats — on Christmas and Mother’s Day each year. On a video chat with us this past May, he asked about the morning routine. Who made lunches? Drove to school? He said to his siblings, that it sounds like it’s a challenging thing for Dad to drive to so many different schools each day, so they should try and think of ways to make it a more fun experience for him — like they could find a joke to share with him each morning, or a quote. I noticed he didn’t complain and wish the hard thing would go away. Sometimes life is hard and he accepted that. He just tried to make the hard thing easier, more enjoyable.

In each area he was assigned to he seemed to really think hard about what the local congregation needed. In one area he focused on English lessons. In another area, he helped organize and host an open house. In his current area, he started a hiking club — once a week, the missionaries and any church members or community members who want to participate, get up at 4:00 AM and go hiking for a few hours.

On Colombian Independence Day there was a parade in town. The whole community was watching. He observed with his companion and said, “We should be in this parade.” So he stopped at a corner shop, bought posterboard and the Colombian National Costume, made signs that said: Want to change your life? Call this number! And then joined the parade Ferris-Bueller-style. When his fellow church members, all locals, saw their church represented in the parade they went wild with joy. I would have been worried that I didn’t have permission. But he doesn’t seem to have much fear about that sort of thing. He’s not afraid of hard work. He knows how to get things done; how to make things happen.

There are a huge number of Venezuelan refugees in Colombia right now. You may have seen the headlines, the Washington Post is calling it the worst crisis in our hemisphere. I know Ralph worries about them daily. He wrote:

A lot of refugee families go to bed hungry where I work. The minimum wage in Colombia is 780,000 Colombian pesos monthly, i.e. $270 USD monthly. San Francisco minimum wage right now is $15 USD per hour (holy crap). And all the Venezuelans that have come to Colombia in the past 3 years work for waaayyyy less. Like 200k or 150k which is about $50 a month…for a family. Super poor.

When he lived in Bogota, he said he would buy as many loaves as he could carry in the morning and deliver them to hungry families as he went about his day.

A couple of weeks ago, he wrote this tribute to Colombia:

I am just trying to take everything in. There is not one street in my area that you could find in the States. All the kids playing on the street at 10pm. Crazy wild dogs running everywhere. Dudes walking around selling avocados in wheelbarrows. People yelling at the top of their lungs to sell yuca bread and fish. Things I’ve heard and seen every day that I won’t see again in a long time.

That doesn’t even compare to the people I’ve met here who have been my family for the past 2 years. Some of the best friends I’ve ever made.

It’s gonna be weird leaving the safe bubble of the mission. No world news, no social media, you live in a sector with limits and that’s what you know about.

It’s a funny thing. We have missed him so deeply, and yet I know that if he had been home for those two years, we probably wouldn’t have seen him much. He would have had a full and busy schedule. He would have had a life.

Yesterday was his birthday. Last week, a mother in Colombia who lives in his town, a woman I don’t know at all, uploaded videos to Instagram of a birthday celebration she was hosting for Ralph. I was so grateful. I couldn’t stop crying while I watched, and I’m tearing up now just thinking about it. It was wonderful to see him so happy; to hear him speak beautiful Spanish so easily. I’m incredibly grateful for all the people who have looked out for my son while he’s been far from home. These are people I will likely never meet, and have no way of adequately thanking. It’s just one of those gifts you have to accept and wonder why you are so lucky.

I don’t know what Ralph will do when he comes home. You may remember that he skipped out on his last year of high school and took the CHESPE instead (which is California’s GED). Then he attended a year of community college while enrolled in the UC transfer program. (Basically, you go to community college for two years and take specific classes, and the program guarantees admission into the UCs. UCs means University of California at X. There are 9: UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and UC Merced. They are good competitive schools and the transfer program is amazing — it basically cuts your college costs in half, and allows you a chance to get in to a great school even if you never took the ACT or SAT or AP Classes. If you didn’t do well in high school, or you’re a late bloomer, it’s a fresh start.)

Anyway, he needs one more year of community college before he can transfer. But he may want to work first. He has mentioned wanting to spend the fall in New York working on a movie. Or maybe he’ll head to France to connect with friends there.

Ralph is worried he’ll be strange when he gets back, that the transition will be awkward or difficult. He loves being in the know about music and movies and pop culture, and he knows he’s totally behind. The world has had some major changes since he left. When he went to Colombia, Barack Obama was the president. Ralph hasn’t seen Get Out. Or heard any of Cardi B’s music. He’s missed a thousand memes. The kids have been updating a Google Doc for the last two years — they’ve filled it with every news item, movie, song, and internet joke that they think he’ll want to know about. Maybe it will be useful. Maybe it will be overwhelming. : )

Whatever he decides to do, I hope he knows how proud we are of him, how much we love him, and how much we love being his parents. I think we got lucky to have Ralph as our first. He was an easy kid to raise, and was an enthusiastic model for his siblings. Since Ralph embraced whatever activity we were doing, the other kids did too. I suppose they figured that was normal. : ) I keep thinking about who might hire Ralph in the near future, and how lucky they will be to have Ralph on their team. What a great human being he’s turned out to be.

P.S. — We’ve been posting his weekly emails to a blog, so that his Grandmas can read the updates. We’re printing them out as a book.

96 thoughts on “Thinking About Ralph”

  1. What a great read. Thanks for sharing a portrait of Ralph with us and a slice of life through his eyes, and for helping me think about some qualities I want to cultivate in my own kids. (The hike life lesson is a great one!)

  2. I miss my children so much when they are away at school. I am in awe of your ability to let Ralph go for two years and for his desire to go. I hope your reunion is everything you want it to be, and that everyone’s transitions are smooth.

  3. What a beautiful post – I love it so much!! He is clearly a very special person with an amazing family. I hope my kiddos grow up to have some of the qualities he’s grown into so beautifully!

  4. What an exemplary kid and missionary! Great idea on the catch up Google doc. Congrats on surviving his absence–did you all complete your challenges?

  5. Wow— I’d like to hang out with Ralph! Yay for all of you to be together again soon. I feel the same way about my first being a bit of a Guinea pig. :)

  6. I have thought so much about Ralph’s homecoming since you have been mentioning that it’s happening soon. I cannot imagine what that has been like for you – I am so excited for your family that he is coming home! You’re justifiably so proud and I cannot wait to see what’s next for him. Wherever he lands, he is going to bring so much!

    Thoughts about Ralph being your family’s leader: is he the only oldest child? my parents and sister are all youngest and I’m the only oldest child. We look back and notice all the ways I was the family’s “leader” and now that my sister and I have oldest children of our own we talk about that. Not that it’s everything…just something.

  7. Nora Ballantyne

    I loved reading this tribute. I’m a long time reader, and this post inspired me to spend more time enjoying and accepting my kids as they are. You are so good at that, Gabrielle: recognizing the differences and strengths in your family and celebrating them, lething your people just BE. Thank you!

  8. Loved this, every word. Like his Mission President, I agree that Ralph was taught well at home, by precept and example.

  9. What a great post. I love hearing about Ralph’s characteristics. You and Ben seem like great parents and all your kids always amaze me. I’m sure it’ll be weird for Ralph to be back home (especially with everything happening in the US right now) but I’m sure he’ll adjust just fine.

  10. I loved reading this! What a great post and summary about the last 2 years. My brother served in the Brussels mission and said, “I adjusted over Texas”. LOL. Maybe Ralph will too!

  11. I’ve never met Ralph, but this post made me tear up. How wonderful to witness your child grow into such a marvelous and unique adult. I am the mom to three young boys now and I hope to love them and support them in such a way that they can also develop into their best selves, as you and Ben Blair have done for Ralph. <3

  12. About adjusting back in… My sister spent two years in Tanzania with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (kind of like a Catholic mission?) and she was just about the last American on earth to hear “Call Me Maybe.” She was like… have you heard this great song?? We still laugh about it.

  13. Talk about tears reading this! I wish every child had someone to write about them with such love and admiration. It seems you and Ben Blair have done such a wonderful job raising Ralph, and all of your children. Can’t wait to hear more about his arrival home.

  14. This is lovely. I so enjoy your blog for your parenting insights and conversation so much. Thanks for sharing this.

  15. This makes me so teary! I’m a long time reader, so I feel like I’ve watched your family grow up over the years. You’re an amazing parent raising such interesting, capable, awesome kids. Ralph is one of a kind. I worry about my kids being able to work and problem solve on their missions. You are doing something right to raise kids with those skills. I’m so excited for you and the Blair family this week as he returns!

  16. Loved reading your thoughts and sharing experiences about your Ralph. As I’ve been examining my faith as a Mormon these past few years, I have mixed feelings about my kids serving missions. I’m so pleased that Ralph has communicated that it’s been a good experience for him.

    Love hearing your experiences and am so happy for you to have your babies all together again. I think that is the definition of heaven for me—together with the ones I love most. Hope you’re able to enjoy it all and soak it up. Xoxoxo

  17. I straight up cried reading this. I spent 3 months in India last year, traveling with myself or my girlfriend. I spent large chunks of the day, 10-12 hours, alone. Coming home was so overwhelming. The thing that helped the most was when people were patient with me.

    But also, to Ralph, it gets better! And it takes time, you can do it!

    This was so beautiful. What a beautiful son you have.

  18. What a beautiful post about an extraordinary kid! It sounds like he will do amazing things in life, whatever path he chooses. You must be so proud of him!!

  19. Wow – I found MYSELF crying through that whole post. What an awesome tribute to your first born – and, lucky you, it seems that he’s just the first of many incredible humans you’re raising.

    You’ve made it!! He’s almost home!!

  20. Serving a mission is one of the greatest things I have done in my life and my children (all so far that are old enough, and all the rest are planning on it) who have served would agree hands down. There is no other life experience that can compare. Meaning, you just can’t get those mission opportunities for growth any other way. So, I do hope you encourage all your other kids to go (boys and girls alike). We said, “when you serve missions” not “if you go on a mission” as my kids have grown/are growing up and that has made all the difference. They can’t wait to be old enough to go. My son and I returned two weeks ago from Spain where he and I both served missions (we even served in one of the same small towns and knew some of the same people). It was the most amazing trip of my life! I got to see how where and how and with who my son served, plus go back and visit people/areas where I served 28 years ago. I hope you consider taking a trip back to Colombia with Ralph.

  21. You have every reason to be proud of Ralph, but also of yourselves as parents! Let yourself bask in the accomplishment of letting Ralph be his most spectacular self, because isn’t that the goal of parenting – to strike the balance between ‘parenting’ and not interfering with these beautiful souls who have been entrusted to us? Just lovely

  22. This was so beautiful. Count me as one of the people who cried reading it. It’s such a testament to you and Ben Blair as parents and to the wonderful person Ralph is, both because of your influence and because of himself. What a gift to him that you’ve captured these thoughts.

    I hope the homecoming is everything you wish it to be.

  23. Regina Schifani

    What a beautiful tribute to your son. I was crying reading this. The love of our children (even when they are adults) resonates with all mothers! And what a wonderful example he is to his siblings! Well done!!

  24. What a lovely tribute to a beautiful soul and being. Ralph will be a great creator, team player, or student…whatever he chooses next. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your son and all he brings to your family and the world!

  25. It sounds like Ralph didn’t need to write home about the doctrine or share scriptures because he was busy living it. He’s a natural at ministering to others, which is probably why others are drawn to him so much. Best of luck to whatever he chooses next!

  26. This was such a sweet end-of-mission tribute to Ralph. Best wishes to him on adjusting! My son got home two years ago and really seemed to do just fine. It helped that he started college three weeks after he got home. From work in the mission to work in college, it’s a good way to transition. Also, I would love to see/hear how you produce a book of Ralph’s emails. Include pics, or do the pics in a separate book? Include our emails to him or just his? I have been looking for just the right format for two years now!

  27. That’s a beautiful letter about your Ralph. What an amazing gift parents get in their children, seeing them grow, and bloom and blossom. When they also add beauty to the world around them? That’s just the icing on the cake.

    I know you are counting the hours…..

  28. I loved reading this! I served a mission myself, but it was amazing to be able to see what a mission was like for the missionary’s mom. (My mom wrote me every week I was gone, but in her characteristic way, she never talked about how she was feeling about my mission or anything like that.)

    You’ll be so amazed at how much he’s changed, but how he’s still the same boy you raised. I think of my mission every day, and it was so fun to read this because it made me reminisce of my own fond memories (I served in Central America).

  29. Thank you for sharing these beautiful words. What a great person Ralph is. And his transition will be made easier reading how much his parents believe in him. You’ve inspired me to look for my kids’ strengths a little harder and to focus on building them up!!!

  30. Absolutely wonderful tribute. As a pregnant mother of a young toddler, this really has given me pause to think about the attributes I would want for my children when they reach the same age as Ralph. Your loving parenting is truly an inspiration.

  31. Oh my goodness, what a wonderful post. I just love how deeply you know your son and what a sweet tender family you all are (I know, I know, it’s probably not always like that, but the underlying kindness cannot be faked.) Gabby, I appreciate your honestly in acknowledging your fears about the kind of missionary he’d make. I find it hard as a parent not to let those anxieties swallow me up and blur my ability to appreciate the good. And the fact that his younger siblings created a google doc with information they think he’d want about news and pop-culture, made me tear up. It’s just so thoughtful and lovely. What a collection of wonderful humans you’ve made.
    I can’t wait to read about your reunion.

  32. What an absolutely beautiful letter! I hope this doesn’t sound super weird, but it almost sounded like a eulogy. It made me think, though, why don’t we tell people, or the world, all the wonderful things about them other than a eulogy! This makes me want to write letters to my own kids about what I love about them right now, either just for me to look back on, or to share with them someday and see how they’ve changed and grown. Thanks for the inspiration. <3

  33. I loved reading this. I’m glad to have a small update on what these two years have been like. Good luck getting to sleep Wednesday night! I imagine Thursday is going to feel just like Christmas morning.

  34. I really loved this post and he sounds amazing. I am glad I got to read it, it made me tear up. I think every good parent dreams and works at raising children who can be thankful and enthusiastic no matter the circumstances. And honors you by the choices they make and the way they live their life. So excited for your family to have him home!

  35. i loved this so much! it made me cry the whole time. i’ve followed your blog since around the time you were leaving new york, which doesn’t seem that long ago but i guess it really was! i’ve always loved your voice, and i have especially always appreciated your love and respect for humanity and i can see through this glimpse of ralph that you’ve passed it on to him too. i’m pregnant with my first child, a son, who i can just start to feel flipping around inside. i hope he is as sweet and as good of a human as ralph!

  36. Your son sounds like an awesome person. Thank you for sharing so much about him and his place in your family. I am so glad that he is coming home in a few days and that your family will be together again.

    I really like what you wrote about missions not being for everyone and that you made sure your son understood he could come home at any time with no shame. I wish more parents were that understanding and loving.
    My son went on a mission and came home after 10 months. It was the best thing for him and we were very happy and relieved to have him home again. I hated him going away on a mission.
    My son struggled tremendously from day 1. He is an intelligent, hardworking, responsible, knowledgeable young man and church members expected my son to do great on his mission, but he did not. We did everything we could to support him from our end, but it was blatantly apparent that he was not coping. We became very concerned about him and contacted his mission president. It turns out that my son’s companion was struggling with my son too. Behaviours that we referred to as my son’s idiosyncrasies and adapted to at home were problematic in the mission field. We later learned that my son is on the autism spectrum and suffers mental health problems. It also turned out that my son’s mission experience was the catalyst to my son leaving the church, closely followed by me and my daughters. My son had many questions about things that he saw and heard and read when he came home, so he studied hard and read extensively and came to the conclusion that the Mormon church is not true. He shared his findings with me, and I came to the same conclusion, and that was the start of a new life for me and my family.
    In that respect, I am grateful for my son’s mission experiences. I am much happier and more relaxed out of the church than I ever was as an active member. My son was able to be diagnosed and receive help, we all understood him better and we begun a new journey as a family.

    And if anyone wonders how we did not know my son was on the autism spectrum before age 19, our family is ‘different’. We all suffer from mental illness. My oldest child, a daughter, is severely intellectually handicapped, and my son is my second child. I struggled to parent my son from the time he was born, but 28 years ago autism was not recognised as it is today, there was no internet and I was not able to get any helpful advice from anyone. Having been through a similar process with my oldest daughter (the condition she has is rare), I cared for my son as best I could, learned ways to manage his meltdowns and accommodated his idiosyncratic behaviours.

  37. Is Ralph going to be for hire when he gets home? Cause my boys could definitely use some coaching and mentoring from a young man like Ralph. :) I hope my sons will end up with the same resilience and love of life that he has. You’ve got a fine son!

    1. I was thinking that too. Ralph could be a rent-a-big-brother! I actually had a babysitter, 7 years older than my older son, who was for some years a wonderful teen role model for my two boys. He is now away at college and we miss him. Love the coach/mentor idea (and we’re nearby in Berkeley!). The positive attitude and creative problem-solving perspective are really important qualities that I need to help my newly-minted 6th grader learn more of.

      Also love your focus on the wonderful qualities of your child. I think I as a mother get a little too complaint-focused. Maybe that’s where my son gets it from (ha).

  38. This is one of my very favourite motherhood posts you have ever, ever written. I have bookmarked it for when I need to remember what kind of person I want to be in the world: full of love for my fellow humans (like Ralph), regardless of differences, language, geography.

    Ralph won’t be weird upon his return; he will be excellent: engaged, wise and utterly fantastic.

    Three cheers for an education in life; formal school can follow if that is appropriate. If not, also fine.

  39. So this popped up whe I was looking for a recipe. Your pic caught me as I was baptised when I was 8 by a soon to be missionary and was his first before he went on his mission leaving Scotland, I never heard how he got on as we moved and my Mum left the church. Your son journeys sound amazing and what a lovely boy you have raised you will be so proud. If my boy turns out to be even a bit like Ralph I’ll be happy. Enjoy having your boy back home xx

  40. I loved writing and receiving those weekly letters! I treasure each one of them and would love details on how you are planning to publish those for him. I’ve been trying to figure it out for some time. Please share.

  41. Millions of thanks, Gabby, dear! Such Precious Observations! I’ve loved following Ralph’s mission. He’s our 14th grandchild missionary–9 boys:5 girls. Proud of each one. When we talked about Ralph’s delightful report of the Big Parade, my children immediately responded with : “That’s just what Ben would have done!” I do understand that a mission isn’t for everyone, but for our family, missions have been beautiful blessings.

  42. I have been reading your blog for years and this post is your best! So honest about Ralph and your family. Thank you for sharing.

  43. This is one of my all time favorite posts! Please gush about your kids anytime. It encourages me as a young mom.

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