The most important day of this period was the Thursday that the Hong’s arrived - our daughter Carrie and grandchildren Danny, Kaylee and Abby. We picked them all up at the Richmond Airport. It was wonderful to see everyone and meet Abby for the first time. This picture is just after they arrived. Were we ever happy to see them! After picking them up we got Chik fil A for dinner, something they enjoyed since there are no Chik fil A’s in Seattle. We then headed for Belle Grove, which is a plantation mansion that has been converted into a bed and breakfast. The mansion was built by the Conways, Lezlie’s Virginia ancestors. When we arrived Lezlie, Carrie and the kids got a tour. Meanwhile I went out into the huge front yard that overlooks the Rappahanock River and hid Easter eggs and baskets for the kids. After their tour we had a great Easter egg hunt. The kids enjoyed the Easter surprise and Carrie loved seeing the mansion. After an hour drive we finally made it to our apartment, overjoyed at having family here to visit us. It was so much fun to tell them all about our mission – all the things we are doing and all the blessings we are receiving.
During the Hong’s visit we had a Wash DC tour day. We first drove to Reagan National Airport and picked up Matt, who had flown a red-eye from Seattle so he could spend two days here before flying to London on business. He got some sleep on the plane and was ready to go. We hustled everyone onto the metro and first stopped at the Arlington National Cemetery. Everyone was impressed by the thousands of rows of military gravestones. Even though they were excited the children were very well behaved, seeming to understand that this was a sacred place. We next stopped at the National Museum of American History, one of the outstanding Smithsonian museums. We saw historic trains, cars and household items. There were also many historical artifacts, like famous costumes stars had worn. After hot dogs and pizza at a sidewalk vendor, we walked past the White House for photos and then stopped at the Lincoln Memorial. Finally we strolled around the tidal basin to see the Cherry Blossoms in full bloom for the Cherry Blossom Festival. It was beautiful. The kids loved playing in the cherry blossom petals that were drifting down like pink snowflakes. After a looooong walk to the metro station we took the subway back to the airport. We went to a hole-in-the-wall crab cake restaurant I had found online. It looked a little sketchy, but the food turned out to be delicious. We finally made it home about 8:30pm to enjoy some Blue Bell ice cream and put the exhausted children, and dad, to bed. It was a fantastic day.
We started out on Saturday morning by traveling to Mt Vernon, George Washingtons’s historic home. Danny and Kaylee got to do a fun Mt Vernon puzzle. They had to find answers to multiple questions that required research all over the park. They completed the puzzle and each won a souvenir penny for solving it correctly. We saw Washington's home, historic buildings, a colonial blacksmith, lambs and pigs. The beautiful green lawns, shrubs, and flowers were in full bloom, and it was spectacular. After much walking we ate at the Colonial Inn and had some excellent peanut soup. We toured the eduction center, which had many excellent interactive colonial history exhibits. The grandkids really enjoyed it. We saw a film about George Washington that included vibrating chairs when a cannon fired and snowflakes falling from the ceiling when a winter scene was shown. Kaylee got to dress up in a Martha Washington dress. Early in the afternoon we headed south for the Marine Museum and Quantico. Unfortunately we hit terrible traffic, and our planned half hour drive turned into a two hour drive. Nevertheless, we had a great time at the museum. There were a lot of interactive exhibits for children and they really got into it. They also had fun looking at all of the nice souvenir in the gift shop. Kaylee got a marine action figure and Danny got a lego tank. They also got to play on the excellent museum playground on the way out and had a good time there. Then we went on a tour of the Quantico Marine Base and told all about the things we do there. We showed them the office where we volunteer, the OCS school, the commissary and PX, and the housing area where a lot of our families live. We finally made it home and ate Subway sandwiches for dinner. Were we ever tired! We forgot how much grand-kids wear us out. But we were happy after another great day with family.
On Sunday we snagged someone as soon as we arrived at church and they took this nice photo of all of us just outside the chapel. We were proud to introduce all of the Hongs to our Quantico Ward friends. They got to meet many of the Quantico Ward folks they had heard us talk about before. It was wonderful to have them there. We had good lessons and talks, and it was a nice day at church. Danny and Kaylee fit in just fine in primary. Immediately afterwards I dropped off Lezlie, Carrie, Danny, Kaylee and Abby at home, and Matt and I headed for Dulles Airport. He was on the way to London for some business meetings. Although I had been concerned about traffic, we made it to the airport in plenty of time. Matt and I had a good chat on the way. In the evening we had a good time playing with the grandkids. We helped Danny and Kaylee write in and add photos to their journals. They are having fun here. But they were tired too, so it was not to hard to get them into bed.
We had a super Monday with Carrie, Danny, Kaylee and Abby. We started our morning by delivering cinnamon rolls to all of the young missionaries that live in our apartment complex. We wanted Danny and Kaylee to meet as many missionaries as possible. The deliveries were fun and the missionaries were happy. Who would not be happy getting a freshly baked cinnamon roll! Next we did a short walk at the mall. We wanted to show the Carrie and the kids where we walk 3 mornings a week. We went over to the Potomac Mills mall at about 9am and walked half of a lap. Everyone was impressed by how large our mall is. Finally we headed for Annapolis and our visit to the US Naval Academy. We did a driving tour all over the academy grounds and I showed them where many of my activities took place when I was there. We saw the part of the dormitory, Bancroft Hall, where I lived. We visited the tomb of John Paul Jones, the Tecumseh and Herndon Monuments, the Chapel, and the model Midshipman room. This is a picture of us sitting at the Class of 1973 bench, a monument our class paid for. Carrie, Danny and Kaylee were quite impressed with everything. We did a quick stop in the Midshipmen store to look for souvenirs. Finally we watched noon meal formation, which is when all the midshipmen line up in ranks just before they march into the mess hall for lunch. The Hongs were quite impressed with this. We ate at the small public cafeteria on the academy grounds and walked around a bit more. After a lot of walking we finally loaded up, made a quick drive through downtown Annapolis, and headed home to Woodbridge. After a short time at home we quickly loaded up the van again, this time to deliver dinner to a young marine family on base. This is the family for whom I blessed their baby boy. We were very happy for Carrie and her children to get to know them a bit because we have told many stories about this great young family. It worked out well because it was a warm evening and the kids played on a playground across the street from their house. We got a couple of nice photos of Abby and and their little boy together. We finally had a quiet night at home where we all watched an episode of the Waltons. Danny and Kaylee had never seen it before and they really liked it. It was another wonderful day with Carrie and her family. I was happy to show Carrie the Naval Academy where I spent four important years of my life.
On Tuesday morning Danny helped me haul missionaries to the District Meeting. Danny seemed to enjoy visiting with the 6 different elders we took to the meeting. They talked about legos and Star Wars – all of the elders agreed they loved legos, and especially Star Wars legos. It was fun to see them talking to Danny and joking around with him. After some baking and arranging plates of Easter cookies we headed for the marine base. We got to stop at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society where we volunteer. We were happy that the Hongs could see where we do our volunteer work and meet some of our coworkers there. Next we drove all over the base delivering Easter cookies and messages. I believe we delivered ten plates, and some of them weredelievered in a hard rain. Danny and Kaylee took turns helping us deliver the cookies. We were glad they actually got to take part in some of our work. I think they enjoyed it, but they also found out that missionary work is really "work." We then drove south to Stafford and stopped at the home of another marine family that we have visited often. She is the one who had the difficult pregnancy and then eventually had a healthy little girl. We were glad for Carrie to meet this family too. We stopped at Chik fil A for dinner and let the kids play on the playground there. They had been in the car for a long time, so they enjoyed unwinding in the play area. Finally we attended our Basic School family home evening. We had eight show up, which made it a joyful and fun meeting. All the marines were very nice to our family and they particularly spoiled Danny and Kaylee. They talked to them, shared treats with them, and one marine even gave Danny an official marine canteen. When we were at the Marine Corps Museum Danny read that the marines never leave an injured person behind. Danny asked how the marines took their wounded men off the battle field. So we asked them if they could show us. One of the marines walked right over, picked up Danny, and carried him all around the room. He loved it. We had a great lesson about Adam and Free Agency. Danny and Kaylee helped by playing the Easter egg game (find the egg with the candy inside, if you don’t get it right the first time you get more chances, like repentance). We had excellent treats and all of the gang stayed for a long time, visiting with Carrie, holding Abby, and talking to Danny and Kaylee. It was a great evening, and we were so happy for the Carrie and her children to see a little bit of what we do.
Wednesday was a sad day, because we had to say goodbye to Carrie, Danny, Kaylee and Abby. They flew out of Richmond, so we left first thing in the morning to make sure they were on time. We had a very nice lunch at the airport before they went through security. Carrie was pretty amazing getting three children, two suitcases, a baby stroller, a baby car seat, and three backpacks through security. She is a brave mom! We later heard that they arrived home tired but safe and sound. I am sure there will be a few grumpy days ahead as they get over the jet lag. We had a wonderful time during their visit, and are so grateful that Carrie, Matt, Danny, Kaylee and Abby took the time and energy to come visit. It was just perfect. Thank you so much you guys! After doing some shopping and baking Wednesday afternoon we attended an extra choir practice. We are singing with the choir for Easter, and there are several hard songs. Many choir members missed several of the earlier practices, including us, so the director held a special practice at her home. Although it lasted a long time, we did get a lot of work done. We are a bit concerned because we still do not have some of the songs down 100%. So the director said to go over our music at home and pray hard. We are enjoying singing with choir again, but it is difficult for us to make the practices. They are usually after church, and we are often at a different ward on Sunday. So after Easter we may not continue. We have really enjoyed the beautiful Easter music though.
We had aother major Easter cookie delivery day. We delivered 11 plates of cookies! So we spent a lot of time crisscrossing the base and stopping at our marine families’ homes. We found almost everybody home and folks were happy to receive the Easter cookies and message. Several families are being transferred in the next month, so we tried to make sure there was nothing they needed help with as they prepared to leave. It was a long day though, because we had some waiting time to make sure some people were home after work. And the traffic was fairly heavy. So we were quite tired when we finally arrived home. But we were also full of joy for the great people we get to see and work with. It may sound like all we do is deliver treats, but we also typically provide a spiritual message. Sometimes these short visits lead to very special interactions with these wonderful families.
Later in the week we were able to deliver a plate of cookies to our single female marine. She is a security guard at HMX, the President’s helicopter group. She was actually in the guard shack at the entrance to the HMX area and we were able to hand her the cookies directly. It was fun, and she and her fellow guards were happy. It was cool to see her in her full gear with her helmet and flak jacket on and toting a weapon around. We then took one of our bachelor marines out to dinner. We have come to know him a lot better and this time he shared a bit more of his personal story. He was excited that his parents were coming to visit for the week after Easter, and he had plans to show them a lot of tourist spots in the area. We are sad that he is less active at this point, but for some reason he likes to meet with us and just talk. If that is the only connection to church we can offer him right now then we will gladly do it. He is a very nice young man, and we have come to really care for him.
The day before Easter we got to help out at a delightful activity for the primary children at our ward. They opened with a few short talks and then fed the children various breakfast foods, like donuts and muffins. Then the children were divided into 6 groups and they rotated among 6 stations with different activities. It was nice because each station focused on some aspect of Jesus Christ and not on the Easter Bunny or candy. At the end they did pass out some Easter candy and favors, and the children were delighted even without an Easter egg hunt. We next met with another one of our bachelor marines to take him out to lunch. He is another fine young man and is doing his best to stay close to church while working a demanding schedule as a security guard on base. He served a mission in the Philippines, but then had a heartbreaking event. After his mission he married his high school sweetheart, but after only 3 months she asked for a divorce. He was just crushed and felt they could have worked things out. So he joined the marines to get totally away from that situation. We enjoyed visiting with him and he seems in a little bit better spirits than last month. After an excellent lunch with him we attended a sweet baptism. The 8 year old son of one of our marines at The Basic School was baptized and confirmed by his dad. The talks and music were superb, and we felt honored to be there. We also got to make contact with several people that just happened to be at the baptism – some military folks we had met earlier but who had moved out of our ward, a brand new bishop, another military couple that want to serve a military relations mission someday, and some sister missionaries that used to live nearby. So it was a fine afternoon. The rest of the day was spent in working on our lessons for tomorrow and early next week and preparing multiple side dishes for the Easter dinner for marines tomorrow. We are hosting 4 marines along with the couple that works with us on base. It will be at their home, so should be very nice.
We had a fine Sunday this Easter Day. The choir Easter program went very well, although we did have a couple of songs that were a little shaky. In addition to the choir songs there was a solo, a duet, some flute accompaniment, and some outstanding piano playing. The narration was excellent and it was a strong, spiritual meeting. The closing hymn was “I Believe in Christ,” and it was just superb. The congregation sang the regular hymn, the choir sang a really nice descant to the hymn, and both the organ and piano accompanied (played by our stake president and his wife. The feelings of the spirit, joy, love and compassion were tangible during that song. We were glad we participated with the choir for the Easter program. After sacrament meeting I was the substitute teacher for the Gospel Principles class. We had an interesting discussion about covenants. The second counselor in the Stake Presidency, who is a member of our ward, attended the class. He made an astute observation. He said that the blessings we receive often greatly outweigh the effort and faith we have provided. He said that in the gospel, one plus one does not equal two. One plus one might equal ten or even fifty. If we make our best efforts at stepping forward in faith we will be blessed immensely. I thought that his phrase, “In the gospel one plus one can equal fifty” might be a good title for a talk. The lesson went well and I was pleased that I had been asked to substitute. We had a short and frenzied preparation period at home of finishing touches on the vegetables, putting everything into containers and bags, and loading up the car. We then went to the home of the couple we work with on the base for the Officer Candidate School (OCS) services. Three of our marines came over for Easter dinner. We had a wonderful time. There was plenty of good food, including ham, scalloped potatoes, rolls, deviled eggs, and jello. There was also plenty of good conversation. We had been feeling a little sad since Carrie and her family just departed a few days before, so this nice holiday meal with friends was just what we needed to pick us up. The three marines that came are from our original OCS group, so over the past six months we have come to know them well. They are really outstanding young people. We had fun talking with them about their training activities on base, their families, and their future plans. One of the guys admitted that he had a date on Saturday, and that things had gone very well. He said it was not a big deal, just a date. But he did admit he was going to ask her out again. The other two marines ribbed him mercilessly about it. We finally said goodbye to these dear friends and came home full, tired, and happy. Here is a picture of the outstanding relish plate/deviled egg display mom created.