Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chris and Stacey's Visit

We had a couple of nice marine visits on Monday.  We took one young lady, the sister of a marine, birthday brownies, sang happy birthday to her, and congratulated her on her recent mission call to Montana.  Cool!  We also dropped off a plate of brownies to a less active family that we have been trying to stay in touch with as best we can.  They were friendly, but did not invite us in.  We had a nice but short chat on the porch.  We do worry so about some of these families.

On Tuesday we had an excellent The Basic School (TBS) family home evening.  We thought we might have only one person there, but we ended up with four.  Our dear sister that is from Moldova returned from a month away for Army Reserve training, so it was wonderful to see her again after so long.  We had a lively discussion about recognizing and appreciating blessings from God.

We traveled to Richmond well ahead of the time we needed to pick up Chris and Stacey at the airport on Thursday.  We have had too many traffic jams headed that way and wanted to make sure we were on time.  So we spent a little time at the Virginia Historical Society Museum doing family history.  We had a great dinner at Chicken Fiesta, an amazing grilled chicken restaurant.  We also got to visit a Civil War battlefield site near the Richmond Airport called Cold Harbor.  It was quite interesting.  Finally we made our way to the airport and picked up Chris and Stacey, which was wonderful. We were so happy to see them!   Although it is usually about an hour and a half drive home, we hit a lot of traffic, and it took almost 3 hours, so we had a good visit just to catch up on things.   

Friday was our Washington DC tour day and it went well.  We left early and drove to Franconia, Virginia, which is the location of the Washington DC metro stop that is furthest south and closest to us.   We rode the subway to the Smithsonian Museum area.  We had a beautiful day that was sunny but not too hot or humid.  We walked all around the National Mall and saw the Washington, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King monuments.  As usual they were all beautiful and inspiring.  We also saw the sobering Viet Nam memorial.  We finally arrived at the National Museum of Natural History and it was excellent.  We all really enjoyed the gem section, which included the Hope Diamond.  There was a good exhibit of the birds of Wash DC.  The mammals section was really good too – my favorite was the leaping Tiger.  I think we could have spent all day at that museum.  Finally we got a bit tired so headed out of the museum.  We made a quick stop at the National Archives and saw the originals of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.  It was pretty moving to see these significant historical documents.  We walked back to our metro stop and were lucky to have seats on the subway all the way back to Franconcia.  We next made our way to George Washington’s Mt Vernon.  Although the estate grounds were closing when we arrived, we only went there for the restaurant.  We had a wonderful dinner at the Mt Vernon Inn and Chris and Stacey got to taste their famous peanut soup.  It was a long and tiring day, but it was just wonderful to visit with Chris and Stacey and share the amazing sights of Wash DC with them.  It was especially fun since it was Stacey’s first visit to Washington DC.  What a great day!

We were delighted to share an Officer Candidate School graduation with Chris and Stacey this Saturday morning.  It was another beautiful day, sunny and breezy.  We have sat through a few OCS graduations that were rainy and cold, so this one was very nice.  Chris and Stacey got to meet the chaplain we work with at OCS who was very friendly and welcoming.  They enjoyed the pageantry that the marines put on – marching OCS students, an excellent Marine Band, multiple awards, cannons firing, and a short speech by a Marine General.  It was all great.  We then got to go say congratulations and goodbye to our LDS marines.  We were thrilled to see one of them because last Sunday he was quite worried he would get dropped.  He had failed his final PT test and he only had one more chance.  It turns out that he did not do enough situps for the final test, but they sent him to a review board.  The commanding officer of OCS decided that he was an excellent candidate otherwise and gave him a waiver on that final test.   He allowed him to stay and finish the course and graduate.  We were just overjoyed to see him.  He quickly came over to us and gave us each a big hug.  That was a huge reward for us.  We saw one other guy (see the picture below).  His mom had contacted us many times, so it was wonderful to finally meet her.  She told us a heartwarming  story about the impact our lessons had made on him.  We were touched deeply when we heard the story.  It was a great parade and Chris and Stacey seemed to enjoy it.  
After a quick tour of the marine base we visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps.  This is an exceptional museum, and even if you do not like the marines you can enjoy this place.  It is very well done with lots of great artifacts, realistic displays, videos, quotes, etc.  After an enjoyable museum visit we had lunch at the Tun Tavern, which is located inside the museum.  The original Tun Tavern, in Philadelphia, is where the first marines were recruited for the Revolutionary War.  It also is a hidden gem of a restaurant, and we had a delicious lunch there.  Next we headed south for a visit to the beach.  Chris had told us they wanted to visit the ocean, but it is about 5 hours to drive all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.  So we found a nice little beach town south of us on the Potomac River.  Although it was not an ocean beach, it was still very nice.  We had a typical stuck-in-traffic drive to get there.  But that allowed us some more visiting time.  On the way to the beach we visited Chatham, a colonial era mansion as well as a Civil War battlefield.  It was built by a Fitzhugh who is a distant relative to Lezlie.  The small visitor’s center was excellent and it was a good stop.  When we arrived at Colonial Beach, Virginia we enjoyed ice cream cones on the boardwalk.  We took a long walk along the sandy beach.  And we sat in the sand to enjoy the people, sun, wind and waves.  It was wonderful!  Although it was not like a west coach beach, we still had a good time there.  We drove to the very tip of the beach, which is located on a peninsula, and had dinner at a pleasant seafood restaurant.  Chris and Stacey wanted to try some real Maryland crab cakes, and they were not disappointed.  We all had some excellent seafood.  After a long drive home we were glad to get some rest.  It was a full and active day, and a highly enjoyable one too.

We took Chris and Stacey on an early Sunday morning drive to walk around the Manassas Battlefield Park.  This was an important location during the Civil War as there were two major battles here.  We enjoyed walking around the park, but were also sobered by what took place there many years ago.  It is incomprehensible to imagine the loss of life at many of these Civil War battles.  After a quick picnic lunch in the car we headed home.  Next we all went to church.  It was enjoyable for us to have many of our ward friends, marine families, and other missionaries meet Chris and Stacey.  It helped them get a feel for what we do on our mission.   We also heard some excellent talks about service.  One of the speakers mentioned the need for more senior missionaries and we felt proud that we were providing that service.  We had a relaxing afternoon and then a good spaghetti dinner.  However, after eating spaghetti we felt like we needed another walk.  So we drove a short distance to a small county park near our apartment.  In addition to taking a nice walk we also were able to see many birds.  We spotted an elusive Cardinal, the state bird of Virginia and some beautiful Egrets.  It was a pleasant evening walk in a nice wooded area, most enjoyable.  After teaching Chris and Stacey how to play the card game Euchre, Stacey and I teamed up to beat Lezlie and Chris soundly.  Hurrah! It was great fun! 

We were sad that Monday was Chris and Stacey’s last day.  But we had a good morning and early afternoon together.   We first stopped at the base and visited the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society offices where we volunteer each week.  We were happy to show Chris and Stacey where we spend a lot of time and glad they could meet our director and one of the other volunteers.  We love volunteering at NMCRS and that office is an important part of our mission.  We drove on south to Belle Grove, the Conway mansion that has been converted into a bed-and- breakfast.  We had arranged to have lunch there, and it did not disappoint.  We had a delicious lunch of crab salad, fresh baked rolls, cookies and brownies.  Absolutely wonderful!  The owner, Michelle, then took us on a detailed tour of the mansion and we all enjoyed it immensely.  Besides being an outstanding cook, Michelle is an avid historian, and she tells wonderful stories about the house and the history surrounding it.  The fact that Lezlie’s ancestors built the original house and lived in it for 3 generations made it all the more enjoyable.  We made one more quick stop on the way to the airport, another small Civil War battlefield (they are everywhere in Virginia.)  Finally we had to say goodbye to Chris and Stacey, sad to see them leave but happy for such a great visit.  Thank you Chris and Stacey!  We had a great time!

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