Sunday, November 30, 2014

Billings' Thanksgiving Visit

Our Saturday began with a long drive to Tappahannock, Virginia.  There we attended a senior missionary activity.  It was great fun.  We always love to be around the other seniors and to be inspired by the stories of their work.  Each senior couple shared a short spiritual thought, and they were all very inspiring and strengthening. Then we headed south to meet our daughter Anne and Rex, Leah, Alex, Brenna, Eli and Zach on their drive to our home.  It was great fun because we surprised the children.  We parked at a McDonalds and texted Anne our exact location.   Then Anne and Rex just drove into the parking lot next to us.  The grandkids  were so surprised! Then we got to drive back home with them and have a nice visit in the car.  Even though it was late everyone talked all the way home because we were all excited to see each other.  We had a quick tour of the apartment – it doesn’t take long for a 2 bedroom place – and figured out how to bed everyone down in our small home.  It was tight but we worked it all out.  And the apartment was alive with the sound of happy children.

On Sunday we got to take all of the Billings to our ward here, the Quantico Ward.  Things were made a bit tricky by a flat tire on their van that we discovered as we were loading up for church.  But we made two trips, got everyone to church, and things worked out fine.  It was so nice to have them meet some of the folks we have told them about.  Everyone was very nice to all the Billings.  Each one of the kids had a good time at Nursery/Primary/Young Womens.   After a quick lunch at home most of us drove to Manassas.  Lezlie stayed home with Zach, partially because he was sound asleep taking a nap but also becaus we only had one van.  Everyone enjoyed walking around the beautiful fields at Manassas.  But they were also respectful in that they knew it was a battleground.  We saw a movie and read all about the two Civil War battles that took place at Manassas.  Alex and Rex read every single historical sign.  It was great for eveyone to learn about history and see some of the background of the Civil War.  In the evening we had a pumpkin bread baking frenzy.  Lezlie and Anne, with the help of Leah, Alex, Brenna, Eli and Zach, made about 40 loaves of pumpkin bread, wrapped them in saran wrap, tied a ribbon around each, and added a Thanksgiving spiritual message to every one.  It was quite a production.  They did a great job. Here are the grandkids helping with the bread.  

Monday morning could have been a disaster. But it was not.  Actually things worked out quite well.  We were able to pick up the Billings’ repaired van tire at 7am and get it onto the car by about 7:45am.  Rex had a dental issue that was troubling him, so we walked into the dentist that Lezlie and I go to at 8am when it opened.  They welcomed Rex as if he were an established patient and told him they could see him within the hour.  By 9:15am Rex’s dental issue was fixed and shortly thereafter we were headed for our visit to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.  It was a gorgeous day for late November, up in the 60s.  We had a wonderful visit.  Rex loved the history, the grandkids loved all the statues and monuments, and Anne loved hearing my stories of being a midshipman.  We saw the chapel, museum, Bancroft Hall, the midshipman store, the midshipmen's noon meal formation, the dining hall, and the 7th wing where I lived for 3 years.  It was a great visit, and I was proud and happy to show off my alma mater to family members.   Who knows, maybe someday one of the grandkids will go there.  All of them have seen USNA now.  The pictures are Zach inside a cannon, the grandkids at the Class of 73 bench, and us watching the midshipmen at noon meal formation. After an unbelievably quick drive home through Wash DC traffic we went to a nearby seafood restaurant located on the Potomac River.  Everyone got to try some local crab and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  We had to do an urgent missionary visit after that.  A dog who belonged to one of our dear friends at the Quantico Ward died in the morning.  This man lives alone and his dog had been with him almost 14 years.  So we really wanted to go see him and provide some comfort since we understood what he was going through because of our dog background.  So the Billings family went home and we went for a visit.  He cried in our arms as he talked about his sweet little dog.  It was kind of a sad ending to an otherwise joyful day. He will get lots of support and comfort from the ward, though, and we know he will be okay eventually.  When we returned home we had a Family home evening with our family about teamwork.  We then used teamwork to make trail mix to take with us on our future excursions.

We were lucky that an Officer Candidate School (OCS) graduation parade took place while Anne’s family was here.  We loaded up early Tuesday morning and arrived at the base just before the parade started.  All of the grandkids were impressed by the marching marines, the excellent band, and the loud cannons.  It was quite a spectacle for them.  After the parade we got to greet several of the marines that we had befriended at our weekly services, and it was such a joy to see them on this important day in their lives.  We got several hugs and many thank yous, which all helped Anne and Rex get a better understanding of what we do here.  Next we toured the Marine Corps Museum, and everyone really loved it.  It was great to see the grandkids learning so much about our country’s history and about the marines.  It just so happened that we were still there when the OCS commissioning ceremony took place.  So we all got to hear the new 2nd Lieutenants from OCS sing the Marine Hymn.  It was very cool.  Next we traveled back onto the base and showed the family our Navy Marine Corps Relief Society offices, which is where we spend a lot of time volunteering.  It was fun to show them where we work and introduce them to our friends there.  Then we split up into two groups and delivered about 30 loaves of pumpkin bread with a Thanksgiving spiritual message to almost all of our marine families.  The kids really enjoyed it especially since they had helped prepare the loaves of bread.  It gave them a small insight into one of the things we do here on our mission.  We ended the night with our TBS family home evening.  It was a small group but it went well.  We had a lesson on gratitude and the kids helped by holding up pictures about the lesson and reading scriptures that were written on the back.  Since Zach can’t read we had him hold up a picture of Marine Captain Herrera, an injured marine whom we discussed in the lesson.  Zach was just supposed to say, “This is Captain Herrera.”  But Zach likes to pretend he is reading.  When he heard the other kids read scriptures he pretended like he was reading scriptures.  So he said, “Behold Captain Herrera….”  and then made up some words that sounded like scriptures to him. He stopped and started about 5 times, and each time he would say, “Behold Captain Herrera.”  It was quite funny and cute in a very innocent way.  The kids seemed to enjoy the family home evening, and it also helped all of the Billings see a little bit of what we do here.  It was a long, tiring day, but it was also a wonderful day.  These photos show us greeting some of our marines at the OCS graduation parade.

We had planned to go to Washington DC today, Wednesday, and Mt Vernon on Thanksgiving Day.  But the weather forecast called for rain, snow, and cold wind.  So at the last minute we switched our plans and went to Mt Vernon instead.  We were lucky to be able to do so because we had tickets for Mt Vernon as well as things in DC.  But we successfully switched everything around.  It worked out really well.  The bad weather kept the crowds small at Mt Vernon.  We did not have to spend too much time outside, and luckily there was a lull in the rain when we were out.  And we spent a long time in the excellent museum.  The grandkids had a ball at the there with the many videos and hands on exhibits.  It turned out really well and we were so glad we could visit George Washington’s home.  Even though the restaurant there, the Mt Vernon Inn, was supposedly full we were able to get a table for lunch.  We had a great meal and fun time there too (see picture).  To start the holiday season we watched Elf that night after we got home from Mt Vernon.  It was great!

Thanksgiving Day is an excellent day to tour Washington DC.  There was very little traffic and we found things quiet downtown.  We were able to park right near the mall and see even more things than planned.  We first found a parking spot near the Lincoln Monument and got to walk around it for a few minutes.  It is always spectacular.  We even got some picture without a bunch of other people in the background. We then had a great drive around the National Mall so that we could see most of the monuments and famous building.  While Rex and I parked the cars everyone else got to tour the National Art Gallery, which they enjoyed.  Next we saw the National Museum of Natural History.  Everyone’s favorite area was the gem stones.  We loved the diamonds, rubies and gold.  And the ladies and girls really loved the fantastic jewelry.  After a good lunch at the museum cafeteria we went on to the National Museum of American History.  Our favorite exhibit there was the original Star Spangled Banner.  Eli, our 6 year old grandson who loves patriotic songs, sang the Star Spangled Banner while looking at the flag.  It was very touching.  We also enjoyed the Presidents exhibit, especially the first lady’s dresses and the president’s timeline.  We finally made our way across the mall to the Washington Monument.  Anne had reserved tickets for us, and we got to step onto the elevator almost immediately after we arrived.  It was spectacular.  We had a clear day to see the view, and we really enjoyed it.  We could see from the Reagan Airport to the Capital Building and way out into the Potomac River.  We finally made the long trek back to the car, detouring right past the White House for a good view of that.  We had an easy drive home with almost no traffic.  We then enjoyed a turkey breast we had cooked all day in the crock pot.  Rex was even able to stream the Seahawks football game, so we wound down the night watching a little football.  It was a long and tiring day, but boy was it fun. 

For the last day of Billings’ visit we toured Colonial Williamsburg.  Even though we had a mini-crisis because I forgot the tickets, we got it all straightened out and had an impressive tour of Williamsburg.   Some of the grandkids’ favorites were the blacksmith, the tailor, the jewelry maker, and the gun smith.  They really enjoyed asking the historical actors questions.  We had an excellent lunch at one of the old time inns, and some got to tour the Governors Palace.  The kids got to try out some colonial era games too.  Although it was a bit cold, we did have a clear and dry day.  We all really enjoyed Williamsburg and learned a lot about colonial times.  We all spent the night in a hotel nearby and had a nice evening just relaxing in our hotel rooms. 

After a quick breakfast Saturday morning and lots of packing up the Billings headed south for Houston and we headed  north for Woodbridge.  It was sad to say goodbye, but we have much missionary work yet to do in our remaining three months.  So after a long, quiet drive home we spent time putting things away and regrouping to get ready for our weeks’ activities.  The apartment seemed sadly quiet after having two extra adults and four energetic children here all week.  It was a wonderful, wonderful visit.  We are so grateful to Anne, Rex, Leah, Alex, Brenna, Eli and Zach for all the energy, time and resources they spent to come here and visit us.  We loved every minute of it!


  1. Hurray! We had a fantastic time!

  2. Great summary of our week, Dad! Thanks again, we had a great time and really enjoyed experiencing just a small piece of your mission. Thankful for you and Mom!