Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Confirmation and the rest of April 2016

After our Vietnam trip, we came home and spent a few days recovering. It took me about a week to feel completely well again after my illness, but thankfully none of the children got sick. Steve had the same thing prior to our trip and he did relapse, but after rest and some good nursing, he recovered, too.

I think these two missed me...they enjoyed my illness and couch time a LOT!

We got home just in time to prepare for Sam's confirmation. Sam has been preparing all year for this moment and he was beyond excited. He must have asked us five times if we were SURE we'd be home from Vietnam in time for the service. Not sure at all if Sam trusts us with scheduling life...In fact, the day before confirmation, Sam was snippy and spent the day perfecting the designs on his stole and being downright difficult. Finally, about 9pm, Sam came running down the stairs, dressed in his wrongly buttoned up new shirt, hair aschew, and when he saw me he yelled,"Why are you in pajamas?! That's what you are wearing to my confirmation??!" I took a deep breath and informed him he had the wrong night. He nearly cried with relief, then we laughed that he could probably not wear pants since only his torso would be shown. Poor kid...it was a lot of pressure for him.

We had our normal Sunday service with our Discovery Bay church, a quiet lunch then that afternoon, we spent rearranging our dining room into a quasi-church. Lizzy made Sam an altar and Sam conquered his nerves with help from his brothers....

We coordinated with Mark Lacey, senior pastor and Drake, youth pastor at Trussville First UMC to FaceTime into the service on Sunday, April 10. They chose to do the confirmation during the 8:30am service specifically so it could work easier with Hong Kong time. Pat was chosen to hold the iPad during the service and at one point, they even showed Sam's face on the wall of the sanctuary! He was pretty excited about that. From our vantage point, we could see and hear everything...the choir, the other confirmands, and Mark's sermon. It was really nice to be in worship with our church. We miss many things about life in the USA and church is one of the big ones.

It was really one of the most precious experiences. Sam was overwhelmed by the kindness and care of our Trussville church family. He kept saying,"Mom, they did all that for me!" He took his confirmation so seriously and we are so proud of him. As always, when Sam has a milestone experience, I am reminded of that struggling baby in the NICU and the doctor telling me we would have to wait and see...and pray. We are so blessed by Sam's presence in our lives.

The rest of April passed with our regular activities...church, gymnastics, scouts, play dates with friends and one big weekend campout! Lizzy and I accompanied Sam and Paul's scout troop to a district campout in Ma Tso Lung, a camp in the New Territories very close to the China border city of Shenzen. I am always heartened to be involved with scouting events here in Hong Kong, because it reminds me that scouting is worldwide and universal. The scouts worked on leadership, cooking, lashings, and athletic prowess. We camped for two nights and survived the bugs, the heat, the porta-potties, and the cooking of the scouts. We came home with new friends, lots of bug bites, and a sincere appreciation for our beds and bathrooms!


Our campsite...well, this is half of the campsite. It was a huge field and tents were put into a large horseshoe around the field.

Waiting to lead some Cubs on an adventure.

Cooking competition was fierce. They were given ingredients and had to come up with a meal in 2 hours.

Give scouts bamboo and rope and they can make just about anything.
Bubble ball!


Arranging nearly 300 scouts for a photo is not easy...

And one more, just because...this is how we go to church and everywhere else when it rains! Never travel without an umbrella!

We miss you all very very much! Probably more now that we've made firm plans to visit in the US in July. We will let you know the details soon, but we hope to visit with everyone when we are home.


Sunday, May 1, 2016


We spent 7 days in Vietnam at the end of March. We went with our friends, the Hudgins family. It was a fantastic trip. We saw so much and it was so amazing it as hard to whittle down the photos to just these!

We started our trip by flying into Hanoi. We spent the night at a beautiful hotel downtown Hanoi. Upon arriving in our room and looking out the window for the first time....we realized we were actually looking down on the remains of the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison that held John McCain and Jeremiah Denton during the Vietnam War. Very surreal.

The Hanoi Hilton from our hotel window.

Our first night was just a quiet evening of supper and then hanging out in the hotel. We were up early the next morning for a van ride to the quiet village of Mai Chau. VERY Different from the craziness of Hanoi!

This is Hanoi. Scooters everywhere. Used for EVERYTHING.

Beginning to see the scenery change now.


So green! Rice fields as far as the eye can see.

We arrived at our hotel and this was our view.
Our room

We did a bicycle tour that same afternoon. They gave us nice hats to wear. Some of us liked them!!


This village has lots of weavers.

More scooters used as trucks.



This hotel was family owned and they fed us the most delicious meals.


We did a walking tour the next morning. Walked all around the village with a guide who explained village life and farming and showed us all around Mai Chau.

Fertilizing her fields.
This man was harvesting stink bugs....to eat.


These women were bringing baskets of rocks to the cement mixer.

Visiting a family, who shared their well water with us to wash our hands and face, before visiting with them in their home.

Our guide took us to visit this family, who are friends of his. He grew up in Mai Chau, only leaving to attend school. He works as a guide and he also works for a business in town as a translator. This house had three generations. Great-grandma, who reclined on her bed most of the day, playing with the children. Grandma who cares for the home and the children while her daughter in law worked. Number 1 Son and his wife and two children. The son worked out in the village and the wife handled farming of the rice fields.
They gave us a herbal tea...tasted like bitter hot water.

Kitchen...I won't complain anymore.

And then we left Mai Chau, returned to Hanoi, spent the night and the next morning, we did a walking tour with two sweet local college students who are in an English club. Learned a lot about Vietnam from their young eyes and enjoyed it very much. First stop, an ancient place of learning and a temple.


Local graduates having pictures made in the park.
Ho Chi Minh's grave...yep he's preserved in there. We didn't go in.
Our guides! That V sign is a universal Asian thing... Like duck lips in the US, I guess!
And yes...our resident rock star had young ladies just walking up and asking to take a photo with him! It was funny and sweet!
Then, A tour of the Hanoi Hilton. It was somber and sad.


Next morning, we loaded up to ride to our cruise departure destination.
Water taxis to our cruise ship


We sailed about an hour and this started to appear through the mist. Halong Bay is one of the new 7 natural wonders of the world. Just breathtaking. The pictures are good, but not able to capture it really.


A cave on the island!

Basket boat ride to a floating village



Evening on the ship showed how beautiful the woodwork is on board.

Our chef carved these from vegetables and fruits!

We returned to Hanoi and our friends journeyed on to south Vietnam. We spent another day touring Hanoi and then flew home to Hong Kong. I was slightly sick the last day, so Steve took three kids and toured a military museum in Hanoi.





This was an unforgettable trip. There were amazing sights, friendly, welcoming, and kind people. I left wanting to go back.