Tuesday, September 22, 2015

SUMMER 2015 Micah's Visit and New Hampshire Manchester Mission


We are back from our many traveling adventures for a while so hopefully I can catch up here on our blog.

We just returned from a week's tour of upper New England, part 'business', all pleasure.
We visited 3 zone conferences in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Our son Micah was visiting us so we invited him along and we are so glad he joined us.
With 7 children, it's a pretty rare thing to get one week alone with just one of them.
We treasured every minute. 

Our first conference was on Tuesday, the 15th, in South Royalton, Vermont so we left Monday morning to take the slow scenic route up there.  We took the Kancamgus Highway through the White Mountains of New Hampshire stopping at many scenic look outs and waterfalls and trails along the way.  

Lower Falls
White Mountain National Forest
New Hampshire

Micah was pointing out a crazy whirlpool under this small but mighty fall.

Sabbaday Falls
White Mountains National Forest
New Hampshire

Mountain and valley vista.

We had planned on hiking the Flume in the Franconia Notch but it started pouring just as we got there so we continued our drive.  The rain only lasted about one hour. For the rest of the day and for the rest of the trip we had glorious weather.

We explored a few little quaint Vermont towns , St. Johnsbury being a favorite.  
For our 20th Anniversary, Dale and I took 2 weeks driving through New England's fall foliage in a rented convertible and staying in Bed and Breakfasts along the way. One of our favorite vacations and cherished memories. Our very favorite inn and our favorite meal of all time was at the Rabbit Hill Inn in the tiny hamlet (50 residents!) of Lower Waterford, Vermont.  I know they say 'you can't go home again', but we just had to have dinner there once again since we were so nearby. The Inn was exactly as we fondly remembered it, even down to the detail of a couple working on a puzzle in a corner of the charming and homey drawing room.  The food was delicious but not the "perfect" meal of all those years ago.  Last time we remembered every bit of it was fabulous from the rolls and butter to the last bite of dessert. But we are happy we did it.  

After spending the night in Quechee, Vermont at the Inn at Marshland Farm, we drove 20 minutes to our first zone conference site...Joseph Smith's birthplace in Royalton/ Sharon Vermont.   (The town lines ran right through his house!)
It has changed tremendously since we were there last.
Our conference was held in a beautiful new stake building, one of the prettiest I've seen, with rooms and foyers that looked like they belong in a home instead of a church building. 

The view of a neighboring farm from the grounds.

One of my favorite  church paintings.

 The lovely treelined drive up to the church and the site.


President and Sister Stoker of the New Hampshire Manchester Mission, who so kindly invited us to share in their conferences.
(and a few of their lovely sister missionaries)
They are from Mesa, Arizona and have been serving for about 2 1/2 years now. They are upbeat, happy people and it shows in their upbeat, happy missionaries. It was an immense pleasure to get to know them better and see them at work.

And here we are with the Simpsons.  Sister Simpson is the nurse for this mission and she and Dale talk just about every day.  She loves her missionaries with all her heart and takes extra good care of them.  We so appreciate her and all the mission nurses.  Her husband is over the apartments.

While we were at the conference Micah explored the area. He went on 2 hikes and enjoyed the wooded beauty of Vermont very much.  

When he picked us up we just drove up the hill a few yards to the birthplace site and enjoyed a few moments there before heading off to Exeter, New Hampshire. 

The site has also changed quite a lot since we were last here.  There are 2 senior couples who share visitor center duties, one full time over-seerer couple, and 3, yes 3!, couples who care for the grounds.  One of their big assignments of the year is hanging lights on many the trees, staffing a live nativity, and serving hot chocolate and hot cider and donuts for a few weeks at Christmastime.  It is a huge favorite with the locals here as most do not hang any lights. 

 This is a chair Joseph made when he was just a teenager.

 This hearthstone and the front step are all that are left of the original house.

 The writing behind this statue is Joseph's testimony of Christ.   It says:
"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That He lives! For we saw Him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that He is the Only Begotten of the Father- That by Him, and through Him, and of Him, the worlds are and were created and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughter unto God." 
Doctrine and Covenants 76: 22-24

I have a personal witness and testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet called of God to restore Christ's Gospel and church once again on the earth.
I share Brigham Young's sentiment below.  Although I didn't know him personally I feel like shouting Hallelujah for all he accomplished, restored, and revealed that help me in my every day  life!

Wednesday was spent in the Exeter building Zone Conference for us and exploring the charming town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire for Micah.  We have spent several days there at different times over our mission and love it. Micah thoroughly did as well. :)

These zone conferences followed this format:

An introduction to a new safety feature that was being installed in all their cars.

Talks by one of the President's counselors and his wife.

A talk by President Stoker.

Lunch served by local ward members.

Car safety presentation.

Apartment safety discussion.

Short introduction of the senior couple who will be helping the missionaries teach their investigators and new converts about family history.

Our presentations.
Dale spoke on Self-sufficiency and Safety sharing stories and incidents from his own mission and from experiences he has had with the missionaries while serving here.
I talked about the importance of staying hydrated, the benefits of smiling  :) 
and taught them a breathing technique to help them de-stress. I encouraged them to honor and respect and care for their bodies, these wondrous miracles we have been given from a loving Heavenly Father.

Sister Stoker then acknowledged any birthdays since the last zone conference with little bags of hugs and kisses.

Afterwards she passed out sacks with a few props in them and the mission divided into districts and came up with quick 5 minute skits depicting some part of the Book of Mormon. Very entertaining.  The missionaries loved this!

After that, they broke into zones and held zone and district meetings until the end of the day - usually between 4-5 p.m.

(love the sea of dark suits!
 Most of the sisters are on the other side)
These meetings were taught by the Assistant to the President and the Sister Trainer Leaders.  We never cease to marvel at how incredibly mature and responsible these leaders are and  with what amazing skills they lead and teach and train.  They are future CEO's.  Bishops.
RS Presidents. Leaders now and leaders of the future.  The future looks bright!

Micah picked us up and we drove to Augusta, Maine.
We saw a triple D was in the next town so OF COURSE we stopped there for dinner.
A-1 Diner.
Dale had fried clams( again. of course!)
Micah and I shared our orders: fried chicken and mac and cheese with ham.
Nothing stellar but satisfying and fun!

Thursday brought our last zone conference. Ever. For this mission. 
When Sister Stoker announced that, my eyes stung with tears.
We truly have loved touring all these missions and meeting all these wonderful young people and the extraordinary men and women who lead them.

We met in the Farmingdale Chapel in Farmingdale, Maine just outside Augusta.

 Some happy young missionaries!

Some happy old missionaries!
(with 2 young's!)

Disclaimer:  many of the photos in this post are out of order... some here may have been taken in Vermont,  or New Hampshire and vice versa.  Just sayin'!

I'd like to take a minute here to share a few things President Stoker spoke about.  
He is a convert himself- joined the church when he was 19. 
He addressed the importance of the Book of Mormon in his life, in teaching, and in everyone's life who reads it and gains a testimony of it.
He encouraged daily study.
He asked what the missionaries had learned from their recent 60 day reading of it from start to finish.
some responses:
That Jesus is the Christ
how to love others more
that it makes me happier
that Joseph Smith was a prophet
that the Atonement is real
that the Doctrine of Christ is taught within

The Book of Mormon refers to Christ more than 4,ooo times by 100 different titles.  On average, every 1.7 verses refers to Christ.

One of its greatest blessings is that it is a tremendous source of personal revelation 
and that is growing increasingly important in these latter days.

His message was filled with insights and testimony.
Thank you, President Stoker.

I was very impressed with both of the following things...
I love the posting of the pertinent ward information by the door!
So helpful!

Another great idea!
(Ward mission leaders take note  :)

Micah went off to explore the towns nearby and took our advice and drove 20 minutes, waited in line for 40 more ( off season, even!) for...
drum roll please...
at Red's Eats in Wiscasset, Maine.

We were afraid we may have built it up too much and he would be disappointed but it did not disappoint! 

After the conference and saying our fond farewells to the Stokers and the missionaries there we drove to Portland, Maine.  Dale and I had not been here yet- we were saving it to explore at a later time. So happy to get to share it with Micah!
Quoting a tourist magazine: "Go 10 or 15 minutes in any direction and you'll be surprised you're anywhere near Maine's largest metro area. Set like a jewel in the crown of Casco Bay, Portland is unique in its position as a major cultural center that equally embraces its natural environment. Often compared to San Francisco (although it reminded us of its sister city, Portland , Oregon).  It is small, friendly, and easily explored by foot, although at times it may seem that no matter which direction you head, it's uphill." ( Amen to that!).
It has 7 distinct neighborhoods that are all fun to explore.
Bon App├ętit magazine named it "America's Foodiest Small Town." 
(and it was so delightful trying to sample as many of the yummy culinary items as we could!)

The Stokers said the best clam chowder they have had anywhere was at Gilbert's and since Micah simply cannot come to New England and not have clam chowder, we headed their upon arrival.  

Dale had the seafood, and Micah and I had the clam. I was going to get the corn just to mix it up and try more of them but they were sold out.  It was creamy and rich, not fishy, and yummy. Very good!

We walked around the waterfront area a bit before retiring to our hotel for the night and came upon several charming outdoor eating scenes such as these... 

Morning found us headed to The Holy Donut, a Portland specialty.
The donuts are made from mashed potatoes.  Gotta be good, right?
They were delicious and filling.
We had the bacon cheddar and the maple bacon.

After breakfast we wandered through town exploring some of the different neighborhoods, and trying to work up an appetite so we'd be hungry for lunch at another foodie stop!

The Paris fence lock idea has spread throughout the world!

We thought this was a very clever work of art.

Love this artist's work!

That worked up an appetite!
Yay! Now we can indulge at DuckFat, a very popular spot here known for their fries cooked in...wait for it...yup- duck fat.  Had to wait 30 minutes and were squished into a tiny room and shared a table but it was all good and part of the experience !

They are also famous for their milkshakes.  This one is the "Original": vanilla gelato with creme anglaise and fresh Tahitian vanilla bean. Sooooooo good!
And everyone knows french fries and milkshakes go together like bacon and eggs, right?

Next we were off to see the coast and surrounding area.  
Greater Portland consists of South Portland and the communities of Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth. The close proximity of these areas is one of the reasons Portland is such a popular place to live. 
Quoting my touring magazine again..."There a few places better suited to enjoy the quintessential pleasures of lobsters and lighthouses than Cape Elizabeth and the neighboring community of Scarborough."
Enjoy we did!

First stop: Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse

Notice the old island fort in the background.

On to Portland Head Light, one of the most well known and most photographed lighthouses in Maine and the U.S.  We can see why...such a perfect setting on its craggy perch on the point.

Classic Maine coastline.

 Lots of ship traffic goes by here constantly.

The view from the other side   :)

A schooner sailing past the old Ram's Lighthouse ruin.

An old cruise ship heading for Portland.

We would have loved to stay in the beautiful Fort Williams Park with its beach and cliffside walk way and grassy fields overlooking the lighthouse and all the ocean activity much longer but we wanted to get to our next destination before sunset.
The Lobster Shake at Two Lights.

The Two Lights for which the area is named. This one is working, the one below is not.

Google image of the Two Lights.

 We made it for the sunset!
Can you imagine a better setting for a Maine lobster dinner?

 Micah loved clambering over the rocks.

 Oh yeah!
The Maine event!

Love this guy!

A pretty perfect day!

Saturday we headed back home to Waltham via the southern coast of Maine.
First stop:  Bug Light in Southern Portland.
We missed it on our little jaunt yesterday but simply
could not pass up seeing something with a name like that.  And it was as cute as its name.

Adorable, right? 
(oh, and the lighthouse is too!)

A cruise ship, a schooner and a lighthouse- oh my!

I've never seen such ornamental detail on a lighthouse before.

Busy harbor.

Always working  :)

The  salt marshes in Scarborough. This stop is along a walking /biking trail that is nearly completed which will run from Florida to Maine.

Old Orchard Beach

In its heyday, huge resorts lined the sands and the wealthy folk of Victorian time, including Joe and Rose Kennedy, frequented this beach and strolled the pier under parasols.  Now the resorts have given way to endless motels and the area gives off a pretty strong honky tonk vibe.  An amusement park borders the sand and cotton candy and hot dog stands are everywhere.  Kind of Coney Island hits New England.  Funky for certain but what a fun place for kids!

We had planned to spend some time in Kennebunkport and Ogunquit on our way home but everyone in the state was out enjoying this rare and very warm Saturday-probably the last warm weekend of the season.  Both towns were exceptionally crowded so we drove through, with Micah and I  jumping out to see a few highlights (the Bush compound in Kennebunkport and Perkins Cove in Ogunquit).

Micah and been on the road for over 5 weeks and we over 4 so we were all a little road weary at this point.  Just chilling at home and watching the BYU football game sounded good to us.

Micah spent the night and then headed off again, this time to visit Adam and Heather and kids in Wilmington, N.C.  We know they will enjoy him and he will love spending time with them there.

But we miss him already.
Thanks for coming to see us.

Missionaries, good food, beautiful places 
and family.
We have reason aplenty to go our way rejoicing! 


  1. Thank you Mom and Dad. I had a wonderful time exploring the northeast with you. I love you both so much!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Everything looks beautiful and awesome! We miss Micah and you guys!