I guess I should begin with a shout-out to my supportive hubby! He sat this one out... having just taken time off for our family vacation + the nightmare he was imagining with SUCH a long car ride = two good reasons for him to stay home. He also took in my grandpa (who lives with my parents and needs some assistance at this point, but mainly company) for the week so that my parents and I could all go with the peace of mind that grandpa was in good hands!
Next, I should mention that if it was possible to be more excited than with the opportunity to catch up with Tracy, it would be to welcome my BABY brother home! A little background? For the first 8 years of my life, I "only" had two brothers... then, low and behold, my mom was pregnant. I thought FOR SURE that it would be a girl, right? That would only be fair, right? It is 50/50 odds, right? And, if my parents were to have 4 children and two were already boys, then CERTAINLY this baby would be a GIRL, right??! Well, I obviously didn't get the part of probability that explains that what happens in one event does NOT change the odds for future events (one would have thought that I'd have understood this when Tracy, 15 years later, told me she was pregnant with her fourth and, again, I foolishly thought that, after having 3 boys, it HAD to be a GIRL!)... So, I spent the day of June 4th at school, ANXIOUS as all, but being told by EVERYONE that surely it was false labor that brought me waking up to a babysitter instead of my parents since my mom had 10 days until her due date! But when I returned home, I learned that the labor was real and the baby was born... it was DEVASTATING news: It was a BOY! Yes, I sooooooooooobbbbbbbbbed like a baby... how could fate deal such a devastating blow? I, of course, laugh as I think back on this now. I cannot imagine my life any differently. I LOVE being one of four and the "only" girl... it's me and my bros! And, back then, I quickly got over his gender and embraced having a REAL baby in the house... I was old enough to really care for him... feed him, change his diapers, read to him... he is the very reason that I have been super comfortable around babies in my adult life... and I have been known, truth be told about my poor, feeble mind, to call Patrick "Chris" from time-to-time. LOL
In any event, Chris has suddenly grown up, graduated from college, and has joined the Navy. He has become a pilot and flies Seahawk helicopters. It is pretty funny to think as I remember well when he first learned how to drive! His most recent deployment started before Christmas (and since he is stationed on the West Coast, it is the holidays where the kids miss him most!) and kept getting extended because of all that continues to go on in the middle east. We got word that, since his ship needs refueling (apparently quite a process), they'd be coming back to the East Coast, rather than out west. My dad, who LOVES a good road trip, jumped at the chance to drive down (kids in tow!) to welcome him back. I was super excited--not only to have him back on solid ground, but also, that my boys would actually SEE what we always TALK about... Uncle Chris flies helicopters and is on a big ship out at sea (they always giggle at the thought, when we skype with him on the other side of the world, that he is waking up while they are in their jammies, ready for bed). And, really, what kid doesn't want to see a helicopter up close and personal as well as have the experience of running free through an air craft carrier?
The boys began their journey on Wednesday, August 1st when they spent the night with Grandma and Grandpa so that they could get on the road first thing on Thursday morning. My dad, being quite fond of a hotel with a good pool, broke the trip in half with a nice stop over for the boys to get their energy out! Katy and I, on the other hand, decided to fly down with Uncle John on Friday night to spare Katy half of the road trip (to say that she is not a big fan of the car is a BIT of an understatement!)... so, the little Rose got her first airplane ride out of the deal. Uncle John made it clear that the fate of whether or not he'd ever have kids (no joke!) was hinged upon how Katy behaved herself on the airplane. And, although she TOTALLY got squirrely at the end, he gave her mad props because, technically, she behaved for what was supposed to be the length of the ride... the reason the last 45 minutes was heading in the nightmare direction was, likely, because we sat on the tarmac for about an hour before taking off... And, interestingly enough (my brother flies FREQUENTLY for work), I got a text less than a week later stating, "FYI- I was on a plane today with a kid that makes Katy look downright peaceful :)"... yeah, smiley face and all (for any of you who know my big brother, that's HUGE! ) So, are their kids in his future? I guess we have to find him a wife first, but Katy didn't rule it out for him all together! ;)
There is nothing more exciting than the buzz in the air when family members are gathered to welcome home loved ones from a deployment!! I am a sucker for a good military reunion--find me an online clip anywhere of complete strangers reuniting and I'll bawl like a baby! Throw in the fact that it's my baby brother--and I'm sharing in the excitement of my boys who ADORE him? Perfection! We were welcomed at the hanger by a nice committee who had donuts and coffee (Dunkin' Donuts Coffee...YUM! Good thing... I was DYING at this point because we were up at 5 a.m., after getting in LATE, and not getting much sleep because it was the Little Rose's first night in a strange place...THAT might have killed the kid thing for Uncle John) and waited for word that the helicopters, that were flying in ahead of the ship, had landed. Although I had totally hoped we would actually SEE them land UP CLOSE and personal, they landed out of view and then "drove" in where, out of the many, we were looking for the magical "704" that we knew was piloted by Uncle Chris! Once the copters had settled, we were given word that we could "Go get them" and got to run over and attempt to knock him down (that would be my boys who LOVE a good tackle!). There is nothing like an extra long HUG when you haven't seen someone in awhile!! After the appropriate displays of affection, Chris was able to show us all around his helicopter. The boys (and the Rose!) got to actually sit in the cockpit and try it out!! Pretty darn cool and the looks on their faces showed it!
After Chris did all his technical, post-flight routine, we were able to go back to the hotel for a little siesta before heading back to the base to welcome in the USS Abraham Lincoln that was still, pokily, making it's way through the Atlantic Ocean behind the Seahawks! ;) The boys were not too entertained watching it docking, etc as it is a VERY long process. And the weather was quite a show--sun baking down one minute and then buckets of driving rain the next (luckily no lightening!)... but, waiting pays off. We got to see some cool reunions. Because, really, these Navy folks all kinda look alike, sometimes family members missed seeing their sailor come down the plank (well, technically, it is NOT a plank as Chris told me about 60 million times that day, but I can't for the life of me recall now what it's called...whatever). So, we saw a couple of sailors actually sneak up on their loved ones and tap them on the shoulder and give them a sweet surprise themselves. After all the sailors came off, we were able to make our way on board. Chris had a great time showing the boys around. I think it took them until then to realize what it meant that Uncle Chris was living on a ship! While they thought it super cool, it kinda bummed me out seeing his TINY room, which he shared, that is sealed off by a cold, metal door... rather claustrophobic in my humble opinion (worse than a jail cell, because those are at least "open"), but gives me even more respect for our service men and women who call similar conditions (if not worse) "home" with a smile on their face and not even batting an eyelash. I'm not sure what the most exciting part was for the boys... they did get to see the flight deck and get some little tutorials on how it all works... they got to see Uncle Chris' room... Uncle Chris' work "space"... and the rec room. But, I have a feeling that, if I asked them (they are sound asleep as I type), they will tell you that their favorit part was climbing up and down the ladders between levels on the ship!! :)
I am going to close with a bunch of pictures from our carrier tour. I think I'm going to even post the little video clip of Chris' tour of his quarters... the boys biggest question was, sadly, "Where is the TV?" Certainly man cannot live without a TV, right? And, yes, if you are looking at the calendar, I did manage TWO posts for August. Of course, I feel pressure to do a Part II here SOOOOOOOOOON (it is Yankee-Red Sox baseball weekend, so my goal is to get it done this weekend while I am a baseball "widow"), so that I can gear up for documenting our back to school this year... especially since it, *sniff* *sniff*, brings the first day of Kindergarten for my sweet Ryan!!! Hope you enjoy!
<3 Kimberly, John, Two Boys & A Little Rose
|"Patiently" waiting to get on board! :)|
|Heading to the "plank" LOL|
|We <3 Uncle Chris!|
|Does it get any better??|
|Katy is more impressed by the puddles than the jets all around her!|
|Ryan finds a jet with a skull that he claims as "his"|
|Uncle Chris shows the boys how the jets take off and land|
|WHAT??! (I can't remember what he was impressed with!)|
|Don't look down (unless you're admiring my toes!) ;)|
|Uncle Chris' Room|
|Uncle Chris' bed with desk on left|
|Uncle Chris' desk|
|Back end of the room, next to the door, has enough room for a sink... lap of luxury!|
|Nothing like a good old beer on solid ground, no (except a pitcher with your siblings!)?|