Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thanksgiving--I know I'm a little late!!

Well, I thought I ought to put Thanksgiving pictures up before Christmas. Thanks to my brother Lance and his wife Jess, for doing the slideshow. Anyways, we had a great Thanksgiving. Lance and Jess came into town from California with my adorable niece, Teagan. It was so fun to watch the kids together--this was the first time they had all met. We had tons of fun playing, eating too much and laying around--it was great and went by too fast. I do have to say that Ethan, Kailey, and Teagan are 3 of the cutest kids ever!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas from Iraq!

Eric sent us this video of him the other day. Ethan watched it probably 20 times and got so excited to see Daddy and "Claus"--that is what he calls Santa. I thought everyone might enjoy seeing Eric.

Okay, let's try this again. I've got a much better internet connection today, so I'm going to try uploading some photos. If I'm lucky, my internet connection will improve somewhat in the longterm. I scaled the T-wall barrier next to our trailer the other day, took down out internet transceiver, tweaked it a little bit, taped it with duct tape to a broomstick handle, scaled back up the T-wall, on top of the trailer, lept over to a different T-wall and strapped the transceiver down so it's facing what I think is the "right" direction. Since then, our internet speed hasn't gone up much, but we don't lose a signal nearly as often as we used too. I'm not sure why, but the photos are showing up in the reverse order that I uploaded them, so you may have to play a little bit of a game of figuring out which description goes with each photo.

This first one is from our training in Kuwait that I talked about below (I'm the last guy - in about two seconds I start shooting at targets).
The other photo is me with my ride in Kuwait. To give you some idea of how solid this thing is, the door I have there weighs more than me. They're on good hinges, but you definitely feel the heft everytime you get in or out. I was pretty much a backseat rider in Kuwait, which was fine with me. I had spent plenty of time as a Vehicle Commander, Gunner, and Driver during the weeks of training in South Carolina (see the photo of me driving the Humvee - you'll notice that I'm wearing a ski-mask like hood if you look closely - it was about 20 degrees outside and with the gunner's hatch open, the heater only does you so much good).
Okay, my internet connection is coming and going here a little bit, but I'll try a couple of other pics of me in South Carolina and Kuwait. These last two are of me eating my primary food source there (MREs) and catching some free time. It's been kind of nice. I think I've read more novels in the last two months than I have in the last three or four years.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hi from Iraq

Okay. I feel thoroughly persuaded to post something given Heather's repeated hints. Unfortunately, that's not as easy as it might sound. While I have decent internet in my office, the internet in my trailer is very 1994 (that might actually be a little generous - it took a little over 2 minutes to upload the photo at left). While I shouldn't have much problem writing about what's going on, uploading photos can be a little problematic sometimes.
The photo is of President Bush here at the palace. This is the rotunda and my office is about 40 yards outisde of the left-side of the photo. I'm standing at the left edge of the rotunda, but I think I'm about 5 feet outside of the photo. I was working when he came, so when I heard that he'd arrived I just walked outside of my office and joined everyone else who was already there. Although Pres. Bush isn't much of a public speaker, it was actually somewhat inspirational to have him there and a little bit thrilling. He is very genuine and you could feel how much he actually wanted to be there. He shook hands with a lot of people who were there, but I just went back to work (remember - I'm at war! There's no time for fun when you're at war!)
While we were in Kuwait we spent several days "acclimatizing" which basically meant that I slept a lot, hung out in the USO there, read books, and re-packed my gear 4 different ways until I was finally satisfied. After a few days of that, we went out into the desert where we lived in a giant tent and bonded with camels. I have some cool camel photos. But. Internet. Too. Slow.

Okay - I gave up after 15 minutes of trying to upload my last photo. Really, I promise I've got some good photos. There's this one of a camel trying to put his head into our humvee through the gunner's opening in the roof. If I manage to upload it, I also have some photos of us on one of the ranges. Included in those few days was some great combat training (the purpose for us being there). We did some tactical movement where we fired our handguns at targets while moving together. It was a little bit different than a lot of our training because you really need to trust that the person behind you won't accidentally shoot you. In that I didn't trust a portion of our crew and didn't want to risk having them behind me, I purposefully went very last so that nobody could get behind me.

After our few days of living the nomad lifestyle, we returned to base and promptly prepared to fly in to Baghdad. It's been a little surreal since getting here. My schedule has fluctuated so much in the last week that I'm not exactly sure what's normal. I enjoyed when I was up in the early mornings. You can hear them calling out the prayers over the loud speakers at the mosques in Baghdad. Now, I'm on a late night routine that has me getting back to my trailer a little after midnight, attempting to use the internet/read for a couple of hours, waking up late morning, going to lunch, working, and starting all over again.

Okay, I'm going to give up on this now. The last photo has been attempting upload for 27 minutes. I'll try to get these good ones uploaded at some point. No promises on how often I'll write, but I'm sure Heather will put up most of the interesting stuff.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Update from Iraq

Well, I thought I would do a quick update on how Eric is doing. He made it to Baghdad safely and has been there for a little over a week now. After leaving South Carolina, where they were training, the flew to Ireland and had a stopover there and then to Kuwait. In Ireland, when they were stopped, he had a chance to meet the Secretary of the Navy, that is the picture above--Eric, another JAG officer that he knows and the Secretary of the Navy. That was really exciting. After getting to Kuwait, they spent a week there, and then he went to Baghdad and is at Camp Victory where he will spend the rest of his time. We have gotten the chance to talk several times, he can call me from work, and we have gotten to webcam twice. It was so great seeing him and so hard to believe that he was in Iraq! Also, other exciting news, he got to see President Bush this past weekend when he visited. Overall, he is doing wonderful and if you would like you can e-mail him or I have a mailing address for him. If anyone needs those, just e-mail me. Thanks for all your prayers and support as he is serving our country over there! Go USA and hopefully Eric will write on the blog one of these days--hint, hint!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sesame Place/Frying Pan Park/Great Falls

After we left Utah, we had a week left in Connecticut to pack up the rest of the house and get everything moved into storage before we moved--talk about a stressful week. We were lucky enough to have Eric's mom and brother come to help the last 2 days with moving the rest of the stuff into storage and I had a wonderful friend that helped me clean our house the day we moved out. Thank you so much Emily, I don't know what I would have done without you. Also, we were lucky enough to have another wonderful friend let us crash at her house-she was out of town--Thank you Jessica--you are the best. Even though the whole moving process was so stressful, we were so lucky to have such supportive family and friends to help us through. It also made it hard to leave Connecticut, because we did have so many great friends there. I have to admit that I really miss good 'ol "rotten Groton." The two years we lived there are filled with so many fond memories and happy times. Anyways, after we moved out, we headed down to Washington, D.C. On our way down, we stopped at Sesame Place in Pennsylvania for the day and had a blast. Personally, I never Sesame Place existed until we had friends that went. Apparently it has been around since the 80's. Ethan is such a huge Elmo lover and being military we could get in free, so it worked out perfectly. We had such a fun time, even though the weather was a little rainy. Ethan was just in heaven riding rides, seeing Elmo everywhere, etc. It was so fun to watch how excited he got about everything. One funny story, we were there the Saturday before Halloween, so a lot of the kids were dressed up in their costumes. Ethan saw one little boy dressed up as Elmo and kept following him around saying, "Elmo, Elmo" and trying to touch him. It was so funny. There were a lot of fun rides and as soon as the ride was over, Ethan would get off and want to ride it again, so we went on the rides over and over. We also went and had dinner with the Sesame Street characters which was so much fun. They had a great buffet dinner and then all the sesame characters walked around and would come sit at your table for awhile. Ernie took a real liking to Kailey and would not leave us alone and when he was holding her did not want to give her back to me--she is just so cute, so I don't really blame him. During dinner, the characters would periodically get together and sing a song and dance around; it was very entertaining and Ethan loved it. Overall, we had such a fun time and it is such a great place to take little kids. If you have a chance to go, I would highly recommend it!

After we left Sesame Place, we finished driving to Washington, D.C. The next day, we spent hiking around Great Falls, which is a national park with great whitewater rapids, in fact the U.S. Kayak team use to practice there a long time ago. Eric had never been there and it was one of my favorite places to visit growing up because it is so scenic and has some great hikes. After we hiked around there, we headed to one of my other childhood haunts--Frying Pan Park. When I was growing up, we would bike over to this park all the time as a family. It is only a couple of miles from my old house and has horses, pigs, sheep, rabbits, etc. On the weekends they use to have really fun horse shows we would ride over and watch. Needless to say, this was another hit with Ethan. He is such an animal lover that he was in heaven watching all the "moo-cows" and trying to feed the sheep, etc. His favorite part was riding on the tractors. He would not get off of the tractors and probably would have stayed there all day driving them if we had let him. It brought back so many memories being back in my old 'hood. I loved living in Northern Virginia and have so many wonderful memories. I am sure if we stay in the Navy, we will end up in D.C. for at least one or more tours. I would love for my kids to experience such a great area.

Anyways, after visiting D.C.--we had to drive through there so Eric could meet with his commanding officer, we headed out to St. Louis. We ended up splitting it up into 2 days and have to say that it was pretty uneventful and the kids did great. I have to say that a portable DVD player is a lifesaver!! Ethan loved watching "Curious George" and "Elmo" while we drove and it made the drive a lot more pleasant for Eric and I! We ended up arriving at my parents house earlier than we thought we would and had planned on surprising my mom, however, she surprised us by not being home!! Our neighbor had seen us pull into the driveway and knew that she was gone, so called her on her cell phone to tell her to hurry home!! When we pulled up to our house, it was so exciting to see this sign on the garage:

Can you tell my parents are SOOOOOO excited to have their grandkids living with them for awhile??

Well, I still have tons to update, but will work on it later!! Just keep anticipating what is to come--just kidding--it is not that exciting!

Utah trip!

Okay, I am back from my hiatus and ready to catch up my blog--at this point it is already overwhelming how much I need to blog about. The first thing I need to blog about is our trip to Utah that we took the beginning of October. We went out to see Eric's parents and had a great time. Ethan and Kailey had so much fun with their grandparents--Ethan especially loved feeding the llamas with grandpa. The most exciting thing that happened while we were there was that we blessed Kailey and had so many family members come to share that with us. It was so nice to have both of Eric's grandparents, two of his brothers, my brother and his wife, my sister, my cousin-Kelli and several aunts and uncles of Eric's.

We also got to go introduce Kailey to her great-grandpa Tolman and Ethan had a great time dressing up like Grandpa.

Another fun thing we did was to go to Thanksgiving Point to a fun fall festival. We had so much fun playing on slides, riding a cow train, bouncing on a trampoline thing, watching pig races, etc. We had a blast. Here are some pictures of all the fun we had!

We had such a great time out in Utah and look forward to our next visit!