• Allie and Ryan

    Allie & Ryan

  • Allie and Ryan 2

    Allie & Ryan

  • Allie and Ryan 3

    Allie & Ryan

  • Ryan and Allie 4

    Allie & Ryan

  • Ryan and Allie 5

    Allie & Ryan

Monday, June 15, 2015

Stefan Graduates High School




Last week was a crazy one for sure. I worked Sunday and half a day Monday, then I got the Dup and we got in the car to drive six and a half hours to go to my parents' house in Western NC. It is a long drive, 410 miles or so, and unfortunately with Ryan in cycle it was just the two of us.





We had a rather uneventful drive for the most part. It did storm really badly at one point so I got in the right lane with my flashers on and drove 30 miles an hour, but it didn't last long! I also got my first audiobook (Billy Crystal's Still Fooling 'Em which I highly recommend!) and that helped the ride go by a bit quicker. The reason I am driving out there?

My baby brother graduated high school


That little dimpled face is how he always seems to appear in my head! But he isn't five, he is someone who is nearly six feet tall, crazy strong, super intelligent, and just all around amazing. And he is totally worth driving 800 miles in less than three days for. I got in late Monday night and Tuesday evening was the graduation. His high school actually used the auditorium at Western Carolina University, hence the giant purple cat thing in the background.


I am so ridiculously proud of this kid. He was in the technical honor society (hence the white chord) and was the only student to graduate with perfect attendance... all four years. Who does that?! My baby brother, that's who. He also has had over $150,000 offered to him in scholarship money. I remember when he was in elementary school, struggling with his dyslexia and dysgraphia, frustrated when it slowed him down. But with tutoring and some of the hardest perseverance I have ever witnessed, he rose above it. Honors classes, amazing honor roll level grades, top notch ACT scores... he has been living proof that learning disabilities only hinder you as much as you let them. I look up to him for that and I am so incredibly proud of him, I cannot say it enough.


We got there a little early... so we did have to sit for awhile. My parents look thrilled as does Emilio, Stefan's best friend from growing up that flew in to surprise him! But finally the ceremony started.


The ceremony was good... I don't really know how to judge these things since the last high school graduation I attended was my own ten years ago, but it seemed decent. 


My mom teared up when they played Baby of Mine and displayed baby pictures of the seniors (see the clothes basket above) followed by their senior portrait, but we all held it together pretty well. Their valedictorian was a sixteen year old who skipped two grades and in her speech referenced both Harry Potter and Taylor Swift (sigh) but otherwise everything went well. All too soon my little buddy was swaggering his way across the stage.

HE DID IT!

As the ceremony ended he held up his diploma to us, waving like crazy and giving us the thumbs up... he was the only one who did and I made sure to get a picture of it. He was so incredibly proud, as were we, and he was the only one who did such a thing. Because he is just that amazingly awesome.

Still proud!

I also finally got to meet Halie, his girlfriend, who is an absolute sweetheart. My baby brother has chosen well. They were best friends for nearly four years before they finally started dating, even though Halie is a year ahead of him in school they made it work. Stefan decided to go to school not too far from where Halie currently goes, so they plan on staying together for the foreseeable future. 


Since Stefan picked me up at my college graduation (on the left in 2009 at the WWII Memorial) I had to recreate the picture on the right in reverse. I did kick off my heels first! He was convinced I couldn't pick him up but I showed him! We all went out for a nice dinner afterwards and had a great night.


Wednesday came way too fast and before I knew it it was time to hit the road. My parents are moving at the end of the month so this would be our last time in their amazing mountain house. The view above is the view from their deck and one I am definitely going to miss. The six and a half hour drive will now only be a two and a half hour drive, which is awesome. My family only moved to the mountains about five years ago, so I didn't grow up there, but it is the house Ryan and I spent our honeymoon in and we still have a lot of great memories, it was sad to leave.


But Dup and I hit the road again and for the first time in her three and a half years she stuck her head out the car window! I had to take a picture to send to Ryan as proof! My mom was driving behind us and even called me incredulously saying, "Is the Dup sticking her head out the window?!" 

Yes, my dog is weird.

The drive home was long, especially when we hit traffic, but I am glad I made the trip and got to celebrate this milestone with my little brother.

I'm proud of you buddy!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

In Their Boots/Jane Wayne






The first Saturday in June SOI-E held am "In Their Boots Day" or what was formerly known as a "Jane Wayne Day". I've always wanted to go to one of these and I was pretty excited when I heard I finally would be able to go to one! Ryan's old unit held one when we first moved to North Carolina but we didn't hear about it until it was too late and I was unable to attend. Even though Ryan was mid cycle he was told he should be able to join me, so I signed up. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, it is basically like "Take Your Child to Work Day" but for military spouses and children... except maybe a little more geared towards spouses for the most part as you do have to be 18 to go to the rifle range.

So that is how I found myself getting up earlier on a Saturday morning than I do normally on work days when I open! By 7am I was on base signed in and ready to go. Ryan's friend Mark, also a Combat Instructor, had his girlfriend Kayla sign up as well and I was thankful for a familiar face.... especially since Ryan got held up at work and ended up not able to meet up with me. I thanked Mark and Kayla profusely for letting me be their third wheel, and to Mark for taking so many pictures and carrying our bags for us!



Our first stop was the rifle range. My husband has talked about rifle ranges since our dating days so I was pretty stoked to be able to finally do one. They had everything set up for us and we basically just had to lie there and shoot!



We were given flak jackets and kevlar as well as ear and eye pro... I think we did pretty well but Ryan made fun of me when he saw the picture. Apparently my kevlar was crooked. We had to wear long sleeved shirts, pants and closed shoes for the range so I was glad it was done early in the morning before the day got too hot. I know my husband will be on the range for hours and come home hot, sweaty and exhausted with interesting tan lines, so our one hour in the early morning suited me just fine.




We were only given fifteen rounds and I was proud of myself for hitting targets on the 50, 250 and 500 yard line! If I had know the "score" they were tracking was just based on hitting the targets in general versus the distance I probably would have stuck with the closer one! :P I won't share my score but I will say that I hit three on the 500 yard line!


After the range we took the bus back to base and got to try all the other activities, including a night vision goggle obstacle course and the ISMIT. The ISMIT is basically a simulator that they do rather than a live fire range. Above I am using the grenade launcher and below the 50 cal. machine gun. The grenade launcher was a ton of fun and the whole thing shook back and forth, it was crazy powerful! The .50 cal rattled me around a bit too!



We also got decked out again to ride in a Light Armored Vehicle, or LAV, which made my husband jealous as he even said he's never gotten to ride in one! 


That LAV went fast too! Kayla and I were standing in the back (we decided to be good grown ups and let the ten year old kid take the gun turret) and we had to hold on to keep from falling off our perches as we flew around the turns!


They also landed some helicopters in a nearby field that we were allowed to get on and explore.


I got to sit in a Huey! It was a tight squeeze, not gonna lie. No wonder they have height restrictions for pilots! When we explored the CH 53-E I nearly wiped out three different times since the floor was slick with hydraulic fluid and my sneakers have basically no grip. The crew at least got a good laugh out of me, happy to help!

"Get to the choppa!"

I had a wonderful time and I am so thankful SOI-E went out of their way to plan such a fun event for the families. We all received t-shirts, SOI-E canvas bags, and Jane Wayne day dog tags too. I had a blast and even though I was bummed Ryan couldn't make it I was grateful Kayla and Mark kept me company. If you ever get the opportunity to attend an "In Their Boots Day" go for it!!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Things They Don't Tell You...

Things they don't tell you about miscarriages...

Ok, maybe some of them are things they did tell you, but you were too numb/emotional/overwhelmed to acknowledge them. Maybe some things you stumbled on via the internet, like I did. But some things you don't really know until you experience them. If you are here from a google search, I am so sorry. I know my words do nothing for how you're feeling, believe me I know, but I still will extend it to you. So. Here we go.

Your first period after a miscarriage will suck.

Every person is different physically. Your first period may not happen for months or right on schedule. It may be super heavy or super light. It depends. But it will still suck. Me personally? It arrived right on schedule and was one of the most painful periods I ever had in my life. It was heavy and it hurt and it was hell. I woke up at 4:30am in so much pain that pamprin, my heat pad, and more advil did nothing to conquer. I ended up in so much pain it made me throw up. It. Sucked.

What was worse than that?

The last time I had cramps I was losing my baby. So to feel that again was hell.

It was also a giant middle finger to myself from, well, myself.

So many people in trying to help kept mentioning after you have or lose a baby your body is the most fertile. So many people get pregnant right afterwards.

Well, I didn't.

So my period arriving right on time like a barreling freight train felt like a giant middle finger. A lot of people may get pregnant right away. I am not one of them. It. Sucked.

Your hormones will screw with you.

I cried over the most random things. I cried at my own train of thought. I cried at commercials. I cried when I had more hair falling out than usual (another side effect). I cried when Mother's Day rolled around. I cried when people were nice to me. I cried when Ryan looked at me funny. I cried when the dog was nice to me.

You cannot make this stuff up.

If you are a faith driven person, it may be affected. 

It's not something I blog about often, but I am Catholic. I went to Catholic University so it really isn't a secret or anything, I just tend to not blog about religion/politics/controversial things. But my faith has always been a big part of who I am. And with everyone adamantly saying "It's not your fault." over and over again... so my horribly illogical brain got angry at God. I definitely have been failing. I prayed so hard to get pregnant, then to keep my baby when I suspected the worst.... and then it was gone. I know God guarantees us nothing, but my anger at him was enormous, like the hole in my heart.

It is slowly ebbing. I have yet to return to church, but I will. I am wearing my cross again and I have started reading a devotional book (Grieving the Child I Never Knew) that I got at the library. It is helping. Small steps. I admire people who can turn to God in the dark moments. I always have before, but this was a whole new kind of pain and I haven't handled it well. But I am getting there. You too may lose your way. Or you may grow even stronger... if you are the latter I envy you. If you are the former, you are not alone.

Being around babies may kind of suck. But it may help too.

My neighbor had a baby last month. Their baby girl was barely three weeks old when I miscarried. At first being around her broke my heart.


The first picture on the left was pretty much the week of my miscarriage. I sent the picture to my mom and she asked if anyone else knew I was crying in that picture. My husband saw it, my mom saw it on her phone, and I can see it, but not many other people can. The middle picture was a few weeks later where I am doing much better. Ryan holding the baby on the right was around the same time as the middle picture. He said it felt right to hold her, that good things were coming, that our turn wasn't far away. I wish I had my husband's faith sometimes.... but again I am getting there. Anytime my neighbors ask me if I want to hold her, I say yes. I don't want to be bitter or angry. I want to heal. It is not just a physical healing, it is emotional (and spiritual) too.

If you talk about it, others will.

Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.

Thank you to those who commented on my last blog. Thank you to those who emailed me, texted me, messaged me on facebook, or called me. Thank you to my family, my friends, my coworkers. Thank you to the people who don't know me well who shared with me. Thank you to those who said, "Me too. I'm here if you need me. I wish I had had someone." Thank you to those who listened. Thank you.

If you need someone... I am here. I am still climbing, still struggling, but I am here. I am moving forward, slowly but surely. It shouldn't be a taboo thing people are afraid to talk about. It is personal and it hurts and you feel so so alone, but you truly aren't. I promise.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Loss

I wasn't sure if I wanted to write this blog. Ryan and I talked about it for awhile and he finally looked at me and said, "Do you think it would help anyone else? Because that is what I think your blog does. It helps people." I thought about that for a bit and I remembered some of the "harder" things I had blogged about. I blogged about two surgeries, when my marriage needed some extra help, the Birthday Ball, PCSing, bullying, deployments, wedding planning, engagement.... and whether someone said it to me directly or in a comment or an email I know they helped others. So maybe this will help someone too. I know I felt pretty alone for some of this and finding some other blogs did help me. I've had my blog for nearly six years now and this is part of our lives... the good and the bad. 

Ok.

I wanted to blog about our fifth wedding anniversary on May 1st. I wanted to blog about Mother's Day.  But I couldn't.... not this year.

Right before our anniversary I had a feeling. I was late. We have been trying to conceive since July with out much luck. My being sick and having surgery probably didn't help matters but when this month rolled around I couldn't help but get excited as the days continued to pass without my monthly visitor arriving. On a whim I went and got a pregnancy test on my way home from work on a night when Ryan was lateman and on the range and wouldn't be home. I had gone with my friend Donna to buy Ryan his anniversary present (we do the traditional gifts if you remember, so year five is wood and he got a rocking chair from Cracker Barrel) and as soon as she left I took the test. 

Not even thirty seconds later it showed positive.

I screamed. I cried. I scared the hell out of the Dup.

Ryan had mentioned me bringing dinner to him so I texted him asking if he wanted me to bring him food. He replied yes and I was pretty thankful. I am awful at keeping secrets and I knew I was about to burst. Ryan had to be the first to know so I couldn't see or talk to anyone else before him! I wanted to do something cute and special but I was on a time crunch. I found an old bracelet box that I wrapped and put the test inside with a special message.



I had to drive almost half an hour to the range where Ryan was and my heart was racing the entire time. I sent him another text saying I really had to talk to him in private about something that happened today. He agreed. I finally got there and sneakily set up my phone on the dashboard to record his reaction. I told Ryan I had an early anniversary present for him and I couldn't keep it a secret. He was really funny saying he didn't even have mine yet and he had been on the range all day and he didn't think he could properly appreciate a present at the moment. I don't have the heart to post the video itself but you can see from the below screen shots he definitely appreciated the present. I was smiling like an idiot and we both probably cried.
We were very excited. We called our parents to tell them the news but decided beyond that we wouldn't start telling people until the right amount of time had passed. Ryan had to mention it to some of his coworkers when he got back in since he was worried and telling them about how we had to have a "talk". We also agreed some of our best friends could know too. I hung out with Ryan for awhile longer before heading back home and calling my best friend Sam to tell her the long awaited news. As I was on the phone the Dup promptly hopped up on the bed with me and snuggled in on my belly.... something she hasn't done in ages.


For a very, very short time.... things were perfect.

On our fifth anniversary I woke up feeling ok, but kind of crampy. I didn't really think anything of it and I called the Naval Hospital to talk to my PCM about what to do next. They told me just to head in to the lab that day and we'd go from there. Ryan got home after I got out of the shower and we started discussing what to do for our anniversary. My stomach was starting to cramp more and more and I started to feel a little nervous. I went to the bathroom and saw a little blood and my heart stopped.

I called my mom in a panic. Was I overreacting? Was this normal? She told me to call my doctor.

I called my PCM back, choking back tears, and asked what to do. After being passed around they gave me to a nurse who had had implantation bleeding and they wanted to make sure she was the one I spoke with. I described everything and she told me not to panic and to come in and do my test as planned. She also told me other symptoms to look for if things weren't good. Ryan had to go do a height and weight thing and take a MarineNet class and we agreed to meet up after I went to the lab. When I got to the Naval Hospital I went to the lab and they handed me a cup to give a sample. I went back into the rest room and my heart basically stopped. So much blood... it scared the hell out of me. I couldn't give a sample, all that was coming out was blood and clots and it was bright red.... the color the nurse warned me wouldn't be a good sign. I came out of the bathroom shaking and crying and the technicians walked me straight to the Emergency Room.


Not where I expected to be on my fifth wedding anniversary.

In the ER things were nuts for a bit. I finally managed to give them a sample, but it was basically red. They took blood samples and my vitals and it was a lot of waiting. I texted Ryan and he told me he was on his way and he arrived just as the doctor came in to talk to me. Based on some of the tests they knew I was pregnant, but early.... but they weren't sure if it was just a regular pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy, or a miscarriage. An ultrasound showed my lining looked pregnant, but it was too soon to see if anything was there or had been there. They also did a vaginal ultrasound to try and rule out an ectopic pregnancy since I was in pain. Naturally in between all of these there was the endless waiting of the Emergency Room. Ryan crawled in to the bed with me and held me as I cried since I was so terrified. We nodded off for a bit too before all the tests came back... inconclusive. After hours and hours.

My doctor was wonderful. He had me at ease as much as can be but I was still a crying mess, but he was great. He scheduled me a follow up for that Wednesday. He basically said if my blood work went up (my HCG) then I was still pregnant, but if it stayed the same or dropped it would indicate a miscarriage. So with a follow up appointment and prescriptions for Tylenol, prenatal vitamins and zofran, we were finally on our way. Since we took separate cars I got in mine to drive home. I hadn't eaten all day so I stopped at Panera to get some soup at the drive thru. As soon as the bag got in the car and the smell hit my nose, my stomach turned and I felt sick. I drove home with all the windows open while secretly thinking, ok, this can be a good thing. Maybe it means I am still pregnant. And then I got home and threw up just in time for Ryan to walk in the door. Poor guy. I got into bed with some medicine and a movie and essentially napped the rest of the day. I had an ice pop for dinner and then we went to bed by 8:30.
I worked the weekend. I was off Monday. I cleaned and grocery shopped. I worked Tuesday. All along I took my prenatal vitamins. I bled for another day or so, but it got lighter in flow and darker in color. All good signs. By Wednesday I was hopeful when I went for my appointment in the lab to get blood drawn.


My arm did not agree with all the needles. It is still bruised and multi colored weeks later. Ryan had duty Wednesday but he asked me if I was ok to go alone. I was. I honestly thought deep down things were going to be ok so I didn't feel the need to have someone with me. I had prayed... our parents and my best friend were sending good vibes and thoughts and prayers. I thought I was still pregnant and around New Year's Eve (my estimated due date) we'd have a baby joining us for the New Year. My appointment with the OBGYN wasn't for two hours so I went home, showered and then headed back to the hospital for my appointment before I was supposed to go to work a closing shift.

Waiting in the waiting room my heart was racing. Women in various stages of pregnancy were all around me and I kept getting that small spark of hope. The nurse finally took me back and we went over everything waiting for the doctor to come out of surgery to see me. She eventually came in and looked at my blood results.

They were down to 5. Pregnancy is detected at 25 and up. I had dropped a lot. I had lost the baby.

A miscarriage.

Even typing the words makes me start to cry again.

The flood gates opened in the doctors office as they handed me the box of tissues. I had to do another ultrasound (of course vaginally) to double check and they said most of the lining even was gone from comparing to five days ago. Everything basically had already passed and she told me I may continue to spot for awhile but it was almost over.

I basically miscarried on our fifth anniversary. I just wasn't sure until five days later.


The doctor was very kind and I basically sobbed my heart out. Both the OBGYN and the ER doctor told me it was nothing I had done, it was probably due to a chromosome abnormality and something was not right so my body naturally passed it. There was nothing I could have done differently... it wasn't my fault. Logically I understood it all... I really did. But emotionally I didn't want to hear it and continued to cry. The doctor offered to call my husband's command to release him or to write notes for us both and I declined. I left and got myself outside and called Ryan to deliver the awful news. My husband had to hear I lost the baby on the phone and I felt awful for him as I sobbed. He told me to get to the car and stay, he was on the way. Duty be darned. I texted my mom and my mother in law and my best friend... I couldn't say it out loud again at that point. I was devastated.

I sat in the car and sobbed until Ryan arrived. He held me and told me again it wasn't my fault. It was ok. I was due to go in to work but I knew I couldn't make it through the day. Ryan got a call from his CO and was told to finish one thing and then to go home with me. I decided to drive over to the library to talk to my manager and see if I could go home. I calmed myself a bit and drove up to the library. I know I could have called but again, I didn't want to be on the phone either. And I wasn't sure we were covered staff wise either. 

I got to work and to the reference office and my boss wasn't there. Standing in the back hallway looking around like a trapped animal my good friend from work, Jo, saw me. She asked me if I was ok and I shook my head no. I told her I lost it not even realizing she had no idea what I was talking about. She figured it out pretty quickly as I once again sobbed my heart out, not realizing I still had tears left. We sat in the office as my manager came in and filled her in. My manager Tara is wonderful and she and Jo listened as I cried and tried to calm me as I waited to hear if Ryan could go home. I was told to take the day off, we were covered, and I was so thankful for the two of them so I didn't have to be alone. They both asked me why I went to that appointment alone and I told them... I honestly thought it would be the opposite outcome. I truly thought I would be still pregnant and ok. I stayed at work, crying with them, for maybe an hour before Ryan was dismissed. I drove home still in tears.


Most of that day I sat with Ryan on the couch and cried. And as unhealthy as it was, drank. I had a few beers as I sat there alternating between numb and sobbing my heart out. I don't really remember what else happened that day... if we watched tv or what we ate or anything. It all was in a haze. I talked to my mom, Ryan talked to his. I cried a lot. I didn't go to work the next day, Thursday, either. Ryan had to go back to work that second day and I stayed home and cried off and on some more. He dragged me out of the house that night for dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings just to distract me a bit, which I appreciate more now than I did at the time.

Ryan was worried for a bit when I said I was angry too... angry at myself, angry at the situation, angry at God even though I knew it was wrong. Sometimes it is just easier to want to place blame. I was angry at the one person who asked me if I had done anything strenuous to cause it, or if I was still on pain medication for something (and the answer was NO to both). I was angry at the one ER nurse who said "Oh don't worry honey, it was only a bunch of cells anyway. If you did lose it, it wasn't a baby." (Note: I am Catholic and we believe life begins at conception... that is my personal belief and I will not impose it on anyone else or make anyone else believe what I do... but wrong thing to say to me.) I was thankful Ryan saw my reaction and held me tightly, in a discreet way, so I didn't punch either of them. 

Anger, hurt, guilt, sadness, devastation, mourning, loss, pain, heartache... hitting over and over again.

My heart still hurts. Occasionally I still cry at the drop of a hat or get hit with waves of sadness. That's the hardest. The hormones make it difficult as I go through the waves of sadness or anger. Friends, family and neighbors have reached out and made me feel loved. Some days are harder than others. Mother's Day I had to work but I fought back waves of bitterness and sadness all day.

I know we can try again. I know this doesn't mean it will happen again... I can have a perfectly healthy and normal pregnancy someday as far as the doctors are concerned. But there is always that chance... what if? What if this happens again? To be honest I do not know if my heart could handle it. I have friends and family members who have had multiple miscarriages and I cannot imagine going through this again and again.

I know it won't always hurt like this. I know it will get less painful and less difficult. But our wedding anniversary will now be tied to this loss. Maybe it won't always hurt this badly, but I will think of it. New Years Eve, my due date, will have these thoughts crossing my mind again. It hurts. I still hate those thoughts that go into my head.  

I lost it. I am not pregnant anymore. I had a miscarriage. I lost my baby.

Ryan told me he tries to see the good in every situation. When situation A happened, situation B was able to... and it couldn't have had the first not occurred. But I cannot see any situation that makes losing a child ok. No good can come out of that. Even if and when we get pregnant again, it will not be a joy replacing a sorrow... it will be something separate. Yes it would be wonderful, but it is apples and oranges to me. I cannot see any possible good and I am trying so hard. I know this is where my faith comes in to play and I am trying to leave my heart open to grace at the moment. I am trying to let go of the anger and the bitterness. I am trying to heal. Even though physically I now feel ok, mentally and emotionally it is much slower going.


So, maybe this will help someone someday. Maybe you will see you are not alone, even though you feel like you may be. The hurt, the guilt, the anger, the pain and everything in between... I feel it too. If you found this because of a google search or anything, I am so sorry. I know nothing I can write here will help really, believe me, I know, but maybe it is a start. To any of my friends or family reading this and finding out the news this way, I am sorry I didn't tell you directly... it has been too hard for me to talk about out loud. I know my mom has handled telling some family for me, but I do not know for sure. I told her it was ok to mention it since I just am not up for it yet. Writing this has helped a bit (as all over of the place it is), sort of a catharsis, but I have a long way to go.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dining In 2015

On Friday the MCT portion of SOI-E had a Dining In that we were lucky enough to be able to attend. Ryan and I have been married nearly five years and together over seven and this is the first time we have been able to attend one! Other units had them scheduled and then cancelled over the years so we were looking forward to an evening out together. Plus, I always love a reason to see my husband in his dress blues! Dining Ins are a little less formal than Birthday Balls, so cocktail attire is encouraged, but I did see a mix of dresses for sure. Most women were in cocktail dresses, some were in long formal gowns, and one or two were in very casual dresses. It seemed anything semi dressy was acceptable, but I googled the bejeezus out of it ahead of time to make sure! I rarely have an excuse to wear a little black dress, particularly one as comfortable as the one I did wear, so I was all about the cocktail attire.


We clean up pretty good! I worked half a day and then used the extra hours to work on my hair and make up, always a challenge for me, but I thnk I did ok. The Dining In was held on base and it was a beautiful evening. The last time we were at this pavillion was for our first Ball in Lejeune, and the docks were under construction. A backhoe does not a romantic backdrop make! But three years later it looked really nice. We arrived for the cocktail hour and were early enough to take advantage of the limited open bar... as in we each got one free drink before the free part ended! Works for me! We mingled and I met some more of Ryan's fellow instructors and their spouses, which was nice.


The Dining In is all about rules and ceremony... including lining up and marching in to your seat. Once you are seated, you do not get up until the break otherwise the Vice can make your spouse pay a fine and visit the grog bowl. Other infractions include rudeness, breaking ceremony, uniform infractions, or anything else the Vice and the President deem to be punishable. Needless to say if you have to pee, you hold it! The dinner was nice and once the guys got into the spirit of fining the heck out of one another it was pretty entertaining. The grog bowl is pretty disgusting. The liquid inside almost looked like a bloody mary and was kind of thick with chunks of unidentifiable things floating in it. The poor Marines who had to take shots of it (some only had one, others had as many as five or more) looked pretty green afterwards!
 
Other traditions, besides staying seated, include the President having to taste the beef (to make sure it is "fit for consumption") as well as the wine. The Marines are usually pretty mean and do something to the food and wine to make it gross (I believe ours covered the beef in super hot sauce but I have heard of it even being covered in cat food before) because the President has to eat it. If he doesn't, no one else is allowed to eat anything! So unless you want a hundred or so hangry people, you stomach a small bite.


After the break (and a huge, mad dash to the bathroom) the fines are closed and you do the traditional toasts and the guest of honor speaks. Ours was a Sgt Major who has been in many years and nearly moved me to tears at one point when he spoke about some of the amazing men he served with and lost... including one of his good friends who was killed in the recent helicopter training accident in Florida a little while back.

Everyone is given a cigar to enjoy for when the smoking lamp is lit. Ryan and I have been smoke free for over eight months now, so we didn't even chance it with a cigar... I was pretty proud of us for sticking to it.

 
After the toasts and speeches the President dismisses everyone to the bar to join him for a drink (and a cigar) and you are free to mingle or go home. We hung out a little longer and chatted with some people before heading home again.
 

It was a lovely night and we both had a really nice time. I do have to say, as much as I love dressing up, it was super nice to change in to my sweat pants when we got home. We snuggled on the couch and watched the Simpsons and ate grilled cheese sandwiches.... you can't beat that!
 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Stefan's Visit

Last week my 'baby' brother Stefan was on Spring Break and he asked if he could come spend it with us. Of course we said yes and the day after Easter he arrived for the week. I was pretty excited! Even though we are about a decade apart Stefan is most definitely my buddy, especially as he has gotten older. Sadly, Ryan and I both had work, but our evenings and free time were well spent! As soon as Stefan arrived he and Ryan fired up the grill and got their man status established. We had a nice dinner and took Rylie for a walk (which made her absolutely ecstatic... I think Stefan is one of her favorite people in the world!)
 

Ryan was actually on the rifle range all week so he had some very early mornings, but on the plus side he was home early enough in the afternoon to take Stefan out some places and have me meet them later. One day we went to the beach on base and got to see a pretty neat training exercise. Stefan was pretty stoked about it! The beach was a bit windy and cool both times we went, but the guys still did some skim boarding and had a blast.
 
I am so glad Ryan and Stefan get along. These two are like frick and frack... Stefan has even sort of adopted Ryan's sense of style. My brother has had the high and tight hair cut since we got married and he wanted to blend in with the other groomsmen, and the sperries and cargoes are definitely a staple of my husband's that Stefan borrowed! I think it is adorable. My amazing little brother also took it upon himself to weed and edge our yard and clean out our garage to say thanks for feeding him for a week!


I was actually off work on Friday so Stefan and I went on base to see the Budweiser Clydesdales. It was hot and sunny and we both got a little sunburned, but we both had a good time. Those horses are huge! Plus they had the dalmation (and a dalmation puppy in training!) along for the ride. It was a lot of standing around and waiting for them to arrive and get harnessed up and then they did a lap around the exchange parking lot. After the passed us we dashed out of there to avoid traffic and we stopped by the library so he could see where I worked.
 






Saturday I had to work but the guys had a good day together. After I got off of work we went bowling on base and ended up playing about five games in a row! We had a lot of fun together.
 
Proof I actually WON a game!!! I am the 94 (: and yes we know we are awful
I also used the opportunity to take some rare pictures of me and some of my favorite guys...
 



This is my new screensaver on my phone... I adore it!
Then somehow Stefan stole my phone and was messing with it. He told me to smile for a picture but then I quickly realized he was just holding down the button and taking picture after picture after picture! I think he took about eighty in a row! Below you can see the exact moment I realized it too...

Stefan left Sunday morning after I left for work and drove the long six and half hours back to Westen North Carolina. I am going to miss my buddy when he goes off to college this fall all the way in Vermont! He finally decided on Norwich University (or as Ryan likes to call it, "The North's version of the Citadel") and will be attending as a cadet this fall. I am ridiculously proud of my kid brother, if you can't tell! Thanks for the visit Stef, I will see you at your HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION in two months!!!