Whirlwind Weekend Courtesy of the Army

My goodness. I have just slowed down enough to have the time to write about my (fantastic) whirlwind weekend. It started in Oklahoma on Thursday night with a Hail and Farewell. For those of you not familiar with Hail and Farewells, they’re a tradition in the Army where incoming members of a unit are ‘hailed’ and the departing members are ‘farewelled’. We attended plenty during Clay’s active duty days and they’re often a good time, especially since alcohol and food are almost always involved. We were surprised that we would be hailed due to Clay’s status being Federal and not Active military but because he works with both military and Federal civilians on his new team, both Federal and Active military are hailed. Learn something new each day. Anyways – the event was held at a wine bar and children were encouraged to attend. So that is how we ended up at Rinie’s Kitchen and Wine Bar in Lawton, OK with our son on Thursday night.

I think the mood lighting, my wine glass, and his sippy cup just scream class, don’t you? And I still can’t believe that we were THAT couple. You know, the one that brought their toddler to a wine bar. However, it was nice to meet the people Clay works with and their spouses and I loved hearing their stories of how they ended up in Oklahoma. Around 8:30pm, we said our goodbyes, put a very tired toddler into his car seat, and began the three hour drive to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.

But first, we stopped at Starbucks for Venti drinks. We needed our caffeine fix. Bad. Because we were driving to DFW. On the drive down, we were commenting on how crazy of an idea this was and how perhaps we didn’t think it through 100%.

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We finally arrived in the vicinity of the DFW airport around 11:30pm and checked into a hotel by midnight. After about 3 hours of sleep, we woke up at 3:30am so we could be out of the hotel by 4:30am. Yes, 4:30am.

By 6:00am, we were on the plane (in the same row!) and gulping more Starbucks. Having Weston secured in a car seat for the straight through flight was well worth the extra ticket. He slept almost the entire way and didn’t even make a peep when awake, as I was prepared with stickers, milk, and a new Mr. Potato Head toy. The flight attendants and surrounding passengers loved him for it. As did we.

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We arrived in Raleigh just before 10:00am, where we were greeted by Clay’s parents. They drove both my Volvo and their car to the airport after dropping Lucy off at our house. I may or may not have hugged my car when I saw it. After some breakfast (more coffee!), we then made our way toward Greensboro, NC. Why you ask? Well, Clay’s unit was finally having the formal homecoming ceremony. I know, I know, they’ve been home for two months now. But with everyone coming home individually and at different times, there wasn’t the opportunity for the official welcome home until this weekend. It was held at the Koury Convention Center and Hotel in Greensboro as part of the Yellow Ribbon Weekend. All of the soldiers were given a free room so they and their significant others could stay the night and attend the presentations together on Saturday.

Even though I have had the opportunity to hug him and kiss him daily, I still got a lump in my throat when I saw him in full uniform, marching into the room. Clay gave a great speech, complete with an inside joke directed at me. After the ceremony, Clay’s parents took Weston back to our house and we checked into our room and got ready for a night out with other members of the unit.

Don’t ask – I don’t know why Clay is making that face. A big group of us went out to dinner, where we were easily the loudest in the restaurant. We all then went back to the hotel and proceeded to bar hop within the hotel. Yes, there were thatmany bars in the hotel. It was huge! The other patrons had no idea what hit them – a bunch of rowdy soldiers back from war, celebrating their return. Some even partook in cougar hunting.

We. had. so. much. fun.

Sorry, there are no pictures from that night that I am comfortable putting on the Internet. 🙂 Possibly because I had my first taste of French Martini’s. Ever! I can’t believe what I have been missing all of these years. We woke up Saturday morning, operating on just under 8 hours of sleep over a 72 hour period, and attended meetings and presentations all morning and afternoon. Needless to say, massive amounts of coffee was consumed. Afterwards, we said goodbye to friends and drove back to our house where we were welcomed home by hugs from Weston and kisses from Lucy. It had been almost a month since we had last seen her, so we were super excited to see our little girl.

When Clay’s parents left to go back to Wilmington, we played with Weston until it was his bedtime and then ordered a pizza, which we ate while watching DVR’ed shows from Thursday night, such as Parks and Rec (fabulous, as always). I then preceded to fall asleep at 9pm. On a Saturday night. I couldn’t physically stay awake any longer. I wasn’t talking in coherent sentences and waves of nausea overcame me. I was that tired. Sleep was wonderful.

Yesterday morning, I woke up sad because I knew I was going to have to say goodbye to Clay. Ugh. Weston and I dropped him off at the airport and he flew back to Oklahoma. Weston and I are staying here in NC tying up all the loose ends and we hope to be back in Oklahoma by the end of March. When I was driving home from the airport I realized something. The past two months were the longest uninterrupted time Clay and I have spent together since getting married. We woke up together every single day for a little over two months. There were no TDYs, no deployments, and no field exercises. It was amazing.

And that was my whirlwind weekend. I am still tired.

Wichita Wildlife Refuge

Remember when situational comedies on television would often have some sort of joke about having to sit through vacation slide shows at dinner parties? You don’t hear the joke much anymore due to Facebook becoming the new dinner party slide show. After all, you can spit and hit a picture of a swim up bar at Sandals or a booze cruise on Facebook. But you know what? I always remember thinking that it actually sounded like a decent time – seeing pictures of places I had never visited, like Acapulco and Australia. I know, I know, it’s probably just another example of how I am lame. So if this image obese blog post about the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge reminds you of the (so-called) dreaded vacation slide show, I apologize in advance.

Scrapping our plans to go to Oklahoma City, we instead went for a drive through the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, the oldest managed wildlife refuge in the United States. Comprised of about 59,000 acres, the area is surrounded by the Wichita Mountains, which are roughly 500 million years old. To compare, the Rocky Mountains are estimated to be between 80 and 55 million years old. We really enjoyed the drive and I couldn’t help but take tons of pictures to document our day. Don’t worry, you’re only going to see a handful.

The refuge is home to 806 plant species, 240 species of birds, 36 fish, and 64 reptiles and amphibians. The Wichita Mountains are in full view and the prairie land seems to stretch for miles. There are also many small lakes on the property, perfect for our kayaks and fishing poles.

Along our drive, we spotted quite a few American Buffalo grazing.

And white-tailed deer too. Sadly, we didn’t see any Texas Longhorn cattle (like we saw this day) or Elk within photographing distance this trip. Additionally, armadillos and prairie dogs call the refuge home, with all the animals being preserved for their cultural and historical importance.

After spending about an hour driving around the flatland, we headed toward the summit of Mt. Scott. And no, I didn’t get any pictures of our journey to the top. The road was narrow and lacking guard rails for the majority of the climb. I was too busy avoiding looking over the rocky edge. It is funny, I am not afraid of heights when I am at the top, only on the assent. Is anyone else like this?

I made Clay take a picture of me standing at the top of Mt. Scott. He managed to get a picture of klutzy me, tripping over a rock. Nice. I didn’t fall to my death so don’t worry, I am not blogging from the afterlife. Mt. Scott has an elevation of 2464 ft. All of you readers in Alaska, the Rocky Mountain states, and anywhere else with a legitimate mountain range can just keep the smirks to yourself. In Oklahoma, 2464 ft. is high…I will take what I can get!

Mt. Scott offers a great view of Lake Lawtonka. In fact, if you look closely along the shoreline, you can see the neighborhood where we would love to buy a house. The house we love has a fantastic view of Mt. Scott and feels very Oklahoma, with a large front porch and distinct prairie style. Only time will tell if it will eventually become our home.

The wind was really whipping up top Mt. Scott, as evident by Weston’s hair. His hair is too cool for school, don’t be jealous. So there you have it – that wasn’t too bad, was it?  Hopefully the ‘slideshow’ wasn’t too painful. Now if everyone will grab their gin and tonics and make their way into the kitchen, the first course will be served in 10 minutes.

“Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain,
And the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet.”

Back in Black Yoga Pants

Hallelujah! My Internet use is no longer limited to the 2×4 confines of my iPhone. We now officially have Internet in our apartment. How people lived fulfilling lives before 1993 is beyond me (I am kidding…sort of). Clay and I have decided to go sans cable during our time in the apartment and foolishly forgot to pack any sort of games. Therefore, our last couple of nights were limited to some old fashioned entertainment and Red Box movies on the computer. But not any more…we have Internet! And I can for realsies blog again! Can you tell I am excited?

To catch you up to speed with how we have been spending our time, let’s go ahead and look at some pictures.

We gave Weston one last ride on the luggage cart before our leaving our hotel. And blah, blah, blah – I am sure there are some people who are aghast that he is partaking in such an activity without a helmet or knee pads, but we prefer our son not to look like a nerd as he cascades through hotel lobbies.

We also moved into our temporary dwelling. We’re living minimally in hopes of buying a house soon. Anyone know any spells or the like to increase the likely hood of selling a house? If so, please pass them along!

Weston annihilated us in the Peg Game at Cracker Barrel. Watch out Watson!

We think we have found where we want to buy a house. Hint – it is near this view.

And this one.

And finally, we celebrated Valentines Day because commercialism told us that not doing so would be un-American. Yay for cupcakes and cheesy cards.

And now you are caught up. I can’t wait to start blogging on a daily basis again…I have so much to say about our new location. Some good. Some bad. But you know what? I think I am going to like it here. The little guy and I head back to North Carolina next week for a month or so and then it will officially be goodbyeNorth Carolina and hello Oklahoma.