Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Better Way to Travel

Last weekend, I was planning to come back to Florida from my Kentucky visit on a commercial airplane. I was ready to lug my big red suitcase to the airport, wait in the long security line to halfway undress for the people with the sensory wands, and then try not to breath in other people's communicable diseases while in flight. But alas! I found a better way.

My wonderful brother and pilot, Brian, offered to fly me home! Brian asked Carrie and William to come along for a short stay in Florida. I was thrilled! We took our time Sunday morning, getting ourselves packed up. We had a leisurely drive to the uncrowded, small airport where Carrie, William and I sat in the lounge drinking lemonade while Brian checked the weather and did all the the preflight preparations. We loaded up the plane, a Cirrus SR22, a few minutes later and were taking off shortly after. What a difference from the airline chaos!

Once we were airborne over Louisville, I looked back to see how William was doing on his first flight at three weeks old (I know that sounds young, but it's perfectly OK. Brian kept an altitude of 6,000 feet or less so his little ears wouldn't hurt). He was sound asleep on his mommy's lap with his adult-sized headset on. Too cute! Kentucky law doesn't require a carseat in a small airplane, but we set it up in the seat for him anyway. He was much happier on Carrie's lap.

I sat in the co-pilot's seat and watched the radar for thunderstorms. It was neat to hear Brian talk to the air traffic controllers along the way. We diverted around several storms and landed in our town of Milton in just three short hours. Mike arrived as we landed. I was so glad to see him and my sweet Junah after being apart from them for a week. We all jumped in the Escalade and were at our house five minutes later. Can't beat that!

We spent the next two days at the beach, out to dinner and touring the Naval Air Station. William enjoyed his first vacation (as far as we could tell, anyway). Thanks so much, Brian, for bringing me home!!!

I must say I feel lucky to have so many aviators in my family. Mike's Dad, Lee, has been a pilot for many, many years and he has flown us all over the place in their plane. He even let me fly it a couple times (only once we were airborne - not sure I could master the takeoff and landing parts, ha, ha). Mike and all three of his brothers are pilots as well.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Recap From My Trip Home:

PART FOUR: another wedding

I had such a wonderful time at home with my family and friends over the past two weeks. Being in Kentucky where I grew up always brings such a special and comforting feeling. Before I left to come back home to Florida I was excited to attend one last wedding while there. This one was my college friend Tracy's wedding in Cincinnati. Isn't she the cutest bride?!

Congrats Tracy & Kevin!!!

Catching up with all my college girlfriends was so great. I hadn't seen most of them in almost a year, and some of them I hadn't seen since I graduated. We laughed and talked, and they all felt my big belly wishing us all the best with the pregnancy and the new baby. We have so many wonderful memories together. I was thrilled to see them again. I hope Abby Kate will be able to meet them all one day.

Me with friends, Carrie, Tricia and Meredith.

With Maggie.

Amber, Britt and Ellen.

With Meg, Maggie and Marcie.

Sara - We forgot to get a picture together! I wish we'd taken one with the ADORABLE little outfit you brought for Abby Kate. (Sara takes amazing photos if anyone in the Louisville area is in need. She specializes in baby photography. I can't wait for her to photograph Abby Kate. Sara, we'll be making a special trip for a photo session come November! I need to schedule with you.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Recap From My Trip Home:

PART THREE: nightmare in the basement

Every few days I think back to the encounter and crack up laughing, but I assure you, at the time I was the most frightened I've ever been.

I'd been having a lovely time at home in Kentucky visiting family and friends. After attending a wedding, Mike had to go back to Florida early for work that Sunday morning and Dad had left to play golf. So Mom and I planned to go into town to look for some things for Abby Kate. After lounging around playing with William for most of the morning, Mom jumped into the shower and I went downstairs to get dressed. My parents' dog, Taylor, (a black Huskie/Chow mix) was barking outside all morning. We had paid no attention to it, but when I got downstairs I could hear he was barking right outside the window on the lower patio by the guest bedroom I was sleeping in.

The blinds were closed and I thought maybe Taylor somehow saw my movement through the cracks, so I lifted up one of the wooden slats to peek at him. Sure enough, there he was barking at the window. I smiled at him and reached for the blind cords to draw up the blinds so he could see me better. I pulled them up fast trying to surprise him. Instead, I got the shock of my life when I saw what was on the other side of the window. Does anyone know what my worst fear in the world is? I know a lot of you do. There it was, a five-foot long, coiled-up, black snake on the window sill. Did I mention the five feet?! I kid you not. I'm not exaggerating. It was huge. And I am seriously, SERIOUSLY phobic. Its head was raised out of the coils just inches from me, staring at me through the window!

I about had a heart attack. I'm surprised that Abby Kate wasn't born four months premature right there in the basement. I jumped back, rammed my back into the bedpost, shrieking in terror. I ran out of the room and up the stairs, still screaming in a pitch I didn't know I had. I fell up the stairs before getting to the living room where I curled up on the floor crying and screaming. Brian and Carrie came running out with the baby. They kept asking "what's wrong," but I couldn't get it out. (I go into these weird convulsions when I encounter a snake - this one being by far the worst encounter.) Mom heard my screams and slipped getting out of the shower before running out in her towel, a trail of water behind her. She asked Brian, "what's the matter with her?!" I finally got out the word 'snake' and pointed to the stairs. At this point, they all thought there was a snake in the house. After I explained through my tears, Mom grabbed a hoe (still in her towel-dress) and ran out the back door! She's crazy, I know. She couldn't get a good angle to kill it, so Brian grabbed a can of Raid to at least blind it. He sprayed it through the window screen. Then it slithered off toward the door. We thought it might get into the garage.

Carrie and I ran to the neighbor's house and good old Steve came to our rescue. We'd have wanted the snake to be dead and gone, but he didn't want to kill it. I'm thinking, "are you insane?! Kill it!!!" Steve used the end of a garden tool to trap the beast against the brick wall. Then he used his hands - YES, HIS HANDS - to pick it up. Brian looked on from the safety of one of the lawn chairs. Steve grabbed the head in one hand and the tail in the other. He walked with it way back in the woods, his arms were stretched wide. The snake was still swayed in the middle. It was so long.

After it was out of site, I had Brian move all my luggage to the upstairs bedroom. I refused to go back in that room for the rest of the time I was home. Finding that disgusting thing was horrific. I am scarred for life. Brian, Carrie and Mom told me later that they thought someone had died by the way I was screaming. If I wasn't so scared, I'd have taken a picture for proof of the snake's enormity, but (1) I couldn't look at it after the initial finding and (2) I could never visit my own blog again if there was a picture of a snake on it. I'm shivering just thinking about having a picture of it. It gives me the creeps to know it's still out there in the woods. Maybe the Raid eventually killed it. Blech!!!

A Recap From My Trip Home:

PART TWO: a wedding and an anniversary

We celebrated our five-year anniversary by taking part in a friend's wedding June 16 & 17th.

Happy Five Years, Mike! I LOVE YOU!

Kris Diehlman is a long-time friend of ours. In fact, he drove Mike and me on our first date to TGI Fridays for dinner 13 years ago because neither of us were old enough to drive! He married a sweet, young woman named Grace on June 17. They are such a cute couple. Mike was a groomsman and I got to design their wedding programs. The rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception were all beautiful and we had a great time catching up with old friends.

Congrats, Kris and Grace!!!

Some old friends.

The program.

A Recap From My Trip Home:

PART ONE: meeting baby Will

We met our two-week-old nephew, William, when we arrived at my parent's house June 14th. He is just adorable. I got to hold him a few times and change him a couple times, too. Good practice. Mike even held him a couple times, but I couldn't interest him in changing a dirty diaper! Carrie and Brian are doing great. They are learning more and more every day watching William grow. It's as if he grows right before your eyes at this stage. During the week and a half I was home, he became more alert - his eyes started opening wider and he began responding to sound by turning his eyes and head. He also got chubbier! It's truly amazing to watch all that happen so fast.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Long Time, No Blog

I know, I know. It's been quite awhile since I've posted. I've been on the go since June 14th and I haven't had a chance to sit down to post. We left last Wednesday for Kentucky to attend a wedding. Mike had to return home Sunday for work, but I stayed to visit with my family for a week.

I've had fun getting to know my newborn nephew, William. He is adorable! I'm driving up to Cincinnati tomorrow to attend another wedding, and then I'll be leaving to go back home on Sunday. I have much to tell - including a really horrific story - so I'll be sure to post a more detailed blog entry (plus pictures) upon my return!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Words From Our Soldier...

Mike's brother, Bill, is a 1st Lt. in the Marine Corps and is a Huey (helicopter) pilot. He set off to Iraq for the second time back in February. His time there is more than halfway over at this point. We are anxiously awaiting his return home in September. He will have five months to spend here before he goes back again for yet another seven months.

In a previous post several months ago, I had promised to post updates as I got them. The following is an e-mail I received from Bill last week:

Hey Everyone,

First of all, let me apologize for being so bad at sending out emails this year! Time sure flies when you are out here. I think it is a combination of the "Groundhog Day" effect and the long days. We are just over half way finished with this deployment and I thought it would be a perfect time to send an update to you all and let you know how everything in Iraq is going.

Needless to say summer has arrived. The temps are breaking 115 everyday and it is getting drier and drier. The wind doesn’t help. It is very hot and just amplifies the heat. When I left last August it was 130 degrees, so at least we have that to look forward to. The flying has been good, not nearly as exciting as last year, but that is a good thing. I have been progressing in the squadron fairly quickly and picked up both my Aircraft Commander and my Section Leader designations. The first means that I am trusted to fly and fight with my own aircraft and the other means that I can lead a section of two aircraft on missions. The flight time has been good. I am hoping to break 1000 hours of flight time before we head home sometime in September. I am still on the same midnight to noon shift and I think my body just got accustomed to the strange hours. Better late than never I suppose. I am looking forward to heading home here in a couple of months. It will be a quick turnaround again, we are coming back here next year, but it will be great to relax for a few months. I am looking forward to having a nice dinner and sleeping for about a week. An added bonus is that it will still be beach weather for another month or so before it starts getting cool so I will take advantage of that. There is a lot I want to fit in that five months and I am going to do my best to pack it all in.

As far as the war in general goes, I think that we are doing some good. Every month that goes by we are seeing more Iraqis taking over some part of their own destiny. The Iraqi security forces are coming along and in a few years I am sure they will be almost self-sustaining. Personally, I think the worst thing we can do is have a whole scale withdrawal out of here and leave these people high and dry. I don’t think Iraq will ever be a world power or an economic powerhouse, but I do think we can get it to be stable enough where the Iraqi people wont have to rely on the US for its security or have to worry about being terrorized by the foreign fighter population. I think the big difference between this year and last is that the Iraqis are tired of being intimidated by the terrorists and are fighting back. I think the movement will spread and they will take that much more ownership of their lives. There is a long way to go, but it is still getting better.

I hope all is well with each of you back in the states. When you get a chance, drop me a line and let me know how you are doing.

Take care,

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sugar 'n' Spice

I guess that's what my belly is full of! We're excited to announce we're having a little girl!!! We had an ultrasound done this afternoon and the doctor told us it's a baby girl and she's doing great. We are so happy to know what we're having. I'm 21 weeks, so we're half way there. I've popped out considerably within the last few weeks, but I'm feeling pretty good. The neatest thing about this stage is that I can feel the baby move! It's the greatest (yet strangest) feeling. She is quite active. During the ultrasound she wouldn't be still. The doctor kept calling her a little dancer.

We've decided to name her Abigail Kate. We plan to use both names and call her "Abby Kate." We are thrilled and can't wait to welcome our daughter in October!

Mike is excited about having a daughter, although a little nervous I think. He said he's going to start shopping around for a good shotgun to scare all those future boys off the front porch. Ha, ha. No doubt he'll be an overprotective daddy.

Say hello to Abby Kate here at your right. You can see how she's curled up, with her feet directly above her head. We think she's precious!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Twenty-seven is the new 21, right?

Nope. Twenty-seven feels like plain old 27 so far. As of my birthday on June 2, I'm officially in my late 20's. The big 3-0 is only three short years away. Mike's birthday card to me read: "I still love you even though you're old." Ha, ha, heh, ha, ha. (Real funny, Mike. Let's not forget you're almost two years older than me!!!) To top it all off, I opened the mailbox to discover a letter addressed to me from the AARP! Can a girl get a break on her birthday, please?! I felt slightly better when I saw that it was addressed to a "Mr." Casey Wallace.

All jokes aside, I had a very nice birthday. I received lots of e-mails, cards and phone calls that made my day since we don't live close to our long-time friends and family. Mike surprised me with a huge cookie cake (a tradition in my family). It was delicious! He took me out to dinner at McGuire's - a neat Irish Pub in Pensacola - with Chad and Sommer. I had a great time.

However, I was in bed by 9:30. Now is that a result of pregnancy or age?? Hmmmm...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Welcome to the World...


I am so excited to share the news of the birth of my nephew, William! Very proud parents, Brian and Carrie, welcomed their son Thursday, June 1, at 1:25 p.m. Carrie was in labor for about 13 hours before delivering a healthy 7 pound, 1 ounce bundle at Suburban Hospital in Louisville, Ky. My mom and dad are elated to be grandparents for the first time! And I'm so excited to be Aunt Casey (to be later known to William as "Awesome-Aunt-Casey-who-gives-me-candy-and-treats-and-really-loud-toys-all-the-time") ha, ha. Just kidding... OK, not really. :)

Congratulations, Brian and Carrie!!!!! We love you and can't wait to come home to meet baby William in a couple weeks.