Jeffy and I got back yesterday afternoon from a whirlwind of a weekend in Illinois.
We left early Thursday morning. We had a flight from SLC to Chicago O'Hare at 7:10 am. That was a little early for Jeffy, and Jeff's mom, who drove us. We got to the airport a little before 6:00 and the timing worked out really well. Jeffy was pretty good on that flight. He fussed at a few points, but mainly snacked and napped. Hooray!
We got to Chicago and I felt like we were back in the real world. Utah has a weird feeling to me. Anyone ever been to that airport? It's huge! We walked from the gate to the luggage claim, then walked and walked and walked to where the shuttle from the car rental was picking us up. It felt like we walked to the next zip code! I had Jeffy in the stroller along with the diaper bag, and was pulling our suitcase. It made for one tired mama.
We finally got picked up and driven to the car rental place. I was so glad they had carseats available--one less thing for me to carry around. We got the car and took off. Great Lakes was about 40 minutes north of Chicago and to my surprise, the road we were told to take was a toll road. I wish I had known that in advance. It wasn't a big deal, thankfully. We drove and drove, then I guess I misread a sign or something because I got off the highway where I thought I was supposed to, and got thoroughly lost. I had brought the GPS with me, but it wasn't working so I pulled over and looked at the map for a while. I figured out our route and got us to the hotel all by myself! Hooray!
We checked in, ate some food, and went on a drive to see the area. We found the Great Lakes Naval Station easily and enjoyed getting to know the area a little bit.
Bedtime was a bit of a struggle. The hotel provided a playpen thingy for Jeffy to sleep in, but he wasn't too keen on the idea. Being in a new place with none of his regular routines threw him a little too. I eventually gave up and brought him into bed with me. After about a half an hour he fell asleep and I was able to unpack and shower, etc.
The next morning was Jeff's graduation. The ceremony started at 9 am, but the gates opened at 6:30 am, so I figured it was best to get there earlier than later. We left the hotel at 7:00 and drove the 5 minutes to the base. Nobody really knew where to go, and lots of people tried getting on base at the wrong entrance, and finally everybody just kind of followed each other to the right place. We pulled onto the base and were directed all around, ending up in a big parking lot. They had us pull up into a lane, cut the engine and wait for further instructions. Once the lane was full, we all showed our graduation pass and ID. The sailor who checked us asked if we had any drugs, alcohol, or firearms and I kind of giggled at him. He laughed back. I don't think I look like much of a threat.
From there we drove to another parking lot and got to get out there. Then we walked all the way to a front building, showed our IDs again, then walked to another building and got our names checked off a list, then walked to the Graduation Hall. It was super windy and super cold and I was super tired from lugging around my little chunk. We finally got inside and walked to our section. The bottom was full so we had to hike some stairs to get to the balcony. I think I got the last seat that would be in front of Jeff's division. Good thing we didn't leave any earlier.
Then the real fun began. We still had more than an hour before the ceremony actually started. I had some snacks and things for Jeffy, but those only lasted so long. They had some informational videos being shown beforehand and at times Jeffy was interested in those. They played some Sousa marches over the loudspeakers and he really liked that. Then the Navy band or whatever came out to play some songs. He liked th actual songs, but all the screaming/applause, etc. really scared him. He started screaming and it didn't really stop till . . . ever. The ceremony started, the divisions started marching in and everybody got up and cheered/screamed for their recruits. Which in turn made Jeffy scream. I had to get up and take him to a little hallway to calm him down. I tried multiple times to go back in and take pictures, but it never lasted very long. At one point, an old man offered to take him and was able to get him to sleep. Thankfully this was at the point where they were introducing the divisions and I got to record them introducing Jeff as his division leader. Jeffy woke up to the cheering not long after that and I wasn't able to take many more pictures or listen to much more of graduation. We went back downstairs to use the bathroom. We stayed down there for quite a while. I really didn't want to be told to go all the way back upstairs. We finally resurfaced to the main level and I saw that Jeff's division was standing right in front of us, Jeff at the front. So we stayed there for the rest of the program. It seemed to last forever. A lot of it was really neat and I would have loved to have been able to sit down and enjoy it, but with a screaming little monster, I just wished for it to be over.
Finally it ended and the sailors were granted liberty. I scooped up Jeffy and went to find Jeff. We got to him and had to wait for him to button his coat up all the way before he was allowed to hug us. Yay for the military. :) He looked great. As the divisions were marching in I tried to find him. I thought I had, but the guy looked too tall and thin to be Jeff, but it turned out to be him. He looked confident and happy. And who can resist a man in uniform? :) He told me he had to go stand watch for a little while before he was allowed to leave. That was disappointing, but oh well. That was about 10:45 am. An hour later he found us in the car and we left.
I should have known that the Jeffy monster that emerged during Graduation wasn't just going to disappear. The weekend was great, mostly. There were really fun times, then there were Jeffy times. He remembered his daddy immediately and wanted his full attention the rest of the time. Sure, it's understandable, but I need some attention too! Anytime all of the attention wasn't on him, he threw a fit. And sometimes if threw a fit even if all the attention was on him! We finally got to the point were if we wanted some time for just the two of us, we put him in the play pen and let him cry himself to sleep. I'm sure our neighbors appreciated that. He would usually be asleep in about half an hour. Usually.
On Friday we just relaxed. We got some dinner, watched some tv and just enjoyed being together again. On Saturday we went into Chicago. We went to the Navy Pier, which was fun. We took a spin on the giant ferris wheel there, and had to pay $6 for Jeffy to come with us. Lame. We found a really nice park--Oz Park--somewhere in the middle of the city and had a nice lunch there. Jeffy had a lot of fun at the playground. It was windy and cold, but still fun to be together outside. Those two days, Jeff had to be back to the base in plenty of time to be in his ship by 9:00 pm.
On Saturday we attempted to go to church on base, but we missed most of it. I liked the chapel there. It was a basic building with one main chapel in the center, then three or four smaller chapels on the side. It had just about every faith you could think of. I liked the idea of people from all kinds of different faiths joining in one place to worship. There was even a recruit getting baptized into our church that day. It was a pretty neat place.
Eating was kind of hard on Sunday, since it was Easter. We had forgotten all about Easter, and didn't plan ahead. Whoops. We did end up finding a nice nature reserve nearby and had dinner there. The rest of the day was just relaxing and planning for the future. Sadly, Jeff had to be back an hour earlier that night.
It was a mostly nice weekend. If Jeffy hadn't been there, it would have been fantastic. It was a little anti-climactic though. We went all the way there, Jeff graduated Boot Camp and finished everything, but we had to leave without him. Dumb. He will leave there tomorrow morning (Wed) and fly to Charleston. Then he flies back here on the 22nd and we all move out east together. I'm so grateful he gets to come get us. Moving is a big job and I really dreaded the thought of having to do it by myself.
Jeffy and I flew back Monday morning. That was hell. We were on the plane for about 4 hours and Jeffy screamed most of that time. I don't mean just crying, I mean screaming. A lot of people were very kind and patient and tried to help, but I could tell the girl next to me was really annoyed. I tried everything, but nothing worked. It was awful and I had to try very hard not to lose it and start crying myself. The worst part was that I didn't even have anything to look forward to at the end of the trip. On the way there, the anticipation of seeing Jeff made it worth it, but this was just depressing. Anyways, we survived. We're home, back into our regular routines and Jeffy's back to his mostly happy self. I'm not looking forward to the adjustment period in Charleston. But at least there I'll have Jeff with me.
So that was our trip to the windy city! It sure lived up to its name! And even thoughI had to deal with a screaming little monster the majority of the time, it was still wonderful to see Jeff. I am so proud of him. He worked really hard and excelled there. He finished with new confidence and self discipline. He helped his division do well and helped many individual recruits graduate. I'm really proud of him and grateful for how hard he works for our family. Love you, sailor!
(Lots of pictures to come soon.)