Tuesday, September 27, 2016

{Journal Entry} BMT: Graduation Parade, Open House, and Town Liberty

Today we were up early again, but not as early as the day before. This was where it was great to be at a hotel where they had breakfast. It started at 6am so we had missed it the day before, but ate there all other mornings.

Of course these would be our waffles here:

Don't mess with Texas.

We got on base by 7:15 am and parked near the parade grounds. At least the sun was up today when we drove in.

I was now wearing a smaller ankle brace and hobbled out to the stands. We were in the stands by 7:45 and even that early, found that all of the center seats were already taken. We took the last seats in the bleachers nearest them, and thankfully were in the shade and not in the side bleachers, which had full sun the whole time.

Yes, San Antonio is hot. And humid, as in you feel like you are constantly dripping, even at 11:00 at night, when it is still 78 degrees out with 90% humidity. I don't mind that kind of weather - what bothered me most was the contrast from going inside and outside. Most inside places kept their temps at at least 68 degrees and super dry, or low humidity. Going from one to another was not fun and I was actually really cold in some places.

The parade started promptly at 9am. All of the flights had made their way onto the grassy area.

Can't see them? Yup that is them, way over there. Another day where I was thankful for the binoculars.

All of the flights were accounted for and with great military precision, put at attention.

Then they began to walk around towards us and down the bomb run.

We all stood when the stars and stripes came by, leading all of the state flags.

Mr Lego Airman was in Kisling Flight, and towards the end, after the flags had passed.

There he is - he is second from the right, first one in the line.

The airmen marched back to their positions and then all flights came forward as they took the oath of enlistment. This is actually considered a reaffirmation of the oath, since they all took it the day they enlisted.

Then the Airman's Creed is recited, and then they are at attention until tap out.

And Mr. Lego Airman was an official airman!

He was free to come with us as we drove in our car back to his dorm. The Open House begins at 10:15, but the majority of us were stuck in a traffic jam and we didn't get to the parking area until about 10:30.

Heading into the dorms.

These dorms are newly built, and the trainees refer to them as "Disneyland". There are a few squadrons that are housed in the older dorms which are known as "Alcatraz", but don't worry, Alcatraz is just as clean as Disneyland, it's just an older structure.

Wolfpack dorm.

The thing is massive. I counted and I think that there are at least 24 flights in each dorm, which means there are around 1200 trainees in each building. And there are four of them!

 The entire building is raised so that they have a place to do PT and work outside without being in the sun.

And this is not the greatest photo, but the center of the dorm is hollow.

We went up to his dorm on the 4th floor (I went in the elevator) and were able to pretty much go wherever we wanted in his dorm area.

We saw the laundry room.....

and the Day Room. I didn't get a photo of that, but it was where they had some meetings and had mail call.

We were even able to go into the bathrooms and see the shower area.

This photos was taken in the day room, and is of him and his two MTI's.

 The MTI's follow the flight the whole 7 1/2 weeks. Mr. Lego Airman really connected with the one on the right, and was encouraged and motivated by him. He told us that he was actually really sad to be leaving him.

His dorm.

As element leader, his bunk was nearest to the door.

His clothing drawer, which was impressive.

He showed us the stack of letters he had received through the 7 1/2 weeks, and was very thankful for all those that wrote him.

His shoes, all lined up.

After a while, other airmen came around and were talking with him. A few even came up to introduce their parents to him, since he was their element leader.

 I'll tell you, all of these guys looked sharp and very neat.

After open house we said we would take him wherever he wanted for lunch. One of his wingmen had talked about Texas Roadhouse the entire time so he wanted to go there for a steak.

I am sure it was a bit surreal for him, sitting there in his blues, eating in a restaurant, and off base for the first time in 7 1/2 weeks.

The day before we had visited the ITT on base to see what we could do in SA. Unfortunately, Six Flags had a private event going on all weekend, which was a bummer since he had been looking forward to that.

But we found some other fun stuff to do for the next three days.

First, we visited The Alamo.

Yes, that is The Alamo. It is a pretty small structure and crazy that we could defend it for so long.

The next thing we did was a ticket package we had gotten on base - a haunted mansion, 3-D laser ride, and world record museum, conveniently right across from The Alamo.

No photos, but I will say that the haunted mansion was the most fun. This is the kind of place where they have live actors in there scaring the heck out of you. Stuff like that doesn't scare me so my brave men sent me in front of them...halfway through we were in a room with mirrors and I caught a glimpse of both of them cowering behind me, using me as a shield. I thought it was hilarious but I think both of them were glad when we got through it.

The museum had interesting stuff in it and we learned some crazy facts. And the 3-D laser ride was just that - you boarded a car and then shot lasers at targets while wearing 3D glasses.

The other big plans we had for today was doing go carts. 

There was about a half hour wait and while we were waiting the boys played some basketball.

Finally it was time to suit up.  I was cool with sitting on the nice couches there and videoing the race.

They got going pretty fast in those things.

It was getting late so we headed to Maria Mia's on Riverwalk.

We asked our server to please have us out of there by a certain time since you CANNOT be late back to base, and they totally accommodated us.

After we dropped him off, we walked across the street from our hotel to Riverwalk and had a couple of margaritas at where else? Margaritaville.

The end of another wonderful day.

{Homeschool Review Crew} ~ The Cat of Bubastes

I love having access to excellent literature in our schooling. And so I was thrilled to get to review The Cat of Bubastes from Heirloom Audio Productions.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

We have quite a few books by GA Henty; he wrote this particular historical novel in 1889. His books bring portions of history alive for my children, and help in our learning of history.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

The Story:

Taking place in Ancient Egyptian times, this story is about a young prince, who along with his mentor, are taken from their homeland and made slaves in Egypt. He becomes friends with the son of the priest in the household where he works. But then something unexpected happens and they are all are forced to flee from Egypt and end up back in the princes' homeland.

I received the audio dramatization of this story. We decided to sit and listen to the whole thing at once. The younger girls got out some art supplies and Bookworm did some crocheting. The CD is about 2 hours in length so listening to it all at once was totally doable. And we really enjoyed our lazy afternoon!

I was impressed with the quality and the voice-acting that I heard - the actors are well known and have been in other audio dramas. We enjoyed hearing Brain Blessed, Anthony Daniels (Star Wars) and John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings) to name a few.  The story does start out slow but in typical Henty fashion, has adventure, heroes, and narrow escapes. The girls really enjoyed listening to the drama and asked that we put it into the car for our next road trip.

I also received some other extras with the CD to check out as well -

  • Cat of Bubastes Study Guide
  • M3P version of the drama
  • printable posters
  • e-book of the original Henty novel
  • Behind the scenes on the making of the audio drama

These were all downloads which I put onto my computer. We actually own a hard copy of the book, but I did appreciate that they gave me access to an e-book as well.

 I also took a look at the Study Guide. This 48 page downloadable guide is very helpful in bringing out historical notes from the story. There are comprehension questions, map work ideas, vocabulary pages, and sections that teach more about ancient Egyptian culture.

The study guide is very appropriate for encouraging discussion about the story. I did sit down with the younger two girls and ask them some of the questions and we talked about life in ancient Egypt. I really appreciated the notes about the culture and religion of ancient Egypt and used it in our discussion.

As is true with all of Henty's books, the hero has excellent character qualities, and is courageous and very intelligent. If you have never had the opportunity to read Henty's books I encourage you to check out this, or other titles from Heirloom Audio. There are other Henty books that they have turned into audio dramas, including With Lee in Virginia, Under Drake's Flag, Beric the Briton, and more.

Also, check out what other reviewers thought about Cat of Bubastes by clicking below!

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, September 23, 2016

{Journal Entry} USAF BMT WOT:7 Airman's Run, Coin Ceremony, Base Liberty

I am combining my weekly BMT post with a journal entry. So many fun and interesting things happened while we were in Texas last week, that I felt I needed to journal our experiences.

The big wrench in our plans was that the week before, I had sprained my ankle pretty badly. So I had rented a knee scooter to get myself through the airports. The plus side of this little dilemma was that we got to board first and sit up near the front of the plane; on the negative side I needed some more pain meds - not for my ankle but for my poor knee and thigh muscle that took the brunt of my scooter motions.

Our flights to Texas were uneventful, and we landed around 8pm Central Time. Getting to our hotel though, was a bit of a task.

There were a few things I liked about Texas and a few things that I really did not like, and one of those things I detested was their freeway system. They have these annoying one-way frontage roads, that go alongside the freeways, and are how you exit and enter the freeway itself. These exits and entrances are not right there at the cross streets, so you need to know exactly where you are going ahead of time. Our poor GPS had no idea how to handle these things and when it would think we were on a frontage road we would be on the freeway. Because of  this, we would inevitably miss our exit, and then watch helplessly as it passed us as we were trapped on the freeway.

Finally, we made it to our hotel, right near the Riverwalk.

That night we ate at Smoke Restaurant in downtown at 10pm, since we were wide awake and not at all tired.

 {My drink, a Jack Rose}

We split a poutine (if you have never had one you need to try it) and a burger. The poutine was delicious, but the burger a bit dry.

Next morning, we were up and out of hotel door by 5:30 am (3:30 am back in CA). Getting on base was not a problem since we had our base passes already, but do take my advice and HAVE YOUR ID OUT, when you get to the front of the car line. I thought we were going to be getting out of our cars and standing in a line, so I didn't get it out until the last minute, and then had a mini heart attack/freak out moment when I couldn't find it in my wallet. After about 45 seconds of sheer terror, and a friendly security airman, I found my ID behind another card and we were on our way.

We made our way to the BMT reception hall and took the 7 am orientation class. I am the kind of person that does a TON of research before taking trips so we knew most of what they said, but there was lots of good information, so don't miss the meeting.

At around 7:30 we made our way out onto the pad behind he reception center. I had now graduated to a large ankle brace and could hobble as I walked.

You can either sit in the stands and watch, or go into the center circle and have the trainees run around you.

Promptly at 8am, the Airmen's Run began.

This is where you definitely need to know what squadron your trainee is in (Our boy was in Wolfpack), so that you know what color shirt they will be wearing (black).

It was an amazing moment; 750 trainees running in formation, chanting their jodies. While all around, thousands of family screamed, cheered, and waved signs.

Mr. Lego was still an element leader, which made him easy to spot since he was in front of his flight.

He looked so different to me!

After they came passed the crowd, they circle back around and come through them again. But this run was different - Sept 16th is POW/MIA Recognition Day, so the second run was led by the POW/MIA flag, and we stood in silence as they all passed.

It was neat moment, and as the trainees ran back to their dorms, we headed inside to the reception center. There was a gift shop there and even though it was a bit crowded, I found what I was looking for:

We headed back outside to the pad, but this time into the stands for the Coin Ceremony.

First was the Honor Graduate Ceremony. These trainees had scored very high on all their tests and were recommended for this honor by their MTI's. Only the top ten percent in each flight can get this honor, and many times not all ten percent receive it.

The next part was the Naturalization Ceremony. There were seven trainees that began BMT as citizens of other countries. Before they could become airmen, they needed to be sworn in as American citizens, so we were honored to witness this.

Then all flights began their entrance.

This was where I was really glad that Dasher had let us bring her binoculars.

He was easy to spot in the front.

This next part was for me, the most emotional part of the whole week. The head of the BMT training wing said a few words about what an amazing accomplishment this was. He talked about the sacrifice we and the trainees had made, and will be making in the future as they serve our country. He talked about the Air Force as a whole, and officially welcomed us into the Air Force family.

Then the MTI's began to pass out the coins to their flight. As they were doing this, they played patriotic songs like God Bless the U.S.A., and God Bless America. It was a very moving moment.

You can barely see it above, but Mr. Lego is being presented with his Air Force Coin. (The third black hat you see from us was his MTI. He is standing right in front of him.)

The flights then all sang the Air Force Song ("Off we go, into the wold blue yonder.....")

And then they also recited the Airmen's Creed. There is no way to describe how this sounds, especially the ending.

The final ceremony was the Retreat. This is when the national anthem is played, and the flag is lowered and folded. During this time, there was a speech about the flag, that in light of recent events, really touched my heart.

At the conclusion of Retreat, we were invited down to tap out our airmen.

Along with the other thousands of other family members, and me with my busted ankle.

We had decided ahead of time to tap him out together, and since he was in front of the flight, we came around and stood behind him.

 On three, we both tapped him on the shoulders.

As soon as we tapped him, he turned and gave me the biggest hug I think I have gotten from him, ever.

It was surreal, seeing him in his ABU's and a member of the greatest air force in the world!

He was now free for base liberty for the next six hours or so.

We took him out to our car, where we showed him the sign we made for him (which he did not see during the run), and a handful of letters that we carried from home for him.

We drove over to one of the mini-malls on base where he decided to have Popeye's for lunch.

Be prepared to stand in line and have patience wherever you go this day - 750 airmen plus their families are stuck on base and doing the same things you are doing.

We were texting the girls back home, and they wanted to see a full length photo of him, so I sent them this one:

That afternoon we explored the base, while asking him tons of questions and hearing lots of stories about his time during BMT. He also got to call some friends on our phone and he texted his sisters for a while too.

We went to the bowling alley on base and put our names on the list for an hour of play. While we were waiting, the guys played some pool.

They bowled for an hour (I sat on the couch behind them and rested my poor ankle) and got almost 4 games in.

We had originally planned to take him to a nice dinner at the Gateway Club on base, but he was due back a little earlier than usual, since someone in their flight messed up that morning.

But we were just very thankful to be able to hang out a few hours with our new airman!

That night My Sweetie and I decided to explore the Riverwalk a bit. We stayed at a hotel very near to it, and were able to access it through the mall. I highly recommend staying on or near Riverwalk; hotels provide parking for their guests which is a plus. If you come to Riverwalk and try public parking, they charge a crazy amount. And our hotel was only about 20 minutes from the base, and 15 minutes from the airport.

We ate at Casa Rio, as we were drawn in by their colorful umbrellas and fun lights.

A margarita on the river is a must.

We got combo plates - here is mine with an enchilada, tamale, and taco.

It was a very lovely way to end our amazing day.

 Next up was an early day (not as early as the one before), parade ceremony, dorm tour and some town liberty!