Thursday, December 9, 2010

Parents Visit, an Honorable Graduation and a Day of Pampering

With all of the craziness and excitement of having Marta in town, I didn't have a chance to pump myself up for my parent's arrival the evening she left to go back home! I knew moving away to SC meant seeing my family less (much less), so for my parents to come visit us for 1 whole week was heaven-on-a-stick. It's been totally ironic that my little brother, Mitch, was graduating from Army National Guard BCT (Basic Combat Training) and his entire 3-month training was in Fort Jackson, SC - literally a couple hours from us. Believe it or not, they drove down - the same drive Justin and I have driven countless times. When they finally arrived, we had the best couple days just relaxing and eating (of course).

My dad is part of a business group where if he does a job for someone, he can get points to spend at other businesses. Unfortunately, South Carolina is lacking in options of places to take advantage of using his well-earned points. He mentioned a couple places nearby - some bistro place and Cafe Mundo in Greer. I have been to Cafe Mundo a handful of times with clients.. pretty cute atmosphere. So, we decided to check it out and whattya know, both places are no longer open. We basically walked around downtown Greer aka Ghosttown, freezing our buns off. The town seems completely abandoned when it's not summertime, I wouldn't have been surprised at all if I had seen a tumbleweed cross the street. I was able to show my parents my office and around the clinic, which was fun.

Freezing while we walk around Greer

After Justin got off work, we headed downtown Greenville to brave the cold and maybe play some mini golf. Of all days, the mini golf place was closed, so we walked around a little before going to Mellow Mushroom for some yumski pizza. 

We spent the rest of the evening Christmas-decorating, listening to Christmas music and watched a movie. I haven't decorated with my parents in 4 years, so it was extra special for me.


The next morning, we left Fort Jackson at about 6am. Since we planned to be there for 'Family Day' and the following day for his graduation, we set up a hotel and had to find sitters for little Romeo. We made it to the base at 8am, expecting Fam Day to start at 9. We had heard the crowds would be pretty insane, with all of the soldiers and their families and the anticipation to move around the base with the most freedom they'd had in months. Little did we know, Family Day didn't start until 12 noon. We were there hours early and had to occupy ourselves before we could finally reunite with Mitchy. We roamed around the base for a while, found a Visitor's Center and tried to see what there was to do. The woman at the front desk looked a lot like Madea (Tyler Perry as a woman) and she was probably the most unhelpful woman to ever work at a Visitor's Center desk. She seemed pretty confused about why any visitors would possibly inquire about what things there were to do and basically seemed clueless as to why she was even sitting there in the first place.. Madea! Isn't that your job?! Of course, it doesn't take much to entertain my mom and me.. We found this little Christmas/winter display with creepy little Santas, animals and Christmas trees. Trying not to wet our pants laughing, we took some pictures with some of our new friends..

Finally noon came around and we made our way to a field, for a short program where the soldiers would be presented. We sat there, outside in the freezing cold, waiting to see our little soldier to appear.

Since there were so many people, it was good that we were a little early. The downside? For a 1/2 hour before the program started, a man walked up to the microphone with tinted glasses, a matching sweatpants/shirt ensemble, pants tucked into his socks and some extremely-large, orthopedic sneakers on. The guy looked exactly like Danny McBride, and Justin and I couldn't decide if we were witnessing a live SNL skit or if we were being punk'd. Mr. Sneakers seemed to have a good attitude, but it all went downhill when he announced he would be 'entertaining us' for the next 30 minutes. Sneaks began to sing - loud - his 'original songs' about America and the Army. He even included a few Christmas carols with alternate lyrics referring to "red, white and blue", "freedom", "patriots" and "God bless the USA". It was SO hard to take him seriously because of his twangy voice and his entire appearance. Bless his little proud-to-be-an-American-heart!

Mr. America singing his lil' heart out
We wanted to buy his CDs..

Finally Family Day was beginning, and as they announced the companies, all of the soldiers came running out of the trees from across the field. It was so emotional! I already go months and months without seeing my little bro, and even though I just saw him at my sister's wedding in September, I definitely got choked up. We finally spotted him in his platoon and as much as I wanted to scream and do jumping-jacks to break a smile out of him, I didn't wanna get him in trouble (plus I didn't wanna make a complete fool outta myself).

Finally, the introduction ended, and all of the families were able to rush the field to try to find their soldier. Mitch looked the exact same, but with his hair shaved even shorter, but he was all smiles.

We spent the whole day with him, touring the base some more, went shopping with him to buy a new laptop and some other things he needed, and at lunch at good ol' Taco Bell. The most noticeable change about him was how he ate. I knew that the soldiers literally only had minutes to eat any meal during BCT, and he was obviously used to it. He ate quick, with his head low, barely talking. I don't know why I felt bad for him, but I did. I was proud for him at the same time though.

On our way to see his barracks

Mitch received more letters than ANYONE!

Shopping and eating lunch

Enjoying some "real food" after 3 months of strict training
We ended the evening at the on-base bowling alley and had a great time laughing and being silly. We got to know a few of Mitch's friends, which was cool. It was so crazy to see him in his uniform the whole time.. even while bowling! So cute..

 We went back to the hotel, ate some nonfat KFC chicken (yeah, right) and crashed.

The next day, we proudly watched Mitch graduate. We met him on the field again before getting to head off base! It was still a little emotional, even though we had just seen him the day before.

We spent the day eating real food and laughing. Mitch had to get a new cellphone, which took a little longer than he hoped. We even stopped at Starbucks for some coffee while Mitch recruited yet another guy to join the National Guard (he has won an award back home for all of his recruiting). We went to see Unstoppable and then headed back to the base to say 'goodbye'.

It was such a great time couple days with my little bro. I am so proud of him, I can't say it enough!

The next day, we relaxed all day long. My dad was able to set up a huge day of pampering and massages with his business points. Go dad! It's funny, because earlier that week, my dad announced proudly, "I'm gonna set up for all of us to get the WORKS! Massages & pampering.. whatever you guys want!" Of course, my mom and I think 'spa' - thinking we would all travel to a facility for all of this pampering and massage therapy. Turns out, the arrangement was not a typical spa-deal, but actually a massage therapist and nail tech that do more personal pampering and home parties. All I could picture were spa people performing spa acts in my miniature apartment and, Oh boy... Here comes a blog post! In the afternoon, a massage therapist showed up with all of her gear.. massage table and everything. She set up a little 'massage area' in our guest room, and gave both my parents, Justin and me 45-minute full body massages. It was far better than I imagined! We even joked about the Friends episode where Phoebe's running her massage business out of Ross's apartment.. her massage client shows up and Ross massages the guy with kitchen utensils and toy cars!

The pampering continued with foot massages in my living room with the nail tech giving us each pedicures and paraffin wax dips! Whatta day! It was really a lot more relaxing and enjoyable than I thought it would be.. plus it was nice that we didn't have to drive anywhere and we could pretty much do whatever we wanted in the comfort of our own place.

My parents left the next morning for their hefty drive back to MN. We had such an incredible week and we got to do just about everything I wanted to! Can't wait to see them again for my brother's AIT graduation (schooling for National Guard) in Maryland, sometime in the spring. I'll miss them during Christmas again this year, but it will be nice to spend Christmas with Justin's side again this year! Many more stories to come..


What I'm listening to:
Ray LaMontagne

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