No, I haven’t forgotten to post, I’ve just been a little busy. On Thursday morning, Hubs and I flew from Philadelphia Int’l to Midway (the nicest flight I’ve ever been on. I loved Southwest!) and then drove 40 miles north to Waukegan, IL for my little brother’s graduation from boot camp. Dad and Mom flew into O’Hare (our carrier doesn’t go to O’Hare) and met us at the hotel in Waukegan.
We got to the hotel early in the afternoon. Mom booked us adjoining rooms at the Ramada Inn. Not exactly the kind of place Hubby usually books for us, but it was clean, comfortable, and (most importantly) quiet. The hotel was full of other Navy recruit families. Why else would you go to Waukegan, anyway? Kidding, kidding.
After settling in, we headed north to Wisconsin to the Jelly Belly Factory (about a 10-15 minute drive). It was all Mom could talk about before we left New Jersey. She was SO excited! Alright, my opinion of the “tour”? Not really a tour at all. They put you on a tram car and drive you around the perimeter of a shipping warehouse, stopping here and there so you can watch a video clip on a television screen. The retail store made up for the disappointing tour, however. The showroom is stocked with every single flavor in individual hoppers. They provide plenty of plastic zip bags so you can fill up and mix and match all the candy you could possibly desire. Not sure which flavors to pick? Head over to the free Tasting Bar to sample as many candies as you want. Hubs and I ended up with an entire bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans (at $9/lb). My Mom bought $45 (!) worth of candy, although $10 of that was gifted when she got home. The cappucino flavored bean was one of my favorites, but the root beer, cream soda, orange, birthday cake, and lemon were pretty darn good, too.
After reaching our sugar quota for the week, we all went to see Lake Michigan. It’s HUGE! It looked more like an ocean than a lake, although the Jersey shore isn’t quite as gray.
Friday morning, we were out the door at 6:30am. Bro’s graduation didn’t start until 9am, but it’s crowded and they recommend you get there between 6:30 and 7:00. Ug. Even though it was only a few miles away, we arrived at Great Lakes Naval Base at 7am. The traffic jam of recruit families was what made it take almost 30 minutes to get in. As early as we got there, we still ended up near the top of the lower level bleachers. The late arrivals ended up in the balcony. The ceremony lasted 2 hours and was full of all kinds of pomp and circumstance. Lots of flags, marching, bands, and singing. It was very impressive to see all the divisions marching so well after only 2 months. Hubby said that Bro’s division did the best. I picked my brother out right away, but my Mom is short (5’2″) and it took her a little longer. After the ceremony finished, everyone made a mad dash down the bleachers towards their respective recruits. My life flashed before my eyes as I pictured myself getting trampled by hundreds of excited mothers and fathers. I made it safe and sound, though. Bro got big hugs from us and then the picture taking began. He looked quite handsome in his Navy Whites and Mom snapped who knows how many photos. We were able to take our recruit with us after he did a few things back at his compartment.
Bro’s very good college friend and his family drove 4 hours from their home in Indiana and spent the afternoon with us. It was nice to finally meet his “second family”. They truly love him and treat him as their own and he was so surprised to see them. He had thought only his friend was coming. We met up at the Gurnee Mills Mall and lunched at The Rainforest Cafe. I didn’t know Bro could eat that much! When he went in, my 6 foot tall brother weighed 160lbs. At the end of bootcamp he weighed 145lbs. He had gotten the flu and a sinus infection and had all 4 of his widsom teeth pulled, which probably contributed to the weight loss. After lunch, we wandered the mall and Jay was happy to be doing something “normal” and civilian. We said good bye to his Indiana family and drove Jay back to base for the night.
On Saturday, we did lots more eating and went to the Russell Military Museum in Russell, IL. Bro loved the place and he and Dad hovered over the jet engines for quite awhile. Bro is going to be working on them in the Navy and Dad worked on them for 17 years in the private sector. They were in heaven.
After our excursions, we hung out in Mom and Dad’s room drinking coffee and chatting. It was Bro’s first good cup of coffee in 2 months. He took a long, hot shower and napped in an honest to goodness bed before we dropped him off at the base.
Hubs and I left early the next morning and headed back to Philly. Mom and Dad arrived a couple of hours later. It was good to see Stuart and Hershey and they gave us a very excited greeting.
So that was my long weekend. I managed to knit 3 more mini sweaters while on the plane, but I haven’t picked it up again since I got home.
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