July 31, 2010

Gimme an E...Gimme an M...Gimme an I L Y! Gooooooo Emily

Yesterday was the big day.  The day that Emily went to her new school to see her classroom and meet her new teacher!  We were very excited.  I told her that morning, "Now pick a good outfit Em because at school you will have to wear your uniform so this is your chance to wear something that really tells your teacher who you are." 

And there you go.  At least she listened.  Her teacher seemed very nice and there were lots of fun play centers in the room.  Just what you would expect (minus the HUGE shrine to the Pope in the corner on the way out the door).

We then headed to the house of one of Em's pre-school buddies who recently gave up all the housing madness to move to the beach.  Can't say I blame them! 

As an added bonus, we got to watch all the ships coming back into port as the RIMPAC exercises are wrapping up.

Off to Bellows Beach today for some good boogie boarding and a birthday party.   

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July 26, 2010

Last One...Promise!

Ok, this is my last of the photos to share then it's back to reality.  School starts next week (Monday for Olivia and Tuesday for Emily).  Ahhh, back to the madness. 

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July 23, 2010

Up Close and Personal

As promised, here is a shot from the deck during a trap landing.  I think they said you go from 120 to zero in about 2 seconds!  If I'm not mistaken the pilot is actually accelerating at this point in case they miss the trap - that way they have the power to ascend and circle around for another shot!

This is a cat shot.  I want to know who the first guy was who thought "yeah, I know...lets hook a plane and just throw it off the deck...that'll work!"  Insane idea, insane experience!  Remember what I said below about the jet exhaust knocking you off the deck?  Well,luckily we didn't get that close but a plane turned around very near us at one point and the exhaust blew us about 4 ft. backwards. Luckily my friend was behind me and "had my back!"  It was like being hit with a fire hose!

This video is from inside the "flight ops" area.  This poor guy was trying to land about 20 aircraft and answer all of our questions at the same time!  One of mine was how much jet fuel does the ship hold.  Honestly I don't even remember the answer.  It was something ridiculous like 3 million gallons - hard to comprehend. 

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A Trap and a Cat (that's how we aviators talk)

My head is so full it's hard to know where to start - our trip to USS RONALD REAGAN was phenomenal and I wish every American could get an opportunity to see the amazing capability of our Naval forces.  So does the Navy.  The reason they organize these trips is so we will take back our experiences and share our story.  I only wish there was a way to download G forces!  Here goes...

We began the day with a safety brief which quite honestly scared the heck out of me!  By the time they were done I was sure I was going to either pass out or throw up.  Our plane, it was explained, was not a sexy way to travel and they weren't kidding.  By the time we had donned all of our float coats, cranial helmets, ear plugs, goggles and were strapped in with a 97 point harness system we couldn't talk, hear or move.  Oh, there were no windows, and we were facing backwards.  OK then!

Ok, I said the plane wasnt' sexy...I certainly was!  That little envelope my friend is holding contained our handy little throw-up bag and a twist tie...you know...just in case!  My mantra for the 1st 20 minutes was "don't throw up, don't throw up" until I realized the ride was very smooth and I was fine (for now anyway).  Nothing to do but close your eyes and wait.

This is our actual plane and trap landing!  They took this shot and gave us all a copy at the end of our trip.  Believe it or not, this is our second attempt...yep, we missed the wire the first time and had to go back around!  To tell you the truth the build up around the trap was so great that I have to say it wasn't as crazy as I expected.  The hardest part was not being able to see out the window to know exactly when you were hitting the deck (literally)!  The guys in front pump their hands in the air when you are close and yell "here we go, here we go" and that lets you know your approaching.  When we missed the trap they circled their hands over their heads to indicate we were going around again.  Disney has nothing on this folks!

I must say getting off a plane and finding yourself on the deck of a carrier (explained to us as the most dangerous place on the planet) was surreal.  The thing shouldn't float.  Really, it shouldn't.  Nothing but crystal blue ocean around us...and a few magnificent destroyers in the distance (my husband will divorce me if I don't give a SWO shout out here soon).  The deck was alive with activity and we were brought into the Captain's wardroom (dining room) and allowed to fluff out our helmet hair.   

We were then treated to lunch and a tour of the ship.  Big doesn't cover it!  She is over 1,000ft long, 8 stories high in places and holds a crew of about 4,700.  I would love to know how many miles we logged and stairs we climbed.  Yes, you could feel it moving. 

The ship was very busy doing flight ops but they did their best to show us a part of how it works while still trying to land a plane every 80 seconds!  This is the "Ouiji board" and it was surprisingly low tech.  They move around little wooden model planes and place different colored nuts and bolts on them to signify which need fuel, maintenance, etc.  They keep track of the exact location of each plane and it's status at all times.

We then went up to the Bridge and watched a series of cat's and recoveries.  This is one of the jets being "catapulted" off the deck.  It really defies logic, they really just attach a hook to the plane and throw it off the deck!  I was amazed at the short distance it took - I would have thought they used the entire deck for this.  The raised panel you see is simply to keep the jet blast from killing those on deck - it's hot and powerful (I'll tell you how I know that in a minute!)

Here is a plane coming in for a trap or recovery.  I took some great video that I will share later.  Again, defies logic.  They have 3 trap wires and believe it or not the pilots come in visually!  This is not done via computer (unless it's at night and then the pilot gives up total controll and a computer system 3 decks down lands the plane).  Which one would be more frightening?  They say there are no atheists in fox holes, I bet you can add Navy pilots to that list!

If you look closely you can see this plane is hooked on the first wire.  They say they shoot for the #2 but any trap is a good trap!  Hard to describe the ballet taking place at this point.  As I said, they had a plane coming in every 80 - 120 seconds and in the mean time they had to unhook the plane, reset the trap wire, move the plane out of the way without being run over by it (I love how they fold up the planes - like it's made of origami paper), clear the deck and be ready to do it again.  All this is done with absolute precision and no talking.  It is extremely loud out there even with double ear protection.

Helmet head aside, I loved that you couldn't go 10 feet without seeing a photo or monument of Ronald Reagan.  This was inside the Reagan museum on board which had some fantastic photos of him and even some soundbites of the "tear down that wall" speech.

One of our tour guides was very proud to show us this seal created by the crew and what each thing represented.  I think much to the chagrin of the public affairs officer who was trying to keep a schedule :)

Our "distinguished" group.  I can tell you by this time we were a tired, hungry and thirsty group!  Not sure if I could do a 4 year tour here. 

At one point we got suited back up in our lovely gear and were taken out on deck to see up close and personal more traps and cats.  I will show that to you via video later - still shots just can't capture that experience!  Here we are back in the wardroom and 2 of these 3 Admirals were brought on board by the COT (carrier on board transport) that was taking us home.  They were there to oversee some of the RIMPAC exercises still taking place.  The gentleman in the middle is the Japanese Admiral.

We were then presented with our Honorary Naval Aviator Certificate and a Reagan ball cap!  I love how it states that we have gained an "elementary" understanding!!  And here I was thinking they might let me pilot the next flight out!

Next step...the catapult takeoff.  At this point I might as well start typing random letters on my keyboard because there are no words in my vocabulary to describe this one!  While the trap was somewhat less than the build up - the cat description didn't even come close.  I told one of our group on the ride home that it would be hard to describe and she said..."maybe a car accident comes close?"  Tru dat! Zero to 150 in 3 seconds, a big bang and then it almost felt like we stopped.  All I could picture was when Wile Coyote gets hit in the stomach with a canon ball and his arms and legs shoot straight out as he is pushed back (remember we are sitting backwards on the plane). 

Pretty uneventful after that.  45 minutes later we were again on solid ground at Hickam AFB.  This was our view as we came out.  Truly a magnificent day.  As always, I am left with an amazing appreciation for our men and women in uniform.  We are fortunate to be Americans...GO NAVY!

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July 22, 2010


More than survived - had the time of my life!  It may take me days to recap the experiences I had today on my blog but since you all get up way before me I thought I would let you know I am home safe and sound and am VERY tired.  I have tons of photos and videos to share! 

Just so you know...I went from 120 to 0 in 2 seconds today, and from 0 to 150 in 3 seconds.  WOW.  More later...

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July 19, 2010

Birthday Fun

Say hello to my new friend!  My birthday was tons of fun and our dolphin encounter (to be technically correct my friend here is a wolphin...1/2 false killer whale, 1/2 dolphin) was pretty cool. 

There is a platform in the dolphin pool that you stand on and each person gets a chance to give a kiss, get a kiss, and do a little dance (that is what Emily is doing in this shot). 

It was largely a way for Sea Life Park to make more money on photos for $16 each but hey...it's not every day you get to kiss a wolphin right?

This photo makes me think of my girls...I'll let you figure out who is who!

A little wet from our new friend's tail, we headed to Dukes in Waikiki for dinner on the beach. 


When we got home my mailbox and lanai's were covered in streamers and balloons and gifts!  This is the food I made for the girls on Sunday night.  We had a great time and stayed up too late!

Daddy had to leave on Saturday for an overnight on one of the ships...Emily didn't want him to forget her so she decorated his backpack!  When we dropped him off he looked like the guy at the fair who sells balloons :)  Hmmmm, I'm thinkin second career?

Thanks all for the happy birthday wishes, cards and gifts.  If my day was any indication it's going to be a great year!
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July 15, 2010

North Shore

One of the bad parts about living in Hawaii is the pressure to always be doing something fabulous!  I feel guilty if we spend a day at home - I know...you are all pulling out the tiniest violins right now.  Poor, poor me.  Your lack of sympathy for me aside, I was feeling the pressure yesterday so I took the girls up to the North Shore for a day at the beach.

See those lava rock formations up there jetting out into the water?  That happens to be the exact location where Emily had her little spill back in January that landed us in the ER.  When I pointed that out to her she said "I don't want to be remembered about that!"  Me neither!

Happily this was a much less eventful day and we enjoyed an occasional wave and some fantastic snorkeling.

In case you were wondering, Emily does NOT let a little thing like being underwater with a snorkel tube in her mouth slow down her talking one bit.  She insists on trying to communicate with me as we swim around and see fish.  She lets out a huge scream of delight every time she sees one (which carries from her tube onto the beach for everyone to hear) and then proceeds to try and tell me about it...underwater. 


This usually ends with a mouth full of salt water and me hauling her back to the beach to clear it all out.  No amount of begging on my part seems to convince her that the world won't stop turning if she closes her mouth for a minute. 

Her sister has tried convincing her too!  At one point I plopped her on the beach, told her not to move, gave her a snack and then went snorkeling with Olivia!  Ahhh blissfully quiet.

Well in my quest to do all things spectacular (feeling just a bit sorry for me yet?) I have planned for a great week ahead.  Tonight is another reception (New Zealand I believe), Saturday we are going to Sea Life Park for a "dolphin encounter" followed by dinner at Dukes, Sunday I am having the neighborhood ladies over in the evening for a "wine and whine" and then next Thursday I am taking a flight out to the USS REAGAN!  Yep, I really am.  Don't know how my honey pulled it off but I leave here in the am - fly to the Reagan (yes, that includes a trap landing), spend the day on the ship and fly off that evening.  HOW COOL IS THAT? 

OK, now I'm not even feeling sorry for me.  Never mind that part :)  Stay tuned for pictures!!

Oh, speaking of pictures, here is the new bike!  Yes, Barbie has her own bike that clips onto the handlebars.  Of course.

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July 12, 2010

Let them eat cake!

Something about the sound of the ice-cream truck driving by that makes even us big kids run outside barefoot screaming "hurry - the ice-cream man is here!"  This treat was even better because it was free - once a quarter they drive through and give us all a free treat.  SWEET!

As if that wasn't enough sweets for my sweets, Olivia tried her hand at making a Pavlova.  We did this once before but it was one giant meringue bowl filled with whipped cream and fruit and it ended up cooked unevenly and hard to serve.  This time she made individual cups.


You have GOT to come try one ;)

Emily is working on roller blading now.  She is pretty good after only a few times.  We finally upgraded her bike from 12" to 16" this weekend too but I forgot to get a photo.  It's all the pink, purple and streamers you can imagine! 

This is what I get for having my children in the winter...presents in July for no reason!!
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