Rob's Winging Ceremony + Our Next Adventure (Part One)

The minute that Rob got his soft patch wings on Wednesday evening, I feel like the whirlwind began!   I headed home because Rob had to stay to finish some paperwork and then go to a meeting.  Five minutes before his meeting is scheduled to start, I get a text from Rob telling me some HUGE news.  Of course I freak out and text him back a few  a million times with no response because he is in the meeting.  The news is so huge that I know I can't tell anyone with Rob being home so I am running around my house like a crazy person, trying to process everything and not spill the secret.
 photo 7d4e59cd-2e87-4182-a4fe-22091fed5420.jpg
 photo 2a1e572a-7120-4559-9d2f-339a714feae3.jpg
So what is the big news?  Rob found out that he was selected to fly the new F-35 Lightning!  He was the first student EVER to be selected from Meridian to fly this jet  and was totally shocked and honored...and obviously thrilled!  (The F-35 isn't even listed on their "dream sheets", where they rank the potential jets they want to fly, so Rob didn't even know it was really a possibility!)  This means that we will be moving to Beaufort, South Carolina where Rob will go to the rag/fleet replacement squadron for the next year-ish to learn to fly the F-35.  It's been a couple of weeks and I still can't believe that it is happening.  We called our families, ran across the street to celebrate with Blair and Wil, and literally were on cloud nine all night!
 photo 2013_F35_DR_J00022_38_1267828237_2972.jpg
The next day, everyone came into town for Rob's winging.  I picked up Rob's sister Erin from the airport, met up with my parents and Rob's parents at our house and waiting for Rob to get home from work.  It was so nice to have everyone in town to celebrate!  We went to our favorite Meridian restaurant, Harvest Grill, for dinner and then called it an early night to prepare for an early morning the next day.
 photo IMG_6722-1.jpg
Rob's winging started at 8:30am on Friday morning.  We grabbed everyone breakfast sandwiches from the Sandtrap and then headed to the squadron for family day.  There was a few speeches, awards, a video at the squadron and then we were able to head over to the sim building to let our families fly the jet simulator.  We had a quick break to eat lunch at our house before headed to the chapel for the formal ceremony at 1pm.  The ceremony was short and sweet: a quick intro speech then the pinning of the wings and then done.  Each person was called up to the stage, a quick bio was read, the wings were pinned on, families posed for pictures, and then on to the next.  (There were 19 people winging with Rob).  It was an honor to be able to pin those wings of gold on Rob's chest, knowing how hard he has worked over the last three years to earn them.
 photo pinningofthewings.jpg
 photo IMG_6622.jpg
 photo fbbcdcb6-0e3a-46f5-b2fe-4a73d0492375.jpg
 photo 467492ed-5018-4027-815e-9653d4e82417.jpg
 photo winging.jpg
We had a little bit of time to change and relax before our families and a few close friends came over for dinner.  I had dinner catered by Dickey's BBQ, cupcakes from Margie's Mixing Bowl, and aviator sunglasses as party favors.  After dinner, we headed to the official winging party at the Meridian Little Theater.  We've been to several winging parties in the past however I am definitely going to call this one the wildest.  It's safe to say we took "YOWO - You Only Wing Once" a little too seriously ;)  It was a blast to be able to celebrate with everyone, even if we paid for it the next day.
 photo PicMonkey Collage 33.jpg
 photo IMG_6598.jpg
 photo e5b8d14e-9c50-42e9-94b0-6dcec789670b.jpg
 photo 29bc5eb6-a5be-48c4-b607-d9e94bd987a0.jpg
Our families stayed in town for the rest of the weekend and we showed them the typical Meridian tour - aka we took them to Weidmann's and my parents ate BBQ in a gas station (Pappy's) ;)  Overall, it was a wonderful weekend and I am so proud of Rob for earning those wings of gold!

Final flight in the T-45 + Soft Patch Wings!

Ever since Rob started flight school, I have loved learning about all of the traditions in the aviation community.  It seems like every milestone is celebrated with a fun tradition: the shirt tail cutting after solo-ing in the Cessna, the tie cutting and taking a swim in the VT-3 pool after soloing in the T-6, platform selection, and finally the most recent: the final flight of flight school!
 photo DSC_4269.jpg
 photo DSC_4214.jpg

When Rob got back from the boat/weapons detachment, he had eight flights left in flight school.  With his winging date two weeks away, we knew that he had time but that it would be close.  Of course, it turned out to be even closer than we hoped!  On Wednesday (the week of the winging), Rob still had two flights left due to weather problems earlier in the week.  After a crazy stressful day of "happening/not happening/happening/not happening", Rob completed his final flights of flight school!  Just before the sun set and right in time, I was lucky enough to watch Rob land his last flight from the flight line.
 photo DSC_4215.jpg
 photo DSC_4227.jpg
 photo DSC_4234 1.jpg
As tradition requires, when Rob got out of the plane and took off his gear, a crowd was ready to greet him -- along with a fire hose to blast him with cold water!  It just so happened his final flight landed on one of the coldest days so far this winter ;)  After sufficiently soaking him down, the commanding officer of the squadron ripped off Rob's soft patch, with his name and the EGA, from his flight suit and replaced it with his new patch with his name and aviator wings!  That patch with the wings has been displayed in a glass case in the squadron every single day since Rob checked in, as a constant reminder of what he was working towards.  It was so exciting to see him finally able to wear those wings and know that he had made it through flight school!
 photo DSC_4238.jpg
 photo DSC_4239.jpg
 photo DSC_4252.jpg
 photo DSC_4258.jpg
 photo DSC_4266.jpg
Look at those wings!  Rob was the last person in his class to finish so I hoped that they would tell him which aircraft he would fly and where we would be moving when he landed but in typical military fashion, they kept us on edge for a little bit longer :)  I will just was well worth the wait!

Hokies in Atlanta

While Rob was gone on the detachment, Virginia Tech just happened to have a Thursday night game against Georgia Tech in Atlanta!  Since Blair's husband was gone on the detachment as well, we decided to make a quick trip to the ATL to see Danielle and watch the Hokies play!
 photo IMG_6294.jpg
 photo IMG_6288.jpg
We left Thursday morning and got in town just as Danielle was getting off work.  We headed to the Virginia Tech Atlanta Alumni tailgate at the Brickhouse.  We got to hang out with the Hokie bird and even meet the athletic director, Whit Babcock.
 photo 7a74a2a8-725e-4650-9182-70efa6ee41ea.jpg
 photo 676ab7ce-e7a0-4a61-846a-7df442490d09.jpg
We walked a few blocks to the stadium and headed in to the game.  While it wasn't Lane Stadium, it was exciting to see the Hokies play and to watch Frank Beamer in action one last time.  The game was a nail biter but we ended up with seats right behind the end zone to savor a Hokie win!  It was the perfect little getaway to break up the detachment.

My husband is a Hooker!

Last month, we said goodbye to the boat-stache which means Rob officially landed the T-45 jet on a space the size of a tennis court on a moving air craft carrier ship in the middle of the ocean!  Sound insane?  I think so too!
 photo IMG_6180.jpg
In the two weeks leading up to the boat, Rob's class paused what they were doing in flight school and spent every single day practicing "bouncing".  This means doing dozens of landings on ground each day, hitting the same spot every single time, to prepare to successfully land in that tiny space on the boat.  On the last day, I was able to go out to to the flight line and watch Rob bounce and "call the ball" over the radio.

Rob received his carrier qualification on the USS Eisenhower off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida after successfully trapping (landing and coming to a stop on the boat) ten times.  After his carrier qualification, Rob headed straight to El Centro, California to finish most of his remaining flights on the two week weapons detachment.
 photo IMG_6391.jpg
 photo IMG_6404.jpg
It's tradition when the guys come home from landing on the boat to hang the banner that says "My husband is a hooker".  The term "hooker" comes from the fact that they use the tailhook to stop the plane on the boat.  Living on base, it has so much fun to watch the hooker signs go up for our neighbors and I was so excited to finally hang Rob's sign.  His face when he saw the giant head hanging on our porch was priceless!
 photo IMG_6328.jpg
While our husbands were gone on the detachment, we may have had a little too much fun with Rob's giant head as well!  What can I say -- I was missing my husband ;)

Flight School Update 2.0 Intermediate/Advanced Jet Training

WOW!  It's hard to believe that the last flight school update was over a year ago and how much has happened since then.  If you missed the first half of flight school: IFS, API, and Primary, you can catch up HERE.
 photo DSC_3233.jpg
As usual, hindsight in 20:20.  Everyone told me when we moved to Meridian that we would be in and out in 12 months.  But here we are pushing the 16 month mark and still going strong.  While some people would complain about this, I love it.  Rob is safe stateside, not deployed, and for the most part home more than he is at work.  We are still safe in this little school bubble so I am savoring every second of it.

We moved to Meridian at the very beginning of September and Rob headed straight to San Antonio for the CFET.  This is where he goes in the "spin" machine to simulate g forces and is sort of like a right of passage into the jet world.  Rob had a little bit of down time and then started ground school for Intermediate with VT-7 at the beginning of October.  He was in ground school for about four weeks which meant classes in the morning and usually home by mid-afternoon.  After that, he started sims which meant that went back to life revolving around 5pm when the schedule came out.  (He would get scheduled for sims anywhere between 5am and 8pm!)  His first flight of intermediate came in January after holiday leave.  From there, he would alternate between ground school, sims, and flights for each block.  Overall, intermediate was pretty low key.  Most weeks, he would be scheduled for a sim or a flight which would take ~3 hours and then he would be home the rest of the day.  There were also a lot of days that he was not scheduled for anything at all.  Just like in primary, we knew these days were not going to last so we tried to take complete advantage.   Rob had two cross countries (one to San Diego, one to DC), flew solo in the T-45 15+ times, and finished intermediate in August (so almost a full year after we moved to Meridian).
 photo IMG_0294.jpg
 photo IMG_1037.jpg
Advanced was a complete 180!  Rob went from maybe one event a day in intermediate to having two flights most days and tons of studying!  The pace seemed to move much quicker and was much more rigorous but also a lot more fun for him as he learned specific "jet stuff" like flying in formation and dropping bombs.  He went on a cross country to Asheville, a cross country to Charleston, a weapons detachment (usually three weeks long in California), and of course, the boat detachment.  After successfully qualifying on the carrier and returning from the det, Rob has less than 10 flights left in flight school!  If all goes well, he should finish flight school and receive his wings of gold next month!
 photo IMG_4917.jpg

The Infamous Boat-stache

I am officially saying "bye-bye" to the boat-stache and I have to admit, I was a little sad about it!  After 36 days of seeing it, I surprised myself and kind of grew fond of it.  Alright, alright I secretly LOVED it!  (Although I think I might be the only one because everyone else in our extended family is glad to see it go!)
 photo IMG_5422.jpg
So what is a "boat-stache"?  In advanced jet training (the phase of flight school Rob is in), one of the culminating events is landing the jet on a moving boat in the ocean.  The tradition is when the class in front of you successfully lands on the boat and you are now the senior class preparing for the boat, you begin growing your mustache.  You don't shave your mustache until you successfully land on the boat, and the cycle continues with the next class.
 photo IMG_5678.jpg
 photo IMG_5623.jpg
 photo IMG_5615.jpg
As you can imagine, mustaches are very common in Meridian.  It's a tell tale sign here that not only are you in the military but that you are almost finished with flight school.  When we moved here last fall, we would see guys walking around with mustaches and, even though we knew it would eventually, it felt like Rob would never be at that stage!  The mustache was like a status symbol and we thought those guys were so cool.  It's been crazy for the last month to see Rob as the one walking around with the mustache!  A daily reminder that even though it still feels like we just got here, our time in Meridian is coming to a close.
 photo IMG_6089.jpg
 photo IMG_6120.jpg
 photo f876d08f-050d-4a75-a9aa-42485d6a2c6c.jpg
So goodbye "boat-stache", hello boat!  Send good landing vibes Rob's way :)

Knoxville Wedding: Jocelyn + Matt

This weekend, we headed back to Knoxville for Rob's cousin Jocelyn's wedding.  It was a beautiful fall weekend and so nice to spend some time with Rob's family.  Rob had to fly on Friday so we left Meridian around 5.  This meant we didn't get into Knoxville until past midnight and we missed the rehearsal dinner completely.  We said a couple hellos then headed straight to bed.
 photo IMG_6080.jpg
Saturday was wedding day so we woke up early, ran a few errands, and then headed to the church to watch Jocelyn and Matt get married!  Jocelyn's mom actually made Jocelyn's wedding dress and all of the bridesmaids dresses.  They were incredible and I was extremely in awe of her talent and creativity!  After the wedding, we headed next door to the church hall for the reception and had a blast.  But the night didn't end there.
 photo IMG_6089.jpg
 photo c0d8e372-395c-4308-8b39-73603d868680.jpg
 photo 51397992-4501-4d83-bc19-6abc223b6baa.jpg
Since their wedding was actually held on Halloween, we headed back to the hotel to change into costumes before heading to the after party at Wild Wings Cafe.  Unfortunately, we didn't realize that everyone was bringing costumes so ours were thrown together last minute.  Fortunately, it was the most comfortable costume I have ever worn!  Large sweatshirt, leggings, and nikes...always a winning combination!
 photo IMG_6112.jpg
We had brunch on Sunday morning at Lakeside Tavern before making the trek back to Meridian.  It was a quick but wonderful weekend.

Healthy Pumpkin Dip

If you are looking for a super simple, super quick AND healthy recipe...this is it!  A few ingredients, 20 seconds in the blender and you are good to go!  The best part?  It is made of all real ingredients that you can feel good about: greek yogurt, pumpkin, and spices.  Use fresh cut apples to dip and this pumpkin dip will taste like a treat but leave you feeling great.
 photo DSC_4179.jpg
Healthy Pumpkin Dip

3/4 Cup Pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
1 Cup Greek Yogurt (I used vanilla)
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

Blend all ingredients in the blender until well mixed.
Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Serve chilled.

Rocky Top and Moonshine

I am obsessed with college towns.  Especially on game weekends!  I just love the energy, the excitement, and the traditions!  Over Columbus Day weekend, we had the opportunity to experience the University of Tennessee with our friends Blair and Wil.  They were the best tour guides because they both went to Tennessee!!!  Is there anything better than experiencing a college town with the people who know it best?!
 photo IMG_5687.jpg
We left Meridian on Friday after the guys got off work.  What should have been a six hour drive ended up taking nine hours so needless to say, we checked into the hotel and headed straight to the bar.  First stop -- DGB, the location of Blair and Wil's first date!  After that, we hit a few spots along Market Square before grabbing one last drink at the speakeasy, Peter Kern Library.
 photo IMG_6043.jpg
 photo IMG_5713.jpg
Saturday we woke up early to start tailgating for the Tennessee-Georgia game.  It's so fun to see different tailgating rituals at different schools.  We ended up getting tickets last minute to the game (thanks to Wil's parents!) and it is lucky we did!  Tennessee ended up beating Georgia and it was an incredible game!!
 photo 42b9c185-1bc8-4498-9fe3-cf49d862a403.jpg
On Sunday, we kept the "SoutheReddy family vacation" going and drove to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.  We tasted our fair share of moonshine at three different distilleries, ate rooftop mexican food, played games at the arcade, and toured the Ripley's World Record museum.
 photo IMG_5736.jpg
 photo b02d10a2-8f8f-446e-a1f3-130504cef679.jpg
 photo IMG_6042.jpg
Luckily the guys were off on Monday for the long weekend so we were able to sleep in and get breakfast at a Pancake House in Pigeon Forge before making the trek back to Meridian.  The whole month leading up to this trip, I kept saying that I wanted a fall weekend.  This turned out to be the perfect fall weekend!
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
 photo IMG_5847.jpg

Latest Instagrams

© Reddy Or Knot . Design by Fearne.