Monday, December 31, 2012

Why Hello, 2013!

So I'm sitting in a recliner drinking a glass of wine.  No party, no friends.  Just listening to John read The Wizard of Oz to Kate and staring at our Christmas tree.  Snow is falling and I can't believe that in a few short hours it will be 2013.

There have been a lot of things to write about the past few weeks but I just haven't had the time or desire to sit down and write them.  I do plan on updating you all more in 2013.  

Connor got to experience his first snow.  The rest of us experienced our first Great Plains wind-and-snow-in-the-face experience.  Wow! Cold!  My baby girl went sledding for the first time.  Head first down the hill she went, nothing but giggles and pride.  It was awesome to see her bright blue eyes underneath her wool hat.  Her red cheeks and her huge smile.

Connor was a little less than thrilled.  Scared and unsure.  But like so many things with kids, I think he will catch on quickly.  It is snowing as I type this so we might try round 2 in the snowsuits tomorrow. 

Connor, totally unsure about the white stuff...

My Christmas present from Johnny was a flying lesson.  I think that John thought I would chicken out at the last second.  Yea right! I had a blast flying a Mooney with a flight instructor named Dean who earned enough money to fund his aviation hobby by racing cars.  Got to love a 70 year old daredevil!  He was legitimately thrilled that I, a 31 year old preppy-mom-type, was so excited to take control of the airplane.  The lesson was pro bono.  Now John is urging me to get my pilot's license while we are in Kansas.  Will I?  We'll see.

The Mooney and Me

We have been diligently exploring Kansas City.  We went to the Plaza (Crown Center) to see the Christmas decorations and check out Fritz's Restaurant.  We also had our first taste of barbecue in this region at a local place called All Slabbed Up.  Um, it was ridiculous.  Typically, for me to get super excited about food it has to have cheese or ice cream involved.  Not so with this barbecue.  It was totally picture-worthy and I left there with the realization that I could easily gain 20 pounds in Kansas and leave feeling like it was worth every calorie.

Crown Center, Kansas City, MO

I know this is where I am supposed to tell everyone my grand plans and resolutions for 2013.  I do have some goals, but nothing I want to put out there right yet.  I think that my biggest hope is that I can learn to relax more and enjoy the moment.  Not worry so much about the small stuff, and just savor the good stuff.  Good stuff with my kids, my friends, my family.  My anxiety often robs me of enjoyment and I am trying hard to learn to ignore that racket and focus on the tremendous good in my life.  I have so much, more than I could have ever dreamed, and I need to stop wallowing in the "what ifs".

At this time last year I had no clue that I would be celebrating the next New Year in Kansas.  And this year, again, we will be somewhere new (or very close to moving somewhere new) at this time next year.  So for now, I am going to live in the moment.  Meet people, explore new places, and have fun with what life is serving to me.

Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope you all have a fabulous 2013!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nope, We Aren't in Jail

Hello! I feel like I haven't written in awhile.  It has been a crazy week but we are close to being totally moved in.  We have a few boxes scattered about, and a few tabletops that need to be de-cluttered, but I am proud of how settled we are.  Today we got Internet!  And cable!  I was feeling rather disconnected from the world, especially in light of the events in Connecticut, so it was a relief to finally get things hooked up today.  (and yes, I am probably addicted to technology, but I did survive 6 days without both).

We have a Christmas tree up! It was a huge goal of Johnny's to be settled and organized enough to introduce the chaos of some Christmas decorations.  I supported this idea, but I will be honest that the thought of decorating cluttered spaces that weren't completely put away/unpacked yet started to give me hives.  But he was right, the kids need some normalcy and cheer, so our tree (all 10 feet of it!) is up and smells amazing.

The moving sticker ornament I made for our new tree! 
Now I won't have to peel them off of furniture all year long :)

I am slowly learning more and more about Fort Leavenworth.  When we first got orders here, someone joked that it is the crossroads of intellectuals and criminals.  Um, so true!  Even more true than I ever imagined.

We are living on Fort Leavenworth.  Also inhabiting this post are three (three!) prisons.  So now I feel like I need to qualify the fact that we happen to be part of the "intellectual" group of people who are assigned to Fort Leavenworth, not the criminal group.  I'm not quite sure yet who outnumbers who.

United States Federal Penitentiary, Leavenworth (but technically on the Fort's property)
 
 
US Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth
(the military's only maximum security prison)
Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, also on Fort Leavenworth
 
 
Funny enough, the rest of Fort Leavenworth is BEAUTIFUL.  Like, picture perfect, sweet, idyllic, and lovely.  I actually told Johnny last night when we were on a walk looking at lights on post after dinner that this place gives the Naval Academy a run for it's money.  As an Academy grad I think he looked at me like I was losing my ever-loving-Navy mind, but he did agree that it was "similar to West Point" (ha! fair enough!). 
 
I have actually not gotten a glimpse of the USDB or JRCF - I'm still trying to figure out where they're hidden.  Leavenworth Federal Prison is hard to miss as it towers above most things and is a very impressive (stoic and gloomy) structure.  Today I went on my first run and tried to explore as much as I could within a 4 mile span.  If anyone tells you that all of Kansas is flat they are WRONG.  It is very hilly here and my legs were feeling it.
 
Tonight we are headed out for our first taste of Kansas barbecue.  I am curious and a little worried about how delicious this might be.  I can't afford to gain any weight here in the Midwest, so I'm hoping that everyone has been lying about how amazing the food is.   I'm totally going to be one of those people who starts taking pictures of my food.  You wait...
 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Here We Are

I never in a million years thought I would live in Kansas.  Even marrying a military man, Kansas was never on my radar.  Japan? Sure. Hawaii or California? Yes, please! Norfolk? Duh.  Even places like Guam, Bahrain, and Italy have been on our radar and could be places we call home eventually.  But this has come as a surprise. This is surprise that I am still adjusting to, growing into, and finding my peace with.

To be honest, I have been pleasantly surprised so far.  I really like the house we are moving into today.  It is a 1902 place with 14 foot ceilings and a ton of character.  It is all on one level which will make raising my crazy toddlers a little easier.  And the best part?  We don't have to worry about heating or cooling the monster.  That was our biggest complaint about our 1952 Georgian in Norfolk - holy heating bills - it bled money.  So there you go people, your tax dollars at work heating my huge house on Fort Leavenworth.  Once we get unpacked I will post a little tour of the place.

Driving through Kansas City it was easy to see that I would have zero excuse to be bored here.  I'm excited to see the Chiefs and Royals play.  Professional sports on the east coast are difficult to get tickets to and extremely expensive.  Kansas City doesn't tend to produce world champion caliber teams, but it is much more feasible for a family to enjoy a day at the park.  I'm excited to try the steaks and barbecue that this place is renowned for.  We will definitely try to find all of the fountains, go to the zoo, the children's museum, and Union Station.  It will be fun.

Closer to home in Leavenworth I have been pleasantly surprised at how quaint it is.  Last night on our way back to our hotel we drove a few blocks of the "downtown".  According to the few locals I have chatted with, the town of Leavenworth is experiencing a revitalization.  I was impressed at the independently run book store, art stores, toy stores, and restaurants.  I was really concerned about Leavenworth being a "Wal Mart town" but I couldn't be more wrong.


A quick iPhone snapshot from our drive last night
 
The base post itself looks more like a college campus than a military installation.  I am used to lots of noise with airfields and above-ground steam piping and ugly buildings from the 1970s.  This place is all open green spaces, red brick, and historic architecture (oh yea, and a prison).  It is so family friendly, and so many families live on Leavenworth that there are THREE elementary schools on post.  On most Navy bases, the base housing is an afterthought and very limited.  Here, the vast majority of the post is neighborhoods and schools and playgrounds. 
 

We are hoping to have our house safe and orderly enough to really move in (kids and all) by Friday.  I know Kate and Connor will be thrilled to see their toys and sleep in their own beds again.  I am excited to start decorating and making our space home for the next 12 months.
Monday, December 10, 2012

Willow Bend

Still driving...



Today is our fourth and final day of travel. We should arrive at Fort Leavenworth within the next two hours!

Last night we spent the evening at Willow Bend Farm; a beautiful cabin owned by my mom's best friend June and her husband Tim just west of St. Louis. It is an adorable home full of character and charm that Tim has lovingly restored. Tim's profession is historical restoration so to say it is beautiful is an understatement. The kids loved all of the nooks and crannies and our dog loved running around their property. It was awesome to avoid yet another roadside hotel, have a warm meal, and hang out around the fire with old friends.

It looks like things will be moving quickly once we get to Kansas. Our household goods should arrive Wednesday so we can start putting our home back together! We might get a Christmas tree after all!

And lastly, since I know you were all on the edge of your seat in anticipation, here is the picture of me with 22 foot Santa in Santa Claus, Indiana yesterday.





Again, blogging from the phone so forgive any typos or formatting errors.
Sunday, December 9, 2012

On the Road Again

Greetings from I 64 in Louisville, KY! I am blogging on my phone for the first time so I apologize for any typos that may cause.

Yesterday we arrived in Louisville in the afternoon after a sugar stop at Rebecca-Ruth Candy Factory in Frankfort. It was a neat little family owned operation that is apparently known for Bourbon Balls - a candy infused with Kentucky's famous booze. We left with bourbon on our breath and kids with chocolate on their faces.

After checking into our hotel in Louisville, we sped downtown to try and see the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory before it closed at 5pm. We were almost thwarted by the end of a U of L Cardinal basketball game that caused some substantial traffic. Alas, we made it at about 4:15 and were warmly greeted by an off-duty Santa Clause who patiently and graciously let our kids crawl all over him. He even went and got them souvenir bats and let us into the museum free of charge. A very sweet and memorable way to be welcomed to say the least.

After leaving the museum at 5, we went down to the 4th Street Live, a walking district of the city with a tree, live music, restaurants, shops, and a "ice skating rink". Ice skating rink in quotes because it wasn't real ice - it was a hard composite plastic that just looked dangerous as hell.

We had dinner at Gordon Biersch so that Johnny could watch the last quarter of the Army Navy game. It was a little too close for comfort, but the Mids pulled it off for the 11th straight year. We can now enter Leavenworth on Monday with some bragging rights. Johnny and I agreed that this would have been a bad year to lose; especially since we arrive within 48 hours of the game.

Today we are on the road to St. Louis,
MO by way of Santa Claus, Indiana. Santa Clause touts itself as America's Christmas town and boasts a 22 foot Santa Claus statue. I bet you can't wait to see a picture of that!
Saturday, December 8, 2012

West Virginia

Good morning from Charleston, West Virginia!

We left Norfolk yesterday at about 11 AM and rolled into Charleston at about 6 PM.  Not too bad for a car full of crazy toddlers and a boxer dog!

I spent a good portion of the drive being in awe of the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains and curious about the portion of the population that lives in the middle.of.nowhere.   How do people live without infrastructure?  Where do they go to school? Where do they grocery shop? How do you deal with a railroad crossing in your driveway? Does Amazon deliver? No cable or Internet? You mean, people don't need a wine store and coffee shop within 5 miles to survive?! 

I kid.  Kinda.

What is the state flower of West Virginia?

.
.
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 A satellite dish!  (har har har - Johnny is to blame for this bad joke)
 
Some other random observations about West Virginia (mostly from my time in the hotel lobby people watching).
 
*  Big hair (Peggy Bundy style) is very en vogue.  There was a Christmas party and I would say 40% were sporting HUGE bee-hive style hair.  It was fascinating.
*  They haven't gotten the leggings-aren't-pants memo out here yet.  Must be the lack of cable and Internet.
*  Parrots are awesome.  They have a pet parrot named Mosa that whistles at you when you walk by.  Not only is it great toddler entertainment, but as I was eating dinner it told me to look because I knew more leggings and big hair was coming.
* Kids have impeccable timing.  Connor is a little over two years old and has never climbed out of his crib or pack 'n play.  Until last night.  Of course he would choose the time when we are sleeping in close quarters, over-tired from no naps, and in a strange place that isn't baby-proofed to start proudly displaying his new abilities.  He was proud.  Kate thought it was hilarious.  It wasn't hilarious.
* The further west we go, the nicer people get.  So nice in fact that I am feeling rather bitchy for writing about their big hair and leggings.  I hope Midwesterners have sarcasm detectors because if they don't I might be friend-less.
 
Today we are off to Louisville, Kentucky.  Johnny thinks it is a great idea to stop for a candy factory tour on the way (what makes a great road trip like a duo of sugared up kiddos?) and then go to the Louisville Slugger Factory once we are there.  It is a short leg - only about 3 hours - so it will be the easiest day of our trek.
 
Will Kentuckians (?) be as nice as West Virginians?  Will their hair measure up? Will I start seeing more jeans instead of tights?  Will I kill my husband for taking our kids to a trough of refined sugar? 
 
And of course, I cannot sign off today without a big GO NAVY!  BEAT ARMY!
 
 
Fun Fact: The last time Army beat Navy was the weekend Johnny and I got engaged... in 2001.
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Busy Busy!

My 8th observation about military moves is officially that blogging takes the back burner to packing, organizing, purging, and screaming at you husband kids to stop taking toys out of the Goodwill bag. 

Our house is packed up.  Our life put neatly (hopefully) into boxes, paper, and bubble wrap.  My scary attic was conquered. Tomorrow the truck will arrive and our stuff will be westbound for Kansas.  It has felt like an eternity and at the same time it feels like time has flown since we found out we were really moving last August.  The past few days have been full of goodbyes - to our wonderful preschool, to my close friends, babysitters, the YMCA, the library, our life.  Or at least the life we have known for the past two years.  Tears have been shed and I'm sure more will come.  In John's Navy career we have lived in Norfolk for 6.5 of the 10.5 years.  It feels like home and I will miss it a lot.

This week has been full of change.  On Monday John was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and the kids and I went to Oceana to make sure he had a cheering section.  Before his promotion a few sailors were given various awards and Kate (loudly) asked why the men were getting "decorated".  She has obviously been reading a lot of Fancy Nancy.


The packers showed up Tuesday and the kids and I have been skillfully avoiding the craziness.  John and I were 100% sure that if the kids were in the house that Connor would have a honing device for the boxes full of knives, lighters, and prescription medications.  We moved into a local hotel and have been spending the days at the gym and with friends.  Actually, I have probably worked out more this week than I have in months.  A moving side effect that I was not expecting but that I am pleasantly surprised about.

Tomorrow night is our command Christmas party.  What better way to spend the last evening in Norfolk than at a "mandatory fun" event?  Luckily, we like CVW-8, so we are excited to have one more chance to bid adieu to our friends and wish them a happy holiday. 

I will try to be better about blogging our trek west.  I have the blogger app on my iPhone but have never used it.  So if you see random posts pop up and down in the next few days - don't be surprised.  Hopefully I won't completely embarrass myself.

Farewell, Norfolk!  I'm sure we'll meet again!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

7 Random Observations about Military Moves

So I am sitting at my dining room table waiting for the moving company to come do the pre-pack out walk through of my home.  To inventory all of our stuff into categories and weights and balances.  As we have been preparing for this move the past few months, I have been struck by a number of "truths" (or at least truths in my own little world) related to preparing for a military style move.

1.  Stuffed animals breed.  I don't think I have ever bought Kate or Connor a stuffed animal yet every closet, every toy bin, and every surface seems to have at least three.  And when I wake up there are five more.  I'm starting to believe that "Toy Story" wasn't fiction at all and that our toys have a life after dark.

2.  My husband needs to go into a T-Shirt Addict Remediation program.  The boy cannot resist a free t-shirt.  Off to a conference?  He comes home with an extra suitcase full of "amazing" shirts.  Amazing = free.  Doesn't matter if they are rejects or XXXL.  Even with our super compact and efficient USNA method of folding we have way too many cotton shirts.  My current favorite?  An ugly red Whiskey t-shirt that declares "every day is MAN DAY" (nope, not kidding) completely and totally off-center in the front.  I feel like I am going cross eyed looking at my husband in that shirt.  But it was FREE! So now he is a walking advertisement for Whiskey and poor shirt printing.

3.  Household good weight limits remind me of how over cluttered my life is. It is incredibly depressing that I am worried we will go over the 17,500 pound weight limit we are allotted.  Especially since we are not moving one single appliance.

4.  Packers do not make moving a breeze.  If one more person says "oh, at least the military packs you up" I am going to throat punch them.  Non military folks, it is never okay to say that to a military family who is in the midst of a PCS.  Yes, I get that packing a house sucks big time and that it is more convenient to have someone else do it.  But we move every 2-3 years.  So the "perk" of having the US Government pack our stuff in no way lessons the burden of moving all the time.  We still have to uproot our lives, our kids, our jobs, and leave our friends and conveniences.  It is okay to think it in your head - but keep your mouth shut. 

5.  We all have more embarrassing stuff than we might think. I have had a nightmare that I forget to hide away my unmentionables before the packers come.  Packers are great - until you literally die of embarrassment because they find your liberator pillow and ask if it works to remediate back pain.  And it can get oh-so-much-worse than that.  On our last move I was 8 weeks post-pardum and a packer asked what I wanted to do with my stash of jumbopads and ice packs.

6.  The military is extremely out of touch with what is valuable these days. The following sheet of paper was given to my friend Karen at And Then We Laughed

 
Yes, I will be sure to protect my 1993 beanie babies collectibles and crystal animals.  That is a huge concern of mine.  I'll make sure to hand carry them with my military Troll collection.
 
Nope, not mine.  I am not that weird. But someone is...
 
7.  This lifestyle creates a moving "itch".  We are so used to starting over in a new house and in a new town and with new jobs that after a few years at one location many of us start getting ancy and ready to move on.  I was at gymnastics with my son and one of the other moms asked me about our move and I found myself saying "well, we have been in Norfolk for awhile so we are ready to go see something new.  It is time."  She was very polite, but said something like, "wow I would never even consider moving to be something I felt compelled to need or be ancy about".  As a mom in a family where they plan on living in their home "forever", the idea of going to a new place is totally foreign to her.  I'm not sure whether the moving itch is a pro or con of military life, but it certainly is there.  We got these orders months and months ago, my foot is halfway out the door, I'm ready to get this show on the road!


These are just the thing running through my head today.  Please feel free to share any random observations you have in the comment section!
Monday, November 12, 2012

Two Times the Fun!

So.  This guy.


This guy is two.  He is a toddler of the not-so-terrible sort.  He is funny, loving, and a mama's boy.  He is voraciously verbal and talk talk talk talks all day long.  He loves milk sippies, "Peppa Pig", rain boots, books under blankets, Knuffle Bunny, jumping on the bed, choo choo trains, forts, pizza, Curious George, and singing "Bushel and a Peck" before bedtime.  Bubble baths wouldn't be the same without "swimming" and blowing bubbles with Kate.  He loves to "go go go" which basically means "take me somewhere so that I can flirt with everyone". 

Bunny Bunny, his ragged blue lovey, is a fixture that he will probably be taking to college in tatters.
 

Connor is a modern man; as rough and tumble as he is, you will often find him pushing a pink stroller with strands of purple pearls around his neck.  Kate's dolls and Connor's trucks coexist in a harmony that makes my heart happy.  He is such a great kid.

Connor at 1 week, 1 year, and 2 years
 
Time may change me but I can't change time.  Oh, the parenting dichotomy that we all face - the desire for our kids to grow up yet stay precious and innocent and small at the same time.  I look at the difference a year has made and cannot believe what 365 days can do to a little person.  I am so proud of him and happy he is growing up but when he sits on my lap at night and nuzzles into my neck I can't believe he isn't a baby anymore. 
 
 
 
Oh, who am I kidding?  He will always be my baby.
 



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Exhale

Here, pull up one of these.

 
And take a sip of this.
 
 
And let's chat about the way things have been going lately.
 
I am very stressed right now.  I have been crying a lot.  I am confused, angry, and annoyed.  I don't know who I am sometimes and I feel lost about where we are going.
 
Do you know what it feels like to systematically cancel your life as you know it?  And then, when they politely ask you where you are going, to consistently get this face?
 
Pretty much exactly this, just the human version
 
I have defended Kansas more than I have ever defended Virginia and I have never been there.  Can I tell you how much fun it is to get pity from strangers constantly about a place you have never been?  A place where you really didn't have a whole lot of say about going?  It is stressful.  My friends haven't been much better.  And while I know they are kidding, hearing that they refuse to visit me because I am going to the Great Plains and not some convenient location or tropical location stings a little.  I'm not mad, I get that Kansas City isn't Maui, but it doesn't make me feel any better.
 
People who don't know me and who just take my blog name for face value might assume I have a knack for being zen.  I don't.  If you know me and hang out with me in more than just in passing you know that I have a tendency to be anxious.  To worry and think too much and wonder what I am getting myself into.  Typical Type-A, first child BS.  I start to bumble and stumble and cry.  I don't actually drink a lot of cosmos. Maybe that is my problem? 
 
The past few weeks have really been hard for me.  I have been in Norfolk with my kids while my husband is down flying and having fun.  We have had Hurricane Sandy, a (small) nor'easter, and the kid-sleep killing Daylight Savings. I don't usually feel sorry for myself when he is on the ship.  But when he goes on these good deal detachments where he gets to relax and have fun with friends and eat good food and put it all under the category of "work trip" I get jealous.  And a little resentful that we both have Master's degrees and work experience and I am at home changing diapers and breaking up toddler throw-downs while he flies F-18s and gets long dinners out.  His life feels so much more well rounded than mine and I am jealous.  And looking down the road I just get sad.  For the next year he gets to go to school, learn cool things, exercise his brain.  What do I get?  I'm not sure.  I have no friends there, no family, I know not a soul.  I don't plan on working and I am going to be going there in the dead of winter where I can't exactly just hang outside and hope someone cool who wants to be friends walks by. 
 
It is becoming clear to me that I need something for myself outside being a mother and wife.  I do love being a mom.  My kids give me a tremendous amount of joy.  But they don't "complete me" (to quote Jerry McGuire).  I am personally not a well rounded person by doing nothing but play with and cater to them.  I'm not sure what I am going to do to better myself or occupy my brain in the next year, but I need to start thinking about it and getting excited about it.  I need something.  Right now I am feeling resentful and that is not the way I want to live. 
 
I realize that this post will probably be a stark and dark read compared to the millions of blogs focused on gratitude during the month of November.  It goes without saying that I know I live a very lucky and blessed life.  It also goes without saying that I know I am whining right now.  I know many people are fighting much harder battles than me. 
 
If you are still sitting in the chair reading this - thank you.  Venting is often the first step to change.  And an attitude adjustment is certainly in order.
 
 
 



 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Go Vote!

This morning I strapped my kids into our double stroller expecting a marathon wait at the polling station.  I had milk and fruit snacks and toys and the expectation that they would be having a fight over my iPhone by the time I reached the voting booth.  I had even broken out the big guns - promises of pure refined sugar (lollipops) before 9 AM if they didn't get me kicked out of the line for disturbing the peace.

Oh what a difference four years can make.  On Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 John and I were living in Maryland.  I was working full time.  We were in the middle of the IVF cycle that gave us our sweet Kate.  Last night as I laid in bed dreading having to vote with two kids whining about wanting to get out of the stroller and play, I reminded myself that my life is so so so much better with them in it.  And that if the 2008 version of myself could hear my inner (whiney) thoughts, that she would have smacked me.  So.  I made myself some strong coffee and voted early.  It was easy.

I am so thankful.  Thankful for the right to vote.  Thankful for the crazy toddlers who accompanied me to the polling station.  Thankful that we live in a country that has a peaceful process for choosing and changing leadership.  America isn't perfect, but I am very proud to live here.

I honestly don't care who you go vote for.  I personally live in a house divided (I lean left, John leans right) so I know that we as Americans can co-existed peacefully and happily.  I also know that there are good people working on both sides of the issues.  Maybe the government should take a note from my on marriage on how you can actually come to compromise despite a different set of values and constructs.  There is no right or wrong.  But it is so important that everyone has their voices heard and appreciates the sacrifices so many have made to allow this day to be possible.


Those are some of my values.  Now go vote yours!
Friday, November 2, 2012

A Sugary Halloween

The clouds parted and Halloween was a very nice night.  We had lots of big puddles to hop over to get our loot, but I think all of the parents in the Tidewater area were relieved that Sandy didn't squash our Halloween.

I co-hosted Kate's preschool Halloween shindig in the morning.  We got the three year olds nice and sugared up.  There is nothing cuter than preschool aged kids in their costumes.  They are so proud, and excited, and in character.  It cracked me up this year how seriously Kate took her "being a cat".  I mean, she actually preferred to crawl on all fours and meow and hiss while she was in costume.  It tickled my mom and I that Kate was adamant about being a black cat this year because my little sister insisted on being a black cat for every Halloween from about 1987 to 1995 (I'm not kidding).  Is the desire to be feline genetic?

Connor owned his Curious George costume.  He is definitely a mischievous, curious, funny little banana-loving guy so the costume fit him perfectly.  I was impressed at how much he wanted to trick or treat this year.  Maybe it is because he is my second kid and I will admit he has probably had more candy at his age than Kate had at the same point.  It was great to see his eyes light up when he saw other kids dressed up.  He is going through a phase where he loves to talk about "scary monsters" and "big dinosaurs" so Halloween was a long day of him excitedly pointing them out to me.

  Sugared up toddlers, Kitten Kate, and Curious Connor
 
I hope you all had a very Happy Halloween and are claiming your "mom tax" on your kid's candy if applicable!
Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady

I have told Johnny that I will not let him back into our home unless he has something pretty or shiny with him to give me.  And I am dead serious.  I'm not a materialistic person, but his ability to skirt family responsibilities with major storms has gone from amazing to epic.  I have decided to collect now. 

This is the third hurricane that I have prepped for and gone through solo in Norfolk.  The first was Isabelle in 2003 and he happened to be at SERE School in Maine.  Last year there was Irene and he was deployed on the USS Bush.  This year, of course, he is in Key West for flight ops.  I joked with my mom that that at least he was either starving or haze gray with the first two.  But this time he is in Key West - flying F-18s and Hawkeyes by day and drinking with his friends at night.  He actually called to complain today that after his flight the restaurant he wanted to eat at was closed and that he was annoyed because the rest of them were sit down restaurants and he just wanted a quick bite.  When I asked why it mattered he informed me that, ahem, he didn't want to delay his workout.  Riiiiiiiiiiiiight.  Do you know what I would do for a solo sit-down meal right now? Don't ask.

I, on the other hand, am weary from a long windy night sleeping with my 3 year old on a fold out couch in my mom's basement.  After four days basically being indoors in a non-baby-proofed house with two bored toddlers while we waited for the weather to blow by (and I stressed about the flooding going on around our Norfolk home) I am exhausted. 

A grainy picture of the flooding about, oh, 75 yards from my house
 
Don't get me wrong, I am thankful that today when I pulled into my driveway that my husband's car was free of damage and that our house has power and no problems from the wind.  I am thankful my mom was willing to take such a crazy gaggle of family in for the long weekend to protect us from the flooding.  I am thankful for her wine cabinet.  I am thankful that Halloween will be nice and fun for my kids. 
 
But still, Johnny owes me.  Big time. 
 
Once - small gift, twice - medium gift, three times - you're in trouble.  Shiny.  And pretty.  Did I mention shiny?
 
(All sarcasm aside, my thoughts and prayers are with the residents of New Jersey and New York and to the first responders and military members that are sacrificing their safety and time to help put the pieces back together. May everyone stay safe and warm and dry over the days and weeks to come.)
 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Swirling, Swirling, Swirling

All the things in my head.  The big, the small.  The things for the kids, things for the dog, the cat, the stuff.  All the STUFF.

ALL OF THE THINGS!!!

Today the moving company called.  We called them back.  I called a preschool in Kansas.  They are mailing stuff back.  I called our doctor here in Norfolk because I don't want to push appointments off to the unknown of Kansas.  I got an appointment.  But I need to make another one because there is just so much to do.

SO MUCH TO DO!!!

Johnny leaves for Key West for a few weeks tomorrow because, ya know, that is just where aviators go to "train".  Ahem.  Training while Fantasy Fest is going on.  Oh, shucks, what a coinkydink.  You know it is serious business when your husband packs a pirate costume amongst his flight suits.  But I digress... 

P.S.  Key West, "A-Conch-Alypse"?  That was the best you could do?

Swirling, swirling, swirling.  I never thought I'd say it, but I can't wait to get to Kansas. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Saying Goodbye to the Little Things

Last fall was when I hit the rock bottom in my "deployment world".  We were getting toward the end, but we still had a long way to go.  Fall is my favorite season.  I love the weather, the crisp leaves, scarves, boots, and hay rides.  Pumpkin spice and hot chocolate reappear.  I love the farms that come to life.  It is a time to be outside, to be with family. 

But even as I trudged my way through "when-the-hell-is-this-deployment-going-to-end-itis" last year, there were little things that brightened my day.  Lightened my heart, made me smile, and illustrated that even though I missed my husband so much and wanted him here so badly that I needed to enjoy the beauty.  Not look forward so much that I was missing the fun stuff directly around me.

One of the things that lifted me out of my funk last year were the Larchmont pumpkins.  I didn't know that this was a neighborhood and church tradition.  I didn't know to expect anything on that morning on our walk to school. 

The Larchmont Pumpkins (taken today)
Connor with the pumpkins last year
 
But stumbling upon them that morning was exactly what I needed at that moment.  It made me very happy.  I probably sound crazy-cakes talking about how a bunch of pumpkins made me miss my husband less.  Maybe I am.  But the little things about a town or neighborhood have always been what makes me love them.  Norfolk has always impressed me with it's ability to surprise me.


 
This morning they were back.  Kate squealed excitedly and exclaimed that "it rained pumpkins at school!"  After we walked Kate to her classroom it took me 20 minutes to peel Connor away from the amazing array of gourdes.  I have promised that we will go back later tonight with our wagon and let them take home a few.
 
I want to remember the little things about Norfolk that make it special to me.  I want to remember the hair barrettes in the door of our house, the incredible amount of pumpkins that a small neighborhood church can fit on it's lawn, and the amazing crape myrtle trees that line all of the sidewalks and bloom all summer.  I want to remember that the best Norfolk restaurants aren't necessarily on 21st Street or Colley Ave, but tucked away on 22nd street where non-locals barely go.  I want to remember the old classic architecture, even if that means old cracked sidewalks that trip you up when running. 
 
There are just so many little things to love.
 
 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

This Old {Rental} House

Oh, the perils of renting. 

For the last (almost) two years we have been renting a 1952 brick Colonial in a historic Norfolk neighborhood.  We have a love-hate relationship with this house.  My husband probably has more of a like-hate relationship.  But this post needs to serve as a big frying pan to whack myself over the head with when, in a few years, I inevitably want to rent a charming historic home again.



There is a big difference between buying a charming historic home and renting one.  We own a 1942 home in Norfolk.  We loved shining that house up like a pretty penny.  It has great old detail and sweet modern amenities.  And importantly, when something wasn't quite right for us - we changed it.  A quick trip to Home Depot and *voila*, my amazingly talented and handy husband would whip up a fix that was both aesthetically pleasing and practical. (why we don't live in this house now is a long story, but can easily be summed up by two words: too small).

Not so much in a rental. 

When we moved in, it was clear that the house "needed a hug".  There were basic things that were just wrong about the home and should have served as a red flag that our landlords might not be the meticulous homeowners that we are.  But we were charmed by the neighborhood, the great molding, the big rooms, and the size.  Plus, "it's just a rental" is something I'm sure most of us have said a thousand times to keep from going nuts.

Nothing has gone drastically wrong over the past two years, but there are grating issues (a leaky roof, no bathroom on the first level, some layout frustrations, very expensive oil heat pared with old windows and crappy insulation) that we will be thankful to say goodbye to in December.

But overall, I think the biggest problem is that we are honestly not good renters.  We own two homes -  one in Norfolk and one in Maryland.  We love the freedom owning gives us.  The freedom to renovate, decorate, and improve.  With renting, you are walking a tightrope between your own comfort, and dumping your money into someone else's investment.  So learning how to decorated a rental is a bit of an art.  Which is where my friend Karen comes in.

Karen at A Lease to Decorate writes about how to turn a rental property into a home without spending a ton of money.  She discusses the art of cohesive furniture, projects that you can do for very little money, and features different rooms that renters submit.  Last week, she did a write up on my living room.  I felt a little bit like an impostor because I don't love my living room and it is nowhere near perfect.  If we owned this home it would be different.  But I do think I did a relatively good job with giving it a dual, functional, and still aesthetically pleasing look.

But as a military family, I think Karen (an Army wife) is on to something.  It is important that we feel at home when we are changing our locale every few years.  And since nobody is getting rich in the military, learning to do it on a budget and with some creativity is important.  Reading her blog has made me excited about moving into a new blank slate of a house in a few months.  Even more fun?  The Army is going to decide whether I get a brand new home or a historic one.  We are living on base, and our house will be luck of the draw.  Leavenworth has homes just like the one we are in, and new ones similar to the one we own in Maryland.  So stand by on that one ...

There are some things I will really miss about this old Norfolk charmer.  I will miss watching Connor use Kate's hair barrettes to unlock the old keyhole doors.

Connor using my keys, but he prefers hair accessories

I will miss the moldings, I will miss the creaky hardwood floors where you need to learn exactly where to step late at night to not wake the babies, I will miss our gorgeous staircase.  I will miss having a huge dining room that encouraged us to use our formal dining table almost every night.  I will miss being so close to the water and being able to put my kids in a stroller and go places like the library, school, playgrounds, and even Old Dominion University.

I will not miss the tiny closets, the small bathroom that our entire family shares (one sink, no cabinetry), the fact that to get to our guest room/office you have to walk through Connor's nursery.  I will not miss potty training a two year old without a bathroom on the main level of the house (unless you count the old "help" bathroom in our garage that is currently a storage closet).  I will not miss the pine trees that drip sap on my car and make it so we need to rake 365 days a year.  I will not miss being only a few houses away from a major road.  I will not miss feeling like I can never get our floors clean.  I will absolutely, totally, completely not miss the cockroaches.  This waterfront neighborhood is notorious for them and they.freak.me.the.f.out.

I cycle between wanting new and old.  We own an old home in Norfolk, and a new home in Maryland.  As much as we love the Maryland house, it was almost too quiet.  It was like that perfect preppy girl who has a dry personality.  No pizazz.  So while I lived in boring newness, I missed the flare and adventure of an old home.  So we swung back the other direction into a home with a lot of character.  Now, after two years, I secretly hope that the Army gives us a plain Jane predictable house with windows that are easy to open and a dishwasher that isn't so loud that I have to leave the kitchen.

We should find out what personality our next house will have mid-November.  My true opinion and feelings will probably break through when we receive that news.
Monday, October 1, 2012

2% + 10 Years

This past weekend we went up to Annapolis, Maryland for John's 10 year reunion at the Naval Academy.  We had an amazing time, drank way (way!) too much, and got to catch up with many close friends and familiar faces.

Annapolis is a place that both John and I feel completely at ease.  It is familiar, happy, and comfortable.  We can both sit on the concrete benches at Ego Alley and just stare happily into oblivion.  I remember sitting on those very benches 14 years ago when he was a Plebe (a freshman) and I as a high school senior visiting my handsome boyfriend.  I remember seeing him cross to the sidewalk in his whites and brand new Ray Ban sunglasses and swooning at the very sight of him.  We have a lot of memories there. 

I said goodbye to him there as he entered the Naval Academy on Induction Day 1998.  (which, by the way, for 17 year old me was one of the hardest things I have ever done).

John on Induction Day. 
I have a cute one of the two of us, but it was before the digital age and it is framed somewhere up in a box in our scary attic.  Maybe another time...


Was there to put on his officer bars when he graduated on May 24, 2002.

Right after placing his officer cover for the first time

We were married there on June 28, 2003.  One of the happiest days of our life.
"Welcome to the Navy!" (they should say "ready or not!!!")


It is just "our place".

Downtown Annapolis

At the Naval Academy, it is pretty rare for a high school girlfriend to still be a girlfriend (or fiance) by graduation 4 years later.  It actually has an official name - the 2% Club - which is the mythical number of mids who will still be with the significant other they were with on I Day at graduation day.  Shoot, it's even in the USNA Parent Handbook Glossary.  Happily, we were in that small group of people.  And it made this past weekend almost just as much a reunion for me as it was for Johnny.  I know his friends.  Not in the "hey, this is my wife Jill who you have met at a few football games" way.  But in the "remember the time we Jill snuck into Bancroft Hall and..." (shhhhhhh!).

We brought Kate and Connor to part of the reunion and about 10 minutes of the football game. 

Connor during the one moment he wasn't crying during the game

It was Connor's first game but it had already been a long day.  So after we knew things were spiraling downhill quickly, my (amazing) mother scooped up the kids and took them back to McLean for the night.  And there John and I were.  No kids, our friends, a beautiful Annapolis evening, and the knowledge that we could sleep in the next morning at our hotel.  A dangerous combination.

We drank at Ram's Head, stayed at the Loews (the hotel we stayed at on our wedding night), and had brunch the next morning on the dock at Pusser's.  Aside from the (slight) hangover for me, and brutal hangover for Johnny, I would say it was a picture perfect time. 

Who knows when we will all be together like this again.  It is what makes the Navy unique, wonderful, and torturous.  Our paths cross and then divert.  We live down the street, then around the world.  But for just 48 hours, most of us were in one place just to be together for a few hours.

Part of our group on the dock at Pusser's in Annapolis



Thursday, September 27, 2012

Misplaced Rage

I woke up to "breaking news" this morning and a smug Matt Lauer smiling ear to ear.  After a long night of negotiations, the NFL has settled with it's referees and answered the prayers of millions of Americans.  No more game changing bad calls, no more disrespect and disorder, and no more clogged Facebook feed with whiny football posts.  The referees got what they wanted (for the most part), and generally speaking, the American public is ecstatic.  Just in time for Thursday night football! 

Calls for the NFL to pay up because the refs were worth every penny was becoming deafening and the league owners and commissioners just couldn't ignore the fan base anymore.  They did something that doesn't happen much anymore: they listened to their customers.

But I'll be honest.  This entire thing has only made me sad about the priorities and passion of the American public.  The things that really seem to rock our worlds just don't add up. 

Anyone remember that other little strike that has been in the news this month?

 
 
The Chicago teacher strike was generally unpopular with Americans and the media.  Most strikes in public education are.  The strike in Chicago was basically over the following issues: limits to class size, health insurance, fair evaluations, and better working conditions.  When you have buildings where children are wearing winter coats in the winter to stay warm, there is something very wrong.  Americans should be disgusted and outraged about the conditions that our teachers and students are faced with in many public schools.  But we aren't. 
 
We are outraged by this:
 
 
This was the call that got things going.  Not necessarily changed everything, as coaches and players had made it clear that they had no respect for the "replacement referees". This was the moment where it clicked with millions how valuable the "real" referees are, how hard their job is, and how important they are to the NFL brand.
 
When the Chicago teachers were on strike the media and public turned their backs.  There were calls to just replace them with college graduates that needed jobs.  I mean, shoot ya'll, teaching is a breeze and anyone can do it, right?  The sentiment that these hard working teachers, teachers that had been in Chicago schools for decades, could just be replaced by 22 year old recent graduates (who cares what their major was, right?) was insulting and degrading.  But replace an NFL ref with an NCAA ref?  Ohmygoodness the sky is falling!
 
I am a believer and supporter of public education.  I have a Masters degree in Education, I worked in public schools as a counselor for several years, and I am the product of public schools (K-12).  I also realize that education has become a very low priority for a very good portion of this country.  Even as we are calling for schools to do more (to be the doctors, counselors, nutritionists, and coaches in addition to the very huge job of teaching to the very high federal standards), we are asking them to do it with less.  I have worked with thousands of teachers over the years, and the vast majority of them got into the field for the love of children and learning.  Not the money, not the glory, not the summers.  The kids.
 
Teachers are not martyrs.  They should not have to teach in impossible conditions with impossible standards and unfair evaluation practices.  When teachers strike, the major sentiment from the powers that be are "you are hurting the children".  Ouch.  To tell a group of professionals that they are hurting their kids because they had the audacity to fight for their professional selves is unbelievable and hurtful.  Forget about the years they have spent nurturing kids, staying late for conferences and tutoring, coaching into the late night hours, and spending their at-home time grading papers. Teachers should be in it solely "for the kids" - not "for the money".
 
For a long time I have said that teaching has gotten the brunt of gender inequality.   People want to see teachers as sweet, preppy, smiley little women who come to school to love on kids and make a few extra dollars to supplement her husband's income before she decides to have kids and leave the job to the next 24 year old fresh out of grad school. Not people who have a backbone to fight for issues that are important to them and their livelihood.  A livlihood that, in many cases, supports a whole family.

But alas, I didn't see my Facebook wall light up in support of teachers.  Nope.  It takes a pissed off NFL fan, or someone's messed up Fantasy Football game, to make us really mad about the state of things in the world.  The Chicago teachers were made out to look money hungry, with many outlets touting the average $74,000 per year salary (sadly implying that the teachers who are on the front lines don't deserve that much).  I didn't see anyone making a fuss about the NFL referees asking too much money (even though, even when you account for summers the teachers are working far more than the NFL refs).  If anything, people were screaming to give them whatever they wanted.  We need them.
 
I don't make this comparison to belittle the NFL or my NFL-loving friends.  I get that this is a multi-billion dollar industry and that people take major pride in their football teams.  I make this comparison because I truly believe, with all of my heart, that experience matters.  That we should never discount an experienced teacher as "replaceable" and then two weeks later be up in arms about how bad the "replacement refs" are.   We shouldn't value the Ravens vs. Browns game tonight more than we value a child's experience in the classroom.  I am hoping that this "national football crisis" opens our eyes and applies itself to more pressing concerns. 
Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Scary Attic

Oh, my poor little neglected blog.  I have a lot on my plate right now, but for some reason when I have a cluttered life my mind goes *poof* blank.  I will try to do better over the next few months. 

Um, holy crap we're moving.  In less than three months. 

Johnny came home last night and told me, "the movers will be here around December 7th, take three days to pack, be out by the 11th, are given 10 days to travel, sooooo.... yea....  we are basically praying to the moving gods that we get our stuff before the Christmas holiday".  Awesome.  Because we all know how incredibly motivated the world is between December 23rd and January 2nd.

Living with our "survival box" for a few weeks over the holidays when it was just Johnny and I?  Somewhat uncomfortable, but we would re-frame as "camping adventure for two".  Living in those conditions with a 2 and 3 year old?  Holymotherinheavensavemenow NOOO!   

This will be an interesting Christmas, folks.  Please send me some good vibes that things fall into place and I'm not cooking myself a Christmas hot dog on a mini Foreman grill.

Even though I feel like we do a decent job of getting rid of stuff, I am still amazed at how much crap  we have.  How did we ever get so much crap?!  And it honestly makes me wonder what people who never move have lurking in their attics and basements.  Clothes from 1989?  Wrapping paper from their daughter's school sale in 1993? A car seat that expired in 2001?

Let me share with you what has kept me up at night lately.  No judging allowed!

Welcome to my attic!
Maternity clothes, formal dresses ranging from the late 90s to now, wrapping paper, a sewing machine from before I was born, crap, crap, and more CRAP
 
The truth is, we haven't done the best job of getting rid of stuff on previous moves.  When we moved from Norfolk to Maryland it was literally a week after Johnny was flown home from deployment.  I was working full time and we just didn't have the time to go through stuff.  So we moved it, to a home with much storage space and a huge garage.  Out of sight, out of mind.
 
When we moved from Maryland back to Norfolk, I had just delivered Connor.  He was an itsy bitsy baby and the last thing on my mind when I was 9 months pregnant or when I had a brand new baby was paring through Abercrombie jeans circa 1996 and gift bags that I had thriftily saved and hoped to reuse from Christmas 2004. 
 
So here we stand.  No excuse of deployment.  No excuse of newborn.  Just a gigantic walk-up attic full of crap. 
 
The military has a weight allowance for moving, but he is officially being promoted on December 1st which raises our crap allowance to 14,500 pounds.  He is "confident" we won't exceed that.  But still.  Who the heck needs 14,500 pounds of stuff?  I'm embarrassed to think we will even come close to that honestly.
 
So last weekend I spent hours in our spare bedroom going through clothes, organizing, donating, throwing away, and putting together a huge hand-me-down box for my best friend who is due next month.  I am bound and determined not to move halfway across the country with a bunch of stuff we will never use and don't need.  Sadly, that picture of our attic was taken this morning, so I obviously didn't make much of a dent.  But I'll get there.
 
If you are reading this and have any spectacular moving tips, I'm all ears!  I want to use this move as an excuse to lose some weight, get rid of stuff, and start fresh in our new home.  In my ideal world, nothing we bring with us should go straight back into the attic for our entire tour.  Help!
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Keep Your Eyes Open

When I look out on the horizon I see boxes.  Road maps, unfamiliar places, new people.

Stress. 

Missed holidays, missed locations, missed teachers, missed friends, missed everyday comforts, sounds, and sights.  The little things. 

I see this map and get a pit in my stomach.

 
 
That looks really far away to me.  It is in a foreign place.  I know that the term "flyover states" offends some and I can see why.  But for me, that has been what they are.  I have never ventured into this land-locked part of the country and while I know that this new adventure will be great, my nerves are starting to wake up and psych me out.
 
I'm trying to lighten up.  You know how sometimes when you are driving, or sitting in a coffee shop (or whatever), and a song comes on and speaks to you?  Seems to pull you out of your driving daze and make you really think?  That happened to me today.  And even though I have heard this song a hundred times (thanks for the variety, XM!) it just sat differently this morning.  Here is one verse:
 
If you could soldier on
Headstrong into the storm
I’ll be here waiting on the other side
Don’t look back
The road is long
The first days of the war are gone
Take back your former throne and turn the tide
 
Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown
till you
Keep your eyes open, my love

So tell me you’re strong, tell me you see
I need to hear it, will you promise me to
Keep your eyes open, my love
 
~Needtobreathe "Keep Your Eyes Open"
 
 
Deep down, I know that I have one life to live.  One chance to see this big wide world and meet as many people as I can.  I know that being able to move and see new things can be a wonderful blessing.  I know my kids will be okay.  That we will find a great new community and make happy memories in Kansas.  And wherever else the Navy sends us, Amen.
 
I am trying to remember that.  Really, I am.
 
If you are interested in the whole song you can see the video here:
 
 
 

 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Monday, September 10, 2012

Kate's First Day

Walking Kate to preschool this morning was amazing.  Mother nature seems to have realized it's September and the temperature was perfect.  75 degrees, no humidity, a crisp breeze, and bright sunlight.  Kate was excited and eager to head to "her school".  A familiar, happy, wonderful place that our entire family has grown to love since moving here.

Last year I was a ball of nerves - John was deployed, Connor was still a baby who napped right through when Kate was supposed to arrive, and I was a frazzled nightmare on her first day.  What saved me was our amazing cleaning lady who was okay with me leaving Connor napping in his crib while she worked so I could take Kate to school and snap a few pictures.

This year I had John holding my hand as we walked both kids across the neighborhood.  We even had Kate's godfather with us who was in town for his MBA graduation from William & Mary (congrats, Pete!).  After we dropped Kate off with her little friends from last year, we walked to a diner that we love and had a delicious breakfast.  I seriously cannot stress the difference between this year and last year.  If I can spin deployment in a positive light, it is that you truly learn to appreciate things when they are "just right"; not just complain about them when they aren't.

Kate was a happy girl this morning

Kate, 3 years old, first day of school 2012
 
For fun, I decided to put together a little interview to give her.  Hopefully I can remember to ask her these same questions every year on the first day of school.  Next year I can ask Connor too!
 

 ****
Interview with Kate, 9/10/12, First Day of 3 year old Preschool
 
What is your favorite thing about school?
 
"I like Ms. Christie (her teacher).  She has different puzzles in her class." 
 
What do you want to be when you grow up?
 
"I want to be a big girl."
 
Who is your best friend?
 
"Abby, Liam, Luke and Ms. Christie"  
 
What is your favorite animal?
 
 "A pig."
 
What is your favorite color?
 
"Pink."
 
What is your favorite book?
 
Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See?
 
What is your favorite TV show or movie?
 
"My Little Ponies" 
 
Name something you really like.
 
"I like pink ice cream with color sprinkles.  I also like your toes when they are pink and pretty."
 
Name something you really don't like.
 
"I don't like messy rooms."
 
What is your favorite thing about Connor?
 
"Connor is my best friend.  I like that he jumps on the couch with me.  We jump up high into the fan."
 
What is one thing you really want to do at school this year?

"I want to play with puzzles, toys, and play with the big kids."

****
 
 
Sunday, September 2, 2012

HR Bucket List #1 - Check!

 
Jockey's Ridge, Nags Head, North Carolina
 

John, Connor, and Kate on an adventure hike in Jockey's Ridge

Yesterday we took a day trip to Jockey's Ridge State Park in Nags Head, North Carolina.  One of the cool things about Norfolk is the ease of travel to the Outer Banks.  For those not familiar with the east coast shoreline, the Outer Banks (OBX) is a strand of barrier islands off the coast of Southeastern Virginia and North Carolina. 

 
OBX tends to be a low key, scenic, and family friendly vacation destination for people who aren't dying for the "spoon fed fun" boardwalk feel and who don't mind the threat of hurricane evacuations.   John and I have vacationed in OBX a few times with family, once when Kate was less than two months old. 
 
 
Kate at 6 weeks old chillin' on an OBX beach
(aka *sniff sniff* when did she become a little girl?!)
 
Sadly, we haven't explored it very much since we moved back to Hampton Roads in February of 2011.  I wanted to make sure we got down there one more time as a family before we move inland.


Jockey's Ridge is a constantly shifting landmark and is the tallest natural sand dune area on the east coast.  It is also a huge hang gliding location and has it's own school for people who want to learn the sport.  Admission is free and hang gliding permits are also free. 

We spent the afternoon wading in the warm pools of water

Connor and Kate who were like,
"I know mom didn't pack a change of clothes so let's get as wet as humanly possible." 
They both earned themselves touristy OBX t-shirts for the drive home.
 
 
and exploring the (hot hot hot!) sand dunes
 

 
 
The tallest dunes are 100 feet tall and the sand can be up to 30 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. On a 95 degree day, it is enough to burn your feet.  I personally wasn't prepared for that so I highly recommend the right footwear if you visit the dunes in the summer time. 
 
After a few hours we were all wet, tired, hot, and ready to go home.  Within minutes of getting in the car Connor was asleep and stayed that way for the entire ride home.
 
 
Connor snoozing in his aforementioned OBX t-shirt
 
I highly recommend Jockey's Ridge for a day trip from Hampton Roads.  The car ride is 90 minutes to 2 hours from most points in the area.  We didn't hit any traffic even though it is Labor Day Weekend so I think it is safe to say you will be fine in that regard.  Just pack a change of clothes, sturdy shoes, and sun protection. 
 
Happy Labor Day!  Welcome fall!
 


Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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