Monday, April 23, 2012

Here, There, Everywhere

It is a common thing for a military family to say "goodbye" to friends and neighbors.  It is part of our culture, part of what makes the lifestyle heart wrenching.  We are on our toes all the time because someone is always going.  Moving across the country or even around the world.  Going going going.  It is the part of the fabric that makes the military lifestyle hard.  It is also part of what makes it great.

Last week when I visited one friend in California she said that after four years at her current location that she was ready to leave.  While she adored the area, the scenery, the climate, and her children's schools, her heart was at it's limit.  At this particular base, four years is an unusually long amount of time to stay put.  And because of that, she had watched friends come and go.  And come and go.  Come and go.  Houses that once housed her closest friends now housed strangers.  Literally not one person who had welcomed her to the area was living there anymore.

I wasn't shocked to hear her sadness over this issue.  John and I lived in Norfolk for about five years before we moved to Maryland in 2008.  In some ways I felt similarly then.  I had been there a long time and most of the people who had been my first Navy wife friends had moved on to other areas.  When we left Maryland our ranks were thinning.  Because of the nature of Test Pilot School, a whole bunch of us arrived at the exact same time.  But we didn't all leave at the same time.  When the last few families were packing up to make the trip elsewhere it started feeling very quiet and lonely. 

This normal sadness that my friend shared was a huge contrast to the feelings I had while planning my trip to California.  It made me think about the many pros and cons to this lifestyle and how they are constantly at battle in my mind.  Do I love it?  Do I hate it?  Does it depend on the day or the amount of wine I have consumed?

I often joke that California "steals" my friends.  So many of John and my closest friends live out there.  My best friend from high school and John's best friend from the Naval Academy live about 3 miles apart in San Diego.  Two of my best buddies from VAW 126 (John's first fleet squadron) live in San Diego too.  As does the friend I met while John was at TPS who watched Kate in her home during her first year while I worked full time.  John's brother moved to San Francisco a year ago.  Kate's godfather and someone who we have seen at least once per week since moving back to Norfolk is moving to California at the beginning of May.  Seriously, at this point, take me with you!

Naturally, our trip last week was as much about seeing people as it was about seeing places.  And there is honestly something really special about experiencing a new place with familiar people.  Going to Sea World with Julie and April was fun because they are the same people that I explored Norfolk with.  Hanging out with Leighanne and Betsy at a great airport cafe in Ventura was fun for me because they are the same people I went to bars in Norfolk with (before kids!) and attended 80s parties in Maryland with.  It is like vacationing with friends - but not having to deal with the logistics of vacationing with friends.  And if we actually did end up with orders out there, I already have an army of friends waiting for me.  There is something pretty cool about living down the street from someone on the Atlantic Ocean then moving and living down the street from them on the Pacific Ocean.  Something special and unusual that we might take for granted.

Don't get me wrong.  The idea of growing roots, having the same friends down the street for decades, and not saying goodbye to everyone is certainly appealing.  But it is definitely less adventurous.  There are few places around the globe where we don't know someone living that we could call to get a tour or a great restaurant recommendation from.  From Australia to Italy to Spain to Hawaii and Japan, I can honestly say we have Navy "family" there.  And while I often wish we could all live on the same block forever, would we really appreciate it?  Appreciate each other as much? 

For now I am enjoying having friends here, there, everywhere...

Friday, April 20, 2012

The California Trail

We are back on the east coast adjusting to jet lag and having a stay-cation from our vacation.  The kids are exhausted but I know it is because of all the fun things they saw and did over the past week.  I lived dangerously and allowed the family to go nap-free (if you know me you know this is a big deal ...  huge..).  We logged 830 miles onto our rental swagger wagon and enjoyed seeing new places, hanging with good friends, and eating (a lot) of delicious food.

We started in San Francisco where we met up with John's brother Rich and his girlfriend Sarah.  Sarah is attending UC Berkeley getting her MBA so we stayed in their neck of the woods.  We had never seen Berkeley and enjoyed observing the mix of yuppies and hippies running around.  Even more confusing was the restaurant that boasted a combination of Indian-Pakistani-Mexican.  hmmmm...  Sarah and Rich insisted we go down to Telegraph Avenue, probably the most eclectic area of Berkeley so that we could get a feel for the town (or overpowering smell of incense).  In reality, it was a way to get ice cream sandwiches at C.R.E.A.M, which stands for Cookies Rule Everything Around Me.  My husband has the biggest sweet tooth on the planet so I think his conservative butt was instantly sold on super liberal Berkeley. 

On Thursday, went to Golden Gate Park and enjoyed the children's playground area. They have a historic concrete slide that was retained from the old playground built in the late 1800s.

Koret Children's Quarter, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

John and Kate at the top of the concrete slide

Friday brought a trip north to Muir Woods to see the redwood trees.  The kids enjoyed splashing in the puddles and zig zagging into every other visitor's pictures. 

Kate leading the way through Muir Woods (hands on hips like a true toddler)

Stop the presses!  A PUDDLE!  What redwoods?!

Kate loves to take pictures.  She probably took more than me!

After Muir Woods, Rich convinced us that we needed to drive "an extra 20 minutes" to see the amazing view at the top of Mount Tamalpais.  45 minutes of windy mountain driving later, we had a toddler covered in puke and...

A great view of San Francisco

Finding out you have a toddler susceptible to car sickness the day before you are planning to drive the Pacific Coast Highway from Monterey to Santa Barbara is awesome.  Note for all you road trippers:  rain coats can provide key protection from more than just rain.

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early and hit the road.  We stopped in Monterey, California to hang with the fishies.

Here squishy squishy squishy....

We learned that Connor had zero fear about climbing into a touch tank

So carrying all 30 pounds of him around was the safe solution...

After a few hours at the Monterey Aquarium, we had a great lunch and bid Rich and Sarah farewell.  We headed south on the Pacific Coast Highway determined to get to Santa Maria before bedtime.  John and I had driven the PCH before, but never the northern portion near Monterey.  It is true what they say - you must take this drive.  It is stunning.  It reminded me a little bit of the Road to Hana in Maui - just safer and with less Mustang Convertibles.

Toward the end of our drive we got to see the amazing elephant seals in Southern Big Sur.  There were thousands of them.  Enormous and grumpy, it seemed as if they were all fighting for the most comfortable section of the beach.  We watched them snore, shuffle around, fight, and roll over for about 20 minutes.  The sounds were amazing and it was really cool to see such a spectacle up close.  And not at the zoo.

On Sunday morning we jumped in the car and drove down through Santa Barbara and into Ventura County.  We had lunch at a neat airport cafe near Point Mugu Naval Air Station.  It was great to see some friends from Norfolk and Pax River.  I think the hostess nearly fainted when I said "table for 5 adults and 8 children, please", but the meal was awesome and I was so happy to be able to catch up with Leighanne and Betsy.  As we drove out of Point Mugu and further south, I gave my husband official "permission" to request west coast orders.  As an east coast girl, that is even bigger news than going nap free for the week.

We arrived in San Diego on Sunday night at dinner time.  Becky, my best friend from high school, and her husband got stuck in Georgia due to an airline glitch so we let ourselves into their adorable house and made ourselves comfortable (read: toys everywhere, sippy cups everywhere, and every uncovered outlet discovered in .0035 seconds flat).  Connor actually discovered that the switch to the garbage disposal was at his eye level before I put down my suitcase.  I wish I was exaggerating.

Monday morning we drove over the bridge onto Coronado Island and let the kids play.  In the afternoon, I visited my good friend April who just had a baby in March.  The Kates (both of our daughters are named Kate) put on pink dresses 2 minutes after arrived and had a blast running around the yard.

Racing up the slide in Coronado

"The Kates" playing

Meeting sweet baby Luke

That evening I got to have a wonderful dinner in Old Town with Becky (who made it from Georgia! yay!), Sarah, April, and Julie.  I had two margaritas and was happy to be off the hook for bedtime duty.

On Tuesday we headed to Sea World.  Julie and her two daughters Emily and Reesie and April and her kids Kate and Luke joined us in the spoon fed fun.  We got to see the Shamu Show and Connor was hooked.  His shrieks of joy could probably be heard across the park.

Shamu!  WOW!

Kate checking out the Beluga whale.  Connor wondering if I will ever put the camera away.

On Tuesday night we ate fish tacos from Rubio's (yum!) and relaxed with Becky and Adam after the kids went to bed.  On Wednesday morning we packed our 23012305 pounds of crap and headed back to the airport, returned our pimpin' mini van, and flew home to Norfolk.

We logged 830 miles of driving, saw 1 brother, 9 friends (19 if you count their kids), approximately 9,870 sea creatures, and gained at least 10 pounds on Mexican food and free hotel breakfasts.  We learned that it is possible to have a blast on vacation with a 2 year old and 1 year old.  Flying cross country is possible.  Driving a minivan isn't that bad.  And even if it was super hard, it is more than worth the effort to see friends and family in their hometowns (or at least the towns the Navy insists is home for now). 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Good Morning, San Francisco!

It is 4 AM PST and you would think my kids were ready to go run a marathon.  Connor is literally jumping up and down in his Pack 'n Play.  I spent an ungodly amount of money for PBS On Demand so that they can "relax" (read: so that we don't have to get up and start our routine at 4 AM).  You know you are a parent when you pull your rental mini van up to the hotel and the first question you ask your husband is "what time is breakfast in the morning?" and when he says "6:30 AM" you cringe at the realization that you will have at least 2 hours to kill before then. 

But we're thrilled to be here!  Sleep is overrated, right?

We have a busy week planned.  John's brother Rich lives in Berkeley.  He moved here a little over a year ago and we felt it was time to show our "you moved far away but we still love you" support.  We will be here until Saturday when we jump in our sexy car mini van and head south on the Pacific Coast Highway toward San Diego.  We will spend one night somewhere around Santa Barbara, visit some good friends at Point Mugu Naval Air Station on Sunday morning, and be in San Diego by evening.  Since "all of our friends live in San Diego" (no, I don't mean that literally, it just feels that way sometimes) we will have a whirlwind few days seeing them, basking in the sun on Coronado Island, getting our taste of spoon-fed fun at Sea World, and enjoying good Mexican food.

Then, just as the kids adjust to Pacific Standard Time, we will jump back on an airplane and head home.  I'll keep you apprised of our adventures!
Saturday, April 7, 2012


No fatalities.  No missing people.  Nothing short of miraculous.  Thank God.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why Hello There, Murphy

My trip to visit my girlfriends was wonderful.  They surprised me with a massage, we ate sushi, we stayed up late talking, I didn't stare at the clock calculating how many hours of sleep I was losing because of how early Connor would wake up.  I was free to go on a long run, I didn't feel dependant on coffee.  I slept in.  I drank good wine, stopped and browsed in every store that called out to me, and waited until the very last hour to buy things for my kids.  I got to reexplore the girly side of myself and hear all about the fun, interesting, and lovely things my sorority sisters are up to.  It was an amazing time and I can't wait to do it again.

At Eataly in NYC where we ate good food and then got photo bombed by a bald guy

Rita's!  I was only a little bit excited...

The distinctive red capes at 230 Fifth Avenue's rooftop bar

Of course, because there is balance in the world, Murphy paid me a visit.

Sadly, Connor experienced his first high fever on Saturday night.  I got a phone call from Johnny while riding the Subway back to my friend's apartment.  Damn you, Murphy!  It was like I got too relaxed, too swept up into the freedom of the weekend and the Universe screamed out "not so fast, anxiety girl! you can't possibly go an entire 48 hours without worry".  So I worried.  I sat by the phone.  And prayed I didn't have to drive to Laguardia that night in order to beg, borrow, and steal my way onto the next flight back to Norfolk.

Thankfully, my super husband handled everything perfectly.  Connor is a sick little boy, but his dad knows not only how to be a good father, but how to be a great husband to me.  He knows my anxiety and downplayed everything for me so that I could go back to my weekend.  John has learned how to expertly navigate my worry; how to get information from me without showing his hand completely. He also knows that I needed a few days on my own.  A few days to decompress, relax, and just do "whatever girls do" as he always says.

Connor is recovering.  He has hand, foot, & mouth disease (eew) and an ear infection.  He is also teething which just makes it a trifecta of pain for the little guy.  But he is strong, his daddy took good care of him, and everything worked out.  I am thankful for my girlfriends for showing me an amazing time this weekend.  I am thankful for a husband who not only knows how to care for me, but how to care for Kate and Connor. 

I'm a lucky girl.

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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