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.


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.


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

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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