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?


 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!

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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