A Handful of Various Thoughts

I have a bunch of half-formed ideas for blog posts floating around my head so now seems as good of a time as ever to type them out. Some of them may end up being expanded upon in the future, and others will forever exists solely within the confines of this post. Such is the lifespan of thoughts.

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12 Years. Remembering.

I have never been to war. I don’t know what it is like to leave behind the ones I love most and fight in a foreign country against an enemy embedded in the local culture. I don’t know what it is like to ride in a Humvee while taking enemy fire and scanning the road for IEDs. I don’t know what is like to be at a mountain outpost with limited supplies and incoming RPGs. I also don’t know what it is like to fly in a helicopter along the Hindu Kush while peering at the valley below.

But I do know what it is like to cry into the shoulder of a departing soldier – unsure of what the deployment may bring. I know what is like to go months without hearing his voice – the only contact being letters stained with Afghanistan dirt or a brief email letting me know that he is okay. I know what it is like to get a phone call notifying me of deaths in the unit. And I know what it like to attend services for those killed in action. I don’t know war from my husband’s perspective but I do know war from mine.

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Day in the Life – May 1, 2018

I don’t consider my life to be extraordinary – at least not in the sense of “everybody wants to be me!” My life is pretty grand – don’t get me wrong. But I’m not delusional enough to think that this little hummingbird of a blog provides people with an aspirational way of life. Isn’t that why people follow the Kardashians? As a non-follower myself – I really don’t get it but maybe the joke is on me. On May 1st, I decided to document my day from start to finish. Nothing exceptional was planned and nothing amazing happened. But as pointed out in a favorite play of mine, Our Town, “Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.” So while this day may not seem that important when going against the highlight reel of my life, it is meaningful simply because it happened.

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My alarm goes off at 5:30am. I grab my phone and scroll through emails, Facebook, and Instagram – you know, the essentials. I’d like to say that I also read the top political stories of the day but I actually just bummed around Buzzfeed reading about what sandwich best represents my personality. After a few more minutes of riveting journalism, I lean over to kiss my still-sleeping husband (he didn’t have to leave until a little later that day) and popped out of bed so I could enjoy the quiet house.

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I pour myself a cup of coffee and go about getting the house ready for the day. Everyone in our house is typically up by 6:30am most days. Here in Virginia, the kids’ schools don’t start until 9am, which is quite the change from Kansas and Texas. Even though I prefer an earlier start time, I admit that it’s nice not having to rush out the door in the mornings.

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Early morning is my favorite time to write. I sit down at the desk in the living room and spend the next half-hour putting together my post about our Whirlwind Trip to Colorado Springs. Weston came downstairs just as I hit publish. He is my kindred spirit – the other early riser in the house. Clay and Violet are the night owls in the family. We cuddle on the couch for a bit and talk and then turn on the TV to watch Weston’s newest favorite show – Family Feud with Steve Harvey.

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The rest of the house soon comes downstairs, including Lucy. I make lunch for the little guy (if you’re looking for inspirational packed lunches, just keep on scrolling). I’m trying to firm up some things that decided to head south for winter, so I do squats and lunges as I assemble his honey and peanut butter sandwich.

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We then said our see you laters to Clay, who won’t be coming home that night. With his current job, Clay isn’t home much but we make the best of it by maximizing our time together when he is around. His travel schedule has given us some perspective though – we’re definitely do not take it for granted when he is home!

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The kids and I get ready for the day and before long, it’s time to walk to school. The elementary school that Weston attends (and Violet will attend in the fall) is a true neighborhood school. The vast majority of the kids walk to school and it’s one of the smallest elementary schools in the district, which very much appealed to us when searching for a home here. Walking down the street and through the woods to the little guy’s school is one of my favorite parts of the day.

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After Violet and I walk back to the house, we grab her school stuff and jump into the car. She attends the preschool that Weston attended last time we were stationed here. It’s only about 10 minutes from our house so I book it back  home after kissing her goodbye so I can do some work.

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I recently accepted another Instructional Design contract (actually – a lot has happened since the last Career Chronicles post – I need to update!) so I planned to use the three hours Violet was at school to dive deep into the material so I can meet the deadline. Unfortunately, I had a couple of issues that needed clarification and because it is remote work, I had to wait to receive a response via email. It is those types of situations that make me long for the days when I could just pop over to a coworker and ask a question face-to-face. That being said, I am incredibly thankful that I am able to work remotely – not every career field has that option.

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Not wanting to waste time, I decided to go to Aldi to pick up a few things to save me a trip later on during the day. I love Trader Joe’s and have recently started to go to Aldi once the store in our area re-opened after extensive renovations. A Lidl just opened about 20 minutes from our house but I have yet to check out it. I’ve heard their wine selection is on point. Anywhere I can save a few bucks without sacrificing quality, I’ll be there. When I get back home, I organize the refrigerator (such a riveting life I lead) and work until it is time to pick up Violet.

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When waiting for Violet’s classroom door to open, I look down and realize that I am totally rocking a stay-at-home mom look. Sketcher slip-ons? Check. Skinny jeans? Check. Universal Thread by Target shirt? Check. Lightweight cardigan? Check.

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When we get home, we eat lunch and then take Lucy on a short walk around the block. Lucy will be 13 next month and is really slowing down. She is unable to go on a walk for any significant amount of time and she has trouble breathing in warmer temperatures. We know that we have some difficult decisions to make in the next few months so we are savoring these moments with her while we can. Violet then watches TV and plays while I do some more work on the computer.

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I did manage to squeeze in a tea party and a game of War with Violet, though.

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By mid-afternoon, it’s time to go get Weston from school. Violet and I walk up there and after kissing Weston hello, I let the kids play on the playground while I chat with friends.

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When we get back home, I make some french press coffee because I’m going to need it over the next few hours. We have baseball that night so I make the kids dinner earlier than normal so they have enough time to eat before we leave. I’m not going to lie – it was macaroni and cheese. But the fact that it was dye-free and organic counts for something, right? They also had a side of peas so don’t worry, I didn’t completely fail as a mother.

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First up, I drop Weston off at his baseball game. His wrist is still broken so until it heals, he is the equipment manager for the team. I give him a kiss and tell him that I will be there later to watch the rest of the game. I’m the head coach Violet’s T-Ball team and we have practice that night at a different field a few miles away.

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It’s never fun having to be in two places at once while Clay is TDY. The timing worked out though this time so I can’t really complain. I spend the next hour corralling a bunch of 4-6 year-olds with the help of my assistant coach. After practice, I load the equipment back in my car and Violet and I head back to the baseball complex where Weston’s team is playing.

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Violet found a few friends and played in the grass while I sat in the bleachers and watched the game. I got a text from Clay saying that he arrived safely at his location and I scrolled through social media during the down times and answered some work emails. I could’ve brought a book but it was nice to just veg out for a bit and mindlessly navigate my way around the Internet.

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By 7:30pm, I was beat and ready to go home but the game went on for another 20 minutes. Just before the game ended, Weston got a nose-bleed – equipment management is hard work! The parent who brought snacks for the team had extra for siblings so that eliminated the need for me to feed them again because they ate dinner so early. I consider that a win!

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We arrived home to a Blue Apron box that I didn’t realize we would be receiving. Sigh. I probably should cancel Blue Apron because you have to opt-out of the weeks you don’t want, rather than opt-in. I have to set reminders on my calendar to cancel – you can only do so a few weeks in advance, which is frustrating. I do really enjoy the food and recipes and we’ve incorporated some new meals into our rotation that we otherwise probably wouldn’t have attempted to make. But still – make it opt-in Blue Apron! Those of you that have experience with other meal-delivery companies – are any of them opt-in rather opt-out?

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The kids get ready for bed and have me take a picture of them with ‘heart hands’ to send to Clay. We read a book and then cuddle before it’s time to go to sleep. Baseball nights always mean a later bedtime than usual and they’re asleep by 9pm.

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I am starving when I go downstairs because I didn’t eat dinner with the kids. In hindsight, I probably should have eaten something. I briefly entertain the idea of making one of the Blue Apron meals but I really didn’t want to delay eating any longer. So I threw together one of my favorite go-to meals – black beans, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, avocados, and jalapeño peppers. I sit down in the living room and watched TV while I ate.

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I lock up the house and head upstairs soon after, drink in hand.  I climb into bed and snap the picture above. I’m reading when Clay calls – we talk for awhile and decide to call it quits at 11pm (the phone call – not our marriage…ha!). Overall, it was a pretty typical day around here. I had hoped to squeeze in a run/workout but it just didn’t happen. You can’t win them all, I suppose.

Whirlwind Trip to Colorado Springs

Back in October 2015, we were stationed at Fort Leavenworth and making the most of our Army-sponsored time in eastern Kansas. However, we were beginning to feel the effects of living in a land-locked flat state with no large bodies of water nearby. So when I casually mentioned to Clay that Colorado Springs is only an 8.5 hour drive from Fort Leavenworth, the lure of the Rocky Mountains was enough to gloss over the idea of spending 17 hours in the car during a 72 hour weekend. And before we knew it, we planned a quick trip to Colorado Springs!

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I-70 stretches across Kansas for 424 miles. For approximately 420 miles of the trek, the landscape looks exactly like above. Exits are far and few between, especially in the dark of night. Despite not leaving until 5pm, we managed to drive through Kansas before checking into a hotel around 11pm (we gained an hour going from central to mountain time zone) in Burlington, Colorado, a small town just over the border.

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Before Friday night, we were unaware that Burlington, Colorado is known for the Kit Carson County Carousel, the only surviving menagerie by Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel. Our hotel was overwhelmingly decorated with carousel details and greatly advertised it’s proximity to the museum. The Kit Carson County Carousel is the only antique carousel in America that still has the original paint on both the scenery panels and on the animals. In other words – it’s kind of a big deal to those interested in the antique carousel world, of which we are totally not card-carrying members. At breakfast, I’m pretty sure we were the only people not in town for the carousel (we were also the youngest by about 40 years) and I think I heard carousel music as I drifted off to sleep (Clay did not – he can sleep through anything – a perk of having gone to war, I suppose).

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By 9am, we were back on the road and excited for the two-hour drive to Colorado Springs. In case you were wondering, eastern Colorado looks exactly like western Kansas. Not a mountain in sight. Womp. Womp.

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Woohoo! Our first mountain sighting occurred about 60 miles outside of Colorado Springs. We kept our eye on the prize as we finished the last stretch of the drive – positively giddy after experiencing almost 500 miles of flatland.

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Situated on Fountain Creek, Colorado Springs is 6,035 feet above sea level (with varying levels throughout the city) and positioned near the base of Pikes Peak (known as America’s Mountain). Pikes Peak is on the eastern edge of the Southern Rocky Mountains and is the second most visited mountain in the world, after Mount Fuji in Japan. Since we knew we were going to spend the rest of the afternoon hiking in Garden of the Gods, we grabbed lunch at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company. Not only were the beer and food good, the restaurant was extremely kid-friendly as well.

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Garden of the Gods is a public park owned by Colorado Springs that hosts breathtakingly beautiful red rock formations that were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Popular with rock climbers, hikers, and even those just wanting a leisurely stroll, Garden of the Gods has more than 15 miles of rugged trails and a 1.5 mile paved trail that winds through the heart of the park and the most iconic formations.

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We opted for a more rugged trail because we wanted to climb as many formations as we could (totally encouraged!) and keep away from the tour groups. When we first started, we passed a group on horseback – when the kids are a little older we will definitely partake in such activities but for now, hiking is much more our speed.

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Unfortunately, we realized we forgot our Kelty about 200 miles into the trip but thankfully we always keep the Ergo in the car. I carried Violet on my back for the majority of the hike and Weston was a rockstar climbing and keeping up with me and Clay on the trail.

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Because the weather was perfect, there were many rock climbers on the formations. As long as climbers register with the Visitors Center and have proper gear, climbing is allowed in the park. We did our fair share of climbing as well because it is pretty much impossible to pass a bunch of giant boulders without giving into the urge to climb them, even while wearing a toddler strapped to your back.

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The little guy was super thrilled to have climbed this formation all by himself.

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We couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon in the Garden of the Gods. We spent close to four hours exploring the park doing one of our favorite family activities – hiking in the fresh air. While driving almost nine hours one-way just to see mountains over a three-day weekend may seem extreme to some, it is extremely important to us to show our children as much as the country (and the world) as we can. During our hike, I was reminded of a favorite quote by Frank Lloyd Wright – “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” I can only hope that as parents, we foster an environment that encourages our children to be students of nature. After an afternoon of hiking, we checked into our hotel and grabbed dinner at a cute little Italian restaurant.

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The next morning, we went to Manitou Springs, which is the epitome of a mountain town with unique shops, historic homes, and incredible views. There is also a penny arcade, various mineral springs, and annual events that fall on the eccentric side – such as the Fruitcake Toss. It is a popular destination because of it’s location at the foot of Pikes Peak. We grabbed a cup of coffee at Red Dog Coffee and walked around the town until it was time to head to the train station.

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We knew hiking to the summit of Pike’s Peak was out because our children are young so when we learned about the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, we knew we found our source of transportation up the mountain. I purchased our tickets online (we had the option for Violet to sit on our lap but opted to buy her a seat to give us flexibility – well worth the $20 in our opinion) the week prior because trains can sell out before the day of departure.

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The seats are designed to face toward each other in groups of six (three on each side). We sat next to an older couple from Denver – our assigned seats were the closest four to the window but there really isn’t a bad seat on the train because the windows are so large. Before long, we were on our way up!

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Colorado has 54 mountains over 14,000 ft. Pikes Peak ranks #31 at 14,115 ft. and is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The mountain raises 8,000 ft. above downtown Colorado Springs (the city is already 6,000 ft. above sea level). So while we were over 14,000 ft. at the summit, the train itself only ascended less than 8,000 ft. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway has almost 9 miles of track and the railway itself is the highest in North America, which means that the views on the way up (and down) were outstanding.

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When we went to Alaska, I was disappointed to find out that the majority of the pictures I took failed to capture the majesty of the mountains. Unfortunately, I feel the same way about the pictures taken this trip so please understand that the following pictures to do justice to the majesty of Pikes Peak. The majority of Colorado Springs falls in the Eastern Plains Zone, which extends up to 6,000ft. Pikes Peak encompasses four distinct life zones – the Depot (6,000 – 8,000ft), Montane Zone (8,000 to 10,000 ft), Subalpine Zone (10,000 to 11,500 ft), and Alpine Zone (11,500 ft. and above). It was really cool to see changes that accompany each distinct life zone on our ride up the mountain.

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Pikes Peak has a clear tree-line at 11,5000 ft because the Alpine Zone (tundra) does not contain trees because of it’s high altitude. The lack of the greenhouse effect at such high altitude causes the cold climate in the alpine tundra. As soon as we reached the Alpine Zone, there was a noticeable temperature drop. While the weather was 80 degrees in Manitou Springs that day, the temperatures hovered around 30 degrees at the summit. Pikes Peak is home to one of Colorado’s largest bighorn sheep herds and we were able to see a few on the ride! Unfortunately, there were too far away to show up in a picture taken with my phone.

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When we reached the top, we had about 30 minutes to walk around and explore before needing to board the train for the decent. We bought round trip tickets but hikers have the option to purchase one-way tickets – either for the decent or ascent. Some people were grumbling at the lack of time at the summit but for us with two young kids, it was the perfect amount of time. At the peak, the partial pressure of oxygen is only about 60% of that at sea level.

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From the top, you can see up to five states on a clear day (Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and New Mexico). Views are to be seen from every direction – Garden of the Gods, the Continental Divide, various reservoirs, and summits of other peaks.

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We walked all around up top. There is a gift shop/restaurant at the summit but we didn’t waste our limited time visiting there other than to use the restrooms. We came for the views – not subpar food and cheap souvenirs.

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The Army is everywhere. Ha.

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Violet was no match for the high altitude.

She fell asleep after about 20 minutes at 14,000 feet.

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And then continued to sleep the entire descent. Weston joined her shortly after boarding. We’ve discovered our children’s kryptonite – altitude!

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If you’re wanting to go to the top of Pikes Peak and unable to hike/unwilling to drive, I highly recommend the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The experience did eat up a large chunk of our day but the opportunity to soak in views at 14,000+ ft. made it worthwhile. While we did enjoy the train, Clay and I do hope that the next time we’re on top of Pikes Peak, we’re there because we hiked the 13 miles trail ourselves.

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Colorado continues to be a place that we hope the Army will send us someday. And even though we didn’t spend much time there, we were there long enough to know that we’d be very happy nestled within the southern Rocky Mountains. It doesn’t take much to fall in love with Colorado and we looked forward to the next time we’re breathing in that crisp mountain air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday afternoon we ventured onto Fort Belvoir to check out the trails associated with the Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. Maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge is home to deciduous forests, meadows, and freshwater tidal marshes. There is a trail head located outside of Tulley Gate with a handful of parking spots but we chose to go onto post and drive down to the  MWR Outdoor Recreation area off of Warren Rd. and pick up the trail down by Accotink Bay.

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The Potomac River is the fourth largest river along the Atlantic Coast. Accotink Bay is considered an arm of the Potomac River. Accotink Creek empties into Accotink Bay to the west of Fort Belvoir. Over 1200 acres comprise the Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, along with about eight miles of hiking trails.

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The temperature was in the mid-50s and the sun was shining bright. After the winter we’ve had (dreary with little snow) and spring’s reluctance to come to the national capital region, the brilliant blue sky was a welcome sight.

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The trails are not difficult hikes. They’re perfect for a young family wanting to explore and encounter the occasional obstacle. On our hike yesterday, we had to cross some shallow water on a fallen log and navigate around some mud using strategically placed rocks. There are no steep inclines but the trail does go up and down, which we always appreciate.

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Be sure to veer too far from the trails!

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Now that our kids are getting older, we’re really taking advantage of them being able to keep up with us – at least for a couple of miles. It feels incredibly freeing not to have to worry about a stroller or a backpack-carrier on our hikes.

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John Muir famously said that “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” While it can be difficult to make time for such adventures in the midst of regular-life obligations, we take his words to heart and do what we can with what we have. It was a perfect Sunday afternoon spent as a family. And in times like these, you have to cling to those types of moments. If anything, to remind ourselves that everything will be okay.

Stone Soup – The Weekend Edition

To celebrate the value of sharing, I’ve compiled a hodge lodge of tidbits and links that struck my fancy to form the weekend edition of stone soup. Like Loverboy, we’re all working for the weekend. Clay is home this weekend (woot woot) so I don’t have to be in two different places at once, which is makes me happier than Jill Zarin if she were to be asked back to the Real Housewives of New York. Having the husband home is always a welcome reminder of how much easier it is to parent when he is around. He also makes me laugh so I rather enjoy having him around. He’s pretty cute too.

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This week was a good one despite the allergy index being annoyingly high in northern Virginia. The weather has finally turned and it appears that the cold days are on hiatus until fall. To celebrate the warmer temperatures, the kids and I are finalizing our summer to-do list because it will likely be our only summer in the national capital region this assignment.

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Are you familiar with CommuniKait? If not, you need to be. She is a travel writer and blogger and I love following her adventures. I wrote an Ultimate Weekend Guide to San Antonio for her blog as as she eats, drinks, and explores her way through Italy. Like I wrote in the post – if I had to sum up the year that my family spent in San Antonio, Texas in one sentence, it’d be: We didn’t love living there but if you haven’t been there, you should totally go visit!

A friend on Facebook recently shared this restored film that shows what life was like in New York City in 1911. I am obsessed. I love how the opening shot on the ferry has the same gates that can be seen on the Staten Island ferry today.

Chocolate by The 1975 has been playing on repeat in my head throughout the week. It’s impossible not to sing along with an accent.

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I throughly enjoyed this New Yorker piece by Molly Ringwald about her mixed-feelings toward John Hughes during the #MeToo era. The Breakfast Club was arguably my coming-of-age movie. I was blown away when I first rented it between the summer of 8th and 9th grade and I loved how it felt like a play within a movie. And of course, Bender. But watching it now as an adult leaves me with an odd feeling – there are a lot of things in the movie that are not okay. Why didn’t they bother me as a young teenager? Have times changed? Or was I just that naive and ignorant?

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And finally, I ordered Weston a pair of Crocs and they arrived yesterday. This is a momentous occasion because this marks the first time such footwear has crossed the threshold into our home. However, they are not the traditional style crocs (does that make it any better?) and I am so obsessed with his that I may end up ordering a pair for myself. What am I becoming? Who am I? Is this a crisis?

What Living in 10 Homes Has Taught Us About How We Want to Live

Talk about a mouthful of a title, right? Since making it legal in 2004, Clay and I have shared ten addresses together. Over the years, we’ve lived in apartments, townhomes, and single family homes. We’ve lived in homes with just one bathroom and we’ve lived in homes with up to four bathrooms. We’ve lived in historical homes, we’ve lived in brand new homes, and we’ve lived in everything in between. We’ve had gas heat, we’ve had electric heat, and we’ve had no air conditioning. We’ve been under BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing), we’ve been at BAH, and we’ve been over BAH. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and the life we wish to build together. And the ten homes we’ve lived in thus far has taught us a thing or two about how we want to live.

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In my post about how we became accidental landlords, I talked about the two homes we bought and currently use as investment properties.  We don’t consider either one of these houses our ‘forever home’ and will likely never live in either one of them again. Ahhh – the concept of a forever home. It’s not unusual for military families to talk about their forever homes. When you’re forced to live in places and homes you wouldn’t otherwise choose to live, the idea of being able to have 100% control over those aspects of your life becomes such a romantic notion that it rivals Rachel McAdams in a blue dress jumping onto Ryan Gosling in the rain and kissing him hard as with her legs firmly wrapped around his waist.

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I have yet to fully realize my Ryan Gosling house. I touched on it a bit in my previous post – Clay and I really don’t have any longterm goals in regards to where we want to live other than making sure that we absolutely love living there. Life is too short to choose a location based solely on job opportunities, family, taxes, cost of living, etc… We don’t have a forever home in mind like a lot of our military friends. Our forever home may be a two-room bungalow on the beach, a high-rise apartment in a metropolitan city, or a log cabin nestled in the mountains. Truth be told – I’m a little envious of my friends who already have a plot of land, who have Pinterest boards full of house ideas, and who have some idea of how they want to live post-military. We’re not there yet. And the jury is still out whether we ever will be.

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Outside of our first place together in Madison Barracks, Sackets Harbor, New York. {2004}

So what has the past 13+ years and living in 10 homes thus far taught us? First is that our priorities and outlook on life have changed since we were newlyweds in our young twenties watching HGTV and dreaming of a grown-up house. We wanted the stainless steel appliances, the granite counters, the dual bathroom vanities, and the hardwood floors. Living in a tiny apartment can certainly foster these dreams.

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The first home we bought. {2008}

But you know what? After living with all of these features in various homes, we’ve learned that at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. We crave simplicity, we appreciate historic details, and we understand that stone countertops have absolutely no impact on our day-to-day happiness. Are new appliances, non-laminate countertops, and gleaming wood floors nice things to have in a home? Of course. We appreciate them when we happen to live in such a home. We’re certainly not ripping up hardwoods to put down wall-to-wall carpet. But we also know that we are no happier than when we happen to live in a home that doesn’t have such features. For that reason alone, I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to move around as much as we do. I’m not sure if I’d have the same understanding about what truly makes me happy if we didn’t live in so many different homes.

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Infantry Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. {2015}

When we’re asked about our favorite home, there is little hesitation on our part. The apartment we lived in at Fort Leavenworth during Clay’s year at Command General and Staff College wins by a landslide. Yes, the front door would stick sometimes so I’d have to throw my body weight against it in order to let myself inside. The master bathroom was tiny (tiny!) and the laundry room was just a hall closet. There weren’t that many outlets. The kitchen had mismatched appliances and the top of the cupboards had a coat of curry that proved impossible to clean. The fire escape collected pine needless and we never could figure out how to open the kitchen window. The air conditioning and heat were old and tempermental. But the wood floors were pre-War and told the stories of families who called the place home before us. And our kitchen door was always open for the neighbors to come in as they like.

Of all the places we’ve lived, our 1903-built apartment has been our favorite thus far because of the memories made during those 11 months. Perhaps I am romanticizing the place too much and building it up to be my Ryan Gosling, but I don’t care. Our experience at Fort Leavenworth taught us that it doesn’t really matter how updated our home may be – it’s the people who surround our home and become our community that matter more. Living there made us realize that we want the place we call home to part of something greater than ourselves.

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But don’t get me wrong, we have also developed opinions on specific home designs due to our experience of living in ten different houses. For example, we don’t mind bathrooms with just one vanity – when we have two, we just end up using the same sink anyway. Toilet rooms creep me out – such a small enclosed space without a window…::shudder:: I don’t really care for open concept living, I much prefer cozy rooms. I believe that kitchens can be too big (our house in Texas taught me that) and I don’t miss a formal dining room when we live in a home without one – I’d rather have just one designated eating space and perhaps an informal counter in the kitchen with some barstools. I don’t like having more than 2.5 bathrooms because then they become a chore to clean. And anything more than four bedrooms is just too much for our little family. I also love a porch that is perfect for conversation and cocktails well into the night (who doesn’t?).

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Only time will tell where our 11th home together will be and what it will look like. However, I take comfort in the fact that as long as it provides shelter and gives us a place to love and to be loved, it will a good home for us. No matter what type of countertops happen to be in the kitchen.

The Need to Escape – Anchored in Possibility

My previous stream of consciousness post was a very cathartic experience and the responses I received left me reassured that my thoughts are not the equivalent of survivors shipwrecked on a remote island. Instead they’re like bubbles – floating through the air until they’re popped by a finger or they naturally cease to exist by their own accord. So why not do it again? I’m not sure where this post will end up so we’re going on this journey together. There will be no beverage service, unless you count the latte I’m currently sipping while typing away in a bustling coffee shop.

This past Saturday afternoon, after a full morning of baseball, I loaded the kids and Lucy into the car and escaped north to the Philly suburbs to spend the night with my sister and her family. Earlier that morning, I just felt the need to escape. Clay was away, we had no obligations after 12pm, and I really wanted a cheesesteak that night for dinner. As I battled traffic on 1-95N and left one major city for another, a low-key sense of calm took over my body – so much so that I didn’t even mind paying $2.00 for a regular-size bag of Peanut M&Ms at the Maryland House travel plaza. I truly felt like I was escaping for the night.

But escaping from what?

By all accounts, my life is good – happy and healthy marriage and kids and we’re stationed at a place we thoroughly enjoy living. I knew I wasn’t escaping from anything tangible but I couldn’t shake the feeling of freedom as I drove along the backroads of Maryland and Pennsylvania farmland toward the city. Was it because these were the roads I learned to drive on? Likely not. While I do feel a sense of homecoming whenever I visit my sister – the only one left of our family in the area, isn’t an overwhelming feeling of comfort – the kind you get when you spend your childhood and adolescence in one area. In some ways, I feel like an imposter when back in the Philly ‘burbs because I’ve been away for so long and my memories there don’t start until I was a teenager. If anything, I’m a fair-weather Philly gal with just as much allegiance to Arizona and Michigan.

Which makes me wonder – maybe I am just bred to want to escape. As a kid, I was always focused on the road ahead. When I was in 4th grade, I couldn’t wait until middle school. When I was in 7th grade, I couldn’t wait until high school. And by the time 10th grade rolled around, I was chomping at the bit to go away to college. Choosing a university near home wasn’t even on my radar – I was determined to go as far away as my parents would let me. And to be honest – there wasn’t really a reason why. High school was fine for me. In fact, I rather enjoyed it. My childhood was safe and happy. But I didn’t want to stay. I needed to escape.

Falling in love so young wasn’t part of my plan. Neither was getting married in my very early 20s. But love has a funny way of creeping up on you when you least expect it. And to be honest, the fact that Clay is the Army has been extremely seredipitous in regards to my apparent desire to escape because we literally pack up our lives and move every 1-3 years. Is it taking the easy way out by choosing a lifestyle that ensures I always have an escape plan? Luckily Clay has the same attitude about moving and settling as I do.

Over the years, I’ve met people who feel stuck for one reason or another – they can’t move because of extended family obligations, they can’t search for a new job because instability is scary, or they resign themselves down a certain path because of societal expectations. I’ll say that it’s incredible not ever feeling stuck because no matter how much we may not like living somewhere, we have reassurance that it is only temporary. We always have an escape plan.

My roots are intertwined with my husband’s and my kids’ but not anchored to anything but possibility. I love that description – anchored only in possibility.

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We’re often asked where we want to settle when Clay retires from the Army and we always respond, “Hell if we know!” Maybe Colorado? Or Maine? Hawaii? Another country? We do love northern Arizona. The California coast is amazing. Montana would be cool too. Or northern Michigan. Perhaps Key West?

Aren’t longterm plans for the birds, anyway?

I’m sure wherever we end up by choice won’t be the last place we live. We will have an escape plan. It’s in our blood.

Okay then – I didn’t envision this post about going to Philly for the night turning into a manifesto about how we have no idea where we want to settle. Or if we want to settle at all. That’s the beauty of these stream of consciousness posts, I suppose.