The Loss of Innocence

The little guy’s favorite color is red. So when I told him this morning that it was red, white, and blue day at his preschool, he excitedly pulled his head and arms through his favorite red shirt, blissfully unaware of the incredible weight associated with the date. Those of us old enough to remember each have our own stories about this day 13 years ago but for someone like our not-yet-five-year-old son, the concept of terrorism doesn’t even exist. I know there will come a time when he starts asking more difficult questions beyond “What exactly does Daddy do in the Army?” and “Why does he have to go away so much?” and the simple answers we’ve provided thus far will no longer make the cut. Observing the detachment from innocence is one of the most heartbreaking byproducts of raising children.

Last night, Clay and I watched Obama address the nation on matters concerning our strategy in dealing with ISIS. Using phrases such as “strength and resolve”, Obama vowed that a US-led coalition “will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists” and his administration “will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.” While the September 11th attacks may not be as fresh on our country’s collective mind as they were back in 2002/2003, I can’t help but draw parallels between then and now. And for as much as I’d love to ensure that my husband remains safe by my side, I have legitimate concerns that doing too little could lead to catastrophic results down the road (not necessarily for the United States but definitely for civilians throughout the Middle East and beyond), especially with the current downsizing of our military. With multiple national security experts warning of ISIS sleeper-cells in the United States, there are fears that an ISIS threat to Americans at home is reality {source}. Even if such fears are unfounded, learning of the atrocities committed by the hands of ISIS are incredibly difficult to digest. And with ISIS flaunting its brutality as propaganda, it’s damn near impossible to dismiss.

It’s difficult to discuss the current state of the military without muttering the phrase “do more with less”. There is no question that the proverbial fat needed to be trimmed. But around the country, military families are bracing themselves for what may lie ahead. And despite the assurances of ‘non-combat operations’, there are thousands of military members currently receiving combat pay for their role in fighting ISIS. Like it or not, we are in combat ‘over there’. And to state otherwise is a smack in the face to those with literal boots on the ground and wings in the sky.  The faint drums of war are becoming louder, at least for our community. And as much as I’d like to retreat into the world of my little family of four and go about my daily routine as if there isn’t a cauldron of poison boiling in Iraq and Syria, the drums are becoming difficult to ignore.

September 11th will always be another date that will live in infamy. What was once just an ordinary day will be forever a considerable cloak worn collectively by our nation. Some may argue that our nation’s innocence was lost that day. In Love is the Higher Law, David Levithan wrote “What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.” Today I mourn those who lost their lives on that dreadful day. I also mourn those who have lost their lives fighting in subsequent wars. And I mourn those who have lost their lives at the hands of ISIS and other extremist groups around the world. But despite the weight of today, I also have hope, no matter how thin of a sliver. I have hope that the brief moments of solidarity, respect, and love that emerged in the aftermath of September 11th will return and remain – forever woven in our nation’s fabric. I believe our true nature shined bright during those moments. May we never forget.

Cheezborger. Cheezborger. Cheezborger.

photo-5

Over the weekend, a tradition continued when I met up with four girlfriends in Chicago. We grew incredibly close during our husbands’ deployment to Afghanistan back in 2006 and despite having dispersed throughout the country in late 2007, we’ve made it a point to get together whenever we can (usually about every 18 months).

photo-4

I flew into Chicago late Friday morning and by early afternoon, we were reunited and ready to get the show on the road. Our hotel was located in the River North Gallery District and we couldn’t have asked for a better location – we even had a great view of the Sears Willis Tower.

photo-2

We squeezed as much as Chicago in as we could during our brief time together (about 48 hours). We ate deep dish pizza, visited a piano bar, shopped sans children (very luxurious!), had fancy meals and Chicago-style hot dogs. Most important, we enjoyed each others’ company and acted as if 8 years hadn’t passed since we all lived in the same area.

photo-2

While at Navy Pier, we rode the Ferris Wheel and took a boat tour along Chicago’s shoreline. Chicago’s number one tourist attraction, Navy Pier is a 3,300 ft. long pier on Lake Michigan that is home to a variety of restaurants, public spaces, a small amusement park, and other attractions. I am not a fan of Ferris Wheels (like at all) so it took a little prodding to get me onboard but I was glad I did – the view is quite wonderful.

photo

We opted for the 40 minute boat tour because our time was so limited. It was the perfect amount of time to be out on the water and soaking in the skyline, which is certainly impressive.

photo-2

 And we couldn’t have asked for better weather – mid-70’s with a slight breeze (of course).

10629586_10204027765751203_3623748080663462007_n

Absolutely perfect!

photo-4

I visited Chicago once with my family back when I was in high school so this was my first time in the city as an adult. I’ve always heard great things about Chicago so I suppose it isn’t surprisingly that I loved the city. Chicago is actually one of the places that is on our short list of possible future duty stations so there is a strong possibility we could end up there someday.

photo-3

I was very excited to finally have the opportunity to visit Cloud Gate (affectionately known as The Bean). It truly is a spectacular piece of public art and I could have spent the entire afternoon gazing at it from multiple angles. But alas, there were other things to see and do in the Windy City.

photo-5 2.41.30 PM

Like go to the Skydeck on Willis Tower (formally known as Sears Tower). At 108 stories (1451 ft.), Willis Tower earned the title as World’s Tallest Building upon it’s completion in 1973. It is currently the 2nd tallest building in the United States (One World Trade Center/Freedom Tower in New York City is taller but the Willis Tower has the highest occupied floor) and the 8th tallest structure in the world. The wait for the Skydeck was quite ridiculous but we knew we couldn’t leave Chicago without getting to the top. Our little group was funneled to the freight elevators, which made for a quite a shaky ride up 103 stories. We were then funneled into an interior hallway with no windows were we could feel the building swaying in the wind. Let’s just say that the feeling wasn’t the most pleasant. But once we rode another elevator up one(!) floor to the Skydeck, all feelings of uneasiness were replaced with absolute amazement as we gazed at panoramic views of up to four(!) states.

Desktop219

It’s funny – I was more uneasy while on the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel than I was standing in a glass box 1,353 feet above Chicago. Yup, I went out in the infamous Skydeck ledge. The glass boxes extend out 4.3 feet from the Skydeck and offers an extremely unique perspective – after all, you’re looking down close to 1500 feet…crazy!

Upon putting the finishing touches of this post, I realized that all of my pictures were from Saturday. I promise we did other cool stuff too but I managed to only document the times we played tourists. I am incredibly thankful that we have the opportunity to have these weekends every so often. The nurturing of friendships is yet another aspect of a full and rich life – these girls will always hold a special place in my heart because of what we went through together.

My reunion with my little family at the airport was everything I’d hoped it’d be and more. After leaving the airport, we went to look at cars and then out to dinner at Dogfish Head, where Clay enjoyed a {well-deserved} flight of beer. This past weekend capped off a summer of travel so I am looking forward to staying put for a little while and exploring areas more local to us because we’ve received notification that we are definitely PCSing next summer. And no, we don’t know where and won’t know for quite some time. C’est la vie.

The First Day {of many}

prek

Today was Weston’s first day of Pre-K, also known as his first day of his last year of preschool. The little guy was so excited. He was dressed and ready two hours before showtime. Which is great – except that I had to listen to “Is it time to go to preschool yet?” countless times and provide an up-to-date answer each time. I didn’t mind too much though because a little math never hurt anyone first thing in the morning.

daddywestonviolet

We decided to take advantage of the little guy’s excitement and managed to get a few shots of Weston in his first-day-of-school outfit with Clay before he left for work. Violet did not share Weston’s sentiment about getting dressed super early, hence the {still adorable} pajamas.

DSC_0175

DSC_0223

A couple of hours after Clay left for work, it was finally time for preschool. So I did what any sane mother would do and took approximately 127 pictures to document the occasion. Only about 5 made the cut.

DSC_0298

I sure do love this one though.

Weston will be attending school 5 days a week this year, although only for half-days. Good thing too, because I’m not ready to let him completely go just yet. After all, he’s still my {big} little boy.