26 May 2016

Stop and Smell the Roses


"This is the most fun summer will get," I thought delightedly at the botanical garden splash pad this week. 

It's the anticipation within this moment, right at the crest of the wave, when nothing is certain but all is hopeful for the future. Just two weeks left of preschool. No news about where we're going---good or bad. One of our first days of warm, sunny weather. 

We're on the countdown. We just don't know what we're counting down to. In the meantime, we enjoyed the beautiful morning, ran into Isaac's preschool buddies unexpectedly for added fun, and---of course---stopped to smell the roses. 

24 May 2016

Chesapeake

I like living near this historic body of water. I'm reading the 1970s best seller "Chesapeake," by James Michener (dedicated to a Mari). My mom sent it to me when we moved here, and I always love reading about a place when I'm there (travel post on THAT coming soon). We are on the countdown for Norfolk these days, so I am racing to finish this 1,132 page whopper! After that I'm thinking Moby Dick for a little light summer reading. 
The kids were excited to show Chris the fishing pier (on the Chesapeake) where we like to play in the sand, drink $1 cups of beer, and have French fries for dinner. Another night we got Taste and brought it to the ship (also on the Chesapeake) to have dinner with Chris on duty. 

It's amazing how fun it is having TWO ADULTS at home! Amazing! 

While I've got this book echoing around in my head, I find myself drawn to the American landscape room at the Chrysler. Gorgeous marble sculptures of Native Americans and Europeans who adopted native lifestyles, intricate forest scenes---a million stories played out across the walls. 

Over in the Renaissance gallery, conservation work continues on the 400-yr-old Van Dyke of St. Sebastian, a Roman soldier tied to a tree and shot by arrows for being a Christian. One of the conservators explained the popularity of St. Sebastian among Van Dyke and other painters of the time: as Martin Luthor's Protestantism was spreading across Europe, Protestants and Catholics were calling each other heretics. 

Just days before, I had been reading about this very subject in "Chesapeake." Queen Mary was Catholic, the next king was Protestant (King James? I forget). Anyway, that is why the Eastern Shore of Maryland is a separate state from Virginia---Maryland was founded as a refuge for Catholics and named after the Catholic queen thanks to Catholic Lord Baltimore, while Virginia was Protestant. 

There you have it: art, literature, history.  

13 May 2016

Once in a Blue Moon


They say a bad day on the water is better than a good day anywhere else. Those people didn't have my freaking out kids in their canoe. I don't know if it was their ages or the steady supply of lollipops I brought, but this season's inaugural float was fantastic! Hardly any tantrums. THIS is why we got this thing! 

I love the way river water smells: salty, muddy, river-y. Tonight I went on a walk around the loop after the kids were in bed. The sun set, the moon came out, and so did all the night scents. I read recently---in Valencia, I think---about Moon Gardens: a garden of fragrant, white flowers best viewed by moonlight. What?! We inadvertently had one in Florida. This time of year, Chris and I would have wine on the bench between all the gardenia bushes in our front flower beds in the moonlight. 

Tonight I smelled jasmine around every corner, gardenias, roses, and the flower below: delicately scented, fluttering its petals toward the hazy quarter moon. 

08 May 2016

Happy Mother's Day!


In college, my favorite white polo shirt got soaked with blood in a car accident. I thought I'd throw it away, but my mom took it and said she'd work on it. 

She got out every spot. Every single one. It looked better than before. 

That's my mom even now, especially this tour as I've been on my own so much. Thank you for making my load lighter, Mum. She scrubs out all the hurts, good as new. 

Happy Mother's Day! 

07 May 2016

Singing in the Rain


"I'm on a train ride at Busch Gardens with a cookie. Nothing could be worse!" 
---ELOISE 

"I didn't like that one bit! It was too fast for me! Any time I go on that ride it gives me a headache!" 
Isaac, re: the Grover rollercoaster 
We had so much fun at Busch Gardens last year on a cold, rainy, spring day that we tried to replicate this uncrowded experience. The forecast looked pretty miserable for Friday so we did it! Chris and I agreed, the day met our expectations. I didn't think that was possible! Both kids were kind of grouchy, but Eloise danced and clapped through the Irish show, and Isaac liked all the rides except the Grover-coaster. Chris and I even traded off and went on some big scary fun coaster. 

Eloise didn't like any rides, but loved watching the rollercoasters shoot around the tracks. Hopefully she wasn't just enjoying the screams of terror. I wonder sometimes. 

Theme parks mid-week in the rain: we recommend it! 

06 May 2016

Military Spouse Appreciation Day!

The fantastic photographer who came with the kids and me to welcome home Chris' ship is a military spouse. I found out about her from a military spouse group. I would not have made it through this tour without other military spouses (and my mom!). And we wouldn't be able to be nearly as invested in this crazy Navy life without the navy spouses who I've been blessed to live alongside. 

Military Spouse Appreciation Day sounds like a made up holiday. Maybe it IS made up. But I really am so appreciative of the military spouses in my life! 

This cheesy post is over. So cheesy. Nope, I'm going to add an inspirational quote. 

"She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails." 
Elizabeth Edwards 



05 May 2016

"The Confessions of X" by Suzanne Wolfe


Suzanne Wolfe's "Confessions of X," is historical fiction about the life of St. Augustine's love interest. 

This historically unnamed woman leaves her skeezy uncle's house to promise herself to Augustine. He makes no promises to her. They are of different social classes and can't legally marry, but their arrangement is generally respectable. They have a son, they travel to Italy. Ultimately, she sacrificially leaves so that he can marry well and advance in his career. But her loving sacrifice shows him a picture of Christ's sacrifice, so he becomes a monk and...still never speaks to her again. What? 

This book was meh. First of all, Augustine is kind of a jerk. Second of all, the narrator---the love interest---is totally unbelievable as a real person. At the risk of sounding harsh, she was one-dimensional: just soooooo loving and selfless and giving and always thinking of others. 

And the sad parts were so sad I wanted to scrub my face off. 

I love the idea. That's why I picked it for a FREE copy to review. But...meh. Despite the encouragingly juicy title, the story didn't do it for me. 

This book gets my lowest rating yet: 2 of 5 stars. 

04 May 2016

Goals


The day Chris sailed away from Norfolk, I made a goal that surprised me: to get a story in Norfolk's Virginian-Pilot. When our family moved to Norfolk two years ago, I had been pregnant with Wheezy Woo and decided to feel free not to worry about working during this tour. Deployment changes your mind about things unexpectedly. 

It's fun to look back at the seven months Chris has been gone and see all the things we accomplished individually that we would not have done if we'd been together. Chris could tell you some stories...but for now I'm just talking about the homefront. 

First of all, working at the Chrysler Museum of Art. It seemed like everything was upside down already so why not apply for something way outside my normal? Then going to Africa and writing about it for the Houston Chronicle. I wrote a piece about Mardis Gras for the Virginian-Pilot's online component, and I started contributing to Spousebuzz at military.com. I did some work for The Writers for Hire and wrote for Samaritan's Purse. 

And the day Chris came home, I had my first print story for the Pilot on B1 (that's the front page of the features section). It felt very full circle, since I made that goal as the boat sailed out of sight. 

You can find me in features again this Saturday! 

03 May 2016

Welcome Home, Lieutenant!


We stood in the rain for three hours. "Good thing they're getting home and not leaving," I thought. Leaving in the rain would be so depressing. Nothing can put a damper on homecoming! 

The rain clouds parted for a moment and the sailors, who'd all gotten soaked manning the rails, came streaming out. 

So much joy. 

"Where's Daddy? Where's MY Daddy?" Isaac was excited and restless. Finally he just started yelling, "DAAAAAADDY! DAAAAADDY!" 

Then, there he was! 

Welcome home, Krueger! CONGRATULATIONS on finishing this deployment! CONGRATULATIONS on your selection to operational department head! I'm so proud I'm dizzy! Love you so so much! 

02 May 2016

The Last Day of Deployment

I did it. We did it. It's done. 

Homecoming is forecast rainy rainy rainy, but who the heck cares? 

The kids were super grouchy this afternoon, wouldn't nap, screamed and cried constantly, and went to bed early so we missed the homecoming info meeting. Typical. 

But you know what? Who the heck cares? 

I stopped trying to peel off Eloise, sat on the back porch, and had a beer. This deployment, along with the crappy work ups that started as soon as we got here, has contained some of the best---and some of the worst---moments of my life. 

And now, it's (nearly) done. It feels like a huge personal achievement merely to have survived some of the days we've had. Literally; I'm thinking of the day Eloise choked and I gave her the heimlich and the basement flooded. 

So I sat on my fanny and enjoyed that beer and a job well done. 

SEE YOU TOMORROW, CHRIS!!

30 April 2016

Color Study of Seascapes


I think Seascapes by 19th Century painter William Trost Richards is the first exhibit to come and go since I've worked at the museum. 

Amid the garish colors and questionable endurance of some other pieces in the modern and contemporary gallery, the crashing seas and shimmering blue greens seem a calm harbor. 

Today's its last day. And today especially I wonder...how long will I be here before our family again follows the sea?

28 April 2016

Color Study at the Zoo


Today was cool, cloudy, and unbelievably vividly green. Norfolk's famous crepe myrtles are all leafy again. It looks like someone poked the air with a pin a glowing green primordial ooze is seeping out into the world. 

Between cloudbursts we popped over to the zoo to eat our pb&j lunch. A peacock thought Eloise was pretty cute and ran at her, tail feathers unfurled, cawing. She did not like that one bit. I had to chase him off. 

We also saw the boa constrictor eating a rabbit. "Oh no!" said Eloise. This week she's also started saying "wanna get down," "applesauce," and "elephant." And giving kisses. SO CUTE. 

We finally saw the new CHEETAHS. Then we ran home because it was raining. 

Color Study at the Zoo: 

23 April 2016

Norfolk NATO Festival


I used to always go do everything. Then one day I realized, "wrastling both grouchy kids alone in public is LESS fun in a crowd. The only thing I'm missing out on is a pleasant morning playing in the backyard." 

So I almost didn't drag the kids to the NATO Festival Saturday. It seemed like a pain to find garage parking. 

But it was supposed to rain all afternoon, so we finally rolled out of the driveway. Then rolled back in and got the letter to mail and some sweaters. Then rolled out for real. I didn't really know where I was going. We turned this way and that. Then we inadvertently ran into the parade route and found easy parking. The kids loved the parade, pointing and clapping at the floats and international dresses. 

We followed the crowds to the festival afterwards. It was very crowded. Thousands of adults were elbowing and pushing to get to the front of the booth to snatch the proffered trinkets and snacks from each nation. Other than that, the only thing to do was eat crappy festival food or day drink. Day drinking makes me grouchy. 

I was about to regret coming, when Isaac stopped whining and disappeared into the thicket in front of Belgium, reappearing with a huge grin and two Belgian waffles, one for him and Eloise. 

Now he was on the scent! Eloise and I hung back while Isaac scored a tiny Eiffel Tower, all sorts of candy (always with one for his sis), and lots of flags. Germany was giving away alcohol-free roddlers (half beer, half lemonade). That's exactly what I wanted! 

I enjoyed one of those while we watched traditional Estonian dancers and listened to the Norfolk opera performers (separately), then sipped some British tea and got a Turkish balloon. 

It was totally worth going! 

Highlights include: walking by a historical timeline for Norfolk which showed a Renoir painting. "Hey Mom! That's like where you work!" Isaac correctly identified it as hanging in the Chrysler from the one time he's seen it there. 

And during the parade, Isaac pointed to the Spanish flag and said, "that's like the ball daddy sent me from Spain!" 

Back home, Eloise grabbed one of her favorite books and climbed into Isaac's lap. He talked to her about the pictures. 

For her counting books, she points and imitates counting with baby murmurs. But her cutest new thing is saying "I do!" when I ask who wants to do something. That will join her "cheese!" (anytime she sees a phone or camera) as a crowd pleaser, I think. 

Anyway, now both kids keep grabbing the flags and parading around the house. Sometimes I join in. I love a good parade. 

17 April 2016

Meet Me By the Sea

You know what six months of crappy deployment result in? The best anniversary ever! This port call celebrated our 10th anniversary AND the near-end of deployment. 

We rode bikes to the Mediterranean. We had sangria and wrote postcards at Panorama restaurant, right on the water. We climbed Valencia's Micolet bell tower, and we saw the Holy Grail. 

This is the first time we've visited Europe since we lived in Japan. It was amazing how---while feeling foreign and exotic---it felt so easy. For one thing, we had each other! And no sweet troublemakers to keep track of. We could read the menus and understand key words and phrases. After logging our hours in metros across Asia, simple things like getting on the correct train were no-brainers. 

It was the most relaxing vacation I can remember. Thanks for watching the kids, mom and dad! I'll be home soon!