Last year my brother, an Army officer, told me of his intentions to use some leave around Christmas to travel with my sister-in-law rather than going to visit family. His reasoning was that their leave had always been used to go home and visit rather than traveling.
My response was, "Well, I suppose that depends on how you view assignments and where 'home' is."
What I meant by this was that the leave = going home phenomenon is one I see in most of the military people I know, including our family. And although I can't speak for anyone else, I'm okay with this. You see, I view our different stationings and daily life as a "vacation". There are times I feel like a Jet-setter, particularly when we PCS more than once every two years. We don't just move somewhere and spend all our time on base when we get there - we see and experience where we land.
And so, without further ado, I thought you might like some evidence of Air Force Family experiencing our latest duty station; pictures and monologue after the jump.
When we found out we would be stationed in New Jersey, we were a little scared. After all, if you've never been to Jersey you probably see in your mind a long and pitted turnpike, with dirty bathrooms and burning cars by the side of the road, while Bon Jovi and The Boss warble and screech some travel music.
Parts of New Jersey are like this.
But not where we are stationed. Here is a picture from around Halloween that shows you what our part of New Jersey looks like:
Yes, that's right. We live in the middle of farmland. In New Jersey. When family comes to visit us, they usually experience a severe form of cognitive dissonance trying to wrap their minds around that one.
But I digress. As soon as we found out where we were going, we sat down and made a list of all the places in the vicinity of our base we wanted to visit while we were stationed there. After all, who knows when the opportunity will come up again, right? At the top of our list was New York City, closely followed by Philadelphia. We also wanted to make sure to take in Atlantic City, Niagara Falls, the Poconos, and several other places while we are here. We've managed to make most of them so far, but our list hasn't been completely checked off yet.
Last week, we decided to take our kids to New York City. As a born and bred Californian, I can say for absolute certainty that were it not for the military, we would not be able to just wake up one morning and say, "Hon, let's take the kids to see the huge Toys R Us in Times Square tomorrow!" and then actually have the ability to do so. The fact that we can do this still takes my breath away every time.
This was not our first time visiting NYC, but it was the first time we took our son. With the hard gained knowledge of prior visits, there was no question about how we would get there - on the train. We drove our minivan into Manhattan once. After paying all the tolls and parking and a bout with PTSD that was more severe than the one hubby experienced on coming home from Iraq, we decided the train was our friend. And cheaper, too.
It was at Penn Station that airforcewife experienced her first travel disaster - because I attract disaster like some sort of magnet for humiliation and destruction.
I fell up the escalator.
Had you been there, you would have heard my horrified three year old son yelling, "Mommy! Do you still have fingers?"
I don't know where he gets these ideas.
First stop - the Museum of Natural History. We grabbed the subway (aside note - am I the only mother who spends the entire time on the subway platform terrified my kids are going to dart off and fall on the tracks?) and got off at the subway entrance for the Museum. This is one of many museums in NYC that is free to military with an ID, so hubby and I presented our ID's and paid the suggested amount for our children (notice - it is "suggested". The sweet lady at the desk informed me that with our military IDs we could actually pay any amount we felt fair. With that open attitude, and knowing how amazing and huge the museum actually is, we paid full children's fare)
My #2 daughter, with her love of American Girl books and the Kaya character in particular, is absolutely infatuated with this exhibit.
Of course, the first thing my son noticed was that some of the things we would call "Totem Poles" have, erm, anatomically correct body parts.
My son was very concerned that everyone be sure to see these things. He normally does not take to strangers well, but he made an exception to point out the Totem Pole genitalia. Ahhh yes, embarrassing moment number two.
Of course, we had to keep our word to the children, and so we headed to Times Square and Toys R Us. Now, up until this time, it had been relatively quiet. Not too many people, not too much fuss. Easygoing.
Times Square wasn't like that. At all. I'm normally a nice, polite person. I say please and thank you. I say excuse me. I wait my turn to cross the street. But I found out that such behavior the weekend before Christmas in Times Square will quickly leave you mentally deranged. My son's stroller became a weapon, my husband was on the verge of using his Krav Maga training. The crowd was INSANE.
And we actually began to question our own sanity when we entered Toys R Us. It took us two revolutions across the upper floor (where Giant GI Joes are jumping from the ceiling and Superman is stopping a flying car, and an animatronic T-Rex had my son convinced we were all about to be dinner) to even grasp the chance at a turn getting down the stairs.
I suppose it was worth it, though, because Daughter #3 is STILL talking about the huge Barbie house and my son is demanding we return for him to buy Captain America. I'm just totally disappointed that the picture I took with the Times Square Marine Recruiter didn't turn out. He was so sweet about posing with the crazy woman in the Spousebuzz hat...
Of course, no trip to NYC would be complete without a visit to the United Nations.
First problem we encountered while there... Apparently hubby came back from Afghanistan smelling like a giant bomb. It must be in his pores. Every single bomb sniffing dog decided to check him out. We were stopped by sniffing pooches three times. THREE TIMES. I can't imagine what EOD techs have to go through on a regular basis!
We chose not to take the guided tour; it's 12$, which can quickly add up. And unlike the strictly American attractions in New York, a military ID would not avail us of much discount there to offset the wallet ouch. But we perused everything else. All three displays (one is not yet open, but you can still see most of it), including the purple dress made out of condoms.
Okay, different camera for this picture, but it was taken in front of the UN at the famous sculpture of the gun with the barrel tied in a knot. And yes, it was raining when we visited. It always rains when I go to NYC. I'm pretty sure that someone upstairs wants to see me take a fall in front of a cab. It would be hilarious.
Also, I've heard the camera adds ten pounds. I would like to ask exactly how many cameras were involved in the taking of this picture.
Notice again the Spousebuzz hat, the military.com jacket...
I missed the Today show taping, but if Matt, Meredith, Ann, or Al would like to talk to me about being a military wife, I'd be more than happy to grab the train back up there! Guess what I'd wear...
And finally, on the long trek back to to Penn Station, we encountered my son's dream. Totally unplanned, totally unscripted, but the kid totally melted down.
Because we saw Spiderman.
I don't think we'll ever hear the end of this, either. The only thing that could top it is if we happened to run into Superman on the next go 'round.
Hubby's PCS time is coming up soon, and I have to say I'm looking forward to it. The world's a big place, and there is so much left for us to see. Without the military, we'd never be able to see it.
Next weekend - Atlantic City. I'm not entirely sure I'll want to share those photos, though.