The House for this Season in our Sojourning

Welcome to our 11th home in 20 years – not bad for an Army family but I believe we’re still well qualified for the distinction of Nomads.

We live in the same neighborhood as the last time we were at West Point except that they’ve torn down all of the houses and “built” new ones. The old houses were seriously ugly, designed in the 60’s when middle-class residential architecture was void of good ideas and plans were even worse when perpetrated by federal design teams. However, the neighborhood had big beautiful trees and a sense of coziness. Those are gone but the houses are 1000 square feet bigger and we don’t have to park in lots, so I guess there are up sides. I really miss the trees though – especially the big evergreen that stood in defiance of the winter gray outside of my back window. Now, I will pass the winter in anticipation of the daffodils I’m going to plant all over the hill outside the dining room window.

Some of you have been asking for a tour, so come on in!

This is the first time we’ve ever had a double-car garage. Such an idea was unknown in military housing until very recently.

Step onto the front porch…

…and through the door.

To the immediate left sits the boys’ office which gets morning sunshine for their schoolwork.

To the right you step down a hallway that leads to a powder room, laundry room and the kitchen on the left.

The dog was determined to be in every picture.

Here’s the view back to the laundry room which is just inside from those chairs you saw on the porch.

Here’s the view from the back door into the kitchen.

What is black and white and red all over? My living room! We have purchased paint but obviously it isn’t on the wall.

The dining room…

…which also serves as my office.

Upstairs we have four bedrooms, arranged in a square around the landing. Surely you can visualize that without pictures. On to the back yard…

Speaking of visualizing, this is where the garden is going next spring. The consolation for the trees being murdered is that I will have enough sun for vegetables.

Here’s the patio.

I have to digress for a moment since the dog was so determined to follow the camera… The photography book I bought says to focus on the spark in the eye of the subject. I don’t think Jackson has enough going on in his head to generate sparks. He is sweet but he is spark-less. Anyway, back to the tour… behind him is part of the view from our patio – a “rain garden” to drain runoff from the hillside behind us. We’ll see how it does with the rain we’re supposed to get from Hurricane Irene. I like the Black-Eyed Susans they planted in them though. I’ll be dividing them and moving some up front in the spring.

So that is our house, and it’s a fine house. We like it. It works well for us and it’s what you get for 20 years in the army and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Chemistry. I can’t help showing you how these houses are made though. They come on trucks and they sit in a parking lot down the hill while they wait for a crane to drop them onto their foundations. So essentially, we’re living in a double-decker doublewide.

It makes for a homogenous feel that reminds me of when I was in junior high and my friend Christy and I were trying to get under one another’s skin. She popped off with an insult that I didn’t really understand at the time but always remembered. She said that when I grew up I would live in tract housing. She had no idea! Here’s the view one direction from my front yard…

…and here’s looking the other way.

Of course, the rooflines are tremendously varied. There are three different styles, and the ones with plain roofs have porches with an extra pillar on each side of the entry. There are also four different exterior paint colors and, at least 5 different colors of Honda Odysseys can be observed in the matching driveways!

Seriously, I’m very thankful to God for my home, especially when so many go without. The houses on my street may not be unique but the nomadic lives that bring families to live in them certainly are.

Wishing you all joy on your own journeys!


West Point Class of 2015 “March Back”

I thought I’d share a little slice of West Point life with you all…

Each year the incoming class of cadets concludes their Cadet Basic Training by walking back from Camp Buckner to the cadet central area a week before classes begin. It’s about six hilly miles in a car but they turn it into 12 very hilly miles through the woods after several weeks of ongoing fatigue and other forms of general unpleasantness.

Families who live here and some parents line Washington Road and welcome them back as they reach the end of their trek.

Chemistry instructors’ families traditionally congregate in front of a set of quarters known as the “Beat Navy” house where Colonel Dooley used to host a picnic every year. She’s retired now and the house is empty for renovation (I think) but it’s still the gathering point.

Surely this has to be the world’s toughest bunch of chemistry proffesors. If the combat patches don’t convince you, ask a cadet who’s taken General Chemistry here.

The West Point Band leads the way – for the final mile or so once the new cadets have reached the gate to post.

I just have to say that playing a trombone is impressive enough to me, doing it while marching in boots is amazing.

After the band, come the new cadets led by the Academy Superintendent, Commandant, Seargean Major and a representative for the Dean.

The new cadets at the front of the march carry a banner with their class motto.

Here’s the first of eight companies.

There are about 1,200 cadets in this class selected from almost 14,000 applicants to enjoy this unique brand of collegiate experience.

By the time they have come this far they are hot, and tired…

…just putting one boot in front of the other.

Each company carries a unit guidon and a flag representing a division in the Army.

They’re also carrying quite a lot of gear.

This is not supposed to be fun for them and by all accounts the week they are heading into will be even less fun. That’s when they get re-organized into the regiments of the full Corps and the ratio of new cadets to upper-classmen turns around on them.

Here’s someone smiling!  BUT…He’s not a new cadet.  He’s a rising senior, know as a “Firstie” and he’s been a company commander during their training.  My husband says he’s smiling because he knows what he and his friends are about to dish out to this new class, but I prefer to think that maybe he’s just a nice cheerful guy.

Here’s another one smiling! Another nice guy…hopefully.

By contrast, this shot of a new cadet captures the steely determination that they’ve all proven they possess if they’ve made it this far.

Most of them just look like they’re ready for the whole thing to be over with.

But, one company near the end broke into singing along with the Army song as it was played from a recording by someone on the curb. Impressive!

It only takes a few minutes for all of them to walk by but it probably feels longer to them.

This was an accidental shot, but I thought it captured the essence of the effort pretty well with evidence of field training still lingering in the form of dirt on the knee.

They were followed by graduates of former classes who remember the experience all too well I’m sure.

The final group was from the class of 1965, who will celebrate their 50-year reunion the summer this new class graduates.

The first time I saw this event, it was the class of 2005 marching and a former grad explained the training they had been through and what re-orgy week would be like for them when they reached the cadet area. As the pregnant mother of a toddler and preschooler, I recoiled inwardly at the thought of my babies ever being put through such an ordeal. Now, I look at them and think: “Oh, this would be so good for them!”

Pullman to West Point 2011 – The Final Installment

According to MapQuest, the boys and I covered 5,254 miles this summer, which is almost exactly twice what it would have taken to drive straight to West Point.

We started by going to Virginia, then I went to Georgia…which is where I left you with the last post and that took us to 3386 miles.

I left Georgia on June 26th to go back to Virginia for a few days, just in time to help with the older kids while baby Asher had surgery. That brought us up to 4,042.

I know you’re thinking: what a great auntie for being there to help with the baby’s surgery, but you should know better. Three days later he was doing fine and I took off again to go join Ric in the lodge at West Point while Rob was at sea. Worst of all I left the dog again. He’s a nice dog, but he’s big and he’s always in the way and there are five little ones in the house. Betsy is the really great auntie!

We got to West Point on July 1st to stay in at the Five Star Inn. That brought us to 4,446 miles.

The boys dubbed it “The Point Five Star Inn”. I would say it’s at least a two-point-five star, but it doesn’t have a pool and that is deadly in the hotel rating scheme of three boys. At least they understood the power and poetic imagery of moving a decimal point.

This was the view from our kitchen window.

Not a bad kitchen for a hotel suite, really.

The patio out back was nice, with its view of the Hudson…

…and I got a lot done from this picnic table while the boys played outside.

The morning after we arrived we hiked up Bear Mountain. It’s quite a trek. 800+ steps carved out of granite in the trail I’m told.

The view from the top is spectacular though. You can see the skyline of New York City on a clear day.

On the Fourth of July we walked to Trophy Point to watch the fireworks and see the new cadets.

The mass of white is the brand new class of 2015 seated for the show. It starts with a performance by the very talented West Point Band but Fireworks are what it takes to keep those new cadets awake once they’re given a chance to sit down after the week they’ve been through. Relaxation is not on the schedule many times during their summer.

Here you see some of their tormentors (upperclassmen in charge of their training) lurking nearby.

Josh and Si were oblivious to the anguish of the oppressed masses in the amphitheatre. They were watching the PAC 75mm Howitzers prepare for their salute to the nation.

I think this may be the largest stand of evergreens trees in a twenty-mile radius! My boys will groan over the fact that the trees have my attention in a picture with guns.

This is what they were waiting for. A round is fired for every state in the country as a new cadet from that state posts its flag in the main area of the celebration. 50 glorious explosions and the fireworks hadn’t even started.

Eventually, the sun set.

And, because we don’t learn from past failures, we still try to take pictures of fireworks.

Days in the lodge were less than exciting for the boys and me, but I got a lot of work done in preparation for the upcoming school year and at last we were given a definite date for keys to our quarters and the arrival of our household goods.

It was time to go rescue Betsy from dog sitting! Back to Virginia and up to 4,940 miles.

The boys got in one last visit with their cousins while Betsy and I tried to enjoy a few more stolen moments on the front porch each evening to visit once they were all in bed.

My children are such a great influence on their younger cousins.

Seven kids in the living room with light sabers – no potential for disaster here….

…just good entertainment for babies and dogs…

…while the responsible adult in the room takes pictures.

I’m sure Betsy was very sad to see us take our big dog and leave on July 14th to head “home” and finish our road-tripping with 5,254 miles under our seatbelts.

The movers showed up at 8:30 the next morning.

By noon we were in boxes…

…some of us literally. These guys have proven over and over to be road warriors! They were eager to claim the distinction of being “nomads” when they were little and they certainly have lived up to it.

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