Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Weekend

Admittedly, my last post may have been a little over the top. Some people (of the three followers) were very concerned about it. I would like to state on the record, that after dealing with Emily, Olivia, Vance, Simon, and Noah everyday I barely have enough energy to get any work done. If I do get free time, I sleep, even at my desk.

That being said, October 3rd is always a tough day for me. Three years ago while patrolling in Baghdad to the south of Sadr City one of my squad leaders, Staff Sergeant Jonathon Rojas, was killed by a sniper. We were in our 15th month in Iraq and SSG Rojas had served in numerous positions for me; as a team leader, he was my vehicle commander, and eventually my 3rd squad leader. He was an outstanding leader and I didn't have to worry about anything he was put in charge of. It could have been one of any soldier in that intersection that day but he was the one. Kids were throwing rocks at his vehicle and I was on the ground trying to find out where it was coming from so my interpreter could get rid of them. The bullet cracked past a couple of us and hit SSG Rojas.

For the past few years I have struggled with the anniversary of this event. As stated, it could have been any one of about 5 people at that location, including me. It was a very sobering experience and I have struggled with how to commemorate this day each year. I have decided that the best way to deal with this experience is to celebrate life, mine and his.

What a better way to celebrate life then a Forced Family Outing (FFO). A FFO is a time honored tradition where you load all of the kids in the car, usually against their will, to have a "good time." This particular celebration of life would include going to Portsmouth to look at a bike and then to Yorktown to do some sightseeing. I also told the kids we would go look at ships in the Chesapeake Bay, which was somehow translated into riding on a boat.

We loaded into the van and began the beautiful drive through rural Virginia. As we passed through small communities and cotton fields it almost felt like we were driving through Eastern Montana, only it was green. After about 30 minutes, the tranquility of the drive came to a screeching halt. Olivia tearfully shouted "he is touching me!" Vance cried as Olivia took his stuff. Olivia cried as Vance took her stuff.

Emily's typical cool and calm demeanor cracked, I briefly thought the girl from the exorcist was driving. Emily's head actually spun around.

There we were in some small town in rural Virginia changing out car seats. Simon went back, Vance came forward. Fearing that Emily would drive us into the Nansemond River, I took over the helm. From that point on it was relatively peaceful, except Vance would not stop talking about riding on a boat. That we can deal with.

We got to Portsmouth and we looked at the bike. Bike shops are always a production, the kids cannot seem to resist ringing the bells on the kids bikes. They somehow are drawn to the $5,000-10,000 bicycles. It is much like going to a Chevrolet dealership and your kids run over to crawl in the showroom Corvette. If you have kids, you know what I mean.

After that we went to Newport News, where a couple of aircraft carriers and other ships docked for maintenance. There is a bay side park that you can see them from. Too close to the bay for our kids, I could see Olivia "touching" Vance to the point that he would fall off the dock and into the water. It was off to our next destination on our FFO.

Yorktown is a fun area to go for a history lesson. It has also become very trendy, they have a great beach on the York River and I thought it would be fun for the kids to run around. On our way to Yorktown, we passed the Bass Pro Shop. The kids love aquariums, over the years we have taken them to numerous aquariums. They have seen a lot of fish, sea turtles, and alligators. The problem is that aquariums are expensive, so over the years I have convinced the kids that Bass Pro Shops is an aquarium....a free aquarium. It is not far from the truth, they typically have great aquariums, trout rivers, and small ponds full of fish. The drawback is that they are full of rednecks and real tree camouflage (much like going to Wal-mart). Plus, I am tired of trying to explain to Olivia why she cannot have a "Hunter Ann" doll.

Seriously, she wants one?

They saw the sign and shouted that they wanted to go to the aquarium. Bass Pro Shops was not in my day to celebrate life agenda so the tranquility quickly passed into tears. That didn't last long as Vance went back to his request of riding boats.

We got to Yorktown which was very busy. We walked around for a while before we set the kids loose on the beach. Although the intent was not swimming (after all it was a chilly 80 degree fall day), it did not take long before the kids were wading further and further out. I would not have been surprised if they had jumped in.

Olivia loves to wear dresses and skirts. Since she is so active, Emily makes her wear shorts underneath dresses/skirts so her underwear do not show when she is goofing around. It was only a matter of minutes before the dress was getting wet.

Then she was in shorts. I am sure that had I given the go ahead, they would have been swimming.

Of course there were boats everywhere. Vance does not understand the concept of the private dock and boats. He was very upset that he did not get to ride on a boat. We missed the Schooner Alliance. Good thing because it isn't cheap. I will take Vance before the end of the year. I think he would love it.

On the way home, we had to stop at Chick-fil-a. We have never been to one that was dirty or had bad service. It is funny, when we had three kids, no body said a word. Since we have had newbie, we have gotten more comments. I guess the line of sanity is draw at three. While there, the manager asked if we were just getting started. Apparently the glow on our faces didn't clearly identify our exhaustion.

On Sunday, we decided to enjoy the afternoon on another Forced Family Outing. We went for a walk on the battlefield. We walked a mile loop and everyone did very well.

After looking at this picture, it occurred to me why the guy at Chick-fil-a mentioned our family. We create quite a path in true tsunami form.

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