9/11: Never Forget

World Trade Center at Night

Ten years ago today, our lives were changed forever. I remember sitting in my 10th grade US History class that morning, when my teacher came in with an announcement in his usual I-have-to-be-a-hardass-because-I-work-in-a-crappy-area tone:

“I’m supposed to tell you that some idiot flew his plane into one of the Twin Towers or something. Another reason why you shouldn’t drink and fly. Now open your books!”

We thought it was just an accident, and went on with our day; a small plane hit the Empire State Building in 1945, apparently it had happened before. But as I made my way into the cafeteria for my (ridiculously early) lunch period, I could tell it was something much more serious. Aides, teachers, and even the principals made rounds amongst the students, asking if anyone had family that worked in the World Trade Center. We were on Long Island, everyone had family that worked in Manhattan!

Second Plane

The kids who responded that they did were whisked away, and all that anyone would tell us was that a second plane had hit. At this point, people realized that it was no accident, but an intentional attack. Rumors circulated that the Pentagon and White House had also been hit, and that Long Island was next. This was before the time that everyone 13 or older had a smartphone, and our school’s AV closet only held about 8 televisions, so we had to wait until we had class in a room that had managed to get a hold of one before we could find out more. When we were able to watch the newscast, everyone was completely silent as we watched the towers fall.

Towers Falling

We lived about an hour east from Ground Zero, but there was a huge cloud of smoke and debris in the western sky for days. Everyone waited anxiously for family members to return home; subways and trains were disrupted, roads were blocked, bridges and tunnels closed, and tanks roamed the streets of New York. Two of my aunts worked in Manhattan, one of my Mom’s cousins had worked a few buildings away from the WTC and another worked for the FDNY. My stepdad worked in Queens, but luckily the attack happened before his shift. Thankfully, none of my family or loved ones were hurt. Many people had stories about how family members were supposed to be in the area, but were off that day, stayed home because of an illness, missed their train, or some other fortunate twist of fate.

Unfortunately, not everyone was so lucky. There was a brother and sister who went to my school who got up everyday and went to school as usual after the attacks. About a week later, the school had phoned their home to try to get in touch with a parent, only to find out that both of theirs worked in the WTC and hadn’t been seen since 9/11.

WTC Memorial

I haven’t seen Ground Zero since it has been transformed into a memorial; the last time I saw it, it was a construction site surrounded by tarp-covered fences under a strangely empty sky. When the little one is older, I will take her there to show her the footprint fountains and the wall of names. It will be quite some time before she knows a world in which we are not at war, but even then I want her to remember that “freedom isn’t free.”

The Adventures of Superbaby

Upon coming home from a (very rare) solo-run to the grocery store the other day, this are the pictures the FI presents me with. Although I’m not sure if I should be concerned that this is what they do when I’m not around, I couldn’t resist putting them into comic-book form! Without further ado, I give you… The Adventures of Superbaby: Superbaby vs. Professor Peanut!

The Adventures of Superbaby

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Tomorrow begins Labor Day Weekend, the unofficial end of summer. In some ways it’s a little sad; we didn’t make it to the pool as often as we had planned (due in part to the little one shrieking like a banshee if we put her in even the 1ft kiddie pool) or to the beach at all for that matter, and the little garden we’ve tended since April will soon be withered.

Despite a crippling fear of bees and all things that buzz (they might be bees!), I’ve grown at least some semblance of a garden every year since I was a teenager. I used to help my mom in her garden when I was a kid, which is probably what initially piqued my agricultural interest (doesn’t hurt that Taurus is an earth sign either!), and why I encourage the little one to help me with ours now. She’s always so excited to come out with me whenever I water the plants; the contents of her miniature watering can usually end up on the floor, but she’s learning where her food comes from and how to take care of other living things.

blue morning glories bring happiness!top: morning glories; bottom: chives, peppermint, more morning glories, spearmint, lavender, mums tomatoes (far left), basil, chives, peppermintpink moonflowers... because I love pink!

We don’t have a ton of space on the teeny balcony of our apartment, but we try to make the most of what we have. While we’ve got quite some time before we start thinking about buying a house, that doesn’t mean a girl can’t dream! I’d love to have a lush garden, with tons of brilliant flowers and fresh herbs for cooking. And a lounge area where we can relax and entertain; right now we don’t have enough room for much more than a collapsible tailgating chair with all the planters we have. A spacious yard is definitely a must– I’ve got big plans for it!

gorgeous wrap-around porchgarden paradisecomfy lounge areacozy outdoor fireplace

The Ant & The Grasshopper

The storm clouds have passed, and everyone is breathing a sigh of relief that the damage wasn’t nearly as bad as predicted. We spent today unpacking our “just in case” evac bags, putting away our piles of candles, and peeling strips of tape off all the windows. Like I said, I’d rather be prepared than be caught unaware!

ant & grasshopperI get teased all the time for being a worrier, but I like to think of myself more as being the ant… the ant spent all summer storing away food for the winter, while the grasshopper chilled out and had fun. The grasshopper asked the ant “why do you work so hard?” to which the ant responded “winter is coming, I need to be ready” (apparently the ant was also a fan of Game of Thrones). When winter came, the ant and all his buddies had plenty to eat, but the grasshopper had nothing. He knocked on the door of the anthill, where all the ants were celebrating and having a good time. When the ant answered it, the grasshopper said “I’m starving and you guys have so much food, can you share some with me?” Then depending on the version, the ants are either nice and share, or they tell the grasshopper that they told him so (which is what I would do) and he starves to death. Moral of the story: plan ahead!

After all the prep work we did, the winds didn’t get anywhere near the forecasted 74mph, the majority of the bigger branches stayed on the giant maple tree outside our window, and living on a hill definitely had its benefits when it came to the flooding. We did lose power for about 24hrs, which is where my little Sterno-powered fondue pot and obsession with candles came in handy! The little is a constant source of entertainment as well.

reading by candlelight   chasing the flashlight beam

The only part that we were really unprepared for was the tornado warning Saturday night.  The news broadcast we were watching gave us a 10 minute warning that a tornado that had started in DE was headed our way. I scooped the baby up from her bed, screeched at the FI who was fumbling around trying to find her shoes to “screw them, we need to get the f— out of here!” and we ran to the laundry room in the basement of our building. We sat listening to the radio for news that it was safe to come out, as the little one played on the steps and jumped from tile to tile on the checkered floor. A tornado was spotted near the King of Prussia mall, about 5 minutes away from us, but luckily not close enough to do any damage.

tornado warning

Sure, maybe I overreacted, but the idea that something can literally just swoop in from out of the sky and wipe things off the face of the earth is absolutely terrifying to me. I spent the first few years of my life living in KY, and they get their fair share of tornadoes down there. I remember being asleep in my bed, when my mom would come wake up my sisters and me and tell us we had to go into the basement because one was coming. We had a little weather radio we would listen to, and whenever the siren went off I would run to my mom and tell her “a tomato is coming!” I don’t think we ever had any tornadic damage done to our house, but it’s pretty scary for a 5 year old nonetheless (or apparently a 26 year old, for that matter)! I still have nightmares about tornadoes… yet I did a science fair project on them in middle school to learn more about them. I don’t know, I guess knowledge is power!

A tornado, not OUR tornado... didn't stick around to take pictures!

Rock You Like A Hurricane

just the necessities...

We’ve got our bags all packed and ready to go, just in case they sound the evacuation in our area for this hurricane business. I’m sure we’ll be fine… we’re on the 3rd floor and there’s not a body of water in sight, but I like to be prepared! I’d rather get all ready and feel silly afterward than be SOL when things start getting rough. I mean I’ve weathered hurricanes beach-side in Florida before, so one inland in the Philly area should be nothing, but everyone seems to be freaking the eff out about this one for some reason and the hysteria is a tad contagious.

stocking up on hurricane supplies

So we’ve got a bag packed in case we need to head up to my family’s place in the Poconos (mountains in a flood, can’t get much safer than that!), stocked up on the necessities, and filled up the gas tank. We brought in all the potted plants from our balcony garden that we could, and converted our one bathroom into a makeshift greenhouse, complete with a rogue wasp that hitchhiked its way inside and went on a rampage around the apartment… and I’m deathly afraid of bees/wasps/hornets of any kind. I don’t why, I’ve never been stung that I remember (maybe I was and was so traumatized that I blocked it from memory!).

bathroom greenhouseThe enormous maple we have hanging out right outside our balcony concerns me a bit… along with the safety my poor morning glories that we couldn’t untangle from the railing without destroying. All we’ve seen of Irene is a bit of rain so far, but the gray clouds in the distance are looking pretty freakin’ ominous.

giant tree

"the oncoming storm"... no such thing as an inappropriate time for a Doctor Who reference!

I Feel the Earth Move…

Okay I know everyone’s been talking this East Coast Quake story to death, but as someone who gets distracted by the blasted-out layers of rock sediment you see while driving down I-80 (oooh pretty iron oxide!), I for one am freakin’ pumped! I took my fair share of geology-related classes before I switched my major from archaeological sciences, so every time I see a geographical feature, I’m always thinking about how it was formed (e.g. earthquakes=mountain ranges). Yeah, I’m a nerd… and what?

sediment layers on 80Now anytime someone slams a door in my apartment building, I get excited because I think it’s an aftershock. My sister lives in VA, and thank goodness she’s okay, but I have to admit I’m a bit jealous! She was in class (super proud that she went back to college btw, hooray!) when they started to feel shaking. Everybody “went into ‘we need to get outside mode,'” as she put it, and when they got out the building was swaying. How cool is that! But then she also had to worry about needing to take the subway home and not reenacting the earthquake ride at Universal Studios.

Earthquake: The Big One, Universal StudiosMy earthquake tale isn’t nearly as thrilling; I was sitting at our rickety kitchen table, when it randomly started shaking. I looked at my drink… cue the scene from Jurassic Park, where the t-rex is coming and the water in the glass starts rippling. I immediately assume it’s the FI playing a joke on me, and yell at him for trying to scare me, but he’s innocently sitting at the desk across the room. I put my hand on the wall and it’s not just the table, but the whole building that’s shaking. The FI jumps up, asking if I felt it too, and I respond “is that a f—ing earthquake?! Oh my god, it is!”

Jurassic Park waterAt this point, the dishes in the cupboards are clanking together as I try to run on Jello-y legs to the bedroom where our daughter is taking her afternoon nap. I race in, with a reassuring “it’s okay baby!” but she’s sound asleep. Should’ve known– the kid can sleep through a cleaning session with our obnoxiously loud vacuum that puts a jet engine to shame. I stand in the doorway for a second (you know, because that’s what they do in the movies), panicking that a fault is going to open up and we’ll all fall in (don’t ask lol), then feel like an idiot and walk into the living room to enjoy our bird’s eye view of the people standing in the supermarket parking lot behind us who are looking around bewilderedly.

No wonder people in LA are laughing at us, one “moderate” case of the earth moving on it’s own and we all lose our minds… but in our defense, let’s see them get 36 inches of snow from one storm and then we’ll talk.

East Coast Damage

The Story of Us

Yesterday was my and the FI’s 3 year anniversary! We don’t get out much as parents of a 16 month old, so we celebrated at home with a lovely dinner of chicken piccata (still romantic despite the fact that the little one threw spaghetti everywhere) and a Doctor Who marathon (never a bad idea!).

The highlight of the day was the amazing present the FI gave me: a book that he made telling the story of our relationship, complete with pictures and little excerpts of his thoughts at those moments. It hardly cost a thing, but it was easily one of the best gifts I’ve ever received– so thoughtful and personal, an awesome idea for anniversaries or as a wedding gift to your bride/groom! I’ll give you the cliff notes version of ours:

We met at Penn State University in fall of 2007, where he and I both lived in the same group of dorms on the west side of campus. We rushed the same co-ed fraternity, Phi Sigma Pi, but didn’t really start hanging out until a few months later when we fell into the same group of friends.

He finally asked me to have lunch at Jimmy John’s with him one day in January, but I had no idea that he was interested in me and just thought it was to get food. Apparently sometimes a sandwich is not just a sandwich! We ended up spending the entire day walking around the snow-covered campus, talking for hours.

Old Main in winterWe went our separate ways for awhile; he wasn’t around much that semester due to student-teaching and I dated someone else for a couple of months, but we remained friends and kept in touch. We texted back and forth over the summer, and decided we would continue what we had started that winter as soon as the break was over.

August 22, 2008 we made things official! We had a blast that first year, going to tailgates, football games, frat events, parties and just eating dinner together in the commons. Even when he had to student-teach full-time spring semester at a high school that was 3 hours away, we took turns making the drive almost every weekend. We made plans to move in together the next fall.

Penn State tailgateHomecoming Parade 2008

That summer, the topic of marriage came up. We talked about it, and set the date for October 22, 2011 (yes, before he actually proposed lol), which seemed light-years away at the time. About a month later, we found out we were pregnant! We had our beautiful little girl the following March, just 7 weeks before my graduation. We’ve been a happy family ever since! October 3, 2010 he popped the question… and even though we’ve now had to change our wedding date 3 times, we’ll tie the knot eventually haha.

baby bump!  Lion Pride