Thursday, December 31, 2009
The book gets 8 thumbs up over here.
Everybody loves it.
One feature which the adults may or may not like so much, though, is the option to "Play All". Yes, all 250 birds songs, one right after the other with no need to punch in a code and press play for each one.
One child said, "I like this because it sounds like we're in a zoo."
And we needed help with that?
Happy New Year! We're home safe and sound from our travels and happy to rest up for a day or two. Then on to preparing for The Big Move and all the adventures that it entails.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
There are some things I miss about New Jersey. Traffic is not one of them.
It was nice today to go to Mass at our old parish and have friendly faces and warm hugs to greet us. Hard to believe we left nearly five years, and two kids, ago.
Also nice to visit extended family we haven't seen for a while, especially now that there are second cousins for our kids to play with. The littlest one, still a few months away from age three, loved Katie's sparkly "princess" dress - Katie loves it too. And because Jenny was wearing a dark blue gingham dress, the girl decided her name must be Dorothy. Too bad Jenny doesn't have any ruby red slippers.
I wonder how many late nights these kids can tolerate. Or how many I can tolerate.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
If you feel the need to have a sharp knife piercing your heart, check out this video: Bring Him Home Santa.
Six years ago, Bill was not home for Christmas. It was a bad holiday. Back then, I wrote about what it was like, and a few years ago, I posted that memory on my blog. I've come a long way in six years, and would like to think that things wouldn't be as bad now that I have children who are older and more helpful. I'm not sure, though. Older children have different ways of making life difficult.
If Santa didn't bring your soldier home this Christmas, I sincerely hope that the rest of his deployment goes quickly for you. And if you have no deployed soldier in your life, try to say a prayer today for those who can not fully experience the joy of Christmas, especially the children.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Filet Mignon (rare) with a peppery marinade
Guinness (Vitamin G)
Really. Does good eating get any better than this?
Day 2: The Snowbound Edition
Beef and Pepper Stew
Spaten Oktoberfest (because the Guinness ran out)
On the way to church (we luckily had a plowed road), one of the kids shouted from the back, "Mom, what's for dinner?" Are mine the only ones who think of dinner from the moment they awake?
"Beef stew," said I. I looked at my husband. "Does that sounds good?"
He nodded with a very satisfied expression. Oh, yeah.
Day 3: The Stuck in Traffic Edition
Valentino's New York Style Pizza
Arrogant Bastard Ale (Bill liked it, but it didn't go very well with the pizza)
Good NY style pizza is hard to find in Northern Virginia. If you like this style, this place won't disappoint. If you don't like NY style, then go to Pizza Hut instead.
Day 4: The Nod to "Health" Edition
I made oven baked sweet potato chips, but I'm not 100% happy with the recipe. I'll try another one next time.
Some different beer. Bill went to Total Wine and picked up a variety (yes, his favorite beer store is a wine store).
I feel guilty if I make beef every day. I don't know why, exactly. Modern nutritional wisdom says that too much red meat is bad for you, but I truly believe that this is not a one-size-fits-all rule for good health. I have no problems with cholesterol and Bill's issues stem from flour and pasta, not beef. I do like chicken, but I definitely serve more beef as a general rule. This chicken recipe is moist and juicy and yummy, making eating chicken a delight.
Day 5: The Date Night Edition
I think the kids had chicken strips (from the frozen foods section). Bill and I went to a place called Ray's the Steaks. Yum.
We had Filet Mignon (see Day 1).
Day 6: The Christmas Eve Edition
French Onion Soup
Salmon with Leeks
I'm too tired to type recipes. I love my French Onion Soup. I make it with vegetable broth, because Christmas Eve used to be a day of abstinence from meat. The salmon recipe was new this year, and it was tasty, but... I rarely cook with leeks. The recipe said to wash them thoroughly. I rinsed them thoroughly. No, no, no. You have to wash them. I guess when they grow, the sandy soil gets inside. If you don't wash them well, your food will be gritty. This is not pleasant. The flavor was good, so I will have to make it again. (Fortunately, the leeks could be pushed aside and the salmon was fine.)
Day 7: The Christmas Day Edition
Overnight Christmas Blueberry-Pecan French Toast
This breakfast dish is too decadent to eat regularly. I usually make it for Christmas and Easter. The kids don't like it (fools), so I finally halved the recipe this year, and it was the perfect amount for breakfast today and tomorrow. The full recipe for two people just lingers way too long to be healthy.
Most Christmases are just us hanging out. Between the candy canes and the eggnog, nobody is really interested in a full sit down meal. Instead, we eat snacky foods: cheese and crackers, shrimp cocktail, leftover yummy French Onion Soup.
Hard to believe, but my husband has been home for a week now. We head up to PA and NJ tomorrow, and the food will be out of my hands for a bit. When we get back, I'll be making him Cowboy Chili and Kells Guinness Meatballs.
And more Filet Mignons.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
This article brought me to tears. If you read only one Santa story this year, read this one. The best part is at the end.
(It is 90% safe to read out loud to your husband with children present: bottom half of Page 2 should be previewed first.)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
"Candy? Carols? What happened to the penitential season of Advent?"
"I've been doing penance for 6 months," I protested.
"And, seriously, you didn't leave him any shopping to do for you?"
"He wasn't supposed to be home until the 28th!"
"You are going to bake cookies, right?" Not having Christmas cookies is a mortal sin in our world.
"Good grief, woman! I'll get to it. Eventually."
Mental note: little sisters scrutinize blog posts more harshly than the average reader.
Monday, December 21, 2009
"No." I said.
"The kids are all done?"
"Of course," I assured him.
"But what about you?" he persisted.
"I have stuff," I said, vaguely casting my mind about to recall what that might be. He would feel terrible if I wasn't the very last person left opening presents on Christmas morning. My pile has to be the biggest one. I think I took care of that.
But I don't really care. The snow has been wonderful, and the kids are all hyped up about that, but that's all they seem excited about. How many more days until Christmas? Most years, it seems, the kids are losing it at this point: four.more.days. And moms, too. That long to-do list: cookies, cleaning, shopping, wrapping, stamping and mailing: only four more days!
But in this house, Christmas is already here. Not the gifts. We've not had a single present exchanged, not even little things Daddy might have brought home from overseas. The cookies aren't made yet. We'll get to it eventually, I suppose. The tree isn't decorated: that's for Christmas Eve anyway. Only a fraction of our house decorations are up, and I really don't care.
We've been drinking eggnog and playing carols on iTunes. We've been relaxing and enjoying days off work and school. We've been eating lovely meals and snacking on candy.
We're together. Our hearts are full.
What thing could he possibly buy that would make this better?
Saturday, December 19, 2009
His plane was already here! It was not yet assigned to a gate.
I tried to get in a line to talk to an airline rep, but she announced that this was not a line to talk to her. Talk to the hand, folks.
We went upstairs to ticketing. The line was enormous. People were anxious and frustrated because a HUGE storm was heading this way, and they wanted to escape before getting stuck here. I can sympathize.
I left the kids in line and went over to the board again. A gate had been posted: seventeen. I pulled the kids out of line, and we went in that direction. I talked to the security man, and he told me that to get to the gate, I'd need a gate pass from that really long ticket line. But then he pointed to the hallway where the passengers would all come out, and suggested we just wait there (oh, you mean that spot right there with all those people standing and waiting?).
Checking the board, I saw that the plane was still not at the gate, so we walked just a bit down from that entry hallway to the big windows where, as luck would have it, we could see Gates 15, 17 and 19. There was a plane docked at 19, and another plane approaching. We watched it park - at 15. We waited.
Then Peter had to go to the bathroom, so I hauled everybody about 50 yards to the nearest one. When we got out, the boys who waited outside were hopping around: It's here!
We got to the hallway and joined the crowd. Passengers were just beginning to stream off. Lots of soldiers. I watched a young Private being greeted by his parents and some teen aged girls: sisters, I assumed. One girl took a picture, and the mom was crying. I was crying.
More people came off. No Bill. The kids started getting antsy. They moved farther and farther into the hallway to try to get that first glimpse. Still no Bill. I started to worry about what would happen if he wasn't on the flight. I didn't think I could face my kids' disappointment. Or mine.
Finally, there he was. I saw him before the kids did. Our eyes met, and he smiled.. "He's coming!" I told the kids who strained hard to see him over all these tall people who didn't seem to understand that whatever their errand or destination or business was, it was not nearly as important as this business of ours, this reunion, this welcome home.
And then they saw him, and swarmed him. I stayed to the side with Mary, out of the way, watching, crying. Finally, some of the other people noticed our group, and recognized the significance of this soldier's arrival. "Well, this is a Merry Christmas," said one woman to my husband.
Mary squirmed in my arms, and I let her down to run to her Daddy. He lifted her and turned to me, wading his way with the weight of clinging, crying children. And then a welcoming kiss.
He's home. What a marvelous Christmas this is.
I started to take a picture right after we met, but a woman passing by kindly offered to take one of all of us.
It took a while to get his bags, but we made it out to the van, loaded up and then headed for the McDonalds close to where Fritz was to play laser tag. Welcome home, hon, let's dine in style! But it was getting late. Fritz barely had time to scarf down his food before I walked him over for his 8 pm start time, and it was 830 before we neared home with the snow beginning to fall.
When the little ones were asleep, and the older boy reclining on the sofa waiting for his roommate to return, we were finally alone. Of course, the clothes came off. I put down the Mom hat. Discarded the Strong Woman cloak. Laid aside the shield of Fortitude and the breastplate of Perseverance. Then the many layers of garments: Single Parent, Bill Payer, Sole Decision Maker, Lone Disciplinarian, One Who Never Sleeps, One Who Never Cries, Happy Face, Comforter, Good Fortune Teller.
Eventually I was left with just a few skimpy undergarments: Feminine, Emotional, Sensitive, Vulnerable with a sheer, frilly robe of Wife covering them. What then?
Many times, I have cried. At the airport, it was joy and relief. Other times, it was worry or exhaustion or frustration peeking out like a too long slip. This, though, was an emotional release. In my husband's arms, the trial was over. I am no longer alone. I can be strong, or not. I have a choice, whereas only a few hours earlier, I had to be strong no matter what.
He is home. My heart is at peace.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Huge amounts of snow are expected here tonight, and the storm bringing them is between us.
Please pray that he doesn't get stuck in Georgia.
So when he called - finally - he explained that he just didn't think of calling me. They were very very busy. If a plane had crashed it would have been on the news, so why was I worried? Like I can't think of 1000 other tragedies that could befall him.
He has forgotten how upset he gets if I go missing. "Why didn't you take your phone?" or "Why didn't you answer your phone?" he'll say. Once even: "Why do I pay for this phone if I can't reach you when I want you?"
How did we function a mere 10 years ago without these modern conveniences?
He is expected to arrive at bedtime tonight. He will try to catch an earlier flight. Only Fritz knows, because Fritz is scheduled to play laser tag with his Scout troop tonight, so he had to choose. He chose laser tag over picking dad up at the airport. Good choice. The other kids will get one big Christmas surprise tonight. Katie asked me earlier, "Are we doing anything fun today?"
I should think so.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
"Stay with Daddy," he said. Of course.
I will happily relinquish my crown as Most Favored Parent tomorrow.
While waiting for our turn at the gas pump, the song Feliz Navidad was on. I sang, because it's a catchy song, and I tend to sing along to songs if I know the words. Sometimes even if I don't.
When it ended, Peter asked me, "Did she die?"
I could not convince him it was Spanish for Merry Christmas. Nope, somebody is be-boppingly happy that Felice has died.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Hanging a towel for him on his rack.
Taking my tampons out of his sock drawer (tough to explain that one...exploratory toddler hadn't found them there yet).
Moving my perfume to a more accessible location.
Checking his drawers and making sure I didn't stash anything odd in there. Finding his favorite watch that he had just gotten repaired last June and didn't want to take overseas. Putting it on his valet. Realizing I never took his summer clothes out when I see a full drawer of shorts. Moving them to a shelf in the closet.
Finding his slippers and putting them front and center.
Hanging new nightgowns near the front of my closet. Vowing to wear only impractical underwear for a week.
Debating what to wear to the airport. I'm sure I'll change my mind several times in the next few days.
Noting the location of certain special pieces of jewelry. Putting on my wedding and engagement rings that I am out of the habit of wearing.
Putting away the projects cluttering my room. They can wait.
Everything can wait.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Or would you spend that time cleaning your house or baking cookies or blogging about how close he is, but you can't see him, knowing that you'll see him, for good, in another 40 hours?
Advice, please! If I'm going to see him on his layover, I need to arrange the babysitter!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
My haiku about children drinking behind their mother's back wins for BEST TWISTED PARENT HUMOR. Isn't that great?
The competition was fierce, and I highly recommend checking out the other haikus.
Peace descended on the van for about five minutes.
When Mary started to fuss, I assumed, correctly, that Jenny had taken something from her. I sighed inwardly and wondered: why? why does she always have to annoy her younger siblings? Before I had a chance to chastise her, though, she inquired, "Can Mary play with this?"
I glanced back to see Jenny dangling an unwrapped (clean) tampon by the string. Yeah, OK, NO. Thanks, Jenny.
Note to self: clean out car (there is a tampon wrapper in there at a minimum). Clean out purse.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Several other women smiled politely and said, "Great!" and "Wonderful!" One women, someone I don't really know, seemed more enthusiastic than the others. I suspect that she is or was military. My friend, the one who asked the question, scrunched her face and fought hard to avoid crying, and I, seeing her empathy, scrunched my face and fought hard to avoid crying. We both failed, and she got up and came over to hug me.
And I knew. Here is someone who has thought about me often and prayed for me often and felt my pain and is rejoicing with me now that the end is near. Here is a true friend. Not in action - that wasn't really practical in this particular instance, but that's okay. She, like so many of you who read this blog, has supported me spiritually these long months. And I am grateful to her, and to all of you. Thank you. I have felt your love. I have felt your prayers. Even on the hardest of days, I have not felt alone or abandoned or hopeless.
If all goes well, Bill will be home in about a week. And then a new journey begins. Reunions are difficult, and this one comes with an interstate move and a new, challenging job for my husband. I am counting on your continued prayers, dear friends. For now, though, let's just get this man home to me.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
20 lb of flour
4 lb of confectioner's sugar
4 lb of brown sugar
4 bags of mini chocolate chips
1 bag of white chocolate chips
1 package chocolate mint sandwich candies
1 package of unsweetened chocolate baking squares
1 bag of pecans
4 jars of mollasses
7 lb of butter
and 8 gallons of milk
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Warner and Sen. Jim Webb, both Virginia Democrats, had rallied behind Barfoot, a World War II veteran.
In a letter last week, Webb urged the association to "consider the exceptional nature of Col. Barfoot's service when considering his pride and determination in honoring our flag."
So, if you aren't a Medal of Honor recipient, fat chance getting Virginia Democrats to support you in your efforts to fly the nation's symbol in your yard.
As a side note, our new house in Georgia happens to have a flagpole in the front. He has a light shining on the flag so you don't have to take it down, but perhaps my Scouting sons will want to do daily flag ceremonies. We'll need to add an artillary piece and play Retreat every evening.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Sunday, December 06, 2009
I was trying to read the three books we have on St. Nicholas to interested children. Several children were drawing pictures for St. Nicholas on the dining room table. Peter had "messed up" and "needed" White-Out. I have had my perfectionist children utilize this substance when their schoolwork - written in ink - has needed correction. Very quickly they turned to it for every little mistake, even ones done in pencil. They even used it to decorate their Halloween pumpkins. I keep telling them it is not paint. And I keep telling them they need to keep it capped and out of little hands. They do not heed me.
As I was reading, I looked up, and Mary had joined those at the table doing art work. "Is there anything on the table for her to get into?" I asked, completely forgetting about the White-Out. They assured me it was safe. Not five minutes later, a cry of alarm went up. Sure enough, she had spilled it and had used it as finger paint on the table.
What followed was a flurry of activity as children were ordered to clean the table with paper towels and Goof-Off (I am almost out of this fantastic cleaner), and I attempted to wash the stuff off the baby's hands and arms and had to use Goof-Off there, too. After all this was done, I walked past the table to throw something away before resuming my reading, and that's when I saw the other pool of white liquid at the other end of the table. This one was even bigger and incorporated a sizable section of my favorite tablecloth which had been pushed back to allow for drawing on the wood surface. To say I was upset would be an understatement.
Story time was over. Children were instructed to clean up the few scattered toys and to begin the rosary while I cleaned the mess. And then off to bed with them.
I did hear whispering, and Fritz asked me how to make scrambled eggs, an unusual question from an eleven year old boy at bedtime. Thus I was not overly surprised when I heard noises in the kitchen early this morning. I was, though, surprised at the hour: 4:50 AM. My boys do not generally get up before 6 AM. I remained in bed as long as the tot, who joined me around midnight, would allow, which was about an hour longer.
Despite expecting breakfast, I was nevertheless surprised by the magnitude. The table was set for all of us. Orange juice had been made from the frozen concentrate. Coffee was poured (and cold - Fritz doesn't seem to understand that some things are meant to be consumed at a temperature above room temperature). Sausage was made. Eggs were made (also cold, and not at all tasty...I did my best to eat them and then suggested he have a hands-on lesson another day). Bread was toasted, and waffles, which he does know how to do, were in process (the plain were done and he was working on the chocolate chip).
The boys had set their alarm for 4:30 AM knowing that I am usually up by 5 AM. The girls had been in on the planning, but when the boys tried to get them up to help with the execution, my sleeping beauties had blearily sat at the table and then escaped back to their soft beds the first moment the boys turned their backs.
"Did you do this for the feast of St. Nicholas?" I asked Billy.
"Yes...and because we're sorry about the table cloth," he replied.
I had forgiven them, of course. A tablecloth is, after all, merely a tablecloth. I am so very thankful for these wonderful children who are beginning to learn that just saying sorry doesn't fix destroyed property, but who are willing to put in such extra effort to mend a relationship strained by their negligence.
And I am thankful for the mercies of God Who forgives me my anger. And I shall see what extra effort I can take today to make up for my own misdeeds.
In the meantime, White-Out is now banned and any rogue containers I find will be confiscated and thrown in the garbage.
My dearest Fritz, Billy, Katie, Jenny, Peter & Mary,
Advent is a special time of year: the preparation for the celebration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. With less than 20 days before that wonderful day, you have much to do. But I know that you are getting ready for something else: the return of your father. Keep up the prayers as your voices join those of the saints. I know it is hard but you need to keep faith in the Lord that all will be well. This has been a difficult year with many changes ahead for next, but with prayer you will be ready for them. Continue to be kind and generous and always share, particularly when it is most difficult. Decorate your house nicely to remind yourself of the coming of the Light of the Lord and live every moment filled with God’s love. I have left you a few items as tokens to help you prepare for Christmas. They are reminders of the gifts our Lord gives us every day. May the Lord bless you all the days of your lives, and may you grow in love and kindness.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
"Following the dinner Santorum stressed to LifeSiteNews.com that conservatives 'do a lousy job of financing the cultural movement.' 'We are an entertainment information culture, and if we just focus on the politics, we focus on just a very small sliver of American life,' he said.
'That's where America is, and if we don't meet them there, we're not going to meet America.'"
"The narrator in the recently released video goes on to say: 'If you have made the decision to have an abortion, and are having a hard time feeling good about yourself, and remembering that you are a good person, let us remind you and help you see the goodness in yourself and your choice.
'You are a good woman, doing the best you can in your situation.'"
The article says that the facility has a spa-like atmosphere with low lights and aromatherapy.
Hard, courageous decisions never make you feel bad about yourself. If what you are doing is making you sick to your stomach, maybe you shouldn't be doing it.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Awesome friend of the week award goes to Laurie who has welcomed the 7 of us into her home and even let the dog stay here. She has been just as consumed with finding me a house as I have. And I think she's just as sick of it as I am. My last task before I leave here today is to do the final arrangements with the owner of the house right down the street. This place is almost perfect. The only drawback is that there are only three bedrooms, and if the third bedroom were as enormous as the second bedroom, it really would be perfect. Fortunately, the living space is so generous and well planned, that the sleeping space should not be a significant issue.
And how can you beat living a short walk from another military, Catholic, homeschool family with whom you enjoy spending time?
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
I have left Florida and am in rainy Georgia. There is a house for rent down the street from my friend. I will definitely have to check it out. My husband's guidance is #1: a good neighborhood for the kids, #2: a big enough house (note that he'd sacrifice living space for kids' playmates...of course, he only spends a fraction of his day in the house), #3: commute time. My priorities are the exact opposite.
FYI: my Dell computer is STILL broken. I am NOT a happy camper.