Dec 31, 2008

Waiting for the clock to strike midnight . . .

2008 was really an incredible year. I'm sure there were rough times, but looking back I can't even recall them. The laughs, wonderful memories, lessons learned, and joy that filled my life far out way anything negative. I am surrounded by friends and family that love me and bring incredible happiness to my life. I have the gift of health, home, and security.
I am truly blessed to have this year in my memory bank and look forward to the adventure, memories, good times, and blessings that will come in 2009.
Happy New Year!

Dec 28, 2008

Q - Z

Two days after Christmas I realized that I made a catastrophic error with my Christmas cards this year. I apparently stopped addressing Christmas cards in the "P" section of my address book. I'm not sure why I stopped or why I never returned to finish them off. So, I have a pile of Christmas cards sitting on the desk that will be incredibly late.
I apologize to all the R, S,T, W families and all those in between that didn't get a card from us!

Dec 19, 2008

Merry Christmas!

There are just a few more days before Christmas. The house is decorated, Christmas music is playing, Christmas cards are mailed, and presents are under the tree. Every night the boys gather around the tree to listen to some scriptures about the prophesy of Jesus' birth and the Gospel of Luke's account of that glorious night - followed by eating nightly candy from the Advent calendar!
Even in the busyness of shopping for gifts, shipping packages, and planning Christmas dinner and activities, I try to keep my focus on the miracle of Christ's birth. In the songs that we sing and the scripture we read, I find myself in awe of God's plan of salvation. The long awaited messiah was born in the town of Bethlehem, a host of angels proclaimed the glory of His birth to lowly shepherds, and prophesy was fulfilled. "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6 It is truly a wonderful time of year!
This Christmas we are blessed to be spending a few weeks with the Mlack family. Mika, Tom and Madison will staying with us into the new year. We will visit the National Tree in DC, go to church on Christmas Eve and feast on our favorite holiday recipes. We haven't spent Christmas together since 2004, so this is a special treat.
In the tradition of the Christmas letter, I feel obligated to give you a recap of our year. 2008 was filled with so many joys and great memories. The highlights of the year were a few big trips. We went to Spain for a week in the Spring, took a quick trip to New York for a weekend in April to see the METS play at Shea, and the boys and I spent a good portion of our summer vacationing in California. We went to quite a few baseball games this year, enjoyed the company of some out of town guests, and I was lucky enough to have a mom's weekend off and take a solo trip to Clarksville to visit some pals.
Eli and Gabriel are growing so fast! Eli is 6 and in First grade and Gabriel is 4 and in preschool 3 days a week. Eli loves reading and math and is doing very well in both subjects. Eli has a very sweet heart. He loves to be the leader, enjoys playing board games, and can never get enough bike riding. Gabriel enjoys his time at preschool, but it closely rivals sleeping in, staying in his jammies all day, taking a good two hour nap, and playing at home by himself. Gabriel is always willing to give hugs, frequently tells me he loves me, and sometime insists on being called "big boy baby". He'll hate me for that when he gets older. Both of the boys find ways to make us laugh and smile, as well as cause us to look at them and wonder why they do some of the crazy things they do. They keep us on our toes and make every day an adventure.
Matt is still flying "high level DOD officials" around, and serves as the company safety officer. He really enjoys his job, and his flexible schedule. I am busy ferrying the boys around, hitting the gym, keeping up with things at the house, and other little projects here and there that fill my days.
This summer we found out that we will be moving to Germany in August 2009! Even though most of our family and friends are a little cranky about the move, I am very excited about the opportunity. I've been trying to learn some basic German, and have been researching everything I can about living abroad. Eli decided he doesn't want to move to Germany. He is very upset about wearing collared shirts at the new school and has opted to stay at his friend Mary's house until the rest of the family returns the the United States. I have a feeling this move is going to be very difficult for him.
We are blessed to be in good health, surrounded by great friends both locally and afar, and to have spent the last 2 1/2 years together as a family with little disruption from the Army. As we enter into 2009 we thank God for all that he has given us and look forward to the great things that are in store for the new year.
We wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!

Dec 15, 2008

A sad day.

We have the "old-fashioned" sanitation trucks where there is a driver and a guy that physically picks up our trash and loads it in the back of the truck. Our neighborhood is pretty tricky to get the big trucks through, there are quite a few one-way streets and all of the trash cans are in the allies. Every week, on Monday and Thursday our garbage guys weave their way through the neighborhood disposing of our stinky trash. Gabriel rushes to the window whenever he can to watch at the guys at work. He loves to play "garbage man" in the grocery store by hanging on to the side of the cart, like the garbage man does in our neighborhood.
Today, our garbage man died. Mika and I were coming back into the neighborhood on our way home from the gym when we came upon a very sad scene. At first we just saw police tape and a lot of police cars, but when we rounded the corner and saw the garbage truck and a white plastic sheet on the ground behind it, we knew what happened. Our garbage man was accidentally ran over as the driver of the truck was reversing.
It is just over a week before Christmas, and today a wife and three kids found out their loved one died. Mika and I couldn't stop thinking about the accident, the loss of the family, and how horrible the driver must feel.
Praying for the driver and the family that experienced a great loss . . . .

Dec 11, 2008

Naughty List

The following businesses will be receiving coal from me this Christmas:
Toys R Us
Moppetsclosets
FamilyChristianStore.com

Toys R Us seeks to penalize early Christmas shoppers by placing unrealistic return deadlines on their items. I attempted to return an unopened item, with a receipt 98 days after the original purchase date and was simply denied a return, exchange, or any resolution other than "too bad".

Moppetsclosets at etsy.com hijacked my bracelets that have already been paid for and refuses to send me my stuff. The owner, Christi, has lied to me repeatedly and is now avoiding contact.

FamilyChristianStore.com canceled an order of mine without letting me know. So, I thought a Christmas gift was well on its way to the recipiant, only to find out through my own research that it indeed was not.

Catching Up.

Let's see, where did I leave off? I arrived safely at Fort Rucker on Sunday the 23rd in time to unpack the van, go for a run, and enjoy a tasty dinner with family and friends. The next few days were spent hanging out with the Mlack gang, and visiting my friend Katie and her son Keaton, who were all down in Alabama for Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving day was great. I woke up, worked on my newsletter for church, went for a jog, and then we all headed down to Dothan for our Cracker Barrel feast. Matt and I dined on turkey, ham, sweet potato and pecan casserole, corn, cornbread stuffing and delicious bisquits. The meal was topped off with an apple pie with pecan stussel topping. Yum. It was so tasty. At the end of the meal the nice waitress came and took away all the dishes and the only thing I had to do was roll myself out of my chair! After dinner we all went to the new theatre in town to watch Bolt in 3-D. It was a good movie and a fun way to pass the time.
Black Friday came early for Mika and I, 2:45 to be exact. We were out the door by 3am and off to Dothan for some crazy shopping maddness. We had a great time shopping, something we do very well together, and getting a start on our Christmas shopping. We followed our traditional shopping rule "one for them, one for me". We ended up with quite a few little treasures for ourselves.
A few more days down in Alabama and Mika, Madison, the boys and I were on the road to come home. Remember that 10 hour and 4 hour drive that brought me down to Alabama? Our 10 hour stretch turned into 13 and what should have been a quick 4 hour cruise home ended up taking 7. Traffic, potty stops, road closures, rain, and slow service for meals all combined were the source of the additional time on the road. We were very happy to arrive safely home.
Since then, we have been catching up, getting into a new routine, decorating the house and trying to finish off Christmas shopping. Matt arrived home on the 5th, we picked up our tree on the 6th, and hosted part of a Christmas progressive dinner on the 7th.
Days seem to be flying by. As each day passes during this season of Advent I try to remember to slow down, and take it all in.

Nov 23, 2008

New Favorite Things

Listening to a book on cd/mp3 while driving. I'm not sure why I haven't listened to a book on cd prior to yesterday, but now that I've tried it, I'm hooked.
I listened to the book A Thousand Splendid Suns nearly every minute of the 10 hour drive yesterday. I stopped listening for our meal stops, while getting gas, and when people called to check on how the drive was going.
I woke up this morning almost excited to get back on the road and to finish my book. 3 more cds and about 3 more hours of listening intently.
The drive went by so fast as I mindlessly drove and listened to the story unfold. The only downside was I was listening with earbuds and no matter how nice the earbuds are, after 10 hours, it still hurts.

Nov 21, 2008

Busy Days

It is the end of November. Where did this month go? I can't believe that Thanksgiving is next week, Christmas right around the corner, and then before I know it I'll be ringing in 2009.
I've been busy this past week getting ready for our big trip to Alabama. There was so much to be done, not just for the trip but also for the return. Mika and Madison will be joining us on the return trip and staying for the month of December and Christmas festivities are already lining up beginning with a party here on the 7th.
Our Alabama Thanksgiving will most likely be spent at Cracker Barrel this year. Our choices in Po Folks, Cracker Barrel, Golden Corral and the chow hall. Have you been to Po Folks or Golden Corral?
So, I'm heading off in the morning for a 14 hour drive. I'll actually be breaking it up by heading to Atlanta for the first 10 hours and finishing off the trip Sunday morning. I am completely dreading the drive. The boys are great, they entertain themselves with a backpack of toys, intermittent movies, and just watching as the world goes by. However, I am not easily amused by listening to the movie, spelling random words for the boys, or trying not to say anything mean as Eli "sings" at the top of his lungs his own rendition of Yellow Submarine. I entertain myself by calculating how long it will take me to get to the next stop - at least 4 times an hour, I talk on the phone when there is reception, and I create little stories in my head, and practice my German as long as the boys will tolerate it.
This trip I am going to try and listen to a book on my ipod. I have spent much of the night tonight trying to get the "book" on my ipod. I'm really hoping that I get the whole book on there. How much will it stink if suddenly one chapter, or even a page goes missing and I get confused? It could go either way. I could totally get into it and time will fly by. I may not even want to get out of the car because I'm so engaged in the novel. Or, I could fall asleep like I do when I try and read in bed and then . . . . .
Matt keeps asking if I am excited to come down there. As my to-do list is now quite short, and all that is left to do is get some sleep and head out in the morning, I am actually looking forward to a week away, even if it is to Alabama.

Nov 13, 2008

Discussions with Gabriel

This conversation took place this morning as I was tying Gabriel's shoes.

Gabe: John McCain, John MaaaaaacCain, John . . . Oh! Brockobama won?
Me: Yes. Barack Obama won. He will be our new President in January.
Gabe: Brockobama will be the President?
Me: Yes.
Gabe: Not Curious George?
Me: No, not Curious George.

Maybe it is the rain, my weird sense of humor, or just the mood I am in, but every time I replay this little discussion in my head I laugh out loud!

Nov 11, 2008

Long weekend.

Matt was home this weekend for a quick visit. We had to take care of some errands (buying Matt a new cell phone since he lost his), did normal life stuff, and shared some special times too. We finally had my birthday cake and I opened gifts (that didn't come from the boys' bedroom), Matt and I had a date night, Matt and the boys enjoyed "movie night", and we shared some special time with friends at our house on Monday night.
Our date night started off rough. Matt was trying to do more things than time would allow and we got a late start, then the late start turned even later as we made our way into DC, found parking, and tried to find a restaurant to enjoy a nice dinner together. We didn't have enough time to wait for a table at any of the restaurants and ended up grabbing merely adequate food at a deli. We crossed the street to the Verizon Center, bad eating drama behind us, and enjoyed a very exciting Capitals game (hockey). I loved the game. This was only the second time that Matt and I have gone to a hockey game and we had so much fun. Leaving the arena we decided we were untapped hockey fans. Our inner-fan hasn't had many opportunities to come out. Hopefully, that will change a little in the future. If you haven't gone to an NHL game. GO! It is a good time.
Although the boys and I will be in Alabama in just two weeks, it still felt a little empty when Matt left. After dropping Matt off at the airport Eli suggested we "just walk around this town a little". It was a chilly fall day, but really beautiful, so we headed to Old Town Alexandria for a stroll. We crunched through leaves, watched street musicians, and enjoyed playing at a quirky toy store.
Tomorrow we return to life.

Picture worth a thousand words.

This past spring my Grandpa left the comfort of his home and the companionship of his wife to move into an assisted living facility. Although it broke his heart to leave my grandma, he knew that she physically could not take care of him any longer. He has settled in reasonably well at the home and is accepting this life he now lives.
My grandma still hopes and prays that one day grandpa will come home, but in the meantime she visits him every other day, fusses over what he eats, and keeps all the doctors in check.
Every once in a while, when grandpa is strong enough he gets to take a field trip to my parents house. Today, was one of the those good days. He spent some time over at my parents house surrounded by family and good food with real flavor. This is such a beautiful picture of my grandparents together. I missed the special day, but I'll treasure this photo until I get to see them again.

Nov 5, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

This past Saturday I celebrated my 32nd birthday. My day started off a little rough, I woke up to the boys fighting. After leisurely getting dressed and ready, the boys and I headed off to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. If you have never had Cracker Barrel pancakes you are seriously missing out. They are so good. It is a southern style breakfast joint, and it is possible the pancakes are so tasty because they are fried in pure fat. The edges are the best part because they are really crispy and taste a lot like those deep fried elephant ears you get at the fair. Mmm.
So, after our breakfast treat I took the boys to Color Me Mine, a paint your own pottery shop in Manassas. It was a last minute decision. Up until the morning of my birthday the boys were insisting that we go to Chuck E Cheese to celebrate. Just before leaving for breakfast I thought of the pottery idea and was excited and nervous to spent some time painting with the boys. Although Gabe was bored and tired with the painting after 45 minutes or so, he did a great job on his artwork and being good while Eli and I continued painting.
After the adventures in painting, we returned home and the boys brought me out a bounty of gifts. They went "shopping" in their rooms and then wrapped up the gifts for me. I'll post pictures later. It was so cute. So, I opened an mp3 player, Moe - the webkin chicken, a stuffed animal frog and a love note from Eli, and a book, stuffed animal monkey, and something else from Gabe.
We rested, and recovered from the busy morning and then I took the boys over to our friend Ryan's house later that night. Ryan agreed to babysit the boys for me while his wife Rachael and I, along with another friend Samantha went out for a night on the town. We ate dinner and walked around Georgetown. I truly enjoyed the entire night. It was great to be in the company of some wonderful friends and to just enjoy being together in a beautiful city.
Their gift to me was this night. When I arrived home at 1am (whew that is late for me) I thought to myself what a great gift the evening was. Any material thing will eventually fade away, but the memories of this night will stay with for many years.
It was a good birthday.

"Don't stress about your s"!

Thanks for the help with newsletter names. In the end, I opted for The Source: A tool for small group leaders. However, I made a minor error when I sent out my first issue tonight and the headline actually reads The Source: A tool for small group leader. What a way to make a first impression.
I think 50% of my subscribers (subscribers is a loose term - I force this upon them) will probably not notice the error. 25% will notice and think it sounds weird. 10% won't even open the email. And only 15% will notice, and take the time to point out my error.
I was really upset over missing such an important detail. As I was talking, or whining, to a friend of mine about it, she so eloquently said "don't stress about your s". She is right. Not only in the case of my newsletter, but I think this should be my motto for life.
The missing s is one small part gone wrong, in the sea a letters, thoughts, and handy links that went right in the newsletter. How many times have I stressed about the s? Probably a 100 times a day, I am so focused on the things I don't fit into my day that I don't see all of the things that I did.
Today I got both boys to school on time after feeding them a good breakfast and packing up their lunch. I ran a few miles at the gym and lifted weights. I talked to my sister about the book I'm currently reading. I played board games with Gabe for an entire hour without interruption. I helped Eli learn his bible verse for the day and remembered to change the batteries in Gabe's vacuum. I sent out a newsletter that will hopefully be a valuable resource to about 100 leaders in our church. And . . . I left out an s.
I can live with that.

Oct 29, 2008

What's in a name?

Help. I rarely ask for help from my readers, however, desperate times call for desperate measures!
I need a name for a newsletter that I am working on for the small group ministry at my church. The newsletter is going to be an electronic newsletter sent to all of the small group leaders. The content of the newsletter will be news, upcoming events, links, ideas, leadership tools and resources.
Oh, and I need a name by tomorrow.

Oct 27, 2008

Y-E-S

Eli has started spelling. It is so irritating. Every time I ask him a question he responds by spelling the answer. It isn't so bad with Y-E-S and N-O, but other than those words, his spelling needs a lot of work and I'm often left asking the same question again . . . "What do you want for breakfast?".
I realize it is great that he is interested in spelling and I should take advantage of this precious time to teach him how to spell, but sometimes I really would just prefer him to answer my question.
It was a bonus the other day when he started requiring ME to spell anything that I wanted to tell him. Fine. E-l-i-w-i-l-l-y-o-u-p-l-e-a-s-e-b-r-u-s-h-y-o-u-r-t-e-e-t-h-a-n-d-g-e-t-i-n-t-o-b-e-d-!!

Oct 24, 2008

New Weight Loss Plan

I woke up yesterday morning and was reasonably happy with my weight.
I went to the gym and ran 2.5 miles then did an hour of pilates.
I came home and stepped on the scale and gained 2 lbs. Hmm.
I was mindful of what I was eating throughout the day and didn't snack, other than a Slim-a-Bear Klondike 100 calorie ice cream treat, after dinner.
I weighed myself before bed and found that I gained another 2lbs, for a total of 4 lbs.
Then I woke up this morning and weighed myself . . . . and I LOST 5 lbs!
I'm not a math or fitness expert but if I gain weight while being awake and lose weight while sleeping, shouldn't I sleep more?

Oct 19, 2008

More Fall Fun

The boys and I headed out Saturday morning to go apple picking and then on to Luray Caverns. We had a lot of fun sampling all the different varieties of apples and then determining our favorite. I think we ate a 1/2 peck before we ever got down the hill!
After a picnic lunch by the fire at the orchard we continued on to Luray, Va to see the caverns. It was about 45 minutes further down the road, and an absolutely beautiful drive. Fall in Virginia is so beautiful.
Luray Caverns was a great time for the boys and I. We walked through the 1 1/4 mile caverns marveling at the rock features. The boys did really well on the tour. We had to skip through some of the tour guide talks, but we made it.

Oct 14, 2008

New Photos are posted.

Follow the Our Latest Photos link on the right and enter the password "ourphotos".

10k today!!

I ran 10k on the treadmill today . . . OK it is just a little over 6 miles but I think 10k sounds better. I felt great! I did want to quit at the 4-mile mark and finish with a brisk walk, but I pressed on, kept up the pace, and ran it out. During this run I realized some very important things. First, I have no desire to ever run further than 6 miles. I could try and run it faster, or on the street, on a trail, backwards, or in the rain, but I just don't see myself ever wanting to run further. The second thing I realized is that I can survive with sweat dripping off my face like a leaky faucet. I hate face sweat, and generally consider a soaking wet head a sign that whatever I am doing is way too strenuous and I must stop. However, today I sweat like I was in a sauna and I survived. I looked gross, but I survived. And the last thing I realized was, Rachel Ray has some really tasty recipes on her show! During my run, she made this fabulous looking mushroom and spinach deep dish pizza. Mmm. I'm actually going to try this recipe!

Oct 13, 2008

The Vote

Election day is right around the corner and I'm still so torn about my vote. There are issues and things I like about each candidate and things I absolutely don't like about both as well. What to do?
I found a voting guide on-line last week that asked a number of questions and then analyzed my answers and is supposed to determine which candidate falls in line with the issues you believe in. Wouldn't you know, the response I got was something like "gee you are out of luck".
I have put some effort into sorting out what matters most to me, and searching for unbiased information regarding each candidate, but it is going to take me quite a bit more time to really gain a good understanding of where each candidate stands and what his/her history reveals about character and voting records, before I can confidently make my choice.
I have so many things on my "to-do list" right now, and so little time. Today the thought crossed my mind that I am just one vote, and maybe it really isn't worth all this effort just to check a box on election day. Then, the above picture flashed in my head.
This summer I spent a few hours looking through old family photos. I really enjoyed looking back at pictures taken of my parents and family long before I was around. I decided to scan some select pictures so that I would have a copy. This picture made it to my "scan" pile. Why? The people in the picture are my uncle Mayn, Grandma, and my dad. The picture itself isn't that great, but what caught my eye was the note my Grandma wrote about the picture. Here my dad, uncle, and Grandma are standing outside the courthouse in Chico, California following the ceremony that granted them U.S. citizenship. Among other things, it granted them the right to vote.
I have to vote. It is my duty and privilege to live in a country that allows its citizens to choose the country's leader. So that means more homework for me, and I'll take the advise of a friend to pray that God will guide me in the direction that He desires for this nation.
Take comfort in the fact the God still has his hand in the life and prosperity of this nation. Daniel 2 reminds us that God has the power to change times and seasons, set up kings and depose them, give wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. I serve the same God as Daniel, therefore I have to believe that His hand is on this nation, this election, our current financial crisis, and power over the decline in morality that sweeps across this country.

Oct 12, 2008

Fall in Virginia

Another beautiful fall weekend here in Northern Virginia! Yesterday the boys and I met up with the Gastons and spent the day at Cox Farms, a local pumpkin patch. Well, it is called a pumpkin patch but they don't really have a patch. It is more like a huge playground. There are giant slides, hay piles to climb on, mazes, rope swings, animals, and a hay ride. The kids had a blast! While I wasn't too interested in the activities, I enjoyed the company of friends, watching the boys have so much fun, and onset of fall. The leaves are turning colors, the day was warm but a nice breeze cooled just enough to make it comfortable.
Today, we headed to a local park for some more outdoor fun. I brought the jogger for Gabe and the bike for Eli. This was Eli's first trail ride. Now that he is riding without training wheels, he can ride so many more places. The plan was for me to jog and Eli to ride through some trails. He was hauling, I was huffing, and Gabe was yelling "faster mom, faster". We had so much fun riding/running through the trails, playing on the playgrounds, and going on and adventure hike around the lake. The lake was nasty. Let's call it a super sized swamp. And the "trail" around the lake was hardly a trail. We were all walking, the Ranger warned us that we couldn't take the jogger or bike, and a number of times we didn't know where the trail was. In the end, we ended up 3/4 of the way around the swamp, the parking lot was in sight, but the trail dead-ended into a disgusting bog. I don't know what a bog is but it sounds like it would be the grassy, muddy, frog infested, muck that I deamed impassable. OK, maybe it was a marsh. At any rate, Eli encouraged us to keep looking for a way to pass, but after 20 minutes it was no longer fun and adventurous, it was gross and itchy, and we retraced our steps and made it back to the car.
As if that wasn't exciting enough, we ended our day listening to a live Jazz band while stacking on tasty treats. The Army Jazz band was playing down at the marina, so the boys and I made our plates and sat up on our deck listening to the music.
I'm hoping the weather will be fabulous next weekend too! I'm already searching for the next great activity. The apple orchards are calling, and I'm trying to convince the boys that Luray Caverns would be fun. Stay tuned.

Oct 9, 2008

"I'm UN-healthy"

Tonight the boys and I went on a date to Macaroni Grill. I used to love Macaroni Grill, and then I read the nutritional information for my favorite dish and found out that it was 15oo calories, now I'm no longer a big fan. That is ridiculous. It is tasty, but if I'm going to throw down that many calories, I want it to be in ice cream or cake, not in creamy pasta sauce.
The boys wanted to go out for pasta, so I went along with the plan. After the boys ate their pasta the waitress came out with their dessert that comes with the kid's meal. Eli looked over at me and said "are you going to eat dessert". "No" I answered "I'm trying to be healthy". Without a moment to think he replied "I am UN-healthy. I like pasta, hot dogs, pizza, chicken nuggets, candy and ice cream".
Well, he may not be making the healthy choice but at least he knows the difference!

On the same note, we were in the car on our way home and Eli told me that today he found out the cafeteria makes cookies. Why? Why would a cafeteria, in an elementary school serve cookies?
So, we talked about how he found this out and what happened at lunch today. Apparently, he was in the hot-lunch line getting his popcorn chicken, and as he moved to the fruit area he didn't see anything that pleased his palate, so he got cookies instead. Since when are cookies an acceptable substitute for fruit?
This is why I pack Eli's lunch 90% of the time. If he had his way he would be on a strict "un-healthy" diet of pasta, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, candy, ice cream . . . and cookies!

Oct 8, 2008

This really happened

Today, I was at the gym on the treadmill going for a little run . . . OK I was jogging or maybe walking really fast . . . and I saw the funniest thing. A lady on a treadmill in front of me was going for a nice brisk walk, and then at some point she decided to step on the sides of the treadmill, the parts not moving, and then just chill there for awhile. Not to adjust her headphones, get a drink, tie a shoe or anything like that, she just stepped off. Meanwhile, the treadmill is still rolling along, doing all the work, and she was just standing there. I noticed she was flipping through a magazine, and later made a phone call.
I feel a little ripped off, all this time I thought you had to actually run/walk/jog on the treadmill. Does this lady know something I don't? Do you just have to stand on the treadmill while it is moving to burn calories?

This really happened today too. Recall from an early post that I dropped my glasses by the mailbox, didn't realize it until 5 hours later when I returned to find my glasses completely thrashed. The lenses were perfectly fine, I 'm not sure how that happened, but the frames were shattered, scratched, one arm fell off, and the nose piece was bent. I went into Hour Eyes where I bought my glasses and asked if I could just buy new frames and switch out the lenses. They said I could, however, they didn't have the same frames and would have to try and get them from somewhere else. Two weeks went by and so I went into Hour Eyes today, found my helpful lady and asked if she was able to get my frames. There was some confusion at first as to whether or not they came in, but after 10 minutes or so they were found and the glasses tech guys put my unscathed lenses into the new frames. Great, all was going well. Then, this happened, she let me have the frames for free. No kidding. They were $100+ frames, I didn't buy the insurance, they were broken due to my own admitted error, and she gave them to me. I love her.

Oct 7, 2008

i'm in trouble.

I wanted to join the i-pod generation for two reasons. First, my current Mp3 player decides what song it thinks I should listen to regardless of what song I choose. I can select a good old U2 song and hit play, and the next thing I know I'm listening to "veggie taaaales, veggie taaaales, veggie taaaales, veggie tales. Broccoli, collard greens . . . . ". The second reason why I wanted an i-pod was because they are just cool.
So, I asked for a new Mp3 player for my birthday and tada, a month early, I recieved an i-pod touch. Since I am new to the i-world, i really didn't have a clue what this meant. I could tell it was bigger than the shuffle or nano, but the only other term I heard connected with -pod was classic. What is an i-pod touch?
Well, since the package arrive early, and I felt really guilty about ruining a birthday surprise I put it up on the shelf with plans to wait until my actual birthday to break it open. On occation my curiosity has almost got me to break the seal on that cute little box, but I didn't touch it.
Today, Matt called and he said his dad (the gift-giver) wanted me to go ahead and open it and start using it. This is where trouble begins.
I asked Matt "What is it?"
He answered "an i-phone with everything an i-phone has, except the phone"
Me "huh"
Matt "I'll take it and you can have my nano if you want"
His eagerness to take this off my hands was the first clue that I had something cool. He was offering no help (jealously will do that) so I openened the package. The manual has no instructions other than a web address to log on to for a tutorial. I got online and pulled up information on the i-pod touch . . . WOW this thing is so cool. It is just like the i-phone without the phone. It has a calendar that syncs with outlook, with it's internal wi-fi receiver I can send and recieve email, search the web, and there is a separate youtube thing, I can watch movies and tv shows, take pictures, it has a full address book, GPS maps, nike+ compatible, and of coarse that little thing I wanted from the beginning - listen to music.
Matt's instructions were "take it out of the box and plug the white cord into the device and the computer. This will charge it." Done.
"Then the i-tunes icon will pop up." OK, things are working well so far.
And then "there you go". End of help.
Matt does our technical stuff and he is in Alabama. This means I am going to either wait 2 months to get this snappy gadget working or figure it out on my own. Now that I know its power, I clearly can't just stash it away, so enter the technologically advanced world I must.
My first problem is that I don't know how to turn it on.
I hope they cover that in the on-line tutorial.

Oct 4, 2008

What a beautiful day!

Today was such a beautiful day. The weather was perfect - mid 70's with not a cloud in the sky, we were in good company, and the day had a happy ending.
We met with Mary, Eli's best friend, and her family at the Joe Gibbs Country Fair in Bristow, VA. Not only was it great to be with Mary, but the event was fabulous. Joe Gibbs is the the owner of Joe Gibbs Racing (NASCAR) former Redskins coach, and founder of Youth For Tomorrow, a great non-profit organization reaching out to troubled youth. The Country Fair is an annual event designed to raise money for the charity. There are silent and live auctions for people looking for some great sports memorabilia, a bunch of booths, and most importantly a fair for the kids. There were horse rides, bounce houses, mini-amusement rides, rock climbing walls, petting zoo, hay maze, and much, much more for just $15 for all three of us! We were there from 10am until 3:30 and still didn't do everything! Eli had a great day playing with his friend Mary, Gabriel enjoyed playing with her little brother Adam, and I got to know their mom as we followed the kids around.
I also ran into 3 other families from different areas of my life. That may not be a big deal to people who have lived in one place for very long, but for me - that never happens. We were 45 minutes away from home and church, in a field full of activities and people, and I ran into people from school and church. It felt great to run into people that knew me.
After all that excitement, the boys and I met up with Matt's AunTina for dinner. We had a nice meal sitting out on the patio of the restaurant, enjoying the weather and the chance to be together.
We got home about 7pm, the boys willingly showered, played quietly together for a bit and we ended the night with a bedtime story. It was a beautiful day.

Oct 1, 2008

10 bags, 100 pounds each.

When Matt was getting his travel arrangements set up for his trip to Alabama, he asked how much luggage he could bring with him. He wanted to make sure he could bring more than one bag down to Alabama without getting charged for it. As it turns out, he is allowed 10 bags weighing no more than 100 pounds each, unless he is traveling on a commuter carrier in which case he could only bring 4 at 100 pounds each.
He will be gone for 9 weeks. He has a rental car to make his way to the laundromat, dining facility, a grocery store, and to entertainment venues such as bowling, movies, and whatever else he can find in lower Alabama. He also has a hotel, complete with linens, a bed, chairs, table, microwave and mini-fridge. With all these amenities, how could one person possibly need 1000 pounds of stuff for just 9 weeks?
Matt took advantage of his luggage allowance and managed to bring his GPS, laptop, XM radio, ipod, PSP, Xbox including an assortment of games AND two guitars for Guitar Hero, his digital camera, chargers for all of thee above, two blankets (we hate hotel blankets), his memory foam pillow, and enough clothes for two weeks without doing laundry. I would guess that all that weighed maybe 150 pounds at the most!
Uncle Sam won't buy Matt a uniform, but will pay for 1000 pounds of cargo for 2 months TDY in a hotel. Hmm.

Happy October 1st

Today, I dropped Matt off at the airport. After we unloaded his 3 large bags, a backpack, and laptop, we gave each other a big hug and some smoochies, and he was off.
9 weeks is no big deal right? I was on vacation without Matt for 5 weeks this summer, I've done a year alone with both boys, and 8 months alone when Eli was a baby. Even though I know in my head that 9 weeks is going to fly by, I was still sad when I got home knowing that he wouldn't be here for awhile.
So, what do I do? Clean! Yep, cleaning is completely theraputic. It is Fall cleaning time at my hosue and Matt is not around to protest that there might be an instant, some day, when he will need to wear all 15 free lanyards at one time, or that he is confident one day he will wear those near-acid-wash size 32 jeans and that faded Timberland t-shirt.
After I'm done cleaning, I'm planning to enjoy fall activities with the boys, read a few books, work on my German, get my flabalanch gut in the gym, produce some great e-newsletters for the small group leader ministry at church, and accomplish all those other little tasks like changing the oil in the car, fixing the leaky sink, and solving my dental crisis. That might be a lot for 9 weeks! I better get started!
So, while I am sad that Matt left, I am looking on the bright side and planning to make the best of this time I have ahead. Today is October 1st, that is just three months before the new year!

Sep 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Gabriel!

Gabriel celebrated his 4th birthday on the 24th. I can't believe he is already 4 years old. We talked to Gabriel about planning his special day . . . and we thought we had an understanding of what he wanted. It turns out our "plan your day" birthday didn't work as well with Gabe as it did with Eli. Eli knew a few weeks before his birthday exactly what he wanted to do on his birthday. Gabriel changed his mind numerous times prior to the big day and continually throughout the day! It is very hard to meet the expectations of a 4 year old when they are constantly changing.
In the end, Gabriel woke up and after much discussion picked his breakfast, headed off to school where we had ice cream sundaes with his class after lunch, then came home and played the Wii with me (using controller number 1 - a big deal). After after picking up Eli from school we met the Swanson at the bowling alley. Gabriel bowled first, had some cake, and then spent some time in the arcade. Unfortunately, the arcade didn't have many kid-friendly games, but he made the best of it. Once we were done at the bowling alley we were off to dinner and shopping at ToysRus. The dinner decision was so stressful. He wavered back and forth between pasta and chips and salsa, with Eli chiming in about pizza. After 30 minutes of discussion we ended up at Baja Fresh.
I think he had a good day. Throughout the day he had phone calls from aunties, and grandparents and simply enjoyed the fact that it was "his" day.

Sep 29, 2008

Catching Up

I think this is the longest time between posts since I started blogging about a year ago. The cause of this lapse in posting is 50% due to my lack of motivation to write and 50% due to being busy.
Last week was Dental Nightmare week. I learned that waiting 4 years between dental visits is not a good call. I knew I needed to get in for a cleaning but kept putting that off, but when I started having really bad jaw pain I figured I should get that problem taken care of before I lost the capability to eat. A friend who has the same insurance as I do recommended her dentist, and I finally made my first appointment. After numerous x-rays and a lot of poking at my gums and calling out all the problems with each individual tooth, I was finally ready for a sit-down with the dentist. She showed me x-rays and talked to me about my problems, which seemed relatively minor considering how long it had been since I went to the dentist. Then, I met with Susan, the bad news lady. She prepared my "treatment plan" which is a list of everything that needs to be done and told me my cost share for all those services was $1500. Hmm, the exact amount that we could get if we sold our car. It sure sounds like $1500 would get a lot of dental work taken care of, but really it is just for two fillings and a nightguard. Did I mention that I have dental insurance.
Since my mom worked as a dental assistant for a number of years and is currently a hot-shot claims denier at Delta Dental, I immediately called her whining about the cost and the procedures. To make a very long story short, mom talked to me about options, empowered me with knowledge and confirmed my rights as a patient to actually decide what I wanted done to my teeth. Now I am looking at a bill around $5oo instead.
In a nutshell: Monday was my consult with the dentist followed by a Dr. appointment to try and get my medical insurance to cover part of the TMJ issue. Tuesday I nearly died as the hygienist scraped 4 years of junk off my teeth, sandblasted my face, and made me drool all over the place during the fluoride treatment. Later that day I had jaw x-rays. Wednesday I dropped my glasses by the mailbox and someone ran them over - not dental related but hey it's my blog. And finally, Thursday I confronted my dentist about how much money she was trying to steal from my babies' mouths. Whew. It was a rough week. Today, the dentist called to go over a revised treatment plan, let me know those TMJ x-rays that the Dr. took won't work, and set up an appointment to start sucking my savings account dry. Yeah.
On a lighter note, this past weekend our family headed down to Virginia beach to enjoy the last of the sunshine and warmth before Fall kicks in, and to spend some time as a family before Matt leaves for Rucker. We had a great weekend. I'll be posting the photos to my shutterfly page soon! It was so beautiful. We played in the sand and waves, watched dolphins swim by, and had a personal behind the scenes tour of the Virgina Aquarium. At the aquarium, we went to the shark tank and the giant sea turtle tank to learn about the animals and how the aquarium works. The sea turtles were so amazing. We were worried that the weather was going to keep us in our hotel room, but it was nice an warm when we arrived on Saturday and Sunday morning at 9am we were on the beach in swimsuits and playing in the water. That is fabulous for the end of September!
I recieved a very special gift this week. A friend of mine surprised me with a water color painting of my boys. She covertly retrieved a picture Matt took of the boys playing on the beach when we were in Spain last March, and has been working on this painting for me. I can't really put into words how special this painting is to me. First, it is so special that she painted something for me and second, the image that she chose is just perfect. We had such a great time in Spain, we love the beach, and this painting captures all of that. The last thing that was so cool about the gift is that it completely caught me off guard. I never would have guessed that she would paint something for me. Needless to say, I cried.
As Matt's bags are being packed (by me of course - he never packs for himself), I am hoping that this time we are apart goes by fast, but not too fast. Over the next two months Matt will have the chance to spend time with his buddy Tom who will be in Rucker with him, and I'm looking forward to enjoying some fall activities here with the boys.

Sep 11, 2008

September 11th.

Today, the nation remembers the attacks of September 11th, 2001. 2,974 innocent people were killed at the hands of terrorists. While those lives and our sense of security were lost on that day and deserve the memorials, I can't go through this day without taking a moment to remember another group of people.
Over 4700 United States soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and over 30,000 more have been wounded, since September 11th. There are no flags raised and lowered today in their honor, no speeches, or presidential visits. However, the fact remains that they died in a foreign land because of what happened here on September 11.

Sep 9, 2008

School, The Gym, and Dinner.

School.
Eli started school last Tuesday and Gabriel started school today. Eli's year didn't start off very well. Last year he was so excited to go to Kindergarten that he barely waved goodbye as he leaped out of the van. Every day he would greet all the teachers with a big hug and was known on campus for being such a sweet, happy guy.
This year, he cried all the way to school and looked so sad when I dropped him off that I cried all the way home. The teachers all stopped him along his route to the classroom perplexed at this little sad face. What is different this year? Two things. First, he realized that summer is way more fun than school, and decided school shouldn't start until it is cold outside. And second, Mary or any of his other really good friends are not in his class. By the end of the week he was doing better, but still not embracing the idea that this would be a fun year. On the way to school each day he talks about how he wants to just stay home and play, and yet when we are at home, he complains that he is bored because there is "nothing to do".
And in a complete role reversa - Gabriel loved his first day of school today! Last year, he enjoyed being at school but was never very excited to get out of his jammies. Today, he was beaming as we walked to his class! He explained to me that I needed to leave because only Gabe could be at this school. He is looking forward to music class, art projects, puzzles and his new friends. I think this year is going to be great for Gabriel. His teacher stresses learning through fun and according to Gabe "Ms Nancy is the nicest grill ever"!
The Gym.
After taking the entire summer off from eating healthy and working out I returned to the gym yesterday. Words cannot express how much my body aches right now. I took a body pump class and seriously though I was going to pass out after 5 minutes of squats. Today I headed back for a 5 mile walk/run and I am pretty sure my body hates me. If I ever stop working out again for such a long time, I'm just not going to go back to the gym. It hurts too bad.
As I was running along on the treadmill today I was bored, and started looking around the gym. I was suddenly struck by how many "working aged" people were in the gym at 10am. 100 people that look like they probably do have a job, were just at the gym working out, mid morning. I wonder what kind of job these people have? When I worked, I was always required to be at work in the hours of 10am-11pm. When I go back to work, I want a job that allows me to take a mid-morning break to go work out it totally beats working out before or after work.
Dinner.
I hate making dinner. Not so much because I don't like grocery shopping for, planning, prepping, and cooking the meal, but more because I don't like feeding people. Last night I made enchiladas. Gabe said he liked the tortilla but not the chicken, Eli said it was too spicy, and Matt said he didn't like the seasoning on the chicken. Fabulous. Tonight I made meatloaf and asparagus. The boys don't like the meatloaf, Eli gagged down the veggies quickly chasing them with about a gallon of water, Matt poured Thousand Island Dressing on his meatloaf, and Gabe stole the show by actually throwing up the veggies.
Seriously people, I don't especially like asparagus either, but I don't care. I just eat it. After all, the purpose of eating is sustaining life right? My kitchen isn't Paris or Florance. It isn't supposed to be a "dining experience" it is just supposed to put enough food in your gut to make it to breakfast.

Sep 6, 2008

Why not?

As tropical storm Hanna blew through our area today, the boys were playing upstairs and I was cleaning the kitchen. Just as I was finishing up in the kitchen, the boys came downstairs and asked if they could play in the rain. Why not?
I sent them outside in their jammies and bare feet to dance in the rain. They had so much fun dancing, stomping in the puddles, splashing the water that had collected on the table, and drinking the rain.
When they were done playing they came back inside, changed into clean jammies and went on with their day. After making their own pizza for dinner tonight, they will settle in for a movie and popcorn upstairs.

Sep 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Eli!

September 1st, 2008 Eli turned 6! Matt and I cannot believe we have a 6 year old son. Where did all the time go?
To celebrate Eli's day, we allowed him to choose all of the activities for the day. After brainstorming and a few discussions Eli came up with his ultimate day.
We started the morning with happy-face pancakes. The chocolate chip pancake had banana eyes, whip creme hair, a strawberry nose and a bacon mouth. These details were very important. Next on the agenda was miniature golf. We took Eli to a jungle themed golf course where we were joined by our good friends, the Swansons. We played miniature golf amongst headhunters, crocodiles, monkeys, water spitting frogs, and other fun jungle themed elements. After golf, we headed over to the batting cages so that Eli could try and hit a few balls.
His choice for lunch was KFC. Although that seems easy enough, I didn't do adequate research prior to the adventure, and we ended up driving around for about 30 minutes looking for one. He enjoyed his popcorn chicken and then we headed over to Toys R Us to go shopping. He was armed with some of his birthday money and after roaming through the store, twice, he ended up with a new Wii game and an emergency vehicle station.
We returned home to play with his new toys and then went up to the pool for one last swim before it closed for the year. He wanted to swim the lanes so bad, and while that is usually reserved for adults, Matt took him over to the lane and he swam the ENTIRE length of the pool! Matt and I think it is about 50 meters. We are so proud of him, and he was really proud of himself too. The Swansons came over for BBQ hamburgers and hotdogs, some Wii fun, a few more presents and cake.
The whole day was really about Eli. While we did put a stop to abuse of his brother, for the most part we let him do what he wanted. He was so happy with his special day!
We are so blessed that Eli has such a sweet heart, and although at times we can't believe he does some of the things he does, he is such a great little boy and we love him so very much
.

Aug 25, 2008

Please keep your hands and feet inside until the ride comes to a full and complete stop

As seasons in our lives are about to change it is easy to slide one foot out the door. Surely I am not alone in this. The last few weeks of class, the last days on a job, the day after Thanksgiving -when although it is still technically fall you are digging out the decorations for Christmas. It is that state where you are still physically present in one reality but slowly and steadily heading toward another.
I am notorious for "checking out" of my current life upon receiving orders for our new duty station. Looking back at every place Matt and I have moved away from, I can distinctly recall myself severing ties much earlier than necessary. I think I just started looking ahead to what I was moving toward, not really realizing what I was missing in the place where I was.
Although this was my style in the past, I am declaring that it will not be the case this year. Psalm 118:24 proclaims "THIS is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it". The word "made" is translated as "sanctified as a season never to be forgotten". I find such beauty in that definition. This day, this time, this year that I have left in Northern Virginia is sanctified as a season never to be forgotten! God has blessed us tremendously here and I am looking forward to what else He has planned for us in this season of our life.
My hands and feet are securely planted here and will remain here until the time comes to leave - but that is sad and I don't want to talk about that anymore.
Rejoice in the day God has sanctified for you!

Aug 20, 2008

New Blog

I'd like to direct your attention to my new blog Geschichtenerzahlin! The blog is dedicated to all things related to our upcoming move to Germany. I'll be posting information that I find out regarding where we will be living, travel destinations, and the ever-so-important availability dates for staying at the Hernandez Hostel!

I plan to post a few times a month or as I find new information. Don't count on daily postings - it probably isn't going to happen. The blog will serve as a source of information for you, family members and friends, and be a great way for me to do something constructive with the information I come across. You can see when the blog was updated last under my blogroll.

I'll continue to post my daily musings on this blog and keep our shutterfly photo site updated. You can follow Our Latest Photos link to the shutterfly site and use the password "ourphotos".

genießen = enjoy!

Aug 16, 2008

Things I learned on Vacation

I learned some things on vacation. Some were new insights, others just reminders of things I already new. Here they are:
If the situation arises it is possible for my family of four and a wetsuit to shower in 10 minutes or less. We had 4 dirty people, a wetsuit, and 4 quarters. At Van Damme State Park 4 quarters buys you a 10 minute shower. Much to my amazement Matt cleaned the wetsuit, we all showered and washed our hair, and I shaved my legs with a few seconds to spare.
I am blessed to be married to a wonderful supportive husband who selflessly agreed to send the boys and I out to the West Coast for 7 weeks. While he was left in Virginia for 5 of those weeks, he took care of the garden, kept the house clean (or at least cleaned it before he joined us in CA) and was very understanding when I couldn't talk to him on the phone because I was busy playing at a waterpark, bowling in Canada, on the jetski, camping, or any of the other activities I took part in. I am reminded of how much Matt loves me and wants me to be happy.
I can go 7 weeks without watching TV. I know the TV was turned on on occasion but I didn't watch any of my favorite shows, the morning news, and only a few movies, and I never turned the TV on. I'm not a TV junkie but I was really surprised when I looked back over the summer and realized I never sat down to watch TV.
My boys need a fenced in backyard. Every house we stayed at had a fenced in or naturally secluded back yard. Every morning the boys would get up and head outside in the backyard to play. Many times they were still in their jammies and didn't eat breakfast yet! It was so nice for them to have the freedom to play and explore outside in their own safe space.
I was also reminded of how blessed I am to have the family I do. Matt's mom's family, his dad's family, and my family are all very different from eachother and are all so very special to us. Matt and I are both so lucky to get along really well with our inlaws and truly be loved and accepted in each other's family.
Some other things I learned were; I miss the type of church I grew up in, my kids are California through and through even though they never lived there, it is really nice not to have traffic like we do here in VA, my family is cool enough to include my best friends in family functions, my best friends are cool enough to join me at my family's house, I CAN run 6 miles on the road - in the heat - and not pass out, and I love my VA friend-family and missed them a lot while I was gone.
And finally, the last thing I learned on this vacation was where we are moving to next when our time here in Virginia is up. Matt called me just a few days before he flew out to CA to tell me the news. We have in our hands and RFO (request for orders - or the closest thing to a promise that the Army will ever give you!) to report to Germany on or before July 31st 2009. I am so excited about what that adventure will bring to our lives and at the same time really glad that we will be here in Virginia for almost another year!

Aug 13, 2008

Coming home

"Home" is one of those words that is spelled the same but has multiple meanings. Home can be my parents house in California, California in general, this building I live in now, or anywhere in between that I have once lived.
When I left Virginia for California I said "I'm going home for the summer". And when I was leaving California I referred to my status as "going home to VA". I was sad to leave my family in California, I really had an amazing summer, but I was also happy to be coming back to my life in Virginia. After a very long day of travel I walked into my house and sighed, it is good to be home.
It felt great to go through the piles of junk mail to find party invitations, school registration information, valuable coupons, and cards from friends. It was especially wonderful to come home to a new gallon of milk, oven ready meal, bread, peach cobbler and cookies left at the house by our dear friends Rachael and Ryan. The cat was snuggly, the flowers in full bloom, and the bed just as comfy as I remember!
The boys sat in their rooms for hours as old toys were new again and they found their favorite things that were missed for the past 7 weeks.
We are still adjusting to the time difference, the quietness in the house, and things being different. Eli cried and cried tonight because his "bed just didn't feel right" and he said he wanted to go back to the bed he slept in at my mom's house. The boys have slept together for the past few months, so being alone in their rooms is a little upsetting to them.
The bags are unpacked, the laundry is done as ever, the house clean, and I'm ready to return to life as usual in the morning! OK, probably not tomorrow but definitely the next day!

Going to God's house

Tonight Gabriel asked me if we could go to God's house. Before I got into a deep discussion about "going to be with Jesus", I paused and waited to see what he would say next.
Gabriel said "I want to go to God's house and sleep with him so I won't be scared".
Maybe I'm just tired and emotional, but it was so beautiful to my ears. At nearly 4 he knows who he needs to go to for rest.
I then explained that God was with him in our house and he doesn't need to be afraid.

Aug 11, 2008

to the tune of the mickey mouse theme song. . . .

so now its time to say goodbye to our friends and family . . .
Wow. It has been an amazing 7 weeks. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to spend this summer with my family out here on the west coast. It was a summer filled with laughter, fun, and memories to last forever. I can't believe we packed everything we did this summer in just 7 weeks.
The bags are packed and waiting in the hall to be loaded into the car in the morning, we said our tearful "goodbyes", and will make our way back to VA in the next 24 hours.
There are no other words but "what an amazing summer"!

Aug 2, 2008

Together Again!

Matt arrived in California this week!  After 5 weeks of hanging out back in Virginia while the boys and I were on vacation, he finally joined the party.  The boys were so excited to see him!  However, they had to fight off my nieces who were equally excited to get attention from their super-uncle.
Matt's arrival reunited our family and kicked off a very busy two week schedule.  We started by visiting with Matt's mom, step-dad, sisters and uncles,  then we will transition to my family for a few days and we'll be off to Van Damm to camp for about a week and catch up with Matt's dad and the gang up there.
Over the past 5 weeks my plans were very flexible and I tried not to schedule much of anything.  It goes against my vacation nature, but it was so nice to just fly by the seat of my pants for awhile.  Now that Matt is here we are scheduled, fitting in multiple events each day, and making the most off our time here.  We are packing in a lot off fun activities, trying to see as many people as possible, and will take the time to breathe when we get back home!
The boys and I miss all of our friends back in Va, and look forward to catching up and enjoying the last few weeks of summer when we get back home.

Jul 30, 2008

Camping

Over the past 5 years my parents have become avid campers. They have upgraded their camp trailer a few times and have recently purchased a membership into a camping club. Since we only get out here to visit once a year, we haven't had the chance, until now, to enjoy camping with them. This past weekend we went up to Pollock Pines, just an hour outside of Sacramento, to spend the weekend camping with my parents.

Their trailer is really nice, and since it was over 90 degrees where we were camping, the AC was wonderful! The campground that we stayed at had a big pool and a wading pool, which is where we spent most of our days. The boys had fun playing in the trailer, while the adults enjoyed lounging around with nothing much to do. We played games, went on some walks, roasted marshmallows and enjoyed the quiet environment.

When I was little we used to go camping a few times a year. However, we never had a trailer! I remember camping in a tent, washing dishes in buckets, and trekking to the local bathroom in the middle of the night when I really really had to go. These days, my parent's trailer is self contained. Complete with a fridge, a/c, full bathroom, surround sound speakers, and living space bigger than my first apartment - they are "camping" in style.

It was a great break from our "busy" vacation schedule, and it was great to see how my parents are spending their free time. The smell of pine needles, the quiet pitch black night, and the bright stars peaking through the tree tops, make for a very relaxing environment.

Jul 29, 2008

The following was sent to me from a friend, and fellow military wife

What is a MILITARY Wife?
They may look different and each is wonderfully unique
But this they have in common.

They have THIS IN COMMON!
Lots of moving---
Moving
Moving
Moving far from home
Moving two cars, three kids and one dog----all riding with HER of
Course
Moving sofas to basements because they won't go in THIS house
Moving curtains that won't fit
Moving jobs and certifications and professional development hours
Moving away from friends, moving toward new friends
Moving her most important luggage; her trunkful of memories
Often waiting-
Waiting, waiting, waiting for housing; waiting for orders; waiting
For deployment; waiting for reunion; waiting for phones calls;
Waiting for the new curtains to arrive; waiting for him to come home
For dinner----AGAIN!

They call her 'military dependent', but she knows better
She can balance a checkbook
Handle the yard work
Fix a noisy toilet.
She is intimately familiar with drywall, anchors, and toggle bolts.
She can file the taxes, sell a house, buy a car, or set up a move, --
--all with ONE Power of Attorney
She welcomes neighbors that don't welcome her.
Reinvents her career with every PCS; locates a house in the desert,
The arctic, or the deep south and learns to call them all 'home'.
She MAKES them all home.
She is fiercely IN-dependent
Military Wives are somewhat hasty
They leap into decorating, leadership, volunteering, career
Alternatives, churches and friendships
They don't have 15 years to get to know people.
Their roots are
Short but flexible.
They plant annuals for themselves and
Perennials for those who come after them.
Military Wives quickly learn to value each other.
They connect over coffee, rely on the spouse-network and accept offers of friendship
And favors and record addresses in pencil.
Military Wives have a common bond.
The Military Wife has a husband unlike other husbands his commitment
Is unique He doesn't have a job, he has a 'mission' he can't just
Decide to quit he's on-call for his country 24/7 but for you, he's
The most unreliable guy in town!
His language is foreign
TDY
PCS
OPR
ACC
BDU
And so, a Military Wife is a translator for her family and his.
She is the long-distance link to keep them informed the glue that
Holds them together.
Military Wife has her moments----
She wants to wring his neck, dye his uniform pink, and refuse to
Move to Siberia.
But she pulls herself together.
Give her a few days, a travel brochure, a long hot bath, a pledge to
The flag, and a wedding picture.
And she goes.
She packs.
She moves.
She follows.
Why?
What for?
How come?
You may think it is because she has lost her mind.
But actually it is because she has lost her heart.
It was stolen from her by a man
Who puts duty first
Who longs to deploy
Who salutes the flag
And whose boots in the doorway remind her That as long as he is her
Military husband,
She will remain his Military wife.

Jul 24, 2008

Another week come and gone.

We celebrated my dad's retirement this past Sunday. Mom rented a hall, selected a caterer, and then gave my sister and I some cash to take care of decorations and other details. We wanted the day to be entertaining and special for both my dad and his guests, so my sister and I, with the help of our kids, put together a little something-something for the party. Basically, it was a version of Family Feud and all the topics were about my dad. The guests seemed to have fun, dad enjoyed it, and we declared the party and the game a success!
The rest of the week was filled with swim lessons, picking out new decor and paint for my mom and dad's bedroom, hanging out with Kaia and my grandma, a sick day, and taking the boys to see their first musical! Last week I was having dinner with my in-laws in Auburn and noticed a little advertisement for a local production of Seussical. I have heard great things about the show and figured it would be a good chance to take the boys to see a musical. My sister and the girls, the boys, and I had dinner and then settled into our seats at the local high school. The show was definitely low budget, and all of the actors were kids, but it was still a great performance and a good opportunity for the boys to get a taste of theatre. I need to remember to check out my local high school and college performances when I get back home. The boys really enjoyed the show. A matinée would have been a little easier on them, but they still had fun.
Eli and I are still fighting off a cold, but are moving forward to meet my parents up in the foothills to go camping for the weekend. We are looking forward to some lazy days!
Matt will join us next Wednesday! The boys and I miss him a lot and are looking forward to him joining us on our vacation.
I've added more pictures to our shutterfly site, just follow the link and type the password "ourphotos".

Jul 19, 2008

Cheap Gas!

I have been on the west coast long enough to get used to the gas prices. Gas has ranged from $4.09 - $4.50 throughout my journey so far. Today, I glanced over at an Arco that I was driving past and noticed that gas was $4.21. No kidding, I thought to myself "wow gas is getting cheap"!

Jul 17, 2008

Time is flying by!

I can't believe how fast time is going by. I wonder if our summer would have passed so quickly if we would have stayed home?
The kids started swim lessons this week and are doing so well. Gabe is very comfortable putting his head under water and is learning to kick and use his "scoopers". The funny thing about Gabe is that he prefers a leisurely swim. He kicks about 1/3 of the speed required to stay afloat. Eli is doing great. He loves being in the water. He is learning to swim freestyle.
After swim lessons this past Monday, my sister and I took the kids to SunSplash. It is a big waterpark here in town. We all had so much fun. Gabe was too little to ride anything but the kiddie slides, but that was enough. He spent about 5 hours in this super cool slide/pool/fountain area designed for little kids but enough fun to capture the attention of the big ones too. Eli and Kaia could go on some slides on their own and some with an adult. Katina and I took turns taking them on the big slides, while Colton and Makenna were off on their own. It was really so much fun! The weather was perfect too. Not too hot to make waiting in lines miserable but not too cold for the water to still be refreshing.
The rest of the week was spent at swim lessons each morning, visiting family, and mostly just hanging around. I took the boys to get their pictures taken, finally. I think it has been 3 years since Eli had pictures taken in a studio and even longer since the kids had pictures taken together. I usually have a mental breakdown due to the stress of these typs of photos BUT thanks to the speedy professionalism of "Tonie", the photogirl, all went well.
Tonight we are off to see Matt's brother, Grayson, pitch for the GoldSox, a local collegiate level team.
Electronics update: I bought a new camera due to the great sandstorm at Ocean Shores, but now the laptop is suffering minor strokes every once in a while so I haven't uploaded any new pictures. I'll work something out and get more photos posted to my shutterfly page soon.

Jul 12, 2008

Lazy Days in California

The day after we arrived in California the mercury hit 100 and stayed in the triple digits for the entire week. In addition to the blistering heat, the skies were filled with smoke from nearby fires making play time outside dangerous to our health. The fenced-in yard with the wading pool just on the other side of the window was so tempting for the boys and they just didn't understand why they couldn't go outside to play. By the end of the week the skies were clearer and the boys disappeared into their world of splashing, swimming, and pouring water on each other in the pool. We also made it out to a local water park and pool and played and had a picnic at a neighborhood park.
It is hard to believe that we have already been in California for a week. Time is flying by so fast!
Coming up next, the boys start swim lessons and we will finish the preparations for my dad's retirement party next Sunday.

Jul 8, 2008

Looking for photos?

If you are interested in seeing more photos from our time in Washington, check out my shutterfly page
http://comosedice.shutterfly.com/action/
the password is ourphotos

Jul 6, 2008

What a week!

The week we spent at my cousin Rhonda's house in Blaine, Wa went by way too fast. Every day brought some new adventure, laughter and great memories. We spent two days at the lake swimming, riding the wave runner, and soaking up the sun. We also visited a local dairy farm, where Mike used to work, to show the kids how Darigold gets their milk and visit all of the baby animals on the farm. There were stops at local ice cream shops, time in the pool, yard games, bike riding, and the newest addition to family fun - the Wii. We had a few bond fires, ate like kings, were spoiled by Mike's made to order morning coffee and my Aunt Syl's famous (at least in our family) fresh strawberry pie. We picked up fresh berries at Barb's berries almost every day, and successfully ate about 4 flats in as many days. We went to Canada to play 5 pin bowling and eat fish and chips, and celebrated the 4th of July by watching an old fashioned parade and fireworks in Blaine.
I was so blessed to spend time with my Aunt and Uncle, grandparents, sister and brother-in-law, my nieces, my cousins, and the Mlacks. At one point there were 18 people in Rhonda's house! I can't even describe how much fun we had in Washington and how overwhelmingly blessed I feel to have had this opportunity.
The week came to an end, I cried my eyes out saying goodbye to my cousins and the Mlacks, and then the journey to California began. Eight of us (we convinced Rhonda to send her son Colton down with us) piled in the van and began the 14 hour drive to Roseville, CA. We drove straight through with the exception of gas and potty stops. We stuck to a strict policy of switching drivers when they started driving by braile and made it home without incident.
As I looked through my pictures from Washington I am so happy to have the memories from the week and so thankful that God blessed me with so many wonderful family and friends. And now a new adventure begins . . .

Jun 30, 2008

Black Hole

My sister, Tom, and the girls arrived at Mika's house Saturday night and camped out there before heading into Seattle for the day. We met up later in the day and they brought the boys and I up to my cousin Rhonda's house. We are in the good old USA but our cell phone thinks I'm in Canada. We are not communicating via cell for the duration of our stay here. They also have dial up . . . I know hard to believe such a thing exists . . . so our internet connection is also few and far between. With our two main avenues of communication down, we are in the black hole for the rest of the week.
So far we are having a blast! We went to the lake today, swam in the pool here at the house and picked up some locally grown fabulous raspberries and strawberries. There are plenty more exciting things in store for the rest of the week.
Happy 4th of July!!

Jun 28, 2008

Ocean Shores, WA

The annual Sand and Sawdust festival was this weekend in Ocean Shores, WA. Mike, her sisters, mom, the kids, and I all headed over to the beach to enjoy the beautiful weather and check out the sand sculpting and chainsaw carving competitions. The water was freezing but the boys played in it for awhile. Most of our time was spent playing in the sand. We had such a great day. It was so nice to be outside enjoying some of the best weather I have ever experienced in Washington, and it was really fun to hang out with Mika's family.
The only problem with the day at the beach was major sand infiltration. The sand is so fine and the wind was blowing into everything. I have a temporary camera situation due to sand finding its way in to all its moving parts. Those of you who know me well, know that I am a camera breaker and are probably not too surprised to hear this. Hopefully, some can-o-air will help me clean out the camera and get it back into shape.

Playing Local


On Friday we stayed close to home and headed over to the Hands On museum in Olympia and then to the Heritage Park fountains nearby. The Hands On museum was basically a huge imagination station for the kids. There was a market, kitchen, puppet show and stage area, building area, a boat, water table, craft room and more! The kids played for hours.
When Mika and I had enough of the museum, we took the kids over to a park where water shoots up from the ground. They ran around until they were too cold to handle the fun anymore.

Jun 26, 2008

Mount St. Helens

Today the boys, Mika, Madison, and I headed to Mount St. Helens. We spent time in the visitor center before heading to the Johnson Observatory to see the mountain and the crater left by the eruption. The weather was gorgeous! We had a picnic, played at a playground and enjoyed a beautiful day outside.
Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 causing huge mud slides, ash clouds, and major destruction to the forests around the mountain.

Jun 25, 2008

Summer Vacation 2008

Some people think of a summer vacation as a vacation taken during the summer. I, however, decided that "summer vacation" should mean that you actually go on vacation for the whole summer!
I consider myself blessed to be able to spend 7 weeks traveling and visiting family and friends. I am blessed to have dear friends and family that I want to spend time with, kids that love to travel, and last but certainly not least, a husband who is supportive of my crazy whims.
The boys and I boarded our first flight in Baltimore on Tuesday, June 24th and arrived in Seattle later that evening. While I was excited about the journey that lie ahead, I was very sad to leave Matt and my wonderful friends in Virginia. I'll miss them, and will think of them often.
We are spending time in the Pacific Northwest before heading south to California. Matt will join us later this summer and spend a week in the Sacramento area followed by a week camping outside of Mendocino, CA. We are sad that Matt couldn't join us for the complete journey, but realistically - someone has to fund our trip!
We have a lot of fun things planned, and a lot of time to do nothing but enjoy the presence of the people that surround us. It is an exciting time for us and should be a really memorable summer. I'm looking forward to turning my blog of random musings into a travel blog.

Day 1: Arrived in Seattle and was picked up by Mika and Madison.
Day2: The boys woke up at 5:30am Pacific - too early! We spent the morning settling in, played at a local playground, planned our adventures for the next few days, and then celebrated Mika's slightly belated 1/2 birthday with dinner and cake. You may recall from an earlier posting that all people who are born in December and regularly receive gifts from me would be celebrated on their half birthday effective immediately.

Jun 20, 2008

Still Cool!

Matt has been flying for over 6 years now, and I still think it is so cool! Today the boys and I went over to Fort Belvior to watch him land and display the helicopter for an organization's picnic. We missed watching him land, but hung around long enough to see him take off.
T
he boys climbed all over the aircraft as if it was the first time they ever saw it. In reality, they see it just about every time someone comes out here to visit.
Other cool guys at the picnic were Military Police K-9 handlers and their dogs, and firefighters with their truck. I was so impressed by the K-9 dogs. Their training is amazing. The boys didn't really understand what the dogs were doing, but were enthralled by the firetruck. The firemen were so kind to show the boys everything in the truck and explained how everything worked.
It was a beautiful day, and a great opportunity for some soldiers and firefighters to show off their stuff!

5 miles!

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to run 3 miles in 33 minutes or less. Since meeting that goal earlier this year, I have continued to run and have been trying to increase my speed and distance. Although I experience a lot of pain in my left knee after completing a run, I have continued to run and I'm determined to improve my running ability.
Yesterday I ran 5 miles in 55 minutes. It isn't a great speed, but it was the first time I ran for such a long time, so I was pretty impressed with myself. The best news is that I had no knee pain during or following the run!
Now, I must confess I only run on a treadmill, in an air conditioned gym! A runner friend of mine said that running on a treadmill takes 20% less effort than running outside. I'll agree with this statement. So, in running reality I only ran 4 miles - but in my reality it was 5!
Someday I'll take to the streets, but until then . . . I'm willing my legs to keep moving on the treadmill and believing that even in my 30's, I can still take on new physical challenges and be successful!

Jun 16, 2008

A Prayer For Our Children

"since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption,the forgiveness of sins."
Colosians 1:9-12

Jun 14, 2008

Ordinary Day

On the surface today was just an ordinary day, but it was really a great one. The day started off with my 7am doctor appointment. Seriously, 7am on a Saturday? It was the only appointment I could get, so I took it. I saw a very efficient and nice Nurse Practitioner who did what I asked of her and went above and beyond, just the opposite of my last NP. After the Dr. visit I was feeling faint from the blood draw (not really but it sounds good) so I was off to Panera for a 400+ calorie cinnamon crunch bagel and a coffee. I enjoyed the breakfast in the restaurant, uninterrupted, and then headed to Target, the mecca of all discount shopping to pick up some things on my list . . . and somethings that were not. And finally, I stopped by the gym to work off the bagel. After I finished my 45 minutes on the elliptical (the exact amount of time required to burn off the bagel) the older man next to me took out one of his earphones and said to me "I knew you could do it, it was tough there at the end but you did it!" Shouldn't I be cheering him on? Anyway, by this time I figured I better get home. Matt, the boys and I headed to the pool for 2 hours and enjoyed the passing clouds and refreshing water. We almost had the pool to ourselves, which made it even more enjoyable.
After lunch and some "quiet time" for Eli, he came downstairs and asked me to play with him. I told him I really wanted to but I had so much cleaning to do, I couldn't play until I was done. He looked up at me and said "then I'll help you". It was possibly the sweetest moment I have had with Eli in awhile. He just wanted to be with me. So, I gave him all the "cool" jobs that he usually doesn't get to take part in like squirting the windex on the glass, dusting the shutters, and cleaning the toilet. He wasn't squealing with excitement but he didn't leave either.
We ate dinner and filled the time with laughter, followed by a sing along with Bob and Larry, and got the boys in bed in time for Matt and I to watch a movie together.
I got some errands done, enjoyed some time alone, time with the family, and time with . At the end of the day I stopped to think how special the "ordinary" can be.
I hope you have an ordinary day!

Jun 13, 2008

Weekend Getaway

Every mom deserves and earns a weekend away! At least that is my firm belief.
I had my 2008 "mom's weekend away" this past weekend. I chose to go to Clarksville, Tn to visit some girlfriends.
Before leaving the house I finished the laundry (not that it is ever actually done), made sure the dishes were all clean, swept the floor and vacuumed. My hope was that tidying the house before leaving for the weekend would make cleaning it upon return a little easier. I'm not sure if that plan worked. Upon return it was quite the mess.
So, I headed to Baltimore to catch a early morning flight. The first hour of my trip was already quite rewarding. After traveling through airports with two kids in tow for the past 3 years, traveling alone was great. I arrived at the airport 1 hour before my flight. I parked the car in the long term, put my ONE very small bag on the courtesy shuttle and was off to the terminal. I checked my bag (since the 3-1-1 rule is just irritating) and headed to security. As I stood in line I found myself people watching. I have no time to people watch when I am ensuring my kids don't cause a security breach, so this was truly entertaining. On one occasion I watched a lady take note of the TSA agent yelling to "keep your boarding pass out" and then continue to put her boarding pass with her shoes on its way to the x-ray machine. Now, this became a huge ordeal when she approached the metal detector without it. They wouldn't let her through so she went back to her stuff which, was already on its way through the machine, to retrieve her ticket. Long story short, the ticket got lost in the x-ray machine and she stood there baffled with 30 angry passengers behind her. Just a note: take off your shoes, and your belt, take the money out of your pocket, put your cell phone in the container, your laptop in a separate container and KEEP YOUR BOARDING PASS WITH YOU! Come on people it isn't too hard.
So, once through security and no more free entertainment I picked up a magazine that I would actually be able to read during the flight and headed to my gate. On the plane I had the privilege of being entertained by the older lady setting next to me. The flight attendant announced that she would be coming by to offer us drinks and peanuts. She announced the beverage selection and then headed down the aisle to take our order. It was pretty clear she was taking orders because she had a pen and pad of paper in her hand. When she reached my row I said "I'll take a Coke", then she looked at my fellow passenger and asked her "can I get you something to drink?" The lady replied "yes". This began a conversation between the two going back and forth "what would you like?", "what do you have?", "this is what we have . . . ", "yes that sounds good", "which one sounds good?" "do I have to tell you?"
At this point it is everything I have in me not to laugh out loud! Of coarse you have to tell her what you want! So, the lady then needed the list of offerings read to her again before replying that she wanted "juice". Unfortunately, for that flight attendant there were about 6 different juices being offered. Finally, they agreed upon orange juice. It was great.
I found that when I am not consumed with taking care of my boys I have so much time on my hands to appreciate all of the humorous everyday life things that are going on around me.
The bonus of the flight was that we had an early arrival into Nashville. Great! This never happens to me. However, since we were early there was a plane at our gate and we had to wait on the runway for 15 minutes . . the exact amount of time that we were early. Hmm.
Once in Nashville my friend Katie picked me up and we headed to a local mall for coffee, shopping, lunch and a lot of talking. I happened to be in Nashville for Fan Fair which is the country music event of the year in the city. Just about every country music group pops in sometime during the three day event to do a little diddy. The weather was great so Katie and just found a nice park bench in the shade, listened to music and enjoyed being together.
I also had the chance to visit my friend Sara once I got into Clarksville. We spent the day together catching up and solving world problems, like the trade deficit, the weakening dollar, and watched Hilary Clinton PAINFULLY concede to Obama the democratic presidential candidacy.
It was such a relaxing, wonderful weekend. I am so blessed to have met these ladies so many years ago and to have maintained a close relationship despite the distance that is between us.
I appreciate that Matt didn't even flinch when I told him I was going away for the weekend and my sweet friend Rachael's willingness to help watch the boys and shuttle Eli to school on Friday while Matt was at work.

Jun 4, 2008

Wildcats Head to Super Regionals!

The Arizona Wilcats advance to Super Regionals where they will take on the top overall seed Miami. The winner of the Arizona (41-17) Miami (50-8) match up will head to Omaha. The games are this weekend and will be aired on ESPN. We are so excited for Grayson to be a part of this team and to hopefully make his television debut!
Game 1: 4 p.m. Friday, ESPN
Game 2: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
Game 3:* 4 p.m. Sunday, ESPN2

Go Wildcats!!