Archive - September 2006

We’re Getting Close
On Our Own
Starting the Holidays With Prayer
Fall is In the Air
It is Well With My Soul
Our Days Are Just Packed
Firefighter Robert Parro
Candle Boats


Today was our scouting day. Pumpkin Girl had her first Daisy Girl Scout meeting in the afternoon. I wasn’t really sure how this was going to work out. At first she wanted to be a girl scout because Boo was so excited about being a Cub Scout. So we found a Daisy troop on base and signed her up. Then we found out that parents are not allowed to stay for the meetings and she started getting anxious. I took her to the sign up day so she could meet her leader and see the room and become familiar with the set up. That seemed to help. So we went out and bought her the uniform. Well, when we got home, she decided that she didn’t like the way it looks. Ack! That girl just kills me with her clothing issues. I told her that she didn’t have to wear it, but that all the other girls would be wearing their uniforms and that she would have nothing to put her petals on when she earns them. Finally she agreed.

So off we go to Daisy Scouts today. There was a craft set out for them when we got there. Pumpkin Girl is so into crafting these days, but that’s a blog for another day. When she saw the craft, she just sat right down and barely even waved goodbye to me and the boys. When we returned to pick her up, she was all smiles and happiness. She told me she had “the best time in the whole world.”

Then this evening we had our first Pack meeting for Boo. Of course, the big storm that had been predicted, with it’s torrential downpours, strong winds and lightening chose the exact moment when I said “ok, go get your shoes on” to unleash. I think we would have stayed home if we hadn’t lived only 3 minutes away. The kids were a little scared in the car, but I kept saying, “we’ll be ok.” The rain was so strong that they couldn’t even hear me. We pulled up to the chapel and I told them I was going to drop them off at the curb, they were to run into the building and I would park the car and join them with Nicholas. They did a wonderful job of following directions. While I was parking the car, the rain started coming down even harder. I didn’t even know that was possible. I sat in the car for moment, trying to figure out how I was going to get the baby out of the car without getting soaked. I opted for jumping out of my seat and into the backseat. I loaded him up in my sling, grabbed my purse and an umbrella and made a break for it. In the seconds it took to get the umbrella up, my hair got soaked and so did Bip. The umbrella could only do so much against the deluge and my pants and sandals were soaked when I reached the building. I took Bip to the bathroom and dried his hair and face, plus my face and shoes with paper towels. There was nothing I could do about my hair. Fortunately it’s short.

The rest of the evening went better. Boo earned his Bobcat badge. I got to pin it on him. Boo then pinned on a Bobcat parent pin on me!
I’m so proud of him. He’s working hard on his badges and he takes a lot of pride in his uniform. Sadly, Phil wasn’t there, so I didn’t have anyone to take pictures. The meeting was fun, but a little long, especially when one is sitting in wet pants, with a fidgety 5 yo and a baby who keeps insisting on low crawling across the floor and pulling off his socks.

It wasn’t raining as hard when we left. It looks like the storm will bring in much colder weather. Good thing our order of Land’s End winter clothes arrived yesterday. We need the long sleeves for soccer practice tomorrow!



We’re Getting Close

Don’t look now! Christmas is only 3 months away. What have you done to prepare? Since having children, I have tried to find a balance between the “perfect” Christmas and the enjoyable Christmas. I found my holiday season becoming crazy and frustrating and the next thing I knew, it was Christmas Eve and I had not really enjoyed any of it. My husband did not grow up celebrating the usual American holidays and he had an interesting perspective on it all. He asked me what would happen if I dropped some of the things on my list.

It was an interesting question. The answer, it turns out, was “not much.” I sat down and gave it some serious thought and I discovered that for me, less is more. What I really wanted for the holidays was to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells. I wanted to enjoy good food and good company and of course, to celebrate our Savior’s birth. I think the children want the same things. So I pared everything down to the things that we would miss the most.

* Lights on the house.
* Christmas cookies.
* A tree decorated early in the season.
* Christmas music playing as often as possible.
* Christmas Eve mass.
* Tamales on Christmas Eve.
* A few gifts, not a lot, just a few.

Everything else is optional. Everything. If our family kept just to this short list, our Christmas season would be wonderful. I would certainly like to decorate my house beyond just the tree, but to be honest, sometimes that becomes stressful. So I concentrate on getting the tree up during Thanksgiving weekend. I leave the boxes of decorations out for a week. In my spare time, I go through them and put out what I can. At the end of the week, the boxes get put away. Some years we have decorated more extensively than others. And that’s ok. The most important thing for us- the tree- is done.

I had to really change my thinking for this. It was hard to just not do some things I’ve always done. At the time, Boo was our only child and was just over a year old. Philip reminded me that he didn’t really care about most of these things. I came to realize that some of our family traditions didn’t need to be given up completely. Some of them would just wait until the children were older and better able to appreciate them (and help!). And as they have gotten older, new traditions have been added. We now participate in an angel tree, trying to find children with similar ages to our children. We let them pick out the gifts for the needy children. And now that Philip is a Christian, he expressed a desire to incorporate an Advent wreath into our preparations. The children also have their favorite decorations that I make a point of putting out as soon as the tree is up.

So add Buy gifts for the Angel Tree and Advent Wreath to our list and there are only 9 must do Christmas traditions for our family. Definitely managable. Then, as time, energy and resources allow, we add other things in. Regardless, our season is peaceful and enjoyable.

If you find yourself wishing for a simpler Christmas, start by examining your “must do” list. Take the time right now, this week, while it’s still September. Ask yourself, “What will happen if we don’t do this this year?” If the answer is, “I’ll be relieved” or “No one will notice,” then that’s something that can be dropped. Maybe it’s something that could be set aside during this season of your life, to be revived at a better time. Of course, if the answer is “It wouldn’t be Christmas without it”, then by all means, make sure it happens.

Be careful of doing things that stress you out just because someone else, especially outside your family, expects you to. See what you can do to delegate some of those responsibilities or enlist as much help as possible. Not necessarily service orientated things, but stuff like hosting the family Christmas party just because you’ve done it every year. If you don’t really enjoy it, maybe it’s time your sister and brother-in-law host it.

Remember it’s not things and activities that make a good holiday. It’s family enjoying time together, doing things they care about, that matters.


I love Fall! I love everything about it: football, the colors, the crunch of leaves, the wind, the crisp, cool air, pumpkins. Being outside in the Fall invigorates me. I can breathe in deeply (not too deeply, there’s a sewage plant nearby) and feel alive. Summer on the other hand, oppresses me. It’s hot and sticky and full of bugs that bite. After taking a walk in the summer, I need a shower. After a walk in the Fall, I can have hot chocolate! Now that’s living! So I am not sad to see summer go, not at all!

I am looking forward to resuming our daily walks along the Potomac, this time with an eye towards bringing home some nature for our nature journals. Pumpkin Girl has been bringing me all sorts of things to draw. My favorite has been the tiny yellow flower from clover. I never even noticed them in the grass before. She also likes to bring me acorns from various trees. She has learned to take our field journal and correctly identify the trees in our neighborhood from their leaves.

Cooking and baking is more fun in the Fall, too. The oven warms the house nicely and fills it with delicious smells. We’ve started a home economics book recently. Boo and Pumpkin Girl have learned to peel, cut and garnish carrots and have both made the family a carrot tray for lunch. Today they took on cinnamon toast. In the next couple of weeks will be scrambled eggs and French toast. Without a book to guide me, I don’t think it would have occurred to me to teach them these skills at this age. But they are both doing well. They like learning to do things for themselves. We were reviewing the book and saw that in the sewing section was an assignment to create a family flag. They both were excited at the possibility. In fact, we’ve already designed it. I won’t spoil the surprise, but let me just say that it involves happy faces.

But I digress. I am so happy that summer is over. The first frost is not far off and it will kill off all those nasty mosquitoes. It will also kill my basil, but I had such a good crop this year that I have a ton in the freezer for the winter. Bip has been barefoot all summer, so I suppose it’s time for his first shoes. I’d better finish up the poncho I’m knitting Pumpkin Girl.

And soccer! I played soccer as a kid, so I spent a lot of time outdoors in the Fall. Now I’m on the sidelines as my oldest boy is in his third season of soccer. Hey, I’m a soccer mom! In a minivan! Looking harried as I drag camp chairs and a stroller across the grassy field! I love watching Boo play soccer. He is such a goofball! He loves soccer so much, but he’s not the most coordinated kid in the world. After watching his hysterical attempt at jumping jacks the other day, we had some remedial training at home. I coached from the couch, of course. No sense in both of us looking ridiculous. Boo was attempting make his feet go out and in while in mid-air. I managed to keep a straight face while instructing him, “Jump out, jump in, jump out, jump in.” Once we got that down, we attempted to coordinated his arm movements to his legs. Not entirely successful, but at least he looked better at the next practice. His first game is Tuesday.

Ah, Fall. I can almost taste the hot apple cider.

On Our Own

Well, Philip left for Germany today. In a rare turn of events, the disasters that normally occur on the homefront during a deployment or TDY (temporary duty) assignment actually occurred before he left. The toilet got stopped up and two of our new hermit crabs died. I’m hoping that’s it for the week and not a sign of things to come.

I had to haul all the children down to Boo’s soccer practice today. It was COLD! Pumpkin Girl complained the whole time of course. Other than that, I really enjoyed watching practice. Boo’s coach is not only an experienced youth soccer coach, but he’s a really funny guy. You can tell that he is truly enjoying himself out there on the field. He had all the parents practically in tears during one game called “ouch.” The object of the game was for the children to attempt to kick the ball at the coach and his assistants and if they hit them, the coaches yelled “ouch.” Of course, the coaches were running. Coach Carl was so funny, over-acting the whole time, looking like he was running through water, “falling” down, pretending to tie his shoes, then yelling “ouch” like he’d been shot. I really appreciate a dedicated, fun coach like that.

Pumpkin Girl has been to dance class twice now. She’s taking the whole thing very seriously. This is actually her third attempt at taking dance classes, but the times before were just too much for her. She’s definitely ready now. In her black leotard, pink tights and ballet bun, she says she is an “official ballerina.” Somehow she manages to look all grown up and so tiny all at once. I’m so proud of her for getting out there. Normally she has Boo with her to help her be brave. For a moment there at her first class, I didn’t think she was going to be able to do it. Those big brown eyes of hers were just filling with tears. I reminded her that Rebecca is always with her, which made her smile, and then she was fine. Pumpkin Girl has a natural flexibility that should serve her well as a dancer. She is the only one in her class who can lie down on her belly, put the bottoms of her feet together, and bring her knees up like a frog, all while keeping her legs touching the floor.

As for Bip, he isn’t walking or talking much. He’s babbling a lot, though, and is communicating more and more with signs. I’m hoping that Philip’s absence doesn’t upset his already touchy sleep schedule. How well our week goes depends a lot on how well the baby sleeps. If things go south, I do have a game plan. We’ll make adjustments to our school schedule, breaking things up as needed, to accommodate the baby. As a last resort, I am willing to just take a break from school and concentrate on getting Bip well rested, every one fed and the trash emptied.

Starting the Holidays With Prayer

Have you looked around the stores lately?  The holidays are just around the corner!  I’m sure you’ve seen the signs.  I’ve been seeing Halloween candy for sale since August.  Even the Christmas decorations are creeping in.  In a few short weeks, most of us will either be deep in Holiday Denial or in a panic that we won’t be able to get it all done.  I’m like most of you in that I struggle to find a nice balance between achieving the "perfect" holidays and still being able to actually enjoy them myself.  Over the next few weeks, I think I’ll share some of the ways that I have learned to take back the holidays. This has been on my mind to do for a couple of weeks now and so it was very timely that today I received an email from my friend Elizabeth.  She wrote an article for Catholic Online about preparing for the holidays by spending time in prayer and meditation.  In the article, she talks about starting the holiday season by focusing not on ourselves and our endless "to do" lists, but instead, on turning our thoughts and prayers outward.  What an excellent idea! Please go read her article, even if you’re not Catholic!  Good things  are bound to happen when we, as Christians of any denomination, join together in prayer.

Fall is In the Air

Fall is in the air and I have a new look for my blog.  If you’re reading this through a feed or through your "friends" page, stop by my actual blog to check it out.

It is Well With My Soul

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.  How fitting for me, because today is the day that our Rebecca left us to enter our Lord’s Heavenly Kingdom.  If there is anyone who knows my grief, it is Our Lady of Sorrows.

But I am not going to talk about the sadness today.  It is there and always will be.  It’s a part of me, now.  I will carry it with me, like a scar, until the day I die.

What I want to talk about instead, is joy.  Joy that Rebecca sits at Jesus’ feet.  She doesn’t feel any pain or any sadness.  Joy that she was such a precious gift from God.  Her time on earth was brief, but I am forever thankful that God chose our family to care for her.  She knew only love and happiness.  We were given the wonderful opportunity to love her and to be loved by her.

I also want to talk about faith.  Absolute faith that we will see her again.  God promised us eternal life if we just believe in Him.  And God keeps His promises.  How fitting then, that Rebecca’s Chinese name means “A thousand rainbows.”  Whenever we see a rainbow, we remember Rebecca and God’s promise.

What God did not promise was that it would be an easy road.  Only that He would be there with us every step of the way.  I have found that to be true.  I can bear all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I may not want to, but I can.

So today my heart breaks, but I am full of joy and encouraged by faith.  It is well with my soul.

Our Days Are Just Packed

All of our Fall activities are in place and we have quite a schedule this year!

* Monday-Pumpkin Girl, dance
* Tuesday-Philip, choir
* Wednesday-Boo, soccer and Me, every other week is CWOC
* Thursday-Pumpkin Girl, Daisy Scouts, Boo, Cub Scouts
* Friday-Boo, Soccer, me and kids, homeschool group
* Saturday- Boo, soccer game, whole family, church
* Sunday-Philip sings in the choir, kids have Sunday school

We have also volunteered to be the point contact for popcorn sales for Boos’ wolf den. Philip will be traveling this month to Germany and next month to Korea.

Throw in the holidays and birthdays and I’m not sure we’re going to survive all this. But that’s why I strive to have my holidays as planned in advance as possible. Speaking of which, I bought all our costumes for Halloween. The whole family is dressing up as a group and I needed to make sure I could get all of the costumes. Boo’s will need some tailoring. Nothing too complicated, but when I saw that, I was glad that I bought it so early.

I’ve done some other holiday preparations, like updating our Christmas card list. Next on my plan is to inventory the gifts I have already bought and figure out what else I need to buy. I should be done with the kids’ gifts by mid-October. I’ll need to have Boo’s birthday gift by then anyway, might as well have them all done at the same time. After I square away the gift situation, I’ll take a look at my baking plans. I don’t have room in my freezer to make anything in advance, but at least I can make sure I have ingredients on hand.

Hmm. I think that as long as I remember to check my calendar every day, maybe we can actually enjoy ourselves, not just survive.

Firefighter Robert Parro

helmet.jpgI’m just an average American. Nothing too special about me, really. I went to college, got married, had a few children. I’d like a bigger house. Someday my husband will retire, not just from the Army, but from working. Maybe we’ll do some traveling. He’d like to own an RV and roam around the country. We’ll see.We’re not that different from you or most Americans. We have our nice, quiet lives. For the most part, we’re content.

We remember a day just five years ago, when like most Americans, our day started out pretty ordinary. My husband went off to work, I got the children up and dressed. They were little then, just 2 years old and 8 months. The other two were still only in our dreams. Nothing too extraordinary. It was a mild, late summer day. A slight breeze. Pretty close to perfect.

Robert Parro was ending his shift as a firefighter with Manhattan’s Battalion 8 that morning. He was getting ready to head back home to his wife, Karen and their son, John, then 4 years old. He’d been a firefighter for eight years and according to his wife, “loved it.” His mother Virginia said he was “born to be a firefighter.” I don’t imagine that he thought of himself as a hero. He would probably have described himself as just an average guy.

Just like you and me.

I’m sure he had dreams of his own. More children, perhaps. Growing old with his wife. Maybe he wanted an RV, too. Maybe she smiled indulgently at him and said, “Sure, honey.” Maybe they were saving for a vacation. Just your average Americans. The guy next door.

But on that morning of September 11, 2001, as Robert Parro was wrapping up his shift, the alarm sounded. He called his wife to let her know that he was on his way to the fire. She never heard from him again.

We may never know how many lives Robert Parro saved before he lost his.

Let us not forget that the people who lost their lives on this day five years ago were people just like you and me. They had families, and hopes and dreams and lives worth living. Let us honor them today by remembering not that they died, but that they lived.

For more tributes to the 2,996 victims of September 11, click here.

Candle Boats

Today was the first meeting of my Catholic homeschool group. I was in charge of crafts for the kids. I didn’t mean to volunteer, actually. We were discussing celebrating the Blessed Mother’s birthday this month and someone said we could have a birthday cake and maybe the kids could decorate candles. Then suddenly, it was like a dream and I left my body and could see myself talking, but was powerless to stop myself. I started describing this cute “candle boat” we could make that would slip over a votive candle. Well, once I put that out there, there was no taking it back and I was the Craft Lady for September. This was less than 2 weeks ago.

I don’t fly by the seat of pants well at all. I have to plan out every little detail. I can wing it once I’ve planned it, as long as I know what I’m supposed to be doing and how to get there. So I stressed about this all week. Monday I went to find my vellum paper. I had 5 sheets left. I needed one for each child and was anticipating 10 to 20 children. Then I showed a picture of the project to my online stamping buddies. They all said, “whoa! That’s way too complicated! Try something else.” Unfortunately, I had already emailed a picture of the project to my homeschooling group. So Tuesday comes along and I’m doped up on Benedryl from the mosquito bites I got outside the American History Musuem. I must take Benedryl for about a day before I can switch to Claritin or the bites will swell up to about 3 inches in diameter. I can’t find Pumpkin Girl’s math worksheets, about half a year’s worth. I lost my lesson plans for next week. My stamping buddies say my project is too ambitious. I don’t have enough vellum and I’m too loopy to drive to get more. I have 3 days to modify the project to be more realistic.

Then Phil came home for lunch. I listed all my woes to him and he says the magic words: “Do you want me to take you to Michael’s right now?” I love that man. I really do.

So we go off to Michael’s. Now, I haven’t been to a Michaels’ craft store in about 3 years. We lived in Korea for 2 years, then with a new baby and trying to unpack, just never got around to it. I was in there 10 minutes and spent $80.

Anyway, I spent the next couple of days preparing the craft. It didn’t take me long at all. About an hour, in total, to stamp and cut the paper.

This is what we made:

The children really enjoyed it. I let the kids get creative with the blue pieces of cardstock. I brought punches, decorative scissors and markers and let them go to town. That was just the right level of involvement for them. The rest was just gluing and tying the cords. They were a big hit with the moms, too.

So, all’s well that end’s well. But I don’t think I’ll be volunteering to be the craft lady again this year.




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