Archive - October 2006

Has It Been 8 Years?
Halloween Open House
Halloween Traditions
It All Comes Down to This
We’ve Got Crabs
More About Christmas Presents
Knotted Rosaries
Gonna Be A Bear
Christmas Presents

Has It Been 8 Years?

Where does the time go? I suppose every parent wonders the same thing on their child’s birthday. But honestly, wasn’t it just yesterday that our first born son arrived, screaming and red-faced?

When did he get old enough to be playing goalie?

Or to be able to add double digit numbers?

Or learn to swim?

He can’t be 8 years old now! No, not my little boy. Just yesterday I was holding him in my arms.

Happy Birthday, Boo. You’re growing up to be a fine young man.



Halloween Open House

Here’s a little tour around my house as it’s decorated for fall and Halloween.

Let’s start outside.

This is our front door. My daughter loves that little ghostie in the window. I made the jack o’lantern with the mums.

Here’s Bip with the pumpkin lights in the garden. He was actually kissing them right before I took the picture, but he wouldn’t do it again. Silly boy!

This is a view of the whole garden. I made the ghost in the window.

And a little pumpkin right under a tree.

Inside the house and this little ghost and spider hang from a light switch.

Turn the corner into the dining room and you find my baker’s rack. I made the little witch. Some of the things on the baker’s rack light up, I’ll take a picture tonight and post it then.

Here’s the buffet table. These pumpkins have tea lights in them.

The table.

One of the ghost candle holders up close.

I made a set a whole set of these coasters.

A little cookie ghost hanging on the china cabinent.

In the living room, most of the decorations are up on the entertainment center. That’s my oldest peeking out of the play kitchen. He’ll be 8 tomorrow!

Upstairs in the children’s rooom, Pumpkin Girl has a little ghost that I made sitting on the window ledge next to her bed.

On their bookshelf is a little Halloween light up village that they use as a night light.

On the way downstairs is this string of bats that I made, hanging above a coat rack that I also made.

I hope you enjoy this tour of our home. You can see other homes in the Halloween Open House here.



Halloween Traditions

I’ve always enjoyed Halloween.  I went trick or treating until I was a junior in high school.  My friends and I did make attempts at coming up with costumes, then hit the streets around 8:30.  This was in the mid to late 80’s, when trick or treating seemed to be dying out.  When we showed up, the neighbors were so grateful to see us that they practically emptied their bowls of candy into our bags.  I was sad to see trick or treating becoming lost to the ages.  However, the tradition is alive and well on our military bases!  Our tight knit communities with the small town feel really lends itself to keeping trick or treating alive.  Most of the neighbors don’t even bother going indoors on Halloween night.  So many kids come begging candy that it’s easier just to set up camp on your front lawn.  When we lived in Korea, we gave out 15 bags of candy.  Last year, on our base here, we gave out 7.

I’ve never been into the ghoulish or prankster aspect of Halloween.  I much prefer decorations that are cute rather than scary.  My husband used to tease me when he’d come home from work and found our house decked out for Fall and Halloween.  "We have a pumpkin infestation!," he’d say.

Our family actually has two food oriented Halloween traditions.  My grandma always made "goblin face" cookies.  Basically, they are two pumpkin shaped cookies with a yummy raisin filling between them.  The top pumpkin cookie gets a jack o’lantern face cut into it.  When my mom made them, she always let me do the faces.  I remember foundly my senior year in high school when one of my college-age cousins was living with us.  The two of us had a fun time cutting out the faces together, making each one different.  I really love these cookies, but cutting out the jack o’lantern faces can be time consuming.  One year, I found a ghost cookie cutter that I liked and made ghost cookies instead.  The ghost is bigger than the pumpkin, so the recipe yielded less cookies.  I made each ghost face the same and with less to do, I finished faster.  This year I found cake and cupcake stencils which I may use to quickly stencil the jack o’lanterns.  When my children are older, I’ll pass the jack o’lantern face making duties on to them.

The second Halloween food tradition also comes from my grandmother.  The story goes that my grandmother made a particular meal for dinner one Halloween.  It was simple to make and gave her time to get her children ready for trick or treating.  She made the same meal the next year and her children noticed.  It became known as the Halloween Dinner.  She made it every year after that. My mother has made it every Halloween and  I think my grandmother still makes it every year, too.  I have made the Halloween Dinner every year since I’ve been married.  All except one year.

That year was 1998.  I didn’t make the Halloween Dinner that year because I was in the hospital with my son, who had been born in the wee hours of the morning.  Yep, our oldest child is a Halloween baby!  That’s why we call him Boo.  Really, that’s the reason.

So now, with the decorating, the cookies, the costumes, the candy and the Halloween dinner, we manage to squeeze in a little birthday celebration for the boy.  It can be a little hectic, trying to get everything done in one day.  One year I invited his friends over at snack time for cupcakes and Halloween punch.  W-a-y too much work!  Boo would like to have a birthday party on his actual birthday, but I’ve explained to him why we can’t. I think in a  year or two, when he can help out more and his friends are more reliable, we’ll let him invite a couple of friends over for a small costume party, then take them all out trick or treating.  But for now, we  have a family celebration, usually with homemade cake and presents.  We also light the birthday ring for him.

On Sunday we are going to Boo at the Zoo.  If it’s something we enjoy, it may become a family tradition while we live here.

I’ll share some pictures of decorated house on Monday, for the Halloween Open House over at Don’t Try This At Home.



It All Comes Down to This

The schedule said the rain date was this Saturday.  On Tuesday, Coach said the make-up game was Saturday.  At practice on Wednesday, all the parents discussed the make-up game that would be on Saturday.  Thursday morning, a email was sent out by one of the moms saying that the other team is all showing up for the make up game on Thursday!  Today!  Calls to the youth center went unanswered.  I called my next door neighbor, who happens to be married to the other team’s head coach.  Yep, the game is today, yes the schedule says Saturday, yes, they are just as surprised as we are.  Emails are sent and even though every single boy on our team has Cub Scouts on Thursday, we’re hoping that they come to this, our last game, instead.

After all, we are one game away from an undefeated season!

Game time arrives and Boo is the first Yellow Jacket to arrive.  The entire Volcano team is there, warming up.  We set up our camp chairs and wait.  The Volcanoes do jumping jacks.  They do stretches.  Another Yellow Jacket shows up.  The Volcanoes do passing drills.  I over hear one of the parents say, "Ok, Joey (not his real name), remember our strategy for this game- stay in your lane, be aggressive, intimidate them and score!"  Um, ok.  Two more Yellow Jackets arrive.  Ok, we’re up to 4 now.  The parents discuss the change of dates and oh by the way, no one has gotten a hold of our coach at all today.  A fifth Yellow Jacket arrives with his dad, our unofficial assistant coach.  He gets the kids doing some drills.  Two more of our players arrive.  We’re now at 7!  We won’t have to forfeit, but none of the players will get to rest at all. We know that two of our players can’t make the game, so unless the coach and his son arrive, this is it.

Boo’s in as goalie for the first quarter.  I’m handling the stress of it all quite well.  I repeat to myself what I’ve been telling Boo all day:  Even if they lose this game, they have had a winning season.  The Yellow Jackets score first.  Boo gets some amazing saves!  Without concern for life, limb or face, he dives on top of the ball, covering it with his whole body.  The crowd erupts with "Booooo! Booooo!"  I’ve often wondered if the opposing teams realize were not really Boo’ing him, LOL!  The game continues, Boo switches out to "attacker" for the next few quarters.  The other team scores, our team scores again.  Halfway through the game, our coach’s wife shows up with their son.  Coach is still on his way down from Bethesda, but at least we have an extra player.

It’s getting darker and colder by the second.  Both teams are playing hard.  With only one player to substitute in, our team is tiring.  As our undefeated season hinges on this, the last quarter of the last game of the season, time begins to slow down.  Because you see, if you are on the Volcano team, you think the game is tied 2-2.  When Boo was goalie, he made a save and kicked the ball.  Before it crossed the line of the goalie box, before he had a chance to even move, the other team kicked the ball into the net.  The ref had a long discussion with both assistant coaches (our neighbor, the other head coach, was stuck at the Pentagon) that the ball must leave the goalie box before it can be kicked.   The Volcano assistant coach is…well, let’s just say he’s intense.  He walked back to the parents and said, "It counted!!"  I won’t say he was nasty about it, but he was far from pleasant.  We’re not even really keeping score.  So you see, as the final minutes of the game dragged on, if the Volcanos score, they will claim a 3-2 victory.  If the Yellow Jackets can hold them, at worst, it’s a tie.  At best, it’s an outright win.

I turned to another mom and asked her how much time could possibly be left.  Maybe they can call it because they are now playing in the dark and it’s so cold that half the players are actually wearing hats.  By this time, our head coach has arrived.

Then it happened.  It was like a scene out of the movies.  Exhausted, cold players are giving it everything they can.  No team has a clear advantage.  It all comes down to this. And we hear it, the most beautiful sound ever.  Cutting through the cheers, high and clear – wheeee ohwheee ohwheee!  The ref blows the whistle signalling the end of the game!  The Yellow Jackets have done it!  No matter how you count the score of the last game, they remain Undefeated!

The fatigue, the cold, are all forgotten as we party like it’s 1999.  Parents rush to the field to form the victory arch.  Happy players from both sides rush through.  The Yellow Jackets  and their parents are reluctant to leave the field.  It’s been a great season.  The team played their hearts out.  We’re all friends now.  We all wish the season could have been a little longer, because we were just getting good!  We are all amazed that every player on our team has improved and that they were really learning to play as a team.  The days of "beehive" soccer are over.  Sure, they still swarm the ball a bit, but they are learning to play positions, get open and pass the ball.  A couple more weeks would really have seen some improvement.

Next Wednesday, our team’s practice field will be empty.  But you’ll find us at the bowling alley across the street – toasting to the Undefeated Yellow Jackets of 2006!

We’ve Got Crabs

After Rose the Crab died, we waited for the socially accepted Crab Mourning Period before heading off to the local PetSmart for more crabs. We bought 3 very nice crabs, each in a pretty painted shell. Boo chose one painted with a yellow happy face, which he creatively named Happy. Pumpkin Girl chose one with a glittery flower which she named Rosie (not to be confused with the now deceased Rose). In a fit of patriotism, I chose one with a stars and stripes motif, which I named Sam.

Happy was less than happy to be yanked out of the lush accommodations of the pet store and came halfway out of his shell, waving his arms wildly at us. He and his companions were unceremoniously plunked into a plastic baggie lined with a damp paper towel. Rosie and Sam were in deep crab denial and stayed hidden in their shells. Happy ran around like a mad man, trying to find a way out.

Once home, we placed the crabs into the crabitat, along with their newly purchased crab huts. Rosie and Sam continued to hide. Happy continued to panic, running all over everything and everycrab that got in his way. He climbed on top of the huts and dragged himself through the water dish before finally hiding in a hut.

We left the crabs alone for a good week, allowing them time to de-stress and get used to their new home. I did a little online crab research and learned that as many as 30% of all hermit crabs die of Post Petstore Stress or PPS. The whole getting yanked away from their homes in the wild, forced to live in less than ideal conditions in a pet store, then moved again into someone’s home can be too much for their little crabby selves. There is not a lot you can do except provide the best conditions you can and hope.

After a week, I was anxious to play with our new crabs. Happy was acting more like Grumpy, Sam had dug himself halfway into the sand and only Rosie seemed to be moving around much. I took Rosie from the tank and let her walk around the carpet, under my watchful eye. When I returned her, it seemed like she sort of freaked out. She located Sam and attempted to dig him up. When he didn’t respond, she sat on him. After awhile she moved off and found another place to hide.

The next day, the children and I were shopping online for more shells for the crabs. I needed to measure the opening of their current shells in order to get the right size. I picked up Rosie and she promptly fell right out of her shell, dead from the shock of it all. I think I killed the crab. I ushered the children quickly upstairs, then went to check on Sam. He was right where Rosie left him, half out of the sand. I picked him up. No movement. I shook him. No movement. I poked his claw with a pencil. Nothing. Sam was dead, too.

We think Sam and Rosie had some sort of suicide pact. Sam, being the less stable of the two, just curled up and willed himself dead and when Rosie found him, she joined him.

This all happened right before Philip’s trip to Germany. I didn’t want to repeat the whole depressing scene with him gone, so we didn’t replace Sam and Rosie right away. Philip’s first weekend back, an announcement was made at church that on October 4th, the Feast of St Francis, there would be a blessing of the pets in the church parking lot. Boo leaned over and looked at me excitedly. “Yes,” I whispered. “We can bring Happy.”

Well, Pumpkin Girl didn’t want to be left out and insisted on buying new crabs in time to get blessed by the priest. The new crabs were a hit at the blessing. We even got mentioned briefly in the base paper.

The new crabs are named Snail and Swirly and seem to be doing much better than poor Rosie and Sam. First of all, I learned that when buying hermit crabs, you should buy ones that at least come out of their shells when you pick them up. Rosie and Sam had not, Happy, Snail and Swirly did. S and S checked out their new homes completely before settling in. They stuffed themselves into the same hut as Happy. They seem to be emotionally more stable. And Happy is happier with less suicidal crabs to hang around with. The three of them are actually really fun to watch.

Here’s Happy heading over to the water dish.

This is Swirly, munching on some yellow coconut. If you look carefully, you can see both Happy and Snail stuffed into the hut in the corner.

Snail will climb just about anything. He’s also an accomplished digger.

Hermit crabs are pretty low maintenance as pets. You do have to maintain a warm, humid crabitat for them. We have a combination temperature/humidity gauge in the tank. Plastic wrap over the top of the tank, water and wet sponges maintain the humidity nicely. I open or close the plastic wrap as needed to adjust the humidity. It’s a good project for the children, too, because the gauges are easy to read.

You can see the temperature/humidity gauge in this picture. As long as the needles are in the yellow zone you’re good. That’s Snail climbing the fake wood.

Hopefully these crabs are here for the long haul. Since it’s gotten painfully cold this week, with a high of 55 degrees, I’m having a harder time maintaining a good temperature. We may have to buy them an under the tank heater.



More About Christmas Presents

Someone posted a comment on my “Christmas Presents” entry, asking what gifts I buy for other people. I would love to tell you here, but all those people read my blog! But I can give you an idea of the kinds of gifts we give.

I usually give a mix of handmade and store bought gifts. Throughout the year, I keep an eye out for craft projects that I think would make good gifts. Usually I’m making something for myself and I realize that someone on my gift list might like one, too. I try to get started on a handmade gift as soon as possible so that I can finish it in plenty of time. In years past, I have been frantically waiting for projects to dry so I could package them up and send them off. Now I make a point of having all handmade gifts completed by September. The kinds of gifts I’ve made run the gamut. They usually reflect my favorite crafts of the moment. Some of my favorite handmade gifts I have given were a small wall hanging size quilt, a folk-art painted fireplace screen that looks like a row of shops and a stack of handmade cards.

Hand crafted gifts tend to be very time consuming and I want the process to be relaxing and peaceful, not hectic and pressured. So I don’t make all of my Christmas gifts. But I don’t deliberately choose who gets a homemade gift. I just wait for a project to speak to me. Sometimes a purchased item really calls to me instead. The present I bought for my grandma and grandpa this year is one of them. As soon as I saw it, I thought of them. Without giving too much away, it reminded me of Christmastime in their home when I was a little girl. One of their great-grandsons spends a lot of time with them and I thought he might enjoy seeing it, too. I knew right away that it was what I wanted for them.

I used to stress out over buying Christmas presents. I felt a certain pressure – from where, I’m not sure- to out-do the previous year’s present. What I’ve come to realize is that it truly is the thought that counts. “I thought of you when I saw this,” is all I’m trying to convey. Was last year’s present better? Maybe. I hope you’re not keeping track.

So that’s it. I try to keep things low stress and enjoyable. I keep an eye out for potential gifts all year and buy them or make them as soon as I can. I have a gift box in my closet to hide everything in and I keep an inventory in my household organizer.

Knotted Rosaries

Today we ventured out to our Catholic Homeschool group here on base. All the families try to attend mass at 11:30, then we meet for lunch in one of the chapel activity rooms. Following lunch is some sort of academic endeavor for the children. Once a month the children do a brief presentation of a saint or country from a pre-determined continent. Other weeks we try to do a craft that relates to some feast day during the month. This month, being the month of the Rosary, the children made knotted rosaries.

At first I thought the children were just making beaded rosaries from kits. They are easy to find online or can be put together with strong string and pony beads. You can even use alphabet beads from any craft store to personalize them. I was surprised to find that the Rosaries they were making were knotted.

I’ve never seen these before and I was impressed. They are made from dyed parachute cord. They are a little tricky to put together, in fact, I think that most of the children under 10 had their mom or this month’s Craft Lady do them entirely. Some of the older children helped, too. Craft Lady Mom was smart and didn’t have the children attempt to make an actual full size Rosary. Instead, they made single decade ones that when wrapped around and hooked onto the crufix, could be worn as bracelets.

Here are the two that Pumpkin Girl and Boo had made for them.

Boo’s is the red one and if you’ll notice, actually has 11 beads. The last bead on the left is larger than the rest and is an Our Father bead.Being a lover of crafts of all kinds, I promptly came home and did an internet search for knotted Rosaries. You can read more about the ministry of the Rosary Army here. Their site has instructions on how to make knotted rosaries and links of where tp buy supplies. FNT Industries has a Rosary Starter Kit for $2.50. However, do not use the “add to cart” option or they will try to charge over $10 for shipping! Follow the instructions on the page for mailing them a check.

Many of the families in our homeschool group, mine included have been trying to make praying the rosary a regular occurance. We’ve noticed on the days that we do say the rosary, the rest of the day goes much smoother. I’m glad the children now each have their own nearly indestructable rosaries to pray with.



Gonna Be A Bear

I got this in an email and I thought I’d share…

Gonna Be A Bear
bear.jpgIn this life, I’m a woman. In my next life, I’d like to come back as a bear. When you’re a bear, you get to hibernate. You do nothing but sleep for six months. I could deal with that.Before you hibernate, you’re supposed to eat yourself stupid. I could deal with that, too.

When you’re a girl bear, you birth your children (who are the size of walnuts) while you’re sleeping and wake to partially grown, cute, cuddly cubs. I could definitely deal with that.

If you’re a mama bear, everyone knows you mean business. You swat anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them, too. I could deal with that.

If you’re a bear, your mate expects you to wake up growling. He expects that you will have hairy legs and excess body fat.

Yup, gonna be a bear!

Christmas Presents

Try not to hate me, but I’m almost done Christmas shopping! I just need to make the time to go to the PX without my son and pick up one last thing and I’m done.

A few years ago we ended up wallowing in Christmas Gift Excess. My feelings were a little hurt as my young children bounced from gift to gift saying, “What’s next?” without giving their gifts more than a passing glance. These were gifts that I had thoughtfully and joyfully bought for them and they just didn’t seem to appreciate the effort. Granted, they were very little, but I realized that year that we were starting down a dangerous path.

The next year we cut back dramatically. Our children each received 3 gifts, just like baby Jesus. Santa brought them one particularly large gift that was to be shared by the whole family. I filled their stockings with little trinkets. I explained the situation to my parents and asked that instead of many small gifts for each child, that they buy fewer but more meaningful gifts. They happily complied.

I have to admit, that on paper, our first scaled back Christmas looked great. But then I saw what my friends with similar aged children were buying. Their lists were 15 to 20 items long, for each child. I wavered in my enthusiasm as I wondered if I were setting my children up for a life of crime due to Christmas neglect. I stood my ground. Christmas is not about getting gifts, after all. My resolve was strengthened after reading the Christmas chapters in the Little House on the Prairie books. Laura and Mary were overwhelmed at receiving a tin cup, an orange and a penny in their Christmas stockings. They grew up just fine and so would my children.

Christmas Eve came around and Philip and I worked quickly to set the gifts out under the tree. (Well, I wasn’t all that quick because our baby Rebecca had been born just 2 days before!) Between the gifts we bought for the children, plus the gifts from grandparents, godparents, aunts and other family, the presents were still spilling out all over. The next morning was the usual Christmas Morning Chaos. But it was just the right amount. Boo and Pumpkin Girl were thrilled at their presents and didn’t even notice they had gotten significantly less than the year before. I think we really found a good balance.

One thing that I have noticed over the years is that the stocking stuffers never get played with. They get left in the stockings until the decorations are put away and then a few months later when we’re purging the toys, they get put into the give away pile. This year in their stockings, they’ll each get a video they’ve been asking for and a little candy. I’ve also put a new spin on a tradition from my dad’s childhood. He always had an orange in the toe of his stocking. To put a modern spin on this tradition, I now put a chocolate orange in the children’s stockings.

Limiting the number of Christmas presents has been a real blessing to us over the years. As the primary gift buyer, I am challenged to choose the very best gifts that I think they will enjoy most of all. No buying something just to buy it. Our playroom is overflowing as it is, so we aren’t adding a ton of new toys. The children genuinely like and play with the toys I’ve chosen for them. And most importantly – and let’s not forget this – I can be done Christmas shopping in mid October!


This is what happens when your little brother gets into your toys too many times:

Pumpkin Girl made this “No Babees” sign and taped it to the door when she was playing with my mom. She said, “No matter how much I love him (Bip), he always messes up things.” I don’t know what made me laugh more, the way she spelled “babees”, the cute little picture with the line through it, or her thought that the sign would keep Bip out. She sure is resourceful and creative for a 5 year old.



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