Archive - June 2008

The Hard Part
Time to Say Goodbye
The Secret Mount Vernon
So Now It’s Summer
Summer Projects
Good Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Pumpkin Girl Bakes
Small Changes
Utter-nun Sock
My Pride and Joy

The Hard Part

Our next door neighbors didn’t leave on Friday as I thought they were. Their children and ours were outside playing Friday night as long as they could. Saturday morning the parents were still working on cleaning up and the children played until lunchtime. They told us they’d be away from the house on Sunday, but would be back on Monday to clear housing and then they’d be gone.

Tonight it hit Pumpkin Girl. She looked over at me with her big eyes and her serious look. “Do you think Gabrielle’s gone by now?” she asked. I told her that yes, they were gone. And then tears came. All I could do was hold her as she grieved the loss of her friend.

It’s one thing to be the one hurting, it’s quite another when it’s your child. Some days, life in the Army is no fun at all.

Time to Say Goodbye

No, not to my blog! Good heavens, what would the world be coming to? No, it’s time to say goodbye to a couple of friends and neighbors. This picture, taken from my front door, is a scene all too common around here lately. It’s the PCS season again. Moving Season, for you civilian types.

Today is the last day that I will answer the door to find our next door neighbors hoping for Boo and Pumpkin Girl to play. They are a nice Catholic family with children neatly spaced right in between ours. My children knew what time their bus dropped them off from school and would often meet them at the bus stop to walk them home. On cold days, they would huddle together under the bleachers at the baseball adjacent to our house or sit in the bus shelter just across the street from the Potomac River, just waiting for the bus to bring their friends home.

The four of them had many adventures together and for the most part, they got along very well. The occasional rough spots were quickly mended.

This morning after swimming lessons I found myself with 6 children playing upstairs, taking refuge from the already hot and humid day. Next door, they finished the final cleaning of their house and the emptying of their refrigerator (into mine!) in preparation of their “clearing quarters” this afternoon. At some point, I’m not sure when, they’ll walk away from their house one last time and we won’t ever see them again.

PCS season is a bummer.

Another good Catholic family is leaving this weekend and clearing housing today, too. They live across the big green field from us. I can see their house from my yard. Their children and mine were friends, too. Their children have been good friends with ours and I enjoyed the mom’s friendship in our Catholic Women of the Chapel and Catholic homeschoolers group. We will probably see them tomorrow evening at church and again, we will most likely never cross paths again.

Sigh. With friends moving away, storms in the forecast all weekend, and Boo off the Cub Scout camp, of course I am feeling disquieted today. I need to focus on something else.

It’s hard, you know? PCS season really is a bummer – friends are moving away, it’s hot, it’s sticky and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can stick out my tongue and stamp my foot and nothing’s going to change.

But I can change my attitude. I’m not so much as a “glass half empty” person as I am a “Hey, how come everyone else got a glass?” type. Looking on the bright side doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m really going to have to now, though, or I think I’ll go crazy.

Let me give it a try. Here’s a thought: Each newly emptied house is an opportunity for another great family to move in. Oo, here’s another positive thought: In about one month I’ll be enjoying the coolness of the California coast and when we return, summer will be nearly over and Fall will be just 6 weeks away.

See? It’s not so bad, really. I just hate saying goodbye.

The Secret Mount Vernon

My parents have been here on a visit to see Pumpkin Girl’s ballet recital. Yesterday they suggested we go to Mount Vernon on their last day here. Our family really enjoys Mount Vernon, so of course we were happy to go. As luck would have it, another internet friend – Trish, who lives in Honduras – was also going to be there the same day, so I was hoping to meet up with her and one of my 7 Friends Named Jen there. She had mentioned that the basement area of Mount Vernon was also open and she thought she’d like to see it, too.

We arrived around 9:15 am and asked about the basement tour. Earlier in the year, a short tour of the basement was added to the regular tour of the mansion in response to the interest generated by “National Treasure 2.” We didn’t get a chance to get out there then which I thought was a bummer after we finally saw the movie just last week. What I didn’t know was that the basement was open again.

This time however, it’s not just tagged on to the end of the mansion tour. The “National Treasure Tour” as it’s now called is $5 a person, with a limit of 25 people in each group. It runs about 4 times a day.

The tour starts on the lawn behind the mansion where the presidential birthday party is held during the movie. The tour guide explained how the movie was filmed without damaging the historical property and without detracting from the authenticity with the movie making gear.

Then we moved into the basement through this locked door.

We saw the alcoves and a replica of the cornerstone that were depicted in the movie.

We were also able to see the area that was used as a kitchen and eating area for the white servants.

Then we moved to the ice house that can be seen in the movie when the Nicolas Cage character climbs up from the river. The ice house and its chute that leads to the Potomac River are the inspiration for the underground tunnel in the movie.

From the ice house we went down to the dock. We crossed a “No Visitors Beyond This Point” sign (ha!) and walked along the river. We saw where the ice house chute came out and George Washington’s dairy. Then we caught a great view of the mansion from below.

As a special non-related-to-the-movie treat, our guide showed us this 1936 Ford Fire Engine stored in a whiskey storage cave. Apparently, Henry Ford didn’t think Mount Vernon had enough fire engines in case of an emergency and donated this brand new fire truck.

The “National Treasure Tour” is running until October 31, 2008. If you have a chance to get there I highly recommend it! But see the movie before you go. The tour is about an hour and a half long. My 7 and 9 year olds both enjoyed it, but they are also really into history, especially the American Revolution. So much so that they took it upon themselves to memorize the whole paragraph of Thomas Paine’s letter about “these are the times that try men’s souls.” Our 2 year old wasn’t too into it. He was actually being kind of a pain. Not distracting to the others on the tour, just hard to manage. We had a stroller for him, but for about half of the tour, we couldn’t use. Thankfully it is light weight and has a strap to carry it over a shoulder. He would have been better in a backpack. The tour did not backtrack at all, so leaving the stroller somewhere was not a real option. Just something to note.

Also, it gets very hot and humid in DC during the summer. Bring lots of water, wear sunscreen and hats. A shuttle is available at the dock where the tour ends that returns you to the education center if you’ve had enough walking. We took the first tour of the day, then had an early lunch at the restaurant. After lunch we finished with the rest of our sightseeing.

Oh, I totally forgot to mention…we didn’t manage to meet up with my friend Trish as planned. We did find her and Jen right as they were leaving. Here’s a picture, just to prove that we were all there. Love the Giant Washington Head. Trish’s daughter got a great picture looking up his nose. Maybe she’ll put it on her blog.

So Now It’s Summer

Maybe I should move to Alaska.  I hear they have short summers.  I don’t know why I don’t care for summer much.  Maybe it’s the sun sensitivity I’ve developed, the mosquitoes, the heat, the humidity, the lack of snow.  I’ll be OK, though.  The Good Lord saw fit to provide me with free air conditioning, so I’ll stay inside and drink copious amounts of ice tea.  It could be worse.

With the start of the summer comes the time honored tradition of torturing our children with swimming lessons.  They both like the concept of learning to swim and love being in the pool, but the actual swimming lessons – forget it.  This year they are offering lessons free at our base pool.  Boo’s class starts a 8 am, so I got Phil to take him on his way to work and to stick around for a bit until I can get it together enough to bring the other children along.  Pumpkin Girl’s class starts at 9 and we’re all back by 10.

The irony of the whole thing is that a week ago it was so dang hot that the pool opened on one of it’s normally closed day.  I’m sure the cooling waters of the pool were a welcome relief to the near 100 degrees we hit that week.  Sadly for the swimmers (not so much for me), the highs this week were in the 80’s, making it only about 70 degrees at class time.  My children were so cold that they asked for hot chocolate on the way home.  Poor kids! Ha.  Let the torture continue.

Fortunately for me, Bip is happy to sit on a poolside lounge chair and play with his Boba Fetts.  That gives me lots of good knitting time while watching my children shivering in the pool.  Their instructors are equally unsympathetic to the cold, telling their class to do more flutter kicks to stay warm.  I just smile and keep on knitting.

In other summer related news, I’ve given my blog a new patriotic summer look.  If you’re reading through email or a feed, be sure to stop by and check out the new look.  Which reminds me, did you know you can subscribe to my blog through email?  There’s a link at the very bottom of my sidebar.

Summer Projects

We are now operating under our summer schedule. We still have school to do since we go year round, but we finished our language arts program, so our load is cut down significantly. I’ve got some fun things for Boo and Pumpkin Girl to do, including art projects that tend to get forgotten during the busy school year.

Not that summer is any less busy. What’s up with that? We won’t actually do school every day this summer, with the exception of about 2 weeks. We’ve got swimming lessons in the morning starting tomorrow, Boo will be off at Cub Scout camp, then there’s Vacation Bible School, a visit from my parents and a 10 day trip to California.

So we will do school when we are able and enjoy the summer as best we can with the heat and humidity.

Several of our summer projects will include hitting some of the more cluttered areas of the house. We started this morning on the children’s bedroom.

Though they share this room, it has become Pumpkin Girl’s domain. Anytime we have to separate the two of them, Boo takes the playroom and Pumpkin takes the bedroom. That is also how the chores break down – Boo cleaning up the playroom, Pumpkin cleaning the bedroom. Don’t feel too bad for her, though. She has or had until today, plenty of toys in there to keep her happy. However, it was never my intent for the bedroom to have toys. If she wanted something from the playroom during enforced quiet time, she was free to get what she needed. Somehow that grew to quite a collection in there.

My goal was to rid the room of all toys and books, with the exception of stuffed animals. Using what I learned from my decluttering friend Jen, we completely emptied out Pumpkin’s headboard shelves and cubbies. We also cleared off the dresser and Boo’s headboard shelves. All the books- stacks and stacks of them – were returned to the playroom. We will have to reckon with them another time. Decorative items were dusted and returned, including framed pictures, piggy banks and special items. Stuffed animals are now the only thing in Pumpkin’s cubbies. They also live in a hanging mesh thing from IKEA.

Here’s the new and improved headboard.  Still a bit full, but better.

Here’s the hanging mesh thing from IKEA.  Can’t get the whole thing in one picture.

Another thing I learned from Jen was to containerize. All the little items that sit around collecting dust and looking cluttered will do better in containers. Pumpkin Girl has 2 matching baskets for her treasures.  (You can see them in the first picture. ) One holds little odds and ends, her notebooks and special things. Another holds her soft dolls which she is allowed to keep in that room. In our cleaning we emptied a whole container which was given to Boo for his little treasures. It sits on his shelves.

Here are Boo’s shelves.  His didn’t need as much work, just some dusting and putting that white plastic basket to use.

The dresser  (below) still looks a bit cluttered since it is a display area for all sorts of treasures. Nothing, and I mean nothing else is allowed to be on the dresser.

All papers and flat items are stored in document boxes. Each child has one and they can store anything that fits in there. When it’s too full, we sort through it and toss out anything they no longer want. They can keep all those paper things that seem so important at the time, but they are safe and out of sight. Over time, most of those things lose importance and are thrown out without tears or remorse.

We have a basket full of blankets in the bedroom. Boo dumped the whole thing out to refold the blankets and we found several little toys squirreled away in there.

The room looks a whole lot better now. “It’s nice and neat like my friends’ bedrooms,” said Pumpkin Girl. Hopefully with the removal of the toys and books, it’ll be easier to maintain. She’s going to need a lot of guidance here. A lot of guidance. We’ve been through this with her before, but this is the first time we’ve removed so many things.

Good Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

I’m not one to toot my horn.  Aw, who am I kidding?  I’ve got a blog and I’m not afraid to use it!

Way back in oh, February, Pumpkin Girl and I got our first Girl Scout Cookie sales experience.  Pumpkin saw the pictures of the incentive prizes and set her sights on yet another plush toy.  It required her to sell an obscene amount of over priced boxes of cookies.  So we hit up all the usual friends and relatives and offered them the chance to buy cookies that would be donated to the injured troops at Walter Reed.  Our
Brownie troop also collected donations for the soldiers during booth sales.  All told, we ended up with 12 cases of Girl Scout cookies.

Which sat in my living room for a month.  Then I moved them to the guest room just for a little while. They really were only supposed to be there for a couple of weeks at the most.  Well, one thing led to another and oops, now we’re having guests. Hmm, better move those cookies.  But here it is, hitting 98° already and we can’t just move the cookies out to the shed or the car.  Hey, how about actually taking them up to Walter Reed for the troops!  What a concept.

So off we went today, 12 cases of cookies, a Little Tykes wagon and a folding luggage cart all loaded up into the minivan.

We were quite the sight at the hospital.  Philip, in uniform of course, pulled the wagon with half the cookies, Boo carried one box, Bip sat in his stroller holding another box while Pumpkin pushed him, and I brought up the rear, pulling the luggage cart loaded with the rest of the cookies.

It was pretty obvious what we were doing and we got a lot of smiles from people along the way.  We found the soldier and family readiness center and delivered our cookies.  They were very grateful for the donation.  There were several family members waiting there and the staff was pretty busy, so we took just a couple of pictures and got out of the way.

About halfway home Boo and Pumpkin mentioned the soldier they saw sitting in a wheel chair.  He had been coming out of the physical therapy wing while we waited for the elevator and he had said hi to Philip.  One of his legs had been amputated.  Philip explained that the soldier had probably lost his leg during the war.  Boo said something to the effect of “Wow, war is a lot harder than I thought.”  He was quiet for a moment.  We told them that the soldier they saw and others like him were the injured troops that we’d delivered the cookies to.

Now honestly, I don’t want to pat ourselves on the back too much.  Buying cookies for wounded soldiers is really a small thing to do.   Those injured soldiers and their families have such a long road ahead of them that it is easy to do a good deed.  As an Army family ourselves, we have a soft spot in our hearts for our young troops and I wish there was more that we could do. But wasn’t it Mother Teresa that said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”  She was right.

Pumpkin Girl Bakes

This recipe is Pumpkin Girl’s specialty. It’s best eaten the same day, so make it for a crowd or only make half. Though it is still tasty when reheated a day or two later.

Apple Dumpling Bake

2 tubes (8 oz each) refrigerated crescent rolls
2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup Mountain Dew
ground cinnamon
vanilla ice cream

Unroll crescent rolls and separate dough into 16 triangles. Cut each apple into 8 wedges. Wrap a crescent dough triangle around each apple wedge. Place in a greased 13″x9″ baking dish.

In a bowl, combine sugar and butter; sprinkle over rolls. Slowly pour soda around rolls. Do not stir. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake, uncovvered at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream.

Serves 16

Here’s Pumpkin putting the sugar mixture over the rolls:

And pouring the soda:

The finished product:

Small Changes

I’ve been kind of busy lately, decorating WebKinz Rooms planning and executing end of the school finales in ballet, Girl Scouts and language arts.  Not to mention the potty training, which is going quite well.

I’ve also been working on a variety of little Corners of My Home, changing them from cluttered to functional and pretty.  Before I share the pictures with you, let me tell you about the most important thing I learned when my friend Jen came to help me declutter.  She taught me to pull everything out of a space – everything off a shelf, out of the drawer, dump out the bin or bucket.  You can’t do the job right if you try to leave everything where it is and pick and choose what stays or goes.  This has made a huge difference for me.  Before I might have looked at a space and say, oh here’s two or three things that need to go.  Now, when I see a space cleared out and I have to justify putting each item back, I can really see how much better I can do.  So with this new technique, here are the spaces I’ve been working on lately.

First, my bakers rack.

Top two shelves before:

and after:

Bottom shelves before:

and after:

Crowded medicine cabinet before:

and after.  Everything expired got tossed, duplicates were stored elsewhere unless the current bottle was close to empty.

And Phase 1 of the computer desk, the shelves.  Shelf 1 and 2 before:

and after:

Shelves 3 and 4 before:

and after:

Here is where the emptying out all the shelves at once really helped.  It was easy to look at those shelves and think everything was neat enough and we could always find what we wanted.  But when it was all emptied out on to the desk, I had this stack of software:

Yikes.  I took no prisoners.  I had Philip buy small CD binders on the way home from work while I emptied the jewel cases and boxes.  I pulled out all the inserts stuck them all in one envelope, labeled and stored it.  I wrote key codes right on the CDs with a Sharpie marker.  Every single CD went into one of 4 binders.  There are now 2 program disc binders, one for pictures and one for the children’s programs.  I pulled the children’s school software out of their binder and put it into a jewel case that holds 4 CDs.    So here’s the software situation now.  Every single thing in the above picture is contained in this:

You can see the binders sitting on the shelf in one of the pictures above.  Much, much better.  All those boxes and hard plastic jewel cases got thrown away.  I saved a couple of the softer plastic cases, the ones that don’t crack easily, in case I need to travel with a disc of any kind.   A bunch of the CDs didn’t even belong with the computer and got moved to the stereo.

So there you have it.  Just a little bit of love and time produces a much, much better situation.

Utter-nun Sock

Two year old Bip says “uttern-nun” for “another one”. If he wants two cookies, he’ll ask for a cookie for his “utter-nun hand”. If he can only find one shoe, he’ll say he’s looking for his “utter-nun shoe.” And look, I made an utter-nun sock!

You all cracked me up in the comments about my first sock, by the way.

I used Knitting Pure and Simple’s Beginner Socks with worsted yarn.  This is my second or third attempt at learning to make socks.  I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until I learned a couple of days ago that my first pattern  was full of errors.  I located the corrections easy enough, but that pattern was the only one in the whole book that I had to download 2 whole pages for.  Not good when you’re attempting your first sock.

Honestly, socks are easy.  As long as your pattern is accurate, that is.  Despite my best intentions not to maintain a stash of yarn, I have a nice selection of sock yarns that are calling me.  They are going to have to get in line behind a whole slew of utter-nun knitting projects.  My friends keep getting pregnant and their babies need handknits from yours truly.  It’s a little scary the number of people I know who are having babies.  Something’s in the air here.  Do not read anything into that sentence. I avoid going outside, remember, so I don’t breathe the air.  Besides, I just don’t have time to knit for any more little people.

My Pride and Joy

Says Boo this morning, “I’m getting so good at keeping my underwear clean that I only have to change it on bath nights!”

This is significant because the boy does not shower every day.

Sigh. That explains why his clean underwear is still in the laundry room, waiting to be folded and put away. I guess he didn’t need them.

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