Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween milestone

For the first time in ages, Fred and I have been released from trick-or-treat duty. Annabelle put on her crazy knitting lady ensemble (note the knitting needles in her hair) and headed out the door to meet up with friends:

Mike's friends stopped by to get him. He is a cereal killer. Note the Rice Krispies boxes impaled by the wooden spoon:

So Fred and I are sitting home handing out candy to the random trick-or-treater (where IS everybody this year?!) and dressing the dog up like a chicken:

Good times, good times.

Aw, wook at the widdle cows

And their very young daddies:

This is for Chris, who said in the comments to my post about Mike's height:
Holy moly! Colette hasn't quite caught up with Mom, but it appears it is just a matter of time. Why, I remember when they were just little cows ... was that really 12 years ago?
Actually, Chris, I think it was 13 years ago.

Visions of Halloweens past

I thought I would kick off this year's Halloween festivities by sharing some Halloween photos from the past, like the year I went as Pippi Longstocking:

I never really thought about it until Dad sent me these pictures, but apparently we have a grand tradition in my family of recycling successful costume elements. For example, this hat made its debut as part of my scarecrow costume in 1973:

It took 1974 off, as Pippi had no need for it, but reappeared in 1975's witch costume. The mask was from the magic shop that used to be on Main Street in Disney World:

The hat was back again in 1976 for my freaky ghost costume. Here's a nice little family shot of me, Dad, and Jenny (who isn't in costume--she really is a devil). Dad hunkered in the shadows of our yard that year and frightened all the little treat-seekers out of their wits (not to be confused with the year he handed out Gaines Burgers--yes, dog food--to the college students who came to our door):

Speaking of recycling, Jenny revived the freaky ghost costume in 1982 with an even better hat:

Fred and I have had a few good costumes over the years as well. For example, there were the green M&M costumes:

And there was the year that Fred was a ghoul from PPTO, the JAG Corps' personnel branch. I lettered his sign using Rocky Horror Picture Show letters, which was the main thing I learned in high school, and we created a spinner whereby the other guests at the party could spin for their next assignment. Places like Fort Polk had huge wedge sections on the spinner while places like Hawaii were teeny tiny little slivers:

(Note to PPTO: It's just a joke! Please don't send us to Korea!)

I don't remember what year that was, but it was whatever year the bottom fell out of the Beanie Baby market. I know that, because I went as a deeply discounted Princess bear:

For a special blast from the past, let's go back to my mom's childhood and see her as a little Dutch girl. This must have been a very popular costume back then, because my friend Claire's mom was a little Dutch girl too. Funny, you hardly ever see anybody dressed as the Dutch these days:

Monday, October 30, 2006

Just a growing boy

Last April I posted this picture of Mike and Fred, showing how Mike was rapidly catching up to his dad in the height department:

That's a composite of 3 pictures taken May 2004 when Fred deployed, July 2005 when he came home, and April 2006 just for laughs and grins. We took this one last night:

Isn't it amazing what 6 months can do?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Last weekend

I was so busy recovering from the hustle of Homecoming last weekend that I forgot to blog about Annabelle's lock-in at Youth Services. She went with her friend Katherine, and they both won prizes for their costumes--Katherine for her spooky witch and Annabelle for her "crazy knitting lady":

A good time was had by all until about 3 a.m. after which point, Annabelle said, she was ready to come home and go to bed. She lasted until they shut it down at 7 Sunday morning though!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Better than a yellow ribbon

I haven't been exactly shy in voicing my distaste for yellow ribbons on cars, but I do understand that people feel a need to do SOMETHING to support the troops. I simply maintain that slapping a ribbon on the family bus and calling it a day is a rather shallow and ineffective way to do it. Ever since we got home from the conference in Charlottesville, I've been meaning to let you guys know about a program I learned about while I was there that gives people an outlet for supporting the troops in ways that matter.

Operation Homefront is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the families of deployed servicemembers, as well as those troops who return home injured. There are lots of organizations out there with similar missions, but I was terribly impressed by the can-do attitude of the woman who gave the briefing at the Worldwide, so I wanted to highlight it here.

Operation Homefront is all about connecting those who have a need with those who can help. While they do give out plenty of cash grants, they also work smart by connecting people in need with sources of help. For example, they have a relationship with Clear Channel Radio, which they use to find people in specific geographical areas who can help with specific needs.

Operation Homefront is also active in supplying computers and digital cameras to families of deployed servicemembers. That might seem frivolous, but I know how important it was to us to be able to keep in regular contact with Fred via email. They also provide wounded soldiers with laptops that are equipped with special accessibility programs for the disabled.

It was fascinating to listen to the presenter talk about what they will and will not cover. For example, they generally don't cover moving expenses for a wife to move back home when her husband is deployed, figuring it is better for the family to stay within the military community. However, let's say that the wife needs surgery and has small children who will need care while she is recovering. In that case, Operation Homefront would cover her moving expenses to go home to her parents. But what if thanks to this move, she now is facing a co-pay for her surgery away from a military medical facility? Operation Homefront would be there once again to help out.

I wish I had blogged about this sooner after returning home, when more of the details were fresh in my mind. As I go through my notes and look around on their website, I keep remembering little bits and pieces of stories that we heard, like the wheelchair ramp they built for a wounded returning soldier or the emergency foundation work they did for a soldier in Afghanistan whose house's foundation partially caved in following heavy storms. There are the school supplies donated for children of deployed troops and the $500,000 worth of DVDs sent to the troops overseas. This news clip is a typical Operation Homefront story.

I could go on and on--that's how impressed I was by the stories we heard that day. But really, you should go to their website and have a look for yourself. This is an organization that steps up to the plate in supporting the troops and their families, and they deserve your support.
  • This page is not to be missed, but make sure you get a hankie before you click.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Stuff I am not ready for

Yes, this would have to go at the top of the list:

Back off, Marines! That's my baby.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

RIP, Ollie Boo Hopnoodle

I know you're not supposed to buy animals from pet shops. I know that it just encourages irresponsible breeders to churn out more and more animals of questionable quality in a world already overrun by the same.

But I didn't know that in 1990, and even if I had, I don't think it would have made a difference. Oliver was that pretty and that sweet.

Fred and I were newlyweds at the time, living in Fayetteville, North Carolina. My mom came up for a visit, and she and I happened to go into a pet store that had a litter of kittens. I fell in love with one long-haired baby boy and just couldn't say no. Mom and I still had shopping to do at the mall, so I paid for the cat (something like $15 minus a 10% military discount) and came back for him later, only to find out that several people had tried to buy him after I left. I was glad that I had already paid for him!

Fred and I named him Oliver, which then got shortened to Ollie. At some point, my dad dubbed him Ollie Boo Hopnoodle, from which we got Boo Boo.

He looked remarkably like a Maine coon, in spite of his bargain-basement price tag:

He grew into a handsome, strapping fellow who was almost always ready to accept a pet or a cuddle:

Unfortunately, traveling was not one of Oliver's strong suits. In fact, any trip with him was sure to turn into a technicolor demonstration of the multi-faceted digestive system . . . complete with smell-o-vision. So when we were faced with moving from the east coast to Hawaii, Oliver went to live with my parents in Florida.

He fit in quite nicely there, becoming an honorary "old lady" with their cats Celia and Lucy. When we returned to the mainland, Oliver stayed on with Mom and Dad, thus becoming our Florida cat.

His health declined steadily over the past couple of years. He developed diabetes and had been taking daily insulin shots for some time now. He had gradually lost almost half of his body weight, whining constantly for food yet turning his nose up at almost everything offered to him. We knew when we saw him this summer that this would probably be our last time together, so we took some final pictures:

By yesterday he had lost the ability to control his legs, so Mom and Dad had him euthanized at home. I'm told it was very peaceful, and I am grateful to them for not only providing him with such excellent care for most of the second half of his life but also for not prolonging the agony. He is buried in Annabelle's flower garden, which pleased Annabelle to hear.

I can't think of a good way to wrap this up, so I think I will close with the words of Koko the gorilla:

Soft good cat cat.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cinderello at the ball

Homecoming 2006 is now but a fond memory, except for my aching feet from working the concession stand at the game last night. I'm sketchy on the dance details, as I was allowed in long enough only to snap a few random photos.

Here are Mike and Rosalee, looking (respectively) dashing and gorgeous:

Mike and his friend Mykel, striking a pose:

Mike, Ryan, and Mykel--international men of mystery:

It's good to have friends:

And here is our stalwart PTO president serving punch:

As tired as I am from the events of this past week, what I did was a drop in the bucket compared to the core few who are reponsible for making homecoming happen. Snaps for them!

After I got my pictures, Fred and I came home and cleaned up the kitchen and tried our best to stay awake until 12:30 when the dance would end and we would need to go pick up Mike and his friend Ryan, who had come down from Louisville to visit his Fort Knox friends. We were not always successful in staying awake:

As we were on our way back to the school at 12:25, we got a call on the cell phone from Mike, asking if they could go over to another friend's house to hang out "for just a little bit please, please, please." Sadly the answer was "no," as Fred and I were turning into pumpkins. I am still a pumpkin today and plan on remaining as such until at least Tuesday.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The end is near

Spirit Week culmimates today in School Colors Day. FKHS's colors are green and gold, but the freshmen are supposed to emphasize gold. Mike is sporting a gold face and gold sparkle hair underneath his inside-out Bailey's Irish Cream hat with an eagle patch superglued to the front of it:

He decorated one of Fred's old t-shirts with sparkle paint for the occasion. I was going to do the lettering for him, but I only got as far as the "FKHS" before we decided that puff paint is not the best medium for a girl with a tremor. So he took over from that point and did the rest himself:

I was amazed at his clear printing (handwriting has never been his strong suit) and suggested that perhaps his teachers would let him do all his assignments with puff paint on t-shirts.

In the next 16 hours, I have to: make munchies for my international coffee group and attend said coffee; hit Walmart for last-minute stuff for the band boosters; pick up Mike so that he can get his pants from the tailor and his date's corsage from the florist; make supper; get Mike to the band room and 20 liters of Sprite to the gym; work the concession stand at the game; get Mike home from the game and back to the dance; and then pick him up from the dance at 12:30.

Too bad we have to get up tomorrow to go to Louisville for a cross-country meet. The fun just never stops, does it?

ANSWER: "Pulled Jesus stickers off water bottles."

QUESTION: "So what did you do at school today?"

Apparently a local church had donated a whole lot of bottled water to the high school at some point in the recent past. The PTO wanted to use them for the homecoming dance tonight, but we were told by the administration that we couldn't unless we "neutralized" them. I guess they put the kids to work on this project.

I'm as big a fan of separation of church and state as the next person, but it strikes me as kind of silly. I mean, it's not like it's bottled holy water, right? Furthermore, taking this out to its logical conclusion, isn't there a risk of a Christian student protesting over being asked to deface Jesus stickers on school time?

It just seems to me like we're playing with fire here. Good thing we've got plenty of water.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's . . . it's . . .

Captain Caaaaaaaaveman!

Sweet mother of all that is holy, will this week never end?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Close your eyes when you look at this

Well, you can't say that I didn't warn you. Gaze, if you must, at the plaid horror that is Tacky Day 2006:

Betcha wish you'd kept 'em closed, huh?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It's Retro Day

File this under Things I Never Expected to Do: getting up at 0600 to glue chest hair on my son. Today is Retro Day, and Mike was convinced that his very hairy hippie needed a bird's nest peeking out over the top of his low-buttoned shirt. (I didn't shrink the photos today--if you click on them, you can view the original, full-size files. The better to admire the chest hair!)

Peace out, man.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Again with the yellow ribbons

My invisible friend Deana, knowing how much I just love yellow ribbons, sent me this clip by the Asylum Street Spankers:

I love it! It puts me in mind of that classic John Prine tune, "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You into Heaven Anymore."

But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.
They're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war.
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.

Should be lots of blog fodder this week

I need a weekend to recover from my weekend. Fred is in Hilton Head, and we had a ton of events to keep me busy. Annabelle had back-to-back sleepovers, and Mike played with the band at the football game on Friday (I worked the band booster concession stand) and a cross-country meet on Saturday. He and I spent all day yesterday getting him ready for this week--Spirit Week, which culminates in Homecoming on Friday night (followed by another cross-country meet on Saturday--the fun just never stops around here).

Each day of Spirit Week has a different theme, and the kids get to break dress code if they dress according to the theme. Mike and I hit Goodwill yesterday and came out with a huge trash bag of treasures. I haven't seen Mike this excited about dressing up since he was 4 and hung around the house most days in his Big Bird costume:

Today is Nerd Day, which pains me to even type. Maybe it's the bleeding heart liberal in me, but somehow a day dedicated to mocking those already marginalized by the hell that is high-school society seems cruel. He did throw together a really good costume though:

Bird to nerd in just 10 short years.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Are the lunatics running the asylum?

This was the scene at my vet's office yesterday morning when we dropped Ginger off to have her spayed:

I really hope they didn't let him do the surgery.

How I spent my fall break

Over the past 3 years, it has become a tradition for us to travel as a family to Charlottesville, VA, for the annual SJA conference. Fred has a week of meetings, I have half a week of meetings, and the kids have a week of living in the Residence Inn and pretending they are well-to-do orphans. This year we took 2 Gameboys, 2 DVD players, a Gamecube, a computer, a sack of books, a sack of rodents plus an anteater, a dog, and an electric guitar with us, all to keep the young ones amused. Fred said it feels like we are backsliding to the early years when they were babies and we had to travel with all the required baby paraphernalia.

Ginger proved to be a champion traveler. She made it through the entire week without once having an oops! on the hotel's carpet. Mike and Annabelle took her out every few hours throughout the day, and then Fred and I took over dog-walking duties in the evening. Her favorite thing was to go walk around the UVA track that was just behind the hotel. She always met an admirer or 2 and occasionally another puppy friend. Annabelle taught her how to drink out of the water fountain:

On Tuesday night, we had the traditional formal dinner at Darden Hall. The food was awesome, but my shoes were too tight. You can't tell it from this picture, but my feet were killing me:

On Wednesday afternoon, I took the kids with me for the UVA tour that had been arranged for the spouses. I'm afraid I embarrassed them though by insisting on taking their picture with Mr. Jefferson. I probably should have just stuck a couple rodents in his hand instead:

It might sound nuts that I choose fill up half my week with the voluntary spouses' program, but I always have a great time. It feels like homecoming or a class reunion, as I get the chance to catch up with friends who have come in from--literally--all over the world. Also, they feed us really well--mimosas and brunch on Monday, Panera's shipped in on Tuesday, and on Wednesday an amazing luncheon out at Keswick. What's not to like?

The classes themselves tend to be interesting and useful. In fact, one this year impressed me so much that I plan on dedicating an entire post to it. Remind me if it doesn't appear by the end of the week, OK?

One of the most fascinating things this year was listening to the leadership speak about current events. Our TJAG, MG Scott Black, won a special place in my heart 2 years ago when he kicked some ass and made things happen for Fred to be able to attend the Worldwide from Iraq. This year when he came to welcome the spouses, he spoke quite eloquently about how he finally "gets it." He has been, he said, in the position for years and years of being the military member who drives away from home, leaving his wife and kids on the doorstep. Sure it's sad to leave them behind, but it's exciting to know that you're going off to do what you've trained to do and maybe have a few adventures along the way. A couple months ago, however, their son deployed to Iraq and now, he said, having been in the position of being the loved one left behind to worry and wait, he really, truly "gets it."

On Tuesday, we joined the SJAs to listen to the keynote speaker, General Peter Schoomaker, Chief of Staff of the Army, give his speech. I didn't take notes at the time, because frankly I was expecting an hour of sunshine being pumped up my overalls, and I just wasn't in the mood. I'm kicking myself now though, because it was anything but that, and I wish I could remember it in better detail.

One quote that stands out quite well to me was: "How America fights matters." I remember it because he must have said it 3 or 4 times at least and because it seems so blatantly at odds with the position of our the-ends-justify-the-means Commander in Chief. Soldiers are in a tough position at times, needing to remain politically neutral and yet obligated to respect the chain of command. That balancing act gets even tougher and more important the higher up you go. So it was refreshing to hear Schoomaker speak frankly on the issue.

He also spoke at length against a draft, saying that it takes too long to stand up a conscription force. He and I part ways here; as he said himself, this is a "long war." (If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase "long war" last week, I would need to buy a second piggie bank. I don't think it will be long before it's capitalized and officially branded, the Long War replacing the Cold War. Hey, maybe we can even get corporate sponsorship, like the NASCAR races. How does the Pepsi Cola Long War sound to you?) Anyway, if it is indeed such a loooooong war, why not start drafting now to have reinforcements in place 5 years down the road? Might I propose we start with the membership of the College Republicans? But I digress . . .

Another thing that I thought was telling about General Schoomaker's address was when he asked how many in the audience had children serving in the military right now. Quite a few hands went up. Then he asked how many of us had parents who had served, and even more hands went up. He looked around the room and said something like, "Huh. You'd be surprised how different the response is when I address the political and business leadership." Score one for the general!

Long story short, it was an inspirational week and heaven knows I could use a little inspiration right about now. I remain deeply embittered over our political leadership and the Charlie Foxtrot that is the war (oops! I meant "the long war"). But the people I spent last week with are the kinds of people who make me deeply proud to be a part of their team.