Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

especially since we put our tree as well as Sunshine's tree up this weekend. Snowflakes are in our windows & the fireplace (mantel & hearth) are decorated. I still need to get more suction cup thingies for the snowflakes for the french doors leading to the sun room, ( Get this---Hunter actually asked if we were decorating them! ) and for Sunshine's bedroom windows.

Each year I think how fun it would be to have a tree trimming party. Then I remember how I have to tell the story of each ornament (Oh, this one is from my mom, this one is from Hunter the first Christmas we were married, this is the one I bought for Sunshine's 1st Christmas) & how certain ornaments HAVE to go at the top of the tree, away from dogs & little hands. I did well this year---I didn't "correct" Sunshine's ornament placement too much. I moved a few ornaments so they'd be more visible, but that's about it.

Each year I buy myself a new ornament. Last year, we bought a 7 1/2 foot tree & found ourselves needing more than one ornament for the year. I found some great ones at the after Christmas sales including a pretty set of Gorham silver snowmen, 2 beautiful Waterford glass ones. When Mom visited in April & we went to the Atlanta Zoo, I found a hand painted glass ball with pandas. And a trip to World Market earlier this month helped us with a couple for our tree, as well as some for Sunshine's tree---including a disco ball.

Today Sunshine & I cut & stapled the
loops for the mouse tail for another of our Christmas traditions. When she was in PreK, they cut the little mouse body, ears & glued on eye. They also made the loops for the tail & each night we tear off a loop read the little poem. I have to admit, this is one of my favorite things about bedtime at Christmas.

We also broke out the Spode Christmas Tree dishes on Friday. I started buying these dishes the first Christmas we were married & my collection started with a star shaped candy dish. The following year I added 12 dinner plates. It went on and on for years. Last year I invested in the wine glasses & high balls. This year will be cereal bowls. It makes so much more sense (to me anyway) to use them daily for one month out of the year rather than just for a couple days a year.

I'm roughly halfway through my shopping & need to get going. I'm losing almost a week's worth of shopping the final week of school as it will be Accelerated Reader Celebration Week & as Co-chair, I'll be at school a lot that week. Hopefully I can help my co-room mom with the planning of our class party.

Luckily, we're staying put this year so the additional pressure of traveling won't be upon us. We spent a lot of time on the road at Christmas in years past ('02, '03, '04, '07, '08) so the idea of waking up in my own bed on Christmas morning's a wonderful thing. Sunshine & I will have the week of Christmas to do some baking for our neighbors & friends as well as tie up any loose ends.

Friday, November 26, 2010

No Black Friday here

I refuse to shop on Black Friday ---the entire weekend actually. Do I really need to be in a store at 3 am with $3 jeans in my hand? Do I need to be another store at 4 am with a 40" tv in my cart for whatever discounted price? I think not. My place at those times is home, in my snuggly bed. And that's where the employees of these stores belong. Sleeping in their cozy beds, memories of Thanksgiving in their head & getting a good night's sleep before they have to be at work, at a decent NORMAL hour.

My last year working Black Friday was in '02. Hunter had come home from 6 months in Kuwait that Monday, we spent Thanksgiving with his aunt in ATL and drove home that night so I could be at work at 6 am. We figured parking would be a nightmare so he drove me in at 530. Lines were wrapped around the mall. I got into work & got ready for my day. There are no crazy deals in cosmetics as their prices are regulated. There may be a gift with purchase or a value set, but no one's going to be running around with a 3.4oz bottle of Chanel No.5 that they scored for $25. And in my case, there's not going to be anyone who wanted a makeup lesson at 615am. The desire to learn how to do a smokey eye just isn't there before sun up.

I admit to doing some Black Friday shopping online last year. Amazon ran a crazy 2 day deal on the Barbie Town House. It was too good of a deal to pass up & I knew Sunshine would go nuts when she saw it. (she did!) But going into a store? Nope. If anything I'd go in with a black armband around my arm & would tell the employees that I feel their pain. So, if you're doing some shopping this weekend, or holiday season at all, remember the poor souls working the registers so you can achieve your holiday goals. Yes, it's their job, but they're seriously abused.

Our plans for today are to put away the Thanksgiving decorations --done as Sunshine is seriously motivated to decorate for Christmas. Get out the Christmas dishes to use as our daily dishes until after New Year's. And to go see Tangled this afternoon with some friends. We've already bought our tickets on Fandango and are hoping to get there early enough so all 7 of us can sit together.

Tomorrow we're going to decorate the living room & put up Sunshine's tree. Sunday, our tree will go up. I want to put up some sort of decoration outside, but I'm not sure what---a lit wreath on the big window in the dining room maybe? And I need to add some cereal bowls to my collection of Spode Christmas Tree---but I'll wait until Monday to go looking for them. Wouldn't want to break my own boycott of Black Friday shopping!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving's such a bridge holiday, isn't it? Every year it sneaks up on you during your Halloween hangover when the stores have already started putting up their Christmas decorations & advertising Black Friday bargains.

The Halloween costumes & decorations have been put away but you're still rationing the candy. If you're like me, you've hidden a bag of Vanilla Tootsie Rolls in the pantry & allow yourself one a day. Just so they last.

Then, before you know it, it's Thanksgiving. There's baking, cooking, traveling to be done. The grocery stores are filled with crazed people looking for ingredients they only use once a year. "Traditional" becomes the word of the day. I'll admit, I'm all about traditional Thanksgiving dishes & get a little stabby when people start tweaking the recipe. My family's traditional meal is turkey, corn, green beans (but not green bean casserole---more on that later), my Memere's meat stuffing, mashed potatoes, traditional stuffing for the heretics in the family, rolls. Dessert is usually a pecan pie (my brother Michael's favorite) and either apple or pumpkin pie. The men in our family do the cleaning up.

As much as I love tradition, it seems we really don't have one when it comes to Thanksgiving. We've gone to Hunter's aunt's house in ATL which is so much fun. She hosts friends from the neighborhood & it's not uncommon for there to be close to 40 people there from noon until well into the evening. We've hosted single soldiers during the years Hunter wasn't deployed. We went home once & last year we went to a friend's house. This year we're going to the same friend's house. They live on some crazy number of acres in the "country" so a day at their house involves feeding the horses, tractor rides, the men go out shooting cans/ targets, the kids "swim" in the hot tub", good food, good company & an all around wonderful day.

Last year we were in charge of dessert & appetizer. This year we're doing 2 appetizers (fruit salsa w/ cinnamon pita chips and my bacon wrapped artichokes--they were a huge hit last year) and I have the honor of making the green bean casserole.

Have a safe & happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your traditions, whatever they may be!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Remembering the "good ol' days"

Do you look back at times gone by & remember the "good ol' days"? Times spent with family that are long gone? We spent every Sunday evening with my Memere & Pepere (the couple at the center of the group). A lot of times we'd spend afternoons at their house playing. I grew up as the youngest of 22 grandchildren on my mom's side--there was always someone to play with, bother or just to tag alone. All but 3 cousins lived locally which made for fun times. When my Aunt Gert (brunette in the front w/ her husband's arm around her shoulder) & I used to talk in the last couple years before she died, she would tell me that she always looked back on the time spent with our family at Memere & Pepere's as truly the best days of her life. I have to agree.

This picture was taken in 1961 at my grandparents 40th wedding anniversary 8 of the 22 grandchildren were yet to be born (myself included, obviously). Everyone looks so young & if I try, I can hear everyone's voice. I can hear my Aunt Gert & Uncle Louie's (back row, 6th from the left) distinctive laughs. I can hear my Memere's French accent. My Dad was a master story & joke teller. I'm willing to bet he & my Uncle Eddie (far right in the front, drink in hand). were trading stories & jokes all evening.

Seven people out of this picture have passed & I miss them. My Daddy, Memere, Pepere & Aunt Gert in particular. I wish my Memere & Pepere had been able to meet Sunshine---I know they would have loved her sunny disposition & sense of humor.

So, as the holiday season is starting, take a minute to focus on what it is really about---family. Savor each moment with those you love as they leave us far too quickly.

*Editing to addthat my Uncle Eddie passed away on Sunday 28 Nov. And then, there were 6.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm sorry, that's private.

In an age where we Tweet, update Facebook statuses more often than some people brush their teeth, blog, spend time on message boards, post pictures on Fotki, Flickr, Photobucket---I always wonder where people draw the line at what they choose to keep as private.

There are very few online communities where I've shared my last name & other info about my family. It's pretty much one message board where I've been a member for almost 10 years & Facebook, where I know/trust my friends list. I've denied friend requests on FB from people I didn't know. I've got enough Farmville friends, thanks & if we don't know one another in some way, shape or form, I'm not adding you.

I've read blogs where the author has basically given out everything other than their social security number. Maybe if your blog is private/invitation only that's fine, but for me, it makes me twitchy. Because, let's face it, there are some downright scary people out there. And you don't know if those scary people are reading your blog. Learning your name, your child's name, where you live, where your child goes to school, where you work, etc.

The Disney Channel (shush, you have kids that watch it too!) has a PSA done by Phineas & Ferb (you know you like them!) that talks about the internet & how important it is to be careful what info you put out there. We live in such different times than when I was growing up. As parents our job is to teach our children what is right and wrong. It's also to protect them---from the scary people out there, but also from themselves. You hear stories about teenagers who were pressured into "sexting" or sending provocative pictures of themselves to a boyfriend/girlfriend. Like Phineas & Ferb say---be careful what you put on line. It never goes away, ever.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Naked with strangers

What is it about spa treatments that make us totally comfortable about stripping down to undies or less?

I love spa treatments. Love.them. Mani/pedi, facial, massage, yes please!!! Many years ago, before Sunshine, I was a spa junkie. Manicure (acrylic fill) every 2 weeks. I'd get itchy if I had to go 3. Pedicure every month. Facial every month & a massage every month or every other. It's amazing the money & time that I had for all of this! I still get pedicures every month or so. I have to admit, I'm a fan of the "chop shop" mani/pedi rather than the spa versions, especially since a friend told me how her salon offers a hot stone massage (I die!) with their pedis. I don't care who came up with the concept of a hot stone applied to the body, but I love 'em! I start to slide down in the chair & am thisclose to drooling during a good one.

Last year, Hunter gave me a gift certificate to local day spa for their signature spa package as an anniversary present. Our anniversary is in December. It's November. Procrastinate much?? I had the Signature Diamond Microdermabrasion Facial & the Hot Stone Massage. I know, I'm amazed I can even keep my eyes open, too!

Facials are bizarre things when you think about them. You're half nekkie, in a dim room with someone you may or may not know very well. In my case, it was with Jessica, whom I had never seen before in my life.

It all starts off innocently enough--gentle facial cleansing, a little massage action on the cheeks, forehead, chin. A scrub, a mask, upper body massage, or if you're lucky---lower leg & foot. Then all of a sudden things get nasty. They get mean. Your relaxing, dimly lit room suddenly becomes glaringly bright & this person you may or may not know very well is hurting you. A lot. They call it "extraction" ---please. It's pretty torturous & I'm willing to bet it's against the Geneva Convention. I don't care if you've had one facial or 1,000. Extractions hurt. And trust me Jessica, I know hurt. I had a 17 hr labor followed by a c section to deliver an 11 lb baby. And afterward, I was the only mother in the Mother/Baby Unit who was walking with her baby 6 hrs after giving birth. The mother who had a baby 1/2 Sunshine's size? I was the fool walking the halls with my morphine drip. But, I digress.

So after the Gestapo treatment (I'm convinced Jessica's a war criminal), we moved on to the diamond microdermabrasion. I have to admit, in all of my facial history, I'd never had it done before. But now that I'm of a certain age (yes, 43 & I make it look good!), I think it would help. I started taking good care of my skin in my late teens, use sunscreen daily, but still. Certain age.

The microderm wasn't too bad & my skin certainly feels like the proverbial baby's bottom. I've decided that my Mother's Day gift needs to be another GC for another facial.

Jessica---we will meet again. Oh yes we will

Friday, November 12, 2010

A real "must see"

Last night HBO premiered a documentary called War Torn about PTSD. It offers a glimpse into the personal hell faced by the soldiers who suffer from it. It also shares the frustrations & fears their families experience.

Back in '08 when Hunter came home from his 3rd & final tour in Iraq, we spent 3 hours in a mandatory marriage seminar that focused on helping military couples remember what it's like to live as a couple again. It also touched on PTSD & at the time how 12-20% of all returning soldiers would suffer from it. That percentage has been raised to almost 30%.

I first suspected something wasn't right with Hunter when he came home from his 2nd tour in '06. He managed to hide his symptoms for about 7 months after coming home. He met with a chaplain in the Family Life Offices on post (usually a first stop for most soldiers & their families dealing with post-deployment issues). They suggested he come back, but that was about it. They were busy preparing for their next deployment as we were on the year home/year gone cycle. He left again in March '07 as part of the surge & would be gone 14 months.

Within a few months of returning in '08, his symptoms of PTSD & TBI began to manifest. The agitation, discomfort with crowds, noise, the memory issues, various physical issues--all classic textbook symptoms. I began to notice that these were lessened if we were away from home. Thanksgiving & Christmas were spent with family out of state & things were nice. With the exception that some family members didn't want accept the possibility that he had PTSD. One person told me that so & so couldn't accept the fact that Hunter had PTSD. Others suggested that his thyroid was off & maybe he needed to be tested as it ran in the family. It's hard to comprehend what things are like for the spouse of a soldier unless you've been the spouse of a soldier. Just as I will never know what things were like for Hunter (or any soldier) when they're in country because I wasn't there.

All I knew was things weren't right with my husband & I felt like I had almost no one to turn to. What should have been a happy time for us (having him home with us ) was frustrating because my fears were dismissed as other people wanted to sweep them under the rug for their own comfort.

I should say, I have one friend who got it at that time. Her experience w/ her husband's PTSD nearly destroyed their family & their marriage. She was and is a huge source of inspiration to me & knowing she & her husband came through it all made me believe that we could too. She knows who she is & that I love her.

Starting in late January & going thru June '09, we saw him 2-3 days a week. It was almost like a deployment only I knew he was no more than 25 miles away & he wasn't in harm's way. On the days he was home, he was exhausted & needed to catch up on laundry & whatever else the Army was demanding of him. In mid-June he finally found a doctor who was willing to work with him.

In July '09, I was on my way to VT to visit my parents as my father was dying. Hunter was supposed to leave for a 30 day TDY & we had an emergency plan in place should Dad die while Hunter was gone. I was 3 hours away from home when Hunter called me. His PTSD had come to a head & he was basically breaking down. I have never felt so helpless in my entire life. I was so far away from him & had no way to help him. We agreed he should go to the ER & I began calling his supervisors. One of whom was absolutely no help. He suggested that perhaps Hunter was just not wanting to go on the TDY. No one wants to go on a 30 day TDY less than 2 months before they're leaving for a 14-15 month deployment, but to suggest that was the problem was completely stupid.

July '09 was a brutal month for our family. My father did die on the 17th of July. Hunter began treatment for his PTSD & would eventually be diagnosed with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), as well as other physical issues. In Sept. 09 he would be transferred to the Warrior Transition Brigade where he received daily treatment. It felt like a weight was lifted from our shoulders as FINALLY someone got it! They knew what was wrong, they didn't try to deny it, they treated him & accepted him. They wanted him to get better. We began seeing a change in him at home--his patience level increased. We didn't have to leave parties early b/c of the noise. The memory issues slowly improved. In February '10 he received his disability rating from the Army & in May, was retired.

The funny thing about being medically retired is there is no walking across the stage. There's no ceremony, no thanking the soldier for their service. You're just done. Game over.

So, back to War Torn. I didn't expect to feel the emotions that I did while watching. I didn't expect to see aspects of our life together on TV. The coping skills of one of the wives really hit home & I saw so much of myself in her. The things she's thought, the thing's she's had to do. I sat there & just bawled like a baby.

I feel that I should stop for a second & say that unlike this woman's husband, Hunter has never become violent. Not all PTSD victims are.

But man, so many of the things she & her husband said & did---been there, done that.

When it was over & I managed to dry my eyes, I gave Hunter a huge hug & told him how much I love him. BRAVO, HBO for putting this out there. For taking away the stigma associated with PTSD. For showing the human side of it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day 2010

"On this Veterans Day, let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free."
Dan Lipinski

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sometimes, on Monday afternoons

when we're not feeling well, we make pumpkin bread & pumpkin muffins. And when they're done, we get out Hunter's grandmother's china & have a tea party.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Isn't it amazing how looking at a picture takes you back to that moment?

This was taken in late Oct. '04. Sunshine was almost 7 months & had started to crawl. She had 2 teeth & was a champion sleeper (going down around 7 & sleeping until 5 or so in the morning). Hunter was preparing to deploy in 2 months & I was in the throes of PPD. MIL was visiting us for a few days & snapped this picture while we were walking Libby & Sunshine late in the afternoon.

I remember getting these back (they were taken on our old Nikon 35mm camera that required film. One day you'll have to explain to your child what film was) & thinking how awful they all looked. I hadn't lost all my baby weight (9 mos on, 9 months off, right?) & looked ginormous. Hunter looked lobotomized & Sunshine wouldn't look at the camera.

About a year or so ago I found this group of pictures & it took me back to a wonderful time in my life. Yeah, I hadn't lost the baby weight but the look of sheer joy on our faces brought tears to my eyes. Our little family was so happy despite the weight on our shoulders. We had a beautiful, healthy sweet baby girl who was (and is) the center of our universe. Despite the threat of Hunter deploying, we were together. We had new mommy & daddy friends who had wee ones just like us. Some of them were facing deployments as well.

"Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose" ~From the television show The Wonder Years

Recently I've found myself remembering what I once considered the hardest year of my life---Hunter's last deployment & the year Sunshine was 3. My friends with children will agree with me that the 3's are so much worse than the supposed "Terrible 2's". I had nights where I would be praying for 7 o'clock to roll around so Sunshine could get in bed & I could get some peace. The emergence of free will & vocabulary in a child, especially a strong willed child is frightening at times. Going it alone while fearing for your spouse's life makes it that much worse. Turning 40 during that time adds to the mix.

It's amazing to me how time away from something changes your perspective. While Hunter's last deployment was hard, it wasn't as horrible as I remember. Scary, yes but I look back on my time with Sunshine & know those were some special times for the 2 of us. Days we will never get back. While Hunter wasn't able to spend them with us, I'm happy that I was able to carry on & enjoy some things along the journey.

When I look at the picture of us on that fall day in '04, I see a happy family. The same as I see today.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I can't even come up with a witty title

I was on Ravelry earlier & one of my friends had linked to this blog
in theirs.

See if you still have dry eyes by the end of it. I didn't. Boo is an awfully lucky boy to have such a wonderful mama.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I voted

Did you?

This picture is circa 1910. As a woman, the mother in the picture does not legally have the right to vote. Her daughter, born in 1903, would be almost 18 when Vermont (her home state) would ratify the 19th Amendment in Feb. 1921.

This was the first election where Hunter & I have gone to vote together. As a service member living in a state other than his home state, he chose to maintain his VA residency & therefore, voted via absentee ballot. After bringing Sunshine to school today we went to vote together & saw several of our neighbors at the polls, as well as several parents from Sunshine's school.

We take voting very seriously in our house. We discuss politics & manage to be nonpartisan in our conversations with Sunshine. I want her to form her own opinions based on the knowledge she has been given.

I normally vote for a candidate based on their platform or what they've done during their previous term in office. Today I voted against a candidate based on his inability (or his staff's inability) to return a phone call & letter. Two months ago, Hunter was having problems getting information regarding money owed to him from the VA. If you've never had the opportunity to deal with their phone system, thank God. Their phone lines open at 8 am. If you call after say, 11, you're told to hang up & try your call again tomorrow as all lines are busy. Disconnect, thankyouverymuch. Even calling at 8 am doesn't mean your call will be answered in a timely manner. It's nothing to wait 30 minutes to speak with someone. And if you manage to speak with someone, it's rare that they will even be able to help you.

So back to this phone call & letter that went unanswered. Under the Post 9/11-GI Bill qualifying soldiers (all military, but we'll just use solider) are entitled to a certain number of months of tuition, a living stipend & book money. Hunter had no problem getting his tuition paid, but for some reason his living stipend & book money were in arrears. Which we expected, but not to the degree we experienced. Calling the VA was frustrating as I indicated above. IF he did manage to speak to someone, he was told the money would be deposited "soon!" and that it was "coming". But it never came. It was suggested to us to contact our senators & representative, which we did. Two of them followed through with phone calls and letters. The third didn't. At all. So today at the polls, I exercised my right to not vote for someone whose staff clearly didn't see the need to exercise their ability to help those who put them in office in the first place.

By the way, that mother in Vermont in 1910 who didn't have the right to vote? My great-grandmother. The little girl in the picture was my Grammy.