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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

So Conner came home from school yesterday and tells us, "It's Halloween!" And we're like, "Uh, no, it's not." We totally blew him off.
Then John is outside and runs into our neighbor, who has had his entire lawn decorated as a cemetery for weeks now, complete with a boulder-sized inflatable spider and gargantuan skull.

He invited us to stop by later for their annual neighborhood gathering; they all hang out by the haunted garage and cook hotdogs over a fire. So John's like, "Isn't Halloween tomorrow?"

Color us ignorant, but we don't have to be hit over the head twice. We learned that in this area if Halloween falls on a Wednesday, Friday or Sunday, it's celebrated the day before. Wednesday because of church, Friday because of football games, and Sunday -- well, duh.

Even if John hadn't run into our neighbor we probably would have caught on pretty quickly when the trick-or-treaters started showing up by dinnertime. We struggled to get the little ones to eat a few bites of dinner before we gave up and got them into their own gear.
A couple of weeks ago I had asked Conner if he wanted to look for a costume and he professed zero interest. Of course, last night he declared he wanted to go trick-or-treating after all, which you absolutely do not do without a costume. That's the ultimate tacky. So Conner thought of going out in one of John's uniforms. And I'm like, uh, don't you think it's a little too cold to go swimming? Then I remembered that I had recently come across an old uniform of mine, which is only barely too big for my preteen son and quite a bit less inappropriate for him to wear as a costume. If it weren't for the tennis shoes, he might look a little too legit.

Sean-Peter got tired of taking pictures pretty quick. We assured him we would get going in just a minute.
Okay, all better. What a stinker.

We just went up and down part of our street, and it was more than enough.

Man, does this town get into Halloween. We did go by our neighbor's and enjoy their cookout and haunted garage. They seemed fascinated that this was the little ones first real Halloween experience, and the kids enjoyed the good luck of living next door to a couple that really go all out. Can't wait to see what they do for Christmas.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Another Glimpse Into the Life of Olivia's Mind

After seeing a rainbow on TV:

"I love rainbows!"

"Who made rainbows?"
"God did!"
"Do you remember why?"
"He made them for our sins, to make them happy again!"

Ummm. Interesting angle. Maybe I'll start thinking of my chocolate stash as "my own little rainbow".

Monday, October 29, 2007

Crib-Free Woes

Several days ago I stole a few minutes while the little ones were in the bath and rearranged some furniture in Sean-Peter's room in preparation for taking down his crib. He had independently gone cold turkey to sleeping in his big-boy bed and it seemed obvious that there was no turning back. And I was anxious to free up the space.

All I did was move the foot of his big-boy bed to the adjacent wall and put his nightstand next to it. I was going to break down the crib, too, but I had brain cramp and forgot the steps for safe deconstruction, so I decided to save that part for John.

When the kids got out of the bath I made a big show of Sean-Peter's room, which I had newly straightened up, and especially pointed out his bed, which I had newly decorated with Conner's former bedspread and sham. It all looked so comfy and cozy I almost laid down and slept on it myself. I was banking on Olivia going along with the wonder, joy and excitement, and she did not disappoint. She brought Sean-Peter along with her and he immediately began jabbering on excitedly in that unintelligible way he has.

It was all going so well. Until I hollered out to John if he was ready to take down the crib. Sean-Peter's jabbering immediately took on a decidedly distressed tone, and it seemed apparent by his panicked gutterings and gesticulations that, if he could talk he would be saying, "Not my crib! You can't take down my crib! That's my crib! Don't take down my crib! Noooo!"

But since this came out mostly like, "Ng BAP! No ng BAP! Mm-mm-mm-BAP! My ng BAP! Noooo!" I decided some interrogating Sean-Peter style was in order.

"Sean-Peter, do you still want to sleep in your crib?"
"Uh-huh." This comes out more like "Uuuuh". It's all in the intonation.
"Sean-Peter, don't you want to sleep in your big-boy bed?"
"Sean-Peter, do you want to sleep in your crib again?"
"Sean-Peter, do you want to sleep in your big-boy bed?"
Um, okay.

"John!" I hollered again, "Ix-nay on the rib-cay!"
"Yea, I got that!"

About a week passed until we deemed it safe to try again -- this time with no open discussion and without Sean-Peter in the room. John took it down last night and put it in our room temporarily, with the intention of storing it downstairs after the kids were in bed. Only he forgot.

Sean-Peter didn't bat an eye when I put him to bed last night; didn't even notice the absence of the crib in his room. But when my little alarm clock walked into our bedroom at Oh-6-early this morning, instead of the usual, "Ma, uh(p)!" I heard stifled sobs. John came out of the bathroom and tried to console him, but he was bereft. He had spied the pieces of his crib and was standing in front of them, an epitome of abject grief, eyes overflowing.

"Do you see your crib, buddy? Is that why you're crying?"
"Okay, buddy, it's okay. It's just broken. But daddy will fix it, okay?"

Ah, trickery. But it worked. Sean-Peter is often surrounded by things that are inexplicably broken. "Daddy fix it" he can understand. All will be okay.

He may be ready to grow up, but not quite ready to let go. That makes two of us, little buddy.

Since I don't sleep with my camera, I couldn't capture his sorrow this morning for posterity. But he gave me opportunity later on to catch a similar moment.
But I still don't think we're going to give you your crib back, buddy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Life Is Good" by Conner, Part I

When Conner was a preschooler his backseat chattering often went like this:

"Mom, how much longer?"
"Mom, what's 3+3?"
"Mom, how many more minutes until we get there?"
"Mom, how old are you?"
"Mom, how many is that?"
"Mom, what time will the clock say when we get there?"
"Mom, what's 4+2?"
"Mom, how much longer?"
"Mom, how many more minutes til we get there?"
"Mom, now how many more minutes?"
"Mom, what time will the clock say?"
"Mom, what time will it be when we get there?"
"Mom? Mom? Mom?"

I can still hear that last part ringing in my head.

This consistent and persistant pattern of questions, this obsession, led me to turn it back on him and make it into a game. "What time do you think it will be when we get there?" I would ask, and he would make his guess, and I would make mine. Then he would change his guess to be closer to mine. Sometimes he would ask if he could have my guess. So I would change mine, but then he would second guess his guess, which was actually my original guess. This would continue until I declared a moratorium on guesses.

Numbers were his thang, if you get my drift. Made for some scintillating conversation, I tell you. Ah, the memories.

This continued into elementary school -- up until Olivia joined us in the car, so far as I can recall, and finally provided another distraction from the backseat. Olivia was a player from the beginning.

Right after Conner turned five we moved from the DC area to western Texas for 10 months while John completed some training. And I became a full-time SAHM for the first time since Conner was a baby. Losing my income was balanced out by John's promotion, not paying over $700 in daycare, and the lower cost of living. And it was such a blessing to have that year home with my son, my only child (is that possible?), the last year before he started school. Perfect timing, really. Divine intervention at its finest.

I thought I should try to carry on some pre-K education with some of this time we had. Since he seemed to have the numbers thing down, I thought we should focus on reading. I even got some ideas from my aunt and sister, elementary teachers themselves, about how to introduce independent reading by making "books" with repetitive words and stickers that he picked out. Going through these would last about 10 minutes, by which time he would simply say, "Can we be done now?" He much preferred playing "Trouble" or something else that gave him an opportunity to count to his heart's content.

I wasn't concerned about his inability to read before he started kindergarten. He seemed to know his letters well enough. He obviously didn't have a learning disability or anything that kept him from being able to read: he simply had no desire to.

And he learned soon enough once he did start kindergarten. Conner always did thrive in a structured environment with some healthy peer pressure; one reason I have never been sure that home schooling would work well for us. He simply looks around, sees that most of the other kids are doing this reading thing, so he does it, too.

Once he was in school, it didn't take long before I heard comments from his teachers about his knack with numbers, and pretty soon they were joined by comments about his natural interest and ability in science. Math and Science. That's what I kept hearing. So not my thang, but, hey, I'll go with it.

This didn't change when we moved to Italy and he transitioned into Italian school in the third grade. First, of course, he had to, um, learn Italian. And, naturally, the easiest subject to transition to in a foreign language is math, the Universal Language and all that. Then it wasn't too long before I heard the expected feedback that he sure took to science, too. Yes, yes, I know, that's my son: math and science.

During his three years in Italian school, we made some effort at home to keep up his English instruction. I mainly did this by requiring him to read in English --because although my son readily learned to read once he started school, he never did become a reader. Much to my chagrin. Because this is something I really, truly, do not understand. Having him resist reading -- for enjoyment! -- has always felt so wrong to me. But then, John is not a reader, either. So I just resign myself and sigh. Oh, and maybe complain a little out loud.

I also had Conner write emails. This became surprisingly interesting. When someone doesn't readily sit down and get lost in a good book, you wouldn't think he would readily sit down and compose a letter. But he did. And he enjoyed it. When I would suggest that he take some time to write an email to grandma, say, or to his dad who was away to wherever, he would sit down without complaint and type out excruciating letter after excruciating letter.

And he asked questions. He asked how to spell things, and whether a word meant what he thought it did. And he paid attention when I corrected his sentences for clarification before sending the email. He cared. And, to top it all off, I was starting to enjoy his writing. He really seemed to have a knack for it. I made extra effort not to correct every little spelling or grammatical error that I found lest I stifle his creativity and bring out his perfectionist tendencies. I just wanted him to write.

So for three years his English instruction consisted of inconsistent instruction at home in the very loose form of informal emails and forced reading for fun. Oh, and they did have "English" at his Italian school, which centered around singing songs and labeling rooms in a house and learning that the person working in the kitchen is a "cooker".

Then one day, later on in the fifth grade, he came home from school so happy because of a writing assignment they had had. He was so proud of himself because he was one of the few students (or the only one?) who was not sent back to his desk to revise or add anything to a story they wrote. I had him translate it for me, but honestly I cannot tell you what it was about anymore. I just remember thinking that, yes! it's not just me and he's really got something here.

All of this has been leading to Conner's first project for his English class here. If you're still with me, congratulations! Now you get to read some really fun stuff from a burgeoning writer in the form of a 12-year-old boy. They had to put together a notebook, "Life Is Good", a compilation of pictures, essays, poems, etc. For the "Letter" below they were told to write to a person, place, or thing. Conner wrote this to his bed right after we got our house, but before we got our stuff (and were still sleeping on air mattresses).

"Life is Good" by Conner

Letter to My Bed

Dear Bed,

I like you more than any other item in the house. You're so big and comfy. You're always there when I'm sad and I need something to lay on. If only you could talk, give massages, and serve lemonade, now that would be cool. I love to bounce on you, but my mom doesn't like it at all, you probably don't either. On the bus I always look forward to seeing you. Without you I wouldn't have that soft feeling when I go to sleep. The only bad thing about you is sometimes you let me roll of you, that doesn't feel too good.

I know you still on a boat (cause we just moved) but you'll be here soon. If you think you got it bad, you're wrong, I have to sleep on a mattress, which is kind of like sleeping on the floor. Without you, I would be waking up every 4 hours (like now) and not being prepared for school the next day.

You've enhanced my life in so many ways. The covers that lay on you keep me warm and make sure I don't wake up freezing. You've also given me that extra soft feeling that the bed alone doesn't have. Mattress, you've made sure I don't sleep on the springs and let my back receive all that pain. Feet, you've made me feel so high and important. You've also kept little siblings from getting on the bed and messing everything up. You're all so important and special to me.

He got a perfect score on this, and I hated to burst his bubble when he thought that meant it was perfect. He actually caught an error in it himself when he reread it after he brought it home, but I didn't make a really big deal about it. I'm actually not too sure how picky I should be. I do correct certain things no matter what: they're/their; its/it's. Pet peeves like that. But mostly I just think it's darn good story telling, and isn't that the main thing right now? I mean, how much grammar are you supposed to be shoving down their throats at this age? Especially for a boy who's just reentering an English school system?

I come from a family of grammar nazies, and I do intend to pass on those traits to my children as well. But for now, for at least five minutes, I just want Conner to transition to American school and enjoy his new-found love of English. Because, truly, it is so much fun to witness. I'm not sure why the teacher did not point out any of his errors, but for now I am going to assume that she just wants to encourage his writing, too. And it is fun, isn't it? Stay tuned for more to follow...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Glimpse Into the Life of Olivia's Mind (and endless possibilities...)

On the outside, she's a fireman...
But in her imagination, the possibilities are endless.

"When I'm done being an astronaut, I'm going to be a ship's captain!"

You go, girl. Ah, the possibilities...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"You Say It's Your Birthday"

Happy Birthday, John!

We celebrated yesterday with lots and lots of cake, including some yummy cheesecake -- thanks, Becky! -- and with a few of our neighbors. Though not as many neighbors as I had anticipated.

I had Conner take around the invitations the day before. It was raining, so I told him to just put them in their mailboxes. When we moved in, a few of our immediate neighbors had been so kind and welcoming, bringing cookies and such, and I thought offering cake and coffee for anyone who wanted to stop by would be a good reciprocal gesture. You know, soon enough after moving that they don't expect you to actually be moved in.

But only one family showed, which was perfectly fine with us, but surprising. Another called to say they just got their mail for the first time in two days and were sorry because they'd had nothing else going on during that time. Another one stopped by to introduce herself right away after she got her mail, but she acted vague and wouldn't make eye contact when I asked if she thought they might be able to make it. Like, um, no worries. It's not like I'm trying to be your BFF. Just trying to be, you know, neighborly. Sheesh.

The worse thing about the surprising lack of response is that we now have tons of cakes and "pupcakes" left, even after pawning a bunch off the family that came. Lovely family, by the way. They're the ones who invited Conner to go try their son's Scout Troop in the area, which Conner enjoyed; although that week their meeting happened to be going to a corn maze, and what preteen doesn't love a corn maze?

The best part about the evening was that it motivated me to hang some things on the walls. We have a lot of wall space. And we have a lot of stuff to hang, so it makes for some time-consuming decisions. Apparently my buzzing around inspired Olivia's inner interior decorator, as I discovered this strategically placed in the middle of the family room:
You might notice the baseball bat lying on the ground nearby. I have no idea where that was found, but leave it Sean-Peter to sniff it out. I am betting that he was gearing up to contribute to his sister's decorating touches, which he was probably imagining as some creative target practice.
I hid the bat away in the garage.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Another Casualty of War

I've been up to my belly in boxes again, after taking a breather for a bit. In a box full of frames I unearthed a single casualty.In case you can't tell from this wonderful photograph, those are shards of glass reflecting the light from above. In retrospect, perhaps the photo quality would have been better had I taken it somewhere else. I guess I was more interested in keeping it in a safe place and not moving around with itty bitty pieces of glass and risking the shredding of itty bitty feet.

This is our wedding photo, such as it is. We more or less eloped (in Vegas, coincidentally) and I never had a wedding dress. We had this taken during our reception, which my family hosted in my hometown a couple of months later, and it turned out despite the gusts of wind that required John to hold my hair back behind my neck.

This photo has been in this frame through all of our moves, in however many boxes, for 13 years now. For it to shatter now, the sole casualty in a box containing nothing but frames, just doesn't seem right. It's been through so much, what was it about this box that it couldn't handle?

The miracle is that, despite the shards of glass that peppered the photo underneath the paper it was wrapped in (lotta good that did), the photo itself is virtually unscathed. There are a couple of tiny nicks, but only one stands out, and you can almost pretend it's part of the background.

The frame itself is bent, but I hung it up anyway. One day I'll be out and about and a new frame will find me, but in the meantime it's nice to have something up that has always graced our walls wherever we've lived. It'll be hard to let go: after all these years I still like the original frame I picked out. Some people just know good taste.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Kansas and Kfc

Conner had to accompany me on some errands today because two of the errands involved him. And I ended up being very glad that Miss Social Butterfly didn't come with us, as she is wont to do, because it ended being some much-needed mom and son time -- sans siblings.

Nothing special went on; it was just a relaxed time when Conner could talk randomly, as he is wont to do, without the usual interruptions, and with comfortable silences in between. We both got to ramble on, actually. He comes by it honestly. We even finished some sentences.

And we only had the two of us to consult about what we would eat for lunch -- because errands always take a life of their own and keep you out longer than necessary. It's never my fault. I never ever, say, stop by the paint shop I didn't know we'd be passing "just for a few minutes" to pick up some paint swatches. Or go into Hobby Lobby, "Look, it's right there!" because who can pass up going into Hobby Lobby?

We mostly talked about Conner's big book report he has due Tuesday. He's doing a comic strip as his project, and the deadline has crept up on him, as deadlines are wont to do. And he hasn't worked on it enough up to this time, which I'm sure is typical but I can't help but wonder how much of that is because of this move, and because I wasn't on top of him enough. And exactly how on top of him should I be, anyway?

We also talked about how much we like Kfc, where we had our lunch. We both agree: legs all the way. Though he prefers extra crispy while I have graduated to original.

I got to relate to him how I always equate eating at Kfc with my childhood and my family's annual visits to my grandparent's in Nebraska. We always went to church with them, and we always ate lunch at KFC after. At least, that's how I remember it. And, ohhh how I looked forward to those lunches. Inordinately so. I don't recall that my hometown even had Kfc, but if they did we still wouldn't have eaten there. My childhood memories of everyday life simply don't include fast food and eating out. And considering how etched in my brain those Kfc visits were with my grandparents, I think I can safely say that eating fast food was a pretty unique experience. How I looked forward to those lunches with my grandparents. Oh, that greasy fried chicken, and those instant mashed potatoes and gravy.

So I'm telling Conner about this silly sentimental memory, and I'm finding myself explaining how my little hometown didn't have fast food restaurants then like it does today -- I mean, it had McDonald's, and Long John Silver's -- but oh! we didn't eat there, oh, lawdy. And he's actually listening and pretending to get it, though he obviously doesn't, and I found myself wondering, what will Conner's silly sentimental memories be? Because, of course, how neat that I can eat in Kfc and be reminded of my grandparents, now seven years gone.

Then I started thinking about this city we live in now and how every modern convenience you can imagine is within 15 minutes of our doorstep, for better or for worse. And this is what is shaping Conner's For Granted World. He certainly won't have any silly sentimental memories of eating in a fast food restaurant. I'm just so curious what will be his lasting impressions of his childhood, this childhood that he is quickly leaving behind (though not yet!) that has seemed like so much of my life yet will only have skirting, random concrete memories for him when all is said and done.

I can't help but wonder if his memories of childhood will be a long list of flights that have taken him from one place to another. From home to home, yes, and also from various homes to visit Kansas, his favorite place in the whole world, if you asked him now.

This coming from a kid who has reason to know a few places in the world.

I'm wondering if he will equate these flights with a sense of adventure, of leaving the old for something new and exciting; if he'll recall any of the hysterically eccentric people or even the blessedly kind ones who remained anonymous. Or if he will think only of the lines, and the many hours of waiting, and the crankiness and terse answers to his questions, the exhaustion and the confusion. Oh, and the crankiness.

Somehow I suspect it will be the latter.

I think now how I didn't experience my first commercial flight until I was 18 years old. I couldn't count the number I've had since then. And, I realize now, I couldn't begin to count how many Conner has had, either. He has moved seven times. Big moves, that is. Like, state to state, country to country. (I had to count just now, and use my fingers.) That doesn't count little moves, when jobs didn't change but apartments did, or we were "in between" homes and living with relatives. There were four of those, I think. But I could be forgetting some by now. I guess it's good I'm rambling now, for posterity's sake, before I forget even more.

How is all of this shaping Conner's memories? I cannot relate to Conner's childhood, to the impression this life will leave on him. What is going to stand out to him at the end of the day? It won't be climbing the Eiffel Tower: it'll be watching a man get arrested outside Sandy's Paris apartment. It won't be the Basilica in St. Mark's Square: it'll be the pigeons that he chased there. It won't be "holding up" the Leaning Tower of Pisa: it'll be finding the McDonald's when we missed our turn. (Okay, maybe fast food will make its imprint; they were rare for us in Italy.)

But really the highlights of Conner's life so far, if I know my son, have been our visits to Kansas where his cousins are. (And you, too, Grandma! ahem.) This always sounds so funny to people who don't know us well but are part of our lifestyle. ("Um, Kansas?" is always the thought poorly concealed.) There's always a nod of understanding when they hear that it's not really about where I came from, but about the cousins that are there now. And, really, can you blame him?

In case you need reassurance -- yes, they are all boys! And already in the process of becoming men, some of them.

It seems likely, from my observations and conversations with people who grew up with a lifestyle similar to Conner's, that he will go in one of two directions: One day he will have a place of his home and declare that he is never going to move! but then decide that staying put isn't so great, after all; or, he will get a place of his own, dig in his heels, and simply never move again.

You never know, really. But if I were a betting person, I'd put my money on the latter. Only time will tell.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's Fall!

I came in from unloading groceries and found Olivia and Sean-Peter in the backyard.
Olivia was determined to build herself a pile of leaves.

Mission accomplished!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Beige Blues

Olivia has never had a proper girlie quilt for her bed, which I really haven't been in any hurry to find for her. I figured one day I would be out and about and it would find me. Besides, she has had this great toddler-size quilt that my friend Lucy made for her when she was a baby. Lucy and I met when we lived in Las Vegas and we both went to some newcomers' tour they offered at the base. She was large with child and Olivia was still a distant blimp on the future horizon. That child is now a daughter of six who has been joined by a sister who's three. Lucy and her husband are kind of like intellectual bohemians: they're both very educated and Lucy is the kind of homemaker who sews her own curtains and makes bread from scratch (like, with a rolling pin) and said making that baby blanket was "no big deal".

Lucy and her husband left Vegas and came to Wright-Patt, where they have been living in rural Ohio and tending a HUGE garden ever since. Yea, small world. (Or small Air Force.) They are leaving soon, though, because Bill got RIFed (RIF=Reduction in Force). But that's another blog.

So, going back to the girlie quilt. It found me! In Wal-Mart, of all places, the perfect place for our budget right now. It was even on the clearance shelves at the end of an aisle, which is the only way it could've found me because I wasn't even looking for it, remember?

They had a couple different designs, so I checked myself with Olivia and asked her which one she liked best. She confirmed my instincts by picking the same one I thought she'd love. One reason it stood out to me is because the highlighted color is red, her favorite color. Now I feel like I have a starting point for eventually finishing her bedroom, the first one she's ever had to herself. In Vegas, where she was born, she actually slept in our closet. Yea. (I guess that's better than a dresser drawer.) That was supposed to be temporary, but then John's tour got extended a year. It was a walk-in closet, but still. Then in Italy, she did have her own room for a short time, until Sean-Peter graduated from his parent's room. From then on out it was pretty much a game of musical beds. She slept in Conner's bottom bunk for awhile, then back in the room with Sean-Peter, then with me when John was deployed (after she got whooping cough), then again in Conner's room after a brief stint back with Sean-Peter who had forgotten that he knew how to share a room and decided that so long as someone was in there with him it was party time.

Finding a four-bedroom house was a priority when we moved here. We did think, moving back finally to a lower cost of living, that we should at least hold to our guns on that.

Even when we first moved into this house I was sure I didn't like the wall color in Olivia's room. However, the more tired I got, the more it grew on me.

But since then, I have realized that I just can't live with it. I'm still too tired to do anything about it, but the time is getting closer. It's just that everytime I look at it I have to resist the urge to scrub off the tobacco stains. Not that there are tobacco stains on it. But that's what the colors look like to me with the painting technique they used. It doesn't help that everything else in the room is beige, too. You can see the beige carpet in the picture -- which is quite stained and well-worn, but will have to $tay that way for the time being. What you can't see in this photo is the trim and the doors, so I'll save you the suspense: they're all beige.

So Olivia and I are thinking the walls should go green. She suggested red, but there are a myriad of reasons that would not be a good idea, and she's cool with that. She also said she'd like a rainbow in her room, which I think would be all kinds of fun to paint, but I don't want to overcommit myself quite yet. After she suggested it she must have determined by my lack of immediate response (in which I was thinking, "That would be fun, but will I get to it? Is that really something I should agree to right now?") that it kind of stressed me out, because she backpedaled. "Just joking, mom." Sheesh.

Now that I have the quilt for inspiration I have colors to pick from. So for anyone still reading this, what do you suggest? A green from the quilt? (And I know I need a new camera already!)What if I do end up painting a rainbow, would green still be okay? And how dark should I go? I tend to like to experiment with dark, bold colors, but it is a pretty small room, and a little girl's room, so I should probably go lighter here.

I already picked up some green paint swatches from Wal-Mart (when I was still excited about the quilt) but I don't like them, not a single one. Carmen suggested Benjamin Moore. Any others you guys have loved?

I'm planning on painting the trim and doors white no matter what. (What's the no-brainer "white" for trim?) Once that's done and the room no longer looks so much like a smoker dwelled there, I might be able to stomach thinking about a yellowish color? Like, (gasp) a light beigish yellow? But without the tobacco-stain streaks?

I'm also planning on getting Olivia some white furniture -- a 5-drawer dresser and a simple headboard, maybe a footboard, too, if it's a low profile. Right now she has my old dresser (which was my grandma and grandpa's old dresser) which is short and wide and takes up a whole wall in this small room, and really isn't the most practical size for a little girl who may still move around and have God only knows how much space from place to place. The bed she has now will be Sean-Peter's bed. You can kind of see the frame in this photo. Right now Sean-Peter is sleeping on the trundle part to this bed. He's been crib-free for about a week now! (sniff) This bed will be great for him right away because it has the built-in rail that we can face on the opposite side from the wall to guard against The Falling Out of Bed Syndrome.

Please practice your commenting skills (or develop some already) and tell me what you think!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mary and the Houses

Olivia and I were enjoying a nice lunch together after Sean-Peter finished and went off to play with his trains.

"It's nice when a mommy and a little girl just get to eat lunch together, isn't it? Then we can tell stories!"

"Do you have story you want to tell me?"

She didn't waste any time.

Mary and the Houses

Mary was running away from the houses. Because the houses were monsters. And also, the lambs were holding tight to her shoulders. Because she was not letting them get lost.

"This is good talking about stuff!"

Mary was too tired to run anymore. The monsters tippy-toed to her and they finally got her.

"It's a funny story, isn't it!"

And also, The End.

Sheesh. I guess we need to lay off the nursery rhymes.

I think what cracks me up most is how she started out with a title, like she had this whole story all organized in her head.

Then again, maybe she did. This may be a little insight into why she continues to get out of bed at night because "I can't get used to it!"

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Future Old Man

Just sittin' by the fahr. Hopefully by the time he's an old man he'll have the wherewithal to put on some clothes first. Either that or he'll come full circle and sit around naked again.

We have a fireplace! A real, honest-to-goodness fireplace!

One of our Big To-Do Items is checked off, along with my new-found ability to do laundry without the pipes leaking -- following a mere $239 visit(s) from the plumber, finally, after John gave it the good ole' college try.

So far we can chalk these expenses up to the cash-back we got at closing for the "habitability" items that were dinged during the house inspection. Not that a fireplace is necessary for "habitability", but the house description listed a fireplace and neglected to say it wasn't warranted, so ... we asked for a working fireplace.

The leaky pipes for the washer were a complete surprise and have since given us a boost up on our Learning Curve for House Buyers. I really don't know or understand if it was something that the whole house inspector should have caught -- are they supposed to check behind the washer and dryer? But when we moved in it was very noticeable that there was some water damage on the wall where the washer goes. What didn't occur to us was that it was on-going damage. That is, you couldn't run the washer without the pipes leaking.

Apparently this is common for homes at least as old as ours, which was built in the 1970s. Back then the washers didn't drain so fast, and those original-sized pipes can't keep up with the faster cycles in the washers of today. Simple as that. What isn't so simple is understanding why the former owners didn't do something about it themselves? It was obvious that it had leaked, like, the whole time.

And it's not so simple to fix, until you start throwing money at it. John tried getting these adapter-thingies from Home Depot that you afix to the washer to sort of stem the flow during the drain cycle: it will slow it down but not harm the washer, they say. Wasn't enough. In the midst of all this, we also had problems with the washer. Remember how we decided to save money by buying used? Well, "Sometimes you get what you paid for". Luckily, GoodOleBoy came through with his 30-day guarantee and gave us a new one that he just got in, which coincidentally happens to exactly match the dryer. Not that we ever cared, but, hey, a bonus.

So between the switching of the washers and trying DIY fixes for the pipe leak, we were quickly running out of clean underwear. Everytime we needed to do a "test" load it was full of all the dirty underwear and socks I could find, and the kids were starting to wonder if they only owned one pair of pajamas.

But that little kink seems to be all worked out now, other than the gaping hole in the wall where the new pipes are. John is determined to repair that himself; after all, what better place to try your hand at drywall than on a wall behind a washer. He's still knee-deep in SOS reading, though, so I'm not sure when that task will make it onto the short list.

Right-Brain, Left-Brain?

Maybe it's cheating because I got this from another blog, but she got it from another blog, too, so whatever.

Conner saw her spinning clockwise, as did John. But John could make her switch without effort. Olivia and I very readily saw her spinning one direction then changing to another while we were still watching.

It's totally trippy. Do it with your kids and your spouse. I want to know what everyone sees!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Considering that I just realized today that we don't own a toilet scrubber, that can only mean that I haven't cleaned the toilets since we've lived here. That must be how I've had time to blog.

Raise your hand if you're as disgusted as I am.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sean-Peter officially has a cold, the first real sickness in this family throughout this PCS. To say that's amazing doesn't quite describe what is really, truly a miracle, and a blessing that has not gone unnoticed. Especially in this Move That Keeps on Going. I have thanked God for that in so many prayers, the only one I have dared mention it to with the conflicted notion that talking about something means it'll happen because now it's "out there".

I was reminded of how remarkable this has been when my friend Ruth called me yesterday and described their morning. They're running out the door to get the kids to school (private school, a bit of a drive) only to find traffic at a standstill. They're sure they're going to be late getting Mark to the airport to catch a flight to Dallas to pick up their car that just arrived from Italy. Luckily, Ruth is an experienced mother of chaos and already knows the back roads. Recently they had taken their oldest daughter in to the doctor to check out why she's been having stomach pains, so as they're zipping through the neighborhoods, they get a call from the clinic telling them that she has a kidney stone. They're thinking, a 12-year-old with a kidney stone? while literally pushing the kids out of the car at their school -- all except for Ellen who is in the backseat throwing up.

Then, as we're talking, Ruth walks into her backyard and notices some water gushing out of the ground. A burst pipe? Who knows? She ended the phone call to rush and turn off their water and deal with yet another urgency.

And, yes, they are still dealing with the lice.

So I think I can deal with Sean-Peter having a cold. I'm quite certain the 40-degree temperature drop we just experienced has something to do with its sudden onset. And maybe his running around outside in said dropped temperature in his barefeet and a short-sleeved tee. Never mind that his father thought he was upstairs with me and I thought he was downstairs with his father; apparently he was outside with his brother who didn't see a problem with his brother being dressed for the summer weather we just had 24 hours ago instead of the winter weather that decided to start yesterday.

Without so much as a Fall Day in between. I knew that was going to happen.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Yea, uh huh

Actual conversation this evening:

Me: "Don't you think the shelves will look better over there?"

John: "Yea, uh huh."

Me: "No, really. Don't you think they will?"

John: "Yea, uh huh."

Me: "Do you think we should put them over there?"

John: "Yea, uh huh."

Me: "Do you even know what I'm talking about?"

John: "Yea, uh huh."

Me: "So, what do you think about putting the shelves over there?"

John: "Where?"

Me: "Are you serious?"

John: "Yea, uh huh."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Too Tired To Blog

I was planning on blogging last night, but then I fell asleep while putting Olivia to bed. After that I fell asleep putting Sean-Peter to bed. Then again when I put Olivia back to bed.

I decided to read the writing on the wall and just go to bed. Mine, this time. Only to not be able to go to sleep. Gotta love it.

I steadfastly resisted the urge to get up and wile away time on the boob tube, or on this blog, or on reading blogs, or unpacking yet another box -- or anything else that would result in a second wind and a bedtime in the wee morning hour. (So far this move I have successfully resisted getting into a good book: a definite productivity killer.) But there's nothing I hate worse than John coming to bed after me and then falling asleep before me, so I decided to try some melatonin (the great jet-lag cure) and not much later I woke up to John's alarm at oh-six early. And Sean-Peter was still asleep!

Wouldn't you know it. He couldn't do this on a weekend. Because, of course, I couldn't get back to sleep after John's alarm went off. That kid has been killing me.

Instead I laid there and enjoyed the stillness of it all. Just me and my thoughts and my prayers for the day. I desperately wanted a cup of coffee to go along with them, but I was half-afraid that when Sean-Peter didn't find me in the bedroom as he was accustomed he would go into Olivia's instead and get his wake-up call out on her. I feared this for a reason.

I planned on telling you about our weekend and how it was spent dealing with issues that you have when you buy a not-new home and how we have a new-found intimate relationship with a plumber and how we finally! visited a church that we liked and plan to return to and how far behind John is in studying for the SOS correspondence course (don't ask) and that Conner is doing just dandy in school and has already made some great friends and how he just went to a school-run "social" and had a great time. But all of that will have to wait because, despite the little extra sleep I got last night I am still tired. I even went to the commissary today, two preschoolers in tow, and forgot my list. I hate that. Almost more than exhausted insomnia.

Friday, October 5, 2007

People Keep the Darndest Things

When I was a junior in college I did a year abroad in Germany. When I got back to my little hometown of McPherson, Kansas, a couple of my little cousins had made some welcome home signs for me. I came across them in a box today.


And this one:


from Heidi and Emily

Everyone should have cousins like these.

I do wonder at my sanity, keeping things like this, move after move. But then I realize how much pleasure I got out of coming across them, again, and reliving memories of my cousins from 15 years ago. And Conner, for his part, was a bit nonplussed: to him, after all, these cousins have never been little girls -- they're women with grown-up lives that have absolutely nothing to do with him. The thought of them being younger than he is now ... well, it was clear the thought just never occurred to him.

Today, Heidi lives in northwest Arkansas with her husband and toddler. She's a big-time major health guru who teaches yoga and ingests nothing with artificial preservatives. You look at her and want to be her.

Emily just finished nursing school and moved to Kansas City for a new job as a bona fide Registered Nurse. She is looking good and loving life and well on her way to paying back her student loans. You can check her out at her new blog.

(Don't these things rock?)

What do you do with stuff like this? Once again, I put it in a pile with other "To Deal With Later" stuff. In a couple of years (or not? only God knows) it'll go in yet another box and carted to yet another home.

And will be pulled out and smiled at, yet again.

See? Now Olivia is a "Special Person", too.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"The One When Everyone Had Lice?"

So my friend Ruth calls me and says that her daughter Ellen has lice again.

Or is it still?

But it gets worse. Not only Ellen has it this time, but also two of her sisters.

Ruth and I became fast friends in Italy after arriving there on the same rotator out of Baltimore. We actually met in the restroom during our layover in Frankfurt. No, we didn't share toilet paper between stalls; but we were both waiting to change our daughters' diapers. I remember she asked me when I was due: Sean-Peter was just a bump in my belly at the time and I was at that stage where it might be a baby or it might just be belly fat, so I better not ask. As the mother of five herself, Ruth probably knows when someone's pregnant before they do.

Ruth called me for some commiseration because it's all so unbelievable. And so wrong. We've already been through this!

And the fact that I'm still saying "we" when it is obviously just "she" tells you how wrapped up in each others' lives we were when we were living near each other with Absent Husbands and not several States apart.

Yes, Ruth has also just PCS'd to the States. They left Aviano a couple of weeks after we did. To say that this PCS season was a busy one hardly cuts it. It was horrifically busy. Crazy. Chaotic. Nutso.

And that was just Ruth's experience.

Not only was she essentially going through the PCS rigmarole by herself because her husband was deployed, her daughter Ellen had to up and go get lice. And let me tell you, for anyone who has never experienced a lice eradication regimen, it is excruciating. Really. The equivalent of a part-time job, at least. I know this because Conner had lice a few months prior to Ellen. At the time when I was going through it when my husband was deployed (what is it with that?) I told Ruth that I would not wish the experience upon my worst enemy. Truly. And now she's got it times three. Poor Ruth.

I had such preconceived notions of what it means to have lice. None of those notions exist in Europe. My midwestern sensitivities made me positively shudder to think of having little critters creeping around on my son's head -- or on mine, for that matter. Going to grade school in the 70s, the kids who had lice seemed like to me the kind who also never showered or combed their hair. Since then and the eradication of DDT or other such pesticides (the details of my exhaustive research some six months ago are a bit blurry now), lice has made a comeback and has become yet another of those routine elementary school experiences.

At least in this country. In Europe it never really went away and is treated with complete unconcern and a shrug of the shoulders: it's inevitable and you're just as likely to get it as not. I tried to "protect" Conner by being careful how I told people so it wouldn't spread to any kids who would tease him or give him a hard time, but it's rather impossible to keep something like that a secret. And it quickly became clear that my concern stemmed from my own judgmental attitude -- apparently I was the only one who thought it was a big deal. I stand corrected and justly humbled.

But it is a big deal to get rid of them. And now it seems that we didn't do a good job on Ellen the first go-around and this will probably go down in their PCS Annals as "You remember, The One When Everyone Had Lice?"

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Mom Song

Okay, I promise I won't keep posting these videos! or turn this blog into a mass of email forwards. But this one made me laugh out loud, and I need all of that I can get right now. Thanks, Sherry. (semper fi!)

Deja Vu?

What? You say you've been here before? There's a reason for that: it's because I haven't unpacked a single box since the last time you saw this corner.

There comes a time when you just gotta start finding a home for the stuff before the stuff takes the home as its own.

The corner of boxes is showing some improvement:

I did make a special effort to hang up our keychain holder. I have no idea where my set of keys for the house are. Since I have no life they are obviously around here somewhere, but in the meantime John has given me his front door key while he keeps the back. What a gentleman. Of course, he had to admonish me not to lose that one as well. Sure thing, hon. So long as you pick up your mess off the floor. See that pile in the dining room?

No, not that pile. That pile.
Those were some of the toys we carted in our luggage all the way from Italy. They were thrown into a bag when we left the hotel and had been left unpacked since. John just started doing PT* with his unit -- apparently he needed that bag for his workout clothes.
Of course, like the good wife I am, I put away the toys in their proper places without offering up a single admonishment.
But that was just because I feel sorry for him for doing PT again for the first time in, like, six years.
*Yes, I know it is "PC" in the Air Force. I always thought that sounded so contrived; John and I still call it PT from his Army days.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pachelbel Daddy

Kudos to Carmen for sending me this video. It came at a very appropriate time considering the amount of night-type interruptions we've been having around here. Our good little sleeper has become our (early) morning person (and I'm not talking about Conner), and Olivia...

Olivia! She seems to think that the house is her playground to explore, preferably when everyone else is trying to sleep. At least she has the sense not to go outside. (Give it time?) I get up and find her trail of crumbs: her barbie doll put to bed in a laundry basket; an empty cheese wrapper tossed on the floor; Sean-Peter's cars lined up against the wall.

Since her wanderings seem to be the result of her difficulty falling asleep, and Sean-Peter's are his refusal to go back to sleep, you can imagine how the adults aren't very happy with the amount of time left in between.

If you haven't seen the video already, it is definitely worth a look-see. And the guy can sing.
Sean-Peter thinks "Pachelbel Bedtime" is funny, too.