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Friday, November 30, 2007

"Just Call Me Sven"

It's official: John is changing his name to Sven. At the risk of spelling it out to any heeber-jeebers out there who by some weird coincidence happen across this post because they googled military families with the name Sven so they could hunt us down in Ohio and stalk our children ... suffice it to say, our last name ain't exactly original.

There are at least four people at the base with John's name. Exact name. First and last, spelling and everything. When you're sending someone official email on base, you go by the person's name: a list will pop up, and you pick the one you want. There are other identifying factors: rank; organization; etc; so it's not like you don't have some other information to go by when you can't spell the name or the names are similar or there are four people with the exact same name. But some, uh, people don't do this very carefully.

There have been numerous occasions over the years when his name has gotten him mixed up with someone else. Probably the worst example was last year during his deployment in Afghanistan when his mail kept going to the other John -- and the other guy kept it. "Um, honey, I don't know why you haven't gotten anything from me. I must have sent that package a month ago..."

Oooh, yea. Someone wasn't happy.

The weirdest incident must've been the time I got a call from a guy asking for John. Turned out he was some "investigative reporter" who was searching for a fugitive and he decided it would be a good idea to call all the John ____'s in the phone book within a 400 mile radius. Well, ma'am, just how well do you think you know your husband? .... Oooh, creepygoawayrightnow! Like, if I was a fugitive would I have my name in the phone book?

John signed up for this SOS correspondence course before he went to Afghanistan -- before he knew he was going to Afghanistan, actually. Which was kind of a problem, because you're supposed to complete it within a certain time frame. He got an extension, of course, but it was like minutes after he got back from deployment until we found ourselves in full PCS mode, and he didn't get much done.

He had to make up for lost time once we arrived in Ohio, and I've been an SOS widow ever since. He had his last test scheduled for today. Woo-hoo! Yay! Yippee! HALLELUJAH!

"Oh, we don't test on Fridays afternoons anymore ... didn't you get my email?"


He then went to work and found an email from a CMSgt (aka Chief Master Sergeant) who was chewing him out for a lousy EPR that a MSgt John _____ had turned in. (My) John bothered with the courtesy of replying that he had the wrong John -- something none of the other Johns seem to do -- and that next time he might want to at least double check the rank of the recipient.

There is a reason neither of my sons are named after their father, despite John being a family name on both sides of the family as well. If we ever had another baby WHICH WE AREN'T we have joked about what a perfect name Sven would be for a boy. Besides Sven being an awesome name, surely there can't be many others out there, you think?

However many there are, John is thinking he needs to join their ranks. At least that way, if we did have an accidental fourth in the future (something my family seems to be way too good at, so I know enough to say Never Say Never) we could name him after his dad, after all.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Baby's 3! (Ode to Sean-Peter)

To my son, on his birthday:

It's okay that you can't speak intelligibly and I am often frustrated to the point of exhaustion because I don't know what you want. There are many, many days ahead of us when I will wish I could not understand what you are saying and will wish I could plead ignorance to what you want.

It's okay that you're not yet potty trained. That's pretty much your mom's fault as much as yours by this point. I plead myself overcome by events that are not within my control. Maybe if I wait long enough your dad will get so disgusted he will take care of it himself once he finishes his SOS coursework TOMORROW and reintroduces himself to his family.

It's okay that you seem to destroy everything you touch. It makes my job of decluttering that much easier and really makes me think twice before I bring something new into this home.

It's okay that you pick your nose to the extent that I have never witnessed a child picking his nose before. And that you eat your findings. Like you're starving. Which you might be because you never eat the wholesome food I prepare for you. And it just makes me laugh because it disgusts Conner so much and I tell him I prefer that to wiping the boogers on the walls, which is what he always did.

It's okay that this move whacked you out so that you only want mom-mom-mom-mom-mawm-maaaawm! That's completely normal and understandable, and I get that. This, too, shall pass. Three nights ago when I told you I needed to say goodnight you even let me because for the first time since we moved you wanted your daddy to come in and lie next to you. And I actually felt a little pang of jealousy. But just a little one. I knew enough to let it pass.

And it's okay that you want me to lie down with you until you fall asleep, even when that means you get me up in the middle of the night or that you pull me from the depths of a mountain of laundry beckoning to be folded while I'm engrossed in a cheesy Nora Roberts made-for-tv movie that just got to the best part. Last night I realized I was lying next to my two-year-old baby for the last time, and I had the sense to savor the moment.

Happy Birthday, big guy. You may give me a run for my money, but my days sure wouldn't be the same without you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

ipods and tennis balls

There's a lot of talk out there about Christmas being too materialistic. And it's true, it really is. But what doesn't seem to get talked about is how fun it is to give gifts. The act of gift giving, truly, is okay, too. Good, even, in my humble opinion.

I love knowing that I am getting something for my children that they are going to love. Knowing that their eyes are going to shine in wonder and amazement upon opening. I try to put some specific thought into what I am getting; I hate buying a gift just for the sake of buying a gift, which is sometimes necessary -- it's the thought that counts and all that. But for my children, and for the things that are coming into my house, I try very hard to get something that represents them and is something that they actually desire. As well as something that I don't mind having around.

For the little ones it's a matter of paying attention to what they already have and enjoy as well as to what their natural interests are. Now that I have a preteen I can appreciate how easy it is to shop for preschoolers: the hard part is holding back! And it doesn't take a lot of money at all. They don't blink an eye at second-hand toys from thrift shops. And their favorite items that provide immense joy are often the simplest: I will always remember that Conner's favorite gift one year was a container of tennis balls.

Of course, that was ten years ago. Now he's a wee-bit more complicated. And so hard for me to relate to. Toys, I get: It's all these electronic gadgets that elude me. I was never one as a kid to even play video games, for pete's sake. It's not like he's even asking for much, or for many, I should say. But of the three things that made it on his list, two of them cost over $100. A Wii? Fat chance. An ipod? Is that really necessary?

The quagmire I want to avoid is ultimately spending as much on miscellaneous stuff that he never asked for as I would on just getting him one thing that he did. This is what came to my mind when my mom pointed out the prices on a "Zune" in the sales flyers for the day after Thanksgiving. A Zune? What's that? Is that like an ipod? Oh, it's Bill Gates' version of an ipod? Like, ipod has just become a generic name like Coke, only sometimes when people say Coke they're really talking about a Pepsi and now Zune is like a Pepsi so people will have Zunes but they'll still call it their ipod?

A couple of sharp tacks, she and I. I could go on but you get the idea. The rest of the conversation was just as pathetic. Poor Conner and his archaic mom. It's so much worse than "becoming your mother": here we were commiserating about not being able to keep up with all the electronics out there -- and, yes, that was the first time I had heard of a Zune -- and it takes my mother to tell me about a latest thing.

Of course, after she and I finished this incredibly enlightened conversation, John walks into the room and I ask him if he knows what a Zune is. "Oh, yea. It's the Windows version of the ipod." You don't say.

I totally blame him for my ignorance about everything electronic, by the way. It's like the woman who doesn't bother to cook because she married a chef. Except, er, I don't exactly have that problem.

Then I tell John that Radio Shack has Zunes on sale for $99.99 on Black Friday. Twenty minutes later I scream-whisper him into the room to tell him I found them for $79.99 at Target on Black Friday. He looks at the ad with me, "80 gigabytes! 80 gigabytes? Do you know that this time last year if they'd had 80 GB ipods for $80 at Bagram the BX would have been overrun?? Forget Conner -- get it for me and we'll give Conner mine!" Uh, that's the spirit, hon'.

But little did I realize how portentous his remark was. The one about being overrun, that is. I did attempt to take advantage of the Black Friday sale on the Zune ipod. (Or is it just a Zune?) But I am sooooo out of practice with American consumerism. Getting up at 6:00 for a sale that begins at 5:00 just isn't going to cut it, at least not around here. Especially when you go to the wrong store. And since the right store got in like, 12 zunes, my chances of getting one, even if I'd spent the night in the parking lot, were like, nil. Sorry, bub.

I did find another Black Friday bargain for Conner that I know he'll love, so the morning wasn't a total loss. But it did make me nostalgic for the little guy who used to go around, happy as a clam, a tennis ball in each hand; items so precious he wouldn't even throw one, so certain was he that it might get snatched up and not returned.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Now That's a Mess of Leaves!

The kids have been having some fun with a final foray into the fall foliage (how's that for some alliteration, eh?), as the temperatures are supposed to drop precipitously today and tomorrow.

Isn't she cute?

Conner and his friend Mitch bagged many, many leaves this afternoon. They even kept at it when it started to rain.

Olivia and Sean-Peter helped, too. In their own special way.

Here's the little guy, making out like a little elf with Santa's goody bag. He actually was helping by hauling the bags to the shed for temporary shelter. The clouds were looking ominous.

Olivia mostly just checked the status of the piles. But isn't she cute?

The boys weren't being altruistic; rather, they were motivated by good old fashioned bribery: I told them I'd pay them $1 a bag. Problem is, they ran out of the 30 gal. black ones and moved onto the 13-gallon white ones...resulting in a total of 37 bags. Full. Of leaves. And that was just the backyard.

I think I got gypped. I also grossly underestimated the girth of Ohio foliage. They don't make 'em like this in Kansas.

That's not really true. I just felt like putting that in there.

But seriously, isn't she just so cute?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Forget the Christmas list

The other day I turned around from working at the kitchen sink and found the little ones rolling tape back and forth to each other with these:
Yes, that's a strainer spoon and a potato masher. Their own little hockey sticks.
Afterwards they began some mysterious project that included taping the potato masher to the floor. I never quite figured that one out, and apparently they didn't either because they ended up carting the utensils off to the rec room where I found the masher in one of my copper-bottomed pots.

Forget the Christmas list, Grandma: just get them some kitchen utensils and some all-purpose tape, something that always seems to be in short supply around here. They'd probably think they've hit the jackpot.

Friday, November 16, 2007

olivia: budding photographer

I let Olivia take some pictures today, something I don't do often, mind you. But it does afford me several minutes of peace. And it looks like Sean-Peter enjoyed being her subject.Here I am trying to pry apart his cold, dead hands to see what mischief he has inside.
Turned out to be some screws he found lying around, waiting to be put back into the stereo that inexplicably hasn't worked since we got here. Maybe he thought he could fix it.


Here she got a view of our rec room.

Emphasis on the rec.
And my personal favorite, the self-portrait.
She took several of these, her face completely washed out in most of them. I doctored it up as best as I could, but I don't exactly have mad skills in the photo shop arena.

That sweater I'm wearing? The orange one up above? Yes, that is one of my thrift shop finds. You know you're jealous.

Thrift Store Haven

I just experienced the Thrift Shop on base, and I think I’m in love.

I got seven, count ‘em, seven sweaters. Just for myself. Over the last couple of years I have slowly been getting rid of my stack of sweaters left over from the early 90s. I'm serious. Some were even older, from, like, *gasp* high school. (And, yes, that means before the nineties.) In one evening I got myself a whole new (half) wardrobe for $23.25, and I am seriously stoked. Man, I’m livin’ now.

I almost lost them, though. After my bargain-laden arms became weary I set the sweaters down for safekeeping in what I thought was a safe set-down place. Alas, I was mistaken. I went to get them and almost gasped out loud when they were gone. Gone! And then just as quickly I spotted some woman -- some woman -- with my sweaters draped over her arm. But before I whipped out my can and thoroughly embarrassed myself she spied my daggers glance and said, in that utterly cheerful nicey-nice way Ohioans have, “Oh, are these yours? I was about to put them back on the rack.”

So I do think she volunteered there, as do all the employees, and I made a mental note to put away that can, for pete’s sake. We are in Ohio now, where the people are nice and friendly. Now would be the time to bring out your inner Kansan and play nice back. Phew. What a relief.

I am no stranger to thrift stores, to garage sales, yard sales, flea markets... to junk, for that matter. And this thrift store certainly has its share of that. But when you don’t have small children with you, which I didn’t this evening (hey, maybe that was part of the excitement?) it's not real hard to cull through and find some real gems, or just some basic, decent stuff. As I was realizing this, I chided myself to Be Good, and I did hold back on some things. But I’m already thinking about a couple of items I passed up that I might have to go back to look-see if they’re still there…

I got a few things for the kids’ Christmas. Some stocking-stuffer stuff, mostly. But also this little monkey for my little monkey. It’s a backpack, see? My little ones sure do love their backpacks. And now Sean-Peter can see what it feels like to have a monkey on his back, too.
And for only $3.75.

I scored these Barbie dolls for Olivia.

Guess how much? Go ahead, guess. Come on! Betchya can’t.

I love the practice of recycling, but it can be hard to be on the receiving end because the stuff is usually just junk pretending to be a bargain, or it’s gently used and priced like it’s 20% off the retail rack. A good number of the clothes in this thrift store were probably brought there because the owner realized that they never really wore it, and that shows. But they (usually)priced it right anyway! Amazing.

The only place I came away disappointed was the selection in Olivia’s size, since she’s the one child who could actually use some clothes right now. I only found one (cute-cute!) sweater for her, with one of those pom-pom scarf thingies that I think she’ll get the biggest kick out of. Although, now that I think of it, maybe I could have found more for her if I had ahem not spent quite so much time on myself…

As I was waiting to check out I noticed the woman in front of me had a couple of items that I personally had just consigned this evening. Don’t even tell me that this isn’t going to be a new addiction. Better lock up anything you consider sacred, John: if it ain’t bolted down, it might up and disappear one day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

yea, yea

Um, yea. I was apparently a wee-bit tired when I wrote the last post, and obviously #5 should read the doctor told my mom that I was going to be a boy...

What a difference three little words can make.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

tag, you're it

I started this blog as an overdue medium to reach out to family and friends that were never going to live next door. I quickly realized how much fun it could be, but I still didn't post to it very often. Mainly because we had dial-up. Yes, it still exists, and in our little corner of Aviano in teeny-tiny San Martino di Campagna, it was our only option.

I knew there were blogs out there, of course, but I really had no notion of what a Big Blog World it was: dial-up is not real conducive to surfing, and that was my internet world for three years. And it was during that time, so far as I can tell, that the blogging world really took off.

After we moved back to the States a couple of months ago I started getting into this blogging thing a lot more. It really is a happy medium and it has been a great distraction during this move and going from being too busy, really, with outside commitments, and back to being a literal stay-at-home mom, whatever that means. And the more I get out there and peek at other blogs, the more I realize what a learning curve I am on: there are some fantastic blogs out there. No matter what your druthers, there's a blog for it. And then some.

I worry a little bit about the addictive nature of this whole Blog Thing. I mean, just because I just moved here and don't have a life doesn't mean that I don't have a life. There are these kids here, after all, that need some tending, meals and all that. And a husband, even, who wants a little attention now and then when he comes up for air from his Life With SOS. Oh, and there is the part about us moving. All those boxes.

All of this is trying to lead into my first blogging experience of getting tagged. But I've droned on and on too much now so I'm just going to give it to you and you can figure it out for yourself, these "Seven Random Things About Me" that blogger buddy Karen tagged me with. These things are kind of fun, I think. But then, I almost always responded to the "Questions About You" emails that went around, too, so what do I know.

Seven Random Things About Me

1. I can't whistle.

2. I write with my left hand.

3. But I throw with my right.

4. I've given birth in three countries.

5. The doctor told my mom that I was a boy, and she believed him.

6. After I start a book and get familiar with the characters, I skip to the end to find out how it all turns out.

7. I often don't ever get around to finishing the rest of the book in between.

And with that being said, I just visited Karen's site to get her address to link to, since it's so complicated and all, and she had posted a poem she wrote about why she blogs that I thought was really beautiful. And it's her birthday! So isn't that nice. How about a shout out to Karen -- "Happy Birthday!"

Monday, November 12, 2007

whole nuther country

This evening at dinner, Conner was trying to console himself about having a full week of school after his four-day weekend.

"We have a full week this week but last week we had a short week because of conferences and next week we have a short week because ... because of something, I don't know what."

Um, maybe because of Thanksgiving? You know, that American holiday?

We're back in Amer'ca now, son. It's, like, a whole nuther country.

Veterans' Day Tribute

Karen passed along a tribute to me as a military spouse on Veterans' Day, and I just wanted to shout out a "right back at you!" and pass it along to "Dragonfly", an Army spouse currently stationed with her husband in Germany. Ahhh, the memories...

If you were interested in peeking at the lives of other military spouses (who are people just like anyone else)(Shh, don't tell) Karen and Dragonfly would be good places to start.

Hope most of you are enjoying a peaceful (and healthy) day off!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"I Love My 'ia..."

Poor Olivia is not well. And she has no voice. I guess the upside is that it's been a bit quieter around here. Or maybe that's a downside.

She hasn't been eating much, so I asked her what she'd like for dinner. When she barely managed to whisper "broccoli", I thought it an odd choice, but I steamed her some and heated up some nuggets to go along. She barely touched her plate, and after a steamy shower, she was quite content to snuggle in my arms with a dreamy smile on her face, seemingly pleased with herself that mommy was suckered into dressing her, head-to-toe.

She was well enough before bedtime to push her little brother off the couch headlong into the coffee table, and she was well enough to saunter in sheepishly five minutes later to hug him and whisper she was sorry. But when she didn't budge from my lap even after we heard daddy starting the after-bath routine with Sean-Peter, I knew my little"'ia" was not wholly well.

John has never been exactly up to par with his nursery rhymes, but sometime when Olivia was quite small he started this routine of wrapping her up in her bath towel and swinging her by the ends and singing his version of "Rock-a-bye Baby".

Rock-a-bye baby
In Daddy's arms
If I let go
You will be harmed


I love my 'ia
'ia loves me

Often this ritual, which occurs after almost every bath, has Olivia and Sean-Peter vying for their turn and shrieking. Then ends when Sean-Peter pees on the towel or John's arms give out, whichever comes first.

But not tonight. Olivia didn't budge when she heard John in the other room with her little brother. "I love Sean-Pe-ter..." And every night since we've been in this house she has begged for someone to lie down with her, which usually results in her daddy taking an evening nap. But tonight she just rolled over, and when I checked on her she was sawing logs, like a chip off the old daddy block. Only she's got this yucky cold to blame. Poor little thing.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Death of Me

We are all so tired right now. John has been marathon reading SOS material, even at work, and he came home and fell asleep on the couch. Conner took great advantage of his day off of school (parent-teacher conferences) and played hard outside with his friend Mitch. Thank God for a school friend within biking distance. Even Olivia seemed worn out this afternoon, all nestled under my tiredness on the couch with me in front of HGTv.

Only Sean-Peter seems unaffected. I took him for a doctor's visit this morning, just for a check-up. Which just happened to coincide with a cold and some diarrhea he's been having. Not that you'd know it based on his hyper spastics in the doctor's office as I'm trying to explain to this guy who doesn't know us why I'm concerned about my son's speech. Sean-Peter supported me readily enough by incoherently jabbering on in that muttering ventriloquist way of his, with jabs of "No!" and "Mom!" thrown in here and there to confirm that, yes, he thinks he's speaking English.

I got the referrals I wanted and corralled Sean-Peter around the hospital like a puppy dog straining at a verbal leash while I gathered prescriptions, scheduled referrals, and corrected newly found mistakes in our records. Then he had the nerve to try to fall asleep in the car five minutes before we got home, which led me to some pretty interesting spastics of my own in my effort to keep him awake so he'd still nap in the afternoon, something I was desperate to do myself.

At dinner we're all talking about our day and how tired we are. Do you think we could have carbon monoxide poisoning? Is that something they check for when you buy a house? Oh, we would all have headaches, too? Oh. Then I guess I'm just tired.

I'm telling John that Sean-Peter's going to be the death of me and how he could put that on my gravestone: "Sean-Peter Was The Death of Me". And the conversation is continuing until we could no longer tune out Sean-Peter's incoherent babblings, which steadily get louder and louder until we tell him to be quiet, then get louder and louder again, until Olivia wails because "He hit me!" or Conner interrupts with something mind-boggling off the topic or all three kids simply leave the table and we don't even care because our ears are just so glad to be ringing from the silence.

But this time John notices that there is some substance to Sean-Peter's gutterings, even actual consonants.

"Dee-dee-da-mmm-mm-mm dee-da-mm-mm-da-dee-da-deh-da MEE!" And he's repeating it over and over.

"I do believe he's saying, he's going to be the death of me." Convincing us even further that he is harboring a 5000-word vocabulary that one day will come spewing out until we think fondly of the days when we could shake our heads and plead ignorant.
Keep laughing, snot-nose. You'll miss me when I'm gone.

Then who's going to put lotion on those cute little chapped cheeks?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mama's Helper

I am slowly getting the hang of having a little girl who is dying to help in the kitchen. This is quite a switch from begging my son to do one thing, then having to holler at him to come back and do the next thing because he disappears as soon as he (thinks he) is done.

I have worked very conscientiously at letting Olivia "help" even when that was the last thing she was doing. And the thing is, already at the age of four, she is, truly, often helpful. It may take her 30 minutes to fill the muffin pans, for instance, but she keeps at it. And that's 30 minutes that I can use to clean up and/or otherwise do something else. Like, oh, write in this blog. Just to, you know, arbitrarily throw something out there.

Today she caught me getting ready to dice some green pepper, something I have never let her do because it requires a sharper knife. I hesitated, then I thought of pioneer women in the wild west who were married and having babies by the time they were, like, thirteen. By the age of four they were probably not only using sharp knives but were dropping the fresh-cut vegetables directly into a boiling cauldron over an open fire ready to stitch up any gashes they might incur with a needle and thread before dousing it with some hard liquor they kept handy just for such medicinal purposes.

So I showed her a safe technique and gave her the knife.

She kept at it for at least 30 minutes and cut up the whole darn thing.

Then she washed my teapot.

And then this is what she said. Really. I wrote it down as soon as it came out of her mouth. You know you're a blogger when... and all that.

"Next time, when it's time for you to do the dishes, call me and I'll do the dishes. Because I love to do dishes. And I came just in time, right?"

Don't you all wish you had an Olivia?

Any tips on how to best utilize this stage before it's gone will be heartily welcomed.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Spidey Sense

So I get out of the shower this morning and I notice the hand soap is missing from my sink, and my Spidey Sense immediately pricks up. Sure enough, I soon discovered the culprit, suddenly not looking too sure of himself.

I guess he thought Thomas needed a cleaning.

And I wonder why I don't have anything to show for my time at the end of the day. Oh, wait. I do have this blog. Aren't you all so privileged?

"Life Is Good" by Conner, Part II

A month ago or so Conner came home from school and started asking what some expressions were, sayings like "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen". Or, "The early bird gets the worm", things like that. So I'm giving him a few of these examples off the top of my head, casual-like while I'm in the kitchen making dinner, until he gives me the wave off and tells me he gets the idea. Of course, the thought occurred to me that, as a kid who spent the last three years in a non-English school system and who isn't a voracious reader, he really wouldn't have the occasion to know many of these.

I didn't give our "conversation" much thought until he came home with this assignment. As promised, here is the next installment of "Life Is Good". Conner explained to me that he didn't concern himself with learning traditional quotes because the teacher told them they could just make them up.

You don't say. All things considered, I think he's got something going here.

"Life Is Good" by Conner

Eclectic Wisdom

Always take small sips of hot liquids, I learned this from my burnt tongue.

Never look in a mean dogs eye, you come home looking like a poor kid.

Don't pull on a cat's tail, you'll never see them again.

Don't joke about bombs in an airport, the security will get you before you know it.

Never run with your shoelace untied, your knees and elbows will hate you for quite a while.

If you don't like fire don't go in the kitchen, you can ask my grandma.

Don't try to trick your parents, they have eyes on the back of their heads.

Don't talk to strangers, you might end up someplace odd.

Don't jump in the pool if you don't know how to swim, you can ask my 2 year old brother.

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all, it's not a good way to make friends.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Teacup

One bad thing about moving with the military is always having to leave your friends behind. The only thing worse is when they move and leave you first. Sometimes I picture a little piece of heaven as a front door where I can walk out and visit all the friends that I have made over the years, right there in the same neighborhood. They'd all know and love each other, too -- this is heaven, after all -- and we'd all sit and laugh over tea and interrupt each others' sentences.

Liz is a (Canadian) friend I met in Italy, where she and her family still live. She became a fast friend as well as Conner's piano teacher, passionately using her musical education to pass on her gift to the next generation. I met her through Ruth, and the three of us got together as often as we could. That is, with three deployments and eleven children between the three of us, not nearly often enough.

Several weeks before Ruth and I moved from Italy, we went over to Liz's for some rare girl time, and Liz surprised us each with our own teacup: all three had the same design but a different color scheme. She had recently returned from a trip to Canada, and while passing through London on her way home managed to get a bit of shopping done. (Typical Liz: her husband's deployed; she's traveling alone with three young boys; and she thinks to go shopping for teacups.) She got one for each of us so that, whenever we have a cup of tea, wherever that may be, we will be reminded of our friendship. I don't have to tell you how touched Ruth and I were by that gesture, and by the sheer ingenuity. I am definitely going to use that idea myself some day and pass it off as my own.

Though it really shouldn't be surprising: Liz is nothing if not interesting. After she studied music she went on to earn her law degree -- a natural transition, to be sure. And throughout our friendship I have garnered snippets of these years in school and the three roommates of hers that she has often spoken of who have all stayed close since that time. And I am so sad for my friend Liz right now because, as I am writing this, she is traveling to the funeral of one of these dear friends who just died in a car accident, leaving behind a husband and two young children of her own.

I am so sorry for what you are going through right now, Liz. And I want you to know that I'm thinking of you and sending out my prayers, for you and your friend's family. And I am picturing your friend opening her own front door, the same one that you and I will someday see her in. And she'll be waiting for us -- no introductions will be necessary -- and we'll all talk and laugh like it was just yesterday that we last met. Because it is heaven, after all.

But for now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get myself a cup of tea.