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Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend (and a birthday, too)

We had such a nice, quiet Thanksgiving at home. We have always spent Thanksgivings either with friends at their houses or with family at theirs. Either way, someone else has always made the turkey.

Last year, our first year in Ohio, was also our first Thanksgiving ever just us, at our home. I don't know if this is our Ohio Thang, but it has been nice. Not nice in a, "Hey, let's never spend Thanksgiving with anyone else ever again!" kind of way, but nice in a way of not worrying about your kids running around like banshees with the banshees of other people you really haven't known very long or nice in a quiet relaxing way of not packing up the car with said banshees and driving 1000 miles or so cross-country kind of way. That kind of nice.

But since John prefers ham...?

Hi, my name is Jolyn. I'm 37-years-old and I have never even attempted to cook a turkey.

My culinarily inclined mother-in-law has assured me that as soon as the opportunity arises she will show me how to prepare a "kick-ass" turkey. Although I am certain that I should care more than I do that I have never made one, I will certainly take her up on the offer as it seems like a life skill that everyone should have. Like swimming and treading water, or sensing your child is about to throw up a split second before she splats all over the carpet. Not that I would know. And that really isn't a very pleasant analogy before showing you how much the rest of my family didn't care that we didn't have turkey, brainwashing by their father notwithstanding, because I actually did prepare quite a scrumptious Thanksgiving spread, if I do say so myself. And coming from me? That's saying a lot.
Conner couldn't believe his good fortune. That right there should tell you something, too.

And that orange stuff on his plate? I was so annoyed with John when he demanded -- yes, demanded! -- that I make sweet potatoes. I don't even like sweet potatoes. So I looked up a couple of recipes, closed my eyes and picked one, then went out and bought some yams. Same thing, right? (Never mind.)

And then he had the nerve to question me! "Why aren't you cooking them on the stovetop? Isn't that how you make sweet potatoes...?" Hey, buster, how would I know. I don't even like the things. And go away, these are going to be good.

And you know what? They were! Who knew? Though it might have had something to do with all that sugar I baked them with (or that they weren't actually sweet potatoes...).
It took some time, but Olivia eventually cleared her plate as well. That girl is a good eater. Except the yams? She had to think about it, but, meh. Not so much. Hey girl, I can relate. But it cracked me up how much time she took thinking about it because the rest of us were going on and on about how good they were and she really wanted to go along for the ride. I finally told her, "You know, Olivia, it's okay if you don't like them." It was still a while later before she finally gave me the thumbs down.
As for this little guy...have I ever mentioned that he's a bit of a picky eater? Needless to say, he was done in record time, and while we were all still salivating over the sweet potatoes/yams he quietly slinked off and gee you'll never guess where I found him.
It sure made for a quieter dinner.

At one point over the course of the day, Olivia got ahold of the camera. I'll spare you the pictures she took of the cat's bum, and her little brother's bum, and her own bum...but I loved this one.
Conner actually just looked over my shoulder and said, "You're going to post that?" Hey, if Uncle Rich can handle it, you can, too.

Like the true Americans we are, we put up our decorations right after Thanksgiving day. If it were up to Conner and me they would start going up while the ham is still digesting, but John puts his foot down. Must. Wait. Until after. Thanksgiving.

I asked Conner, "Do you remember two years ago when your dad was deployed and we started putting up Christmas decorations like a month before Thanksgiving?" This is the kid who, at six years old, started confiscating Christmas decorations from around the house to take to his room and display on his dresser. This boy likes him a Christmas aesthetic. But he shook his head, he didn't remember. How long ago that deployment must seem to him now.

So our tree is decorated (with lots of little help)...
And topped off...
Then it was time to celebrate a birthday!
You just can't find this level of blond-mop cuteness wrapped up in a tidy little package with a perfect little bow on top anywhere, just let me see you try it. No matter that he's destroyed my puzzle in-progress this weekend no less than three times since I started it, I wouldn't trade this ornery little cuss for all the riches on earth. And that's a fact.
Some complete randomness below, but I couldn't resist. What you can't hear in this next photo is Olivia bawling her eyes out. While watching "Snoopy, Come Home," of all things. Yes, as in the classic cartoon film from 1972. It was the part when Charlie Brown was so sad after Snoopy left and there's a really sad music score in the background and Charlie Brown can't sleep and he can't help himself from taking Snoopy's dinner out to his doghouse even though it's empty and it goes on and on and on...
And so did Olivia, long after Snoopy came home. We're all like, "See, Olivia? It's all happy now!"
Oh, the drama. It was like the girl just needed to get it out and Snoopy just opened the door. I feel your pain, child. I'm ready for school to start again, too.

So many things to be thankful for -- even the drama. That's what makes the quiet times that much more precious. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday.

Easy Sweet Potatoe Casserole
3 c. grated sweet potatoe
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. milk
1/3 lb. butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar

Mix all ingredients. Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees. Use white sweet potatoes only.

This is the recipe I started with. Then I promptly went out and bought yams that were decidedly orange, not white. It took two large ones to make 3 c. At least they looked large to me. Maybe they were just average, who knows? I've never bought yams before. (Did I mention that?)
But they were delicious. I guess you mix anything with enough sugar and butter it's going to taste good.

When Sean-Peter is being reprimanded I prompt him to say "Yes, Ma'am" as a response to letting me know he is listening to me and ready to comply. His little cuteness has always pronounced this as, "Yes, Yam." (That is, he's pronounced it this way for almost six months. Before then, no telling. But that's another post.)

A big plus to making yams for the first time was that I had something to show him and shake in his face, "This is a yam! Do I look like a yam?" And we had a little speech therapy lesson with a visual to boot. And I got him to touch it, too, so yay for OT. Olivia and SP both giggled to beat the band.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Would Really Appreciate Your Valued Input

Last week I casually mentioned to the kids that daddy was going on a trip for work. It was coming up, and I didn't think either of us had mentioned it to them yet. I was right.

Yesterday I was in Sean-Peter's preschool class and his teacher was prepping them to be ready to come back next week and tell about any trips they went on for the holiday. I casually mentioned to her that Sean-Peter wasn't going anywhere, but his daddy was going on a trip of his own right after Thanksgiving so maybe Sean-Peter could be prompted to talk about that.

No, no. No deployment or anything (the first thought that comes over people's faces when they hear your military husband is going away). Just a three-weeker, no biggie.

There's a reason that we don't get too worked up over these things. Today, John found out that he's not going on this TDY after all. This TDY that has been in the works for well over a month.

On the other hand, he called home about a week ago and casually mentioned that he had gotten pulled for a short-notice deployment. Just as my heart was plummeting to my throat he added that some other schmuck guy had already taken it, and John was now the alternate. Since it's short-notice, the odds of the other guy breaking his leg or being diagnosed with terminal cancer in the next month are pretty slim. Um, okay.

Someone asked me today what kinds of things I like for my husband to do to help me while he's away. I was like, huh? I mean, he's away. Upon contemplation, of course, I realized that of course there are still things he can do to help -- or there are things I wish he would do to help. And it got me to thinking about the dynamics of a relationship when one of you is regularly going all over hither and yon and leaving the other one home to hold down the fort -- especially when the hithering is not actually very, you know, regular.

I do recognize that military couples are not the only ones in this situation, though we are the ones in the spotlight. My question and point to this rambling is to ask, how do you handle the separations? More specifically -- what kinds of things does your husband do to help while he's away? (Or what would you have him do in a perfect world?)

I don't usually beg for feedback but I'm asking pretty puffy-heart please to comment on your experience and thoughts. You know, all six of you that are actually reading the interest of research, K?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Home Improvement Take One: Basement - Check

I'm well overdue in showing off the fruits of my painting labor, which came to a halt rather abruptly when we found out for sure that we aren't moving again next summer. (At least, we think it's for sure.) I put away my brushes and declared a moratorium on home improvement, for the time being. I did finish the basement, though. Mostly. (If you look real, real close you'll see some edging areas that require some taping, no problem.)

I wasn't exactly on top of the whole before picture taking, thang. But this gives you an idea of where the basement began.
The ladder obviously indicates that I was already beginning the work when it occurred to me to try to document what I was dealing with, looking a little closer...Reams and reams of wallpaper border.Miles and miles...

I have decided that people who put up wall border should be fined. Kind of like the Italian Financial Police (yes, there is such a thing) who go sniffing around knocking on doors checking to see how many radios and Tv sets you own so they can tax you for them. "And how many rooms in your home have wallpaper border?"

Or maybe a little cash compensation come closing time when you buy a house that has the stuff in it -- unless the buyer is in agreement that it's in good taste, which it never is. Wallpaper will make a comeback someday, I do believe. But wall border should just slink away quietly and acknowledge that it had a good run while it lasted.

Removing the border took weeks and weeks. A mile here, a mile there. The more time I spent on that ladder, the less time I concerned myself with what was underneath it. The basement looked more and more like this...
...and I couldn't bring myself to care. I was on a mission; there was no time for parental oversight.

But all that's behind me now, I'm sure of it. Once the border was finally gone I could paint, and that is gratifying. Because I love my basement, I really do. Love love love!

And don't you? I mean look at it! The space! The opportunity! The color! (That's Sherwin William's safari for you fellow paint freaks out there.) Alles in Ordnung now, thank you very much.

We've lived in apartments with balconies a quarter the size of this basement. We've lived in "stairwell housing" with no direct outside access at all. We've had houses with yards the size of postage stamps. We've never had a basement before -- a livable one, that is.

This affects your entire life when you have small children. No "sending them outside to play", or "go downstairs if you're going to run around like that" when it's dark or rainy out. Even though I still find my little ones inexplicably under my feet whenever I'm in the kitchen making me wonder why we're paying the taxes or the size of our mortgage to have all this space if they're not going to use it ... at least I have the option to threaten them with banishment.

And really, they love the basement, too. It's their very own romper room. Perfect for rolling around and relishing the fresh just-vacuumed of it all...

Or for pretending they're animals...
Like deers butting heads (or maybe it was rhinos?)... Or just standing on those heads...
And don't forget the dancing. We mustn't forget that...
Or the bowing...
And the trains. Oh, the trains! Even though I got this great deal on a train table at the Thrift Store a few months back, Sean-Peter still prefers to spread out a big track on the floor.

His passion for them has not waned in the slightest.

Olivia's interest is a little differently motivated. "Look, I made a C!" Oh, and then there's the laundry. *sigh*
Basements may not do the laundry for you, but at least it's a place where you can put it out of your sight. Even if sorting is a foregone endeavor when the kids make like it's fodder for building a fort. At least that means they're not under my feet in the kitchen. Because now that it's cold again? They won't can't stay outside forever, catching snowflakes. Or just looking cute.

But there's always the train way station our basement, a place I will never take for granted, no matter how long we end up living here.
(Have you ever known a kid so lucky?)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

"Baby, It's Cold Outside..."

It was cold outside today (go ahead, you know you want to sing it) -- but the leaves have spoken and were overdue for some raking. So we bundled up and raked up, the Ohio way, this time. And with some help from our Ohio neighbors. It seems like one day you look up and there's a collage of ambers, golds, browns and reds in all their glorious beauty. Then the next day you realize how many branches are bare and, oh looky there, now the leaves are all over our yard.

Last year we had just moved here and had no clue how things were done. We even paid a couple of able-bodied boys to bag up our leaves. Our neighbors must have wondered what the heck we were doing. Unfortunately, Ohio-ans are too nice to just come out and tell you you're an idiot. Because here? You just rake them onto a tarp (or any old blanket will do)... ...and drag them to the curb, where they sit until the town's mulcher machine comes by. Or until they get blown into the neighbor's yard, whichever comes first.

We have three substantial trees in our back yard, but the one had already started shedding its leaves over two months ago. It was acting sickly all summer, ever since those torrential rains last Spring that everyone kept telling us weren't typical for Ohio. We are hoping that the tree is just sick with a fungus, or something that a good, cold winter will cure. Because we will be major bummed if it's really dying. Not only would that be a big pain in the patootie to deal with, but it's also the tree that provides shade on our back porch in the summer.

Photos By Conner

Since winter coats aren't as conducive to romping in the leaves, I'm going to throw in a few photos that Conner took in early September, because I am nothing if not on top of this whole blogging thing. Plus, I thought he had a great perspective.

Big brother definitely brings out a different side to these little guys than when they pose for me. It's like getting a glimpse into their world when I'm not around.

Speaking of worlds, isn't that beautiful evening sunlight he caught through the trees?

More Photos from Today

The erstwhile photographer...Always ready to pose...As for this handsome devil, I have only one thing to say. Or only one question, rather...
Snipp, Snapp, or Snurr??
And this last one's for you, Becky. I thought you might like to see how handsome your 38-year-old son is. (And I'm going to milk that for as long as I can.) (Which is, like, another four months.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Shout-Out to My Entrepreneur Friend, Erin!

Oooooooh!!!! I am so excited for my friend, Erin! And I feel like I know a celebrity. (Don't forget us little people, okay, girlfriend?) She started a blog, $5 Dinners, just a few months ago...and she was just featured on Fox local news! Her blog has really taken off, and will only go farther! (further?) Go check it out! (It may even help you save money!)

I think ABC is going to do a segment on her in February? I am so excited about the potential this creates for her and her family and the income this can provide for them. She's been a little freaked out taken aback by its success, but it really has been a blessing for her. She is a strong, Christian woman, and I know she is going to find the perfect balance between this unexpected business success and the priority that she places on caring for her family. Congratulations, Erin!

Go Read This Blog Post, "How Would You Know?"

This is one of the most original, thoughtful things I have ever read on the morality of abortion. Go, read it now. And if you're wondering if she writes like this all the time, she does. (She's over in my side bar as "Et tu?" but her blog is now titled "Conversion Diary". She's a former atheist who is now Catholic, and she examines everything. "Musings of a former atheist", as she calls it. But don't be fooled: it's highly intelligent, compassionate and analytical.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Onion: Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

In light of the election results we found a little humor today in the video below:

Onion: Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

Conner asked, "Do you think any Obama supporters helped make that video?"

John replied, "Probably...I'm sure some of them can laugh at themselves. Especially at Onion. They make fun of everything."

If you're feeling a little down and out, go ahead, indulge yourself. And a little laugh will be good for you. At least keep you from jumping off a tall building without a parachute.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Waiting for Results, Announcing Some Results -- If Only I Could Have Voted

Every time I've been out driving around hither and yon on errands and to appointments I have slapped my wheel and said, "Now why didn't I bring my camera?" Ohio's Fall Foliage is like a postcard everywhere you look, yes. But the foreground of the photo I would have taken and posted here would have shown a McCain sign facing the street at one house, and an Obama sign on the property right next to it.

That is pretty much par for the course around here where there are tons and TONS of signs, though truth be told the McCain signs outnumber the Obama ones probably two-to-one. I have no idea how much this Dayton suburbia reflects Ohio's neighborhoods in general. Or if the number of signs accurately portrays the number of voters for each candidate here. But if the polls are to believed then it's still not going to make a difference in the outcome of this election.

I am just sick, though. Sick, I tell you. Sick, sick, sick. Because I never received my absentee ballot from the state where I am registered. I received it for the primary, I know. But only belatedly have I realized that I never got it for the general election which means I never voted. How could I miss that? I don't know. I'm trying to remember what mailing address was on the last one -- it must have been our APO Box from Italy, because it would stand to reason that they never updated my mailing address to reflect the one in Ohio. And we have now passed the year mark for our time here and therefore exceeded the post office's statute for forwarding mail. I would like to say I'm certain I updated my address directly with the Texas voter registration powers-that-be. But quite honestly, I can't recall that for sure, either.

Sick, sick, sick.

My one consolation is that the state I'm registered to vote in is Texas, where the outcome should be a foregone conclusion. One little vote from little old Jolyn wouldn't make much of a difference there. But still. It is my right and my duty to vote, and I missed it.

I heard on the radio earlier today (I've mostly been avoiding the news since then.)(mostly.) that the number of registered Democrats showing up at the polls was outnumbering the registered Republicans by two-to-one in some places, even more in others. I could make some bad jokes in really poor taste here, but I'll stay serious and say that, if Obama does indeed win, the ones who didn't vote brought him into office just as surely as the ones who voted for him directly.

Unfortunately, that now includes me. Drat.

Did anyone else notice an overwhelming sense in the air today? This morning, before my day got busy, but just as it was getting underway, I felt a very real spiritual presence and it stopped me in my tracks. It very clearly came to me that it was the power of prayer, of thousands upon thousands of prayers being offered up in the face of this monumental election. I could feel it, so profoundly, in the room with me, and it was very calming. It reminded me what I already knew about this country, that we are a nation founded on the power and truth and will of God. And no matter the outcome of this election, He will not abandon us so long as we continue to seek Him. And I felt at peace.

The power to vote is important, yes. Vital, even, to a democracy. But the power of prayer will never leave us, long after the polls are closed and the winner announced. I have been told that it would take an Act of God for McCain to win, because he sure didn't make it happen on his own. I'm guess I'm saying that, whoever takes office, the power of prayer will still be there. And miracles do happen.


For as long as we've been married, John has aspired to join the military's foreign area officer program -- or whatever the nomenclature happens to be any given day. I have alluded on this blog that we may be leaving sooner rather than later; and my family and friends (like, live and in person) have known that he had put in an application several months ago for the Air Force's RAS program, something that he met all of the qualifications for and then some.

We found out today that he didn't get it, and we were both very surprised. Time will tell if he's able to find out why, because honestly, we can't think of a reason. Everything on paper was strong. The initial part of the program includes attending a graduate school full-time and earning a Master's ... could be that they were looking for candidates who already have their Master's. Sounds illogical, but that's how the Air Force often works.

I am very disappointed for John, of course. He has wanted this for so long. And I was really taken off-guard because I was the one telling him all this time that I thought he was going to get it. But after I processed it for a bit I have to admit...I was relieved. This takes so much pressure off, knowing that we're not moving again already next summer. It literally changes the way I can think, now that there's no longer the possibility of having to put this house up for sale so soon, or prepare for an interruption in Sean-Peter's therapy and having to start advocating for him from scratch in a new state, with new doctors, new therapists, a new school district...

And Conner is happy, of course. What thirteen-year-old wants to leave his friends? And yes, we're open with him about the possibilities in our lifestyle. He's already moved eight times (yes, eight times) so he knows the deal. But he's older now and that only makes it harder. A bit of stability is certainly not a bad thing.

But no, we did not burden the little ones with any abstract nonsense of a possible move to another state in the equally abstract future. Olivia still dramas on about Italy, for pete's sake. Just today in the car she says, "Just think, me and my friends Emma and Catherine and Chloe and Grant all used to live in Italy all together!" And then she sighed, audibly, and so very poignantly. Good Lord Almighty that girl can pine.

As for me, now I will paint that rainbow mural she's been wanting in her room after all. After taking a break from painting in general, if only to relieve my painter's wrist. And I will check out this women's chorus group that I just found out about, though I haven't sung in a proper choir in years let alone auditioned for anything. And I will think about living in this house, just for me, without thinking about what projects I need to get done in the interest of staging for a hopeful sale in which we just as hopefully won't lose our shorts. In general, in so many ways, I will allow myself to settle rather than tell myself why bother. Until he got the results, I hadn't even realized how much I was doing that.

It's almost difficult to imagine staying in one place for four years. We've never done that. (Yes, we're psychotic.) I've always made myself at home wherever we've lived. But four years? This might actually start to feel like home. A couple of weeks ago I had finally ran out of checks -- you know, the kind you write out by hand for the occasional order of firewood or the payment to your daughter's dance lessons at the small family-owned studio... (as opposed to the ones the bank mails for you on bill pay). Now I'm thinking, I might actually use the whole box before we move!

I'll tell you one thing for sure: I am going to go ahead and register to vote. This absentee business is for the birds -- or for people who move more than every four years. At least if I show up in person I have a half-way chance of remembering I did it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween ... and Fifth's Disease?

Yea, yea. So Halloween was like, so yesterday. My how time flies. And the timeliness is even worse because this town designates "Beggars' Night" a day early when Halloween falls on a Friday. Because of football. Yes, it's weird.

Conner was determined to go trick-or-treating, and I was just as determined that he would not justify begging for candy dressed as a thirteen-year-old boy (which is what he is). I told him if he was going to go he needed to earn it and get creative. And no I am not going to help you because I am certain my mama didn't help no teenagers get all dressed up to go hoard a bunch of junk. In fact, I'm pretty certain the last time I went trick-or-treating I was, like, two. Costumes were never my thang.

So Conner comes home from school on Thursday all excited because he and this neighbor friend totally figured out what they would be: they were going to put black trash bags over their bodies (with holes punched out so they didn't pass out from lack of oxygen) and wear black clothing underneath so they would be ... dut-dut-da! -- "THE DARKNESS". (Say that with an eery whisper and wave your spirit fingers.)

Um, okay? At least it was creative. I bowed my head and said a prayer for his soul and sent him on his way.

Unfortunately I did not get a photo of him in all of his get-up because he headed over to his friend's with the trash bags tucked under his arm and had already ripped them off before he came home. Neither one of us deemed a reenactment necessary. But he got what he went out for, as you can see from the load of stash that he "earned".

Yes, Olivia came home with just as much. She went as a "fairy snow princess", not to be confused with the snow princess that she was last year.
Come to find out, she actually didn't want to wear her wings at the last minute. But John and I both thought they were so cute that she wore them to please us. Honest, I didn't know this until after the fact. Isn't she so sweet? (So cute and so sweet?)

And, yes, this is the same costume she wore last year. Because I'm nothing if not frugal right now. And lucky so because The Little Guy? This is how he spent his night of trick-or-treating.

I was at a field trip with Olivia's class when I got a call from their school nurse that the poor little guy had been brought to her after telling his teacher, "My head is not good". And sure enough, he had a fever. When I finally got there to pick him up 20 minutes later he had fallen fast asleep, and the receptionist who took me back to him told me he looked just like a little angel lying there like that. (He didn't have his nose squished into their pillow.)

A fever was his only symptom. It fluctuated all afternoon, then spiked in the evening so I finally gave him some drugs. Shortly thereafter it broke and never returned. And I thought nothing of it -- even took him to a friend's the next day while I attended his IEP meeting at school. Then today, he looks like this:

It totally reminded me of when his older brother had Fifth's Disease back when he was a preschooler, and I decided to wait it out and see what happens before taking him to the doctor tomorrow. If it's Fifth's, the rash will spread to the rest of his body...

Except the thing is? As I am writing this, he is sound asleep; before he went to bed the rash was subsiding and now it is almost gone. So I am at a loss. It really does ring true with Fifth's Disease: having a fever that goes away; then a rash days later with no other symptoms. So perhaps just a mild case? I can't very well take a healthy kid into the doctor tomorrow. And, really, there's nothing they could do anyway; I just wanted to get an official diagnosis to pass along to his teacher in case any other kids exhibit the same symptoms.

I'm just glad I didn't get him a new costume this year. And methinks his brother and sister have plenty of the wealth to go around. I definitely believe in socialism when it comes to candy.