Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Brother Abroad: And, yes, Paul is a Giants Fan

Greg Gadson, a lieutenant colonel in the Army's Warrior Transition Brigade, is a natural leader-the kind of guy you'd be looking for on the battlefield. He's also the kind of guy Mike Sullivan, wide receivers coach for the New York Giants, thought could make a difference to his losing football team. The two men had gone to West Point together but hadn't been in touch much afterward, until Sullivan walked into Gadson's hospital room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, outside Washington, D.C., last June. Friends had told Sullivan that his former Army football teammate had suffered serious injuries in Iraq-resulting in both of Gadson's legs being amputated above the knee.

"This man had suffered so much," Sullivan recalls, "yet he was so happy to see me." The coach, who brought his old friend a signed Giants jersey with the number 98 on it, watched as Gadson interacted with the other patients and the doctors and nurses, encouraging them all. "To see the impact he had on these people-the look in his eyes and how they responded-was overwhelming and inspirational."

Sullivan couldn't help but be impressed by Gadson's enthusiasm and lack of self-pity. "He was bragging about me and talking about the Giants, and I was like, 'Hell, I want to talk about you. How are you doing?'"

When the Giants were scheduled to play the Redskins in Washington three months later, Sullivan sent his friend tickets-along with a request: Would Gadson speak to the team before they took the field? Having lost the first two games of the season, the Giants had already given up 80 points and, worse, seemed to be playing with no heart. The coach felt that Gadson was the perfect person to tell the players something they needed to hear about commitment, about perseverance, about teamwork. "A lot of the guys were frustrated and searching for answers," Sullivan says. "And I thought, This is someone who knows about pressure and sacrifice when it's life and death, not just a game."

Teamwork was everything to Gadson. He had played football at Indian River High School in the Tidewater region of Virginia and gone on to become a starting linebacker-No. 98-for West Point from 1986 to 1988, despite his relatively slight build of 190 pounds on a 5-foot-11 frame. Following his graduation, Gadson, the son of a hospital pharmacist and a teacher, planned to serve his compulsory five years and get out. But after tours in the Balkans and Afghanistan, he found himself hooked.

"Serving my country is important," he says, "but for me it's about being a soldier, being there for each other in the biggest sense of the word. I love being part of that team."

Last May, in Baghdad, Gadson was returning from memorial services for two soldiers from his battalion when a bomb tore apart the truck he was riding in, knocking him clear of the vehicle and leaving him on the side of the road, bleeding and slipping in and out of consciousness. He awoke ten days later at Walter Reed; a week later, after complications, his left leg was amputated, then his right. "I knew what had to be done even before the doctors told me," he says.

The night before the Redskins game, Gadson spoke with no script, from his heart. "You have an obligation not only to your employer but to each other to do your best," he told the Giants. "You're playing for each other. When you find a way to do things greater than you thought you could, something you couldn't do as an individual, a bond is formed that will last forever." He told the team how much it had meant to him when his friends from West Point rallied around him in the hospital, and reminded them how powerful a team really is and how much stronger adversity would make them. "It's not about what happens to you in life," he said. "It's about what you do about it. It's about making the most of all your opportunities because I'm here to tell you, it can end in a flash."

When he finished speaking, the room was silent. "You could hear a pin drop," Sullivan says. And then it erupted in a standing ovation."You see a guy go through the things that he has, and he's in such good spirits," says Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress. "I've never met somebody like that. I was like, Wow, I have a little ankle injury. I have to go out there and give it my best."

The Giants invited Gadson to watch the game from the sidelines the next day. When Burress scored the winning touchdown, he ran to Gadson and placed the ball in his lap. "All I thought about when I made that touchdown was that I wanted to find him and give him that football," Burress says.

The Giants went on to win their next ten road games. Gadson joined up with the team at the playoffs in Tampa, and again, they won. Later, at the NFC championship game against Green Bay, the honorary co-captain sat on the sidelines in the subzero weather instead of in the heated box seat reserved for him. This time, it was Corey Webster who gave Gadson a football, after intercepting a pass from star Packers quarterback Brett Favre near the end of the game. The Giants won in overtime, 23-20, and the ball wound up becoming a piece of history. It turned out to be the last NFL pass Favre threw; he announced his retirement in March.

The Super Bowl was next, and the team flew Gadson, his wife, Kim, and their two children-Gabriella, 15, and Jaelen, 14-to Phoenix for the game against the New England Patriots, who'd had an undefeated season and were widely favored to win. The night before the contest, Gadson again addressed the players. And for the crowning touch on what became a legendary season, the Giants won, 17-14, their first Super Bowl victory in more than a decade. "He is a powerful man with a powerful spirit," says Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "And that is really what he gave us: the idea that the spirit rises above all these adverse conditions."

Physically, Gadson is making remarkable progress. He spends four hours a day in rehab, learning, among other things, to use prosthetic legs equipped with Bluetooth technology. Computer chips in each leg send signals to motors in Gadson's artificial joints so his knees and ankles move in a coordinated fashion. He is one of only two double amputees to use this technology, which was designed for single amputees. He uses a wheelchair or two canes most of the time but can also walk without support for short distances.His family helps him remain upbeat. "I take great inspiration from my wife and kids," he says "I don't always feel good, but I owe it to them to keep on trying."

Gadson isn't sure whether his role with the Giants will continue next season. He hasn't been discharged from the military, and his only official duty is to focus on his rehab. The soldier says he'd like to be there when his battalion comes home.

"I'm living the journey right now," Gadson says, reflecting on all that's happened to him in the past year. "I've come a long way, and I still have a long way to go. I don't believe you ever really arrive in life. You live life."

And who knows where that will take you? If you are Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, you could go from the battlefields of Iraq all the way to the Super Bowl alongside the New York Giants-in a wheelchair, but never, ever sidelined.

From Reader's Digest - May 2008

This is Day 67.

The Best of the least according to me.


Friday, March 20, 2009

A Brother Abroad

This is Day 66.

Guess Who?


I don't know which made me smile more: the little crooner doing the pee-pee dance as he sang, or a certain, suspiciously familiar mascot standing at attention in the background.

Go Saints!

The Latest Episodes in Paper Dolls

Our newest game using paper dolls involves Cinderella and her prince -- on ice.

Cinderella does an exotic skate with the royal heart-throb before skating off with dramatic flair announcing, "You're a great skater, see ya later!", all while losing one of her glass ice skates.

He then is directed to try to fit the glass ice skate on all the minor characters (including the coachman and Bruno the dog), before all but giving up hope. Just as he starts to head back to the castle, Cinderella reappears and allows a fitting.

They then kiss, dance, and ride off to Chuck E. Cheese.

We played this 28 times yesterday and if I at all drifted from the established dialogue, I would feel the heat of the director's stare.

At least there was no eye rolling....yet.

American Idol: The Results...Late

I was shocked by Allison's presence in the bottom three, but I was not at all suprised by Alexis and Matt's. It's not that they're bad singers or performers by any means, but they lack anything interesting.

In the same way Randy forget Alexis' name and I keep forgetting Michael's, they are just truly forgettable.

The result:

Alexis got the boot, but Michael's sure to follow.

It' Official....I'm a Mom

Olivia rolled her eyes at me yesterday.

I's horrible.

I told her she needed to share with her brother and her little eyes went flying back into her little head.


Quote of the Day

"All of us have moments in out lives that test our courage. Taking children
into a house with a white carpet is one of them." -Erma Bombeck

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Brother Abroad

Armored knights raised their visors to identify themselves when they rode past their king.

This custom has become the modern military salute.

This is Day 65.

300 days to go.....

Sadness All Around

I wanted to post something about Natasha Richardson, as I have always been a fan of both her and her husband's work. She defined class and grace in a time when it is in such short supply, making this whole tragedy that much more tragic.

The internet is abuzz with all the shocking and ironic details of her death, but I prefer to put something up about her beautiful life.


The Votes Are In...

Aside from two votes for "dining out" from people who most likely do not parent little kids, the overwhelming majority admitted to splurging on things they don't really need at the money vacuum known as Target.

I too have a problem.

First, the store used to be the best place for bargain pricing meets trendy versions, but now the prices have risen a bit.

Second, I cannot help but meander down aisles for which I have no premeditated need only to find an uncontrollable desire to possess a bamboo toothbrush holder or candle holder shaped like a tree.

Third, I have this sneaking suspicion that Target, much like the casinos, pumps some kind of scent in through the vents which stimulates lesser known home decorating endorphins.

Finally, I am totally buying stock in Target.

As for the new poll, I am super curious to see what people have to say......

Quote of the Day

"I wake up every morning feeling lucky — which is driven by fear, no doubt, since I know it could all go away." -Natasha Richardson told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2003.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Brother Abroad

The following is an incredible commercial that is part of a series exploring the US Marine Corps and its relationship with America. The footage is amazing, and the backdrops emphasize the national culture of military service.

We all know someone sleeping too far from home.

This is Day 64.

Bravo TV Video - First Date Jitters

Please Be True, Please Be True. Please Be True

Bravo has just announced the newest addition to its tails of trainwrecks and I could not be more excited (and ashamed at my excitement all the same).

Are you ready for this?

I mean, are you REALLY ready for this.

Premiering this May, Bravo will begin airing Real Housewives of New Jersey!!!

I feel the need to form a club for the sole purpose of getting out of our homes, drinking a touch of wine, and enjoying the fabulousity that will be this show.

Who's with me? We can rotate homes for the weekly viewings.....

Something To Do Today

Head to your local nursery, garden center, or, gasp, CVS, and pick up a "My First Grow" kit to turn your little one into a little green thumb.

We actually did get ours at CVS, and since we couldn't decide on sunflowers or tomatoes, we got both!

The kids are obsessed with watering and checking on the plants and I love it because it's another thing for them to look at that doesn't involve a screen.

Oh, and Joseph really likes the soil.


More evidence of my little man's not so little noggin....

The above picture was taken as my son was trying to fit his sister's helmet on his own head, to no avail.

That is as far as he got.

An encore

Because nothing beats Willie Nelson's version (not even Elvis....sorry, Stace).

I Watch American Idol: Feel Free to Hate on Me

Michael Sarver: Yawn

Allison Iraheta: favorite.

Kris Allen: My crush

Adam Lambert: You are not Trent Reznor and I cannot stand the self-induglence.

Scott MacIntyre: The voice just is not there.

Megan Joy: Interesting, and very odd. I just can't get on board with her.

Alexis Grace: I love the song she chose, but I didn't do cartwheels over her performance.

Danny Gokey: Another favorite; unfortunately, it was like he sang two different songs: the beginning was downright uncomfortable and the end was fantastic.

Anoop: He sang one of my Top 10 songs of all time and he did it well.

Matt Giraud: Love, love, loved it....

MY TOP THREE Of The Night:

1) Allison Iraheta
2) Matt Giraud
3) Anoop


Megan Joy

Quote of the Day

"When a child is locked in the bathroom with water running and he says he's doing nothing but the dog is barking, call 911." -Erma Bombeck

Picture of the Day

Asked....and answered.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Brother Abroad: St. Patrick's Day Addition

This one is truly incredible.....

Slainte and semper fi.

This is Day 63.

Praise the Lord

Amanda in the Trenches just sent me an email announcing the opening of a brand new Nordstrom in the Cherry Hill Mall and I am still having trouble collecting myself.

Nordstrom is hands down my favorite department store (followed very closely by Lord & Taylor) and the thought of one so close to home is sending my husband into a bit of a breakdown.

Nordstrom has the BESt shoe department (actually, they started out as a California shoe store), the most pristine bathrooms (at least according to the Maid's mother's research), and the most helpful of salespeople. I love it, and I love the fact that my mother got me a Nordstrom gift card for my birthday....could she have known???

These Kids Are Just Showing Off

Another approach to the Leprechaun Trap.....

BTW: Apparently, throwing some Lucky Charms in the trap helps attracts the little buggers.

Good Luck!

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Do I have to turn in my Irish license if I just grab a tub of Country Crock's mashed potatoes to heat up for our St. Patrick's dinner??

Mashing is so time consuming and O won't even touch the alternate version of her beloved french fries.

What if I promise to play "Danny Boy" and "The Wild Rover?" during dinner?

Sutty, can you back me up?

Question of the Day

Joseph spent much of the weekend experiencing some significant regularity (the poor little guy kept holding his tush and saying, "Ow, Mama, poo poo ow!").

As awful as it was, it also leads me to the next question of the day:

Does anyone have a child that actually drinks Pedialyte willingly?

Pictures of the day

The funniest things about these pictures is their last name.

Quote of the Day

"For each petal on the shamrock this brings a wish your way -Good health, good luck, and happiness for today and every day." ~Author Unknown

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Brother Abroad

Where do I begin?

-Joseph is still recovering from a horrible stomach bug, which has me busy changing countless diapers and keeping him from stealing his sister's dangerous apple juice.

-O decided to administer her first hair cut....on her own hair.

-Joseph woke up from a lengthy nap grumpier than ever. He didn't let me put him down until his Daddy came home three and a half hours later.

-Except for when I managed to distract him with some pots and pans while I quickly threw together a dinner. It was at this point that he snuck into the cabinet under the sink where one of my cleaners left a bottle of Spray Chlorox (we keep them in a high cabinet usually, which is why his initial investigation would normally be harmless). After finding him with his mouth wrapped around the bottle, I spent the next 20 minutes on the phone with Poison Control trying not to cry.

And guess what?

I still get to kiss my kids goodnight, spend time with my husband, and fall exhausted into a comfortable bed....with no sand in sight.

This is Day 62.

Interesting Advancement

Now THIS is interesting.

Something To Do Today!

Make those Lerprechaun traps for some fun tomorrow!

The project basically entails decorating a shoe box to make it look very Irish, prop it up with a stick, and wait to catch a leprechaun.

When the kids aren't looking, drop the box after filling it with chocolate gold coins. It's a lot of fun, exciting, and a perfect kid way to celebrate a holiday often known more for green beer than Irish heritage.

We did these for the first time last year and I blogged about it then too. Check out the original post HERE....was that really a year ago????

Weird & Useless Information

When actor Jeremy Piven was a little boy.....his babysitter was William H. Macy.


My Favorite Whitman Poem

When I Heard the Learned Astronomer

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Sticker Solutions

After three weeks of our behavioral experiment in sticker incentives, my daughter is well versed in what's expected of her and usually fulfills her resposibilites with little hassle.

There are still the attempts to negotiate the actual amount of a meal she needs to eat, and the occasional need to hurry her along as she plays with everything she passes as she meanders upstairs to get dressed, but she is definitely earning the stickers on a more consistent basis.

Every 3-4 days, we will miss them, but the situation has greatly improved.

The added element of the sticker incentive program is to give her a big, princess after she manages to gain all of her happy face stickers for the day. It's a reward for a good day and she adds it to her chart to remind her of all the good days she's had. It's also a solid short term incentive (as opposed to "at the end of every week....").

I know I have mentioned my feelings on rewards for good behavior. We all are motivated by rewards (a thank you note, a paycheck, reputation, etc), and so this is a practice in keeping with the "real world" too.

However, I have no intention of applying that approach to grades. As my children get older, I am pretty sure I will be dispensing hugs instead of stickers, as my parents did. I think that's because I hope my children will work hard to be rewarded by their own sense of accomplishment and pride. Honor roll, teacher compliments, and their own motivation and work pride.

"Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself.
(I am large. I contain multitudes)."

-from "Song of Myself"

History Through Poetry

Though many of us relate this poem to Dead Poet's Society, it's real inspiration came from the death of Abraham Lincoln and the tremendous grief the loss caused both Whitman and the nation.

The poem uses the ship as a metaphor for the country, finally returning home from Civil War. It is victorious, the people are joyous, and then, tragically, the captain is dead.

I've always found the image of the speaker clutching the captain's head to be particularly powerful. To emphasize this, I used to read the first stanzas loudly and then practically whisper the last.

That's my take anyway....let me know your thoughts, if you're inclined.

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head;

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;

From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!

But I, with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

Profile of a Poet

A new take on Monday's old "Profile of a Parent", the English teacher in mean feels the need to exploit this fourm a bit and take some time for poetry. Though many of us don't fill our days pouring of books of verse, poetry is all around us; it is in nursery rhymes, commercial jingles, and in that perfect moment when your child starts singing their very own song.

This week's poet: Walt Whitman

Claimed by Camden, Whitman was actually born in Long Island and singing the streets of New York before heading to the mid-Atlantic. In truth, however, his voice went beyond state lines, and reverberated the voice of a nation as well as the most primal of human emotions.

He is also, arguably, our nation's finest poet.

Quote of the Day

"Kids have little computer bodies with disks that store information. They remember who had to do the dishes the last time you had spaghetti, who lost the knob off the TV set six years ago, who got punished for teasing the dog when he wasn't teasing the dog and who had to wear girls boots the last time it snowed." -Erma Bombeck

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Brother Abroad

A roadside bomb killed four American soldiers in eastern Afghanistan today — new evidence of rising violence in a region where clashes and attacks in the first two months of 2009 more than doubled from the same period a year ago.

The spike in violence along the border is an early indication that roadside bombs and other ambushes are likely to surge as thousands of new U.S. forces arrive in Afghanistan this year.

This is Day 61.