Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Brother Abroad

Today's excitement peaked at the hour of egg dying, when two 1 year olds, two preschoolers, and two middle schoolers embarked on an egg coloring extravaganze that left stained hands, cloths, and mouths (Charlotte apparently likes vinegar) as well as spills at every turn despite the close surveillance of FIVE capable adults.

It's moments like these that we were missing Paul for an entirely different reason....

We needed the help.

This is Day 77.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Brother Abroad

As I type this I am sitting next to one of my favorite people in the whole world, Nurse Julie, as we enjoy the effects of a few fun drinks, Facebook, and tormenting my brother Mike....I love it when we all get together.

Now, I don't know if it's just that the time is always a blast because it rarely happens, causing us to enjoy the precious time we have, or we're just really happy to be together. Whatever the reason, we are only one day in to this Easter weekend (and the cherry blossoms in DC are in full, gorgeous bloom), and I already am trying to convince everyone to fulfill my lifelong dream of setting up a Weaver compound that would rival the Kennedys.

I just wish Paul was here too.

This is Day 76.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Brother Abroad: A Not So Compelling Conflagration

Here's the thing about flag burning...I could care less about it. If people want to light a match and put it to Old Glory....then, light it up--- your action speaks volumes.

I know that may be surprising coming from me, but I believe with all my heart that the least among the things that make our country great are the symbols. The flag, the Eagle, a monument, a pledge....they are all things that I attach great emotion and significance to, but that's only because they represent so much more. We are a nation of pioneers, industrialists, soldiers, philosophers, poets, dreamers, and, most importantly, survivors.

Having said that, if someone believes that burning a flag is going to make some statement greater than their apparent need to gain attention through shock value in lieu of more compelling actions, then go right ahead. But with the match, you actually lose the message, don't you?

The following clip could not contain more symbolic elements in regard to our nation's identity and history. A flag, a fire, baseball, and a diverse assembly. And I love what the player does, choosing to take the flag and not the fist. I love that these two men, so intent on spreading their message that they break the law while attempting to break somes spirit, also get peacefully escorted off the field....their purpose deflated as a greater message prevails.

Love to hear some thoughts on this one....and I agree, this was one of the greatest baseball moments.

And this is Day 75.

American Idol Results

1) Was Flo-Rida's song what I think it was about?

2) Isn't this a family show?

3) I am officially 5 for 7....look out Miss Cleo, there's a new soothsayer in town!

As for the whole deliberation over using the "save", you simply cannot help but to be inspired by his accomplishments, but letting him go was the right decision. It's no surprise Simon was the only one to have the guts to do it.

On another note, it was kind of strange that they had him face a screen of memories that he could not see.....

Clip of the Day

My Husband: Age 5

For the Love of Lexicon

One of my favorite things about language is its transiency. Phrases, trendy words, and cliches float in and out of our lingo-sphere reflecting cultural identity, age, regionalism, and even self-characterization. They have life, they die out (though some people are less willing to let them go than others), and then they often enjoy a resurgence.

Some of these phrases I love, some I find amusing, and some I cannot stand (e.g. come with?, I'm just telling it like it is, anywho, etc.). The new, probably American Idol influenced phrase that is driving my crazy: "strip it down".

For example: "You know, I love Tina Turner, and so I was trying to just take the song, strip it down, and make it my own."

Why does it sound it sound like some sort of an assault? Why not use "reworking", even "deconstruct"?

It just sounds like something a wanna artist says without really knowing what it a teacher telling a story to take a chill pill, or a middle aged boss telling his college intern not to be all up in his grill.

That being said, if someone thinks they could take "Clementine" and strip it down, well, that's something I'd like to hear.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Brother Abroad

Those lost in March:

March 1:

Sgt. Devin C. Poche, 25, of Jacksonville, N.C., died Mar. 31 at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, near Tikrit, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Lance Cpl. Nelson M. Lantigua, 20, of Miami, Fla., died March 31 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10 Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

March 25:

Staff Sgt. Raphael A. Futrell, 26, of Anderson, S.C., died March 25 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 13th Military Police Detachment, 728th Military Police Battalion, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Fort Shafter, Hawaii.

March 20:

Sgt. Jose R. Escobedo Jr., 32, of Albuquerque, N.M., died March 20 in Baghdad, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident the night before at Forward Operating Base Kalsu in Iskandariyah, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment in Schweinfurt, Germany.

March 16:

Spc. Gary L. Moore, 25, of Del City, Okla., died March 16 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an explosive device struck his vehicle. He was assigned to the 978th Military Police Company, 93rd Military Police Battalion, Fort Bliss, Texas.

March 10:

Lance Cpl. Patrick A. Malone, 21, of Ocala, Fla., died March 10 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

March 7:

1st Lt. Daniel B. Hyde, 24, of Modesto, Calif., died March 7 in Samarra, Iraq, of wounds sustained in Tikrit when an explosive device struck his unit vehicle. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

March 3:

Pfc. Jessica Y. Sarandrea, 22, of Miami, Fla., died March 3 in Mosul, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked her forward operating base with mortar fire. She was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

March 2:

Sgt. Jeffrey A. Reed, 23, of Chesterfield, Va., died March 2 in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck by a grenade in Taji, Iraq. He was assigned to the 411th Military Police Company, 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas.

This is Day 74.

I Thought I Should Mention...

The people who "rented" us the black, blue-eyed bunny at Tractor Supply Company COULD NOT have been nicer.

I was so forelorn when I arrived Tuesday morning to learn that the expected delivery of chicks had not come in due to the cold, I actually considered buying one to have Easter morning so O and Joseph could still experience them when they did come in. The long cozy bins lined with soft chips, baby water bottles, and heating lamps were all ready for the littlest arrivals...but, alas, they remained empty.

When the woman apologized (apparently she had already gotten 20 or so calls that morning from eager chick owners) she didn't realize I was there for a school party, and introduced me to the bunnies. I had already seen the rabbits, but the baby "bun rabs" (farmer lingo) were brand new.

There were three of them all nestled on top of each other for warmth and companionship.

I blurted out my desire to borrow one for the day and the woman looked at me like I had three heads. She didn't think she could, having never done it before.

I told her I would just buy the $15 Q-tip and return it later in the afternoon with no intention of looking for my money back. I also told her how happy she'd make 12 little three year olds if she let me.

She grabbed a box, threw in some wood chips, and told me to tell the kiddies Amber says "hi".

Needless to say, you can still see, pet, hold the bunnies at the store (while also letting your kids sit on some pretty cool tractors....Joseph's favorite thing to do); and, come Saturday, you might get a chance to enjoy some chicks too.

Tractor Supply Company is located just off the intersection of 40 and 45 (next to the Wawa, across from the ACME) in Woodstown. If you want to see if the chicks have arrived, just give them a call at (856) 769-7284.

There are also cute farm-related toys and kid apparel including an adorable shirt that reads, "Will trade sister for tractor." ---Joseph will be getting one, along with Charlie Engelien for his 2nd birthday.

Confession Time

Along with Jimmy Dean commercials, the Chick-fil-a cows, and any other talking being that shouldn't, the Philly Phanatic makes me laugh.


What the heck does "No Jake Brake" mean?

I realize I could look up (and I always swear that I will the minute I get home after driving) but I thought I'd throw it out there.

I Watch American Idol: Feel Free to Hate on Me

Danny Gokey: Missed the performance while getting lost in the after-dinner dishes....the recap looked like a train wreck.....can that be? I love Danny.

Kris Allen: How dare they say such things about my man....even if there is some truth to it. Not his best.

Lil Rounds: A great imitations....would have liked to just hear her sing, and not her best Tina Turner impresison.

Anoop: Completely missed his performance while my husband checked the Phillies game. He sounded good on the recap....loved the cardigan.

Scott McIntyre: Is that a guitar? Is he singing Journey? Is that Paul and Julie's wedding song? Are my ears on fire?'s just awful.

Allison Iraheta: I don't think she realized the words she was singing at's a really sad song; not a didactic one. Either way, she's still my favorite and a true talent- just not her best night.

Matt Giraud: Loved it....smooth, sexy, and exactly what he should be doing every week.

Adam Lambert: His talent is simply undeniable....drat!

My Top Three:

Matt Giraud
Adam Lambert (gasp!)
Allison Iraheta

Headed for See Ya:

This is a tough one, because Lil may have used up her last life, but I'm picking Scott.....

Realization of the Night: I am really old. Why is everyone born in the 80s?

Awkward Moment of the Night: Paula calling Ryan "Baby". Ick.

The Easter Party

After having a last minute brainstorm resulting in the scouring of every farm in South Jersey for one little chick, the Easter party (which none of the 3 year olds will likely remember) was a great success.

Every moment was planned by two former teachers and one very laid back mom (the former 2 felt the pressure of their profession, while the latter helped to remind us of how much we were overthinking a kid party), except the surprise guest.

And it wasn't a chick....apparently, the cold snap prevented most stores from receiving their Easter order. The surprise guest came care of Tractor Supply's Company's willingness to rent us a very tiny, very soft baby bunny!

The kids loved it, held it, and had their pictures taken with the little fluff ball. What's more, O got the added excitement of taking the black baby bun home for Joseph's nap, after which we would return it to the store.

That was the hard part.

I would never, have never wanted a rabbit for a pet. They're too much work, they smell, and there's the whole pellet thing. BUT, he was soooooo cute and soft that for a moment, just one moment, I wanted to keep him.

That and hearing O talk to him.

"You are so beautiful, aren't you? I love you! What's that? You don't want to go back to the store? You want to stay and live with us?"

Clearly, her mother's manipulative genes have been successfully passed on; but, alas, he went back to his brothers and sisters and O was only appeased with promises to visit him and the soon to arrive chickadees.....

Picture of the Day

Hippity, Hoppity...Easter's on its way....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Brother Abroad

Funny one, Bobby.

This is Day 73.

The Chicken Quest was a Success!!!

Sort of....

Only, it wasn't a chicken, or a rooster, or a hen.

The next question is, how are we going to convince Daddy to let us keep it?

Opening Day: My Little Bruiser

If the taste of concrete and a trip to the ER wasn't enough, my son decided to celebrate baseball's opening day by taking a bat to the head care of his bat wielding sister.

It was a complete accident....she took a swing when she had no idea he was standing beside her. Fortunately, it was kind of an indirect hit, leaving hims with a small, grape of a bump on his eyebrow; nevertheless, three truths are apparent:

1) My little man is a bruiser.

2) Raising little boys is a lot different than raising little girls.

3) DYFS may be knocking on my door any day now.

I'm Still in Love...

My husband told me that, if he were to try out for American Idol, he would sing the following song (featured below). Funny, yes, but it sure beats his choice of last year's try out song. Though I don't know its exact title, you churchgoers out there might recognize the lyrics:

"You satsify the hungry heart, with gifts of finest wheat...."

Chicken-gate: Part I

After calling almost everyone I know who either knows chicken, eats chicken, or can imitate a chicken, I narrowed the search down to three local farms (thanks to my favorite farmer's direction) and will begin my morning by trying to convince one of them to give me a "loaner".

You see, since the whole scandal over people buying chicks for Easter and then abandoning them to a horrible fate, pet stores stopped carrying them and farmers are hesitant to send them off. This presents a very tricky reality for me, a well-meaning mom, who wants to contribute to the best mom party ever (and uphold my teacher pride).

If I am forced to actually buy a chick, that will eventually become a chicken, what do I do with it come 12:01 tomorrow?

My husband has already laid down the law: If there is a chicken in our house when he gets home from work tomorrow, I'm in serious trouble. It doesn't matter that having one would provide a teachable moment, a ready pet, and convenient, free breakfasts, his message was clear.

No chickens.

So, I am going to buy a chicken and then return it...whether they'll give me my money back or not.

Stay tuned for ongoing developments.......

Quote of the Day

"Inside every hardened criminal beats the heart of a ten-year-old boy." -Bart Simpson

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Brother Abroad

An 18 year old ban on media coverage of returning, fallen soldiers was officially lifted.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has decided to allow photographs of flag-draped caskets arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware as America's war dead return home as long as the families of the fallen troops agree to it, the Pentagon announced today.

"My conclusion was we should not presume to make the decision for the families," Gates said.

In making his choice the Secretary of Defense took into account the policy that's used at Arlington National Cemetery, the nation's historic burying ground that sits on a hillside just northwest of the Pentagon's lawn. At Arlington the decision about whether the deceased soldier's funeral is covered by the press or not is left up to each individual family.

The Dover Air Force Base is home to the military's largest mortuary facility. The bodies of killed American troops come back to the States through Dover before traveling on to hometowns and their families. The scene re-enacted at Dover during HBO's Taking Chance was among the film's most powerful.

"I have always believed that the decision as to how to honor our fallen heroes should be left up to the families," Vice President Joe Biden said. "The past practice didn't account for a family's wishes and I believed that was wrong."

During the Vietnam War the daily pictures of so many flag-covered caskets coming back to the tarmac in Dover helped shift America's attitude to be against the war, so much so that the Pentagon began referring to how the public might react to a military operation's casualties as "the Dover test."

I asked my brother Paul what he thought about the change and his reply was simple:

It should not be a blanket uplifting of the ban. It should always be up to the family. You violate the families wishes and we should be allowed to shove the cameras up their collective asses.

My brother has never been one to mince of my favorite qualities about him.

This is Day 72.


And not for dinner!

Anyone know where I can get a baby chick for tomorrow morning???

It's urgent, it's adorable, and I have no intention of doing cruel and unusual things to it.

The thing is, I am one of the moms in charge of O's preschool Easter party and, in true teacher fashion, I had a last minute brainstorm that had to do with making little baby chicks as our craft, followed by reading the book Little Chick, and then, for the pièce de résistance, having a show-and-tell of sorts with a baby chick.

Cute, right???

Only, where do I find a baby chick in less than 24 hours in New Jersey?


A Milestone That Won't Be In the Baby Book

While heading home after some fun outdoor play with our favorite neighborhood playmates (shout out to the Bobadillas), my little man decided to stop to inspect some interesting break in the concrete sidewalk. He actually struck a straddle with hands planted on his thighs as he leaned over in his inspection.

My daughter, grumpy over having to leave her buddies, was sulking with arms crossed and brows furrowed, completely unaware that her brother had stopped.

His arms never had a chance to break his fall.

Tasting concrete is not a milestone I was looking forward to, but it arrived with horrible imagery that included cartoon like blood spurts and slow motion progression.

I was horrified, both kids were screaming, and my husband remained an hour away.

Scrambling to get both kids cleaned up while trying to assess the severity of the fall, I did what all moms do: I transitioned into crisis mode.

It's weird how that calm, methodical thinking and movement takes over. How you suddenly make decisions quickly inaccurately, despite traditionally being an overthinker. It is something I had experienced as a teacher and have since had a greater awarenss as a mom. Olivia and the strawberry is a horrible post for another day.

We actually ended up in the ER. It may have been an overreaction since it really just came down to a really nasty split lip and some nose bruising, but clumps of blood coming out of the nose and all the recent news reports about weird head trauma made the decision an easy one.

So, special thanks to Salem Memorial for being so wonderful (and fast!) and a general shout out to all the mommies and daddies who have to confront the worst pain there is: those of your children.

Telling the Truth

During Sunday night dinner, I caught my daughter hiding food under her place mat before announcing to me (with pride) that she had eaten her entire dinner and was ready for dessert.

Two steps forward, three steps back.

Guess Who? A Clue, A Clue

Instead of just coming out with it, I figured I'd give a veiled secret to really keep people guessing (even though everyone who knows her, pretty much now knows).

Here it is:

The newly pregnant lady's name rhymes with "Slim Picken".


BTW: If you are not among those who know her, you may still have fun coming up with names that rhyme with Slim Picken.

Like Father, Like Son

There was a time not so long ago, when I was convinced Joseph was a tried and true Mama's Boy. I imagine that had a lot to do with his milk supply, but it was me he preferred to cuddle with, to be held by, and to put to bed.

That is all a distant memory now.

Joseph still loves me and wants to be by my side, especially when I'm cooking his next meal; but, in truth, he is all about Daddy.

When my husband walks through the door, I am a distant memory. He'll allow me to hold him, until the better offer shows himself. And only Daddy can read him his bedtime books at night and put him to bed.

As I type this, the two of them are wrestling on the floor during a commercial break from the Phillies game. Joseph has even been pretending to pitch every time the pitcher does....which is hysterically funny to watch, though I'm only allowed to be a spectator.

I guess it's a matter of course. I have my own little shadow in O, and now John has a groupie all his own. They look exactly alike, they both love tools, baseball, and the sound of their own flatulence.....

It's just odd being Choice #2....and fun too, if that makes sense.

He is his father's son.

Quote of the Day

"If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base." ~Dave Barry

Picture of the Day

I'm not entirely sure who's more excited for the start of baseball season.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Brother Abroad

One of the high points of my brother's deployment is the two week R&R he gets at the halfway mark. Though the actual dates remain uncertain, for two weeks mid-summer, Paul will be home for quality time with his family, a few To-Dos my sister-in-law has in waiting, and, of course, some serious relaxation that doesn't involve a desert.

For the first week, we're all getting a beach house in one of the Carolinas (because he hasn't had enough of sand), and the second week belongs solely to his wife and children.

Though the halfway mark still seems too far away, the change in weather is encouraging, leading me to the point of all this: finding a vacation spot.

Any recommendations? The Carolinas are defintiely desirable since time is too precious to waste on travel. We've been on a lot of the sites for big rental houses, but I'm just as interested to know of perfect points for families....any suggestions would be great.

This is Day 71.