Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Brother Abroad

"Don't ever be the first, don't ever be the last, and don't ever volunteer to do anything." - US Navy Swabbie

This is Day 123.

Friday, May 29, 2009

If you've never had a chance to see a rifle spinning presentation, it's pretty unbelievable, especially when you consider that it's done in silence (no counts, no directives). The best part comes around the 3 minute mark when the "inspection" is stuff.

This is Day 122.

Bring out the soap....

My sweet, dear little O got so frustrated over a game she was playing the other day, she smacked her knee and yelled, "Dammit!"

"What did you just say?" I asked, knowing full well what she said and who she heard it from.

"Nothing," she replied, knowing full well it was probably not a good word.

"It's okay to get frustrated, but try to say why you're mad instead of using bad words, okay?" I offered, as a quick response to a teachable moment on the fly.

"Okay, I'm sorry Mommy!" she said apologetically.

I gave her a big hug before inwardly cursing the other driver who caused me to curse which caused me to unintentionally teach my own daughter her first bad word.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Brother Abroad

When I was in high school, we were stationed on Governor's Island, a small little piece of earth situated between Brooklyn and the Statue of Liberty. It was an interesting little microcosm, a green little suburb off the tip of Manhattan and it was an interesting place to spend your most formative years. I also took a ferry to school every day.

But to the point.

During my senior year, while Paul was away at Boot camp in Paris Island,my parents and I drove off the ferry, onto Manhattan, and, as is typical any time of the day or night, we drove right into traffic. Back and forth, back and forth went the cars as they traded the lead in what seemed like an eternal parade of cars going nowhere.

Then, out of nowhere, a car appeared to the right of us driven by a young guy with a high and tight and a Marine Corps sticker on the back. He looked as miserable as everyone else, but as he passed, he gave us a casual salute before pumping his fist.

I was confused at Dad was a coastie after all, a different breed entirely.

But then I realized that we were driving Paul's car and the greater reality of what he was embarking on set in.

This is Day 121.

Jon & Kate

About six months ago I stumbled upon some shady Internet rumor that claimed Jon Gosselin, of TLC's Jon and Kate: Plus 8, was caught being slimy with all sorts of young co-eds at a Juniata College bar, not too far from his home in Pennsylvania.

Shortly thereafter, every girl at that bar and her cell phone uploaded somewhat innocent (albeit intoxicated) pictures of him on to their MySpace page. There were also comments that he was hitting on girls, complaining about his wife (who was away on business?), and that he was miserable in his married life. There were also suggestions that he seemed to be looking for opportunities to be unfaithful.

I have never seen an episode of the show, not even the most recent premiere that the whole world apparently watched, but I kind of chuckled at the story at the time. I wrote up some really snarky, sarcastic post about how I couldn't see how a father of eight could find time to do anything let alone cheat on his wife. Just as I was about to hit "Post", however, I paused.

In a rare moment of thinking before blogging, I decided to delete the whole thing.

Who was I to contribute to Internet gossip that would probably harm little kids (8 little kids, actually) if the rumors persisted? And for what reason? To deliver a joke at some other guy's expense, even if he had made some bad choice?

Six months later, the story has gotten a lot bigger.

I don't think you can go through the grocery store without some rag offering up outrageous claims about his womanizing or, on the other end, completely demonizing her. There are also, of course, eight innocent bystanders. However, this story has gotten so much attention, legitimate media outlets are now reporting on it and the ratings boon it has created. Most recently, the Gosselins have even pointed at the media as the greatest offender in the entire maelstrom, and if they argue that if they have any shot of keeping their family together, the sensationalised journalism needs to stop.

Perhaps, but no, not really.

I've kept my mouth shut, or, in the case of blogging, my fingers....something, until this.

So here open letter to the Gosselins, who believe they owe it to their audience to continue this "journey".

Dear Jon and Kate,

The only thing you owe anything to is your children and your marriage.

Nothing else matters.

Not the public perception, not the media, not your loyal viewers, not your friends.... no one.

Stop filming and start trying to be a family again.

I'm pretty sure the kids won't mind.


The Maid (who doesn't claim to know everything...just the obvious stuff)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Brother Abroad

If you ask O about her unlces, she will tell you that Unlce Mike flies heliocopters (and she will point him out every time any heliocopter flies overhead...I personally never knew he worked for Action News), and Unlce Paul is perpetually "fighting the bad guys", a way of explaining where Paul is as borrowed from his own family.

Tonight she asked me if Unlce Paul was "done yet" and, like so many kid questions that seem simple enough, this one wasn't. I don't want to over-complicate things by trying to make her understand something I'm not at all ready for her to be exposed to, but I also want her to know that what her uncle is doing is very important.

Anyway, I just told her "almost" and that we are all very proud of him. She then asked me if we could call Ariel.

This is Day 12o....and 32 days until Carolina!!!

Re-entering Gen Pop

After spending the weekend keeping my two children as far apart as possible, disinfecting every toy Joseph touched, and staging my home like a scene from the movie Outbreak, my dear friend Stacey enlightened me about the truth of the nasty contagion that is pink eye.

After 24 hours (and three doses of eye drops), children are no longer contagious and can even be allowed back to school.

That would have been useful information (preferably from my pediatrician) about three days ago.

I guess this means I can finally remove the surgical gloves.

And the SARS mask.

Hello,'s good to be back.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Brother Abroad

THIS is a great story.

This is also Day 119.

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Being Quarantine

Our family fish decided to "return to the sea".


Goldie was a loving, affectionate pet (at least, as much as a fish can be) and he will be missed.

Moreover, since I had to pull out of our three barbecues due to Joseph's pink eye (funny, no one had a problem with that decision), Goldie's passing at least gave us something to do: Visit an equally infectious pet store for the obligatory replacement fish.

Olivia, saddened by Goldie's "decision", was appointed to select the replacement pet and she chose a lovely, white with pink streaked fin Beta Male....and she named "him":

Are you ready for this?

Are you sure?

She named the fish Dita.

I'm guessing, since there is no clear television/children's book character that may have inspired the name, O sensed that our new fish was some sort of reincarnated German burlesque dancer.


Monday, May 25, 2009

A Brother Abroad: The Memorial Day Edition

"Here rests, in honored glory, an American Soldier known but to God."

Realizing I could go really crazy with posts about this day that at once marks the unofficial onset of summer while also calling us to remember those who have allowed our summers to be so free and easy, I'll keep it simple.

Yesterday, I alluded to Arlington as the single most stirring place to visit in memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The lines of white crosses, the ubiquitous sound of Taps, and the stoic expressions on the faces of veterans whose visit is much more personal than casual tourist, all make this one of the most humbling places in the American conscious.

For me at least, the most powerful aspect of this hallowed place is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which contains the remains of unidentified soldiers from the World War I and II, the Korean Conflicts, and (up until 1998) the Vietnam War. Each unknown soldier was presented with the Medal of Honor at internment.

The tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by specially trained members of the 3rd US Infantry (the Old Guard), which is considered to be among the highest of honors despite the great demands of such a service.

Some interesting facts about the guardship: ( I know this is long, but if you haven't had a chance to consider the significance of the day....)

1) The guard takes 21 steps across the tomb, signifying the 21 gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

2) When the guard reaches the 21st step, he does not execute an about face (though some descriptions say this). He stops on the 21st step, then turns and faces the Tomb for 21 seconds. Then he turns to face back down the mat, changes his weapon to the outside shoulder, counts 21 , then steps off for another 21 step walk down the mat. He faces the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until he is relieved at the Guard Change.

3) The guard's gloves are wet to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

4) The Guard is changed every thirty minutes during the summer (April 1 to Sept 30)
and every hour during the winter (Oct 1 to Mar 31). During the hours the cemetery is closed,
the guard is changed every 2 hours.

5) Appropriately, the men who march 21 steps south, turn and march 21 steps north, and then repeat the process minute-by-minute for up to an hour at a time day or night, are the very best of the Army's best.

6) Whether under a blazing sun, unsheltered from driving rains, or in freezing snow, they perform their duty with great precision and military bearing.

7) Each of them is a volunteer from the 3rd Infantry, eligible to apply for duty as a sentinel ONLY after they have already been ceremonially qualified in The Old Guard.
Each soldier among them is physically fit for the demanding responsibility and between 5'10" and 6'4" tall with a proportionate weight and build.

8) Acceptance in The Old Guard's Company E does not assure a volunteer that he will become one of the fewer than 550 soldiers in the last 45 years to earn the distinctive Tomb Guard Badge.

9) Before any soldier is allowed "a walk", he must memorize seven pages of history on Arlington National Cemetery and then recite it verbatim. If a soldier finishes this phase and is granted "a walk", he enters a new phase of training known as "new-soldier training". In addition to extensive training in the manual of arms, the guard change ceremony, and the intricacies of military ritual, the new-soldier is required to memorize additional information on Arlington, including the grave locations of nearly 300 veterans, among the notables are:
President Taft, Joe E. Lewis (the boxer) and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, of Hollywood fame (and the most decorated soldier of WWII).

10) There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror. An average guard takes eight hours to prepare his uniform (which is solid wool--regardless of the time of year) for the next day's work. In addition to preparing the uniform, guards also complete physical training, Tomb Guard training, cut their hair before the next work day, and shave twice per day.

11) It was erroneously reported that during Hurricane Isabel, the Sentinels were ordered to abandon their posts for shelter and that they refused. No such order was ever given; the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer, "No way, Sir!" Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a serviceperson. All proper precautions were taken to ensure the safety of the Sentinels while accomplishing their mission. Risk assessments are constantly conducted by the Chain of Command during changing conditions to ensure that soldier welfare is maintained during mission accomplishment.

This is Day 119.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Brother Abroad

Outside of Arlington, THIS is the best way I've found to remember all of the fallen.

This is Day 118.