Paint and Books

June 30, 2008

We knew we needed to paint the family room and had hoped to do it before putting in the new floors, but with all of the recent events it just didn't happen. Then the guys showed up today and said they could paint and do the floors. So I rushed out to look at paint samples. I hate picking paint colors. I know some people enjoy it, but I don't. It makes me feel very anxious. Way too many choices. Way too many subtle differences. And I get distracted by the names. If I like the color but don't like the name, I just can't do it. Today I picked up one sample with the name "desert fortress"....I don't want our family room to feel like a fortress and we certainly don't need any reminders of the upcoming desert trip Adam will be taking. I brought home a couple of different samples with more pleasing names to try on the wall.

To counteract the stress of frantically picking a paint color, I headed to the library. Adam was at home with the kids so that meant I had the luxury of actually browsing the stacks. I usually do all of my browsing these days on the computer and then place holds....way too crazy to try to pick stuff out with kids in tow. But today I felt like a pig rolling in mud. Seriously. It felt so good to have the tactile experience of browsing and leisurely picking out things that appealed to me. I ended up with an eclectic mix of books which I will add to my Shelfari shelf. The African tribal decoration book is really unique...could make for some interesting inspiration for Halloween and made me miss my Anthropology classes. And the felt book reminded me to pack up my felting stuff for our Louisiana move. I love Isabel Allende's fiction, so I am eager to read her memoir. And how could I pass up a book that combines my two loves: travel and literature? It is crazy to even be checking things out when we have so little time left but I just couldn't resist and books are an important part of my sanity (or what's left).

Two very different selection experiences in the same afternoon.


Check out Noah's new glasses. He's adjusting to them, but we think he looks pretty cute and we were all very relieved to be doing this instead of surgery. New glasses, same old monkey boy antics!

Officially Nuts

That's what we are. Just to add some excitement to our final week together before deployment, we decided to take on some major house renovation work....finally getting around to replacing that wood floor that was damaged by our water heater back in March. Remember that? And since we were doing the hall we decided to go ahead and replace the carpeting in our family room with wood. Sounded like a good idea at the time. Now it seems crazy. The guys are supposed to start today, but still no sign of them. Why should that surprise me? We have horrible luck with home renovation projects. Remember our kitchen? our landscape fiasco? And yet I am strangely numb. I guess that's what happens when you have so much stress in your life.

Reminds me of those list of life stressors. Loss of close family member? check. Moving? check. Mortgage or loans? check. Change in work responsibilities? check. Vacation? check. I think there is a problem with this little life stressor test. Surely, if vacation is considered a life stressor then potty training, military deployments, child-induced sleep deprivation, and home renovation work should be on that list. Needless to say our score is high and yet I can remember feeling more stressed at other points in my life when only a handful of things were happening. I would love to think I have finally mastered the impossible art of stress management, but really I just think I am on some kind of weird cruise control function with a heavy dose of denial.

Navarre Beach 2008

June 29, 2008

We just returned from our annual trip to Navarre Beach with my mom's family. In honor of the upcoming summer Olympics we held our own Family Olympics. The last time we had the Olympics in Navarre it was in the early '90s (exact year still up for debate). Everyone was divided into teams (Crabs, Dolphins, Sea Turtles, and Pelicans) and each day there were challenges for each of the teams. Some of the favorite challenges were: Family Jeopardy (with interesting categories like "Dead Aunts", "Recipe for Disaster", and "Car Trouble"), shell collecting, beach obstacle course (the water portion was eliminated when a small shark swam by Michell's legs), cake decorating, spades (card tournament), and the newest event "Hair Test" (a photo quiz developed by Willie and Charlie).
The weather and the water were great this year. A few days of calm, clear water perfect for floating on a raft. And a few days of huge waves good for boogie boarding. We ate well (except for those unfortunate family members who caught the stomach bug going around the beach house). We read. We visited. We saw dolphins, crabs, jellyfish, a water spout, and a sea turtle swimming along the edge of the water. It was another memorable week.

Camille and Willie

Sand Art

Last year in Navarre we made tie-dye t-shirts. Sand was the medium of choice this year! As part of our Family Olympics everyone took part in the sand sculpture challenge...sea turtles, crabs, a huge octopus, and a textured pelican...all in front of our beach house. The winning sculpture was not however a sea creature. It was Willie. Willie mooning a sailboat.

Noah and Isabella also made their own sand art to bring home. Super easy and super fun. Here are the ingredients: sand, food coloring, funnels, spoons/shovels, and plastic bottles with tops.

Divide sand into small bowls. Add food coloring and mix well.Pour into plastic bottles using spoons and/or funnels. Alternate the colors to create a layered look.
Sand Art in a bottle.


June 20, 2008

That's what I have been called for the past eight years. And yesterday I had to get a new card that confirms this "identity".... my military ID card. A little orange card with my name, my husband's name, his social security number, and his rank. A little card that gives me access to military bases, military discounts, military health care, and other "privileges" (that's what is on the bottom of the card...."identification and privilege card". Don't get me wrong I am proud of my husband. I am proud to be a military family. But I do not like the term "dependent". It is the most inaccurate and offensive term. I have never liked it, but the longer I am a military spouse the more I dislike it because most of the "dependents" I know are the most independent, strong, and resilient women (and men) I have ever met.

I have to admit that when we were first married I had this image in my head of what military wives were like, especially officer wives. I had this image of white gloves, mandatory tea parties, and conservative, meek women. I have met a few like that but by far most of them are just the opposite. It's a crazy life and it takes some crazy independent souls to live it. I mean how many people can deal with moving every three years? learn new lingo/culture? and deal with things like "imminent danger pay" (that's another post)...while still maintaining a home, a family, and individuality...not many. The military can take it's term "dependent" and shove it somewhere else because it certainly doesn't apply here or to any of the other military spouses out there.

Sexy Beijing

June 18, 2008

After recently seeing the movie "Sex in the City", I was reminded of the Chinese "version" which Laureen sent me several months ago. Very funny. I especially love the "Lost in Translation" and "Country Loving" episodes. Check out Sexy Beijing.


June 17, 2008

Goggles, crib sheets, imagination, and lots of exciting rescues.


Robots have been a big thing around here lately. It started with our first visit to the hospital....those crazy drug delivering robots with names like Jerry and Margaret. Noah was fascinated (we all were). And then we made a trip to the American Visionary Arts Museum where we were blown away by all of the things there. Really one of the most memorable museums I have ever visited. Too much to take in all at one time and I would love to go back. If you are in the Baltimore/DC area, take the time to visit this place. We (my mom, my sisters, and I) happened to be there for their annual Kinetic Sculpture Race...unforgettable. And I couldn't resist buying some of these fun Mark May robots. I especially loved their names. The best name was "Mahjong Ding Dong" (made with mahjong pieces). Here's the one I got for our family, "Star Eyed Sneech".I also got this fun book for the kids...another good book about creating with found objects. So when I asked Noah what he was going to make for Father's Day without hesitation he announced "a robot". Noah dug through our craft/recycling closet and built this great robot for Adam. He named it "Abot a6a1". His favorite part (and Adam's too) is the springy action.

Three Weeks

June 16, 2008

Adam will be leaving for Kuwait in three weeks. Suddenly it is all starting to feel very real. So many things to do. So many things to figure out. So many check lists. So much packing and organizing. And yet all we want to do is just play with the kids in the back yard. It looks like the kids and I will spend most of the time in Louisiana with my family. Makes me happy to think about being close to my family, but also brings with it extra work and preparation (figuring out schools, packing for six months, taking care of house details, etc).

And besides all of the physical tasks facing us, the hardest is the emotional stuff. We have started talking about it with Noah. Started reading related books (I'll try to review/rate them in another post). And even got a free video from Sesame Street about military families and deployment (I'd never seen Elmo's parents before seeing this video...who knew they were a military family?). Not quite sure of how to prepare Camille. She is already very focused on the issue of loss...her "lost house" during our recent travels and her little voice telling us "I lost my grandpa" or when Adam went to work yesterday "I lost my dada" and today when I was out running errands "I lost my mama". Not easy to explain deployment to a two year old.

Heck, it's not easy explaining it to this 35 year old. In my head, I know that this is part of his job. I knew that this was coming. But my heart responds in a different way and especially with all that has happened recently. I can relate to Camille's comments. I never thought I would "lose" my daddy and my husband at the same time. The two most important men in my life. That sounds so melodramatic but recently it feels like our lives have been turned into some crazy made-for-tv drama. I know we will all make it through this challenging time, but right now it feels pretty overwhelming. I just keep reminding myself to breathe. But when I realized today that we only had three weeks it took my breath away. Three weeks.

Angry, Sad, Kit Kat

June 15, 2008

Orange Slices, Kit Kat bars, Trident gum, Strawberry Icees....why didn't anyone warn me about these foods? These favorites of my dad's that now suddenly make me want to burst into tears while also feeling a compulsive need to eat/buy them whenever I see them. These were foods that my dad loved both before and after his serious diet change (to macrobiotic). When we were kids he would pick us up from school and stop by the 7-11 where he would load us all up with Kit Kats and Icees....this was a big deal since we basically lived a sugar free life at home. Not sure how much my mom was aware of these little stops. But I loved those 7-11 trips. And early in his hospital stay he sent me a birthday package with a lovely book and five packages of Kit Kats...made me cry when I saw those chocolate treats.

Today was hard for me. The first Father's Day without my dad. Actually the past couple of days have been hard. We returned to our house and suddenly I felt overwhelmed with sadness and anger. I know I shouldn't be shocked by these feelings but I think I have been in shock for the past couple of months. Then busy with details mixed with outbursts of crying. Then numb. And now I am pissed. It doesn't seem right to have Father's Day without him here. Like a cranky little girl I want "my daddy". I know he's in a better place. And I know that he will live on in his work, in his grandchildren, in his students, in all those that loved him....but I can not deny it. I am angry and sad and I am going to eat one of those Kit Kat bars tonight.
This was our last photograph together. Saying good-bye in front of my parents' house...January 2008.

Father's Day 2008

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Figure Eight Island

June 13, 2008

After our week in Chapel Hill, we headed to Figure Eight Island where we had a very relaxing few days with Adam's parents and good family friend, Carol (thank you for having us!). We hadn't been on the island since our honeymoon eight years ago....a different kind of trip now with two kids in tow but still the same beautiful escape. Highlights included watching Noah body surf, Camille "bake" sand treats with Nana, and evening beach walks. On our first beach walk Noah quickly found a whole sand dollar. Every summer I search for sand dollars and I have never found a whole one (Uncle Ron, are you smiling because my five year old son is a better beach comber than me?)...I'll keep searching. It was hard to wash off the sandy toes and leave the island.


Here's a little re-play of the conversation Adam overheard last weekend between Noah (age 5) and Anna (age 4):

Anna: Noah, do you have a crush on me?
Noah: What's a crush?
Adam: It's when you think about someone a lot and you really like them.
Noah: I have a crush, but not on you. It's Spiderman. I can't stop thinking about him.


June 11, 2008

David Sedaris is one of our favorite writers....gets both of us laughing hysterically. So it was a real treat to listen to his recent interview on "Fresh Air". He's promoting a new book but also promoting a unique way to stop smoking....move to Japan. It apparently worked for him which I find strange since smoking seems to be so prevalent there. Look forward to reading his new book soon.

Chapel Hill Retreat

June 8, 2008

Today is our last day in Chapel Hill. It has been a good week for all of us. Adam graduated from his fellowship....we are all very proud of him. The kids were happy to be out of the car. I have finally been able to start catching up on sleep. We rented a house in a very interesting co-housing community. It has been fun to experience this unique way of life....33 families, jointly owned land (many acres of beautiful woods, ponds, paths with bunnies, deer, and ticks (not so appealing!), homes with very green design (solar energy, rain barrels, etc), community house for group dinners once a week, the kids run free each afternoon, edible landscape (no grass to mow, just walk along the paths and pick strawberries, figs, peaches, asparagus, herbs, etc). Adam and Noah especially enjoyed the evening games of kickball for all ages (players from 5-5o+).

Other highlights of the week included a visit to the NC Botantical Garden which has a fabulous herb and fairy garden (even a little mail box to leave letters for the fairies). A very happy return to Weaver Street Market and Maple View Ice Cream. But the most fun part of the week was spending time with friends. Leslie who has been my friend since 8th grade took me out for a true day of girly fun. Starting with the chick flick "Sex in the City" movie, a little shopping, lots of laughing, and ending the evening at a cool little wine bar. The next day we met up at a Marbles Kids Museum with two college friends, Amy and Jill and their families. The kids had so much fun together that we continued the day by hanging out at Jill's house and ended the evening with a game of cards at our house. Felt so good to be with friends who have known me for so long. Felt so good to laugh, good to pick up where we all left off, and good to see a new generation of friendships forming.

On The Road Again

June 4, 2008

Yes, on the move again. We haven't been in our house for more than a week at a time since early what's a little more travel, right? I think Camille summed it up for all of us when she started telling people "I've lost my house".

We left the rice fields for the big city (New Orleans) where we had a couple of whirlwind days which started with a memorial event for my dad at the Ogden ...Michael and David Doucet brought me to tears again with their beautiful playing. We all had a good time staying with the Spitzer family (thank you very much) and then spent our second day in the city by visiting my Dad's show at the Arthur Roger Gallery...pride, sadness, and comfort all mixed into one strange concoction of emotions. We got on the highway and were about an hour outside of New Orleans when I realized that I had left my purse (with both of our wallets) at the gallery.We headed back since driving for three days without any id or money would have been a bad idea. Back on the road again, we started our drive to Chapel Hill, NC.

Part of this post is related to this idea I've had brewing in my head (thanks to all of our recent road trips)...wouldn't it be helpful to have a website/blog where families could post suggestions for roadtrips? It could be organized along major roads/interstates with recommendations for good rest areas (those with clean bathrooms, good spaces for running or interesting sites), good eats that aren't the typical fast food, good stops along the way (parks, museums, kitschy road art...big peach, dinosaurs, etc) and good back road recommendations to by-pass the interstate monotony. I haven't had the energy or time to see if there isn't already a site like this so for now I will just do this for myself (and anyone else who is getting ready to travel similar paths).

So here is a first post along those lines in a very rough form.

I-10 East from New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama:
1) Art and Play in New Orleans:
t Julia Street which is lined with art galleries. A good place to park is in the pay lot behind the Arthur Roger Gallery. Stop in to see the current exhibits and then head over to the Louisiana Children's Museum (right next door). And if you are still up for learning more about Southern art and culture, head down a few blocks to the Ogden.

2) Stop in Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Visit the Walter Anderson Museum, Miner's Doll and Toy Store, Train Depot with the visitors center and the Realizations gift shop (owned by the Anderson family). We stopped at each of these wonderful spots just as they closed so we didn't make it inside but we were lucky enough to watch a train as it went past the depot. After driving around the cute downtown area we got back on I-10, which is when both children decided they weredesperately hungry for dinner so we pulled off at the next exit and had a surprisingly good dinner at The Shed BBQ and Blues...sat outside eating eating yummy, messy BBQ while listening to live music and watching the kids dance and run around. Quite an interesting mix of people from families to a large group of bikers to guys in suits...all enjoying a Friday evening outside.

I-65 Mobile to Montgomery
3) Spent our first night on the road at
Gunter Air Force Base. If you are a military family, this is a pretty good lodging option. $46 for two bedrooms separated by a bathroom and fairly close to major interstates. We stopped at the commissary the next morning to stock up on gas and snacks for the road.

I-85 Montgomery to Charlotte
4) Stopped for lunch in Valley, Alabama (Exit 79). A small town with the usual line up of fast food places, but luckily we drove past those and discovered the JK House Korean restaurant. A surprisingly large and new place with a menu written in Korean and English. Turns out Kia is opening a factory in the small town and demographics of the small southern town are changing as the Korean car company prepares to take root. It was great. Brought back delicious memories of meals in Korea and Japan. Would highly recommend the Bimbimbop (served in steam hot stone bowl) and bulgogi (which was grilled in front of us).

5) South Carolina Welcome Center. As with our earlier luck we got there after the center had closed, but did enjoy the view and the kids had fun running around the fenced yard perched up on a hill overlooking a big lake....very pretty rest stop area and fairly clean restrooms.

We had hoped to make a short detour and spend the night in Asheville, NC but with two cranky kids and running behind schedule we kept driving and finally made it to Chapel Hill after three days of driving. Three days because of late starts, cranky kids, and a few interesting stops. The drive was also made easier by listening to a couple of episodes from American Routes and some rousing car games (spot thatBeetlebop, count the red cars, and guess that vehicle).


As you know this hasn't been an easy time for us. Thank you for all of the phone messages, e-mails, prayers, cards, friendship, and support. I am just now starting to make my way through them so please forgive the slow response. I don't even know what to start writing about but just feel the need to write. One of the things my dad urged me to do while he was in the hospital was to write. When we made our first trip to the hospital, I brought a small black sketch book/journal as a gift for my dad. Instead of taking it, he urged me to keep it and to start writing and that's what I did. I wrote in the hospital. I wrote on the train. I wrote in the airport. I wrote whenever I started feeling too overwhelmed. I wrote things down when I felt too scattered and wanted to remember things. I scrawled out angry pleas and worries. Memories. Lists of things to do.

I have gone through periods in my life when I have dedicated myself to journaling...when living in Japan as a young teacher, during my pregnancy, while waiting for Camille's referral....but I have never been good about keeping a daily journal. I just don't have the time, energy, and dedication to doing it. And in the past whenever I attempt to write every day, even just simple observations, I inevitably feel guilty for not following through on my resolution. My dad was good about keeping a journal/sketchbook with him at all times. He was also very good at letter writing. I didn't know until my grandmother's death several years ago that she and my father exchanged letters on a weekly basis. Letters, like journals are quickly becoming antiquated and forgotten forms of communication and documentation.

Some of my most valuable possessions are letters. I have a big box of paper-thin airmail letters from the first year of dating Adam. Letters from my Dad, my grandmothers, and other important people in my life. I have kept all those letters. Adam teases me about this pack rat habit, but reading those letters brings up lots of emotions. The day my dad died I was cleaning off the kitchen counter and found one of his last letters to me. Seeing his handwriting and realizing I wouldn't get anymore letters from him really hit me in my gut. And while at home, my sisters and I started going through albums my dad had assembled. A very random mix of things he had stuck into albums over the, announcements, programs, drawings, and letters. So strange to see my letters to my dad. I always felt guilty about not writing more to him. After starting this blog, he always told me how much he appreciated it because he was sometimes able to learn more about our lives through blog entries than in our frenetic phone calls with kids hanging on me and my dad's radio going in the background.

Writing is an important thing and I plan to keep on doing it. I have that black book in my purse at all times. When Adam leaves in a few weeks we will be facing the longest separation since that first year of long distance dating. It is so nice to now have e-mail, cheaper phone access, skype and all of the other fancy improvements that have come along, but I also hope that we will be able to keep a written connection. There is something so powerful and emotional about those good old fashioned letters and those simple black books.

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