Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas in Pictures

Though I know from many viewings and readings of The Grinch this season that Christmas would have come even without trees or stockings or presents, I am still so happy that we were able to create a home, and a Christmas-y one at that, just in time for the big day.

Extra credit goes to Don, who bought a tree while he was here by himself right after OCS, before we actually moved in. Before we had a single box or stitch of furniture, we had a tree. He used all the wallet-sized pictures I sent him while he was away this fall as ornaments. Amy and William added candy canes, and I added my grandmother's Shiny Brite ornaments. I really love this tree.

This has been the first Christmas in our family history that Don has had totally off. No work, no duty, not even any looming travel plans.

I did get around to making Christmas cookies - yesterday - while Don and Amy watched Star Wars and William napped. It was blissful.

We grilled hamburgers the other night - how nice to have the grill and the Christmas tree going at the same time. I think this climate will be just fine.

The exhaustion is receding, the pile of boxes is dwindling, and our home is taking shape more and more every day. And the first ten days in our new house have already been so rich in memories.

Christmas day will always be
Just as long as we have we.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas Numbers

1 week in our new house, as of tomorrow

9,000 pounds of HHG (that's household goods, for you non-military types) that thankfully fit in

One 26' truck meaning that our we did in fact empty and release our

10x20' storage unit, avoiding extra rent, extra expense, and an extra

530 miles (each way) to MD and back to get the rest. Phew.

2 kids and

3 cats and

1 fish held up amazingly well on the

10.5 hour drive south last week - which was preceded by

2 nights in a hotel and a

7 hour drive from CT to MD. Did all this lead me to come down with a

24 hour stomach bug or just an extreme stress reaction? The jury is still out.

4 bedrooms in this house - it's huge!!

40" LCD TV - Merry Christmas to us - we finally catch up with the rest of the world in the technology department.

$2.96 for gas down here - that seems cheap?

2 episodes of "The Life of Mammals" that I've watched on our pretty new TV while trying to write this post while also catching up on

10 days of neglected bookkeeping... which is perhaps why I'm out of good ideas for now.

12 days of Christmas have only just begun; please let me stay in the Christmas spirit long enough to make at least

1 batch of cookies and watch Christmas in Connecticut at least one more time.

MANY fun and/or necessary things to do in the next

8 days before Don starts his new job.

MUCH to catch up on when I resume some regular blogging (I've been promising that for awhile, haven't I?)

LOTS of love to all my friends and family out there at this most wonderful time of the year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Getting There...

Slowly but surely, Christmas is coming along...

Thursday, December 8, 2011


It is really hard to know where to start on this one, because there is so much to tell. So many things about the last few days (which I keep wanting to refer to as "the weekend," but was in fact a Tuesday and Wednesday) that were so incredible, and so incredibly special. Yesterday, December 7th, the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, Don graduated from OCS and received his commission as an officer in the US Coast Guard. Words can scarcely express how amazingly proud I am of what he has accomplished - not only getting into and completing a SUPER competitive and elite program, but finishing first in his class, and receiving no less than five awards at graduation. Forgive me for bragging and gushing just a little about the whole experience.

The fun began on Tuesday evening, when we got to get all dressed up and attend the celebratory dinner-dance. Don's been wearing the uniform for a long time now, but I've never gotten to see him in the "dress" variation, so I was a little giddy over that alone. We had a tremendous time.

Wednesday morning was the graduation ceremony itself, of which I have no decent pictures. The Coast Guard Academy is so beautiful, and all the venues were appointed so tastefully, and uniformed people everywhere made for such an impressive display... but alas, between the rain and the kids and the general commotion, I failed as a photographer.

Amy, however, did not, and she gets credit for the next three shots, taken during the brunch we had prior to the ceremony. She actually captured the feel of the whole thing quite well.

At several different points during all these proceedings I found myself brought to tears, in moments when I realized just how tremendously blessed we are in all of this, in every little way. So to kind of sum up the experience for myself and to keep from rambling on too much, let me conclude with a (incomplete, I'm sure) list of all the thoughts and moments that have filled me with gratitude over the last few days.

-Christmas everywhere, from the poinsettias and music in hotel lobbies, to the gorgeous tree and decorations throughout the Academy.
-Invocations at each event, and an overwhelming sense of the presence of God among us.
-Kids who held up through a bunch of days and nights of being off the usual routine, dragged hither and yon, and made to sit still a lot. Not only did they hold up, but they were little angels and got all kinds of compliments on their nice behavior.
-It may have been rainy, but at least it was not cold.
-Sniffles that (knock on wood) got better when they could have easily gotten worse.
-The privilege of staying in a really nice hotel, dining in a ballroom, and otherwise living the life for a short while. Oh, and Starbucks in the lobby.
-Gold stripes and bars and the awe that comes with what those mean for Don's career and our overall success as a family.
-Uniforms, and the pride of being a member of such an important organization and serving the country with distinction.
-Dress codes, and how snappy a bunch of people look when even the civilians are dressed nicely.
-Having our families with us for this whole experience. We are so blessed to have a set of siblings and parents that we are so fond of and whose company we so thoroughly enjoy.
-All the support and help from our families always, but especially in these last few weeks of moving, traveling, and events that have required more favors and babysitting than we usually like to ask.

A really exciting future ahead of us...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I Like Rocks

*The title of this post is an inside joke for Don (love you, darling!)

Today we got to go to a very favorite place of Don's and mine, and one that we have not been to in over four years. This is a spot where we came for walks almost every weekend; the last of which was just a few days before Amy was born. I was already a week past my due date, and a tropical storm was grazing the coast, but we tramped along in the rain on the mile-plus loop anyway.

And four years later, we returned, now with our little family in tow, just as we used to talk and dream about when we took those walks years ago. The pace was a little slower, and our arms were a little more tired as we carried sleepy children up the last stretch back to the car.

Don and the kids spent the better part of an hour throwing rocks in the waves while I slipped an embarrassing number of rocks in my pocket - all of them simply too pretty to leave behind. I like rocks.

This little road trip got me thinking about how a place is never truly just a place, it is a place in time, and returning at a different time renders it a different place. For better or worse, nothing ever exists quite the way it does in memory. But that is okay, because there are an infinite number of new places and moments and memories being created all the time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One Month

I realized what a huge blogging slacker I've been when I discovered that in the entire month of November I have only written TWO posts (not counting this one). That simply cannot stand.

It was one month ago that we moved out of our house in Maryland. That seems very, very far away.

We've been enjoying a really lovely month with my parents, and interjected that with a lovely little week with Don's family (and Don, too!).

In one week OCS will be all over; graduation is next Wednesday!

In one month we should be well settled in to our new abode in Charleston. Well, maybe not totally settled in, but we certainly will be there, and hopefully with at least a good chunk of stuff out of boxes.

That means that there is a lot that needs to happen in the next month, including finding the time to get in the Christmas spirit. I was reading back through some old blog posts and found I set the bar pretty high with the nice advent season we had last year. I got an awful lot done somehow, and I remember being so full of peace and fun and happiness through it all. There's no way I can match that this year, not with a big fat move smack in the middle of December.

But now that all the logistics are more or less scheduled it is time for me to stop dawdling and figure out how to make the most of my precious time here with my folks, revel in the festivities of Don's graduation week, and get at least some small amount of elfing done before we hit the road.

Ideas abound, just need to decide where to start!

Monday, November 21, 2011


Took the picture above over a month ago, on our pumpkin picking outing. Found an abundance of really cute pictures on my (new) phone once I finally figured out how to upload them to the computer.

I have to say, one of the unexpected outcomes of this (almost complete!) 17 weeks of OCS and single-parenting is how much more I love my kids. That sounds a bit odd as I write it, because of course I've always loved them like crazy, but after all this time flying solo I have found a confidence as a Mommy that I didn't have before, and somehow that has freed me up to appreciate and enjoy the little munchkins that much more.

I am thankful for my kids.

I am thankful for a tiny little bit of sewing time found over the last few weeks, and a how quickly this little quilt top (pictured in-progress) came together - satisfying! Not totally sure of the final plan for this quilt, but of course, I've had this fabric collection and it was time for something to be done.

I am thankful for big trees and all the open space we are enjoying these days here at my parents' house. I am thankful for another holiday season to spend here. I am thankful for a big chunk of weeks to really settle in and enjoy the time with my family.

And of course I'm thankful for my amazing husband, who is holding the number one position in his class and is just two short weeks away from becoming a commissioned officer. I couldn't be more proud.

There's lots more. We are very blessed. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Whew, this might be my longest blog absence. My apologies. I don't think I anticipated how much that move was going to take out of me, and how quickly the week or so after it would fly by. Here's a quick rundown, just so I can feel caught up:

It took my Dad plus ten people, give or take, to load a 14' Uhaul 3 times with our furniture and remaining boxes and get it all crammed into our 10x20 storage unit, in about 4 hours total. I don't know what we would have done without all that help from the amazing guys (and girls) that Don worked with at the Station. The cheerful generosity of these people was really wonderful.

My mom helped with the kids and the cleaning, and helped me from going insane. It was touch and go for awhile. I was disappointed with myself, because I did SO much packing ahead of time, and felt SO prepared for this, and yet it still ended up being a chaos of "whose stuff IS this??" at the very end. Not a fun feeling for an in-control person.

Somehow I managed to get all those last things out of the house the next morning in time for our 9:00 inspection and check-out from the housing office. I filled the garbage can twice (thank goodness it was trash day). I gave away Amy's cardboard house. I left the pumpkin on the neighbor's door step (trick or treat!). I threw out a lot... and that hurt, too, even though it was nothing major. I hate waste, and I hated that panicked feeling of knowing that I simply couldn't take it all with us.

I drove away from our house with my kids' carseats crammed full. No visibility. Hand-truck tied (poorly) to the roof of the Subaru. Three cats in carriers in the back. One half-full fish tank. Got weird looks from the gate guard on my way onto base to give my keys to the housing office. Went to the UPS store to ship some stuff home to make room in the car for, um, my kids. Went back to storage and with A LOT of prayers, made those last few things fit. Gassed up the car and picked up Mom and Amy and William from the hotel. Drove 7 hours to CT running on pure stress and adrenaline, and swearing the whole time I am never doing that again.

Oh, and to top it all off - my parents drove down just before that huge snowstorm slammed Connecticut. So they hear from the neighbors while we are in Maryland that the power is off, trees are everywhere, it's worse than Irene, etc etc. Sunday afternoon, before leaving on Monday, we go to Lowes to buy a generator, which my dad takes back ahead of us on Monday morning, while I was doing all the check-out stuff.

By the way, the maintenance man who did my inspection could hardly believe we'd been in the house for 3.5 years - he said up and down how clean and well-maintained it was. Thank you very much!!

The other bright spot of the super-stressful weekend was how GOOD and go-with-the-flow my sweet kids were through all the upheaval, topped off with a long car ride. Little freakin' angels.

The best thing in the entire world was arriving home to a warm fire, a house partially-lit thanks to the new generator, and being all together. We made the trip, the move (at least the hard part) was done, the cats were fine, and all was well.

The next day seriously felt like Christmas morning: Snow on the ground, bright sunshine, overflowing gratitude for the simple pleasures of running water and a little bit of heat. And just being home. All week long we developed a nice routine with the generator, and I learned all about filling gas cans, the proper order of choke, ignition, breaker-flipping, etc. It really was fun. Power was restored on Saturday night - a full week. The tree damage around here was really amazing; I've never seen anything like it.

So, that was the tale of our move. Oh, and I don't think I've mentioned here - we will be going to Charleston after Don graduates! He will be reporting aboard the CGC OAK after Christmas. The Oak is a 225' buoy tender, a multi-mission ship that travels all over the Gulf and Caribbean. It was his first pick, and should be a wonderful tour. I will be glad to get all our stuff transported and safely settled; then the fun begins.

In the meantime I am soaking up the home-time and enjoying a New England fall in the house I thought I might never return to when we left in August (house was on the market, now it's not - for now). Whatever may be in store, for now it is just good to be home.

AND my Amy celebrated her 4th birthday on Sunday, in the same house that I celebrated my 4th birthday. That's kinda cool, I think. Four, already, really?? That means I've been in the mommy-business longer than I was in college.... or high school. Whoa. Anyway.

Better wrap up this long and rambling post. Just thought you'd like to know where we've been all this time. Will try to resume my regularly scheduled programming here before we finish our move. Thanks for sticking with me!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Checkin' Out

You know you really are moving when all the pictures come off the walls.

Until then, just packing up the china and such, it seems much more far off and abstract, to think about actually leaving a house.

We've lived here 3.5 years, which is likely to be longer than we will live any place else for the duration of Don's CG career.

When we moved here I didn't think it would be that long; we were actually expecting that Don's advancement would have us moving after a year or two... so I don't think I ever really let myself feel totally settled here.

And yet my daughter has grown from a 5-month-old to a 4-year-old in this house. My son was born here and is now a toddler. We've collected two more cats. There's been a lot of living in this skinny little house here in Nowheresville, Maryland.

I find some of the most peculiar feelings of "loss" surrounding a move come not from the house itself, but from the town and community. I have pictures and memories of this house enough to keep it fresh in my mind for a long time. We take our treasures with us, of course, and we keep our friends near to our hearts. But what about the nice mailman? Or the familiar faces at the commissary? Favorite hairdresser? Or just the routine of knowing what lane to be in to most easily make the turn into Target?

These are all the comforts of knowing a place that take time, and are the things that you really can't take with you.

BUT the fun of it all is getting to know all those things in some new place, and that IS the adventure we signed up for.

So, now that packing boxes has shifted from my part-time hobby to my full-time, frantic business for the next few days, I am going to declare radio silence here, lest I fool myself into thinking that I have any free time. My parents will be arriving this weekend to help us with the final load-up, then the kids and I will be shipping out for a lovely period of limbo with family until Don graduates and we are ready to move all together to our new house.

Oh, and we will find out where that will be in approximately 72 hours. Not that I'm counting or anything.

I'll be back in a week or so, after we get ourselves organized. Have a lovely October!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Checkin' In

This is William's latest trick. He can climb up on the top of the table faster than you can imagine. Amy studiously colors a Hello Kitty picture and ignores the Willy Goat.

I am entering full packing mode around here. Boxes. Bags. Lots of them. Sooo satisfying. Am I the only freak out there who likes packing?

Seems like there is something to do every day, whether it is a shopping trip or a doctor's appointment or haircuts (today, see above). We are also working through a list of "fun" places that we want to get to at least one last time before we move from the area.

I washed almost all of my fabric because it smelled vaguely like scented cat litter, from the few weeks that the kittens spent in my sewing room. Not a bad smell to the untrained nose, but since I knew the source I just couldn't take it. So now I have a huge basket of really wrinkled fabric that I am folding when I have a spare minute... gets me thinking about all sorts of lovely projects...

Made a cool $80 from a garage sale this past weekend. Couldn't have done it without my friend Tara who drove up just for the occasion. Best part, besides have company for the weekend?: The weight bench is out of the garage.

I am this close to buying this laptop. I don't think that $80 will cover it...

Anything else? Probably, but I've got some bills to pay, boxes to pack, and Netflix to watch. Catch you later!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Quick Recap

Five lovely days in our favorite southern home-away-from-home is really... too short. Beach, pool, family... it was great, and went by way too fast.

Returned home to find flags installed on each and every unit in our neighborhood - it is about time! Did not realize ours was a bit fouled when I took this picture... still, they are gorgeous.

And, wait, who is this man holding my daughter?!

Yes, we got to see Don this weekend! His two-week training cruise aboard the Coast Guard Barque Eagle landed him in Baltimore for a weekend of liberty. The kids and I drove up on Saturday to tour the ship, eat lunch, and walk around the Inner Harbor a bit, exactly where we were exactly two months ago. Wonderful.

So, in summary, busy week of travel, awesome time to reconnect and catch up with D, psyched that we have a mere four weeks until we will be all packed up and moved out and returning to CT for a short bit. Oh, and we now have some ideas about what that next thing could be after Don's graduation, but I'll save that news for when it is more official. I'll try to come up with something interesting to write here in the meantime; I sure have plenty on my mind (and on my to-do list) these days.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Old News

Way back in August during our Connecticut visits we had the opportunity to visit this lovely place with Don's mom and the kids. It was the perfect little "farm" experience for Amy and William.

Highlights included holding a bunny...

Feeding a very eager goat, and some equally-eager ducks and chickens...

And holding/petting a guinea hen chick...

William was so super-gentle about this, and kept looking up at the Mrs. Farmer as if to say, "am I doing this right?"

After the petting zoo portion of the morning we walked through the woods on the "Gnome Trail" on a clever little scavenger hunt. Good fun all around.

In more recent news, I sewed a really cute dress for Amy's baby doll today - at her request. Every time I sit down at the sewing machine I enjoy it so thoroughly that I wonder what in the world is wrong with me that I don't simply make more time for sewing. Sigh.

Otherwise my Big Project these days is packing a few boxes when I can and making all sorts of mental lists for what needs to be done once moving prep kicks into high gear in October. We've got one more little trip coming up and then it will be full steam ahead. Expect some Maryland reflections in the coming weeks as we prepare to leave the home where my kids have spent nearly their whole lives so far. Big Stuff!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts on Fostering

Today was a big day in the crazy-cat-lady realm. I feel rather emotionally exhausted, interestingly not unlike how I felt on THE September 11th... though obviously under much different circumstances.

Last week someone put in an application to adopt Garfield, one of the three brothers who we have been fostering since early July. All week long I knew he would be going to his new home today (and therefore took a lot of pictures). I did not know that the man adopting him would also decide to take his brother Harley, too (and therefore I did not get any recent pictures of Harley). They are off to the home of a single father with two adolescent boys and a boxer puppy. All us crazy cat ladies at Feral Cat Rescue were slightly uneasy at first, because frankly, not many men want to adopt cats. I personally stewed over this all week, hoping and praying that this would be a good and safe home for these sweetest of sweet cats.

Anyway, after meeting this man and his boys at Petco this morning we were all assured that this would be a good home for Garfield, and even happier when he agreed to take one of his brothers, too. Now there is my peace of mind knowing that the kittens will have each other in yet another new environment and have feline companionship while the house is empty during the day. It's all good.

And of course, this left me in the situation that I have been pondering for weeks - if two get adopted, will I keep the third? And the answer is, yes! I signed the papers and brought Humphrey home to stay. He seems a little lonesome for his brothers but I must remind myself that he is a cat and it does no good to project my human emotions onto him. He is comfortable and loved (especially by Amy who has favored him all along because he tolerates being picked up), and that is really all that matters to a cat. For them there is no past and no future; they just live in the present and are happy there.

So, fostering kittens... emotionally draining because I get attached. How can you not when you have this handsome little silent-meower jumping around the house?

It is hard because I don't want to mourn their loss - it should be a celebration of two more cats finding a home in the world. And I need to learn to release my control-death-grip that I like to have on life and learn to trust that the needs of every little critter will be provided for, even if I am not personally the one cracking open the can of food. God cares for the sparrows and the lilies and the kitties and all of us. Right? Right. But I will miss them.

So there, my crazy-cat-lady monologue for the evening. Thanks for your patience! And by the way, the "crazy-cat-lady" bit was from Don, who referred to me as such with utmost affection, and neither he nor I consider those who take care of multiple felines to be at all crazy. At least not very crazy.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Watching the Grass Grow

I am not a very good gardener. I say that not because I can't get anything to grow; on the contrary, I can grow things very well. My problem always comes at about this point in the season, when everything is all blowsy and overgrown and buggy and disheveled... then I sorta lose interest.

Our little vegetable garden really did just fine this season. The tomatoes I lovingly raised from seed all grew vigorously and while the "purple cherokee" kept splitting before I could enjoy them, the two cherry tomato plants produced abundantly. We had potatoes, and would have enjoyed cucumbers and a few beans if they had not all peaked while we were away. But since I am now on a mission to ready our house for moving I decided it was time to officially undo the vegetable garden. (Which Don first installed back here, by the way.)

It actually took me a very small amount of time to ruthlessly clip and rip out the remaining plants, take a big crowbar to the bed, and rake the dirt smooth. We had a bit of leftover grass seed to use but I will need more. I moved one of our dinky wire fences in front of this patch to deter general trampling by children... feline trampling seems unavoidable.

Amy was a little suspicious of all this "undoing" so I simply explained that the veggies were done and now we were growing a grass garden. That was enough for her (not that our moving is a secret to her, by the way), and she quickly sat down to Watch the Grass Grow. Excellent. One pre-move project done, one zillion to go.