Thursday, December 18, 2008

School Pictures

In kindergarten I had been absent from school for several days due to illness. On the day of my return I had school pictures. My mom had not been made aware that pictures were to be taken so no special care was made with my appearance. And after having been home for several days I imagine she was just glad to have me out of the house.

Original portrait
When they called our class it was during play time (yes in those days they let the kids play in kindergarten. See how old I am.) So I went with the class and had my picture taken. Only when the pictures came back did we see that the cheap chain necklace that I had on during playing house was still on. My hair was sticking out all over the place and my collar was not straight.

This experience had a massive effect on my attitude about the images I captured for the little children I would photograph. I didn't want anyone else to have a photo like the one I had as a memory of kindergarten.

When David had his picture taken in October I did not go to oversee it. I know he has a great smile and don't want to be a hovering mom. Later I wished I had. The photographer didn't order the package I paid for. She also didn't take a very good picture of David. She had him lean forward so his shoulders were all hunched over. His eyes were also not as open as they should be. I had the pictures retaken because of the problems and this time I took him to school and oversaw the process.

The retake
Even though this photographer had the student before him lean forward I told David to sit up straight. The smile was great and the eyes were more natural. David fussed about sitting up straight because it didn't feel good. He actually has good posture and this has not been a problem before. We have finally received the retakes and when I showed David both pictures side by side he said "boy my shoulders sure look bad" to the first picture.

I am glad that the company now sells CDs of the images with a release, which I purchased, so that I can legally show you the images.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Pageant

Sunday evening our church put on a Christmas pageant that involved our adult choir and the children in the church. Rich sang in the choir so I took pictures from the balcony.

The children in their costumes were so adorable. I was so glad that they allowed all the children who wished to participate to be involved. Even our pastor's seven-month-old daughter was able to be a little lamb. The only problem with this was that the slightly older lambs wanted to play with her instead of paying attention to the music and the play going on around them.

Having been a children's photographer for six years I love to watch children. It was so much fun to watch the children's antics as the adults sang Christmas carols behind them. They began making faces, using their shepherds crooks to "capture" their friends and our pastor's young son checking the bottom of his shoe. We had two little lambs that must have realized that sheep don't wear shoes so they decided to remove their own.

The choir and children did a wonderful job. Many of our church members brought unsaved family members to watch the pageant. It was a great outreach with light snacks served in the fellowship hall after the program.

The church had so many people who worked hard on the program. They also stayed late into the night Saturday in order to return the sanctuary and hall back to order following Saturday's wedding.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

For Everything There Is A Season

Today the verses that my heart keeps returning to are Ecclesiastes 3:1&2.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.

Early this afternoon we received the news that our friends Joe and Abigail were the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl they have named Isabella. Joe's sister is so proud to be an auntie. This was the expected due date so she didn't disappoint those of us who couldn't wait to meet her.

As we began making plans to visit the happy family I received a phone call less than an hour later from my mother that my grandfather had passed away late last night.

This was exactly two weeks after her original call that they didn't expect him to make it through the day. He began to rally and they thought he would pull through with talk of even going to a nursing home. Over the last two weeks this cycle repeated several times.

My grandfather was always the strong silent type and he will be greatly missed. He also instilled within me a strong desire to learn about my Dutch heritage. Over 30 years ago he gave me a small silver charm that was shaped like a wooden shoe. When he purchased this token he told me he wanted me to have it so that when he was gone I could look at it and remember him. I still have this beautiful reminder of him and of our heritage, but I also am reminded of him as I sit at our kitchen table and look on the picture that always hung over their kitchen table. I also have the little cast iron stove above my sink that I played with at their house as a reminder. Grandpa's lack of a stable family growing up made him really treasure the family that he and Grandma had.

I was really glad to be able to rejoice with Joe and Abigail later at the hospital. Both sets of Baby Isabella's grandparents arrived from other states following the birth in order to meet and help the beautiful little princess.

This new little life has healed my heart just a little.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tm and Melissa Ice- A Winter Wedding

This past weekend we attended the wedding of a couple in our church. Tim and Melissa have dated for several years and on Saturday we were honored to be a part of their commitment to each other.

David and I sat up in the church balcony in order to be able to see better and get good pictures. Rich played bass before and during the ceremony so I was glad for my escort. After getting up to the balcony and getting settled, my escort, David, abandoned me. Our friend Abigail had decided to join us upstairs since her husband would be playing guitar and sing during the service. So David went and sat next to her.

The church was beautifully decorated in a very Christmas way. There were five trees on the platform with white twinkling lights and pointsettas lined the outer edge. Large red ornaments and hurricane lamps brightened the window sills.
Melissa was a beautiful bride. She wore a very elegant gown and the bridesmaids dresses were beautiful.

The couple incorporated their families well into different aspects of the service. Melissa has a large extended family that live in the area and we have gotten to know them well.

The reception was held at a renovated old building downtown. The building has a wonderful sweeping staircase at the rear of the building that the couple entered through. The wedding cake was made by our friend Stacy, who also acted as the wedding coordinator. We enjoyed fellowshiping with some good friends during the reception.

The couple will see many changes in the next few months. First their marriage then in the new year Tim will begin his career in the military as a chaplain.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Virginia Christmas

Everyone who know me knows I love Christmas. Sunday we traveled back in time with our friends Joe and Abigail. A local historic site, Point of Honor, held it's 26th Annual Christmas Open House. Point of Honor is a home that is being restored to the period of 1815 to 1830 when Dr. George Cabell and his wife owned the home.

The museum staff and the volunteers of the Lynchburg Museum System did a wonderful job. They were so wonderful and informative to all the visitors. The carriage house was used as a hospitality house with warm cider, hot cholocate, and cookies served to the guests while a harpist played. There was a fire pit outside the carriage house that was so inviting.

The house was open and decorated as it would have been for a Twelfth Night Ball supper. The decorations were mostly greenery from the local woods which would have been typical in the Federal period. The table in the diningroom held food dishes that were made following recipes dating back into the late 18th century. In the parlor was a trio that played (harp, flute, hammered dulcimer, guitar) and sang while we sat in chairs arranged around the room.

After leaving the house we headed to the cook house. Upon entering it there was a conversation going on about slavery. The visitor was really into the slavery issue and the abuses of the system. He was questioning the director of the Museum. After the visitors group left and we were able to enter, David enjoyed hearing about the food that the workers had made for the day. He even asked who would get to eat the food since the event was almost over. One of the worker jokingly asked if he wanted to eat the stuffed fish with the heads still intact. They were quite shocked when my thirteen-year-old jumped at the chance because he loves fish. They then explained that due to health codes and regulations they were not allowed to offer the guests the food. One of the workers at the cookhouse works for the museum system to help education systems access the museum. She was wonderful while talking to David and has offered her help with any research he may need for school. She gave me her card and said she would be glad to speak to his history class.

We headed over to the carriage house and got more cider, hot chocolate and cookies. Poor Abigail is just over a week from her due date but she was a real trooper. I am so glad that we have friends that share our love of history and exploring different time periods.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Snow and Soup

This past Saturday was FREEZING! I am a beach kind of woman and would prefer to stay inside next to a warm fire throughout the entire winter. But, this past weekend we visited several friends and a bookstore—even though it was so cold out.

Our friend Mrs. Walker is elderly and can't go out with this cold weather so we had not seen her in several weeks. So we headed over to her house with her Christmas present (which we got on vacation). This was a boost to both Mrs Walker and her daughter Peg. Peg is Mrs. Walker caregiver and I know it must get lonely at times. Mrs. Walker loved the handmade pillow we gave her for Christmas. I figure when you're in your 80s, why not open it early and enjoy as long as you can.

David catching snow flakes
on his tongue
We arrived back home just in time for snow to begin falling and falling. I know that an inch isn't a whole lot but just having snow at all is unusual for this time of year. I had pulled out the leftover turkey bits from Thanksgiving to make soup. David and Rich were very thankful for the warm soup that was ready when they finally came back inside from playing football in the falling snow.

I didn't have a recipe for the soup—I just made it up as I went. But, David even went back for seconds.

Kim's Turkey Noodle Soup
  • about 3 to 5 lbs left over turkey
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped onions
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 package wide egg noodles

I cooked the turkey, salt, pepper, chopped onions and bay leaves in the chicken broth for about an hour and a half. I then chopped the celery and carrots and cooked them along with four cups of water for about a half hour. Then I took out the bay leaves and added the egg noodles. I cooked until it was tender.

Soups ready!

It was really easy, cheap and warmed our insides. What more can you ask for?

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Grand Announcement

Wednesday when David returned home from school he made a grand announcement: "I think I'll write a book about my life." This is a very funny announcement coming from a thirteen year old. When we asked him why he said he has led an interesting life and thinks other kids would like to read about it. He says the book will be about him from the time he was one until now. I guess he was bored when he was a baby.

I am thankful that David has reached the point in his life where he can recognize that not all children have such wide experiences. I was also a bit shocked that he didn't think his life was boring—a common feeling for a thirteen year old.

Yes, he has done and seen many things that most kids have never done. He has gone to professional baseball games and at Camden Yards Stadium our family was the guest of the Orioles. We were given free hats, food and tickets. We have seen the Titanic Exhibit and seen actual items taken from the bottom of the ocean. We have gone to Dollywood, Kings Dominion and all the Disney parks in Florida. We have gone to NASA, the Smithsonians and even seen the president's helicopter land on the White House lawn. David has even been in the pages of a magazine three times.

The best part of all of this was that we did these as a family unit. There was a mother and father to share these memories with. When we grow up we think all families live like ours but he has really been realizing more each day that this is not the case.

So we may have a budding writer in our family.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Best Has Been

Grow old along with me
the best is yet to be.

—Robert Browning (1812-1889)

This poem often comes into my mind when I think of my grandparents. For 72 years they have loved each other and grown old side by side. However, today after growing old together my grandmother heard the hard news that this may be their last day together. Even in the nursing home they have shared a room.

Though I will miss my grandfather and cherish the wonderful memories we have shared, I can't imagine the pain my grandmother is going through. Much of her adult life shes has been lovingly "mothering" her husband. My grandfather was raised not by his family, but by a single woman. His own family had too many children to care for so Mrs. Bogart took him in. This was in an age when things were not as legally tracked as they are now. His birth certificate contains his birth name, but by the time he was 21 his marriage certificate states his last name as Bogart. When I questioned him many years ago about it I found that there was no legal paperwork that went through a court for this change. My grandmother never held a job outside the home and often scolded my grandfather when he ate too much sugar or didn't take as much care with his health. This meet a deep need in my grandfather to be mothered, but also my grandmother loved doing it. They have always called each other "mommy" and "daddy," something Rich and I also do.

My grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary the year I got married. At that time I just couldn't imagine being married that long. Now after 22 years it isn't quite as hard to imagine. The only question in my mind is will we be old enough to be married that long.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

What's A Gift Worth?

The morning of Black Friday my husband had the news on and of course they interviewed a man who was out shopping about how the economy is affecting his buying. He explained that he was shopping pretty much like he did last year, however he thought more people were shopping for just what they needed, "like TVs and clothes." I looked at my husband and said "Need? since when is a TV a need?"

Then later in the day we heard of the many stores where there was bodily harm and even death. One of the harmed was a pregnant woman and the death was an employee that was opening the doors of a Wal-Mart. [Newsday | New York Daily News]  My first thought was why would a pregnant woman continue to stay in a situation where there were hundreds and even thousands of people who were jostling and pushing for a chance to get ahead? Did she actually think that when the doors opened the crowds would get polite and walk calmly and politely into the store?

The employee was trampled to death and the shoppers continued to force their way over his dying body—even with emergency medical personnel working on him. When they tried to close the doors of the store due to this tragedy the shoppers refused to leave. They yelled that they had invested too much time waiting to be sent home without their purchases.

My heart and prayers go out to the family of the man who lost his life. I imagine they will never look at Thanksgiving or Christmas in the same way.

David and me at the park
I know that retailers and the media use Black Friday as an indicator of how holiday spending will go. But, with their limited time and limited available items at the great prices the stores are in part responsible for the situations. They must start taking measures to insure crowd control. Two years ago we went to a local store and the crowds were kept in a line. When the opening time came, the security would only allow a certain amount of people in at a time. At no time was there an unsafe or out-of-control feeling. Shoppers must also start using common sense that when a situation begins to look unsafe, it's not worth the risk.

So, for many, I guess the answer is nothing is worth more then a good buy. I was glad that we spent Black Friday not in a store, but in bed followed by a family trip to the park. We returned home to hot turkey sandwiches and a movie while cuddling in the livingroom.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Keeping Busy

David is off from school for five days so my concern was to keep him busy during this time. David tends to make poor choices when he is left to his own devices.

David's latch-hook craft
So I came up with crafts that I purchased months ago on major sales and stashed away until this weekend. One of the items I had purchased was a hooked rug that you make into a stuffed dog. I remember making hooked rug pillows when I was his age and knew how easy they can be to learn—also not a lot of clean up.

I pulled it out this morning only to find that the kit didn't include the tool. So off to the store we went and found that everyone else in town was out shopping.

Turkey pasta
This has proved to be a great activity for him, it requires lots of body control and focus since this kit doesn't have the pattern imprinted on the canvas. David must count and keep track of the pattern. This also will require lots of time that he can spend on it over the next few days.

I also purchased a little unpainted wooden train that he has begun to paint. This will satisfy his desire for instant gratification. He is actually taking a little more time and effort than I expected.

Several weeks ago I found turkey shaped pasta. This evening I made dinner and we all loved the early start on Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Entering His Gates

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!"
—Psalm 100:4

This is a verse that has been entering my mind in the last few weeks and this past Sunday was read aloud in our church.

The first time this verse came to my mind was the day after Halloween when I saw no decorations for Thanksgiving. After searching through four stores I found that, other than paper plates and cups, there were no decorations available for sale. But the employees were very busy putting out Christmas decorations.

Has Thanksgiving just become the big foodfest that kicks off Christmas? Unfortunely, for our nation I believe it has. But I believe that this year more then ever we need to return to the thankfulness that the pilgrims had when our country was in its infancy.

As we are all tightening our belts, we need to pull together. There are those around us who are in real need and we may be able to supply some of that need with a joyful heart. If the Native Americans had not shared with the pilgrims they would not have survived. If the same situation was today I wonder what the result would have been.

David, carving the Thanksgiving turkey
As we all go around the next few days preparing our homes and kitchens are we preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving. I found that last night as I got into my bed I was truly more thankful for the clean sheets and warm blankets on my bed. Yes, I wash the sheets weekly, but have never thought about how fortunate I am for them. Yes, I would have a list of things I am thankful for, but had not thought so much of the little things in life that I take for granted. I am looking at my blessings more as we go through these hard economic times.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lost in Childhood

"If you stand still outside you can hear it... Winter's footsteps, the sound of falling leaves"

Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata, Animal Crossing: Wild World, 2005

Last year David raked all the leaves together, not because we asked, but because he wanted to lose himself in them. I love to see the falling leaves and the scurring animals preparing for winter are all around us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bridal Blessings

Cupcake Station
Last night I attended a bridal shower for one of the young ladies at church. The shower was planned by Abigail, Stacy and Leslie. Instead of a traditional cake or cupcakes they went with a "cupcake station." This was so well done and creative and allowed the guests their choice of what they wanted on their cupcake. There were unfrosted vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, which you could then put vanilla or chocolate frosting on. Then they had raspberry sauce, chocolate sprinkles, or M&Ms that could be added as a topping. It was fun watching everyone make their cupcake a little different.

Since this was an evening shower the room's lights were turned down and candles lit the event. Lots of pink and black balloons scattered the floor, pink and black plates and napkins and pink punch kept the theme colors of the evening. Abigail's computer played music while we enjoyed the food brought by the ladies of the church.

Even Joe, Abigail's husband, had a hand in the evening's event. Joe had interviewed the groom with questions about their first dates, likes and dislikes of the bride, and where they see themselves in five years. One of the young ladies in the church asked the bride the same questions and following the bride's answers the video of the groom's answers played. This created quite a few laughs as the answers sometimes were exact and others were totally different.

Instead of the traditional devotion, verses were read followed by prayers for the couple. Abigail also brought out our responsiblilty to the couple in holding them accountable and also teaching the bride how to be a godly wife.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lunch Date

This morning David asked if I would meet him at school to have lunch with him. I told him I would try to make it—this is run-errands-and-shopping day. David knows this means I will make every effort to be there and it's not just a "if I feel like it then I will" attitude. I sent him in with his lunch just in case something weird and unexpected came up.

Rich and I were both able to meet him and bring him a warm McDonald's lunch, with a McFlurry. I have always found it very interesting that often parents assume that their middle school age children wouldn't want to be seen with their parents. But, many of David's classmates all through middle school have expressed the desire that their parents would bring them lunch. I think it gives them a feeling of being cherished and loved.

I know we received many envious looks from his classmates today and some comments from his friends asked what did we bring them. I also heard one stuents say she wished her parents would bring her lunch.

I always make sure I spiff up for our lunches. I want to make sure he continues to want us to join him. It also lets him know that we wouldn't want to embarrass him and that taking the extra effort in looking good for him is important to us.

Since elementary school I have made it a practice of trying to have lunch with him occasionally. I have found this gives me great contact with school staff and his fellow students. Today we were able to clarify a situation about tardies with one of his teachers and David that kept it from being a meeting. This lets the teachers know we are keeping track of what is going on and both David and the teacher were able to hear the other person's side and express their own view of the problem.

We also found out that school pictures were to be sent home today. David hadn't received his so I checked with his teacher. She hadn't received it and no one had any idea where it was. After checking the master list we found that even though our check was cashed, no pictures were ordered. After calling the company I found that no order was placed. But after explaining that I did fill out the form correctly (I used to work for this company and know the form well.) Then the customer service person said it was because the paperwork was messed up at the school. I know the school just gives the students a card and the order is given to the photographer. So when it comes down to it the error was due to the photography company. Now it will take until Nov. 28th (6 weeks after the portrait was taken) before we will get the portraits. Oh, that will also be after portrait make-up day. So the school is going to have his picture re-taken on make-up day just in case the original photographer is as bad at taking pictures as they were with the paperwork. If I had not been at the school we wouldn't even have known until next week.

Going in to David's school when he was in second grade also allowed school staff to feel comfortable in expressing their own concern to me about his teacher. I had several staff members who told me that they felt the teacher was being unfair to all his students and took outside pressures out on his students. This just confirmed what I had long suspected and I was then able to continue to pressure the school into getting a new teacher for him.

When David was in elementary school I was helping another mom navigate through the IEP and special education process. When I asked her middle school-aged daughter if she would like her mother to have lunch with her she jumped at the chance for her mom to join her. Unfortunely that stay-at-home mom never did go in to have lunch with her daughter.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Prayers For Players

(left to right) Luke, Caleb, David
This past weekend my mother- and father-in-law visited our nephew Caleb at Bryan College. While there, they went to watch his rugby game along with a friend of his. Following the game Caleb and his friend returned to the college with my in-laws. The rugby van that Caleb was to be riding in collided, headlong, with a speeding vehicle, both cars were destroyed, but the guys lived. The players were air-vaced to the hospital.

While as a family we are rejoicing that Caleb was not in the van we are still praying for the injured in both vehicles.

Please pray for the passengers and their family members in both vehicles and also the student body at Bryan.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mom's Advice

While planning Abigail's baby shower I wanted to follow the Biblical mandate that older women are to teach the younger women. I decided to ask each mother who attended the shower to think over the next week about the one piece of advice they wished that someone had told them. I wanted to give them enough time to think about the advice they would be giving this first-time mother and not something off the top of their heads.

I have received a few and am working (okay, bugging) the rest of the ladies to fill out the "I wish someone had told me..." form I had made to build this unique booklet. But the forms that have been filled out are wonderful so I thought I would share some of their advice.

From the mother of one child—
I wish that someone had told me "never doubt that you are able to parent this child that God gave you. Take the advice that works for you. If you try something and it doesn't work throw it out and move on. It might have worked for another mom and child, but that doesn't mean it will work for you."

From the mother of two adult children—
I wish that someone had told me (and I'm sure they did!) However, it just took a few years and experience to realize the truth that God is in control all the time even in the "not so good days." He allows problems—trials of all types, like fevers, ear aches and crying babies that makes us more grateful for the "better times" and more empathetic to others with problems."

From the mother of two toddlers—
I wish that someone had told me "what a huge responsibility parenting is. How hard it is to discipline those cute faces. How much of a blessing and how funny kids are. That taking care of me and my marriage makes me such a better mom."

From the mother of two school age children—
I wish that someone had told me "to put my baby on a schedule (a flexible one; not extremely rigid). Babies love routines and they sleep through the night a lot faster on a schedule! Also, enjoy every moment and don't worry about every little thing- it goes by too fast."

From the mother of two school-aged children—
I wish that someone had told me "to take time to love your child now. They will never be this little again. Take lots of pictures monthly to look at the changes that are going on daily in their lives. Put a calender where you change your baby to write down all the milestones for that day and when you want to transfer the information to your baby book you can do it on your schedule."

I think this baby advice book actually took seed in my brain many years ago at the grocery store. While I was behind a young mother in line at the check-out the cashier told her that the cereal she was purchasing on WIC (federal funding for women, infants and children that are in need) was not covered. The young mother explained that she needed it since the doctor had told her that her baby was ready for cereal. The problem was that the doctor assumed that she would understand that it was baby cereal and not Life cereal, Frosted Flakes or Special K. The cashier just told her no it wasn't covered and removed it from the order. David was just five at that time and I felt my heart go out to this mother that had no older mom to help her through the path of parenthood. I had the cashier hold my order aside and took the mother to the baby aisle and explained what she needed and the need to either purchase larger hole nipples or use the old nipples and cut a small cross slit in the top.

I can't wait to gather up some more advice and bind the booklet for the birth of Abigail's little one. I thought these were great pieces of advice and felt they should be shared.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election hopes

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Bedford Boys

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
—George Santayana

As we face the election of a new president tomorrow it is very fitting that we take a look at the past. This past weekend we went to the National D-Day Memorial and found a memorial to the men and women of not only our nation, but of many nations that we fought with against evil. The people who fought this war and the people who supported them paid a very heavy price for freedom, perhaps higher that what our soldiers have paid in our war against terrorism.

"The Final Tribute"
The decisive battle that would end Hitler's dream of Nazi domination came at a great cost. The war turned on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The military operation was named Overlord and would entail more than 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes and more than 150,000 service men. The men would have to disembark from plywood boats holding 30–50 soldiers and then cross beaches with no cover for 200 yards before receiving any protection, while carrying up to eighty pounds of equipment. When it was over, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead. But, the cost could have been so much greater.

First, if nothing had been done due to fear of the cost (both financially or in terms of human cost), and second, if our military leaders had not planned properly or not worked together.

Fallen Bedford soldier
with his Bible
The Nazis had prepared for an invasion on these very beaches by building metal structures (called hedgehogs)that at high tide would be unseen and would rip through the hull of the allied ships preventing them from reaching the beach. However, the allies had seen these booby traps from the air and instead landed at low tide in order to avoid the traps.

The memorial is so well thought out and so visually impactful that it sent chills up my spine. The bronze statues have a symbolic purpose. One was of a Bedford soldier who had died on the beach with his Bible by his side. The Bible had slipped out of his pack and was found on the beach some time later.

"Sacrifice" falling from the wall
"Scaling the Wall" is so lifelike that you feel that by touching the soldiers they will come to life. You can look right into the eyes of one of the soldiers as he scales the top of the wall (symbolizing Valor). One soldier on the wall has made the ultimate sacrifice (symbolizing Sacrifice, as he falls from the wall), and there are two others who are helping each other to make it over the wall (symbolizing Fidelity). There is a garden that pays tribute to the generals who worked together and planned this monumental military maneuver.

We took advantange of the memorial's cart tours in order to get a grasp on the events that occured that day long ago. I think our guide, Michael, thought the goal was to get us through as quickly as possible. We passed one other tour and a few times we thought we were going to tip over when taking a sharp corner. But we were able to learn and David's interest was maintained.

Even though the memorial is called the National D-Day memorial it receives no federal funding. Ok, I know that sounds amazing since everything and everyone else gets funded my our tax dollars. The memorial is built and maintained by admission prices, tours, the gift shop and private donations. I was pleasantly surprised that the admission price was just $5.00 per person, most private museums are much more pricey.

Bedford, Virginia, seems like a very unlikely place to build a National Memorial. It is not located on any major highway in the area, so it is not likely to get the normal vacation stop-off. But there is a very good reason that Bedford was chosen as the location for the memorial. You see, at the end of the day on June 6, 1944, nineteen of the soldiers from Bedford were dead and two more would die later in the Normandy campaign. Since the population of Bedford was just 3,200 they received proportionally more losses then any other community in our nation.

A man's feet should be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.
—George Santayana

This memorial is a reminder that even today we must fight evil that threatens the world. We have neighbors and loved ones who are in harms way as we enjoy the freedoms that are maintained at a high cost.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

That Meal Was Gross!

Apple cider with
frozen cider hands and gummy eyeballs
We decided to make a meal for our Wednesday night kids that would reflect our warped sense of humor. The kids asked before taking any of the food since they weren't sure what the food was and it looked so gross.

Bleeding heart brie
Everyone loved it! We placed creepy spiders all over the counter and table and a skull held vials of bats blood (o.k. it was really ketchup darkened with food coloring). We floated gummi eyeballs and ice severed hands inside the cider filled punch bowl.

Body parts salad
I made a pork mummy, a phyllo-wrapped pork tenderloin. We had a bleeding heart brie cheese with cherry preserves wrapped in dough.

Our body parts salad was black cherry gelatin with cherries and oranges. I wrapped breadsticks around hotdogs and made them look like mummies.

Mummy pork tenderloin
A taco salad stared back at us as we proceeded to eat it. We finished off the meal with bat and bug topped cupcakes.

These evenings with our Wednesday night kids is so wonderful. We get to keep up with what is going on with them and at the same time make sure they are getting a good home-cooked meal at least once a week.

Taco salad with sour cream eyeballs

Skull with vials of bat's blood

Skewered mummy hotdogs

Mary Liz "Lizzie Borden" chowing down

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Treat Bags

Yesterday I made up trick-or-treat bags to pass out to the kiddies on Friday. We don't have any neighbors with little kids so I invite friends to bring their little ones to come by anytime on Halloween day. I had so much fun making and giving out these bags last year I decided to repeat it this year.

Treat bags
I got the idea last year from Martha Stewart's magazine and saw the bag kits in the craft store this year. Even though the kits were available in the store I found that making my own were alot less expensive.

Each treat takes two lunch bags, a piece of raffia, a stick and candy for inside the bag. The first bag I just fringed the top about 2 inches. I placed the candy in this bag. I then took the second bag and fringed all the way down to the base of the bag (not cutting into the bottom of the bag.) I took the first bag and placed it into the second bag. Gathering up the fringe of the second bag, I placed the stick and tied it all with a piece of raffia.

Between the price of the bags and raffia I paid only a couple of dollars to make 20 treat bags. The sticks I gathered from our yard. Since it has been very windy this week there was no shortage of twigs and small sticks. The kits in the store made up only 10 mini bags for $9.99. The sticks also were just too perfect and straight looking, almost like a pencil. My larger bags also let me put a little more candy in each bag

The kids loved the bags last year and they look so festive right inside our door. This also prevents my boys from eating all the candy that is meant to be given out on Halloween night.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

By Any Other Name

As we approach Halloween I am always intrigued by the changes that have occurred since I was a child. Growing up everyone in our neighborhood and church went trick-or-treating. There was no question that the next day at lunch everyone would have a lunchbox full of sweets.

Then when I was in elementary school the candy of a few became laced with drugs and razor blades. Then many schools began to create safe festivals to make sure we were safe. This not only allowed us to dress up, receive candy but also to play fun games on this night.

So much had changed when my own son was born. Christians no longer stayed home to pass out candy to their neighbors. They no longer sent out their children to their neighbors. No, the lights on many Christian homes were dark.

The reason? Because "we don't believe in Halloween" was the answer I received. They didn't want to participate so they brought all their candy and dressed their kids up and headed to church for their "Fall Festival." When I began to question some of the other mothers that gave me this answer asking what the difference was, I was told "the kids don't dress up as Satan or a witch." What, you couldn't dress them as something nice to go out into their neighborhood?

David and his pumpkins
It became glaringly obvious that we were out of step with many of the church officials at my son's preschool (where I was their secretary) when the guest speaker at chapel was preaching against Halloween to the preschool and elementary school kids. The speaker explained to the kids that the carving of pumpkins was always evil. It was acceptable to paint or put stickers on a pumpkin at any other time of the year, just not at Halloween. He explained that people only carved evil images into pumpkins. He also said that his kids and grand kids were allowed to dress up in costumes any day but on Halloween night. Of course, he didn't believe that dressing up as Biblical characters was a costume. So the fall festivals were acceptable.

When the speaker asked if there were any questions my little four-year-old David stood up and told him he was wrong. We had carved pumpkins, but they had "David's House" and nice things. He also told him he was going to dress up as "Bear In The Big Blue House" and he was going to visit our neighbors. David also told the speaker that his mom said he could go out so there was nothing wrong with it. This little speech from the mouth of my babe left the speaker speechless.

Scarecrow David
When David was only 17 months old and we dressed him up as a cowboy, chaps and all, he would take the candy from each neighbor and then sit down on their front steps and talk to them as he enjoyed their treat. It took us about two hours to go to 8 houses, but not only did we enjoy ourselves but the neighbors got a chuckle out of it.

I can respect it if someone truly doesn't believe in Halloween and doesn't participate in any way. One of my friends told me this week that they never participated in Halloween, but that her parents also refused to allow them to attend the fall festival at church. This is consistent with their belief and I can understand and would never question that belief. However, a rose by any other name is still a rose and getting candy while dressed in costumes during the end of October is still Halloween.

I had fun as a kid dressing up and roaming the neighborhood. I even dressed up one year as a witch. And guess what? I never did have any interest in witchcraft or magic. Yes, nowadays we have to be more careful with what houses we allow our kids to visit. But I was more than willing to watch carefully over David's trick-or-treating. This year he is a teenager and will not be getting dressed up or going out, but I am glad we made the choice we did.

Monday, October 27, 2008


David and me looking over one of the three rivers
This weekend our family plans were rained out. We had planned on an outdoor family day before the weather turns too cold. Rain was to come as of Friday, so we thought it might be a bit wet, but had not planned on downpours. So we stayed in and I made cold weather food—baked potato soup and pulled pork sandwiches.

Saturday David woke up in the wee hours of the morning (like 3am) and was up for many hours. We all finally got a few more hours of sleep but it was almost 9:30 before David finally rolled out of bed.

Old train station entrance (next to our hotel)
So as Rich and I tried to be quiet, he turned on FOXNews. They began to cover a speech that Sarah Palin was making in Pittsburg about special needs children. I listened with great interest since this is a topic close to my heart. I felt that since her son had not hit the school issues her understanding of special needs parenting would be limited. However, after listening to her speech I think she has surrounded herself with many others, including her sister, who have been able to express the issues that arise from parenting these children.

One of the points she made in her speech is the need for the federal IDEA funding to follow the child, no matter where they move to. We found this to be a major consideration in our family. We actually receive less services in our new home then we did in our old home. And of the services David is receiving, we have fought hard to get every one of them.

Nighttime view of the skyline
taken from the Dusquesne Incline
In our last community the services were readily offered before we needed to ask for them. Many would then wonder why we would move. After coming to the new community we maintained two houses to determine which area would be best for our family. While the old school system had great services for our son that was where the benefits ended. The mental health care was not sufficient for children and the city environment caused David to become more aggressive. We also had less of a support system.

There was nothing we could do about the health care or aggressive environment of living in Northern Virginia. But I knew we had a better chance of fighting a school system to get David services.

We are very glad for our decision since David is growing and accomplishing more then anyone ever thought he would. If David's funding had followed him we could be receiving more services then he currently receives.

David and me at a pizza restaurant
Sarah Palin also addressed the additional concern for long term needs of these children. While all parents have concerns for their children, there is often the concern for lifetime care and services that special needs children may require. We as David's parents are training him in the skills that can help him hold down a job, provide for his needs and sustain a relationship. But we are also preparing for the eventuality that he may always be under our care. However, we have been told by many "professionals" that this is a hope that is unlikely to occur. One doctor even told us, after an eight hour comprehensive testing session, that children with David's issues were either dead or in jail by the time they were twenty. I told this man to never call again, since I refused to just accept his diagnosis.

It was funny that Gov. Palin's speech happened to be in Pittsburg. Several years ago I attended adoption workshops in Pittsburg and was even able to bring my family for this workweek-long event. This past week as I was purging boxes I found the pictures of that week.

I have included Gov. Palin's speech in its entirety below.

Palin's Speech on Children with Special Needs
By Sarah Palin, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

"Thank you all very much. I appreciate the hospitality of the people of Pittsburgh, and I'm grateful to all the groups who have joined us here today. The Woodlands Foundation, the Down Syndrome Center at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Autism-link, the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh: Thank you for coming today. And, above all, thank you for the great work you do for the light and love you bring into so many lives.

John McCain and I have talked about the missions he'd like me to focus on should I become vice president, and our nation's energy independence and government reform are among them. But there is another mission that's especially close to my heart, and that is to help families of children with special needs. And today, we'll talk about three policy proposals that are going to help us fulfill our country's commitment to these children: more choices for parents, fully funding IDEA, and efforts to reform and refocus.

Too often, even in our own day, children with special needs have been set apart and excluded. Too often, state and federal laws add to their challenges, instead of removing barriers and opening new paths of opportunity. Too often, they are made to feel that there is no place for them in the life of our country, that they don't count or have nothing to contribute. This attitude is a grave disservice to these beautiful children, to their families, and to our country -- and I will work to change it.

One of the most wonderful experiences in this campaign has been to see all the families of children with special needs who come out to rallies and events just like this. We have a bond there. We know that children with special needs inspire a special love. You bring your sons and daughters with you, because you are proud of them, as I am of my son.

My little fella sleeps during most of these rallies, even when they get pretty rowdy. He would be amazed to know how many folks come out to see him instead of me.

When I learned that Trig would have special needs, honestly, I had to prepare my heart. At first I was scared, and Todd and I had to ask for strength and understanding. I did a lot of praying for that understanding, and strength, and to see purpose.

And what's been confirmed in me is every child has something to contribute to the world, if we give them that chance. You know that there are the world's standards of perfection, and then there are God's, and these are the final measure. Every child is beautiful before God, and dear to Him for their own sake. And the truest measure of any society is how it treats those who are most vulnerable.

As for our baby boy, Trig, for Todd and me he is only more precious because he is vulnerable. In some ways, I think we stand to learn more from him than he does from us. When we hold Trig and care for him, we don't feel scared anymore. We feel blessed.

Of course, many other families are much further along a similar path -- including my best friend who happens to be my sister, Heather, and her 13-year old son Karcher, who has autism. Heather and I have worked on this for over a decade. Heather is an advocate for children with autism in Alaska. And as governor, I've succeeded in securing additional funding and assistance for students with special needs. By 2011, I will have tripled the funding available to these students.

Heather and I have been blessed with a large, strong family network. Our family helps make sure that Trig and Karcher have what they need. But not everyone is lucky enough to have that strong network of support. And the experiences of those millions of Americans point the way to better policy in the care of children with special needs.

One of the most common experiences is the struggle of parents to find the best and earliest care for their children. The law requires our public schools to serve children with special needs, but often the results fall far short of the service they need. Even worse, parents are left with no other options, except for the few families that can afford private instruction or therapy.

Many of you parents here have been through the drill: You sit down with teachers and counselors to work out the IEP—an individual education plan for your child. The school may be trying its best, but they're overstretched. They may keep telling you that your child is "progressing well," and no extra services are required. They keep telling you that—but you know better.

You know that your children are not getting all of the help they need, at a time when they need it most. The parents of children with special needs ask themselves every day if they are doing enough, if they are doing right by their sons and daughters. And when our public school system fails to render help and equal opportunity—and even prevents parents from seeking it elsewhere that is unacceptable.

In a McCain-Palin administration, we will put the educational choices for special needs children in the right hands their parents'. Under reforms that I will lead as vice president, the parents and caretakers of children with physical or mental disabilities will be able to send that boy or girl to the school of their choice—public or private.

Under our reforms, federal funding for every special needs child will follow that child. Some states have begun to apply this principle already, as in Florida's McKay Scholarship program. That program allows for choices and a quality of education that should be available to parents in every state, for every child with special needs. This process should be uncomplicated, quick, and effective -- because early education can make all the difference. No barriers of bureaucracy should stand in the way of serving children with special needs.

That's why John and I will direct the Department of Education to clarify the statute administratively. We'll make explicit that when state funds are portable, federal funds are fully portable. We're going to make sure parents have choices and children receive the education they deserve.

Even the best public school teacher or administrator cannot rightfully take the place of a parent in making these choices. The schools feel responsible for the education of many children, but a parent alone is responsible for the life of each child. And in the case of parents of children with disabilities, there are enough challenges as it is, and our children will face more than enough closed doors along the way. When our sons and daughters need better education, more specialized training, and more individual attention, the doors of opportunity should be open.

Like John McCain, I am a believer in providing more school choice for families. The responsibility for the welfare of children rests ultimately with mothers and fathers, and the power to choose should be theirs as well. But this larger debate of public policy should not be permitted to hinder the progress of special-needs students. Where their lives, futures, and happiness are at stake, we should have no agenda except to ease the path they are on. And the best way to do that is to give their parents options.

In a McCain-Palin administration, we will also fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. To his great credit, it was President Gerald Ford who signed the legislation that became the IDEA—establishing new standards of respect and inclusion for young Americans with disabilities. From that day to this, however, the federal government's obligations under the IDEA have not been adequately met. And portions of IDEA funding have actually decreased since 2005.

This is a matter of how we prioritize the money that we spend. We've got a three trillion dollar budget, and Congress spends some 18 billion dollars a year on earmarks for political pet projects. That's more than the shortfall to fully fund the IDEA. And where does a lot of that earmark money end up? It goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good -- things like fruit fly research in Paris, France, or a public policy center named for the guy who got the earmark. In our administration, we're going to reform and refocus. We're going to get our federal priorities straight, and fulfill our country's commitment to give every child opportunity and hope in life.

For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information. Early identification of a cognitive or other disorder, especially autism, can make a life-changing difference. That's why we're going to strengthen NIH. We're going to work on long-term cures, and in the short-term, we're going to work on giving these families better information.

Once a condition is known, parents need the best and latest information on what to expect and how to respond. This service is also provided for under the IDEA. And we will make sure that every family has a place to go for support and medical guidance. The existing programs and community centers focus on school-age children -- overlooking the need for assistance before school-age.

But it would make a lot more sense for these centers to focus as well on infants and toddlers. This is not only a critical stage for diagnosis; it can also be a crucial time to prepare the family for all that may lie ahead. Families need to know what treatments are most effective, and where they are available, what costs they will face, and where aid can be found, and where they can turn for the advice and support of others in their situation. As Todd and I and Heather know, there's no substitute for the friendship of those who have been where we are now.

The IDEA is also intended to serve teens and young adults with special needs. And here, too, there is an opportunity to reform and extend the reach of federal support under the IDEA. By modernizing a current law, the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, we can better serve students with disabilities in our high schools and community colleges. This will require reform by the states as well. Just as the federal government expects proven results in the progress of other students, we must require results as well in the achievements of students with disabilities. And the result we will expect is simple: that every special-needs student be given a chance to learn the skills to work, and enjoy the freedom to live independently if that is their choice.

As families across America know, the care of special-needs children requires long-term planning, and especially financial planning. A common practice among these families is to establish financial trusts. These are known as special needs trusts, covering years of medical and other costs, and for parents they bring invaluable comfort.

Understandably, then, many families with special-needs children or dependent adults are concerned that our opponent in this election plans to raise taxes on precisely those kinds of financial arrangements. They fear that Senator Obama's tax increase will have serious and harmful consequences—and they are right. The burden that his plan would impose upon these families is just one more example of how many plans can be disrupted, how many futures can be placed at risk, and how many people can suffer when the power to tax is misused.

Our opponent has an ideological commitment to higher taxes. And though he makes adjustments on his tax plan pronouncements seemingly by the day, his commitment to increase taxes remains the same. John McCain and I have just the opposite commitment. We intend to lower taxes, promote growth, and protect the earnings and savings of American families.

Not long ago, I spent some time at a place in Cleveland called the Michael T. George Center, a beautiful home for adults with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. I met Michael George, too, a boy of five with Down Syndrome. Michael is a healthy, sweet, joy-filled little man—and I saw in him all the things I wish for Trig in just a few years.

Michael's parents, Tony and Kris George, are advocates for children with special needs in their community. They are thinking far ahead, in their own boy's life and in the lives of others. They named the center after their son. It's a public-private partnership. This welcoming place—and so many others like it—shows the good heart of America. They are places of hope. They are the works of people who believe that every life matters, everyone has something to contribute, and every child should have things to look forward to, and achievements to point to with pride and joy. As many of you know better than I, it can be a hard path, and yet all the more joyful and productive when the barriers are overcome.

John McCain and I have a vision in which every child is loved and cherished, and that is the spirit I want to bring to Washington. To the families and caregivers of special-needs children all across this country, I do have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. And I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.

Thank you all, and God bless you."

Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska, is the Republican vice presidential nominee.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Satisfaction Guaranteed, Yeah Right!

If you've read my blog for any length of time you know that we normally make our own pizza. Last week we made the mistake of ordering pizza from Papa John's. I should have known better since the previous two times we ordered from them the pizza was late and cold. But, I guess hope springs eternal.

But, last Friday we ordered online at 4:30 when we received our e-mail confirmation it stated that we should expect deliver in 30-40 minutes. After an hour I called the location and after waiting on hold for 8 minutes (yes, I timed it) I was informed by the employee the e-mail time means nothing. I was also informed that the pizzas had already left and would be here in just a couple minutes. Since the restaurant is less then 2 miles away the pizza should not be cold. About 5 minutes later the pizzas finally arrived. I was all for sending them back unpaid since they were lukewarm to cold. Rich was all for just heating them up. But, after paying the delivery guy and heating them up the pizzas still tasted bad. So out of our two large pizzas we didn't even eat three slices. The rest was thrown into the trash.

I then went onto the Papa John's web site and found this statement. "At Papa John's, we believe better ingredients make a better pizza. If your pizza doesn't meet the quality standards you expect from Papa John's, we'd like to know." So I filled out the customer feedback form and fully expected some kind of answer.

Since the e-mail was sent last Friday night I knew it would take a few days to get an answer. But as of now the only communication from Papa John's is an e-mail "Your Papa John's Pizza Offer Has Arrived!" Needless to say this is going right into my trash box and I have sent another feedback form requesting that I be removed from their list. Now I know that it isn't just a local issue, but the lack of customer care stems from the corporate level.

So as you can imagine we are not ordering in pizza tonight.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thanks For The Memories

Now that summer is over I have more time since David is in school I have resumed unpacking boxes we have stored. I am finding junk that should have been thrown out instead of moved, hence a trip to the dump yesterday. But along with the junk there are also items that bring back wonderful memories.

One of the items I found was an ImageCD that Rich had made with a few of David's baby pictures. So much has changed since these images were made that Rich had to convert them to JPEG for me. But, the pictures are wonderful.

One of the pictures shows David and his half-birth sister. We had invited David's birth-mother and birth-sister shortly before Christmas to give them Christmas gifts. In one of the pictures his half-sister is kissing him on his head. It was such a sweet moment and I am glad that we have it on CD.

I love the picture of David looking out the back door. He was just learning to stand and you can see his death grip on the pane molding on the door. Don't you just love all those black ringlets that covered his head? This used to cause a real problem, since everyone thought he was such a cute GIRL.