Memory Lane

Bill and I have been emailing memories back and forth this month. Today is our 14th anniversary. And because we both like to keep things neat, we married on the same day we began to date. That anniversary is our 20th. I was 18; he was 21.

I don’t think most people will “get” many of these one-liners. They’re not for you – they are for us. His are in bold, and mine are in italic. These are just the ones from our engagement, wedding and honeymoon. (Note: his are romantic, mine are sarcastic, witty or detailed)

Asking your father for permission to marry you a little too far in advance

Getting on one knee and asking the most important question of my life

bridal fair (aka: your personal “Heidi” moment)

Seeing the most beautiful woman in the world taking my hand at the altar

perfect weather and beautiful pictures at a gorgeous park

Cutting the cake

realizing we had no keys to the getaway car

Dancing to Elvis

But I don’t want to go to the parking lot at the Nuerburgring

what do you mean the office is closed?

pasta mafiosso

Frau Rau

Wuerzburg’s closed on Mondays?

Bartering for a hotel room

Drinking wine in Trier by the black gate and beer in Munich

Der Dom Tuer ist schluss Tuer! (RING!)

Ten km from Fuessen.

trying to spell our last name using a combination of German and English letters and not being able to find the keys or my wallet or whatever and having to go back to the pension only to find they were with me the whole time (aka: when you find out you married a ditz).

Disappointment at Nymphenburg (swans in the mud)

venison aspic (Augustiner Braeu)

No room at Garmisch and the VERY American woman at the pension

The bridge at Neuschwanstein

And that smaller castle with one bedroom and the table that lowered to the basement kitchen. (Schloss Linderhof)

And finally, a terrible train ride, a long flight, an end to a honeymoon, but the beginning of a beautiful marriage.

Going Home

I was having an OK evening, until I read this.

He was a loving, married father with six children. His children were 8, 7, 6, 4, 3 and 1 years old. He was scheduled to go on leave in two days. He was thrilled to be going home to be with his family and was looking forward to sitting on the floor of his den with all of his children surrounding him. One of his primary desires was to go home and cook a meal for his children.

Kerry, the soldier who wrote those words, has been included in our family’s evening prayers since the beginning of his deployment.

The family of this fallen soldier will now be prayed for in the silence of my heart. Some things, you just can not share with your children.

More pictures

Dressed for Mass. I’ve been fighting this girl for over a week now with the new clothes that she doesn’t like. Mary Janes? Tights? No way, she says. New pants? New shirts? What’s wrong with the summer clothes? She remembers this dress from early spring, so at least I have that.

Birthday girl. I forgot to mention that Jenny had one of these last weekend. Yesterday she asked me if I wished I were 6 again. I told her when I was 6, I didn’t have her daddy or her or her brothers and sisters in my life, so, no, I would not want to be 6 again. (Oh, but to have that simple life…)

[photo removed at the request of an overly sensitive 6 year old]

Self photography. Jeepers, creepers. Where’d she get those peepers? Gosh, oh golly, where’d she get those eyes?

Peter is posing with his “new” football outfit. This fit Billy not too long ago. Billy is thrilled that now he and Peter can play on the same team (Billy has a bigger jersey now). Amazingly, Billy will wear Fritz’s old Packers jersey, as long as they aren’t playing each other like last weekend.

On Stuff

The other day, Bill got to go to a village and pass out food and other goodies. It’s an enjoyable mission, except that he had to wear his 45 pound body armor the whole time. Imagine walking around with a 5 year old on your shoulders for 6 hours.

While there, a little boy, 6 years old, threw himself over the concertina wire just so he could get to the front of the line. I guess he cut himself pretty badly, but I guess he also thought it was worth it.

This is what an Afghani kid will do to get first dibs on a candy bar. (**See note below)


The catalogs have started to come. They don’t yet say “Holiday” or “Christmas” but you know that’s what they’re gearing up for. While I welcome yet another sign that the end of the year, and the end of my purgatory, are approaching, catalogs do not make me happy. The vast majority of these thick, glossy advertisements get put immediately into the recycle bucket. I have learned that I won’t care what I’m missing if I don’t see it. My children are not so wise, though. They have been snatching up the toy catalogs and poring through them as though the ultimate source of happiness could be found therein.

I’ve been hearing a lot of “I want.”

Today, having sat through another child showing me all the wonderful things that would make her the perfect, dutiful and loving child simply because her happiness at having all this stuff would make her thus, I called the children around and told them about the Afghani boy. I told them they needed to start thinking about what they could do for other people for Christmas instead of what they could get for themselves. And I told them to think of ONE, and only ONE thing they they really wanted for Christmas. And tell me in November.

I’m sure this isn’t the end of it.


My daughters were fascinated by the Yorkshire Terrier in the dog stroller. I think this was their first encounter with someone who treats a dog like a baby. As we left the Scout Hut, the woman who owned the dog told me she gave a stuffed animal terrier to Katie – her adolescent daughter having outgrown it. Katie was, of course, thrilled.

Later, Jenny was crying because Katie wouldn’t share the dog. “She promised,” Jenny wailed. Katie denied making any such promises.

“Katie,” I said, “You didn’t earn this dog. Somebody just gave it to you out of the generosity of their heart. Don’t you think you ought to share it and be just as generous as they were?”

“Well, Mom,” she said with angelic sincerity, “I was thinking we could send this dog to Afghanistan for the children there to have.”

Perhaps another mother would be fooled by such a sweet sentiment. “That may be a good idea. But in the meantime, can you not share with your sister? Or is it easier to share with a stranger than with your sibling?”

Bingo. She started to cry. In truth, she would rather give the toy away than share with Jenny. This is human nature. We all do this in one form or another. “Love your neighbor” is much much harder than “Donate anonymously to poor people.”

Sharing with your sister hurts. You don’t care what you’re missing if you don’t see it. But watching your sister play with your toy is torturous.


The dog may or may not head for Afghanistan and some little child may or may not get himself some stitches in addition to a stuffed animal. Dr. Ray Guarendi says and writes repeatedly that you need to get rid of your kids’ stuff if you want them to be generous. The more stuff they have, the more selfish they are.

The more stuff we have, the more selfish we are.

These are the thoughts I ponder as I begin to write shopping lists.

** Note: my husband emailed to tell me that the kid was 14 and was going to such extremes to get flour or rice, not candy. It makes the story worse on both accounts: he was old enough to understand the consequences and he felt those risks were worth it for mere food staples.

Heave, ho!

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Cub Scouts do a tug of war at our Back to Scouting night the other week. I also loved to see the Boy Scouts and adult leaders “helping.” Although the field looks fairly flat, this side of the rope had a slight downhill, and they always won, no matter how they kept dividing the boys. So a few of the men got in there and were throwing their weight around – literally – first to one side and then the other.

A tug of war is one of those things that you do wholly. Every ounce of your mind, strength, and soul is there pulling on that rope. Most activities don’t necessarily fully engage you. You can pick daisies in the outfield during a ball game or kick the dirt in the dugout while waiting for your turn at bat. You can build a fort and prepare for the enemy’s attack, but still notice that your sister borrowed your scooter without asking. You can read a great book, but still be aware that your mom is on the phone arranging a play date with a good friend.

But when you play tug of war, you are on a mission and the whole world disappears for five minutes. And you can’t lose, as long as you don’t…let…go……


I sat Mary on the counter so I could blow my nose. That’s hard to do with a tot in your arms. Then I left her there and moved about 5 feet way to make the coffee.

“Help! Help!” she called. I continued to make the coffee.

“I’m falling!” she persisted. I turned to confirm what my peripheral vision assured me was true. There she sat, perfectly fine, with her arms outstretched and her face smiling.

I will catch you, little one.

Get Real

There are some truly fabulous people in the world.

Today, a woman I know slightly, a woman who knows my husband professionally, called me. She works not far from my home on Saturdays, and after work she wants to come over to watch the children for me while I go out and run errands or have dinner with a friend or do whatever. She wants to do this regularly, not just a one time thing.

It’s such a nice gesture. Just the very offer makes me all happy. It is enough. I don’t really need her to do it. But that she thought of me and came up with a plan was so very sweet.

So, as she continued to explain how everything would all work out, I rehearsed in my mind polite phrases to decline her offer. I am fine, after all. Managing quite nicely. He’ll be home soon. We’re almost halfway there.

But then the Real Me spoke up (to that Prideful Me in my mind). The Real Me is the one that dispenses sage advice to other mothers like “stay home for at least two weeks after having a baby” and “you can’t homeschool and have an immaculate house, too.” The Real Me is the one who wrote an article about coping with deployment wherein I write: “Get help. If you can afford it, consider lawn care, a cleaning service or a regular babysitter. For non-routine jobs, swallow your pride and ask for help. If friends or relatives ask if there is anything you need, come up with something. It is good to be strong, but it is better to be humble.”

The Prideful Me attempted to ignore the Real Me, but the Real Me is obnoxiously persistent and just won’t leave it alone. When the nice woman paused for a breath, the Real Me jumped in and accepted her offer before the Prideful Me even knew it was coming. (The Prideful Me thought some things which I won’t repeat here, because the Real Me is never that vulgar.)

Both the Prideful Me and the Real Me love to do nice things for other people. Doing good deeds makes everybody happy.

The Prideful Me hates to accept other people’s good deeds. It is so very hard. I don’t know why.

The Real Me sees how this whole thing is win-win: the nice woman gets to do a good deed (or two or three) and she gets to feel good knowing that she made a difference, and a big difference, in one person’s life. And I get to have a much-needed break. I could run errands in peace. I could get my Christmas shopping done. I could eat a leisurely meal. I could sit still for 20 minutes at a coffee shop. I could get a hotel room and take a nap.

And I could practice the virtue of humility, which is to say, I am fine, but I am tired. I am managing quite nicely, except my patience is wearing a bit thin. Soon is a relative thing. We are almost halfway there, but three months is still an awfully long time.

My point is that there are some really nice people in the world, and I need to let them do their thing. And I need to listen to my own advice.

It’s all Mattel’s fault

New Government Policy Imposes Strict Standards on Garage Sales Nationwide

You make me promises, promises.

Remember when we all went crazy over the new laws for lead in toys and other products for children?

Why do I believe promises, promises?

It won’t apply to resale, they said.

Knew you’d never keep all of your promises.

We’ll still be able to shop at thrift stores and yard sales and eBay, they said.

We didn’t really believe that, did we?