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Monday, May 26, 2008

In Memory

My Dad was in the National Guard in the early 60s and had finished his commitment before the Vietnam War broke out. Then, as I understand it, as a teacher, husband and father of three, the military left him alone. (I'm sure there's more to that story, but he passed away several years 
ago and I never had the wisdom to ask about it before then.) My grandfathers, on all sides, missed the wars of their time for various reasons. I was raised with a great sense of patriotism and loyalty to our country and to the armed forces, without any direct connection to the military. We crossed our hearts at the Pledge of Allegiance and
sang loudly, every word, of the "Star Spangled Banner". (I know that doesn't make you a patriot, but you get the idea.)

However, when I married, I got a whole new outlook. Brian joined the Army Reserves when he was teenager. He'd convinced his Mom (whose signature he needed) that he wouldn't have to go to war. So, he trained the summers before and after his senior year of high school and was to show up for other training and drills as required. He finished two semesters at Purdue University and was called to active duty for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm during the first Persian Gulf War. He received the Army Commendation medal for involvement in a critical refueling mission. One of the U.S. armored divisions was engaged in a battle with the Iraqi Republican Guard and fuel became an issue. 

He says, "Our HEMTT (see picture at right) convoy just happened to be in the right place at the right time. We delivered our fuel and they defeated the Iraqi division. The cease fire came the next day."

Thankfully, he served his six months in Saudi Arabia and Iraq without injury. When I say, thankfully, I mean "Thank you, God, for saving him for me".  (I hope this prompts him to post some of his stories.)

His family military history is long. We can start with his Grandpa, Walter Arnold, who served in Europe for two years in World War II, including involvement in the infamous Battle of the Bulge. He moved his way up the ranks from Private (E2) to Tech Sergeant (E7) -- what is a Sergeant First Class in today's army. For us civilian folks -- that's five ranks; all as a result of casualties and deaths in his unit. Walter is now 89 years old and suffers from lung cancer and kidney failure. Surprisingly, he still lives on his own and not surprisingly, sends off-color jokes VIA email when he can. 

Brian's father, Dan Arnold, enlisted (not drafted) in the Navy in 1965 and became a Corpsman. He was assigned to a C.A.C. or Combined Action Company (later known as Combined Action Platoon) in '67, made up of a Marine rifle squad, a Navy Corpsman and a Vietnamese Popular Forces platoon (akin to the U.S. National Guard). Four months into his tour in Vietnam, his unit was attacked and he was seriously injured. During that attack, he was medivaced out of the battle and remembers rounds piercing the fuselage of the helicopter as they flew away. When he woke up in the hospital, he learned, with the exception of one man, his entire unit was killed. He received the Purple Heart. His military experience as a Corpsman served to prepare him for a lifetime of healthcare. Today, he's an R.N. and Doctor of Chiropractic. And, of course, I'm thankful for his safe return, because my sweet man, Brian, was born after he got back!

Not everyone left the country to serve during war-time. The small community where his step-father, Manley Scheurich, was serving as the only physician, wrote a letter to the draft board asking that they not send Dr. Scheurich overseas, because, they reasoned, there would be no one to take care of them for miles and miles. Manley was willing to go, but the community's request was granted.  As a result, we enjoy, Manley as "Dad" so much.  Such a precious part of our lives.

Lest we forget our WOMEN in uniform, you should know Brian's older sister, Kathy Scheurich, was in the Army also. She was stationed in Germany and served in Haiti during their political crisis in the 90s.

Most recently, our brother-in-law, Andy Weiss, enlisted in the Army post-9/11. He married Kate, one of Brian's baby sisters, the year after we got married. His story is clearer to me because it's present-day.  I know the war and the reasons for the war. I know this family now. I didn't know them for the other war stories. I was at Kate and Andy's wedding.  (One of the best times Brian and I ever had!) He and Brian played hide and seek with all the kids in his parents' back yard and they LOVED it.  Andy and Brian, I mean!

Andy served a first tour in Iraq and re-enlisted. Kate and their kids, Lilly and Jacob, were "stationed" at Ft. Hood in Texas while Andy was overseas. His second tour started in November, 2007. 

He was killed in Bagdad by an I.E.D. (roadside bomb), May 3, 2007. The sacrifice is real. The pain is real. It's not a distant story of another time and place. I tell my friends that Brian and his family served and Andy was killed in the process (however convoluted and crazy it is) of keeping me safe. Of maybe preventing my son from having to suit up some day.

As I look back on this story, generation after generation serving in different wars and different times, I know that even if it skips Chase, until the Lord comes back, the likelihood of my grandchildren or great-grandchildren serving our country is very high. Wars seem to end eventually, but the arguments never really do. They just sort of pop up in a different part of the world.

On this Memorial Day, I'm thankful for all those who serve our country and in so doing, serve my family and me. I hope to repay them with honor and respect for other people (all people), with gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy (whether I agree with all of them or not) and by teaching my children of their legacy in our country and in our hearts.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Buying in Bulk

... sometimes has its disadvantages.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Her Last Name is Rembrandt. Really.

Chase says, "Only artists are for girls." 
"No", I say.  "Anyone who creates
 something is an artist."  (Right?)

Our budding protege, Samantha, displayed several pieces at her very first art show this past Monday night. I was envious of those who had family to invite to the special event, so I'm posting it for all my long-distance friends and family.

We have several homeschooling friends who invited us to join their art co-op this past school year.

Had I been in charge, this might have been the extent of art class (plus a few popscicle stick Christmas ornaments):

Instead, we had a retired high school art teacher giving up his time once every two weeks to open their worlds to sketching (it's a turtle shell):

to chalks and salt ceramics and soap carvings (it's a duck); 
and mobiles and sta-biles and even a totem pole.  

Samantha was the youngest starting at four years old. (She's a big five year old now.) The oldest, I believe, was 8.  Another reminder of the great potential kids have to learn new, and sometimes complex, ideas at an early age. 

We're so proud of her and so thankful to our friends for including us.  


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You Never Know What You're Gonna Get

I promised a girlfriend of mine that I wouldn't be the blogger who wrote that I went to Walmart yesterday and made breakfast today.  (Well, actually I WILL be posting about one-eyed Pete's soon.)  So, I'm going to get out my little crafty post real quick! I should only have about two of these a year that don't include glitter and construction paper.

We have two doors leading to our deck.  Neither really NEED a window treatment...the view of the woods and kids playing is beauty enough.  However, one window is sort of angled right by our master bedroom.  It creeps me out when Brian is out of town.  No shades or blinds or anything.  I've looked everywhere (DON'T leave me ideas, I've LOOKED there) for just the right thing and couldn't find anything.  

Then, my sweet sister, Honor, (Yes, that's her name and I'll blog about her, too), said she bought a couple too many tab-top panels when she redid their den.  I thought the colors would be perfect, so I thought I'd try something.  (Free fabric I don't panic about messing up.)

I'm not very crafty and I'd never call myself a seamstress. Straight lines elude me many times.  I love the IDEA of craftiness, just don't really have the gift -- like those people who can take twine, rocks and straw and make a gorgeous centerpiece.  

So, here's what I did:  I measured the width I'd need and cut off one side.  I took that strip, cut it in two and put a hem all the way up every cut side to get rid of the rough edges.  The two strips became my ties.  I wrapped it around a hunk of florist styrofoam and velcroed the whole thing above the window.

Now, I can let it down when I need to and raise it to any height I want. Check it out!

Cute, huh?  Not bad for free!  I AM proud of my project, but more importantly, I wanted to say:  If I can do it, you can, too! What project are you workin' on?


Friday, May 16, 2008

My First Meme -- Memoir Style

Lisa at Stop and Smell the Chocolates tagged me for my first meme.  (Click here if you don't know what it is....I didn't.) My memoir in six words:

Started looking up and life changed.

Here are the rules for the meme:
---Write a six word memoir, post it on your blog with a visual if you like.
--- Tag at least five more blogs with links.  
---Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

Here's who I have tagged:  (some of these are experienced bloggers who've probably been tagged a gillion times.  If so, write one for MY life.)  I'm so new to blogging that I don't even really have five to tag.  I'm tagging our blog again, to see if Brian will finally post. 


THREE Things Are Mine...All Mine

No, I'm not talking about my children.

We get so busy.  I'm not saying anything new.  We put our best efforts out for everyone...our children, our church, our sisters, our friends our families.  BUT, if we're not spending time refueling, then we'll be sharing fumes instead of the overflow of our hearts.

Three things I love: feeling healthy, singing and Spanish.  

Feeling Healthy:  I'm one of those people you hate who can eat whatever she wants and still wear a size (I'm not telling).  HOWEVER, that doesn't mean I'm healthy.  Just ask the jiggle in my belly!  Or, more seriously, ask the surgeon who did my lumpectomy a few months ago. I took the Real Age test and found that my biological age is much older than my calendar age.  I was disturbed.  (I won't tell what it is, so don't bother asking.)  SO, this week, I started setting the alarm for 6:15. (I am NOT a morning person.) I've rolled out of bed, into sneakers and out the door for a walk.  Not a run nor an hour-long workout at the Y. That's just not me.  Only a walk.  I'm shooting for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.  I CAN do this!

Singing:  I love singing.  I love music.  I've belted out show tunes since I had LPs in my little blue-flowered bedroom in Kentucky.  I'm a belter...I love loud and sassy songs.  However, I was raised in the Catholic church.  Very buttoned-up, beautiful music.  And, was classically trained in college.  Again, beautiful.  But not my favorite music.  (I remember singing Patsy Cline in the hallway and one of the music profs came out of her studio and said, "Who is doing that? Stop it, right now.  You'll ruin your voice!" What's a country girl to do?

I feel like I fell into a vacuum somewhere between college and now.  Contemporary music -- pop or christian -- is so different than what I ever used to sing.  I simply don't know HOW they do that!  You are either a belter or a songbird, right?  Not so.

I went to a Vocal Artistry workshop about a month ago.  I was so jazzed about what I'd learned. I CAN learn to blend the styles and "workout" my vocal muscles to sing the music I love now, not just the stuff I used to love.  So, I've blocked out 15 minutes a day for these vocal exercises that will strengthen all the right stuff.  (Don't call between 9:30 and 10:00.  I won't answer.) 

Spanish:  Easy enough.  I took two years in high school and a semester in college.  I've always loved the language, but always had something else pulling in another direction.  My sweet Grandaddy has the same love of the language.  (Did I tell you he only reads Western fiction?  He likes the Texas cowboy stories.  They tend to run into a lot of Mexicans.)  He got us the Rosetta Stone software to learn the language (buy it once, use it forever to teach everyone in your house!)  We've had it for about 9 months.  Even Sammie (5) likes it, but our sessions are sporadic to say the least.  So, we've blocked out 1:30 - 2:30 every day for Spanish.  (Don't call then either.) Sammie gets 30 minutes and I get 30 minutes.  Once school starts in the Fall, I'll supplement her study with workbooks and children's books.  I know we CAN do this.  We can!

The reason I've had such trouble with these things before, I think, is because you can't do them in just one hour or just one day, or even a semester.  So, I'm going to use that old saying "inch by inch, everything's a cinch." (So old it's hard to remember it's from Proverbs...something about precept upon precept.)

I leave you with a question and a favor:

Question: What are your three things?

Favor:  Will you please check with me every month or so and make sure I'm still sticking with it? Por favor?


Monday, May 12, 2008

Help From a Toddler

I don't know what the weather's like where you are, but we've had a lot of rainy days here.  Not much chance to get yard work finished or Spring outdoor projects going.  So, while some of my in-laws visited on Saturday, I put them straight to work.  Mowing, tilling, planting, drilling. (Thanks, guys!)

At mealtime, we all gathered round the table. Grandaddy's good at small talk, even though says he doesn't like crowds of people.  He looked up at me, then glanced at Ava (20 -months) and said, "Is Ava a lotta help to ya out there, Kris?" Again, with the twinkle.

Ordinarily, I would've piped right in with, "Oh yeah...a LOTTA help.  Getting into everything, dumping out the dirt I just put in the planters, pulling out the plants, walking in front of the mower, climbing in the stroller we're trying to clean."  Blah, blah, blah....

From somewhere up above, this came to me:  "Yeah, she spent the whole day reminding me of what's really important."

How 'bout that?  I'm going to hang on to that one.

Oh, and don't count on such insight regularly....those moments are too few and far between!


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day Gift STOLEN!

Brian's been traveling a lot lately and he was sweet enough to mail a card from his last trip to Boston and brought it in from the mailbox on his way home last night from the airport. 

It had Elvis on the cover (I'm a HUGE Elvis fan!) Cover reads: 

For all you do, I'd just like to say..... 

And, if I have to tell you the punch line, you may NOT call yourself an Elvis fan.

The card had lovely sentiments from my hubby.  For instance: "Can't imagine life without you.  You are the very person God picked for me, the kids and Dell."  Sweet, huh?

I got up this morning and had to leave before everyone else for church.  No balloons on the door?  No breakfast in bed?  Brian called during church and said he and the kids wouldn't be able to make it to church.  AHA!! Secret lunch plans?  A house full of fresh flowers? 

When I got home and was changing into "play clothes", I hear Brian saying in surprise-like-not-so-whispery tones, "Sammie, Chase, Ava, come here."  I turn around and they all say together, "Happy Mother's Day!"  Picture this:  girls are dressed (because I dressed them before church) and boys still in their skivvies.  No candy?  No construction paper artwork? No pipe-cleaner petunias?

So, we move on to dinner which turns out to be leftovers from supper last night.  I fix the kids their spaghetti and clean off the red hands and faces and come to the genius conclusion that there are no specific Mother's Day plans.

Now WAIT A MINUTE!  Before you get all bent out of shape, there are things you must know. First, Brian is not a gifter.  (Check out The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.) And, he's not a natural celebrator.  He wouldn't mind if we never celebrated a birthday again.  Second, I am not a "words of affirmation" girl.  Some of you sloppy sisters would have loved all that Brian wrote in the card, especially because I know he meant it.  Please don't think I'm ungrateful or he's thoughtless...even though, thus far, it sounds exactly like that!

The POINT is, after an hour or two of wandering around the house ungluing children from my arms, I said, "I'm going out for a while."  And, I did.  For a loooong while.  I went to several stores before I hit the mall, then I stayed at the mall for three hours.  Yup...three.  I got a couple of sassy (but modest) blouses, a sweet little summer dress and ...well, I can't even remember, I had so much fun!

I only stepped out to go to T.G.I. Friday's.  That was on my Grandaddy's tab.  He said a few days ago, "Now, Kris, I want you to just go get what you want for Mother's Day."  I said, "Grandaddy, I am not your mother."  With a twinkle in his eye (and one on his gold tooth), he says, "You might as well be, honey."  You have to hear the thick Arkansas accent for it to really hit home.

After my yummy dinner, I went back to the mall and spent another hour.  Then it closed.  But I remembered TARGET was still open!  So I spent an hour and a couple of bucks there, too.  I sauntered on home just in time to tuck the kids in bed.

Now, doesn't that sound like a GREAT Mother's Day?  So, even though it was technically stolen and not so much given, I loved it.  And, I love being a Mom.  

Am I the only one who had to steal her present?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Personal Pet Peeves

I'm so excited to do my first Works-For-Me Wednesday and it turns out to be a DOESN'T Work-For-Me Wednesday. I'm not sure I'm doing this right, because I don't have "things" really, more like situations that don't work for me. Well, I have plenty that I don't like, but I'll try to keep my list short and relevant to today:

These things do not work for me:

People who assume my Grandad is senile because he can't hear.

Husbands that travel a lot.
Throwing away leftovers.
The words "I told you so."
Movies with swearing and nudity just to get an R rating.
Texting during church.
People who don't know how to appreciate a $400 hotel room.

For more Works-For-Me Wednesday ideas go to Rocks In My Dryer.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

And, They're Off!

I'm a Kentucky girl.  Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in Kentucky lives on a horse farm or knows everything (or ANYthing) about horses. However, we all celebrate the Derby.  It's like spring, with no presents.  In essence, a big party.  Lots of food, beautiful hats, gambling.  Ok, so not so much like Christmas.

I've learned since moving to Indiana, they don't care much about the Derby (IU had their graduation the same day...what!?!?!?)  So, when my Mom decided to visit for the weekend, we decided to have our own Derby party.  ("We" meaning the kids, Mom, Grandaddy and me, so don't get your feelings hurt because you didn't get an invitation.)

We brought out a hat for everyone. Sammie made her own.  

Mom made mint juleps.  We drew names so we'd have our own thoroughbreds to cheer on.  

We piled into Grandaddy's room, and as the coverage started (only two hours here compared to two DAYS back home,) we tried to explain to the little ones what was going on.  We talked about Derby hats and the jockeys and the silks and Churchill Downs and the throngs of people.

It was hard to get them to pipe down for the singing of "My Old Kentucky Home."  Anyone who knows me, knows my favorite part of ANY sporting event is "The Star Spangled Banner."

Most people don't know the verses to "My Old Kentucky Home."  (I do, thanks to an outdoor theater gig I did for about 10 years.  I'll save that for another day.)  But everyone chimes in for the well-known chorus:

Weep no more, my lady.
Oh, weep no more today.
We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home.
For my old Kentucky home far away.

So, my throat starts closing and my eyes start tearing up and I think to myself, "Why am I crying, for heavens' sake?"  And, I look up and derned if my Mom wasn't crying, too! What on earth was that about!?!?!

The only thing I could come up with is this:  tradition.  Year after year after year, Derby was a special time.  A fun time.  A family time.  Even my dad would wear a hat.  If there wasn't a party to go to, we'd have our own.  Make our own mint juleps and sing "My Old Kentucky Home" as if we were right on millionaire's row.

Tradition:  the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation.

Tradition.  Those things that cause a flood of memories with just one whiff of roast turkey or the sound of splashing in a pool or the chorus of a familiar song.  Tradition.  Makes me miss Kentucky and my dad.  Maybe that's where the tears really come from.

I wonder what songs will make my kids tear up when they're all grown up?  Is there a song or a scent or a sound that's brought tears to your eyes lately?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Way to a Woman's Heart ....

Brian has siblings.  Lots of siblings.  He's one of nine, though he's quick to say it's a bit of a Brady Bunch.  One whole brother, one step-brother, two half-brothers, two step-sisters and two half-sisters -- he's toward the top, so he knew how to rock babies way before I did.

When he talks about them, he never says, "my half-brother Derek" or "my step-sister Kathy". He refers to each as his brothers and sisters.  He's not the mushy type, so even though they may not know how much he loves all of them, I, as the mushy wife of 8 (or is it 9?) years, know how much he loves every one -- Mike, Kathy, Karen, Jason, Kate, Mandy, Chris and Derek.  (I just recently could do that without counting on my fingers to keep from missing anyone.)

From the moment I met them, I was treated like a sister and a friend, so I've always felt very loved. However, it wasn't until we started having children that I was endeared forever.

I'll have many examples to come, I know, but here's one from just today.

The second to youngest brother, Chris, is 19 years old.  Very quiet, yet very cool.  He's also quite tall, way over six feet and it's a little funny to see his long legs sprawled out on the floor playing with the kids.  

One time, even in front of his (at the time) new girlfriend, he played twister with them...precious.  Last time, the kids built a fort from a bunch of pillows and they asked him to come in....hilarious.  

This time, Chase asked him to read There's a Monster at the End of This Book (a favorite of sweet Aunt Mandy's).  And, then he asked him to read it again and again and again.  And, he did.  No grunting. No distracting him. No suggesting he wait a minute.  He read it every time. Every single time.

They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  I say, the way to a woman's heart is to be kind to her babies.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


One of the best parts about having "new talkers" around is hearing how THEY hear things grown ups say.

For instance, we got a DVD of old westerns for my grandad, so we've introduced our kids to The Lone Ranger.

Chase, 2 1/2, keeps asking to watch the Wrong Stranger.