Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Well, trick-or-treating in our town, an October 30 event, had to be postponed last night because of the after-effects of the Nor'easter that hit New England on Saturday night. The kids are supposed to be coming for their candy tonight, but I'll believe that when I see it--because almost all of the schools in the area are closed today. We haven't gotten any more snow, but there are thousands of people all over the state who have been without power for at least a day now. Unfortunately, one of them is our second oldest son, who lives an hour from us. He was with us on Saturday afternoon watching the Notre Dame game, and when the snow started coming down in earnest, he decided to drive back to his apartment at half time, before the roads got too bad. He ended up having a harrowing trip home, going 15 miles per hour and watching cars skid off into ditches. It's too bad he didn't just stay over that night, not only because the roads were so treacherous, but because the high school where he teaches is closed today anyway. So he's heading back here this morning to get a hot shower, do some laundry (let me rephrase that: have his mommy do some laundry for him), and use our computer to do some work-related stuff. He says he's going to have to throw out everything in his fridge; luckily bachelor refrigerators aren't usually jam-packed with valuable food items.

It would be too bad if trick-or-treating had to be cancelled altogether. I know how much my kids always looked forward to it when they were little. Now that they're grown, though, I could take or leave the whole Halloween hoopla; I'm not into scary costumes (our kids' costumes were usually pretty tame) or scary movies--or scary anything, for that matter. Some people really like the rush they get from a good scare. Not me. Life can be frightening enough sometimes without creating more things to be afraid of! Having to drive on an icy road or board an airplane in any weather--AAAHHHHH! That's what I call terrifying! Who needs vampires and werewolves and zombies and Freddy Kruger?

I'm a stick in the mud, but my grown boys are still enjoying Halloween. Son #1's wife purchased some adorable secondhand costumes for the twins (one will be a bumblebee, the other a pumpkin). Son #2 won a "Best Costume" ribbon last weekend at a friend's Halloween bash. He went dressed as Santa Claus, with his beard painted white and everything. Sons #3 and #4 recently got together with some cousins and friends to carve jack-o-lanterns. Check out the picture below; didn't they do an amazing job? I don't think my boys will ever outgrow their fascination with dinosaurs! And son #5 told me last night that he spent $50 on a Simpsons-themed costume that he just had to have. Apparently college students are really just big kids at heart.
My husband and I are just a couple of fuddy-duddies, I guess. We aren't dressing up; we aren't going to any parties. We're just hoping there are some candy bars left when the trick-or-treating is over.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trick, or Treat?

It's still October, isn't it? I'm just checking, because starting yesterday afternoon and then continuing on through the night, it SNOWED here. We got at least six or seven inches before the snow turned to rain, luckily, because the forecast called for anywhere up to a foot of the white stuff. Is this some kind of trick or something? We haven't even passed out the Halloween candy yet, and winter appears to be upon us. We've had our first Nor'easter and lost power. My husband has had to break out the snowblower. Yet this being New England, it could be sixty degrees next week--which would be a real treat after the winter wonderland that greeted us when we woke up this morning.

In our town, trick-or-treaters go out on the 30th rather than the 31st (I've never been quite sure of the reason for this), so tonight the little ones are going to have to trudge through the snow and slush in their quest for treats. I know in my boys' day, a few inches of snow wouldn't have been enough to hold them back; I mean, we're talking about FREE CANDY here. But these days, our doorbell doesn't ring nearly as often on Halloween as it used to, even when the weather is a lot milder than it is today. My husband and I are still going to stock up on Milky Ways and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, however, like we always do. No Mary Janes or Good 'n Plentys, though--and nothing with coconut in it (ewww!). Because if we're going to end up with a heaping bowl of leftovers, we want them to be the kind of treats we like!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Watching Football with Our Boy

Well, it's Saturday, and it's fall...and you know what that means. It means that today is college football-watching day.

Our second oldest son, the high school Algebra teacher and football coach who lives only about an hour from us (which makes him our favorite, if you ask him, since he lives closest) is here today. He's going to watch, along with his father and me, our beloved--yet heartbreaking, disappointing, and frustrating!--Fighting Irish play Navy. We're going to watch the game in our "man cave," where his high school jersey hangs on the wall, right along with those of his four brothers.

The high school varsity team our son helps to coach had an away game last night one town over from us, so my husband and I went to watch him in coach mode--oh, and to see his team play, too. I never thought I'd sit freezing my tushie off in the stands on a cold October night, watching a high school football game after all of my own boys had graduated from high school and left their playing days behind them...but we are fans of whatever our boys are doing, and these days, one of them is coaching the Bulldogs. Let's just say that we used to cheer for a high school team called the Saints, but now we're well on our way to becoming dyed-in-the-wool Bulldog fans.

Our boy decided to stay over last night, and it's so much fun to have him here in the morning! It feels like the good old days, when the house was filled with the deep, laughter-laced voices of our five lads. As I write this, I can hear him and his dad energetically discussing football in general and Notre Dame football in particular. I've heard snippets of the conversation, like "fumble returns" (which I think is a reference to a truly disastrous play from last week's game, when ND's second-string quarterback fumbled a snap on the one yard line, and USC recovered it and ran it back for a touchdown). I'm trying to put the Southern Cal game out of my head, and I'm really hoping today's game won't be a similar mood killer. Even though Navy is 2-5 and not all that good this year, and Notre Dame is 4-3 and chock full of talent, my husband worries that it's not going to be a lucky day for the Irish. Hopefully, he'll be proved wrong; but it's best to brace yourself for the worst these days if you're a diehard Notre Dame fan. If I believed in curses, I would say the Irish were cursed.

But check out this picture of my twin granddaughters (taken a few months ago). They look like little Notre Dame cheerleaders. How can you see this and not get pumped up for today's game? It makes me want to shout "Go Irish!"

Friday, October 28, 2011

Besse Pease Gutmann Week, Day 5

Today's darling painting by Besse Pease Gutmann is called "Who's Sleepy." Apparently, this artist was aware that most people have a soft spot for puppies and small children, because both take center stage in almost all of her works. I think this one is absolutely precious. What can I say? I'm just a sucker for a yawning puppy dog. And the rounded cheek on the baby makes me think of my twin granddaughters, who have the most irresistible cheeks in the universe. You can't see those cheeks and not want to kiss them!

I hope you've enjoyed Besse Pease Gutmann Week. This woman was quite prolific before she retired in 1947, and copies of her paintings and illustrations abound on the internet if you'd like to see more of them. I love all of her works so much that I could do a Besse Pease Gutmann MONTH. (But that might bore my sons to tears; so if I want them to keep following this blog, I'd better just end here.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Besse Pease Gutmann Week, Day 4

Here is another endearing painting by Besse Pease Gutmann entitled "Love is Blind." It depicts a cherubic little girl hugging her favorite dolly while a much newer, fancier one sits ignored on the floor. This little angel prefers her old, worn-out doll, missing foot and all, to any other. Awww...this is just so sweet. I hope it's true, too, that love is blind, and that my husband's eyesight isn't quite perfect anymore--especially now that I'm on the wrong side of fifty!

I believe my mother-in-law was a Besse Pease Gutmann fan, too, because a framed print of this vintage Gutmann painting--along with at least one other--hangs in one of the bedrooms of her house. That may be one of the reasons that I love this artist's paintings so much: they remind me of my wonderful mother-in-law and the many interests we shared, one of them being dolls.

It was hard being a doll fanatic while raising only sons, because there was no one in my house with whom to share this passion. I took a porcelain dollmaking class for several years when my four oldest boys were still in grade school, dreaming of the day when I might have a daughter--or when it became obvious that that wasn't going to happen, a granddaughter--for whom to make them. Well, dreams do come true sometimes; because in June I became a first-time grandmother to not one, but TWO granddaughters. And if I'm lucky, an interest in dolls is something the girls and I can share someday.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Besse Pease Gutmann Week, Day 3

Here is another sweet painting by Besse Pease Gutmann, who ranks right up there with Norman Rockwell as one of my all-time favorite artists. The fact that I am drawn to the works of these two American illustrators with greater enthusiasm than I am to the works of some of the world-renowned artists whose paintings are showcased in important museums--those of say, van Gogh, for example--means that I would by no stretch of the imagination be considered a serious art critic. But I just know what I like; and I really like heartwarming vintage artwork such as this Gutmann painting titled "Happy Dreams."

I chose this painting today because to me, there's nothing sweeter and more angelic-looking than a sleeping baby or small child--especially when he's clutching a well-loved teddy bear, as this wee one is doing. I also chose it because it makes me think of my son and his wife, whose lives these days very much revolve around the needs and schedules of their almost-five-month-old twin daughters. The girls are sleeping through the night most of the time now, which is huge. Anyone who's ever had children can appreciate what a victory that is, because at the end of a long and tiring day of caring for little darlings, bedtime is a joyfully anticipated reprieve for exhausted parents. And sometimes the battle to achieve the angelic state depicted in this painting can be long and arduous, because babies and toddlers don't seem to grasp the fact that sleep is wonderful, like we old folks do. (What is wrong with them?)

Yet no matter how tiring and frustrating a parent's day has been, when he gazes at the face of his sleeping child at night, his heart invariably turns to mush. Because no matter how many naughty things he might have done that day, a child morphs into an angel when he falls asleep.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Besse Pease Gutmann Week, Day 2

There are so many wonderful works by Besse Pease Gutmann that it's hard to choose just five to showcase this week; but I think this one depicting a chubby little toddler with a severe case of puppy love is just so endearing that it made the cut. If you love small children and dogs, how can you resist it?

The title of this sweet painting is "Mine." That is a word that, early on, my husband decided we should never teach our kids. He watched other people's children fighting over toys and thought if ours never learned to say "mine," they would always choose to share. It sounds like a good plan, right? But you know what? They somehow learned the word "mine" anyway! What can I say? We were young and idealistic. (We also thought that we would never buy them toy guns. But here's the funny thing about little boys: they can make them out of Duplo blocks, sticks, spoons, the cardboard tubes that toilet paper comes on... if nothing better is at hand, they just use their thumbs and index fingers. And if they don't own toy guns that go "rat tat tat," they become experts at making sound effects.) But in this darling little piece of vintage artwork, the word "mine" isn't about possession and competition; it's all about true love. (And it makes me want to get a puppy!)

My fourth son recently got an 8-month-old mutt from an animal shelter and named him Finnegan ("Finny" for short). I think it's very possible that when Finny was a small puppy, he looked like the one in this painting. That's one of the reasons I chose this darling example of Besse Pease Gutmann's artistic genius to share today. I hope you like it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Besse Pease Gutmann Week Begins

If you read the title of this post, scratched your head, and said, "Huh?!"--let me explain. Starting today I'm going to devote another week, Monday through Friday, to a specific category of artwork. I really enjoyed focusing on my son's T-Rex drawings for a week back in June, and then on inspirational religious artwork in August. Now, I'd like to introduce you to an American artist named Besse Pease Gutmann, whose works I just absolutely love. Her vintage style is not as popular today as it was during the years that she gained fame as an artist, but you may have seen some of her sweet renderings of rosy-cheeked infants and young children--or to use the German word, putti--on greeting cards or in shops that sell posters and framed prints.

The Gutmann painting above is called "Taps," and it is one of my very favorite pieces of art. Years and years ago, when I still had pudgy-bellied putti of my own--who spent a good deal of time wearing footy pajamas like these and toddling all over the place--I found this unframed poster at an art shop at the mall. I fell instantly in love with it, took it home with me, and framed it inexpensively myself. It has been hanging up in my house ever since, a tender reminder to me of five little boys I used to know (little boys who had the audacity to grow up and stop letting me dress them like this!). It was a sad day for me when my boys stopped wearing p.j.'s and went to bed in shorts and t-shirts instead. There is nothing in the world as sweet and snuggly as a wee one wearing footy pajamas. Am I right?

Besse Pease Gutmann (1876-1960) was a prolific American artist and illustrator who had a unique talent for highlighting the innocence of young children. In the early 1900's, she was one of the better-known magazine and book illustrators in the U.S. She had three children of her own, and she used them as models for many of her illustrations. (I think if she were alive today and got a glimpse of my twin granddaughters, she would be inspired to reproduce their beautiful faces in her paintings as well!) If you've never seen this artist's work and you're a fan of vintage art, babies, and small children (and puppies!), you're going to enjoy Besse Pease Gutmann Week! Stay tuned for more cuteness in the next few days.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Good Times, Good Times

Here are some of the Pearl first cousins who attended yesterday's giant family tailgater before the Notre Dame-Southern Cal game (five of the cousins who were also there are missing from this picture). As you can see, it was a lot of fun. The game? Not so much. In fact, I don't want to talk about the game.

Regardless of what goes on inside the stadium afterward, however (okay, it was a horrific night for the Irish, but that's all I'm going to say about it), the most important thing about these tailgaters isn't the final score, or whether Notre Dame wins or loses; it's about getting the clan together and sharing good times. It's about making family memories. And as you can see, as far as that goes yesterday's get-together was a huge success.

When I look at this picture of these adorable cousins, I am reminded of a line from the 2004 animated film "The Incredibles" (watch it if you haven't--it's incredibly funny). After a wild and crazy adventure with his family of superheroes, the young son, Dash, flops back in his seat and says, "That was the best vacation ever! [sigh] I love our family."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Quick Prayer to Notre Dame, Our Lady

There isn't much time for blogging today. In just a little while, the extended Pearl clan (almost 40 of us, and that's not including some nieces' boyfriends, as well as many other assorted friends of several generations of Notre Dame football fans who will be joining us) is getting ready to set up its famous annual TAILGATING EXTRAVAGANZA. This has become a much-anticipated yearly event, with as many members of the family who can make it in attendance.

I feel pretty confident that Our Lady will be rooting for our side in today's match against USC--after all, this university is named for Her and She watches over its campus from a place of honor atop a golden dome. But there is never any harm in asking for a little divine help. An interviewer once said to Lou Holtz that he didn't think God cared who was going to win ND's next game. To that, the legendary Notre Dame coach replied, "I agree that God doesn't care who wins. But I'm sure His Mother does." So here's a quick prayer to the loving patron of the Fighting Irish:

NOTRE DAME, OUR MOTHER, PRAY FOR US!!

And HAPPY 28th BIRTHDAY, MY FIRSTBORN SON! You changed your Dad's and my life forever, in the best way possible (as I'm sure you know, now that you're a dad yourself). You were born on a Saturday when Notre Dame beat USC; hopefully today's game will be a deja-vu experience! We wish you and your three girls could be here with us. Give them a kiss for us!

Friday, October 21, 2011

God's Doorkeeper

This statue stands right outside the front door of my youngest son's college dorm. It depicts St. Andre Bessette, C.S.C., a Congregation of the Holy Cross brother who was canonized by Pope Benedict the XVI in 2010. This humble and holy man spent almost 40 years as the porter (or doorman) at a Holy Cross boarding school called the College of Notre Dame in Montrael, and therefore he has been given the nickname "God's Doorkeeper." It is comforting to me to see this image of St. Andre every time I enter or leave my son's new home--and to know that he passes by it all the time as well. This saint spent so many years of his life greeting young men at the door of a school called Notre Dame, so it seems fitting that his image should stand at the door of a dormitory at a university with the same name.

Aside from answering the door, St. Andre spent much of his days receiving and consoling the poor and the sick. He had a special devotion to St. Joseph and presented many sick visitors with medals of the saint. He promised them that he would pray to God through St. Joseph's intercession. Many of those people with whom he prayed were healed, and before long he became known as a miracle worker. But he insisted, "I am nothing...only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph." In the true fashion of a saint, along with being very humble he was also very simple and direct. "When praying," he said, "one speaks to God as one speaks to a friend."

It was St. Andre Bessette's hope that there would be a substantial shrine to St. Joseph located on Mount Royal above the city of Montrael. Construction on the beautiful church that would eventually become known as St. Joseph's Oratory began in 1914, and a smaller crypt church that could seat 1,000 was completed in 1917. But unfortunately, the grand towering basilica that St. Andre dreamed of took 50 years to complete, and he died in 1937 without seeing that completion. St. Andre is entombed now at the Oratory, which has become a world-famous pilgrimage destination that attracts more than 2 million visitors a year. It is the world's largest shrine dedicated to St. Joseph.

I have never visited St. Joseph's Oratory, but I hope to someday. My daughter-in-law and her parents took a trip to Montrael about a year ago and had planned to spend one day at the Oratory before seeing some other sights; but it was so awe-inspiring that they returned a second day. My daughter-in-law's father has a special devotion to this saint, and during the process of becoming an ordained deacon he was able to get a relic of St. Andre for his parish church.

There are so many wonderful and inspiring saints in the Catholic Church, and this former humble brother known as "God's Doorkeeper" is certainly one of them! I pray that he and St. Joseph will keep my son, and all the young men with whom he lives, healthy, happy, and safe.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Post About Nothing ("Seinfeld"-Style)

I've got nothin' today.

Usually, I've got topics that interest me floating around in my head for future posts, or something happens during the day that makes me think, "Oh, this would be good material for a blog post." ("It's gold, Jerry! Gold!") But the page on my computer screen is looking very big and white right now, as I sit here at the hotel room desk, and I don't think I can fill it this morning.

So here are just a few random thoughts (about nothing, really) that are currently kicking around inside the old noggin:

Marriott hotels are my favorite. They have the whitest, cleanest-looking bedding and the best pillows. They also give you a lot of pillows, which is good because my husband can't go to sleep at night with any fewer than five. (They should pay me for this free advertising, but unfortunately they won't.)

Speaking of free, that's my favorite price for stuff. I love free hotel breakfasts. Never mind that staying overnight at a hotel is anything but free; it just makes me so happy that we don't have to get in the car and go somewhere else in the morning, somewhere where we'll have to pay to have our most important meal of the day. I can't wait to go down and have my complimentary breakfast, but I have to wait for my hubby to finish his workout. (My workouts are so much shorter, kinder, and gentler--so much less P90Xish--than his.) I've already scoped out the dining area and it looks pretty good, with only two glaring inadequacies: no vat of all-you-can-eat bacon and no doughnuts. But I think we'll be able to forage through what they have to offer and find something we like.

And speaking of Marriotts, I hope there are no ants at this one. After giving the hotel chain a free plug above, I just remembered that on our three-day-trip east with our daughter-in-law and the twins not long ago, we awoke to find out that our suite at the Residence Inn by Marriott was infested with them. Unbeknownst to us, they got into some of our bags that had road snacks in them (including a package of delicious apple cider doughnuts, which we had to toss at a gas stop--what a bummer!), and before long they were crawling all over the place, most disturbingly up and down my daughter-in-law's arms. We ran into the convenience store at the gas station and purchased some Windex, then sprayed all the ones we could find with that. (Did anybody else out there see the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"? If so, you know that Windex can fix just about anything.) We also bought some Bounce dryer sheets, because my daughter-in-law's mom had just read on-line that they were good at repelling ants, mice, and mosquitos. We plastered that car with Bounce sheets! So for the rest of the trip, we enjoyed the great smell of freshly laundered clothes.

By the way, we've stayed at a lot of Marriott hotels, and this ant thing has never happened before--so please don't stop frequenting them on account of our one bad experience, which was probably a pretty rare occurrence.

And FYI: I like doughnuts. A lot. You probably figured that out already.

Okay, I'm going to end here, because I need to shower, eat my free breakfast, and be ready to meet up with my youngest son in a little while (yippee!). This post is a bit disjointed and nonsensical anyway. But at least I passed on some useful information about Bounce dryer sheets that you may not have been aware of, right?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover...

Yesterday, my husband and I were on the road, doing the first leg of our car trip out to visit our youngest son at his college in the Midwest. We were listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio, and “El Rushbo” mentioned something interesting he’d seen on the Drudge Report. I decided to take a look at it on my husband’s iPad—which I keep on my lap now on road trips, just in case I get a sudden impulse to look something up on-line.

Well, when I got to the home page of the Drudge Report, I saw a headline for an article listing celebrities who are Conservatives, and that intrigued me so I checked it out. There were over 30 celebrities on this particular list who, if not true Conservatives, were at least registered Republicans (allegedly anyway), and there were some big names on there that surprised both my husband and myself. Among them were some actors we really like in the movies but would have guessed were hardcore Liberals in their real lives--Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood, and Robert Downey, Jr., to name a few. Woo hoo! What a nice surprise. But just when I thought I’d seen it all, who do you think popped up on a list of Conservative celebrities? 50 Cent!! That’s right, good old “Fiddy Cent” (or as my sister-in-law called him once—to the amusement of all the young hipsters within earshot—“Fifty Cents”). 50 Cent, the rapper. Can you believe it?

In 2005, 50 Cent was quoted in a GQ article as saying that he thought George Bush was “incredible…a gangsta.” High praise, indeed. Then he added, “I wanna meet George Bush, just shake his hand and tell him how much of me I see in him.” Wow, I wonder if George W. had any idea how much he and this hip-hop rapper had in common. I doubt the former president ever considered himself much of a “gangsta.” But there you go, President Bush: there’s your old pal Fiddy pumping you up, giving his two cent about you. (Technically, that would make him 48 Cent, though; wouldn’t it?)

It was probably good for me to see this article, because I tend to lump all celebrities together as Liberals. I never in a million years would have guessed that this hip-hop music artist was a Conservative and a Bush supporter. It just goes to show that you really can’t judge a book by its cover.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Three Food Items Men Must Have

Having been surrounded by all males in this household for so many years--until my oldest son married two years ago and gave me a daughter, and then recently, two granddaughters as well!--I have learned that there are three food items that men love and must have, as often as possible. (At least my men love and must have them, and I get the feeling they're not alone.) These all-important foods are bacon, gravy, and cheese. Any one of these, or all of them together, can apparently be added to almost any recipe and they will only improve it.

If you work for the American Heart Association, you might want to stop reading this. And I'd like to add this disclaimer: I'm not advocating including large amounts of bacon, gravy, and cheese as part of one's healthy daily diet. I'm just making some observations here.

Last Sunday, our second oldest son came over to watch the Patriots game with us. We usually do a lot of fun game snacks, like buffalo chicken wings and tortilla chips with chili dip and salsa. But we toned it down that night and just had a normal light dinner, because he said he'd made himself a really filling lunch earlier and didn't want too much. He'd experimented, he told us: he'd melted cheddar cheese on some seasoned french fries and then poured turkey gravy over the top. He said it was delicious. "Ugh!" I said. "I can see cheese OR gravy; but cheese AND gravy? That's too much." Without missing a beat, my husband said, "That sounds AWESOME." I came back with, "They don't really go together, do they? Cheese and gravy?" He answered, "Sure they do!" Then both he and my son agreed that bacon would have been the icing on the cake--because of course, any dish can only be enhanced if you put bacon on it!

I've mentioned comedian Jim Gaffigan before, but I'm going to give him another little plug here. He has a comedy DVD called "King Baby" that is a must-see, not just for died-in-the-wool bacon lovers, but for people who like to laugh in general. (I still can't figure out what "King Baby" has to do with anything. I think it's just a random title he came up with because he's, shall we say, rather off-beat; but don't let the fact that the title of it sounds bizarre keep you from checking it out.)

Once, several years back, my boys were extolling the virtues of bacon, and my middle son insisted that bacon would taste good with ANYTHING. His brothers smelled a challenge there and said, "Really? Would it taste good on a candy bar?" Never one to back down and admit defeat, my #3 son wrapped a piece of bacon around a Snickers bar and ate the whole thing, insisting that it was delectable. To this day--although his brothers still don't quite believe him--he will resolutely repeat that bacon and chocolate are a winning combination. Now I'm not sure if he'd have been able to eat that Snickers bar with gravy and melted cheese on it, too...but when it comes to the gastric proclivities of men, nothing would really surprise me.

(Note regarding the above picture: Men will eat these three man foods with gusto, but don't expect them to notice or appreciate the pretty dishes you put them in or the lace cloth underneath.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Proof of Life

Here is a sonogram picture taken of my twin granddaughters exactly a month before they were born. I'm sure you've figured this out already, but it's a view from the top of their heads; you can see Twin B's hand near her face and the outline of Twin A's adorable rounded cheeks and button nose. Whenever I look at all of the sonogram pictures my daughter-in-law sent us throughout her pregnancy, I am blown away by this awe-inspiring technology. Through these images, my husband and I were able to watch the twins grow from the very beginning, when they looked like two tiny lima beans anchored to a wall by threads; then in almost no time at all, they were plump little beings with short arms and legs; and soon, we could make out their hands waving at us, and we could clearly see the outlines of their feet and their darling profiles. The idea of two separate human beings growing together in one womb is a miracle almost beyond comprehension; the fact that we can be witnesses to that miracle through sonogram images such as these is yet another miracle. I can't imagine how anyone can see a sonogram picture and not be passionately pro-life. Now look at this picture of the babies, taken a couple of weeks ago. That's Twin B (my "Cutie Pie") on the left and Twin A (my "Bonny Baby") on the right. They're positioned exactly as they were in the above sonogram picture, and photographed from the same angle. And they haven't changed much! The outlines of their heads--and their cute little cheeks and noses--look just like Twin A's in the sonogram picture! And I don't know about you, but when I look at this photo, I definitely feel like I'm seeing double. They are identically adorable.

Everything, every bit of genetic material, that these two needed to become the beautiful baby girls they are today was present from the very beginning, even when to the naked eye they had the appearance of tiny beans. They just needed nutrition and time so that they could grow and develop and get ready to make their entrance into the world. They were, from their earliest stages, two individual humans--two souls made in the image and likeness of God. Okay, that's my plug for the sanctity of life, from the moment of conception on. These days, one needn't say much; he can just let sonogram pictures do the talking. Proof of life is there, in black and white.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October is Our Lady's Month

I've known since I was a little girl that the month of May was dedicated to Mary, because in elementary school we always said the Rosary during that month--and of course, there was always a May Crowning ceremony, too, where one of the children was chosen to place a crown of flowers on the head of a statue of the Blessed Mother. May is a month that brings with it the beginning of new life, so this makes it a logical time to celebrate Mary, who brought life (and with that life, slavation) into the world.

In later years, I became aware that October, too, is Mary's month; but I wasn't quite sure why, so I did a little digging. The reason that October is Mary's month is this: by tradition, the Catholic Church dedicates each month of the year to a particular devotion, and October is a month that is dedicated to the Holy Rosary. (The Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary is celebrated on October 7.) So, as many Catholics pray a daily Rosary during the month of May, they do so during October as well.

In the spirit of remembering that October is a month dedicated to Our Lady, on this fine Sunday morning in October I decided to post a photo I took of one of my favorite things, a dear picture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

This lovely piece of inspirational artwork is an example of how one person's trash can be another person's treasure. I found it one afternoon a few months back, at the end of a driveway not far from my home. It was propped up atop a couple of other items that had failed to sell at a yard sale, and there was a sign near the sad little pile that said "FREE!" Free is the price I like best, so I pulled my car over and went to see if there was anything worth taking. I was delighted to find this sweet, unexpected treasure. It was completely perfect: clean and brand new-looking, with nary a nick or a scratch on the golden oval frame. I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to part with it! It hangs now in my dining room, in a place where I can see it from the kitchen.

When I look at this image, these are the words that come to mind: HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD, PRAY FOR US SINNERS, NOW AND AT THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH. AMEN.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys

On Thursday, I traveled about an hour and a half from where I live to watch a freshman football game. I didn't drive all that way to watch one of my boys play, because (sniff) they're all grown up now and have moved beyond their high school football glory days. I didn't drive all that way to check out the colorful fall foliage, either, because it wasn't one of those sunny, crisp, clean, "football weather" autumn days for which this part of the country is famous--in fact, it was an extremely gloomy, rainy day, the kind of day that makes you want to curl up in a blanket on the couch and hibernate. So why did I go? I went because I wanted to see my second oldest son--a first year high school Algebra teacher and assistant freshman football coach--in action.

I didn't get to see a very good game. My son's boys finally had to go up against a superior team that day, after trouncing every other opponent they'd faced, and they didn't have the gas to get the job done. They lost 26-0, and let's put it this way: it wasn't at all pretty. But it was still worth the trip for me. It was great to see my boy (I've been missing all of my boys so much lately!) and to meet the other young man he's been coaching with all season.

I brought homemade cookies for the team--I guess because I've become this pitiable empty nester who misses baking for her own boys. The head coach was funny about it, though. When the kids got on the bus, he boomed (according to my son): "Listen up! Coach Pearl's mom made some cookies to give to the poor; but she saw your pathetic game today, and how terrible you did, and she feels sorry for you! So she decided to give them to you instead!"

Those boys weren't fooled a bit by the tough guy act. One of them smiled right away and said, "She made us cookies?"

Over the years, I've learned that football coaches can be as tough as nails, but if they really care about their boys, that comes through. When his players weren't working hard enough in practice, our sons' high school football coach used to mercilessly chide them, "My five-year-old granddaughter can hit harder than you can!" Or he'd yell, "You guys couldn't even beat the Sisters of the Poor!" (That was one of his favorite lines. I don't even think he was a Catholic, but he seemed to know a lot about that order of nuns and the quality of their football program.) Should we women be offended that this "old school"-style coach always seemed to equate his boys' poor performance with playing like girls?

Personally, I'm not offended. I've found that there is something about that mano-a-mano understanding between boys and their football coaches that is very sweet and uncomplicated, very simple...because after all, men are such simple creatures. And I hope they're not offended by me saying that--because in some ways, I think we complicated women could learn a thing or two from them.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Faux Stained Glass

I have always been an admirer of stained glass windows. The ones in Catholic churches are, of course, breathtaking; but I also love the ones you'll often find in old Victorian-style houses.

Our house isn't very old, and it's a Colonial, not a Victorian. Our windows are your garden variety modern type: clear glass, energy efficient, double-hung windows encased in vinyl. We had them put in some years ago to replace the drafty, wood-framed ones that were original to the house, and they are wonderful. They keep out the blustery winter winds, they tip inward for easy cleaning, and they are exactly the right style to complement this particular house. But they don't have the charm and character of these lovely windows from a Victorian-era home that you see in the picture on the right.

For years, I kept the sidelight windows by our front door uncovered. I thought about making little curtains for them, but what I really wished I could do was have stained glass windows made to replace them. That, of course, would have been way too expensive and was never going to happen. But I really needed to cover them up with something, because when nighttime falls, I feel a lot better knowing that sketchy characters aren't peeking in my windows.

I have said before that I like trompe l'oeil and faux finishes. (My house is one big fake-out.) Well, a few years back when I was at Home Depot picking up some hardware, I happened to see these rolls of plastic, in a variety of colors and designs, that could be cut to size and applied to regular windows to give the stained glass effect. So for about $20, I finally got the stained glass windows I'd always wanted. It was easy, too. All I had to do was wet the window with water from a spray bottle and put the plastic sheet on it, then smooth it until all the bumps were gone. The plastic adhered to the wet surface in the same way that a suction cup does. And voila! Expensive-looking beauty for next to nothing.

The sheets of "stained glass" have stayed put for years, and they won't come off until I decide to peel them off. If you really look at these windows up close, you can tell they're not the real deal. But they did fool my oldest son when he had been away for awhile and first noticed them--for a few seconds at least! And they give me the privacy I want, while looking pretty at the same time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Missing My Baby Boy

I am missing the boy who used to wear this high school letter jacket.

It hangs there, all abandoned and forlorn, right next to the door. I have to pass it every time I go out of the house, and then again when I come back in, and it just reminds me of how much I'm missing my baby boy. (By the way, I know my youngest son must absolutely love it when I call him that. He's almost 19, 6'2" and strong as an ox, and I don't think he considers himself a baby any longer. He doesn't know yet that a mom's baby will always be her baby.)

It's pouring rain outside this morning, my husband is away on a trip, and I'm here all alone without even a cute little flying squirrel to keep me company. I'm feeling a bit blue and blah, and maybe it was a mistake to sit down at my computer to blog when I'm in this frame of mind. Therefore, I'm going to keep this post short; because if I let myself go on for too long, I'm going to get all maudlin, and tell you how big and quiet my house feels without the five delightful boys who used to fill it with their booming voices, their laughter, and their need for a mother's attention and love. (Or maybe it was just their need for home cooked meals and neatly folded piles of freshly laundered clothes...but as nutty as it sounds, I even miss being able to do those things for them, almost as much as I miss the boys themselves!)

Okay, if I'm going to get all nostalgic about the mountains of laundry I used to have to do and the countless meals I had to cook (not to mention the carts and carts of groceries I had to buy and the miles and miles of driving I had to do in my big red van, traveling to sporting events from one end of the state to the other), then that means it's time to sign off, lest you think I've utterly lost my mind. I should be revelling in the lightening of my loads and the freeing up of my time, right? And there is something to be said for those things, to be sure.

But I'm still missing my baby boy. Don't feel too sorry for me, though--because next week, my husband and I are planning to go out to his college to visit him for about five days. Can I get a hearty "huzzah!"?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Love Was in the Air

This is a picture of my third son, my middle child, taken over the Columbus Day weekend. He and one of his lovely BCF's (best cousin friends) and her husband flew out to San Diego to visit another BCF who's stationed out there, a beautiful young Navy helicopter pilot about whom I've written before ("Touching the Face of God...," July 18 ). On Monday, his last day there, my boy and his pilot cousin took a trip to Sea World, and they had the time of their lives. While he was waiting to board his red-eye flight back home from the West Coast Monday night, he called to tell me to check out the pictures posted on his Facebook page--and this is what I found! Look at that face: doesn't it melt you? (I'm talking about my son's face, although the dolphin's is pretty dang cute, too.)

The other day, I said that I don't have much of a bucket list and that all of my lifelong dreams have already been fulfilled. When I said that, I forgot about one thing: I've always wanted to do THIS! I think it would be really cool to swim with dolphins. When I saw this photo of my charming, adorable boy hanging out with his smiling dolphin friend, it delighted me, but didn't surprise me. This son of mine is a guy who works hard when he's supposed to, but plays hard, too, whenever he gets the chance. He's my happy-go-lucky, glass-is-half-full boy. He loves meeting new people and traveling to new places; he sees the good in pretty much everyone he meets and the fun and adventure to be found in every place he visits. He is a friend to all, not just dolphins, and a joy to be around.

My son and his cousin loved this experience. He said that they could have just interacted with the dolphins from the sidelines for a reasonable fee, but they decided to pay the much higher price so that they could actually get into the pool with them. He was amazed at how intelligent these animals were and just had a grand time interacting with them. He was embarrassed to tell me what he spent to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experince. But I figure hey, he might as well do it now, while he's young and single and can afford it. And plus, he actually spent only slightly more to splash around with the dolphins on Columbus Day than I did to have that pesky squirrel removed from my house by Animal Control! I think he got more bang for his buck than I did!Apparently, love was in the air at Sea World. But it was in the air back at my son's home in VA, too; because hours later, on the same day that he kissed this dolphin, his buddy--and housemate--got down on one knee in a candlelit room, proposed to yet another one of his lovely BCF's (my sons have a lot of cousins), and slipped a diamond ring on her finger. Who knew Columbus Day could be so filled with romance?!

Congratulations, B and L! We're so happy for you!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Squirrel Interrupted

Okay, for those of you who've been waiting with bated breath to find out how my squirrel problem was resolved, you'll be happy to know that at about 11:00 Monday morning, two young men from Animal Control came, and within about ten minutes they'd caught my little midnight visitor.

I thought I'd managed to get the squirrel contained in a small area of one of our bedrooms; but when I opened the door a crack to check on him after I woke up from my shortened sleep, I saw that a vase I'd had up on a high shelf had been knocked to the ground, so I knew he'd escaped from confinement and had been moving about throughout the night. I was afraid to even enter the room at this point--squirrels sometimes have rabies, you know--so I closed the door and waited for the professionals to arrive.

When these two young outdoorsy-looking guys showed up, wearing thick suede work gloves but carrying with them no equipment at all (I imagined they'd at least have a big butterfly net or something), I asked them what they were going to catch the squirrel with. They smiled and one of them replied, "Our hands." Of course! Why didn't I think of that? The two of them went upstairs and closed the door to the room behind them, and as I listened outside, I heard all kinds of bumps and thumps and bangs, furniture being moved, and the two of them chuckling and saying things like, "Whoa, he's a fast one." Eventually, they emerged and, sure enough, one of them was holding the culprit in his gloved hands.

Now that the squirrel was safely in the hands of the experts and no longer a threat to me, I was a lot braver, and the furry little guy looked completely harmless and unbelievably cute. So of course, I wanted to take pictures of him. (The Animal Control guys were actually very nice about it, and held him up for me while I snapped away.) Really, look at this face: is it adorable or what?

If this had happend when my boys were young and living in the house, they'd probably have wanted to keep him as a pet. In fact, if my sons are reading this right now, they're no doubt thinking this whole episode was "SWEET!"

The two guys put the squirrel in a little wire cage and asked me if I wanted him released in my yard, or if I wanted them to take him farther away and let him go. I was worried that he was a baby and needed his mother, and if so, they should leave him near my house--and that's when I found out that he wasn't a baby squirrel after all. They told me that he was a full-grown adult flying squirrel, which is a lot smaller than your typical gray squirrel. The unusually large eyes that I commented on in yesterday's post are one of the features of this particular nocturnal animal. He also had a flat, rather than a bushy, tail, and thin flaps of skin connecting his front and back paws. When I was chasing him around in the wee hours, I thought that he was sort of strange-looking; however, I never guessed that he was a flying squirrel, because I didn't even know that we have them in our area. I was informed that he most likely gained entry into the house by gliding down the chimney, which explains the sudden noises I heard downstairs that had me thinking someone had broken into my house.

One of the Animal Control guys told me that I was lucky--because if I was going to have my home invaded by a squirrel, this was the kind to have. Flying squirrels, I found out, are quite docile. (If I had known that going in, I thought with dismay, I MIGHT have had the guts to try to grab him myself...no, never mind; I still wouldn't have.) These little squirrels rarely do much damage, either, whereas a regular gray squirrel would probably have destroyed the room. He told me that he and his partner have been called into houses where squirrels have chewed away the moldings around the windows in their efforts to escape. That made me remember the time when my sister-in-law's vacation home was trashed by a couple of gray squirrels that had gotten down the chimney, wreaked havoc, and died near the fireplace. She'd had to call this company known for cleaning up crime scenes to take care of the awful mess those critters left in their wake. So I guess I was lucky that the squirrel who found his way down my chimney Sunday night was a meek and mild little flying squirrel. He'd knocked over a vase (and it wasn't even broken), chewed on a basket, and left me a tiny present on the rug. But otherwise, once he was gone it was as if he'd never been here.
So in the end, it was win-win: the squirrel survived, I survived. The only unfortunate part of the story is that when the Animal Control people come to your home to remove wild things for you, it isn't free. And it isn't cheap. But I have no idea what kind of strategy you're supposed to employ to catch a lightning-fast little creature like that. If it wasn't for those guys, that thing would still be zooming around, finding tight little places just out of my reach in which to hide, and I'd be a basket case. It was worth it to me to pay for expert services to deal with a situation like this; you just can't put a price tag on peace of mind.


(Forgive me for the title of this post. It alludes to an Angelina Jolie movie from years back called "Girl Interrupted." Although I never saw it, I'm guessing it was terrible.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Animal Control

Well, I had an interesting--make that terrifying, alarming, awful--night last night. To begin with, it was my first night sleeping alone in my house again in several weeks. If you've been reading this blog, you know that my husband and I have been on the road, moving our daughter-in-law and our twin granddaughters east, and then staying with her until the joyful return of our Army captain son from deployment. We finally got back home three days ago, and then yesterday my man left for a six-day trip. So last night, lying in bed by myself, my fertile imagination was conjuring up all sorts of scenarios involving intruders with evil intent and I was having trouble settling down to go to sleep. I was acting like a real Nervous Nelly: I got up and puttered about; I read for awhile; I watched parts of the movie "Mommie Dearest," because it was either that or "Extreme Hoarders." (Have you noticed that television these days is a bit of a wasteland?)

Anyway, at about midnight, I muted the volume on the TV because I was sure I heard noises inside the house--exactly the kind of noises a person would make if he was tippytoeing around downstairs--and for once, I didn't think I was imagining them. At first, I didn't know what to do. I told myself that it was probably just the house making its usual creaky noises, the ones that seem so much louder when my husband isn't home with me. But boy, it sure did sound like something else this time...Heart pounding, I grabbed my cell phone and began to dial 911, but stopped myself. I hated the idea of having the police waste their time coming out to the house on account of my overactive imagination (something, regrettably, that I'd done once before, when we were new to this neighborhood). So I decided instead to go downstairs, turn on all the lights, have a look around, and put my fears to rest. Otherwise, I was going to be up all night worrying.

You know how in scary movies, a young girl will go alone in the dark to investigate when she hears the sound of an intruder in the night? And the killer is waiting for her in some darkened corner? And you want to yell at your television set, "What are you DOING?! Don't go!" I never could figure out why she didn't just hide under the bed, curled up in the fetal position. But I was about to do the stupid-girl-in-the-scary-movie routine myself. With my pulse pounding in my ears, I grabbed the trusty six-foot-long lacrosse defense shaft (essentially a lethal metal weapon) that I keep just under my side of the bed for protection, and I went downstairs. I figured it was better to do that than to stay upstairs all night with my heart in my throat. Just as you would guess, everything was in order. The doors were still locked. There wasn't a burglar or murderer in sight. Phew! Silly me.

I got settled back in bed, but I was still a little jittery and I wasn't quite ready to turn out the lights. I hoped that watching some more of "Mommie Dearest" would do the trick and help me to doze off. Then I realized that watching that movie on such a night was a huge mistake, because Faye Dunnaway as Joan Crawford is downright frightening. So at about 12:30, I opened up my book again and tried to read. I was lying there in bed, and suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw a gray shadow streak across the carpet in my bedroom. Before it disappeared behind my dresser, I got a quick glimpse of it, and realized to my horror that it was a baby squirrel. (Remember that scene with the squirrel from the movie "Christmas Vacation"? Suddenly, I understood the Griswolds' terror.) I don't know how in the world that critter got into the house. The only thing I can figure is that before I went to bed, when I opened the front door and turned on the porch light to check and see if the mums I have in a pot out there had survived the benign neglect they've received the past few weeks, he must have streaked inside, right past my feet, without me noticing him. But how he got in was neither here nor there; now, this was my reality: it was the middle of the night, my knight in shining armor was on a plane to Europe, and I had no idea how I was going to get rid of this nocturnal breaker-inner.

Let me tell you a few things about baby squirrels: 1) They are very cute. They have enormous black eyes, eyes that they need to grow into, eyes that are way too big for their bodies. It makes them look like stuffed animals or adorable cartoon illustrations from a children's book. It is because of this that, although I probably should have, I could not whack my furry little squirrel intruder with the metal shaft. I simply couldn't do it. He made me furious and brought me to tears of frustration, but there was no way I was going to kill him. 2)They are very quick and fast. This baby squirrel and I played a game of cat-and-mouse until almost 2:00 a.m., but there was no way I was ever going to catch him. Even if I'd wanted to whack him with the lacrosse stick, he was so fast that I'm sure I would have missed every time. 3)They can make themselves skinny when necessary. Just when you think they have nowhere to go, they squeeze themselves into some tiny hiding place just out of reach.

My first priority was to get the squirrel out of my room so that I could eventually get to sleep. After many unsuccessul attempts to corral him into a hat box (how I thought this would work, I'll never know), I finally scared him towards the doorway and he scurried out of my room and into one of the other empty bedrooms. I shut the door so that I would at least have him cornered in that room, and spent a goodly amount of time in there trying to draw him out of various hiding places, with the lacrosse stick in one hand and a laundry basket in the other. My great plan was to throw the basket over him and keep him prisoner, and then later in the morning call Animal Control to come and take him away. But that little devil was just too quick for me. I had absolutely no control over this animal; in fact, the opposite was true: until I could figure out a way to get him out of my house, I was his hostage, and I wasn't going to sleep a wink all night. Finally, I decided to just trap him where he was hiding, in the heat register along the floor a couple of inches from the wall corner, by jamming one of my son's sweatshirts into the register. Now he had the wall stopping him in one direction and the sweatshirt in the other. Then I wedged the overturned laundry basket on top of the register, and threw another sweatshirt on top of that to weigh it down. When I finally closed the door behind me and went to my room, I felt fairly certain that there was no way that little squirrel was going to be able to extricate himself from the prison I'd created for him...but I've been up for about an hour already, and I'm afraid to go into that bedroom and look! In a little while, I'm going to make a call to Animal Control. I don't care if it's Columbus Day; somebody over there better be on duty!


Here is something I painted on the wall of our downstairs bathroom not long after we moved into this house. That's right, it's a squirrel...painted to look as if it's perched on the heat register. (How ironic! And prophetic!)  He's cute, isn't he? Sure he is. I just love to paint animals on the walls in my house. I've painted dolphins, starfish, birds, pigs, a mouse...and this squirrel. You see, I love nature. I love animals. But after last night, I realize that I only love animals when they're out in nature, not in my house! After my traumatic run-in with that baby squirrel, I'm tempted to paint right over this little one-dimensional squirrel on the wall; it will only be a reminder to me of a night I'd rather forget.

Well, I don't know when they open, but I'm off to call Animal Control. Wish me luck!

(Note: I did turn the thermostat down to 60 before I went to sleep, even though it was a mild night--just to make sure the heat wouldn't turn on and cook my little friend. I thought I'd let you know this before you decided to call the SPCA on me.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Life is Good Today

Today as I sat waiting for Mass to start, I kept thinking about how inordinately blessed I am to be living the life I'm living. I don't have much of a "bucket list": from the time I was a little girl, I just wanted more than anything else to be a wife and a mother, and then--God willing--to live long enough to be a grandmother, too. At fifty-three, all my dreams have been fulfilled; I couldn't ask for anyting more. My cup overflows! I adore my husband and my sons, I have a sweet daughter-in-law who feels like a true daughter to me, and I have two of the most beautiful baby granddaughters that have ever graced the planet. (You may think that's a bit of hyperbole; but if so, it's because you've never seen these particular babies!)


I already posted this picture of Our Lord watching over members of the different branches of our military in a previous blog post, but I wanted to post it again, because it is so beautiful that it brings a lump to my throat--and it reminds me to say THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! A million times, THANK YOU! God in His infinite mercy watched over my oldest son while he was on his year-long deployment in Afghanistan, so that he could return safely home to his family last week. It is because of God's loving protection that my granddaughters will get to know the extraordinary man who is their father. It is because of the goodness of God that I was able to experience a moment of pure happiness that looks like this:
In the words of one of those songs from the Zac Brown Band (a new Pearl family favorite), "Life is good today."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What's in a Name?

I just realized that I hit a milestone not that long ago: I wrote my 200th blog post. But I was too busy at the time--traveling hither and yon, spending precious time with my twin baby granddaughters, welcoming my oldest boy home from Afghanistan, etc. etc.--to take note of it. So today, I thought I'd take a break from posting pictures of the grandkids (although look closely at today's photo and you'll see that I did manage to sneak them into it!) to talk about what a unique pleasure working on "String of Pearls" has been to me.

First of all, I'd like to thank my husband for giving me such a beautiful last name--a real gem of a name, in fact--when I became his wife. Among many other good things, my married name provided me with a cool title for my blog. My favorite subject is my family, and that's just what they are: my string of Pearls. My priceless gems. Voila! The perfect title.

I love my last name. I think it's so unusual and pretty. Not that I had a bad maiden name or anything; I mean, I wasn't saddled with one of those unfortunate surnames destined to be ridiculed viciously by the junior high set, like Weiner or Hogg or Winterbottom. But I do feel lucky to have inherited such a lovely new last name when I married my high school sweetheart. (If his last name had been Hogg, it wouldn't have been a deal-breaker...but let's just say I'm happy it wasn't.)

The only drawback to the name Pearl is that over the phone, it's hard to make people understand what you're saying. It seems like a simple name, but they always need you to spell it for them. Sometimes I'll say, "You know, Pearl, like the jewelry." My husband's standard line is better: he will say, "You spell it like the white thing in the oyster." The scary thing is that recently he said this and the gal on the other end said, "Okay, but could you spell it for me anyway?" (This is the sad result, in my opinion, of moving away from spelling bees and letting school kids rely on spellchecker instead.) Oh, and there is another drawback to our name, now that I think of it, about which I've written before ("Random Thoughts About Adorable Things," June 17): my middle son couldn't pronounce his R's or his L's when he was a little fella, making our name doubly hard for him to say--so for a brief period of time in his life, he had to go by "Puh." Ah, well.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about last names lately, and how we have no control over which ones we end up with. I was reading an article in a Catholic newspaper a few weeks ago at my daughter-in-law's parents' house, and the woman being interviewed had the last name "Willfahrt." I couldn't help but smile when I saw that, and I imagined how hilarious it would have been to my boys at a certain age. They probably would have loved to have that name themselves when they were about eight--because eight-year-old boys, as you know, are notorious for their love of bathroom humor. I don't know if a scientific study has ever been done on this; but if it was, I believe the results would prove it's some sort of genetic aberration over which the males of our species have little control. A name like Willfahrt could make a little boy a regular folk hero on the recess field. A little girl who was stuck with it, on the other hand, would probably beg to be homeschooled and worry that she'd never get a date to the prom.

To wrap this up: thank you again, dear husband, for giving me such a lovely name--one that we have passed down to our string of five boys, who will in turn pass it down to all of their own children. I know that someday, our two little Pearl granddaughters will lose the family name if they marry; but let's just hope the men they marry aren't Hoggs.

(Willfahrt is a German word, and I tried to find its meaning, but couldn't. If anyone out there can translate it for me, I'd appreciate it!)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Proud Papa

Well, I've been slowly expanding my horizons, blogging from hotel rooms and from an Army base library. I've been away from home so often in recent months that I've had to learn to be comfortable setting up my laptop in foreign places, instead of at my familiar desk in my cozy basement office area. Today, though, I'm trying something completely new: I'm blogging at a rest stop on the NY State Thruway, taking advantage of the advertized free WiFi. Thank you, all of you NY taxpayers, for making this possible for me!

My husband and I are currently on the road, making our way back home after spending the past two weeks with our daughter-in-law and our granddaughters, and then the past few days with our oldest son as well--our firstborn, our real American hero, the helicopter pilot and new father who just returned home safely on Tuesday after serving for a year in Afghanistan.

In keeping with the theme of yesterday's post (about pictures that speak a thousand words), here is a shot of my husband holding Cutie Pie. It totally melts me. Look at that expression of pure happiness on his face: it tells you what being a grandfather means to him better than any words could!

If you like seeing pictures of our perfect, beautiful, angelic little granddaughters, stay tuned over the next few days. I have some wonderful pictures of them that I am dying to share!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Couple of Those "Thousand Word" Pictures

I'm back at the library on post again--getting my daily blogging fix, now that I've found available internet service! But I must be quick, because my husband and I have some work we want to do today for our son and daughter-in-law before we head back home tomorrow. We are going to try to paint two of the rooms in their house for them, because they will be moving down South in February and within a matter of months they are hoping to be able to sell it. These two wonderful young people have just been reunited after a year apart, and they're back in their cute little house with their adorable babies; but before too long, they'll be calling another house "home." Such is the life of an Army family! They have their hands full these days with their twin baby girls--there's not much time for painting walls!--so we thought we'd do what we could to lighten the load for them.

In the spirit of keeping this short, I'm going to post two pictures taken in the past week or so that I believe are the kind that speak a thousand words.

The first picture is one I took myself, while I was holding one of the babies (it was a bit tricky). This photo says better than words could say what being a grandmother means to me.
The second picture is of the two sisters in the early stages of becoming buddies. Although they spent over eight months together in the womb, they have largely ignored each other until recently. Now, they're beginning to check each other out and smile at each other. This photo shows better than any words could do how special the bond is between sisters. (And as usual with photos of my granddaughters, I wanted to post it because I thought it would make you smile!)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Daddy's Home!

I thought I was going to have to wait until I got back home to New England this weekend to post some pictures of my son's homecoming from Afghanistan, because the internet at his house in Upstate NY (where my husband and I have been staying with our daughter-in-law for the past week, to help her out until her hubby's arrival--getting the nursery set up, for one thing!) won't be hooked up until next week. I never thought I'd become so addicted to my computer, but I have missed the internet sorely--mostly because I've been dying to post pictures of my darling little granddaughters, who get cuter and funnier by the minute. I've been with them for two whole weeks now: first at my daughter-in-law's family home out in the Midwest, then on a three-day road trip cross-country to NY, and now at their sweet little house (a whole new world to them) in the country. It's been unbelievably great doing the Grammy thing--in every possible way it has been a joy and a privilege, even getting up to help with middle of the night feedings; the only thing I've missed is the ability to blog about the babies! But today, my husband and I were able to go on post and use the free internet at the base library--and I am just so excited to be back at it. My heart is full to bursting with great news that I want to share!


Yesterday was a good day--a very, very good day. My husband and I went with our daughter-in-law and our granddaughters over to an airplane hangar at the base for a welcome home ceremony, and it was so moving and joyful. An Army band was playing, little boys were dressed up in mini ACU's, little girls were decked out in sparkly red, white, and blue dresses, and miniature American flags were waving everywhere.

(Daddy's girls await his arrival.)


I can't quite describe the feeling that washed over me when they announced that our soldiers were about to enter...then the door of the hangar was raised, and in they marched. After all the worries, the tears, the sleepless nights, and the prayers, our boy was back! Our daughter-in-law's other half was back! Our granddaughters' doting daddy was back! It was so cute, because as soon as he spied his wife and baby girls in the crowd, our son couldn't keep from grinning, even when the group was standing at attention--all squared away, Army style--in formation.
It has been so wonderful watching our boy get reaquainted with his little girls--helping with the feedings and the diapers, cuddling them and getting them to smile. I'm having some withdrawal pains, though; it was a little strange to sleep through the night last night, from about 11:30 to 7:30, without being awoken by my daughter-in-law's soft, sweet voice letting me know that the babies were up. It was strange not sitting in a darkened room, holding a warm, cuddly bundle in the crook of my arm. I'm going to miss those peaceful moments in the wee hours, bonding with those little girls! But all is right in the world now, because their daddy is the one who should be doing that, not me. Yes, Daddy's home! I thank God for watching over him throughout the past year when he was in harm's way, so that he can be here now with his adorable little family--right where he should be.