Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Farewell to a Great Coffee Group!

My hubby has changed jobs which, in the Army, means a round of "farewell" events. We were farewelled from the brigade a few weeks ago at a brigade staff "Hail and Farewell" and I was farewelled last night from the brigade Coffee group.

For my civilian friends, a "Hail and Farewell" is a regularly scheduled social event for the Soldiers and spouses of a unit to welcome new members to the unit and to say goodbye to those who are scheduled to leave. Welcomes include a quick summary of the Soldier's previous assignments and jobs plus information about his/her Family and interests. Farewells generally include a nice speech about the value the Soldier and Family has added to the unit and may include a farewell gift (framed prints and unit colors are popular). A nice touch is that incoming spouses usually receive a yellow rose and outgoing spouses receive a red rose.

A "Coffee," by contrast, is a social event exclusively for the spouses of Soldiers in a unit. It is not an FRG (Family Readiness Group) function, but is more focused on socializing and less on official information sharing. A different spouse (or a group of spouses) hosts each Coffee, which can be scheduled monthly or as desired. They can be hosted at a home or planned at a local restaurant, but usually include food and fun.

The Coffee I attended last night was hosted by a friend and was a happy evening of chatting with old friends. In our Coffee group, we have a choice of a couple of different farewell gifts ... a way to remember our time with the unit. My gift is really a great one -- personalized and unique! It's hard to explain in words, but is basically a framed print of our unit crest. The crest itself was made by repeating my last name in ink! The letters are closer together to make the outline and darker parts of the crest and spaced out further to create the lighter background.

Here is another (not-so-great) pics from my iPhone:

Can you see "COOK" in the close-up? It's so cool!

Can't Wait for Halloween!

PHOTO: Neighborhood kids at the 2008 pre-Halloween Dinner!

I'm not sure who is more excited about Halloween ... the kids or me! First of all, this will be the first Halloween in three years where dear Hubby is here with us; that alone is worthy of celebration.

Secondly, we're all set! Kids have costumes they love, the house has been decorated (and scented with yummy pumpkin candles all month!), and candy is ready to be distributed. Also, we're continuing one of my favorite seasonal traditions since we moved back to Fort Hood. We're hosting a pre-Trick-or-Treat dinner and moving through the neighborhood with a group of friends.

We love having people over and this is a super-fun event. We cook up a big pot of chili and everyone brings spooky sides to go with it. Most recipe ideas are from and include things like "Monster Toes," "Apple Bites," and "Pizza Mummies." I will put out a few easy crafts to occupy the kids when they're finished eating, including a photo magnet project where I take a Polaroid instant photo (I may have the single remaining Polaroid instant camera on the planet) and the kids decorate with stickers and a sticky magnet on the back.

Then it's out the door we go! The adults are able to stay on the street, chatting while monitoring the kids as they move from one house to another. We'll end up back at the house where we can hand out candy to the older kids who come by a little later in the night, and let the kids play together to wrap up the evening. It's a great night of fun for kids and parents. Can't wait!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Family's Annual Halloween Hayride

I'm excited to visit family this weekend for the 4th Annual Halloween Hayride hosted by my my mom's side of the family. It's a great time and my boys are always thrilled to attend. In the crazy way of the Army, my husband has never been able to attend. Two of the past three years, he was in Iraq, and the other was spent at NTC. So I'm really excited to share this fun event with him this year, too!

It seems that Halloween is a little taboo in some circles, but we enjoy the holiday for its fun ... costumes and candy; what's not to love? Because my parents live in Texas, I am able to attend and participate in many family events that would not otherwise be possible. One of these is my mom's annual Halloween Hayride and Cookout.

My mother and stepfather live in a wooded area in north Texas. They have created a trail through the woods in the backyard, just big enough for their John Deere "Gator" to get through. For this event, my family gathers to decorate the trail ... with each section of the trail having a different theme: Bat Brigade, Skeleton Scream Zone, Witches' Coven, Psychadelic Pumpkin Patch, Grey Ghost Sunken Pirate Ship, Dead-End Graveyard, Ghost Gathering, Spider Sanctuary, Tarantula Turn, and Scarecrow Crossing. We spend the day together preparing for the party and don simple costumes for our guests' arrival.

Guests have their photo taken with a Polaroid instant camera as they arrive; then are guided to the campfire for dinner. After roasting hot dogs over the campfire, the kids take a walk through the trail, where parent volunteers wait with "Trick or Treat" candy and toys. Then the hayrides begin! A little hay in the Gator and attached trailor make a great ride.

While small groups go through the trail in the Gator (with flashlights to see all the spooky sights), those waiting play in a borrowed bounce house and enjoy several craft stations including temporary tattoos, photo magnets (using Polaroid photos taken at the Photo Station), and scary stickers. They can also hunt for a pumpkin in our haystack pumpkin patch and make a fun snack to take home (this varies but, in the past, has included a "Witches' Gorp" trail mix and a spooky 'hand' made from disposable gloves and popcorn).

After all the kids have been on a hayride, it's time for the pinatas. We have two pinatas and divide the kids by age so younger kids aren't overpowered by their older siblings and friends. At this point, we usually head back to the campfire to visit and relax!

To see the trail (from 2008) narrated by my eight-year-old, watch here:

And Part II:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Price of Peace is Paid by the Families

If you haven't seen The Price of Peace video sung by two daughters of an Army National Guard Soldier, get a box of tissues, settle in, and click to watch. Make sure all Soldiers with daughters see this, too. It's a sweet tribute to Dads in the military.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall Fun at the Pre Command Course

I absolutely love Autumn. It's my favorite season ... even in Texas where there is no dazzling display of leaves changing color. I love the cooler air after months of oppressive heat and humidity, the crisp smell of outdoor barbeques, the enthusiastic sounds of football teams and cheering crowds, and the many delicious flavors of Fall … pumpkin spice lattes topping the list. We decorate for Halloween, carve (or paint!) pumpkins, adore Trick-or-Treating, and enjoy a season a thanksgiving with family and friends. What’s not to love?

This Fall, I was happy to participate in a brand-new event for me. Because my husband will be taking a battalion command in the Spring, he is currently going through a series of courses to prepare him for this adventure. One part of the training includes spouses and I was able to spend an entire week with my husband at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, attending classes and getting to know others preparing for command. I was excited for a million reasons … a week with my husband, no kids, meeting new friends, and revisiting a favorite installation were but a few.

After lots of preparation (planning for two school-age boys and two sets of grandparents traveling to help out is no easy feat!), my husband and I flew to Kansas, back to place we loved being just a few short years ago. We enjoyed dinner at a favorite restaurant and reminisced on the drive to post. It felt a little like summer camp as we checked into Hoge Barracks and prepared for our week.

The week flew by but was a wonderful time of meeting great people, talking about supporting our amazing Soldiers and Families, and listening to some of the Army’s top leaders give us the latest in Army progress and guidance for the time in command. I loved hearing about initiatives designed to help our Soldiers like the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program, Strong Bonds retreats, and Army Safety. I also heard a lot about the importance of Families, including promises like the Army Family Covenant, programs like the Family Readiness Support Assistants (FRSAs), and tools like the virtual Family Readiness Group (vFRG). I took a ton of notes and came home with a binder full of information to review and digest before our day comes.

I had never thought about how battalion commanders prepared for their jobs before. I’m still learning about this process, but I’m happy to report that there is a great deal of importance placed on preparation and your commanders were selected and trained to be leaders of Soldiers and Families. I really felt like I learned a lot and left feeling better prepared (though no less nervous!) for this incredible experience that awaits us. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Things I Love About Autumn

Growing up in Texas, Autumn has always been a long-awaited joyful break from the oppressive heat and humidity of Summer. Yes, I love my time at the lake, wearing flip-flops, and a season with my kids at home ... but I always welcome Fall with much enthusiasm and fanfare ... a time for new decor, new foods, new clothing.

Here are just some of the things I love about this season:
  • Fall wardrobe!!
    • Sweaters and jeans
    • great boots
    • fun trench coats, jackets, and blazers
  • Friday night football games complete with ...
    • crowds-a-cheering
    • bands-a-playing
    • lights-a-blazing
  • The Weather!
    • lower temperatures and cool breezes
    • colored leaves that fall from the trees
  • All things pumpkin!
    • Pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks,
    • Vanilla-pumpkin candles from Candle Queen,
    • Pumpkin foods -- pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin-walnut bread!
  • Halloween!
    • Costumes and decorations
    • Carving (or painting!) pumpkins
    • Parties and crafts
    • Trick-or-Treating and candy!
  • Fall Fun for Kids
    • hayrides and cookouts
    • camping and fishing
    • trips to the pumpkin patch and the hay maze
  • Fall foods and drinks
    • chili, soup, and stew
    • apple cider
My boys with their painted pumpkins --
a black bat with baby bat and a silver space ship with aliens

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Skeletons Are Not Boys or Girls

So I had this hilarious conversation with my six-year-old recently as we were decorating for Halloween and putting together a PVC pipe skeleton ...

Him: Mommy, did you know that you can't really tell if skeletons are boys or girls?

Me: That's a good point. I hadn't thought of that.

Him: Yeah, because you can't tell if it's a boy because it doesn't have a weenie.

Me (suppressing a smile): That's true.

Him: You know, there is no bone in your weenie if you're a boy so it's not on a skeleton.

Me (trying harder not to smile): Yes, I think I knew that.

Him: But, Mommy, sometimes your weenie feels like it's a bone, even if there is no bone there.

Me (choking down laughter): Is that right?

Him: Yep, that's right! But then it goes away and it doesn't feel like a bone anymore.

Me (turning my head to "cough"): Good to know!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Writer's Workshop: Halloween Decorations

I come from a long line of educators ... the kind who decorate their classrooms and change themes every month. In fact, I was one of those teachers for 8 years before I became a mom. Ever wonder what happens to all that stuff when a teacher stops teaching? Well, I have all of my stuff plus all of my mom's stuff (who recently retired after 25 years of teaching!) and it's all got to go somewhere ...

So ... much of it helps decorate our home during every conceivable holiday! Back before Halloween became taboo in schools, my mom could decorate with seasonal icons, so I have lots of the traditional stuff -- witches, ghosts, mummies and the like. While I was teaching, most Halloween themes were not allowed, so we focused more on the acceptable items ... human anatomy (skeletons), mammals (bats), a literary study of Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (spiders), and harvest (pumpkins).

All of that to say ... not only did I inherit much of my mom's fun decor, I also inherited her love of fun decorations at Halloween! ** You can read about her crazy fun Halloween party under the blog Annual Halloween Hayride.

At my house, we decorate most of the house for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Lesser decorations are reserved for Valentine's Day and 4th of July (much of my house is already "Americana" anyway!).

Enjoy these photos of our 2009 Halloween decorations! We had a lot of fun putting them together and can't wait for Trick-or-Treat!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Army Wife New to Blogger!

I am an Army wife of 15+ years with an amazing husband and two wonderful little boys. Hubby and I grew up in Texas so we're happy to be stationed at Fort Hood, near both of our families!

I was a teacher before I became a Mom and now work parttime for a fabulous company that focuses on DoD websites. I enjoy working on the Army websites and love the opportunity to provide news and resources for Army Soldiers and Families.

I also spend my time volunteering, reading, digital scrapbooking, blogging, and doing lots of things my sons enjoy ... fishing, camping, baseball, soccer, basketball, and Wii!

I am a brand-new blogger on blogspot and love it already! I've always enjoyed writing and hope my posts will encourage Army Families everywhere ... or at least connect me with them.  I look forward to meeting lots of military Families online.

Thanks for stopping by ... please follow and let me know where your fabulous Army blog is located!