Saturday, August 18, 2012

Family Fun at the Sully Historic Site

Our family ventured out for our very first Civil War reenactment today to Sully Historic Site. We really had no idea what to expect but decided that since it was so close (down the road in Chantilly) and beautiful weather, why not?

We had a great time. We loved the authentic cannon. Each Soldier explained his part in making the cannon work and we saw some live fire. Great costuming, really fun games for kids that required no battery or charger (ah, back to the simpler times!), and a slightly inauthentic (but tasty) lunch of hot dogs and chips.

The boys were able to participate in rifle drill and learned how to properly handle their weapons.  They endured a short road march and planned a siege on the parental line.   They really seemed to enjoy that.  We also tested out some old-fashioned toys, shopped in a tent of Civil War memorabilia, and observed the campsites of both Union and Confederate Soldiers.  We watched a skirmish between the two sides, complete with casualties and cheered for a shoot-off between opposing Soldiers.

Touring the historic home that once belonged to the Lee family was interesting and the boys were fascinated by the simplicity of it all. The preteen was mostly interested in the Civil War era girls that were helping with the kids games, but even he learned a lot.  In all, a great day spent at a fun location learning a little more about the history of our beloved nation.

Read more about the Sully Historic Site!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Review: Piper Reed, Forever Friend

Piper Reed is ten years old and ready to embark on her sixth family move to a new location.  Piper's dad is in the Navy and when they get orders to move from Pensacola, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia, the whole family has to work together to make a new home in a new place.

Mom and Dad are encouraging, loving, and set a good example of resilience for their kids.  Piper's sisters -- Tori, 13, and Samantha, 6 -- make for great sibling rivalries, lively arguments, and loving banter.  As for Piper, she has developed some pretty savvy coping skills for a young military kid.  I'm impressed with her positive attitude, her spunky nature, and her adventurous spirit. Piper walks the fine line of keeping up with friends she's left behind and making new friends in her new home, and always does it with her own special style.

This book is a fantastic book for kids, especially anyone who has ever been the 'new kid' or had a hard time fitting in.  Subtle hints on how to cope are weaved throughout the book.  From making a list to starting a club to joining in wherever you live, the kids in this book handle it all.

Piper's family also provides loving -- and often humorous -- support as well.  Piper's mom and dad do a great job of establishing and maintaining family traditions to ease the pain of moving to a new place.  The kids are shown working through the trials of finding your place in a new community and depending on each other as well.

Ms. Holt does a fabulous job of balancing the good (Piper finally has her own room!) and the bad (Unfortunately, her best friends won't be at her new school) aspects of moving. It is masterfully written in a way that will surely resonate with military kids, but not put off those who are not familar with the military lifestyle.

I highly recommend this book for young readers.  My own children -- ages 12 and 9 -- enjoyed the stories and could relate to Piper's adventures.  Get the series and follow Piper and her friends through the joys and challenges of navigating life together.


Great news!  You can get your own Piper Reed book in this giveaway!  You could win one of these three fantastic books:

1 signed hardback copy of PIPER REED, FOREVER FRIEND
1 signed paperback copy of PIPER REED, NAVY BRAT
1 signed paperback copy of PIPER REED, RODEO STAR
To enter, comment on this blog post with the book you'd most like to receive and why.
Additional entries are available when you follow This Fabulous Army Life on Facebook or follow this blog in Blogger (click "Join this site with Google Connect" and/or follow on Networked blogs ... both available on the blog's right-hand column)!
** Be sure to comment on the blog post with each entry (Once when you comment with the book you'd like, a second time when you follow This Fabulous Army Life on Facebook, and a third time when you follow This Fabulous Army Life through Google Connect and/or Networked Blogs ... for a total of FOUR possible entries!).

All entries are due by 12:00 noon (EST) on Friday, August 10.  Winners will be announced on August 10.  Good luck!
Find out more about author Kimberly Willis Holt on her website!

Be sure to "like" Piper Reed on Facebook!

Join the Piper Reed Fan Club for lots of fun reading and activities!

Read my interview with author, Kimberly Willis Holt!

An Interview with Author Kimberly Willis Holt

Kimberly Willis Holt
Kimberly Willis Holt is the author of the fun and quirky series of books about Piper Reed, Navy brat and all-around good kid.  In these books, Piper learns to navigate the challenges of life on the move, making friends, making adjustments, and making the most of her military life. 

It is my absolute honor to have interviewed Kimberly Willis Holt about her writing.  Read on for more about the author, the books, and how all kids can learn great lessons from our friend, Piper.

You have lived the military lifestyle and now contribute to military kids by offering this quirky character with whom they can identify. How much of Piper's life is from your own experience and do you use stories of other military kids to tell her story?

My father was a Navy Chief like Piper's and I'm one of three girls. But I'm the oldest like Tori. I thought it would be more fun for kids to see the world through a middle child's eyes. My sister is the inspiration for Piper Reed and my youngest sister is the inspiration for Sam. We lived some of the same places as the Reed Family. Our parents were from Louisiana so between moving to new places, we visited our grandparents in Forest Hill.

Many of the stories have a trace of truth. I, too, had an unpleasant incident with a shetland pony who took off and took me on a wild ride between pine trees. Part of my research also included interviewing contemporary military kids. Many of them loved the military life and told me how they communicated with the parent(s) while they served on a ship. It was great information to have and bits of that were threaded into the stories.

2. What would you say are Piper's best characteristics, especially in how they help her deal with the challenges of military life?

Piper never gives up. She's a planner, too. I think she knows how to navigate herself through the chaos of being a new kid. At least she does until she moves in this new book, PIPER REED FOREVER FRIEND. This transition proves a bit more challenging. Of course, she eventually figures it out. I had difficulty writing this last book because I didn't want her to move. In a way, I relived my childhood while writing this story.

3. How does Piper Reed relate to all services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard)? Can children from all services learn from Piper?
Not only can kids from other branches of the service relate to Piper, I believe any child can. Everybody has been the new kid somewhere. It might be at a school, a church, or an organization. We've all experienced that awkward feeling of trying to belong. In this new story, not only do readers get to see how Piper does it, they also witness how her sisters do it, too. I think that makes the characters relatable and offers some options.

4. I love the writing tips you share on your website. What advice would you give a young writer who is just getting started?
Read and write every day. Reading will make you a better writer. When you write, it doesn't have to be a major project like a book. Writing can mean keeping a journal or writing a letter to your grandparents. Also notice things. Writers notice the things that others don't see.

5. You write for a variety of ages. Which comes easiest for you? How hard is it to transition from writing for younger readers to older readers?
I love writing for all ages, but I think novel writing is the most natural form for me. I get more novel ideas then picture book ideas. I'm lumping readers of all ages. I'm in touch with my childhood and have been blessed with a good memory. That's a handy thing for a writer of young people.

Find out more about author Kimberly Willis Holt on her website!

Be sure to "like" Piper Reed on Facebook!

Join the Piper Reed Fan Club for lots of fun reading and activities!


Friday, August 3, 2012

Ariel and Wes Get Married

The Bride and Groom at their Texas-themed reception.

With the Grandsons

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Circle of Mom's Top 25 Military Family Blogs

I've been nominated for the 2012 "Circle of Mom's" Top 25 Military Family blog. Winners are determined by votes ... So could you spare two clicks for me?

Just click the button above then click the 'thumbs up' by my blog name, "This Fabulous Army Life."

You can vote once every 24 hours between now and August 16 and I'll be ever so grateful if you do!

Please also feel free to share with your own Facebook, Twitter, blog, email, or other online friends!

Thank you sooooo much! I'm feeling the pressure to be nominated for something online that then requires voting and I really, really appreciate your support!

Plus ...

Here are a couple of blogs I love written by friends of mine.  They deserve a 'thumbs up' for their great work as well.

Army Wives' Lives by Candace

Julie the Army Wife by Julie

:) Traci

P.S.  Please COMMENT here with a blog YOU love and I'm happy to vote for it, too ... and follow if I'm not already following!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Segs in the City!

Six Army wives who have recently relocated to the DC area
One Fun Army friend visiting from exotic Vicenza, Italy
Last name of Segulin booking our Girls' Night Out
Truly tacky touristy fun!

Clearly, there was no other option than to book the "Segs in the City" DC tour for our little group of seven!  I plead total tourist ignorance here as I actually had to Google 'segs' to see what that meant, but I am a bona fide fan now.  We had an absolutely marvelous time revelling in our geeky tourist-ness.  Now, I realize that dorky helmets (with LIGHTS on top!), pink-rimmed reflective vests, quirky machines-on-wheels, and a tour guide in pink just SCREAMS ... "I'm a nerdy tourist!"

BUT ... We had a blast!! Our tour guide, Jordan, was fantastic! Somehow he kept us all safe, in-line, and entertained for the full 2 hours. Commendable, for sure. We made two different stops to walk around and see a few of the attractions up close and it was the perfect rest stop for standing on the seg for so long.

We did get lots of looks and questions, but mostly from folks who wished they were whisking by on our ultra-cool wheels. Jordan was completely prepared, handing out business cards and answering questions. The details of the tour were fun and informative and we covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. We took the last tour of the day so we got to employ the oh-so-subtle headlights on our helmets but also ensured that the temperature was perfect for a summer event.

Rachel Spinuzzi, our fabulous friend and photographer, took these great shots throughout the night ...

7 Gals on the Segs in the City Tour of DC!
So we get suited up and introduced to the segways (which have no power button, no brakes, and work completely off balance ... yikes) and we're all a little nervous.  Our tour guide asks who is responsible for setting this up and we all turn to Chrissy. =) 
Our tour begins with what what intended to be a brief explanation of the seg and rules for riding.  This poor guy soon learned that wouldn't be so easy with our group!
Here, we look totally attentive and innocent, but I'm pretty sure this is when he was saying, "Ladies, please let me get through the introduction!" =) 
We did make it through the introduction and the training and now we're off!
Besides the ultra-dorky helmets and pink-rimmed reflective vests, we each wore an earpiece that allowed us to hear our guide through the speaker.
At this point of the tour, I'm feeling pretty confident in my seg-ing ability, which made me that much more of a wild card in the group.
We were able to line up without incident to take the official tour photo!
Now it's the tour guide who's misbehaving ... this time with the camera shot.
Jordan the tour guide kept us free from harm and within city laws for the duration of the trip!
Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument.
Cruising along the Potomac as the sun is setting ... Just beautiful!
We made a quick stop at the Roosevelt Memorial.  It's not one I was familar with, but is absolutely beautiful.  We agree with the former president ... we, too, hate war.
The Lincoln Memorial at night ... breathtaking.
Abraham Lincoln
When it was time to turn on our ever-so-sexy head lamps, my lamp was like a beacon in the night! We joked that the Secret Service must be paying close attention to our group as I lasered the White House with my glaring beam.
Now that the Ultra Beam has been turned off, we try another group photo in front of the White House.
This was a cool shot caught by our unofficial photographer for the evening, Rachel.

If you're wishing you could be whisking by on your very-own segway wheels, check out the Segs in the City website for more information.