December 28, 2012

Daddy's Girl

With the chaos of the holidays, Joshua's birthday and the "crud" making it's way through our home, a not-so-small milestone has passed. 

Joshua has officially been home with our princess longer than he was away after she was born.

It's a big deal to all of us because missing her birth was one of the hardest parts of the deployment. No matter how prepared I was, I can still close my eyes and feel the heartache of his absence that day a year and a half ago.

When he returned, we were lucky in that she didn't show fear or anxiety around him and they bonded quickly. Of course it helped that she had a big brother to take her cues from but she and Joshua have a relationship all their own. Now, when he comes home in the evening, she throws her hands up and yells "Da" as she runs to his arms. I'm pretty sure in that moment, if she the ability to ask him for anything in the world, she'd get it.

Reintegration hasn't been a cake walk but milestones like this make it that much easier.

PS>I didn't do a full Christmas post but I have to post a couple obnoxious obligatory Mom pics from was a great year.

December 17, 2012

Don't Wait

I know that by now there are dozens, hundreds-maybe even thousands, of posts about the nightmare that happened in Connecticut last Friday.

I'm not going to write about gun control, school safety or mental health issues...I've seen and said enough on all those topics on Twitter and Facebook. Right now, I just want to take a minute and remind all the parents out there that as unimaginable as it may be, we are not promised a lifetime with our children. 

I have friends who say we'll do XYZ with Timmy or Jane when (fill in the bank). They wait to do sports. They wait to go on vacation. They wait to teach their children to bake or to shoot or to play an instrument. And I understand why they wait...they want their children to be old enough, they want to pay off this bill or remodel that room, they're too busy right now but the bottom line is that they always think there's time. Tragically, there's not always time.

Twenty sets of parents discovered that on Friday in the most horrific way I can imagine. Don't let time slip away or heaven forbid end before you act. Whatever the XYZ is for you and your family, do it today. Don't wait.

May all those affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook find Peace.

December 11, 2012

Jedi Training Academy

2013 UPDATE: The Jedi Training academy has expanded. It now can accommodate twice the number of children as the show has expanded beyond the stage to a roped off area in front-generally the children below the stage on circles on the ground are taller and older. Also, Darth Maul has been added to the show!

Hollywood Studios' Jedi Training Academy is one of the most exciting (and FREE) extras you can add to your next Disney World vacation. It started as something only offered during Disney's famed Star Wars Weekend (now held annually in late spring) but was so popular it has become a regular daily treat on par with Magic Kingdom's Pirate's League.

The 30 minute show gives children ages 4-12 the chance to become Padawans. A Jedi Master trains the young ones the way of the force and after taking the Jedi Oath and a quick light saber tutorial, they're put to the test when Darth Vader and two Stormtroopers arrive. Vader attempts to lure the children to the dark side.

*side note: Vader's dialogue is all pre-recorded and has changed over the years. At one point he would tell the children who to join him by coming forward and kneeling before him until apparently, one adorable little girl actually did...Cast Members told us that Vader had to walk away in the moment for fear of breaking character. Now, the script is less inclined to allow children to turn to the dark side and the Jedi Master seems well equipped to battle any such inclinations.

The Padawan students must resist the Dark Side and prove themselves against Vader with the help of their Jedi Master. They each, one by one defeat him by following a series of steps the Jedi Master teaches. After Vader and his Stormtroopers are forced to leave, the children each receive great praise from their Jedi Master as well as a Jedi certificate before they pose for a group photo and return both the robes and light sabers. 

Where To Go:

The show itself is held on a stage next to the newly renovated Star Tours attraction in Hollywood Studios but sign up is at the ABC Sound Studio (where the old Sounds Dangerous show used to be). There is only same day sign up for the Jedi Tutorial so advanced reservations of any kind are not a possibility. Also, be sure to BRING YOUR CHILD to the sign up area AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. There are usually 15 shows a day but only 15 children are permitted per show and shows for the entire day can fill up by 10am (earlier even during the busiest times of year). You must bring your child to the sign up-even if you are signing them up at 9am for a 4:10pm show because a cast member must ask them questions in order to ascertain that they are capable of following directions for their own safety and to be sure that the child is the one wanting to do the show and not being forced into it by a parent. 

Once you have signed your child up, return to the sign up area 30 mins prior to their assigned showtime. ONE parent or adult may stay there with the child while everyone else must leave (it's a small area so too many family members waiting around wouldn't be comfortable) but it works out great because it gives everyone the chance to get a good spot in front of the stage while the children are given basic directions. About 10 minutes before the show the children are lined up and marched to the stage for the performance.


Most parents will take pictures or video themselves but Disney will (almost always-although I've never heard of a show where they didn't) have a Photopass Photographer there taking photos of the whole experience. At the end of the show, simply get a card from the photographer but keep in mind, that card will have pictures of EVERY child that participated in that specific show. It's a good idea, particularly if you plan to buy the Photopass CD (we recommend it if you can afford it) to take the Jedi Photopass card to one of the photopass locations and have just the images you want transferred to another card. 

Souvenirs and Extras:

Star Tours, which has a 40" height requirement, is next to the Jedi Training Academy Stage along with the souvenir shop, Tatooine Traders where children can build their own light saber, buy one pre-made and even pick up a genuine Star Wars Padawan robe just like the one they use in the show.

May the force be with you.

December 8, 2012

Happy Hanukkah

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah (sometimes spelled Chanukah because there is no direct translation).

In America, Hanukkah is often considered the Jewish version of Christmas with gifts given and games played but the real reason for the holiday is a celebration of God's miracle.

Hanukkah begins every year on the 25th day of Kislev (the 9th month of the Hebrew Calendar) and because the Hebrew Calendar is lunisolar, Hanukkah can occur anywhere from late November to late December in the Gregorian Calendar.

Hanukkah began around 167 BC when the Jewish Holy Land was controlled by the Syrian-Greek ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes who had criminalized Judaism. The tyrant outlawed circumcision, shabbat (Sabbath) services and made even just the possession of the Torah (aka the Old Testament to Christians) a capitol offense. Worse, he defiled the Temple by sacrificing pigs and placing Roman gods inside the Holy of Holies. A small group of Jewish rebels, the Maccabees, fought against the Hellenization and managed to drive out the much larger army. 

When the triumphant Jews entered the Temple and found it in ruins, they took some time to mourn and began the process to rededicate it. It took 8 days to rededicate the Temple but there was only enough oil for the Menorah for one day. God made the oil last all eight days and that miracle is what is celebrated every year on Hanukkah.

*Side note: the Temple Menorah had/has seven branches as described in Exodus 25:31-40 whereas the Hanukkah Menorah has nine for each day and one called the shamash (the "servant" or "helper") which is used to light the others.

On the first night of Hanukkah, only the shamash and one candle is placed on the Menorah. The shamash is lit and then used to light the first candle (the farthest right of the person lighting) and with it the traditional blessing is usually sung. Each subsequent night an additional candle is added and blessing given. 

Whether or not you're Jewish, Hanukkah can be a great reminder of the many miracles that God has given all His people. I think it's interesting to note that although Hanukkah began when the Maccabees regained the temple, the fight for independence was far from over, It is, in many ways, reflective of our own struggles. Miracles can and do happen in the midst of our most hard fought battles.

For all our friends and family who celebrate, we hope you have a Happy Hanukkah.


My husband would be disappointed if I didn't add a little Adam Sandler to my Hanukkah post...enjoy...

(I tried repeatedly to find videos I could embed but none of the good quality ones would work so here's a link to the official version of the 3rd edition)

December 7, 2012


Something interesting happened last night. My son drew a picture of he and I holding hands. Before you assume that I've gone totally off the cliff with the whole "my kid is awesome and everyone should know all about everything he does" mentality so many Moms understandably have, this pictures was different. 

He had colored in our skin...a lovely shade of yellow. It was a first-usually we're stick people or just not colored in. I asked him if he had used the yellow crayon because of what our skin looks like and he replied with a "yeah" that sounded more like a "duh." It lead to an interesting conversation today about the different people we know and why they look the way they do. 

Being a white family living in an area that is very white can make it interesting to have discussions like this one but I'm glad we did. Maybe it's because I'm white and haven't faced the sting of racial prejudice but I don't understand when people say we need to be colorblind-don't misunderstand, I would hope to never judge someone good or bad based on the color of their skin but I also don't want to ignore the obvious beauty in our diversity. 

We ended up talking about different skin colors, eyes and hair but I think my son summed it up best when he said "It's cool that God made people different colors because I have different color crayons and I like to use lots of colors in my pictures." I think God had the same idea little man.

December 4, 2012

The Time I Made A Teenager Cry

It all happened because I went to Walmart. I hate Walmart but we live in the middle-of-nowhere and the middle-of-nowhere for us means one way-over-priced, not-very-good grocery store, a mini-version of a Walmart Supercenter, two gas stations and a handful of fast food joints. Everything else is at least 45 minutes away. So, last night when I needed butter for dinner, I bit the bullet and went to Walmart. 

Wandering the aisles was a teenage couple who looked to be about 17 (apparently Walmart rats are the middle-of-nowhere's version of mall rats). On any other day I may not have even noticed them at all but the boy was wearing something that caught my eye.

He was wearing a crisp, new ACU top.

He was clearly not a soldier and had never been a soldier.

I was immediately annoyed and indignant. In fact, I tweeted about it...

"Seriously people. Military uniforms are not fashion statements. PS> You look like an idiot #hippiedumbass"

As I walked away looking for wrapping paper (because although I had gone just for butter, as usual, I ended up buying five other things too) it dawned on me that he probably didn't understand. So, when I turned the corner and ran into him again, I confronted him. 

First, I asked him where he got it and why he wore it. It came from an Army Surplus Store and he didn't have a reason why he wore it except that he thought it "looked cool." So, we had a discussion (I use that term loosely, it was more of a lecture) about the sweat and blood that soldiers give for that uniform. I told him about the tears of the families and how disrespectful it is to see someone walking around wearing a uniform they didn't earn.

He teared up and she looked a little uncomfortable...I feel bad for calling him out in front of a girl he clearly cares for but I couldn't hold my tongue. I'm tired of white-washed patriotism from a generation that has grown up knowing almost nothing about American exceptionalism and the sacrifices made to achieve it. Hollywood, propelled by the the masses, is quick to use the former service member/PTSD murderer archetype or cart out the strong mil-wife with a gaggle of children hanging onto her for an emotional homecoming with her beloved or more accurately for ratings but when it comes to educating our children about respect and honor, Americans are falling dreadfully short. This generation of children has grown up with the longest war in American history but many of them, and their parents, can't even locate Afghanistan on a map.

It's frustrating to be a military family in a civilian world that claims adoration for the military but knows little to nothing of it.