Monday, June 6, 2011

A Hero

Our Donald

One year. It has been one year since we've lost our cousin Donald in the war in Afghanistan. It's really hard to believe. It's a funny thing, grief. It took several months not to tear up at the sight of a flag. My heart still swells with emotion every week when I say the pledge of allegiance at school. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him at some point. He is a hero.

Donald's Homecoming... a day I'll never forget

Donald has changed many of the ways I see things in life. I no longer look at a flag and see just a flag. I look at a flag and understand its meaning. Men and women have died for that flag. A person my family loves and values has died for that flag. I will never, ever take that for granted.

A flag flown by the fire department for Donald over the AB bridge

Another change is that the war is personal now. Before, I read about loss. Before I read about tragedy. Before I read about victories. Now I feel the loss. Now I feel the tragedy. Now I feel the victory. I've tried to make changes to my life in this past year to honor Donald's loss. I better understand the sacrifices that men and women face when deployed. I've sent countless care packages and even more letters abroad to send them the comforts of home. I've tried to encourage others to become involved and I've tried to teach my students the value of giving back to those who give all. I know it's not much, but my hope is that it makes a difference to someone.

Donald (far right) and his fellow Marines in Afghanistan

I encourage you to do the same. Send a package overseas. Write a letter to someone you don't know and thank them. Don't expect anything back. They are giving you more than you could ever possibly return. Just give them something. It's very easy. You can join an organization, like Soldier's Angels. You can donate to the USO or Fisher House. Or, like my choice, you can become "friends" with someone abroad at AnySoldier.

Donald has inspired many to care. All the charity that may result from his death will never amount to the wish our family has to have him back. We are proud of him. I'm proud to call him family. I'm proud to call him my hero.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer Treasures

Digging for treasure

Our first week of summer is coming to a close and I am again reminded how precious my job is. Who else in the world gets to be a stay at home mom for two months out of the year and still have a full time job that they really love? Teaching is great :) This past week we have gone on many imaginary adventures...

We've been playing "treasure week" at home, building ships out of boxes and turning ordinary rocks into golden nuggets for the sand box.

For our second week of summer we're calling it bug week. What better way to kick off bug week than to see them first hand... an outing to the Butterfly house!

A pair of Paper Kite Butterflies... we spent a lot of time studying these.

Today was a scorcher of a day but we set out to Faust Park, anyway. I thought for sure it would be packed (like usual) but when we arrived, there was only one other family at the playground.

Katie at the playground

Ally has always been quite the cautious kid. She doesn't care for heights and is frightened by any tall slide. She has recently conjured up the nerve to go down the tall twisty slide (no tunnels, yet) and was dead set to show her new courage to me. Ally climbed the steps skipped across the platform and was stopped dead by the swinging bridge.

Navigating the scary bridge

But with much encouragement from myself and the other family visiting, she walked across the bridge. When she reached the slide it was too hot (oops, I probably should have checked that!) and then had to turn around and do the scary bridge again. Needless to say, our outing didn't start off on the right foot! After about 20 minutes up there we made our way to our favorite part of the park...

We headed into the butterfly house to cool down and look at some bugs. Ally was in her comfort zone here. For example, we were looking at a display of preserved butterflies and I pointed to a blue one and said "Look, it's your favorite the Blue Morpho!" She proceeded to correct me; I was looking at a blue hairstreak because the bottom of their wings are like a swallowtail's. My little miss smarty pants :) Makes her momma the science teacher proud!


Once inside we looked for all the butterflies we knew. I particularly liked this one:

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a sucker for trees. This butterfly is black and pink on the top of its wings but as soon as I got close with the camera, it camouflaged itself by closing its wings and fading in with the tree. Love that. :)

Speaking of trees, here's another one that caught my fancy:
A flower from the Chinese Lantern Tree

I like the botanical photos. Not only are they beautiful to look at, they're an easier subject to photograph... compared to a two year old who's learning to run and a 5 year old that's more interested in chasing down a painted lady.

I did manage to get the girls to sit for a picture on the butterfly bench. Although, Kate would rather look at her sister than me, I think that this picture captures the love she has for her big sister. Yes, they fight like crazy, but who with a sibling doesn't. They melt my heart when they love on each other :).

So that's our close to treasure week and kick off to bugs. Appropriately, Ally treasures bugs, especially butterflies, and I treasure these adventures with my girls.