Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

We hope that everyone had a very Happy Thanksgiving. We spent the day lazing about the house, cooking, and just enjoying the time together. Turkey dinner was a great way to wrap up the day - something that made the cats, and even the fish, thankful too. Love ya!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A big hug for Honor

One day, over a year ago now, Honor got mad. It was a very BIG mad. Not even a tantrum, like a 3yo can let loose, no, an honest to god, angry. As in reasonably ANGRY about something important to her!

I don't even remember why...

After many hugs and kisses and talks, I know she and I worked out whatever it was, and she let me know that in addition to the cause of the initial anger she had, she was feeling left out. Brian got to do homework. Brian got magazines in the mail. Life just seemed totally unfair. Now, I don't believe in letting a kid get what they want by throwing a fit - they know a fit means the answer is 'No.' no matter what, and often it means an early bed time too. A out-of-control fit, in my opinion, means the child is tired, or hungry, or sick - something is going on. But children are people too, with real hurts and concerns, and she had had a real angry. I could tell she was genuinely feeling left out - even though I could also tell she understood why. She knew that Brian's class had homework, hers did not. Easy - but it was still not fair to a little one who wanted papers and mail too.
(find this kitty at: Cafepress)

So, after she went to bed that night, I got a piece of pink construction paper and folded it in half. On the front, I filled it out like you would an envelope: From Mommy, To Honor, with a pretend stamp in the corner. On the back, I drew a heart with all of our names in it. Inside the card, on one half of the fold, I drew a nice picture of me giving Honor a hug, and labeled it, "A big hug for Honor". On the other side, I wrote a full note. Simple repeating words with clear handwriting, but a full note about what a big girl Honor was and how much we all loved her.

She LOVED her note. She still has it too. She sets it up on display different places in her room, she takes care of it, and re-reads it often. If that's not enough to make you say "awwww", then read on.

Today, our little kindergartner, barely reading now (level 2), wrote a note back. She put our names on the back in a heart. She put: "To mom and dad and Brian" on the front. On one side she drew a picture of a big girl hugging small figures - not sure if it was me hugging everyone, or she was the one hugging everyone else. Her spelling is a bit off yet, "A big hag far Honor", but we knew what she meant. And she wrote a lovely note on the other side. She told us she loved us, then asked, "Do u like my nott? I love u and you love me"

You better believe that I like that nott!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

We're home from the hospital

You know that 'normal' and 'routine' day, from my last post, that I was hoping for? No. We didn't get it. Most definitely NOT.

Brian was still ill on Wednesday. He actually felt better, but had that fever that wouldn't go away. He lay down for a nap, but by mid-day, when he awoke, I decided to call the clinic. In order to better tell them what the problem was, I got Brian to help me pinpoint where his stomach hurt. The pain had moved ... from the upper-middle of his stomach, to a very specific point on the lower right...oh no!... I called the clinic and we arranged to go right in.

He had an exam that was actually rather iffy in conclusions. He didn't have severe pain. He didn't hurt too bad when he bounced or had his feet tapped. He was hungry. His lab tests were pretty good... blood test was slightly suspicious. Basically, he didn't have nausea or any of the classic signs of appendicitis, except the location of the pain, and that it has started where it had and moved down and right! A sonogram was required. We went to the hospital for that. They couldn't see his appendix, but could tell lymph nodes were enlarged. This was suspicious too. It was decided to admit him for further observation and evaluation. So, Wednesday evening, we checked in to the Al-Salam hospital.

The surgeon came in and gave Brian a good looking over. Asked lots of questions, to include asking about a faded number 3 (in marker) which had not worn off his hand from pizza day at school - Brian had 3 pieces of pizza. Brian had had a fairly good, not normal, but ok, appetite. He also was able to bring his knees up fairly well to his chest. The surgeon was mostly convinced it was appendicitis, but he said that there is another syndrome, mesenteric lymphadenitis, in children that mimics the symptoms of appendicitis. Brian appeared quite healthy, was HUNGRY, and had other indications that this could be his problem. Rather than operating immediately, Brian was put on IV fluids and antibiotics. The decision was, the antibiotics would either make him significantly better by morning, or not. If not, it was appendicitis. Brad had arrived to the hospital from work by this time, as had an Embassy nurse. Brad brought us a bag of stuff, and we visited as well as made plans for the next day. By 10pm, Brad left for home with a very tired little girl - who had been incredibly patient and good as she was dragged from clinic to hospital to sonogram to admittance to Brian's room... she waited and waited and did not show a single sign of frustration, as a kindergartner might be entitled to, considering everything. She was very good and sweet to her sick brother. I stayed with Brian. The hospital provided a bed for me next to Brian's, and we had plenty of attention through the night.

Come Thursday morning, Brian was not better. Brad took Honor to school, called in to work, and joined us at the hospital. Brian had fever. He HURT much worse. He was still hungry.. not to mention, very thirsty ...because he was not allowed anything by mouth. His operation was scheduled for 9am. A doctor from the Embassy attended, and the local surgeon allowed us to be with Brian until he fell asleep, and to be there when he woke up. The surgery went very fast and well. Everyone involved seemed very pleased - and the appendix was indeed badly inflamed. They said we got it just in time.

Brian was very groggy and sore when he arrived back in his room - but one of the first things he said was, "It's after the surgery, can I eat now?" Poor kid. No, not until the next morning. At least he was able to get a piece of ice in gauze to suck on and relieve the dryness in his mouth. They kept him on fluids by IV. By evening though, he was up walking, and had made it to the toilet to pass urine and stool - great signs of recovery! Brad stayed with us until after sunset, but he had to get home and get Honor to an early bedtime. After the late night on Wednesday, and early morning for school, she was picked up after school by a neighbor, and whisked off to join them at a birthday party and playdate. She was very tired!

By mid-morning Friday, Brian got approval for food. Dad arrived just before lunchtime after catching up on some needed chores at the house, then dropping Honor at another friend's house for an extended playdate (no school - Friday is the 1st day of the weekend). Brian was told that he had to remain in the hospital for one more night. Because his appendix was so 'ugly' when it was removed, the surgeon wanted him to be observed a bit longer. We had a quiet, but boring day. Brad left early, and Brian was very tired by 7pm/dinner time. Honor was too - she was nearly in tears when we said our goodnights on the phone. I think we all slept hard Friday night.

By the time the doctor conducted his rounds Saturday morning, Brian had had his breakfast, was walking the halls, bouncing off the walls, calling his friend on my mobile, and generally wanting to go home. He got his wish by early afternoon, and was playing Age of Mythology with his friend and his dad by late afternoon, early evening. He's still on antibiotics, he will be restricted from school for a good while, and sports even longer. We have to watch his temperature very carefully the next few days too. But it sure is good to have our big guy home!!

Here are some pics -

Isn't this just the saddest face you've ever seen?? He hurt. He was a bit scared. He definitely did NOT like this whole situation. A few minutes later, we managed to joke with him and cheer him up - but then he had to fuss at us for making him laugh too much. That hurt too.
One nice thing is, Brian had an awesome view from his balcony. I told him the story of how my father had his appendix out while in the Navy, stationed in China, at the end of WWII. His grandpa's room overlooked an intersection, and my dad would sit out and watch life go by on the streets below. His favorite story was about how the police controlled the rickshaw traffic. If a runner did not listen to directions, the police would take his seat cushion, making it impossible for the runner to pick up passengers until he got his cushion back. The naughty rickshaws would be lined up in 'time out' along the curb, and the cop would be in the center of the intersection, still directing traffic, with a pile of cushions at his feet!

Not to be outdone by his grandpa, Brian had a room overlooking the Nile. Two large cruise boats, 3-4 decks each, were moored directly across the street, lit up pretty at night. We had plenty of river traffic to watch too. Tug boats pushing barges, feluccas (small sailing craft), speeding police boats, small 2-3 person oar-powered fishing boats with fishermen busily casting nets... and one morning, we watched four sculling teams row by with their chase boat.

Across the first branch of the river in front of us, we could see farm activity on the island in the middle of the river. Far out in the distance, past the second branch of the river, and behind some large buildings, we could see 2 of the 3 Great Pyramids of Giza. Way off to the left, depending on how clear the air was, we could see up to 7 more pyramids out in the distance... we don't know which ones though.
Great peeking pyramids batman!
The view towards downtown Cairo.
Feluccas everywhere.
Feeling a bit better after a refreshing piece of ice, Brian demonstrates one of the nifty things about hospitalization - the free ray gun implant you get. He didn't get to take it home though.
Ah! Finally!! Food!!!
Early evening, and we're out watching the boats again.
By Friday, Brian is getting bored, and is grateful to have activity books that Dad brought in.
Friday evening we watch the sun set.
and the horizon fade away, layer by layer. We both were tired and went to bed early.
Saturday dawned bright and very clear. We could almost see details on the pyramids!
Brian greeted the dawn brightly too. Can you tell he is happy with the news of going home?
We even had a fairly clear view of the other pyramids in the distance. Looks like 5 on the left of the large building, and two on the right.
And the best view of all! Home!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An odd day.

My day started off early in the morning, with lions. We made it past that, and got on with - first more sleep until the alarm rang - then, our normal get up and get ready for school routine.

Brian wasn't feeling 100%, but he seemed healthy enough, no fever, etc., and he wanted to go to school, so we let him go. It was only a half day today. I couldn't stay with Honor at school in the playground after drop-off like I usually do. Brian's class starts immediately, but the kindergartners play outside for about 10 minutes after the bell. Our car needs some work on the AC, so I had to get back home so the mechanic could pick it up.

I had a couple hours this morning of normal housework and stuff, but soon enough, it was time to go get the kids. I found Honor at her class, but Brian had said he would probably ride the bus. We stuck around to see if we could see him and ask if he had changed his mind but didn't find him. As we were leaving school grounds. We heard a strange noise from the construction site on campus. Looked up at the tall crane there and... oh my!
That rather sudden down turn on the right - that is not supposed to be there! The school sent out a rumor control email once things were investigated. No details of what caused this, but the crane had been moving a load, and folded. Very happy to hear that, fortunately, no-one was injured in the accident! The worksite is walled off from the school quite well, but there were kids out in the playing field nearby, and apparently rumor had them worried about injuries to the construction workers.

Anyway, before we left, I got a call from the mechanic saying that he couldn't get to our car today because of emergencies and lack of time. We may not have AC, but at least the car runs. Sounds like other customers were having a less than ideal commute today. We got home, and Brian soon joined us by way of the bus. He looked tired. Went upstairs and the poor kid told me that he had a stomach ache again (still?) and when I checked, found he had a fever of 102F. I fed them both some lunch, then had Brian nap. Poor kiddo slept for nearly 4 hours. Still not feeling so good at bed time, but at least he had dinner and was up reading for awhile.

While Brian napped, Honor played in her room. Her baby doll stroller broke... actually the fix I'd made to attempt an impossible (broken plastic piece) repair broke. I suggested that she put it in the charity box. She immediately got upset - "But if we give the stroller away, we have to give the whole set away! It's a set! They match!" (Similar to this set.) But, I said, you have so many toys, perhaps if you gave the old, broken set away, Santa might bring you a new one? She immediately switched gears, "Then I can have two! But give away the broken stroller." I pointed out that a new set won't match the old set, and we had no room for all that stuff. She got mad, then heartbroken, then started fussing, and then crying. Definitely a no win situation. I could tell she was tired, darn lions, and overly emotional because of it, so I gave her a chocolate. Crisis over, she could go back to her game. Not sure how Santa plans on handling this though. Honor really plays with her dolls a lot, and a stroller is important. We'll see.

At least dinner turned out well. And the kids were in sweet moods when their dad got home. Both are asleep now and I plan to follow soon. All things considered, it was actually a nice day. Extra time with the kids is always sweet. But it was a strange day. Hope there are no lions tonight. I also hope tomorrow plans on being a little more normal and routine!

On Safari

(photo credit)

You never know where your kids will take you. Or when.

At 2am last night, a little voice in the hall calls, "Mommy! Come out here! Come out here!" I go out there, and I find poor little Honor, trembling in the patch of light in the hallway... too scared to stay in her room, too scared to push open my half-closed door to come into ours. Apparently, there had been a lion in her room, about to eat her up!

I tried to coax her back to bed, but she was very scared, and I understood. When I was little, I had very vivid, very scary dreams. Night terrors. I remember waking up screaming. I remember my dad having to sleep in the car in order to get any rest! I don't think my mom knew what to do with me. She'd make me stay in bed and tell me it was only my imagination. No. It was NOT my imagination. My imagination was MINE - and I wouldn't do those awful things to myself. It took awhile for me to understand the difference. In the meantime, that shadow I know I saw, the one that had stretched out from the corner of the curtain... snout elongating, teeth growing... until it flowed across the wall, sliding shadow to shadow until it was almost at my bed. Well, it was in the house somewhere...and just because my screaming scared it away from me temporarily, didn't mean that it had actually left(!), but my mom would not ever let me go turn on the lights, check the house, and make sure.

My mom also had this habit of telling me that if I was scared of something in a dream, I should imagine myself standing in a field of flowers so I could be safe. Even as a preschooler, I remember thinking my mom was seriously out of touch.. I mean really, if I could get to the flower field, so could the monster - obviously! The only difference would be, instead of my being horribly killed by some nightmare creature in a dark alley somewhere, it would simply catch me in broad daylight, in the middle of a flower field, no shelter, no cover, no help - and I know that seeing my blood splattered on daisies and sunflowers was no more comforting to me, than NOT seeing it whilst being mutilated in a dark dreamscape! At least her advice gave me the idea that I should be aware of when I am dreaming, and the power to know that I could control any aspect of my dreams, if I choose. I learned. Now, I can and always do so. I can even enjoy nightmares, in a thrilling, scary movie kind of way, because I know that if I get too scared, I can just wake myself up. The only real nightmares I have anymore, and they usually only happen when I am extremely tired or ill, are ones in which I think I succeed in waking myself up, but do not, repeatedly... it happens rarely. Having no awareness of being in a dreamstate, and not being in control - shudder!

Anyway, I am trying to teach Honor to control her dreams. She seems inclined toward very vivid dreams too, and I want to help her find her 'remote control' and give her some coping tools. Here are a few things that help:

1. I immediately tell her "You're awake. You're safe." When she calms down, I remind her that she needs to tell herself that when she wakes herself up from a nightmare. She should say, "I'm awake, I'm safe, I won!" Something positive, to help her calm down.

2. I remind her that dreams can seem very real because our minds are very powerful. Our dreams may seem even more real when we are disturbed by an outside noise that wakes us up a little bit, but we are too tired to wake up all the way. We only wake up just a bit, and end up watching dream 'tv'.

3. I reinforce that, as scary as a dream may be, it is still HER dream. She can dream of having a gun that will kill any monster, she can have superpowers, she can be a powerful sorceress, she can turn into an even scarier monster and EAT the thing attacking her. I also reinforce the TV idea - that she can change the 'channels' to a new show, she can turn the dream off and wake up. One idea she especially liked was she could walk her dream self into our room, and hop into my dream, then my dream self would go help her beat up all the monsters.

4. I make sure she knows we are there when she needs us. I think the one thing that has always made the kids confident and comfortable in their own rooms, is that they know that are allowed to run to us, if need be, without getting in trouble for being up. They know it, and so while we do have some 'needy' days where they need to come out for extra hugs, etc., they really do not abuse our open door policy. They believe in it, so they don't need to test it constantly. They also know they can call us to them if need be. They know we don't like them to yell and wake the whole house, but if it is so important that they think they need to, then we want them to yell... it rarely happens.

5. I don't blow off her concerns. She saw a lion. So, while I did explain to her that there could not really be a lion - and all the reasons why - I did not tell her that she did not see one. Obviously, she did. Dream or not, that lion was scary to her. (...even though it was apparently small enough to fit in a 2'x2' corner of her closet .. still, it was a bad cat!) It was not her imagination, it existed in her dream... and dreams are much more real than play-pretend daydreams! I won't insult her intelligence by telling her that it wasn't there. I think dreams must engage your body's senses - physical, mental, emotional, and instinctive(!) - far more than you can do, on purpose, using only imagination. We might be able to rationalize, and she can understand, that there can be no flesh and blood lion in the house, but her instinctive "I survived the prehistoric cave-girl days" senses had been engaged. We had to appease those too.

So I asked if I should go through the house and check for lions. Yes. She wanted that, and she had to be with me. Just like when she was an infant and scared of the vacuum. Would baby Honor stay with daddy while I cleaned the carpets? No, she had to come to me to be safe... even if that meant crawling, crying the whole time, right towards the loud scary machine. So, last night, my brave little huntress put her tiny little hand in mine, still shaking, and we went through each room of the apartment... turning on lights and cautiously checking closets. Made sure the doors and windows were closed too. When the house was inspected and deemed lion-free, she finally stopped trembling. I lay with her a bit. We talked more about taking control of bad dreams, and I stayed with her until she slept then went back to my room.

This whole adventure probably only lasted 10 minutes. Several hours later, she woke up again wanting more hugs and kisses, but she went back to sleep again easily. I guess it is good that I had my experiences with nightmares as a child so I have some clue what might work to help my children. My mom was old school - "tough it out", "do as I say because I am the mom", "it's only your imagination", etc. Perhaps if she'd thought to go shadow wolf hunting with me more often, my dad wouldn't have had so many nights out sleeping in the car??

(photo credit)

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I love that our kids love to read. Brian is an awesome reader now, but he has been absolutely driven to read from an early age. Honor is coming along nicely, but she is more distracted, and thinks she already knows everything, so while her reading is very good, probably on-level or above, she hasn't been as driven to push as hard as Brian did. She's getting there though, and has finally started to work harder at reading of her own free will.

Yesterday Honor tried to read a Teen Titan comic book to her daddy, and she did a very good job of it. Actually, I guess it was a Tiny Titans comic book. Probably equivalent to a Level 2, reader book. We try to encourage our kids to read everything, books, comics, and magazines.. reading needs to be fun or they won't want to do it. So far, so good. I think our kids enjoy books!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Egyptian culture and kids

Thursday was a very busy day. The school has been celebrating Egyptian culture all during this week. They've had crafts, storytelling, special foods, etc., all culminating in a huge to-do on Thursday.

One thing they've enjoyed for most of the week, was the oven set up making baladi bread. The local flat bread is delicious when eaten right out of the oven... at one Egyptian pound per piece(!) they were raking in the bucks, but the kids loved the fresh bread. Another highlight was an art show and sale in the meeting room. Pottery, ceramics, paintings, carpets, etc. Lovely stuff .. mostly over-priced(!), but nice. We got a few small items. I finally replaced my broken tea pot with a nice pottery piece - looks more like a coffee carafe, but it will do. It is casual, but has an interesting bird design. Egyptian, without being 'touristy'. I'll have to share a picture when I remember to take one.

I joined Honor's class at the circus. I wasn't sure what Brian's class schedule was, but I knew I'd find him at the festival eventually. All the kids wore their galebeyas for this special festival day. Honor is ready to watch the show.
The circus was small. This guy juggled, did some ladder tricks (using it as stilts) and did this plate spinning trick. There were also a couple of guys on big stilts. Simple, but the little kids liked it.
There's Brian! Yet again this year, he forgot to wear his galebeya... he brought it... he's not opposed to wearing one, but he is always is such a hurry to run out to recess!
After the circus, Honor's class had a short time free for shopping. We had to get a nice beaded headpiece to go with her pretty dress.
Whoa! and she thought daddy was tall!
Yay! More shopping!! We really didn't buy much this year. Prices were too high - or maybe I've just been here long enough to realize they were too high, and and they were last year too?? I do not mind paying a 'foreigner' price most of the time. I'll haggle some, but I'll settle for a fair price for the item I want, even if it is not necessarily a 'local's' price. These prices were way up there.
The marching band! The music definitely lent a festive note to the event.
Dancers demonstrating a local dance and local traditional costume.
After lunch, I came back to the school in time to watch the tanoura dancing with Brian. The entertainment version of the whirling dervish practice. These guys were very good, and they also encouraged the kids to come up and try... which mostly consisted of kids spinning around and the dancers catching them before they spun off dizzily into the crowd. They had the smaller skirts available, because one of their young students had also been part of their dance. I think they said he was 9yo. Spinning in circles is easy... to keep doing so for a long time without losing your balance or passing out, takes a lot of work and training!
The elementary school principle gets some some tips on proper spinning technique.
The finale of the show - I love the colorful costumes.
Brian has to go to his after-school activity, but Honor and I stay at the festival. She heads back to the free sample booth first!
Then we did a little plaster of paris arts and crafts. Honor worked hard on her painting. And don't you like the crown and evil eye ward she's wearing? They made these crafts in class this week. Honor also picked out a statue for Brian to paint later at home.
We left the festival and joined Brian at his after-school activity. Today, he has an origami class and he demonstrated how to make a balloon out of paper.
Honor and I went out to the playground to wait for Brian.
A long skirt does not keep her off the monkey bars!
Finally, Brian comes out to join us. Big brothers are very handy for pushing the tire swing.
Even if he does make it go too fast!
Speaking of too fast, I'd probably have more pictures of Brian if he stayed still longer!
ah ha! Caught him! My handsome young man

We had a great... but very tiring!... day, and thoroughly enjoyed the Egyptian culture experience the school helped provide.
Here is a short video of the tanoura dancers, so you can see the vivid colors of the skirts in motion, and hear the music:

One brick at a time

I admit, I am thoroughly hooked on what is going to happen next with our new 'home improvement show'. The guys out there are really kicking butt and very busy, nearly all day, every day. Even today, Friday, the equivalent to our Sunday.

I haven't come up with names for the actors in this on-going action show, but I do worry about them. I find myself wishing they had shoes, but after watching them walk like tightrope walkers over the rebar, I guess shoes would be dangerous and mess up their balance. We get very worried too, when we see them up on the edges of walls - or very close to each other as they swing those heavy hammers. But, this is their job, they know what they are doing. Only injury we've seen is one guy got hit in the eye with a flying shard of something... he washed it out though and got back to work.

A former ledge... those final embedded bricks were knocked out by a guy standing out on the dangling rebar.
Implements of destruction.
Barefoot across the rebar. That should look more painful, but I used to walk on crushed shell roads barefoot with no problems... when I was used to it. I think my feet were actually a lot healthier when I wore shoes less. I'm not saying that it wouldn't be best to see these guys in good work boots, but I am trying to see the positive side of it. Shoes slip, feet hold on.
Even the rebar is being removed, little by little.
Ack! They're on the edges again!
This morning, they started working up on the very top floor.
Piece by piece, brick by brick... forget aliens or Atlantean techonology theories... it's persistence, and hard work, like this, that got all those pyramids built.

Four Foods on Friday 55

I have to say, this meme is addictive. These week is about traditional Thanksgiving foods.

#1. Stuffing. Boxed or from scratch?
I usually use boxed as a base, and go from there. Add broth from the turkey. Onions. Celery. Mushrooms. Sometimes even giblet bits.

#2. If you were served the perfect Thanksgiving dinner what would it be?
Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, with pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie (with pecan topping) as desert.

#3. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving leftover?

#4. Share a recipe using turkey.
One of my favorite ways to have leftover turkey is a very simple sandwich. Lightly toasted bread. Light spread of Miracle Whip. Turkey. Salt. That's it... want one now... turkey is frozen... sigh..

Monday, November 10, 2008

Freedom of Religion in the US - it's about time

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day, but I'm thinking about this today, so I'll start early to get you all thinking about this important day too.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

Sometimes, in the US, we take our freedoms and rights for granted. Often, we do so to such an extent that we do not notice when others in the US continue to face institutionalized bias and prejudice. It's easy to understand. We believe that our laws cover us, right? I mean, how often do we read that it is it wrong to "discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, skin color, religion, gender, or national origin"? It's everywhere! Wander over to the wiki page on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and peruse a bit of history. Looks pretty good, and there are, clearly written, exceptions, but in this day and age, are people really hurt by that stuff. Does institutional discrimination against religion still occur? You bet it does.

In the year 2002, a World War II veteran, PFC Abraham Kooiman, who had been awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, passed away. He was interred in Arlington National Cemetery, and his wife, like many other military spouses, applied to the VA for a headstone. Eligibility for a VA marker is stated as follows: "The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) furnishes upon request, at no charge to the applicant, a Government headstone or marker for the unmarked grave of any deceased eligible veteran in any cemetery around the world, regardless of their date of death. The VA may also provide a headstone or marker for graves that are marked with a private headstone or marker, for veterans that died on or after November 1, 1990.". However, although he met the eligibility requirements, the request for PFC Kooiman's headstone, with his emblem of belief, was denied. Why? Because of religious discrimination. PFC Kooiman was pagan.

To put it very simply, the VA has the authority to decide who has a valid religion, and who does not. Oh, they might argue against my wording here, but the reality is, if your symbol of belief is not on their approved list, too bad for you. They can discriminate against you. Oh, and you do not actually have to have a "religion" to be on the list... the symbol for Atheist is on their list, #16, and has been there for a long time... but if the VA does not approve of your religion, you are in for a legal battle. The battle for the pentacle took ten years. Much too long, in my humble opinion. Not only because of the shame of living with the hypocrisy... our soldiers can claim the religion they want whilst alive, they may proudly display it on their ID tags and practice their beliefs on active duty - but the VA does not have to honor them in death. This was shame enough. What is saddest to me though, is that although this particular legal battle ended in success in April of 2007, Mrs. Rosemary Kooiman passed away in March of 2005... the only pentacle she ever saw on her husband's headstone was an emblem, a sticker of protest, taped on the front his empty headstone.

I will not fill my blog retelling the history of the Pagan Headstone Campaign, the Veteran Pentacle Quest, or whatever name people wish to remember this particular fight under. This particular chapter is finally closed and the Wiccan Pentacle was finally included in the list of approved emblems by the VA. A very significant individual in this closing act, was Mrs. Roberta Stewart, wife of Sgt. Patrick D. Stewart who was killed in action in Afghanistan, and officials of the State of Nevada, who determined they had authority over State Veteran cemeteries and approved Sgt. Stewart's marker. Please visit the Circle Sanctuary page on the pentacle quest for more articles, history, images, and news articles.

I must share this quote:
John W. Whitehead, President of the Rutherford Institute, wrote in his June 5, 2006, editorial on Christianity Today's website, "Although our country was founded on a Judeo-Christian base, the Framers of the Constitution understood that religious freedom was for everyone, not just Christians. In other words, the only way that freedom can prevail for Christians is for Christians to stand up and fight for the minority beliefs and religions of others."
If only we all could display such tolerance! The world would be a much kinder place.

Also, drop by the VA website to view a list of 'approved emblems of belief'. True, the title of this page does say 'available', not 'approved', but scroll on down the list. Yes, that is the Wiccan symbol, finally, at the end there. But look further. Notice the fine print: "No graphics (logos, symbols, etc.) are permitted on Government-furnished headstones or markers other than the approved emblems of belief, the Civil War Union Shield, the Civil War Confederate Southern Cross of Honor, and the Medal of Honor insignias."
Did you see your emblem of belief as you scrolled down? If you are a member of a mainstream religion, you probably did. Lucky you. I'm a veteran, a Druid, and my symbol is not on the list.
The Awen

So, tomorrow, if you are off work for Veteran's day, first of all... enjoy the free day! Go shop, BBQ, do nothing, be free... that's what I'm doing! But remember our veterans. Think of our soldiers - past, present, and future. Reflect on our recent election and the historic relevance of our selecting President Obama. Think of the light that he has shone - full of hope and promise - his mere presence in the campaign a reflection of how much we have grown and changed as a nation, and we have, grown and changed, but let's not forget that we still have far to go. There are still pockets of bias, prejudice, and discrimination that should not exist. Keep this in mind, and have a blessed Veteran's day.

Support our heros... all of them.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Miss Mechanical

I had been looking for something to help organize our new computer center for awhile now, and I finally found a printer stand with a couple of drawers and places for paper. It's a cheapo thing, but just the size that I had wanted. It was cheap, probably, because it came completely disassembled with mostly useless instructions - the 4 images that showed the assembly were ok, but the diagrams showing how to differentiate the parts were way off scale and not accurate in description. Fortunately, I'm pretty good at figuring out this kind of puzzle, and after sorting out 21 pieces of similar looking bits of unmarked wood, and 45+ screws of three different sizes - I sat down on the floor to put the thing together.

Then Honor walked up and wanted a turn. Hmm? Well, I asked her to go get another set of screwdrivers, and with Dora the Explorer forgotten on the DVD, we got to work. First she used the little screwdriver to attach the back of the box. These were actually quite hard to do, but she started all 10 of these incredibly tiny screws and did a good job getting them part way in. All I had to do was tighten them down.
Then, as I figured out the drawers and got those started, Honor took the ratchet driver and put the two top pieces on.
It's two-handed work for a little girl...
but look at that concentration!
Ta-daa! Didn't we do a nice job? After I put the stand in place, Honor put things away properly in the drawers. No more desk clutter!
And if you notice, both computers are now loaded with Age of Mythology. Brian is still in love with this game, and now wants to figure out how to play multi-player. In order to find an opponent, Brian has resorted to teaching his little sister how to play. It's kind of neat to listen to them work together. Honor's reading is not quite up to this level of game play, but there is a lot that she can do from memory, and what she needs to read, she can ask... if it encourages her to work on her reading more, what's there to complain about?? Except, maybe, the fact that she's learning to pronounce things as her brother pronounces them... and he sometimes gets his pronunciations from his reading, and not asking! The kids, and a friend - another of Brian's AOM recruits - were discussing various strategies, as well as strengths and weaknesses of a number of God characters in the game this weekend. They were great with the actual gods' names - Ouranos, Chronos, Gaia, etc., as well as the names of the mythological creatures, like Pheonix, Centaur, etc. but when describing these gods and other characters, they weren't sure how to pronounce simple words, like minor. They kept using a Spanish 'en-yay' for the 'n'. We thought it might be 'minion'.. but that wasn't it either, they don't think. I'm still not sure what word they had, but who cares? Now we have a 7yo AND a 5yo (actually, we have 2 7yos, if you count in the friend) debating Greek, Norse and Egyptian mythological characters. Sure, it's in context of a computer game, and this isn't new with Brian, so why should I still be so tickled over the whole idea? Well, picture the two of them at the desk... Brian patiently explaining to Honor - her little legs dangling from the computer chair, toes not reaching the ground - how to build resources and other needed items in the game. It's too cute!

And now, the game area is much neater, thanks to my helper. I used to love to help my dad work on things when I was young, and it seems Honor has that same need to get in there, grab some tools, and figure things out too. She did a great job. As Brian, and then her Daddy, each arrived home at different times, she ran to greet them at the door so she could drag them over to see our work. She was very proud of the work she did - and so am I.