A GradZOOation double feature!!

This post is a Double-Declan OVERDOSE!! ok breathe...ready? GO!

Declan and I, a few weeks ago went on his school's annual field trip to Zoo America. It was a good time...hot, but good. The kids were great and we had a blast!

For those of you that don't know, when Declan takes his lunch to school (which is almost every day), we always brown bag it. And with each brown bagged lunch, I draw a little picture on it. Sometimes a squirrel, sometimes a bird...random, yet fun.

This fine day I had to opportunity of having two brown bagged lunches, one for me and one for him...

With lunches in hand we were off to the zoo. Like I said, we had a great time (as you can see from the pictures).

Now for the crazy-cool! At the end of each school year, Declan, along with the other kids partake in the end of year program. It's usually a compilation of songs performed by each age group and then they wrap it up with a 'graduation' ceremony and a luncheon.

This year's program was a real 'blast from the past'.

For your viewing pleasure, here's a taste of the AMAZING job the kids did. And the picture below is Declan getting his end of year diploma!! Awesome job little man.

How to catch a leprechaun

This St. Patrick's Day Declan was old enough to be introduced to the ancient sport of leprechaun trapping. Now this is something that my family takes seriously and Declan's first time was to be no exception.

He knew what a leprechaun was, so that was good. But that was about it. He had heard at school that leprechauns live in Ireland. This, obviously is not entirely true. I explained to him how leprechauns, who used to be indigenous to Ireland, were brought here by the Irish who immigrated during the potato famine in 1849. During the first migration in 1845, the Irish didn't bring them, but found living to be difficult. The leprechauns were then brought to ease the transition and to assist with reestablishment.

So the other thing he knew was that leprechauns liked candy. Again, not entirely true- they're Irish, think about this, folks. And lastly, I told him that although a person can trap a leprechaun, that doesn't necessarily mean they can see/grab/detain the elusive creature. I explained to him that once a leprechaun is trapped, they can disappear to escape, but their magic requires that they leave behind treasure when they do.

So...on to setting the trap. For this we will need the following:

a pair of scissors

a mug- in this case I used pewter. Physically and visually, the old style/material is more appealing to the leprechaun

a sturdy container, open on one end (I used an old file box without the lid)

a nice, level patch of grass

a stick (about 6-8 inches long) and a piece of string (about a foot)

Now that we've gathered our materials, let's set out to build our trap. I told Declan we need to be nonchalant about building the trap because, if we look like we're up to mischief it could draw the leprechauns out early before the trap is set. So...

Step 1:
tie one end of the string to the stick, the knot is most efficient when placed at the center

Step 2:
tie the other end of the string around the handle of the mug.

Step 3:
place the mug on a level patch and...

now for the bait: beer
normally I'd use a beer from Ireland, such as Harp, Guinness or Killian's, but since this trap was set in rural PA, leprechauns here aren't as picky as those who reside in urban areas near pubs.

When you pour the beer, you don't need to go for the 'perfect pour.' Leprechauns actually like a bit of good head...

...it gets stuck in their beards for later.

Place the container upside-down over the mug and prop one side up with the stick. Viola! The trap is set.

Now, since most leprechauns don't like to be seen or heard, except for the adolescent ones- they actually go out of their way to be noticed, we need to let our trap set over night.

We made out pretty good this time. Declan banked a huge bag full of candy, including green gummy frogs:

A General Update

[posted by Zach]

Busy busy busy. Something always seems to be going on over at Swarr Family, Inc. We've been busy fixing, cleaning and upkeeping the house, Declan's keeping us (and himself) busy, school (for me) and work (for us) is keeping us in a constant head spin. Overall though, I think we're doing pretty well not getting caught up in the craziness of it all.

Declan's actually doing fantastic. He has his occasional incidents of impulsive behavior, such as tripping Mommy as she walks up the outside steps and coloring on the new lizard tank at school with a crayon
because he wanted to...overall though he's doing well. His artwork is definitely improving and his reading (yes, I said 'reading') skills are starting to emerge. Go, Declan!

School finals are this week and I think they should be failry painless. I've only had 2 classes on my docket for this semester, so all in all it's been a fairly laxed few months. This summer I'm planning on taking 2 classes, which should prove to be a little more intense, but we'll s

As for jobs, I'll leave mine well enough alone as that might cause a content overload on blogger. Sidestepping my whatever, Maribeth is doing great at her job, aside from the occasional bouts of boredom. C'est la work.

We'll check in again when we get more downtime (keep your fingers crossed that we'll have good news on the house).



[posted by zach]

This morning, Declan and I were driving down the road and I had handed him two napkins to keep in his little 'caddy' that he has next to his seat just in case he'd ever need them to wipe his hands.

A couple minutes later, I turned around and saw him holding one napkin in his open palm and carefully pouring water on it. I asked him what he was doing and he said that his face was dirty. Good job, lil man.

But nothing could have prepared me for this. After his response, I turned back around and all I heard was...

"Nothing can defeat my napkin style!!"

I turned around just in time to see a blur of white. And when the dust settled...there was nothing left but a clean face.


Worth It

[posted by Maribeth]

As we age, birthdays become a thing of passing concern. Another year older? Maybe, but only a day older than yesterday. Aging becomes less exciting, more sobering. Rather than each day bringing us closer to our independence, each day is one day less to work on dreams and aspirations. One day more in the mundane.

Aging is not a bad thing and should not be frightening, but it certainly loses it's coolness somewhere around 25.

That does not mean, however, that we cannot take full advantage of said birthdays.

On April 13th, Zach reached a threshold. He turned 30. For him, again, it was of passing concern. He does not feel different, he does not feel suddenly useless to a world focused on youth and brevity. He's old, and he's okay with that.

I, however, felt the need to show his youth out the door with enthusiasm.

The planning began rather pathetically. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good hostess. I am indecisive, easily stressed, and annoyingly thrifty. Simply not a good mix for a party planner. Nevertheless, I was determined to show Zach's youth a good time. While Zach's veteran expert party planning mother needed to intervene several times to avoid catastrophic faux pas, the end result actually wasn't too bad.

There was a small surprise party Easter weekend with just family to avoid detection of the real thing (which took lots of work nonetheless)(thanks Mom!). For the weekend of the actual party, Zach believed I was out of town with several other family members for a girls' weekend. He was to take Declan to a little community building in Mount Gretna for a kids' spring craft day. Luckily, he bought the whole story.

With everyone's willingness to help, the cars were parked down the street, there was a wonderful spread of food and drinks, great music and a slide show, and the decorations were fabulous. Thanks to the Archer family, we have great pictures as proof:

All in all, the party was a great time. I know I said this already while speechifying at the party, but I (we) owe so much to everyone who was there. A party just isn't a party without great guests, and we had the best. I'm feeling pretty darn lucky right now to know all of you.

And, even though I swore up and down while planning this thing that I would never do it again, it seems now that the pain was worth it.


[posted by Zach]

A little while ago I had posted a video that was actually a commercial for the Discovery Channel. It was one of those videos that made you just feel good.

Well, as some of you may have seen during the Superbowl, Pepsi aired a commercial which showed the generational likenesses from past to present. It also, is one of those feel good videos.

If you missed it, here ye be.

Absolutely Amazing

Courtesey of Michael Yon Online.

MGen John Kelly USMC, CG MNF West, senior Marine in Iraq.

From: Kelly MajGen John F (CG)
Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2009 9:53 AM

Election Day

I don't suppose this will get much coverage in the States as the news is so good. No, the news is unbelievable. Something didn't happen in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, today.

Once the most violent and most dangerous place on earth, no suicide vest bomber detonated killing dozens of voters. No suicide truck bomber drove into a polling place collapsing the building and killing and injuring over 100. No Marine was in a firefight engaging an Al Qaida terrorist trying to disrupt democracy.

What did happen was Anbar Sunnis came out in their tens of thousands to vote in the first free election of their lives. With the expectation of all of the above (suicide bombers) they walked miles (we shut down all vehicle traffic with the exception of some shuttle busses for the elderly and infirm) to the polling places. I slept under the stars with some Grunts at Combat Outpost Iba on the far side of Karma, and started driving the 200 miles up the Euphrates River Valley through Karma, Fallujah, Habbiniyah, Ramadi, Hit, Baghdad and back here to Al Asad. I stopped here and there to speak with cops, soldiers, Marines, and most importantly, regular Iraqi men and women along the way. It was the same everywhere. A tension with every finger on a trigger that broke at perhaps 3PM when we all began to think what was almost unthinkable a year ago. We might just pull this off without a bombing. No way.

By 4PM it seemed like we'd make it to 5PM when the polls closed. At 4:30 the unbelievable happened: the election was extended an hour to 6PM because of the large crowds! What are they kidding? Tempting fate like that is not nice. Six PM and the polls close without a single act of violence or a single accusation of fraud, and nearly by early reports pretty close to 100% voted. Priceless.

Every Anbari walking towards the polling place had these determined and, frankly, concerned looks on their faces. No children with them (here mothers and grandmothers are NEVER without their children or grandchildren) because of the expectation of death. Husbands voted separately from wives, and mothers separately from fathers for the same reason. In and out quickly to be less of a target for the expected suicide murderer. When they came out after voting they also wore the same expression on their faces, but now one of smiling amazement as they held up and stared at ink stained index fingers.

Norman Rockwell could not have captured this wonderment.

Even the ladies voted in large numbers and their husbands didn't insist on going into the booths to tell them who to vote for.

One of the things I've always said was that we came here to "give" them democracy. Even in the dark days my only consolation was that it was about freedom and democracy. After what I saw today, and having forgotten our own history and revolution, this was arrogance. People are not given freedom and democracy - they take it for themselves. The Anbaris deserve this credit.

Today I step down as the dictator, albeit benevolent, of Anbar Province. Today the Anbaris took it from me. I am ecstatic. It was a privilege to be part of it, to have somehow in a small way to have helped make it happen.

Semper Fi.

The Boofers Song

[by Zach]

, eh? Where to begin? Well, I guess it all started a long time ago when I was a just a little pup. The story I heard was that Dad used to sit at the table, after a meal and stretch, The resulting exhale/sigh sounded like 'boofers'.

Boofers has since become a family word.

When to use boofers? Well, Boofers is used when remarking about a negative situation. As an example, one would use it as such:

Zach was walking across the kitchen and dropped his cup, resulting in a huge mess of broken glass and water. Looking at the mess, Zach says, "Boofers*."

*Note: the short form, 'boof' can be substituted, or the semi-sarcastic form, 'booferrific' (i.e. "Well that was just booferrific").

Boofers has become such a normal word in our household that I think, when he finds out it is not a real word, Declan will need counseling.

He uses it all the time and, at one point, even had a song about it.

...and by the way...this recording, which was exclusive to Uncle Gabe and Aunt Karla, is now available to the masses.

Good job, Lil Man.

Mr. Sneaky

[by Zach]

ormally something like this isn't really blog worthy, but I honestly believe this is Declan's first real attempt at defiance and trickery, so...I'll share.

Over the holiday season we were reminded once again how much little boys like cookies. Any time one would see the light of day, Declan would devour it and use his super human strength to locate and consume more....as if he were Galactus and each cookie was an insignificant little planet.

On the way home one evening, Declan had a cookie as a snack...no big deal. He was told that he could have no more cookies...I was witness to that. The Swarrmobile pulls in the driveway and we all pour out of the car with bags of new gifts. If my memory serves me, I got waylaid coming to the house, I think by taking trash out or something, and Maribeth was tasked with finding temporary homes for the big bags of stuff once inside.

After a few minutes I finish my duties and walk in the back door. Then I hear it...the distinct sound of a 3 year 10 month old male...crying. It's one of those sad cries; not the angry or mad cry or the sobbing/can't catch my breath cry, but just a real honest to goodness sad cry.

I go upstairs and find Lil Man laying in bed crying and Maribeth standing over him with her arms crossed. The look on her face: stern and stony-like with a hint of something I can't quite figure out. I look at her and mouth, "What happened?"

I get the sideways head jerk which I correctly interpreted as "Go into the other room with me and I'll tell you what happened." We go to the other room and she starts laughing.

The story came out that Declan lost one of his three bedtime stories because...when we got home, Mommy and Daddy weren't around and little man took a cookie off of the tray in the kitchen. And not only did he decide to eat it without permission, he decided to go upstairs and eat it so we wouldn't catch him.

For shame, Little Man....but good attempt nevertheless.

But know this....we will always know your tricks...always.

p.s. Given the lighter nature of the offense, Declan was given the opportunity to regain his third bedtime story if he was well behaved and listened while getting ready for bed. He did.