5 Important Lessons Learned This Weekend

Being a military wife also means that, from time to time, I must tackle chores solo. Duty calls and takes Jason away; it’s just a part of how our lives run. Unfortunately, I’ll be soloing it for a while, so procrastinating on the chores (especially yard work) won’t really work. Stuff has to get done before winter.

On the agenda this past weekend was taming our unruly butterfly bushes … that had turned into tree height this summer. They had grown from being a focal point of our backyard to … well, mammoth bushes that weren’t so pretty.

So … picture if you will, me, a hotter-than-expected sunny afternoon, extra-tall butterfly bushes, 15 yard tools (just in case), a spool of twine, and two four-legged “helpers” who love to chew branches.

Quite comical – and I certainly took away 5 important lessons from the weekend’s circus (er … chore list).  Continue reading

Vacation Fun!

Last week my cousin (aka ‘sista’) and her family came to visit me from New Hampshire. The weather was hazy, hot, and humid – which made the kiddos a little stir-crazy at times – but overall we had a blast hanging out. And I have to admit, it was nice to have Ryan spoiling me with his grill-master skills all week!

One of the first stops we made was to the new frozen custard place in town, The Meadows. Chloe got a mint chocolate chip cone, and Wyatt enjoyed creamy vanilla! Yummy!

IMG_1759 Continue reading

Yellow Ribbon Support – Yahtzee Style

A few weekends ago I hung my yellow ribbon to show our support for troops overseas (and one particular soldier I am quite fond of). Since then, other yellow ribbons have appeared along our street, Logans Run.

The first to appear was next door, where Todd, Kara and the kids hung their ribbon as a family (and said a prayer for Mr. Jason’s safe return, too).

Yellow Ribbon.Swopes

The next day, a yellow ribbon was hung by neighbors across the street, Ed & Molly …

Yellow Ribbon.EdMolly

… and another one appeared at Sam & Kathleen’s home.

Yellow Ribbon.SamKathleen

By the end of the first week, a fifth yellow ribbon (Yahtzee!) made its way to Logans Run at Miss Jeans’s house!

Yellow Ribbon.MissJean

I know it feels like the troops have been overseas forever – and they have! Some of our friends have seen 2, 3, and even 4 tours overseas in the last 9 years.

After the tragedies of 9/11/01, I witnessed an outpouring of pride for the great U.S.A., and in the first years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, regardless of personal views over the war, citizens visibly showed their support for our troops and their families. They purchased yellow ribbon magnets to stick to their vehicles and tied yellow string around their radio antennas. Many, whether they knew someone deployed or not, hung yellow ribbons on their trees, homes or mailboxes to simply show their support.

Walmart and Lowes gave away red, white, and blue ‘Pride in the USA’ bumper stickers, and all across the country, many people flew their American flags. I saw “Old Glory” waving in neighborhoods, at business centers and even on construction jobsites – where a crane was positioned to fly a HUGE flag along Rt. 283 in Lancaster County.

Fast-forward to 2010, and the only place I found to purchase a yellow ribbon was on an Army post. They are no longer in stock at my local Walmart or the craft stores. And although I still see American flags hung with pride in my own neighborhood (there are many ex-military where we live), I rarely see the amount of flags that would cause me to tear up like earlier in this decade.

(Yes, this military wife is a total sap and have been that way for a long time. In fact, the first time I cried during the American anthem was at a Harrisburg Senators baseball game (where  worked job #2 for a summer) after my brother joined the Army in May 1997.)

And speaking from experience, there is nothing more touching to a soldier and his/her family than receiving unexpected support. The act of our neighbors hanging a $2 ribbon has affected me beyond what words can express. So I simply say … Thank you Logans Run for showing your support for Jason and the rest of the troops overseas!

And if you have a photo of a yellow ribbon hanging at your home, please share it with me. I’d love to post it on this blog … for all to see!

Fascination with poo

Have you ever noticed just how fascinated young kids can get with poo?

Every few days I go around my yard on a mission with the little metal pooper-scooper (a Christmas present from the fish ~ did I mention that Jason has a wicked sense of humor?), and if one of the neighbor kids is outside, he/she will help me locate the “treasure.” Once they find a pile, they will jump up and down, raise their hand as if they were in class and exclaim, “Miss Tess! Miss Tess! I found some poop over here, Miss Tess!”

And these kids, ages 7, 6, 5 and nearly 4 aren’t alone. In my life, I’ve witnessed plenty of other kids who have been engrossed with finding poo-piles (Meanwhile, I call my poop-scoop duties a treasure hunt where I don’t want to find any treasure!).

The afternoon ritual for the past few years in our family is for me to take the “girls” outside about 10-15 minutes before Jason gets home. During that time, I play ball with them and they, of course, usually do their business. If the kids are outside during this event, they will announce, “Miss Tess! She’s pooping!”

And admittedly, even though I can predict this announcement, it still cracks me up every single time.DSC_3409

And what made me think about this young kids’ fascination with poo? I came across this photo of me and my niece, Chloe. It was taken this spring on a nature walk we took near Lake Massabesic, New Hampshire during a “Cousins Weekend.” Jason and I had the “girls” with us, and early in the expedition, both “girls” took care of business. Being the suburban dog owner that I am (and the fact that we were paralleling a N.H. Audubon Center trail) I took out my handy-dandy blue poop bags and cleaned up their mess. This amazed Chloe, and being the big girl she is, she wanted to help (and I am a very proud Auntie!).

What tales do you have about poo and kids? Please share!

Yellow Ribbon Support


I hung the yellow ribbon on our flowering pear tree this weekend, and just as I was positioning myself to take this photo, a cool summer breeze made Old Glory wave ever so slightly. As soon as the photo was taken, the breeze stopped. I think it was Grandpa Wahto’s way of telling me he’s watching over us …

Celebrating a 30% Milestone

iStock_000009426982SmallToday is my 38th birthday. I have not always been so forthcoming with  announcing my age –not to mention I have also not been so bold as to say it as an opening sentence!

If I am to be completely honest, I have actually been quite … what’s the word … dramatic … neurotic … irrationally crazed about my age from time to time. My milestone birthdays haven’t exactly brought out the best in me … and it all started with my 25th one.

25th birthday: This quarter-century mark (that I was so quick to “tease” my friends when they reached it) left me having a completely and utterly unexplainable meltdown – that to this day has me a bit baffled why I was so upset.

The best I can figure is that before I was 25, I saw 25 as being a grown up age. More importantly, I thought of people in their mid-20s as having their shit together. By this age, many of my friends were either married or dating the person they were going to marry; they were making headway in their professional lives, and even had adult-looking apartments (read: not college furniture and decorations). Not me. I was still floundering along trying to figure a lot of stuff out. I was convinced that because I hadn’t met the “right” guy yet that he simply didn’t exist. (As it turned out, my 25th year would turn out to be the year that led me down a twisted, horrendously jagged path; but because I followed it anyway – bumps, mud puddles, ditches and all – it turned out to be exactly the route I needed to go.)

30th birthday: If anyone witnessing the dramatics of my 25th birthday thought they’d seen the show, then my 30th birthday was the be-all-end-all encore! I was a total mess the weeks leading up to my birthday. I couldn’t explain it. To make matters worse, I actually knew, without a doubt, that I was being absurd about turning 30, but it didn’t stop me from fixating on the big 3-0.

On the eve of my 30th birthday, I remember sitting on the couch in a meltdown-like state saying to Jason, “Guys get distinguished with age; girls just get old, fat and wrinkly.”

I was so unbelievably warped about hitting 30 that I ripped down the “Happy 30th Birthday Tess” banner that my co-worker had made for me. She’d come into work early just to have it hanging when I walked in the door. Yes, I completely ripped it down in an undignified war-cry (clearly a finer moment in my life – ha!), but being the friend she was, she made me a new one that didn’t disclose my age and hung it the next day.

After those fine, lady-like dramatics of those two milestone birthdays, I was determined to reform my thinking about age. Jason was always telling me that you only as old as you feel (and it isn’t the age, it’s the mileage). With each challenge that I faced in my early 30s (loss of life-long friends, parents getting sick, death of grandparents, and long, unexpected military separations, to name just a few), I was also learning an extremely valuable lesson – how to appreciate the moments of today.

Still, as I moved towards the next milestone birthday, 35, I wondered how I’d handle this new milestone.

35th birthday: For my birthday, Jason organized a cookout with my family. Knowing how past milestone birthdays had brought out the head-spinning ogre side of me, my only request to Jason was that he didn’t put “Happy 35th Birthday” on my cake.

“Sure,” he says. “No problem!”DSCN1254

But Jason is a total prankster, and in his smart-ass fashion, he did indeed honor my request – his way. He presented me with a cake, lit with candles that read “Tess, Happy 420 Month Birthday!”

Just in case the number “35” made me feel old, then he was going to prove that “420” could really make me feel foolish about being fixated over my age! (and you better believe that I got the calculator out to check his math!)

So today is my 38th birthday, and Jason, the math-whiz, says to me, “You’ve been with me for about 30% of your life?” Wow! He’s right since we’ve been together for 12 years (married just shy of 9) – which according to my calculations, is totally worth celebrating. Happy 30% Day to Me!

And next year as I “creep towards 40,” the percentage will increase to 33% of my life. Way cool (and clutch!), and I am looking forward to it!

(…and for you math geeks out there, today technically marks 31.57894% of my life spent with Jas).

Peaceful Vacation

Jason and I, with our “girls” in tow, spend last week at the Outer Banks of North Carolina; specifically, we stayed on the north-side of a town called Duck.

We chose the Outer Banks (OBX) because it was close (a 7 hour drive, according to Mapquest), we both enjoy being near water, and neither one of us had been there before. It would be a new adventure!

In true Wittler fashion, neither one of us did a lot of preparation for our trip before taking off (other than print out those Mapquest directions and pack the map – didn’t even bring along the GPS unit, which I believe is a sin in today’s technology age!).

To be completely truthful, our lives have been more than hectic and stressful lately, and we just ran out of time. Other than requesting a travel guide from the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau and reserving a vacation home, we hadn’t done a whole heck of a lot in researching our destination, so we didn’t know what to expect from the area. We had been told by a few friends that there “isn’t much to do there” so I was a little concerned that we’d get there only to realize that we’d made a grave mistake. That the first “us only” vacation we’ve had in years was a complete flop because we didn’t take the time to do more research and pick the right location.

But I had absolutely nothing to worry about, because the vacation turned out to be exactly what we needed.

Once we got unpacked and did a food run to Harris Teeter (love that store!) – we managed quite nicely with absolutely no agenda for the week. We got up when we wanted, drank our morning coffee on our choice of three decks (or four, if you count the screened-in porch), took leisurely strolls on the beach with the “girls” and totally forgot about the world for a week.



I will blog more about our trip in the coming days, but for now, here are some of photos from the home to share with you.


Our vacation home was nothing spectacular (and we saw impressive homes – some of which were even bank owned – ha!), but our home away from home was comfortable for us. The kitchen was much nicer than the one in our house. This one actually had a several silverware drawers. (Our home was built with two narrow (pathetic) drawers in our kitchen, and neither is wide enough to hold a silverware tray. Seriously. What was the builder thinking when he came up with that ingenious design?).


Although the cottage was small (only 1200 sq. ft), the floor plan was open, so it felt much more spacious than it actually was. Plus, with only Jason, me and the two “girls”, we had plenty of space to lounge around. The table below was Jason’s World of Warcraft command headquarters and our puzzle station (we completed three 1,000 piece puzzles in six days; I know! True vacation excitement!)



The vegetation at the Outer Banks was interesting, and not what I was expecting. For starters, only the really nice homes (that weren’t bank owned) had grass growing in their yards. Most of the residential homes had sandy front yards with an attempt at beautification with landscaping, which usually consisted of a rock garden or red mulch around a tree. However, the vacation homes were easily distinguishable from the 12-month residential homes (by more than a just a mailbox, too).

Our vacation home’s yard was … umm … dreadful. It consisted of sand, brush, thorny-bushes, and a plant that looked quite like cannabis (I am positive it was ditch weed, folks!). In short, it was anything but attractive, and even our “girls” didn’t want to to their “business” there!

Interestingly enough, I wasn’t expecting to see a yard with cactuses next to blackberry bushes in North Carolina (and yes, those thorns HURT – even through the ‘tough plastic’ of poo-bags!)



This unknown plant (below) was in bloom everywhere. Can anyone tell me what it is?