Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sarah's Top Ten List

Top Ten Reasons I Love Living at Carlisle Barracks

10.  The Weather

Do you know that in Maine there are multiple feet of snow on the ground?  Okay, that's an exaggeration, but there is over a foot and a half on snow on the ground in Houlton, Maine.  Yup, I'm not missing the snow yet.  The forecast says that we should have a white Christmas in Carlisle, but I'm not holding my breath.  I just about froze yesterday going from the car to the commissary and back again.  I looked at my temp gauge in the Jeep, 38 degrees.  I'm growing wimpy.  I love the hotness (is that a word) of the summer and standing on the porch in short sleeves on December 19th seeing Mark off to class.

9.  Baggers at the Commissary

When I get my groceries at the commissary, which I LOVE to do, prices are great and it's a manageable size compared to Giant grocery store, seriously, it's called Giant for a reason!  But my favorite part of the commissary is the ladies who take my groceries and load them in my car.  Really, they do!!  It's so fun to chat with them as we walk across the parking lot.  The first time I shopped there, I didn't know what I was supposed to do.  I tipped a couple dollars, then asked my neighbor what I was supposed to do and was encouraged to know that I wasn't a total dunce.  I'm so going to miss those ladies when I go back to real life.

8.  Close Proximity to History

Gettysburg is 45 minutes away.  Antietam, 1 1/2 hours, which we haven't made it to yet.  Washington, DC, is a less than 2 hours, on a good day with no traffic, that is.  And the list goes on and on.  We visited Philadelphia last weekend, my niece graduated from college outside of Philly, so we took the short drive to downtown to take in the sights.  The girls are official Junior Rangers at Independence Park.  So cool!!  Lancaster isn't quite history, but shopping and local food is wonderful, a very fun place to visit.

7.  All Roads Lead to Carlisle

We have had so many visitors come and stay with us.  It's been a blast to see everyone passing though.  I'm going to make a list and hope that it is inclusive.

Tim & Amy Witmer...Malachi & Logan too!
Dad & Mom Whiteman
Pastor Dave Michaud & Josh Snowman
Alethea Brooks
Jesse, Laura and Hunter Breau
Randy & Dawn Butler, dragging Kyle & Jacob with them. 
Dad & Mom Brooks
Justin & Meredith Fowlie with Andrew, Avery and Kameron
Uncle Dave & Aunt Debbie Verzoni
Joe Kennedy
Troopers Jason Satler, Seth Edwards and their buddy Mike

I'm thankful that we are on the main drag to every where!!!  It's been nice to see the familiar faces from home.

6.  Quick Runs to the Store

Yup, quick.  In Houlton a "quick run" to Target was an hour and a half (more or less depending on who is driving) ONE way.  Here a quick run to Target means that you can go and come back before 30 minutes has passed.  There is so much stuff around here from multiple stores to grocery shop (one has better meat prices and another has fresher veggies) to Target and Walmart with in a 5 minute drive to any kind of restaurant that you can dream of with in 15 minutes.  This includes Chick Fil A!!!  My favorite!  I'm so happy to live so close to one!

5.  Miss Lindsey

Miss Lindsey is my kids' favorite person at Carlisle Barracks.  She does a homeschool PE and health class with the kids and is full of fun and energy and patience and kindness.  All 4 Brooks's are thankful for her.  She also coordinates soccer and basketball on post, some of the best memories that the kids have here will involve Miss Lindsey.

4.  The Retirees in Chapel

We have really enjoyed the Chapel on post.  CH Mallard is a man who loves God completely and knows how to preach God's word.  We have loved the Sunday School that we have been able to be a part of also.  Sunday School is taught by retirees.  Guys who have been there, done that in the Army, and have amazing testimonies to go with it.  Families that have stood along side of them the whole way are so encouraging to me and my life as an Army Wife.  I think that I could listen to Don Snider teach Sunday School all morning.  Mark had ran across Dr. Snider when he was teaching Military Intersession at West Point 10+ years ago.  He made a huge impression on Mark then and it has been such a blessing sitting under his teaching and leadership these past few months.  Mark has a Bible study on Thursdays with Larry Sherbondy and raves about the time there and the wisdom that has been imparted.  We are thankful people to have all these to look up to.  We have a Bible study Tuesday nights with another retiree, Al Shine and his wife, Sandra.  Amazing with incredible testimonies.  One of our first visitors when we got here was Ray Porter, coming to let us borrow an air mattress and brought us tomatoes from his garden.  These people have put a permanent impression on my life.

3.  The Cannon & Bugle

Most every day at 6:30 I hear the cannon and bugle sounding Revelry.  Even though we are not on post, the speaker for the bugle is near by and is clearly heard at our house.  The bugle sounds again at 1, 4:30, cannon and bugle sound at 5 for Retreat, another bugle at 9 and Taps at 11.  I've turned into quite the sap recently.  It doesn't take much to bring tears to my eyes these days.  Retreat is one of those things.  I was thankful that the first time I heard Retreat I was with another wife and her kids.  It's easy to follow the crowd but it's also nice to get a heads up.  At 1700 hours Retreat is sounded and the flag is lowered.  If you are on post in a car, you pull over, get out of your vehicle, face the flag.  Mid way though the cannon sounds and you at that point place your hand over your heart.  If you are outdoors at 5, you turn and face the flag also.  If you are inside, you do not have to participate.  The thing that brings the tears is to think of all those who have gone before, in this tradition of Retreat, who have participated in this ceremony day in and day out, what they have done, what they have seen, their love and duty to this beloved country.  Some have given the last full measure, families have paid the price, enduring long periods apart, generations have seen their own style of fighting, and for every one of those people, I am eternally grateful.  This is why I get all sappy and teary when I hear the bugle and the cannon.  So if you see me, don't make too much fun of me, okay?

2.  Friendships

It's amazing to look at the friendships that we all have made here and think that we have only been here for 5 months.  I'm thankful for each of these friendships we have made.  The people in Mark's seminar are the ones that we send the most time with.  We have been blessed to be with these people.  The wives who are here in Carlisle are wonderful and I have enjoyed getting to know them.  Going to New York City with the majority of the local spouses made bonds even closer.  A night in Times Square and Top of the Rock hanging out with the Hasemans will be a life long memory and a life long friendship.  The moms who I have gotten to know through the homeschool group are such special ladies and special friends.  The international students have been a joy to get to know.  Where else do you live where your across the street neighbors are from Malaysia and the back yard neighbors are from Jordan?  It's been wonderful to be in their homes getting to know them and their culture and making relationships that are unforgettable.  Our sweet Malaysian neighbors had us into their home for a Malaysian feast!  Unforgettable! And last, but so not least, the sweet friendship that we have made with the Grants, our next door neighbors, is something that I treasure.  To see the four kids playing together and hearing their giggles are the sweetest sounds that a mom could hear.  I have enjoyed afternoons sitting across the table with Jean and lots of laughs with Scott and wonderful times of fellowship on Tuesday nights at their house studying God's word.  We have been blessed with friends!

And the #1 Thing That I Love About Being in Carlisle is (drum roll, please)

1.  Family Time!!

I hope that wasn't too anti-climatic, but it is what I am loving.  Real life involves Mark on call 24-7.  Hours at the office ranged from 10-12 hours a day, not to mention commanding the Maine State Police Crisis Negotiation Team and being an assistant commander of the MSP Incident Management Assistance Team that are deployed anytime, day or night.  Oh, yeah, and don't forget the whole second job of being a Birgade Deputy Commander in the Army Reserve.  This job involved most nights having a phone attached to his ear and fingers on a keyboard, dealing with what ever issue has arisen in the day.  Army War College life is Mark leaving the house at 8am and returning home by 4 at the latest.  Sometimes he has softball games or basketball games or volleyball games that would take place in the evening, but we'd all go, enjoying time together.  Mark has been working hard on his Strategic Research Paper, the big one due at the end of the year.  His goal all along has been to have it finished before Christmas break.  So this past week he's put in long hours (and has it done!!!!) but nothing compared to life as a Trooper.  Mark mentioned that this is the first time in 19 years that he has not had some kind of responsibility on Christmas Day.  That is something that I won't forget Tuesday.  I'm extremely thankful for the Troopers who will have to leave their families on Christmas day, both in Maine and in Pennsylvania, to keep all of the rest of us safe.  But this year, I'm going to enjoy our Christmas off.  Family time this year does not go unnoticed by any of us in the Brooks family.  We are all so grateful to have this time to just be us.

That wraps up my top 10 list.

Merry Christmas from the Brooks Family!  We hope that you all have a wonderful day celebrating the birth of our Savior!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gingerbread Houses

For the past few years the girls and I have made gingerbread houses.  We asked the Grant kids to come join in on the fun and fun we had....along with a huge mess!!!

They turned out so adorable!!!  Don't you think?

Monday, November 26, 2012

All Kinds of Thankfulness

I meant to update this forever ago and list all the things I was thankful for after attending AUSA Family Forums.  Now that it's after Thanksgiving, I guess a post about thankfulness is in order.

Back up to October 23rd.  As the seminar spouse rep, I was invited to participate in AUSA (Association of the United States Army) Family Forums that were being simulcast at Carlisle Barracks or have someone else from the seminar attend in my stead.  After unsuccessfully trying to find someone to step in, our MFP Coordinator suggested I come and bring the girls with me.  Homeschooling is a wonderful thing, but sometimes does not fit into normal schedules.  So here's my first thing I'm thankful for - an awesome, understanding MFP (Military Family Programs) Coordinator.  I'm beyond thankful that I was able to attend these forums.  The first forum that I attended was entitled Transitions and New Beginnings.  The women that were on the panel discussed their new life, either without their brave soldiers or with soldiers who came home totally different than when they went over there.  I don't think there was a dry eye in the room as these ladies were telling their stories.  If you have anytime and would like some true inspiration check out this link:  AUSA Family Forums Video scroll down to "Family Forum III" and there are 4 parts.  Make sure that you have a large box of tissues near by.

That brings me to my list of things I'm thankful for: I'm thankful my husband came home from Iraq.  I'm thankful that he came home whole, in body and mind.  I'm thankful that he is here to raise our kids together.  I'm thankful for the father that he is.  I'm thankful that he loves me.  I'm thankful for our marriage.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to be in Carlisle, PA.  Shall I go on? 

We had the opportunity to go to New York City, November 14-17.  It's a big field trip for the students of the War College and the spouses are able to tag along.  It was such a great experience!  We were able to visit the 9-11 memorial, see Phantom of the Opera, have lots of laughs with friends at Times Square and the Top of the Rock.  We also were privileged to be able to go to the UN Missions of the International Fellows of Mark's seminar, Finland, Bangladesh and Senegal.  One of the highlights of my trip was being able to work  side by side with other War College wives with Team Rubicon in Far Rockaway, NY, helping a Hurricane Sandy survivor, get her house back to normal.  The list of things to be thankful for driving through Rockaway is long.  Being in New York was so fun.  There is something about the hustle and bustle of the city that is intriguing and exciting.  On the second night we were there, we went to see Phantom on Broadway.  After the show we were standing in Times Square and it is so bright, if you haven't been there, I just can't explain it to you.  There were so many people around, I had no concept of time and was so surprised when I looked at my watch and saw it was 11:00 pm.  Back home the streets are completely empty at 11 and everything is dark.  Our hotel was sandwiched between Grand Central Terminal (so beautiful!!) and the Chrysler Building.  This put us in walking distance of all the fun stuff....the Empire State Building, Broadway, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, 5th Avenue, all the good stuff in Midtown.  The last day we were there we visited the UN Missions.  It was so neat to see point of views from the different countries.  (BTW...the chocolates at the Finland mission...super yummy!)  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the 9-11 Memorial.  The last time I was in lower Manhattan, the towers were still smoking.  It was November 2011, right after Thanksgiving.  Mark had a friend who was an FBI Field Agent down there who took Mark down to see the devastation.  I was not able to get close, but close enough to see the make-shift memorials made by those left behind.  This visit was filled with reflection, the park surrounding the fountains were very similar to what was there before the towers came down.  The last time I was there before 2001 was about 15+ years prior.  We went to the top of the south tower with my cousins.  I remember eating at the park at the foot of the towers and from what I remember there were trees and concrete and a few benches.  Very much like what is there today.  There is a survivor tree.  Can you believe that?  A tree survived the heat and debris laying all around it and over it for months. 

My mom was able to come and hang out with the girlies to free me up to go with Mark.  I'm so grateful for her willingness to come and fill in for me!  Dad finished his work week and caught the train to Harrisburg on Friday and was able to spend the weekend with us. 

Thanksgiving here in PA was quiet and peaceful.  Mark and I cooked a turkey together and all the fixin's.  Mmm!  Turkey sandwiches galore!  The day after Thanksgiving was Hope's birthday, she chose to celebrate at Hershey Park.  What a blast!  It was all deck out for Christmas with Christmas music piped all over the park.  So fun. 

So here's the pics....It's probably a lot more fun looking at the pics than reading all that....

Mark & most of Seminar 10 at the 9-11 Memorial under the Survivor Tree

9-11 Memorial Fountain

Us in front of the new World Trade Tower 1

I LOVE this!  This woman was pregnant when she was killed in the attack and her unborn child was given honor with his/her mother. 

The boys with the Bull on Wall Street

Outside the Stock Exchange

Times Square at about 10pm

The HUGE Toys R Us store in Times Square

Seminar 10  in Times Square

Seminar 10 in front of the UN

The spouses of Seminar 10

Rockefeller Center

Top of the Rock looking at the NYC skyline, the Empire State Building is that very impressive building that is so prominent.

In Grand Central Terminal on our last morning in the city

The USAWC Wives who volunteer with Team Rubicon in the Rockaways.  That's me all the way to the right in the back with the black hat.  FYI, that hat has a Maine State Police embroidered patch, yup, representing in PA!

This was the group of wonderful ladies that I worked with for the afternoon.  The homeowner is the lady in the middle in the red coat.  What a blessing to be there!


I'm thankful for this girl!!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Birthday breakfast!

She's 8 and checking out her cake. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

School and Soccer and Dancing, Oh My!

*This post is dedicated to my buddy Joy nudge to update this blog.  Thanks for the reminder that it HAS been far too long since an update! love, Sarah*

Have you heard Archibold Asparagus sing "Modern Major General" in Veggie Tales?  If you haven't....well, ask your kids to sing it for you.  I was hoping to find a cool YouTube video and give you a link, but I came up empty handed in my search.  I found a video of the original "Modern Major General", but that's not the one that comes to my mind, it has to be Archibold Asparagus. 

Anyway...all of that to say...that's what I feel like life has been around here.  Not the lyrics, mind you, just the speed of the song and the wondering when am I going to take a breath.  Archibold takes a few big breaths, and that breath is Sunday for us, and then jumps back in to the song with as much speed as he can.  The first few posts I felt like I almost had to make stuff up to make it seem like we were actually doing something besides lying by the pool.  Mark and I walked past the pool the other day and I said, "Remember when all we did was sit pool side all afternoon and evening?"  To which he replied, "Yeah, that was the life!"

So school began for Mark, and then for the girls.  And then soccer.  4 nights a week.  Four.  To which two of those I volunteered my amazing hubby to coach.  *Smirk*  I won't do that again, I promise Hubby!!  Can I tell you how cute my kids are when they play soccer?  Adorable!  Now, I totally understand that that statement has some bias in it, but you'd think so too if you saw them.

Julia is with the ball

#11 - Shot on goal!!

Check out that determination!

Kick it, Hope!!

And when Mark is not coaching Hope's soccer team:

he's doing something like this...

Endless reading

Hanging out with his girls...

...and with his Seminar.

So we have gotten to be tourists many places, including Lancaster County,

Gettysburg, where I think everyone in the area knew that we were from Maine and are awestruck by the 20th Maine and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain,

Valley Forge, PA, home of the General Washington's Patriot Army for the winter of 1777-1778,

A fun day at Cherry Crest Farms, down near Lancaster,

The National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland

And lots of days hanging around the house enjoying this beautiful Pennsylvania fall weather.

There have been some great activities that have been run by the school that will remain highlights of our year here.  The first big bash was the Air Ship Wreck Ball that was sponsored by the Air Force and Navy students.  The theme was the Olympics and each seminar had to have a theme and dress appropriately and decorate a table where we ate dinner to the theme also.  Seminar 10 choose The Dream Team, referring the our USA Olympic basketball dream team of 1992.  The night started out with all the students and their families playing games on Indian Field and then moved into the LVCC, formerly the Officer's Club, for dinner and fun and LOTS of laughter!  Here's a few action shots of  Seminar 10 and a table shot also, which indecently took 3rd place!

Yup, that's us in the 3 Legged race.  :)

Last weekend was Oktoberfest.  It was put on by the Carlisle Barracks MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation), but it was for the whole community.  We went Saturday at noontime and there was a huge crowd already.  It was a super time with carnival rides for the kids and bratwurst for us.  I tried sauerkraut for the first time and found out it wasn't horrible.  The Carlisle Barracks Fire Department put on a Fire Academy for the kids and the girls loved it!  They got to do the low crawl and "rescue" a baby doll, roll a fire hose and use a fire hose.  It was all very fun and fulfilled some of the PA regulations for homeschool.  Gotta love that.

Oh, yes!  We are now dancers.  Okay, that was stretching the truth a wee bit...maybe more than a wee bit.  But we are taking ballroom dancing lessons.  It's something that we have talked about for a while but never have had the opportunity to do.  A retired Army colonel is a local ballroom dancing teacher and comes right onto the Barracks and teaches.  It is so, so much fun!  Picture 50 couples, Army couples with a few Navy, Air Forces and Marines thrown in, dancing the Tango.  Oh, it is a sight, and so much fun.  Wednesday nights are becoming my favorite night of the week.  There are a pack of kids that come, including ours, who watch and giggle and even try it out themselves while sipping on their Shirley Temples.  So far we have learned some basic steps to Swing, Tango, Cha Cha Cha and the Foxtrot.  I'm loving this enough that I'm thinking the Advanced Class in January might be in our future....

I think that catches you up on our extra curricular activities.  Mark is enjoying his class work.  He's had a few papers to write that were challenging.  One was entitled "Theorists Who Illuminate the Problem of War and Conflict" and the other "War's Corrosive Effect on Athenian Democracy".  Both of those papers were for the class called The Theory of War and Strategy.  He studied theorists such as Sun Tzu and Clausewitz and Jomini.  Sounds great, huh?  The students were taken to Gettysburg for a staff ride a couple weeks ago.  A well studied staff member took them to different locations on the battlefield and gave details about the goings on in great depth.  During this time, the guys were studying strategic leaders and Mark was told that he was going to brief on Joshua Chamberlain.  I'm thinking someone knew Mark and his zeal for Chamberlain.  But it gets better...not only did Mark get to brief on Chamberlain, they told him that he would be doing his brief when they were in Gettysburg for the staff ride when they hit Little Round Top.  When he returned home that night, my first question was....Where on Little Round Top did you give your brief?  His answer...At the 20th Maine monument, of course!!   What an awesome moment for my hubby!!  Yesterday his class was on negotiations.  He was an observer for a negotiation exercise.   Maybe I should have let his faculty advisers know he's the commander of the Maine State Police Crisis Negotiation Team?  Nope, this is one of those situations where it's good to blend in.  :)   The entire learning environment has been challenging and is fast paced, with lots and lots of reading required, but he seems to be keeping up well.  I don't know if he would think he is, but from my perspective, he is taking it all in stride.  

We had our last soccer game tonight.  It will be nice to have our evenings back, but we so enjoyed being outside and seeing the girls play and improve.  Basketball starts in January and there is spring soccer to look forward to also.  

This has been a long congrats for making it to the end!  Thanks for thinking of us and for your prayers.  Home is missed, but we are appreciating every day of this adventure!