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Memorial Day – a day to honor the memories of those men and women who have died in the service of our country. First celebrated as a national holiday in 1866, the date May 30 was chosen specifically because it was not the date or anniversary of a battle. Credit for the day of national recognition is given to General John Murray and General John A. Logan for their belief that the graves of all soldiers across the land should be decorated in the tradition of the ancient Greeks and their fallen heroes.

I honor these heroes today.

I honor the memory of one special hero, Marine Lance Corporal Dimitrios Gavriel.

Dimi died November 19, 2004, as a result of enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

This is how I know Dimi.

When Audrey met Matthew on the campus of Brown University almost a decade ago, Dimi also became a great presence in her life. Dimi was Matt’s best friend, and Dimi held a special place in Matt’s life. Dimi would be the Best Man at Audrey and Matt’s wedding ceremony on June 30, 2001. Dimi’s apartment is where Audrey and Matt would stay as they searched for their own place in New York City.

Dimi is with whom Matthew would find places to fish in and around New York City. Dimi is who would travel to Rhode Island on weekends that Audrey and Matt were at my home… and Matt and Dimi would disappear for hours and hours on their fishing expeditions. I can still see Dimi’s old diesel Mercedes parked in front of my home.

I vividly remember the last time I saw Dimi. I thank God it was a perfect day. Dimi was visiting for the weekend, and of course he stopped in to see Matt and Audrey at our former home in Bristol, Rhode Island. My husband and I stored Matt’s canoe under our back porch, so it wasn’t a second or two before the two of them were hauling it out and heading down the street to the Bristol Harbour. On that summer day the wind was whipping forcefully, but Matt and Dimi had the no-fear of two hearty mates and manuevered that canoe down-harbor with the gusto of a couple of seasoned sailors.

Audrey was terrified that they were going to capsize… but they didn’t. And they crawled out of the canoe to tell about it. Audrey, my husband and I met them at journey’s end, at a little outdoor seafood place, Quito’s. We laughed. We drank beer. We ate New England’s finest.

The day was one of joy. Of sharing. And Dimi talked of the Marines and his decision to enlist. He had built a promising career for himself on Wall Street after graduating from Brown University, but the loss of friends on 9/11, and the calling of a greater course, led him to enlist. He was 27 years old.

A woman at the next table heard Dimi explain his decision and asked him what his mother thought of his enlistment. Women think like this. Women think like mothers. Dimi’s dark eyes, usually twinkling with some mischief, became serious and earnest. I don’t remember his exact words… and I would never try to put his words into my own… but he explained, ever succinctly in the way Dimi explained everything, that his mother was frightened for him, for her, for his dad and sister… but they all supported his passion and his mission once the decision was a final decision.

The woman wished him safety, and luck. We drank some more beer and we talked some more in the warm summer sun.

Then my most vivid memory of Dimi happened. A memory that I will cherish for all time.

Matt and Dimi knew that they had consumed too much beer to hop back into the canoe, and besides, they would be rowing up-harbour against the wind. So they did what any able-bodied young men would do… they put the canoe over their heads and began to walk back to my house.

Well, the walk was less than a mile… but as Audrey and I followed them in her car, we laughed so hard that she could hardly hold onto the steering wheel. All we could see were four legs and a canoe. Four legs and a canoe walking up the street in the warm summer sun of a perfect day.

We tooted the horn as we passed them… then we waited for them on my old front porch.

When Dimi left later that evening, I kissed him good-bye. I wished him safety and luck. My husband grasped his hand and they fell into a hug.

Three months later we would hear the most tragic news that Dimi had been killed in action. November 19, 2004.

Today I honor all the heroes who have fallen in service to our country.

Today I honor our friend, Marine Lance Corporal Dimitrios Gavriel… my hero.

- Sharon

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… or more specifically, Daddy.

OK, I don’t think I can be described as a pushover or a sucker. Unless, of course, it has anything to do with my grandchildren.

I was even one of those pre-grandmother women who said, “How can grandkids be that different from our own kids?”

Well, they are.

Not the kids. But the “suckerdom” that comes with the precious little bundles.

It starts from Day One. It never, ever, ever ends. And it supersedes almost anything that the parents have to say (sorry parents!).

Take this morning, for example.

My little guy Alexander, Audrey’s 2-year old, loves his binkie. Well, not just loves it, but LOVES it.

Now I know damn well that Audrey and her husband Matthew are trying to wean Ally from his beloved “binka,” as he calls it. They have him down to binka at nap and bedtime… unequivocably no binka during the day.

Whoops. Grandma done them wrong!

Matt is out of town for the week. Audrey was driving William to pre-school. Benjamin was napping. Ally had just finished his breakfast… and spotted his binka on the kitchen counter (I had taken it from his crib to wash… or you know how Grandmas are… to sterilize).

Then came the tiny, innocent, whispering “let’s make a deal” question, “Grandma, can I have my binka?”

“ALLLLLLLY… you know Mommy and Daddy don’t allow binkas during the day.”

And then the melt-me answer, “But Grandma, Mommy isn’t home. And Daddy’s in New Ork (his pronunciation of New York).”

Our eyes met. I melted like buttah. Yes, Ally got his binka.

That is, until Mommy got home!

Then the little buggah “convinced” me to play Connect 4 with him while I worked.

Here’s the evidence:

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Ah, the “suckerdom” of grandparenthood.

- Sharon

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allysipping.jpgMy husband loves coffee milk.

Coffee milk… as in 2 or 3 tablespoons of Autocrat Coffee Syrup mixed into a nice, tall glass of cold milk.

This, in my experience, is kind of a Rhode Island thing. I had never heard of Coffee Syrup until I moved to Rhode Island. And the phenomenon doesn’t stop with coffee milk. It extends to coffee milk shakes. Coffee frappes. Or the all-Rhode-Island expression, coffee cabinet (don’t even ask me where the name comes from!).

So should I be surprised that my little 2-year-old grandson Alexander has coffee milk running through his veins? In his very DNA?

It all came to the surface yesterday.

My husband Barry, or Pop-up, as he is called by his grandchildren, and I had our little darling Ally for the afternoon. His older brother had his first school-kid-invited birthday party at the local YMCA and his littlest brother needed a nap.

We asked Ally what he wanted to do, and he immediately said, “Horses.” Which means the carousel at the mall.

That was easy. A couple of twirls on the merry-go-round. Then a trip to the Disney Store. A stop at the fountain “to trow in coins… lots of coins.” And how can you leave the mall without lunch.

Here in Rhode Island, lunch with kids means Newport Creamery. Ally is probably one of the easiest kids in the entire world to please, so we thought his usual grilled cheese and milk would do.

Not so easy.

Ally spotted Pop-up pouring some coffee-colored substance from a shiny stainless steel container into a glass.

“What’s that, Pop-up?” And not waiting for a response, “I want some.”

Now you must understand that a Newport Creamery Coffee Cabinet to my husband can be likened to Jimmy Choo shoes to me. Something to be savored. Delighted in. Loved.
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But what trumps your favorite thing? A grandchild wanting it.

So Pop-up gave Ally a taste. That taste turned into his very own kid-cup. The kid-cup got traded in for Pop-up’s glass. The glass and its contents ended up as lickable remnants on Ally’s precious face.

Ah, Pop-up, it’s in the DNA!

- Sharon

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I’m a thee, I’m a thee

I’m outing myself…

I’m a doting Auntie.

Well, how can I not be when I have 7 cutie nieces and nephews who are always doing and saying things that make me laugh?

Like Alexander, who thinks seeing his picture just after it’s taken is the coolest thing. But, at 2 years old, he doesn’t understand that a video is different from a photograph… and that he can’t “see” a video as I am taking it of him.

So here he is, thinking I’m just taking a picture, saying “I wanna see, I wanna see” – which comes out like, “I’m a thee, I’m a thee.”

His face at :20 is just priceless.

- Jane

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We’re going to be heading to Pittsburgh soon to visit my in-laws. I can’t help but laugh to myself when I actually stressed about packing for Pittsburgh before I had kids and Matt and I were living and working in NYC.

I used to pack way too much… but none-the-less, I ended up using everything I packed.

Bunches of outfits (Prepping for every occasion.)
Heels. Boots. Sneakers (You never know where you may be going!)
Work-out clothes (In case I was inspired.)
Essentials (Hair dryer, Straightener, Shampoo, Conditioner, Brush, Toothbrush, Make-up.)
Coats or Bathing Suits (Depending on the season.)

I’d fit everything into maybe 2 suitcases. And if I forgot anything (which I usually did) I would just buy it there. One year I forgot my bathing suit. One year I forgot my puffer coat. No problem, just pick one up.

NOW.

Yes, now with kids. 3 in all. I laugh at the fact that I literally used to take an hour or so packing for myself. Just myself.

Now it’s all about the boys. And I mean that. It’s all about the boys.

Benjamin:
Formula/Bottles/Nipples/Binkies/Bibs/Food
Diapers/Wipes/Cream
Medicine
Clothes. Clothes. Clothes. He’s a spitter and teething… so I go through about 5 changes an hour a day.
Socks/Shoes
Fleece/Hat/Booties
Blankie (Oh… I can’t forget this blankie)
Einstein DVDs
And his Toys

Alexander:
Clothes (He likes to match William)
Diapers – bigger than Benjamin’s!
Socks/Shoes
Binkies (Oh help us if we forget the BINKIES!)
Blankies (3 of them to be exact and he KNOWS what ones are his)
Sippy Cups/Vitamins
Snacks/Cooler with Milk, Juice and Water
Jackets
Toothbrush (His is Thomas, not to be confused with William’s Cars’ Toothbrush)
Books (Anything to do with whale-sharks)
Toys (Whale-sharks and other whales of varying sizes)

William:
Clothes
Undies. Undies. Undies.
Sippy Cups (Blue ones, not Alexander’s green ones!)
Socks/Shoes
Camo Raincoat (He takes it everywhere)
Backpack (And if William brings his, Alexander MUST bring his)
Snacks (Of course, different than Alexander’s)
Same cooler (thank you boys!)
Hats/Coats
Books
Toys (Anything)

And let’s not forget:
Pack N Play
Portable Swing
Bags for trash!

All this for 3 boys.

And what’s in this for me?

Oh… I’ll throw a few things into a bag the morning we leave! And of course, will take WAY TOO much.

Ahhh… the delights of traveling with little kids.

And Dad’s on his own!

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Thank you to everyone who emailed me or commented on my blog to see how Alexander was doing regarding his heart appointment.

Words cannot describe.

Just to tell you what had happened…

On Sept. 18th I took Alexander to his pediatrician for his 2 year-old annual appointment.

I knew Alexander had a heart murmur. They had told me when he was pretty young that he had one, but that it was an innocent one.

But still… as a mother… you worry. And so, at every appointment I always had them check it to see if it still sounded innocent.

At his annual, the doctor said it sounded a little less than innocent. And since he’s from the mindset that you should check everything, he had me make an appointment with a Pediatric Cardiologist.

The soonest appointment I could get was Oct. 9th. I don’t know how we did it, but we were actually able to wait till the 9th to get it checked.

Upon going in they did an EKG on Alexander and a few other tests… blood pressure, weight, height, etc. He did awesome!

He’s such a funny kid that he could make you smile anytime. He’s just hilarious.

So then we were brought to the doctor’s actual exam room and he listened to Alexander’s heart for about 20 minutes. Different spots. Different time intervals.

It was the longest 20 minutes of my life. (And I thought waiting 9 months was long!)

Finally he took a step back from Alexander, looked at Matt and I and said, “I don’t hear anything but a very innocent murmur.”

Music to our ears, right?

But then he says to us, “But his EKG came back abnormal. Which I think is due to the bone over his heart. It protrudes out, which may have caused the EKG to come back abnormal.”

Ugh… you know when your heart just starts beating real fast and you start sweating? Insert that ALL right there.

So he had us go down the hall for a heart sonogram.

30 minutes later that was done.

And the doctor told us all looked great. Nothing alarming.

The only thing they saw was a small hole in one of his upper chambers. He said all babies are born with that, but it usually seals up by the time they are 2 years old.

Alexander’s didn’t.

So he said that he will keep an eye on him, but that thousands upon thousands of children have this. So that made us feel better.

He “suggested” that Alexander shouldn’t go scuba diving or fly in a small plane (due to unpressurized cabins) until he sees him again in 3 years.

Poor guy, looks like he’ll have to cancel his plans to Fiji.

But in all seriousness, thank you to everyone who checked in on us. I appreciate it more than I can express in a blog post.

- Audrey
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