Saturday, August 30, 2008

Busy weekend.

Hockey season officially kicks off with a Labor Day tournament this weekend. Hockey Boy has a game this afternoon, one early tomorrow morning (7:00 a.m., with players reporting to the ice at 5:45!), one tomorrow afternoon and one Monday. Vivian HATES hockey ("It's too loud in here, it's too cold in here," etc.) so I have a sitter coming for a couple of games and we'll draw straws on which of us attends the early game (I won't say whether it's the winner or the loser who goes).

I have a Duplicate Bridge tournament this weekend as well but am only playing a couple of times because of hockey. I leave for my first session in about an hour.

Robert runs around White Rock Lake (9+ miles) every Saturday morning with a group of running friends. Today Dots wanted to accompany him on her bike so they're already out and about.

Vivian is in her room trying to get Percy the cat to do tricks. I can hear things like "Jump, Percy, jump!" interspersed with an occasional "mrowwww!" I don't think they're headed for Prime Time anytime soon.

Not surprisingly Hockey Boy is still asleep. After a long week of school and hockey practices and a late night of studying (ahem), he understandably needs his rest. I'm going to send Vivian in to show him Percy's tricks soon so he'll be awake by the time I need to leave. I'm sure that will go over well.

Tonight Robert and I are going to hear Wayne Brady perform with the Dallas Symphony at the Meyerson. It is billed as an evening of "song, humor, improv and a Sammy Davis, Jr. and Sam Cooke tribute." Whose Line is it Anyway is one of Robert's favorite TV shows, and he is a longtime Sam Cooke fan so he is very excited about the performance. I'm looking forward to it too; an adult evening out is always a treat!

Does anyone really *rest* over Labor Day weekend?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thankful Thursday.

If you prayed for Vivian in the last month or two, could I ask you a favor? Would you please pray for world peace? For an end to hunger and suffering and loneliness? Because the power of your prayers is obviously vast! I am AMAZED at how well Vivian is doing. I just put her on the bus, and she was unbelievably sweet and cooperative. Her seizures seem to be down to only one or two a week. Her pretty face is clearing up. She's eating well again. Wow. I am humbled and thankful. Praise God.

I have been so touched by the outpouring of love and support from friends and family and from people whom I've *met* only on my blog or theirs. 

One special blog friend is Melissa at Sunbonnet Cottage. She has faced more than her own share of challenges with grace and dignity, all the while extending an arm of friendship and encouragement to others. When I was particularly down last week, she presented me with an *award* on her blog. Thank you, Melissa.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Germany Trip Report, final installment.

Last summer Robert, Dots and I visited a former classmates of Dots's, Hanna, and her family in Germany.

Saturday, 4 August, 2007

Robert and Jogi took a serious 13-mile run through the Bingenwald this morning while the rest of us enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on the back balcony. We set out for Mainz around 11:00.

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Mainz is about a 20 minute drive from Bingen and is its nearest city. Jogi and Rosie both attended University there.

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Mainz has a very charming pedestrian area, and on our visit, a large outdoor market was operating. We enjoyed walking around and observing the locals shopping for flowers, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and even wine.

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We stopped and toured the very large and grand Mainz cathedral, parts of which date back to 1009. The cathedral has an impressive collection of sacred treasures in a separate back area.


We are not the sacred treasures at the Cathedral! No photography was allowed in that section

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Mainz was birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, and he was living there when he invented the world’s first printing press around 1450. We visited the Gutenberg Museum and watched a very interesting demonstration on a model of his original device.

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The museum has many old books and prints on display, and we especially enjoyed seeing two of the original Gutenberg Bibles, only 48 of which are known to exist.

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Leaving the museum, we walked to the Church of St. Stephan. This building is smaller than the Cathedral but is also very old, dating back to the 13th century. It suffered heavy damage during WWII but was rebuilt and restored by the 70’s. Its most beautiful feature is its stain-glassed windows that were designed by the artist Marc Chagall. The windows depict scenes from the Old Testament in a background of luminous blue and were created between 1978 and Chagall’s death in 1985.

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We were very interested to learn that Rosie’s father served as the translator between the priest at St. Stephan’s, Monsignor Meyer, and Chagall. After Chagall’s death, one of his artisans created two stain-glassed windows in the same colors as the church’s for Rosie’s father as a gesture of appreciation.

We stopped on our way back from Mainz at the home of Rosie’s parents and were able to see these lovely stain-glassed windows. Their home also has a stunning view of the Rhine and of Rudesheim, and we enjoyed a glass of wine on their deck while our girls swam in their pool.

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For dinner we drove to the quaint neighboring village of Munster-Sarmsheim and ate at Weingut Gottelmann.

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We sat outside in an interior courtyard and enjoyed a tasting of their wines. Jogi ordered our food for us, and we ate family style. Once again his selections were wonderfully varied and delicious.

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Sunday, 5 August, 2007

We awoke early and sadly bade goodbye to the our wonderful German hosts before driving to the Frankfurt airport and flying home.

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This was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken (save for one 24-hour period which was no one’s fault but my own). We had the opportunity of a lifetime to have an insiders’ tour of Germany with the kindest, most generous and knowledgeable hosts I can imagine. At the end of a trip I usually select and recount a few highlights, but in this case every place we visited with the Jogi and Rosie was interesting, beautiful or charming, all of the food we ate with them was outstanding, and the entire experience was superlative. The grandest part of it all for me, though, was the people we met and visited with, who so warmly welcomed us into their homes and wineries and so generously shared their German culture and heritage with us. We are enormously grateful for this opportunity.

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The path from the front door to the street. The carport, top left, is at street level. Underneath the carport is Jogi's fabulous wine cellar. We enjoyed our last glasses of wine in there by candlelight and I am just sick that I didn't take any pictures

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Carport (above) with wine cellar underneath

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Door to the wine cellar

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to school.

Today is my kids' first day of school.

Vivian was awake early and in very good spirits. She dressed herself (though she had no interest in wearing the cute first-day-of-school outfit I'd bought for her), and she ate some breakfast before donning her backpack and walking out front to wait for the bus.


The aide who's going to help in the mornings isn't starting for a couple of days, but I thought, "Ah! So far, so good." And if the bus has arrived right on schedule,Vivian would have climbed right on without issue. Instead she waited about five minutes contently before pronouncing, "I don't want to go to school" and falling down on the sidewalk.



She stood up shortly thereafter and started walking toward the park in our neighborhood. Daddyman had returned from his morning run, and he followed after her.


Pretty soon he had her by the hand and they were headed back toward our house.


But still no bus.

I decided to go inside and call the driver at this point because they were now more than 15 minutes late. The driver answered and told me they were still at the bus depot filling up with gas (!) and that assuming they didn't hit traffic, they'd be at our house in 15 minutes. I expressed my unhappiness with this lack of preparedness on the first day, and the driver (who is wonderful and is usually quite prompt) apologized and said the bus depot was extremely unorganized this morning.

We brought Vivian back inside. I needed to make sure the other children were awake and moving toward being ready for school while Robert went upstairs to shower and dress for work. No more than a few minutes had passed before I went to check on Vivian and found her clothes on the floor and her back in bed with her pajamas on! Argh! I had to force Vivian out of her pajamas and back into her clothes, all the while with her telling me, "I'm so tired. I don't want to go to school. I want to go to sleep." I placated her by saying she could take her pillow and blanket on the bus, and I eventually succeeded in getting her clothes back on and leading her back downstairs. When the bus arrived (now 35 minutes late), Vivian agreed (albeit reluctantly) to climb on my back and let me carry her outside. She stepped onto the bus without further issue and was finally on her way!

Oops! Didn't get those shoes back on...


Meanwhile, Hockey Boy had showered and dressed (I think the only care he took with his outfit selection was that it NOT look like it was anything new or special - heaven forbid on the first day of his junior year). He was meeting some friends at a local breakfast spot and then driving himself to the high school.

Wouldn't want our hair to look like we fussed with it either


Dots has had her first-day-of-school attire and all myriad of accessories selected for quite some time now. She was completely dressed and ready way ahead of schedule and had even prepared her lunch (a wise and revered 6th grade friend had advised her to carry a lunch for the first week of school while she got the feel of how the cafeteria operates).


Robert and I drove Dots to school, walked her in and met her teacher.


When I entered her class to take a picture of her at her big 5th grade desk, Dots glared at me and uttered through clenced teeth, "No one else's parents are in here! Please leave!"


Sadly, I guess this will be our last year to walk anyone to their classroom on the first day of school. It seems like just yesterday that each of them was in kindergarten and didn't want me to leave.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A few good things.

I apologize for the lack of posts lately.

My kids start school on Monday, and I have already had a full schedule of volunteer orientations, "meet the teacher" opportunities, etc.  I worked at the high school one day this week, helping with junior registration (my job was to hand out book covers and to tell the kids that only paper covers could be used this year - I was real popular, let me tell you).  I'm also the "chair-elect" for online registration at the girls' school.  This week and next I get to deal with the people who didn't do online registration during the month that it was offered and listen to them complain about why we only accept cashier's checks or money orders for yearbook orders, directories, PTA memberships, etc. at this point.  All of the things involving money are optional, but we do need everyone to fill out health forms, federally mandated migrant worker & home language surveys and the like.  Sometimes just I have to bite my tongue to avoid screaming, "I am just a volunteer!  I'd rather be home working on my blog than dealing with you!"  But, I digress.  I'm sure you're wondering when the title of this post is going to come into play.

Thank you so very much for all of your kind words of encouragement and your prayers for Vivian.  She has been eating much better lately (thanks to her speech therapist, Melinda, and her after school teacher, Cheryl).  She has generally been pretty sweet (except for hurling her doll at every one of Dots' and Hockey Boy's friends who's come over to our house this week).  Yesterday when we visited Vivian's classroom at her school, her teacher told me that starting Monday the district is going to pay an aide to come to our house every morning and help me get Vivian on the bus.  Wow!  I never dreamed that was an option.  I am so excited!  We adore this particular teacher of Vivian's.  This will be her third year in the Life Skills room with Vivian.  She stayed with Vivian earlier this month when we took Dots to camp, and she had a hard time getting Vivian on the bus for summer school the two mornings she was here.  So she talked to some administrators about what the school could do to help with the situation, and this was their solution.  We have had multiple instances where teachers and administrators have advocated for Vivian without our having complained, and we are so very grateful.

Now that I've rambled on, I'm about to be late for my morning walk.  There is a reason I usually post in the evenings: my thoughts are too scattered in the mornings.  I should probably take up coffee...  

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Vivian had a big seizure yesterday around noon. It was the first episode I've witnessed since we came home from the hospital a month ago. It's discouraging to me because I've been tolerant of the negative side effects of the new medicine, believing it was really helping with the seizures. It has helped, no doubt, because we're seeing significantly fewer seizures than before, but I'd hoped that in exchange for the increased agitation, drowsiness and muscle weakness, we might be rid of the seizures. Unfortunately that doesn't appear to be the case.

Vivian's appetite has also disappeared. We've been through this before so I know a few strategies to combat it, but it's not fun. Vivian refuses all offers of even her most favorite foods, so I resort to feeding her while she's asleep. I combine Cream of Wheat with whipping cream and eggs and cook it. Then I alternate bites of that lovely concoction with spoonfuls of fruit and broccoli. Yuck, I know, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Amazingly, though, she will open her mouth on command and chew and swallow, all without seeming to awaken. She even tolerates my brushing her teeth afterward! Not ideal, but preferable to having bowls of food thrown at me when I offer them during waking hours. {sigh}

School starts on Monday. Please pray that Vivian's mood improves by then and that she climbs onto her bus willingly each morning. Otherwise I have to summon Will to help me retrieve Vivian from the bushes or the neighbor's yard and assist me in carrying her onto the bus. It's not pretty, but I think if I allow her not to get on the bus, I am rewarding the behavior, plus I may be late taking the other children to school if she similarly refuses to get into my car at that time. Also pray that being back in the school routine, Vivian will resume eating her favorite school lunch of a baked potato and grapes (and cake for dessert if she's been cooperative; she comes home and tells me proudly that she "learned" some cake on those days).

Sorry to vent, but thanks for listening. I so appreciate everyone's prayers and encouragement in regard to Vivian.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Now that Hockey Boy is home from his travels, his *Daddyman* declared that it was time for Hockey Boy to finish that Eagle Scout project (which has possibly dragged on longer than any project in the history of Boy Scouts).

His dependable friend James came over yesterday to help put the finishing touches on the wood duck boxes. Hinges and latches were attached to the roofs to make the boxes accessible for cleaning after the ducks move out each year. Holes were bored in the front of each box to allow the ducks to enter and exit.



Hockey Boy and James were pleased with the finished products, but Quality Control (a.k.a. Daddyman) stepped in and made them redo a few things (QC didn't buy James and Hockey Boy's suggestion that there be upper- and lower-end housing options).

Vivian was playing in the backyard and wanted to help too!

After every house was deemed adequate, the boys took them out to White Rock Lake and attached them to the poles that Hockey Boy and James and their friend Robert had set in cement several weeks ago. They added "predator guards" below each box, and voila! The project was finished.


I was not the onsite photographer, but I am told that somewhere in here is a finished and installed wood duck nesting box (I believe I can make out the reflection of the predator guard)

Hockey Boy plans to add wood chips to each box shortly before nesting season and he will probably go back out to the lake for some sort of photo op with the Audubon Society, but otherwise he is ready to proceed with the paperwork and final sign-off for his Eagle Scout rank.

This project was a great learning experience for Hockey Boy. Everything took longer and cost more than he had anticipated (sound familiar to anyone who's done any home improvement projects?), and the challenge of recruiting and managing helpers was valuable training as well.

I am thrilled to have my back porch cleaned off and to check one thing off my "things to nag Hockey Boy about" list!

Friday, August 15, 2008


My friend JoAnn and I started our blogs at the same time. She *tagged* me last week - a first for me.  Her instructions were to copy and paste this list of questions to my blog, fill in new answers and then tag someone else.

1. Where is your cell phone? in my car, charging 

2. Your significant other? Where is he?   Took a rare day off to use a gift certificate for a billiards lesson with Hockey Boy (a Christmas gift from his mom and me).  Now he's gone to see The Dark Knight

3. Your hair? highlighted blonde (haven't seen the real color in quite some time!)

4. Your mother?  spending the summer at her house in Jackson Hole 

5. Your father?  with my mom 

6. Your favorite things? family, travel, good food, good company, puzzles and games

7. Your dream last night? I can't remember.

8. Your favorite drink?  Cosmopolitan with Grand Marnier

9. Your dream/goal?  to be a valued wife, friend, daughter and mother and raise happy, responsible children, would also love to have a flat in Paris one day!

10. The room you’re in?  upstairs hallway (home of the kids' computer - I prefer their Mac to my PC - are you proud, JoAnn?) 

11. Your hobby?  playing duplicate bridge, reading, knitting, messing around on the computer

12. Your fear?  losing my children

13. Where do you want to be in 6 years?  at Hockey Boy's college graduation!

14. What you’re not?  thrifty

15. Muffins?  blueberry or bran

16. One of your wish list items?  Audubon Octavo Common Cardinal Grosbeak print (illusive and expensive)

17. Where you grew up?  Atlanta, Georgia

18. The last thing you did?  went back-to-school shopping with my girls (one who loves to shop and one who lays on the floor and screams when I try to get her to try anything on - hmmm... I'll let you guess which is which)

19. What are you wearing?  Lacoste shirt and cotton capri pants (my "uniform")

20. Favorite gadget?  my cell phone

21. Your pets?  Percy & Ginny (cats)

22. Your computer?  iMac (kids) & Dell PC

23. Your mood?  content

24. Missing someone?  my grandparents & my friend Amanda 

25. Your car?  white Yukon XL (don't like it but can't convince Robert I need a new car)

26. Something you’re not wearing?  a sweater

27. Favorite store?  a boutique called Mary Beth

28. Like someone?  I have an unrequited crush on Colin Firth 

29. Your favorite color?   pink  

30. When is the last time you laughed?  last night when Hockey Boy had two friends join us for dinner

31. Last time you cried?  when I watched the Christian the Lion video on You Tube

I tag Nancy and LibrarianLisa.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hockey Boy in Ireland, part IV.

Hockey Boy is home! He hit the ground running seeing friends, attending school choir practice, seeing friends, going to the dentist, and have I mentioned seeing friends? He hasn't stayed home long enough for us to glean many details from him about the trip, but from what I can gather, he had a great time. Hockey Boy thought Ireland was beautiful but said it rains a lot there (as evidenced by his two duffels full of wet, *fragrant* clothes and *stuff*). He was very proud of the many neckerchiefs that he acquired via trading and of the European football jerseys he purchased for himself.

We received this final report from his Scout leader. Thank goodness this wonderful man has a knack for details that Hockey Boy woefully lacks.

What a glorious morning! The tents were dry and blue sky was peeking out of the clouds. The cold front apparently left during the night. As I write (noon-ish) it feels like the low 60's. Absolutely delightful.

Today's theme is "Air". We went to the "airport" (warehouse building where we pick up our food) to pick up our "flight tickets" (itineraries). From there we went to locations like "Area 51" and "Heuston" [sic], Activities include a flight simulator, bungee jumping, hot air balloon (which has yet to be inflated) rides, helicopter (2-seat Robinson) rides around the campsite, air hockey, wind tunnel. Several activities are straight from the amusement park. Pictures [coming later] will best describe them. The helicopter rides were age restricted and chosen by lottery; luck was not on our side for this itinerary. We spoke with the guy who ran the simulator and he came in from the UK to set up the area. The Irish air force has only a couple of planes, so were not expecting a jet fly over as we'd find at A.P. Hill (site of the US National Jamborees). There was a old (by my standards) plane that flew over the site a couple of times.

At the helicopter loading area we saw another Scout from our hometown. He was staffing the line to take Scouts, two at a time to board the copter. With that connection, he let us in on the air field, but not for a ride. We did get up close to the two acrobatic planes that flew later in the afternoon. The runway is a grass field and they were launching gliders, though I doubt that any Scouts were on board.

We found out that Ireland has the highest per capita ownership of helicopter than any other country. And with this weather, go figure. When we were on our driving tour last week (which seems like a long time ago) we saw one parked in the front yard of a farm house.

The Irish Coast Guard performed a rescue demonstration with a big helicopter in front of the racetrack grandstand. Following that was an acrobatic demo by one of the planes that we saw on the landing field earlier in the day.

The hot air balloon was supposed to take off in the morning, but their schedule changed to the evening (~8:00).

The Troop was invited by a Dublin troop for dinner. They ate a chicken and rice curry dish. Apparently the menu called for fish, but they decided to change it. The food system really works well. I've overheard other Scout leaders say that they are getting too much food. Any morning the Scouts can have cereal besides the standard issue. Today's issue was fruit, muffins, & OJ. Lunch is typically hoagie sandwiches - cold cuts on a roll.

One of our scouts volunteered to help out on the rappelling wall and was rewarded with an embroidered hoodie. Another of our scouts earned a special necker for winning first place in a sub camp scavenger hunt.

The bank is still well funded, which means that no one has run out of money ... yet.

At night, the village became an outdoor disco. The scouts wandered into camp around midnight, even though the music played until "half twelve" (12:30 am).

We can see stars again tonight, but rumor has it that we were due for some wet weather over night. We'll see.


The rain started during the night, and when we woke up it was raining quite hard. Just so that no one gets the wrong impression, everyone has remained dry. The tents are known as "Icelandics" and sleep 6. That's 6 small-ish Scouts. We've packed 4 to a tent, so everyone's got plenty of room.

Three additional adult leaders from the 94th joined us yesterday. They awoke early to prepare the group a traditional Irish breakfast - Rashers (thick bacon), sausages,
"pudding" (which is actually a sausage with various "ingredients", all of which we were told not to ask), scrambled eggs, and baked beans.

Today is an open day, meaning that we can go to any activity we want without requiring tickets. The weather cleared up for the moment and the our Scouts are busy trading neckers and patches. Our other leader has been eyeing a Scout hat from Northern Ireland, but the deal has yet to be finalized. We still get a steady stream of people wanting to trade for our "Texas" stuff.

This will be the last eMail from Punchestown, as we are packing up this afternoon and attending the closing ceremony. The bus is picking us up at 5:30 tomorrow morning for our 10:30 flight. We found that the North Carolina troop here is also on our flight, but their bus departs the Jamboree at 4:30. We are less than an hour from the Dublin airport, so don't fret that we'll miss our flight.

See you all at DFW tomorrow!

Failte! (Irish for "good-bye")


Hockey Boy (center) being hoisted up by some Scouts from his troop (in the red, white and blue neckers) and some Irish Scouts (in the multi-colored neckers)


The Jamboree "Supermarket"

My dad and mom in Ireland back in June (note from my dad: "This is our hike out of Glendalough. You can see the crosstie walkway.")

I am in North Carolina tonight to pick up Dots from camp. Oh, how I love this part of the country! The weather and scenery are just wonderful. I ate a good dinner at a little Italian place nearby - took my book (Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie) and my NY Times crossword and had a lovely, quiet meal.

Camp gates open at 8:00 in the morning. I can hardly wait to see Dots!

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Dots (center, back row) with her cabinmates
Dots camp
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Making a 'god's-eye' in Arts and Crafts

Sunday, August 10, 2008

All quiet on the home front.

With Hockey Boy in Ireland and Dots in North Carolina, our house is entirely too quiet.  I think Vivian has enjoyed the extra attention, but she's also confused about where everyone is.  At one point I asked her where Will was and she replied, "At the vet."  This is not a good thing because in Vivian's mind our dog, Sam, and cats, Jack and Tigger, each of whom died four to five years ago, are all "at the vet."

The other night I was lying down with Vivian after saying her prayers and tucking her in, when she said, "I am not happy."  I asked her why, and her reply was, "I am angry."  My queries of "What's wrong?" were all answered with "I am sad, I am ___" (fill in the negative emotion) until finally she told me, "I miss Will."

Vivian's seizures have been much improved since we added Keppra to her medication cocktail a few weeks ago.  She has been very agitated and aggressive, though, and is sleeping entirely too much (up to 18 hours a day).  She also has been having some issues with her balance being off-kilter, and her face is breaking out something terrible.  We saw her neurologist this week, and he said these were all normal side effects while Vivian's body adjusts to the medication.  He added 200 mg. twice a day of Vitamin B-6 to help offset the behavioral effects of the Keppra. That seems to be helping as Vivian's been much sweeter and less oppositional the past few days.

Last night Vivian, Robert and I ate at our favorite Mexican restaurant.  Vivian insisted on taking her life-size stuffed dalmatian with her.  I wish I had brought my camera!  The "four" of us sat in a booth in the bar area, which was great because we were in view of a TV that was showing the Olympics.  We watched Michael Phelps compete in the 400-meter individual medley, and when he finished with the gold and a new world record, the whole restaurant erupted in cheers.  It was quite a fun experience.

Hockey Boy returns home tonight, and I pick Dots up from camp on Wednesday.  I'm looking forward to enjoying the last few weeks of summer with everyone home.  Now if we could just do something about this Texas heat...

Dots at camp (upper left)

Ambassador Foley
Will & his troop contingent with the US Ambassador to Ireland, Tom Foley (Hockey Boy is third from the right)