Monday, December 29, 2008

Freedom Rink: Battle Stations

So the temps were in the 60's the other day. My iceberg was reduced to more of a hospital ice chip. Actually there was ice covering a majority of the top, but we have other problems. LEAKS!. AAAHHGGG! The dreaded slow drip...I need some little Dutch boy to come stick his finger in the hole and make it stop. See the wet area of the boards? And everything else is dry - not good. I used some duct tape and another board and C-Clamp to slow the bleeding. Temps get back into the freezing range tonight. If I can just get things back into that range maybe the freeze will help close it up before the water makes its way back to the New England coast.

Here's some other pics of the rink - no longer surrounded by snow.

Another note of caution. In the construction phase we shifted from 2x6x12 to 1x6x12 to reduce cost. We added some metal rods/stakes to add support between posts (see leak picture). I was hesitant but went with the majority. I may regret that. We have some significant bowing of the boards and supports under the weight of the water. And don't forget that ice expands...yikes.

We went out and purchased some pucks and sticks for the kids. Cory was sad that I did not buy him official gloves, helmet, and an entire goalie you have any idea how much that stuff costs. Oh my! Maybe I should rethink this hockey thing and go for a cheaper sport like basketball or track.

On an unrelated note. We took the grandparents into the city for the 60 degree weather. Here's a pic from Quincy Market with the rest of the tourist crowd.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Freedom Rink: Mission Accomplished

There are few times in a Dad's life when you get that real sense of satisfaction. This was one of those times. I've had this crazy idea about a skating rink for months. I talked it up to the neighbors (especially the one who lives next to the rink), hyped the kids into a frenzy, purchased skates for the kids on a hunch it would work, and spent countless hours on the internet learning other's lessons and mistakes. Seeing it work and the kids have a great time has made it all worth it. Dec 23rd was actually the first skate. Here's the video from the few minutes we had before running off to another event.

The next time we were able to get on the ice was 26 Dec (today) and we had the whole day to soak it up. All the kids were able to enjoy it.

Riley - always the performer.

Mary Beth - Aggressive and quick to try even though she finds a way to crash alot.

Cory - Now he thinks he's a real hockey player.

Lucy - not quite a skater, but clearly part of the family and into the fun.

Grandpa was happy to get out and slide around with them pretending to play hockey. I scavenged around the neighborhood and gathered some sticks and pucks for everyone to get involved. Before long we had neighbor kids come over to see what the commotion was all about. The deep end is amazing, smooth and slick ice, but the shallow end still needs some time before it is solid ice from board to board. I added some snow to that end to help build it up. As it melts it will smooth out a little.

The next test is a warm-up. Sometime tonight we get a wintry mix changing over to rain and then it won't get below freezing till late Sunday night/early Monday morning. All that water may test our crudely engineered playland.

This completely rocks!

Quotable Quote

Cory's Grandpa is here. He's been anticipating Grandpa's arrival for weeks for this single reason:

He gets to have coffee with Grandpa every morning. This morning Cory walked from the living room to the kitchen saying,

"I'm going to smell my way to coffee."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

0330 - Christmas "Bliss"

Christmas Eve--bathed and in their new jammies...
innocent until...
"Ted, I think I hear someone up." Ted looks at the time on the ceiling (we love our projection atomic alarm clock), but I don't think it registers, as he seems to drift back into dreamland. Within a minute, the sound of Lucy saying "Cory" from somewhere pulls him out of serenity. He presses the light on his watch. I don't think he believes the time on the ceiling. It really is 0330.
Now Lucy is saying "Mare Mare." We both get out of bed and walk to Lucy and Cory's room. This is what we see. Lucy is out of her crib, and standing on a stool next to her crib. Mary Beth and Cory are sitting on Cory's bed with the bedlamp on and a flashlight on. This is not good. Not good at all.

"Cory, did you go downstairs."


"I did," says Mary Beth.

"Did Santa come?"

"Yes, and he brought me a Password Journal just like I've always wanted, and me and Riley and Cory got a Webkinz, but not Lucy, because he knew I gave her one."

At this point the look on my face causes Mary Beth to get really sad and start to cry.

"Okay, everyone, it's the MIDDLE of the night. We're not supposed to be awake and you need to go to bed."

Ted takes Mary Beth to her room, while I tuck Lucy and Cory back in.

Then I check on Mary Beth and find that she's left a nice little note on her desk for Riley, in case Riley woke up while Mare was out--it says "I went to look in the stockings." She gets an A+ for spelling and punctuation. But it's still 3:30 in the morning!!!!

"Mary Beth, did you tell Cory what he got?"

"Yeah, he got a Star Wars gun with darts!"

"Goodnight, Mary Beth. I'm turning this light off. I'll leave your door open." And I leave, shaking my head in defeat.

Ever hopeful, Ted and I return to bed. Unfortunately, now I'm wide awake and worried that we will be officialy up. That dread alone makes it hard to sleep. And then we hear it. Someone crying. It's Lucy. What to do. What to do.

She ends up in our room. She likes to sleep between us, but it takes her a while to get back in that resting state. She does her standard squirm around, then kicks her feet feet into Ted's back a few dozen times. Then she decides she should sing. She doesn't know many words, so it's kind of a long la-la song. So it's 0400ish and Lucy is in the bed singing. This is not going well. She did eventually fall asleep on the floor. In the end, everyone slept, and we were not awaken again until 0500. When Riley came in and told us she couldn't sleep. Luckily, she went back to bed, and we all got up around 0730.

Before we headed downstairs, I asked Riley if Mary Beth told her what Santa brought. Riley said, "Yeah! Mary Beth woke me up at 3:30 last night! I told her Mom and Dad won't let us get up before 7 o'clock."

After opening all the gifts, I asked Mary Beth if she looked at everyone's presents last night. She said, "Yeah, but it was hard to see them until I got a flashlight."

the culprit :

the accomplice:

the serenading princess and the one-who-knows-better :

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Freedom Rink: Slush

I promised to post a picture of the rink full of snow. It's still on it's way to becoming the most fun glacier on the base, for now it is just a giant hazard waiting for someone to fall in the ice/slush mix.

Weather report says below freezing temps for Monday and Tuesday. Hopefully it will thicken up a bit. My orange "stay away" tape didn't make it through the first night.

Here's another pic - but this one is of the kids making snowman parts.

It's A Pajama Day

Here's some scenes of the snow outside our house at 1100 today. We're supposed to get another 5 inches today...then it may turn to sleet and rain or just stay snow. The line of wintery mix will be right around us - just a few miles outside of Boston.

We decided not to venture out to Church so the kids will probably spend most of the day lounging in thier PJs. Bleow is a pic from their outside adventures yesterday.

Where's the global warming they keep telling me about?

Reader request: Here's a pic of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree in the mud room. The family tree (for perspective) is in the living room.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Freedom Rink - The Flood

The weather report called for below freezing temps and multiple snow storms over the weekend. I thought I should take the next step in the Freedom Rink saga. Over the last few weeks many of the neighbors have inquired about when I would put the ice in, but I kept reminding them of the Farmer's Almanac and that warm weather was ahead...wait no more. Winter would finally be here this weekend.
The first real snow fall was Wed and left a few inches inside the rink. I needed to remove that to make sure I did not have any sharp edges underneath the tarp. The kids had played inside the square and caused the ice/snow mix to be full of sharp points. I borrowed a snow blower and tried to get some of the sharps out. I am sure those who watched wondered what the heck I was doing snow blowing my yard. Of course Cory and Lucy wanted to be in the middle as well. Silly kids - who is this rink for anyway?

Now that I had a nice smooth bed, I decided it was now or never. We busted out the tarp. Jason (Freedom #3) helped spread the 30x50 blue monster. Then the real risky part. Running the water hose in 17 degree weather. I used an old hose that had plenty of holes, and started about 1130. For the rest of the day I was this nervous nilly checking the water and side boards and then looking in the back of the house to see if I had busted any pipes or anything.

After about 5pm I decided to call it quits. I didn't quite have all the water in there I wanted, but it was full in the deep end and had just reached the corner of the shallow end. There is about 12-15 inches in the "deep end" of the rink. The pic below was taken only a few hours into the flood. I'll get a few more pics tomorrow to show you the latest. We currently have about 8-12 inches of snow with more predicted tomorrow.

By the next morning I had a few inches of ice on top in the deep end. The shallow end is still very slushy with snow. Today was cold cold and the next few days will be cold enough to keep the freeze going. I want the ice to thicken up before I do any more work on it. It needs a little more water and some smoothing, but I wanted to see how it all worked out first before I run the hose any more.

As I pondered the worst case scenario and at least a thousand gallons of water flooding my next door neighbor's house, I asked K, What do you think? She said "This will either work perfectly, or fail miserably." I wonder which one it will be - so far so good.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Let it 'No'

Well, most of you have already gotten this weather in some form already, and now it has finally made its way to Boston. Yesterday, in anticipation of the heavy 'no'fall, the schools decided to dismiss at noon today. YEA! The 'no' started falling shortly after noon, and already the 'no' plow has been through our circle six times, and it's only 9:00. The kids get VERY excited about this--because it ensures that there will be large piles of 'no' in the middle of our Circle to build forts in, climb and play on.
We've shoveled the driveway twice, and now it has been blanketed by several more inches of 'no.'
The kids have been sledding--even Lucy, who bugs us to help her until we relent.

Ted 'no' blew Freedom Rink of the remnants of an earlier small 'no' and set the tarp in place before filling it with water for over 5 hours (stay tuned for more on that tomorrow).

Lucy seems especially excited about the 'no.' She brings me her boots and 'no'pants to put on her so she can go out with everyone else. She looks out the window and says 'no'--which hopefully you have figured out is her word for snow, and the word I've been using thus far. You really have to know the context when she talks, or you might think she was simply saying 'no.' (Another example of the necessity of context is the word 'goggie.' It's the sound she makes for both dog and cookie--babies first words are so much fun!)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy Birthday Kristi!

December is just full of fun for the Gatlin family. Kristi ends the family rush on those kinds of days. She gets a raw deal usually. It's close to Christmas, everyone is burnt out on Gatlin Birthday fun, and most people are low on cash and sometimes just combine gifts. I try not to let any of those happen and make her day as special as I can.

I won't list 30-something reasons she is great (because I don't like sleeping on the couch) but I'll mention a few

- She is a whiz at all things wordy - just challenge her to a boggle match and see who wins

- She loves Dr Pepper - near to my heart

- She remembers all my family's dates, anniversaries, birthdays and such - better than any day-planner
- She packs up her life every few years and goes with my on this crazy military family adventure
- She's the most thoughtful mother I know

- She finds me funny (unlike the kids - see Blog title)

I love her to death and THANK God for her every day. Kristi you ROCK!

Friday, December 12, 2008


Here we go again. Yet another birthday in the Gatlin household. Today is our dear boy's 5th birthday. He can hardly contain his excitement. At preschool today I stayed through Morning Circle time when we sang Happy Birthday, and then he passed out bubbles to all his friends. Then, I picked him up early from school so that he could attend a Heroes' Homecoming celebration for all the deployed troops who have returned to Hanscom in the last 6 months. Since that included his dad, I figured he should be there. Now he's eager for Daddy to get home from work so he can open his presents...the waiting is killing him! Tonight he has requested Backwards Dinner...we'll wear our clothes backwards and start dinner with his birthday cake. Then, tomorrow he's having a few friends over for a Pirate Birthday party.

Lest Cory feel left out...


1. He sleeps even when Lucy's crying in their room at night

2. He loves to help me cook

3. He is both tough and tenderhearted

4. He's a daredevil

5. He's our BOY!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Leave it to Cory... turn the Inn in Bethlehem into a parking garage for his cars and trucks.

Notice that all the Nativity characters have been pushed off to the side in a heap.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like...


It's been a fun weeked for us. We began the weekend with the Journey to Bethlehem on Friday night, as Ted mentioned it the last blog entry. On Saturday, after some massive house cleaning, we headed out for a bite to eat and a Christmas tree. We went to a nearby nursery to pick out an already cut tree. Last year we got our tree at this same nursery--only last year I underestimated the size of our tree, and when we opened it up in the house we were a little astonished. It took a LOT of room, and we have a fairly small living area. So this year I was determined to not look like a fool again. We picked out a great tree, AND we found the Charlie Brown Christmas tree section. For $5, I couldn't resist a bare bones tree. We put it up in our mud room, and have it decorated with some of the kids' homemade ornaments. The kids and I strung popcorn for it as well. I think it rocks.
While most of the kids were otherwise engaged, I strung the tree with lights and pulled out the kids' ornaments so they would be able to decorate the tree. As to be expected, many ornaments were hung together on the same branch. Kids are funny that way.

Then began my attempts at pictures in front of said tree. Hopeless. Completely Hopeless.
On a happier note, we woke up to snow this morning. It snowed lightly most of the day--not enough to accumulate really, but enough for the kids to enjoy watching out of the front window, and enough to think they needed their snowboots! Freedom Rink will be hopefully up and running soon.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Slave or Free?

Tonight our Hanscom Bible Study went to a local church's living Nativity. It was a large production both inside and outside the church. You started in the sanctuary and watched a few scenes leading up to Mary and Joseph departing for Bethlehem. Then you went outside and took a journey similar to the one Mary and Joseph took. There were Roman soldiers, villagers, wisemen, shepherds, and a few others stops along the path. Live animals, campfires, and a new star in the sky all led you to the end with a small shelter with a young couple and tiny baby. Then you went back inside for a some hot chocolate, cookies, and fellowship. I thought the church did an excellent job.

When we passed the Roman Soldier checkpoint - they stopped us and asked a few questions, in character of course. They had particular fun questioning one of our group. After the standard fare of: show me your papers, where are you from...they asked slave or free? I couldn't help but think of the larger question there. Are you a slave to life or are you free in trusting God?

If you are in the area - here's the link to check them out.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Today is Mary Beth's 7th birthday. She is going to have a fun couple of days. This morning, I'll be joining her in her classroom to read a story to all her classmates. After school today, we're going to invite all the kids on the Circle to join us for cupcakes, and she's made a request of breakfast dinner for our dinner tonight. Yummy! Tomorrow is the BIG DAY, though. She is going to the American Girl Place for a birthday lunch with her
We'll go with her big sister and best friend Elisabeth for the afternoon--eating lunch and shopping. I might as well just hand the cashier my wallet as soon as we walk in and tell her to take everything I have!

And now, in the spirit of tradition, here are my 7 reasons that Mary Beth rocks:

1. She's funny--here lately, especially, she's learned how to crack us up

2. She's fast--don't bet against her in a race

3. She's thoughtful--always doing sweet things for her brother and sisters--like reading to Cory and helping Lucy, and writing notes to them saying things like I Love You

4. She's helpful--if I need something done, Mary Beth's the one to ask.

5. She's loving--on Lucy especially. Those two have a sweet connection

6. She's generous--sharing her snacks (once again, usually with Lucy) even if it's something super yummy like candy

7. She's one tough cookie--dont' mess with Mary Beth!

Earlier this year Mary Beth gave me a handmade card with the following written in it:

I Love You, Mommy, and I don't know why.

It's one of those gifts that I'll keep for a long, long time. We love you, Mary Beth--and there are lots and lots of reasons why!

Monday, December 1, 2008

'Tis the Season

Well, here we are. December. I looked at my cell phone today for the time (because my watch is broken), and thought, "It can't be 12:01--I just left the school, and it was only 10:00." Then it hit me, that wasn't the time, it was the date. And I thought, "Oh my, it can't possibly be December yet!" Ted was uploading pictures from the camera to the computer, and as he was setting up the folder he said in that same disbelieving way, "12-1." So, in celebration of this month and the season of Advent, we've changed the music for your listening pleasure. We hope you enjoy the songs as much as we do, or at least as much as I do since I'm the one who developed the playlist. (Ted doesn't like being associated with the country twang that I like to listen to.)

I just can hardly believe that it's December. Back in January it seemed July was too far away to possibly reach, let alone December. Wow.

Ted and I started hanging lights outside on Saturday. That's always a fun thing to do in our less-than-stellar-constructed base housing. We have the lights plugged into multiple places and extension cords going every which way so that we don't trip the breaker and leave the girls wondering why their clock is blinking when they go to bed. Then, Ted began the scary process of getting Christmas boxes down from the rafters in our garage, and today I began digging through them for some of our indoor decorations. In the process I found these hats for the kids:

No tree yet...maybe this next weekend.
On a side note, we had an interesting event occur this evening in our early evening sky. Here's the picture I took of the moon, Venus and Mercury. Pretty cool. It looks like they're sad that it's already December, too!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Today was the Second Annual Gatlin Family Turkey Trot. We dressed up the whole family in warm clothes and headed out for some exercise before stuffing our faces with turkey, dressing, and pie. We try to keep the excitement up with talking about the Turkey Trot days in advance and all Thursday morning. Whenever we saw someone on the run I screamed Gobble Gobble! (We weren't the only people out jogging - the military is a strange bunch exercising on Thanksgiving day) The kids ride bikes, K and I run while Lucy rides along in a jogging stroller. We toured the base, saw some airplanes, steam vents, ran a lap around the track while the kids played at the playground and it all resulted in a loop just shy of 3 miles.

By the time we got home Kristi and I had worked up a nice sweat while the kids were freezing. They ran inside to watch the Macy's Parade as Kristi and I did some post race stretches. Also pictured here is the not so frozen tundra. The Freedom Rink boards are mostly in place, now just waiting for some really cold weather. I wore Titan Blue to show my support as they battle the Lions in the traditional Detroit Football game on Thanksgiving.

I ask all of you to remember those military members who are far from home. Especially those deployed to Camp Bucca. They are close to my heart this time of year. May they stay safe and return home soon.

After drafting this story up I found Lucy in the living room like this. She apparently worked hard on the run and has to rest for a few minutes with her friends.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Houston, we have an addiction

For several years our kids have had a healthy fascination with space. When Riley was a kindergartener she was really interested, and we spent a lot of time reading space related books from the library. We bought a space puzzle and a space bingo game. We even planned a star watching night just for her during a vacation to the mountains--unfortunately, our plan was a little thwarted by a full moon that night, and we didn't see the numbers of stars like we had promised her.

Fast foward a few years. Ted is channel surfing one morning when he stumbles on the NASA channel showing video of astronauts in their orange suits. We watch it for a little and call in the kids...Cory is now into the space thing, and has told me he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up--here he and Lucy are in a space ship he made...Lucy removed his styrofoam controllers, so you might say they're Lost in Space:--so I knew he'd love it. During the broadcast, I notice that it is training for an upcoming launch, and lucky for us, it's in just a few short days. A little research at the NASA website reveals that the launch will be at a perfect time for the kids to be able to watch.

We mark the calendar and set the DVR just in case we miss it, but they got to watch the shuttle launch live on the NASA channel Nov. 14. Everyone got a big kick out of it, and later that night we watched it again on the DVR. After the kids were in bed, Ted and I surfed back to NASA and watched a little of the communication between the shuttle and Houston. Somewhere along the line Ted mentions that the voice of the guy in Houston sounds just like a good friend of his (a guy he'd heard a lot through the radio while he flew). We pay closer attention and soon realize that, indeed, it is one of our friends from our time in Vegas. Cool.

Now I am hooked on the NASA channel. They're currently showing live video feed of the mission in space, and I keep it on a lot of the day. I'm not sure why I like it so much--the days when they're doing the spacewalks are the best because you get a lot of good video of space and Earth--not just inside the International Space Station. My addiction is so bad, in fact, that I can tell some of the astronauts apart by their voices.

Another fun piece is the opportunity we've had to watch the space station fly by our house. NASA's website has a link to see when the shuttle and space station will be in your sky, and it's currently flying over us when it's dark outside, yet early enough in the evening to take the kids out. We had a lot of our friends out with us last night looking for it, and got to see it move across the sky. Way cool. In a few days we'll be able to see both the space station and the shuttle separately, with the shuttle kind of chasing the space station in orbit. That will be fun.
The space shuttle will return to Earth in a few days. What will I do then?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bathroom Graffiti

We have bathroom graffiti. I wonder if this makes Ted feel like he's back in Iraq. Remember the Chuck Norris graffiti?

Anyway, our graffiti stems from someone's intense love for Baby Lu, so it could easily have been done by any one of us, but the handwriting is a dead giveaway. When confronted, she told me sheepishly, "I just forgot." Apparently she forgot twice, because it's not only on the side of the bathroom countertop (the toilet is right next to it, so you can see it easily even if this picture is poor), but also on the wall between the towel rack and a shelf. I couldn't get a very good picture of the writing on the wall, but it almost looks like some of those rub on wall designs that are becoming popular in the home decorating world--only done at some cheap bargain basement closeout place.

At least we know she loves her.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Today is Lucy's 2nd Birthday. We had our friends over for dinner Saturday night to celebrate. Lucy enjoyed eating the cake, but not the singing and blow out candle part--She looked pretty nervous during the entire song, and when it was time to blow out candles she started crying and fussing. So the big kids blew them out--they were very eager to, anyway! The nerves disappeared at gift giving time. She loved opening presentsThis is that great age when kids don't try to open every present as quickly as is humanly possible. She likes to open a present and play with it for a while before going on to the next one. In fact, she probably wouldn't have known there were next ones if it weren't for the fact that her brother and sisters were shoving new ones in her lap. She'll have a few more to open today, and I'll make her one of her favorite foods tonight--macaroni and cheese.

2 Great Things About Our 2 Year Old:

1. She's a very agreeable baby--makes us wonder why we wouldn't want more of them?

2. She's still a baby!!