Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Tradition

My favorite Christmas tradition is one that is no longer an active tradition. I can't remember exactly which year this ceased to be our tradition, but it was bound to end at some point as I grew older...and to be honest I'm not sure what year it actually started, I just remember the tradition itself and the fun memories made as a result.

When I was a child my dad worked, a lot. He worked a swing shift as an electrician for the Timken Company so if dad wasn't at work, he was trying to sleep. Thank goodness he could sleep through anything, even a limb falling off a tree right outside the bedroom window, because in our house full of girls we weren't exactly quiet. My dad also ran a lawn care business as well. So he was busy with that from about March to November each year mowing lawns, landscaping, trimming shrubs, raking leaves and cleaning out gutters. Shrub trimming days, landscaping days, and leaf days were when I was able to go along and "help," but those are stories for another blog. The previous explanation was to give you an idea of just how busy my dad was when I was a child. He tried to make time as often as possible for the big events~concerts, field days, and soccer games. I can't recall him ever missing one of those events...he may have, but not often enough for me to remember.

Anyhow, this tradition started as a way for my dad to spend time one on one with each of his girls. So one Christmas it became a tradition for my mom to give dad a list of a few items she would like, things that my sisters and I could pick out. One by one we each had our date with dad to go pick out a gift for mom. Our date consisted of a meal typically lunch or dinner depending on dad's schedule and what time of day we went out and then we went shopping for mom's present. I remember dad reading me the things on the list and asking which one I would like to find for her. I always picked the most practical item on the list, something like slippers or pajamas. Always. Even now I pick out practical gifts for everyone. If it doesn't really have a purpose you won't be getting it from me. I'm just a bit too practical I guess. It was fun to have dad time though. It also depended on his work schedule and how much sleep he had as to how far from home you were allowed to go to shop. Sometimes you only made it into town (Salem), but I remember one year I was allowed to go all the way to the mall (Canton). I think I may have made him eat at McDonald's each time we had our date too. I love McDonald's french fries. He would tolerate eating there just because he knew it was my favorite. Also, as part of the tradition we would rotate out who was able to go shopping first with dad. I don't remember why it was so special to go first each year, but it was. Special memories.

There is one particular year that each of us remember for no particular reason other than the story behind the gift bought for mom. It was Maggie who purchased this gift with dad. They went shopping at the Joshua Tree in Salem, which is no longer there, and Maggie found her gift. It was an old style glass Christmas ornament of an angel in a white gown. She found it and said something to the effect of "oh it's beautiful, Mommy must have this." So they bought it for mom. It wasn't anything too out of the ordinary, but "mommy must have this" so it was cherished. A few years later (I can't remember when exactly or how) the ornament was broken. Each of us was saddened by its loss and the search began to find another ornament like it. A few have been purchased that were similar, but nothing else has been found that was even close until this year. This year my mother found what she calls "the closest thing to the angel ornament I've ever found." I think I'll stop my search this year since she has found something close. Maggie always picked the fun gifts. She still does. I think Katie falls somewhere in the middle of practicality and fun.

I've thought of this special tradition many times this Christmas season and I do every year. I think it is a very special tradition that should I ever have children I hope to continue with them. Special time to spend time with a parent. (In talking with my mom about some of the details of this tradition she said that she thinks it was started as something she read by Lou Dobbs [scratch that, not sure where Lou Dobbs came from but it was Dr. James Dobson] about dads spending time with their daughters, just the two of them and how important it was that dads spend time with their daughters. It is important. That relationship between father and daughter influences so many things you don't even think about or realize until much later in life.) I'm glad we had this tradition growing up. In talking with my sisters I've realized it wasn't just special to me, it was special to each of us. It is one of the biggest significant memories we have of time spent with our dad. We don't remember the details so much as just spending time with him. Just the two of us.

Merry Christmas! I hope all of you enjoy time spent with your families this year. Also, please take a moment to say a prayer for our military families and their family members serving far from home this Christmas so that we can enjoy time with our family.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Stockings Were Hung By The Chimney With Care

Besides my Christmas ornaments that hold dear, sweet memories I also love my stocking. I cherish my stocking because my Granny made it for me. I have never had a store bought stocking. It has always been my handmade with love stocking that "Santa" filled with goodies. Typically I would get some kind of candy-I especially remember a life savers book in my stocking each year-and some kind of necklace or piece of jewelry, socks and/or underwear, and a few other random things in my stocking. Also, the things that go in my stocking were always wrapped. I was surprised last year when Dave put unwrapped things in my stocking...and it was just candy. Apparently that is the Bivins tradition. Dave received some candy, but he also had some undershirts in his stocking. Funny how families have their own way of celebrating. Wonder what he will put in my stocking this year? Hmmmm...

Anyhow, back to my original thoughts on this topic. My handmade with love stocking. My sisters also have stockings made by Granny. Katie has one with her name on it, but Maggie's stocking has hearts on it because it was a second stocking I had received from Granny. Maggie was born after Granny had passed away so the heart stocking became Maggie's. We didn't have a chimney in the house we grew up in so our stocking hung on the wall. One year my Grandma and Grandpa made a Santa shaped board with hooks for our stockings to hang from. I loved it! (I kinda miss seeing it.) From that year on our stocking would hang from the Santa. So our first year of marriage I decided that Dave needed a stocking. It couldn't be a store bought stocking, it just wouldn't do. My mom guided me through the process of making Dave a stocking. This was the example we had to guide our project...


Our first step was choosing some Christmas print fabrics. I found a few I liked, but wasn't really liking all of my options. Since the USMC is such a big part of our life I also chose a patriotic blue with stars print. (There is also a coordinating red and white print as well.)


Once we had gathered and chosen our supplies it was time to actually create the stocking. (We do have some excess supplies that have been saved "just in case" we decide to add to our family with some human children and I need to make them a stocking. Their stocking would then match their father's. I just creeped myself out. Pausing for just a minute...Ok, moving on.)

It took several hours. I fought with the sewing machine just a bit on sewing things straight. I had to rip out a few seams since I like to sew crooked. Finally it was time for the finishing details...

This is mine.

This is Dave's.

His says Bivins b/c that is what I called him for the first 2-3 yrs of our relationship. Now he gets called Dave, Biv Biv, and Bivins. Did you also notice the turtle? Yeah, turtle is his nickname from high school so everything we own has been invaded with turtles.

This is where our stockings currently reside. I have little stocking hangers I bought at the dollar store a year or two ago, but we don't have a mantle or a shelf for them to sit. I must look into finding/buying/making a stocking hanger for the future.


The pictures above our stockings are something my mother-in-law made for us one Christmas. (I think it would have been Christmas 2006 when we had just moved to NC.) One has pics of Dave when he was younger at Christmas and the other has pics of me when I was younger at Christmas. Mine has one picture in particular that I love. It was taken at my Nana's house and my sisters and I are in pjs in her dining room. Katie and Maggie are playing with the nativity scene she had set up on the window seat and I am seated on the floor next to them wrapped in a blanket reading to them. Love it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Not Just Cats

If you say they're just cats-you're wrong. They are cats, but they are ornery cats. Most people don't really believe me when I say I have my hands full at the moment so here are a few stories to let you know only a bit of what goes on in this house of 2 cats. Most of these stories center around Zeus, but Zeke is just as ornery.

Christmas Tree~Each December (ok, really only 3 Decembers now) I worry about what my cats are going to to do the tree and/or my other decorations. The very first year we put up a tree Zeus decided to chew on the lights. Seriously. Both of them decided to try and sleep in the tree, which may not have been a bad idea, but we bought a pre-lit inexpensive tree and so the branches weren't real sturdy. They bent. A lot. Some branches still have not made it back to their original height, but with careful and artistic arrangement the tree doesn't look like it has been attacked by two cats.

This year I discovered my darling Zeus has been snacking on my tree skirt. I love my tree skirt! It was one of the things we received as a present at the Ohio wedding reception. I couldn't have picked out a prettier tree skirt if I tried. (It is red silky type material with silvery trim and little flowery bead designs every so often across it.) Well, my little orange furball has been snacking on the beads. I heard snap snap and looked down just in time to see him cut the thread with his claw and swallow a bead. Grrrrr! So I swatted him on the head. He looks at me and moves on to the next bead. So I squirted him with the squirt bottle and he ran. I won that battle, although I think he may be winning the war as fewer beads are left on the tree skirt. My mom was highly concerned about Zeus' digestive abilities and the beads. Please don't worry they are very small beads so he should be fine and if he isn't I've decided he shall just suffer as punishment for eating my tree skirt. (It should be noted that if he was truly suffering I would do something about it...but for now since he is not suffering I say he can explode for all I care.) It was after this story that my mother said "you don't have cats, you have toddlers." Yes. I do, very furry toddlers.

What is that noise? - A few weeks ago I was enjoying my day off quite nicely. I had cleaned a little bit, done some laundry, emptied the dishwasher, and had just settled down on the couch to watch a movie when I hear "bang, bang, bang." (Not like gunshots, but like someone beating on something.) I thought "what are those neighbor kids up to now?" because they were out playing in the yard. I hear bang, bang, bang again. that sounds like one of my cats is trying to get into the childlocked cabinets. Sure enough I get up and see Zeke batting at one of the cabinet doors. I am just about to yell at him when I see an orange paw dart out in the small space between the door and the cabinet. Zeke was apparently trying to help Zeus out of the cabinet. Zeus had climbed in while I wasn't paying attention when I was putting dishes away. Silly Zeus.

Zeus & The Water ~ Zeus loves to play in water. He's a bit daft in case you didn't know from the two previous stories. The automatic water bowl is a constant source of entertainment for Zeus, especially when it has just been filled. He loves to try and stop the water from filling up the bowl and in the process can soak a floor pretty well. (Their water bowl now sits on a towel to prevent this.) Well, he has also discovered our bathroom sink. You simply must watch the video...(facebook users must view original post to get the video)

Now he will hop up on the sink and flurf at you to turn the water on so he can play. Ugh.

Vet Trips ~ Zeke & Zeus made their yearly visit to the vet yesterday. Zeke now weighs almost 17 lbs and Zeus weighs almost 14lbs. They are rather big cats. They rival the size of most small breed dogs. They only go to the vet for their yearly vaccinations. They didn't even see the vet himself and our total bill was $248 for six shots (3 each) and 3 months of flea protection (6 vials of Revolution). It was fun trying to get the boys gathered up and to the vet. It is a two parent job because the carriers we bought when they were kittens aren't real sturdy when it comes to a 14 or 17 pound cat so they make the trip with harnesses and leashes. (Even in carriers it would be a two parent job b/c you can only safely carry one carrier at a time.) So I got their harnesses and leashes on and took them one by one to the truck. They sat side by side on the passenger seat the whole way to the vet's office. Dave followed behind about 5 minutes later in his vehicle because he had to go to class shortly after our visit. He wasn't there when I got to the office so I juggled holding 2 cats and my purse on the way into the office. (They don't really walk on a is more to ensure they don't run off.) The poor boys were very disgruntled at being carried in such a way. Zeus meowed as soon as we entered the office (that oh no this isn't good kind of meow) and I told him to hush. When I set him down he immediately hid under a chair. Zeke followed right behind him, but not before they tried to get me tangled up in their leashes. Luckily, Dave arrived and he took over one cat while I had the other. They got their shots, we paid the bill, and then the boys got to wait in the car while Dave and I had lunch before his class. (It was a nice day, a balmy 59 degrees or so, and I opened the window a bit for them.) They were grumpy anyhow so waiting in the car only made them more grumpy. (They are very social cats so being kept away from visiting angers them.) I'm just glad I don't have to juggle taking them to the vet again for another year...barring any digestive issues with Zeus. So far so good.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Really Good Day

Yesterday was a really good day. Dave and I both happened to have the day off and we didn't have any obligations at all. Days like those are rare. Mostly because we typically have a to do list a mile long when we have a day off together.

We started the day by sleeping in. We both actually slept in, another rare occurrence because Dave rarely sleeps late. It was so nice. We finally got out of bed and watched an episode of LOST. We finished watching the first season on Netflix. (I have seen a few episodes here and there and Dave watched all of season one when he was deployed with the MEU.) Then Dave went to change the oil in one of the vehicles while I decided to shower and get ready for the day. Our next stop was BassPro Shops to pick up Dave's paycheck and then off to the bank to get it cashed. We decided it was time to stop for dinner at El Cazador before heading up to Trussville. In Trussville we went to Best Buy because Dave has some reward coupons to use. We meandered around TJMaxx as well and I found a clock and two more things to finish up the redecorated bathroom. (The only thing it still needs is a curtain for the odd sized window. I'm going to have to sew one. I must sew one soon...) We hit up PetSmart to get some goodies for the boys. They needed a new scratch box, some treats, nail clippers, and some food. It was really wonderful to just meander around without any real time crunch.

We gave the boys their new scratch box when we got home. Zeus absolutely loved the catnip we sprinkled in it too. He decided he loves to sit on the scratch box and sniff it. Poor dear.

About 11pm or so I decided to finally put up our Christmas tree. I had so much fun decorating it. This is the first time in two years I have decorated our tree. (I boycotted a tree the year Dave was deployed.) I thoroughly enjoyed unwrapping the ornaments from many years ago and those from the recent past. I would exclaim with joy "cookie monster, oh how I missed you" and "yay, the butterfly ornaments" and "oh, the turtles ornaments." I decided to take a few pictures of some of my absolute favorite Christmas ornaments that I look forward to seeing each year.

My First Christmas


I love this ornament because the bear comes out of the cradle. I loved to play with this little bear. My mom has stories I am sure. I remember getting into trouble for stealing the bear out of the cradle.



My kindergarten teacher Mrs. Dickey made this for me. She was one of my favorite teachers.



I have a thing for mittens...I love them. All kinds of mittens, even mittens attached by a string. I admired these mittens on both my mother's and my grandma's Christmas trees. When my grandma heard how much I love them she gave me a set from her tree and I treasure them. (Actually, she gave them to a boyfriend of mine at the time to surprise me.) One of the mittens has a penny in it. It was how I knew which pair belonged to me when my set hung on my mom's tree.

Red, White & Blue Heart


I know this is a newer addition to our collection, but I can't quite recall how long we have had it. There is also an eagle with an olive branch that matches it. I am 99% certain Mrs. B bought them for us our first year in NC, but my memory can't quite remember. I love it because it, along with so many other ornaments on our tree, remind me of our time spent in active duty USMC life. It also reminds me to pray for those currently serving-here and farther away-and their families.

This is what out tree looks like this year...


Shortly after I finished decorating our tree I realized it had begun snowing outside. So we rushed outside to play while it lasted. God must have known I needed that snowy reminder to make it feel more like home here. .oO(Where I grew up a December without snow is rare. It happens every couple of years or so, but not too often.) So it was a really, really good day.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

News of the Day

It is 1:45AM according to the pc clock. Why am I still awake? WHY!? Eeek. Good thing I have a closing shift tomorrow or else I would be in t-r-o-u-b-l-e. Here are some random thoughts I had about posting as my status for Facebook at this lovely hour, but decided to blog instead.

#1. The number of people I know in the married without human children group is growing smaller by the day it seems. (Or in some cases the unammarried or divorced without kids group members too.) My friend Anna and I are trying to give each other some moral support with our "we're not ready for kids/it would be crazy to have kids right now" issues. .oO(Oh how I miss my Anna who lives in Savannah.)

#2. Headline of the Day: AMC Theaters is banning outside snacks from their theaters. When in the world did this become news? I thought outside snacks were always outlawed in the theater. The article I read about it was highly enlightening. Apparently people decide it is a good idea to take Burger King, Taco Bell, or celery sticks into a movie. What? Celery sticks? You mean you eat those on purpose? Oh right, anyhow...back to the issue at hand. Really this is news people? Oh my.

#3. Another Headline of the Day: Obama is upping troop numbers in Afghanistan. Oh this brings a bit of fear to my heart for those troops being sent. Say your prayers people, every time you see a headline about this say a quick prayer for those being sent, being prepared to go, those there ad last but certainly not least those left behind to wait and wonder. And still, knowing all that I know I still have the gall to secretly wonder if it will mean the USMC recalls Dave. .oO(And I get a little excited and then I think "WHAT??" What is wrong w/you?) ...I just want him to be happy. {Huge sigh}

If you already read the note on Facebook about things you WON'T see in the news you can skip this last part, but I felt it fitting to include in light of #3. These are the kinds of things that make a Marine happy and are considered all part of the job, nothing unusual about this at all. (It was originally posted in a newsletter from and made me smile...and cry a little so grab a tissue.)

2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines
Messages from the CO

28 October 2009

Sometime tonight our first main body flight should be departing Manas Air Force Base in Kyrgyzstan in route to Hawaii. They will be followed, hopefully in short order, by the remainder of our main body flights as we return home. We are making every effort to communicate with our personnel in Kaneohe to provide as up to the minute information as possible regarding flight manifests and times. Occasionally higher priority missions result in reassignments or flight changes, please be assured that we will make every effort to get that information to Kaneohe for distribution as quickly as possible.

This is a bit of an odd update I'm afraid. It isn't my intention to talk about Afghanistan or our mission here, but instead to address just what incredible men your Marines and Sailors are. I doubt that I will ever be able to express the extent of the respect and admiration I have for your loved ones in this Battalion. I can use words like dedication, courage, honor but in the end words don't quite cut it. So let me tell you what I have seen:

I saw a LCpl bring in his buddy's gear following a horrible IED strike and practically beg to go back out so he could get back in the fight.

I saw a Marine leaning out over the edge of a roof in the middle of a firefight, leaving himself in the open purposefully in order to tempt an enemy RPG shooter to break cover in order to end him.

I've seen numerous Marines standing a lonely post in the pre- dawn hours, keeping watch carefully and correctly even though no one would know if they cut a corner, but doing it right because they were responsible for their buddies' lives.

I watched a Sailor calmly grab his gear and run out in the open to a casualty who needed him, he never asked "How bad is he hurt?" or "How much enemy fire is there?", the only thing he asked was "Where's the casualty?" then he went. Because Corpsmen always come when they are needed, always.

I watched 19 and 20 year old men, who a mere few years before were undoubtedly typical self centered teenagers, earnestly try to make a young child who has only known poverty and war smile. I even saw a very imposing Marine in this Battalion who, frankly, scares the heck out of me, see a little girl off to the side of a group of kids with nothing in her hands so he very seriously went around saying "Somebody give me a teddy-bear, who has a F-ing teddy bear?" until he found one and presented it to her. The only person there with a bigger smile than the little girl was the Marine. He then went right back to chewing on his squad to keep their dispersion and move faster.

I watched FST medical personnel try every desperate measure to keep a good Marine with us, to the point of opening his chest and massaging his heart for what seemed like an interminable time. At the same time I saw a line of Marines and Sailors and Soldiers forming outside to donate blood, we had enough donors to transfuse all of Hannibal's elephants but they all wanted to do something and at that time the only thing they could do was give some of their blood.

I watched an NCO very patiently sum up all the complex nuances of counter-insurgency warfare to a young Marine while both were being pummeled with stones and physically knocking intruders off our wall from a mob threatening to breach the walls of our police station; "They want us to shoot them, so then they can make us all look like bad guys." So we didn't shoot, even though we had more than sufficient justification, and in the end what could have been a horrible incident broadcast around the world actually became a positive as the locals started talking about the restraint of "their Marines" and became angry with the rioters for their "un-Islamic" behavior.

I watched a Marine, with excruciating slowness and superhuman patience, lead an Afghan Policeman through a patrol brief. And I saw the pride in the ANP officer's face when he lead his patrol out the entry control point, in his town and in front of his people, with the Marines trailing along behind in case he needed some help. I also saw an Afghan Policeman's face when I told him that the Marines thought highly of him and had told me that "Spider" (his nickname) was a good guy to have alongside you in a fight. He sputtered a little bit then said something short and stared at me very intensely, the linguist told me "He says he is just so very proud that the US Marines think that". Once Spider was sure that I understood that he meant it, he strutted away like he had just won the world's highest honor. And perhaps he had.

I know that for the rest of my life I will cherish this period in which I had the honor to spend my days among such incredible men. And I know that it has been your sacrifices that have made it possible. I thank you for allowing me this time with your loved ones.

We are coming home.

~Welcome Home 2/3! Job well done. ~

That is all. I have nothing else to say at this time.