Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How does it feel

How does it feel to go from being homeless to having a nice warm place to sleep?
She's sleeping with her arm over her face.

She's a little one. About two months old, and the most gentle thing you can imagine. Since the day Sean found her (last Thursday) she has slept with him every night, but during the day she spends the majority of her time perched up high on this cat house right in front of the window with the warm sunshine pouring in. She and Marley are buddies (the smallest and the biggest in the house).

We are the luckiest

Another batch of homemade deliciousness from Grandma!

Two jars of marionberry (our favorite), one cherry, and one cherry blackberry. I love that we get the homemade stuff from Grandma, and just as soon as we run out we have a new batch on the way. As you can see the kids couldn't even wait for me to take pictures-one jar is almost half empty, another is about 1/3 empty, and we haven't even had them for a week.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving thanks

It's been a wonderful day of family and food, and now everyone is relaxing. Grandma B is reading the "Black Friday" newspaper (which is mostly advertisements), Sean, Bren and Brian are watching Transformers 2, and Erin and I just whipped up a batch of applesauce muffins from a recipe that she printed on www.nickjr.com. Earlier this afternoon while Grandma took her nap the five of us went into the back yard and had about an hour of fun with the soccer ball. We didn't play soccer, but instead played "keep away". We had a lot of laughs (mostly them laughing at me trying to get the ball), and it was fun to run around with them.

Bren and Erin decided to rake the leaves into a pile so that they could jump into it, but after they raked for a bit they decided that it was too itchy.

I have to say that this year, like every other, I am thankful for my family, friends, and my health, but I have so much more to be thankful for, too. I am especially thankful to have had the privilege of going to the Hogar this past summer, and for the lessons that I have learned, and will continue to learn, from the children and Dr. Tony. I'm thankful to be getting SO close to graduating from pre-med and moving on to the next chapter in my life. I'm thankful to have reconnected with several older friends, and especially Judy (who is really family to us). I'm thankful that I have children who want to help those in need around them, and recognize the need to do that (like Erin and Sean asking to buy a meal for the homeless woman at Walmart earlier this evening, which we did).

I hope you all have had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It's time for me to get the applesauce muffins out of the oven with Erin, and spend some more time with Grandma B at the diningroom table!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


While we were at the zoo yesterday Victor asked me if I would buy him this four pack of trucks. They are the kind that you pull backwards and then they move by themselves. He really liked them, and asked me so politely. I bought them for him, and when I put them in the stroller with him I asked if he wanted me to open them. His response? No, he didn't want them opened until he returned to the Hogar so that he could open them there and share them with the other kids.

I hope he enjoyed sharing those trucks after he returned home today. I sure do miss him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Our day with Victor

We chose to spend today with Victor because it was his last day before returning to Peru, and it was our hope that we would send him back home with memories of a fun-filled day. Mission accomplished!

Victor was waiting with open arms and a huge hug for me when we picked him up this morning at 9am. He came running over to me, put his head on my shoulder, and just hugged me. It was so sweet, and I had to fight back the tears right from the beginning. We gave him the choice of what he wanted to do for the day, and he chose the zoo. We packed up his stroller (in the event that his leg started hurting him), got his booster seat put into my car, and we were off. He said that he wanted to go to my house to see "dos perros", Anah and Marley, so we came home first. After a lot of excitement with him and the dogs (he didn't want to stop petting them or rubbing them with his head) we headed out for the zoo.

We spent the entire afternoon at Lowry Park Zoo, and he had a blast. He loves animals of all kinds, and when he got to ride the camel with Sean he was ecstatic. Second to the camel ride was when Sean held him up so that he could pet the stingrays. He didn't want to leave that pool area. We bought fish food and he got to scoop the food out of Erin's hand with his foot and throw it to them. He loved that, too. Truthfully, I don't think that there was a single part of the day that he didn't love. Sean was more than happy to oblige him by removing his prosthetic and pushing him in the stroller for a while. Well, push him in the stroller or carry him (whichever Victor wanted at the time).
As soon as we arrived at the zoo Victor wanted to play in the water. We figured that he would and were prepared with a change of clothes for him. He just wanted to sit in the water like this.

Petting the stingrays.

Erin, Victor and Bren on the train.
See Victors little toes over on the right? Someone was ready to grab them like little worms!
Victor was pointing out the elephants.

Victor feeding a giraffe.

Sean and Victor on the camel.
Erin and the giraffe. He kept sniffing her.

I absolutely love this picture!

All four of us had a great day with Victor, and I know that he had a great last day here before heading back home, too. He kept telling me that he wanted to stay at our house. He and Erin had such a great time together, and they were both excited to find out that their birthdays are only one day apart.

We ordered pizza for dinner (his request), and he played on the laptop at our house while he ate his pizza before taking him back home to his sponsor family. On the ride back he and Erin were laughing almost the entire time. They were playing games on her iPod Touch, and whatever game it was that they were playing had them laughing so hard that it was making us laugh, too.

It was a wonderful day, and it was spent with one of the most amazing young men I have ever known. Brendan, Brian and Erin, now that they have met him, agree. We all can't wait to see him again.
One last picture of Victor before leaving.


Dr. Tony emailed last week to say that Victor would be on the news today, and it's a great story. He is, without a doubt, one of the most special children, and my life is more enriched for knowing him.

We picked him up today at 9am from his host family, and we will have him all day. Right now we are at my house, and he's playing with Marley and Anah. In a few minutes we will be leaving to go to the zoo, his favorite place (his choice). After dinner we will take him back to his host family so that he can get a good nights rest before heading back to Peru tomorrow. I am so happy to be spending his last day in Tampa with him, and I hope that he goes back tomorrow with good memories of our day together. I'll post a few pictures tonight. Right now I am leaving to go spend time with this amazing 10 year old.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The swing

We spent the weekend at Nana and Aunt Diana's house in Orlando. On Saturday afternoon we went to watch Sidney at her swim meet (my cousin's daughter), and then spent the rest of the time at visiting with the family.

Any time we are there Erin's favorite thing to do is swing on the homemade swing in the back yard. I have many pictures of her on it over the years, and I added to the collection this weekend.

And the cat in the shoes? Well, that is Sissy, my Aunt Diana's cat, and she loves shoes. No matter who they belong to she loves to sniff them, rub on them, and even lay in them. And that is exactly what she did with Sean's shoes. She had both of her front paws inside of his shoe, and she just lay like that for a long time.


Tomorrow is going to be an absolutely amazing day. I'll share all of the details with you tomorrow evening.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Nearly everyone knows at least one military veteran. It's important to honor those who have served our country, and whether or not you know a veteran personally it is important to celebrate Veterans Day to honor all of those men and women who have put their lives on the line for the freedom of the United States. Many of them paid the ultimate price with their lives.

For me and my family Veterans Day is personal. My family lineage includes a history of Army servicemen, and all served in at least one war.

My great grandfather, Brigadier General Neal Anthony Harper Sr., retired from the United States Army in 1952. He was a military dentist, but also carried a degree in law and teaching. In 1977 the Harper Dental Clinic, on the Army base of Fort Leonard Wood, was dedicated in honor of my great grandfather. He served in World War I, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

My grandfather, Colonel Neal Anthony Harper Jr., retired from the United States Army in 1970. He entered the Army as a Private while attending college at the University of California-Berkeley, and soon after received his ROTC officer's commission, becoming a 2nd Lieutenant. He served in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and World War II. He died on January 10, 2000, and although he was cremated his service had full military honors (with presentation of the flag, military officers present, and a 21 gun salute).

My father, Neal Anthony Harper III, served in the United States Army only during the Vietnam War. He was in Vietnam when my oldest brother, Mitch, was born, and did not return home until Mitch was nearly two years old. (Neal is on the right in the picture below, taken while he was in Vietnam)

My youngest brother, SSG Neal Anthony Harper IV (Tony), joined the United States Army in 2001, and was quickly deployed to Kuwait, where he served for six months. Less than six months later he was deployed to Iraq, where he served in the Iraqi War for seven months. He has been in the United States Army Reserves since his return home. He is now in college full time to pursue a degree in nursing, and has recently submitted his packet for Warrant Officer. He plans to remain in the Reserves until he has served at least 20 years.

My oldest brother, Mitchell Harper, also served a short term in the United States Army. He was stationed in Panama and Germany.

I am proud of the military heritage in my family. I'm especially proud that the men in my family chose to carry on the tradition of service to the United States, whether it be a long enlistment or not. On Veterans Day it is important to remember all of the servicemen and women who have served, and I give special thanks to the men in my family who served honorably.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pumpkin pie from OUR pumpkin

I've been waiting for weeks to be able to bake with the pumpkin that we grew, and I got the chance today. Last night I washed, cut and baked the pumpkin and then easily scraped the meat into a large bowl to use today. I got a massive amount of the meat from that one pumpkin. I used about 1/4 of the pumpkin today and that yielded two pumpkin pies! What you see in the bowl below is the meat after I cooked and pureed it. There is about 11 cups of pumpkin puree in that bowl.
All of the instructions on how to cook the raw pumpkin and prepare the pie from scratch can be found here. I followed the instructions exactly and it truly is the best pumpkin pie I have ever eaten. I'm going to use the rest to bake a few other things in the next couple of weeks, and to make a couple more pies for Thanksgiving.
All of the necessary ingredients, minus the sugar.

This pie is absolutely delicious, and so much more flavorful than baking one with the canned pumpkin.

Monday, November 08, 2010

I ♥ Apple

Another reason to love my MacBook Pro (and all of the Apple products that we own)-the screen on my four year old MacBook Pro went completely black. I took it into the Genius Bar tonight, expecting a hefty bill for repairs to my screen. Sure enough, the damage was $1,322, but I am paying NOTHING! I am three years out of warranty, but because of the type of defect I don't have to pay a penny. This is the first problem I've ever had with my laptop-I even have the original battery from when I purchased it in September 2007! I love my Mac!

Puerto Rico

In exactly one month from today I will be on a plane with Pam bound for Vieques. I cannot wait!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

USF vs. Rutgers

Last week, while I stayed home and did homework, Brian took Sean, Erin and Mazin to see my USF Bulls play Rutgers at Raymond James Stadium. Brendan stayed home with me (said he didn't want me to be alone). USF won, and they all had a great time. If Erin's expression in the first picture is any indication of the fun she had then I would say it was a successful night.
My silly girl. She took this picture of herself.
A view from their seats.
Erin and Mazin.

Never Shout Never

Sean had his first concert experience tonight, and like his mother it was a small venue with a mostly acoustic band. My first concert was Love and Rockets at the Florida Theatre in 1989, and Sean's first concert, tonight, was Never Shout Never (opening act called The Maine) at The Ritz Theatre in Ybor. Picking him up tonight reminded me of the night that I went to see Love and Rockets. I remember the night down to what I was wearing to the concert. It seems like just yesterday in so many ways. It's so cool watching my own children now experience some of the things that I absolutely loved as a teen, and going to concerts was a big part of that time in my life. Lollapalooza in 1991, the first one, is still my favorite concert to this day. I attended the all day concert in Raleigh, NC, and going backstage to meet Jane's Addition and Siouxsie and the Banshees was a thrill for this 18 year old girl. Memories. I think part of the joy of having children is the memories that they bring back as they get older and start to do the things that we did earlier in our lives. I love it.
Sean, Aspen and Taylor on the way to the concert.
Aspen and Sean waiting outside for the doors to open.
Another of Sean and Aspen.
Sean and Taylor.

After the concert and waiting for me to pick them up.