Sunday, April 26, 2009

Random Shots From Emma's 4th Birthday Party

Some random scenes from the party today, April 25, 2009.

Video shot by mommy. Editing courtesy of the Flipcam software.

One Of Those Pictures

Every now and then, you get to take one of those pictures that you know she's just going to hate you for when she gets older,

Today in Baltimore, the temperature was in the mid 90s. Merrilee got all dressed up and went to her first birthday party. Her friend across the street, Emma Lucas, celebrated her 4th birthday.

Merrill had a great time and says thank you to Emma and Mr. Dave and Mrs. Jessica.

On the way home, she made a pit stop in the downstairs bathroom. This is one of those pictures we couldn't avoid...

When she gets older, we hope she'll see the humor in this!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Weather Is Here And She Is So Beautiful

Well this is supposed to be a beautiful weekend in Baltimore. Merrilee had a big breakfast, and then she wanted to play with her Easter eggs. She also likes to carry her stacking cups in the Easter basket too.

And Merrilee tried on a lot of spring and summer outfits today too. From the looks of these pictures, it would appear she is ready for the beach. Or perhaps, Disney World for her 2nd birthday.

She is a piece of work. And, we love her.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Moving Forward

Thanks to everyone who supported us through Nana Miller's passing. We are moving forward with life and we will always cherish the good memories of her.

We haven't posted much video lately, so we though some was due. Every night, Merrilee has a little ritual when it's bedtime. She's really coming along with her potty training. But most importantly, she loves to be doing things to help out mommy and daddy.

When we put on her PJs at night, Merrilee insists on being the one to put her clothes in the hamper. She always cleans up her toys before bedtime too.

Take a look at bedtime in the Miller home...

Monday, April 20, 2009

It Was A Beautiful Spring Day

Merrilee's nana was laid to rest on Friday, April 19, 2009.

It was a beautiful spring day. So many people came to visit and support the family. Nana had many wonderful flowers and plants. Rev. Mark Waddell from Catonsville United Methodist Church officiated and did a terrific job.

Merrilee's daddy wrote a eulogy for his mom. Merrilee wanted to share it with you:

Mom was a simple woman.

The things she valued and loved the most could have been in a Norman Rockwell painting.

She loved the many nights spent with family and friends playing penny poker.

She was more comfortable picking steamed crabs or eating a shrimp salad sandwich than sitting at a table covered with a white tablecloth.

She valued the friendliness of her neighbors and enjoyed chatting with them over the fence.

She loved a beautiful spring day like this one, and she always looked forward to the fall and the changing colors of the leaves. She loved to go out for day trips and rides in the car. As she so often said to us “I could just ride, ride, ride, ride, ride….”

Mealtime was family time for the Millers and until the last few years she loved to cook and have the family together, especially for the holidays.

She was proud that before she became a wife and mother, she was a civilian employee of the Army. She often told us about taking depositions from former U.S. POW’s following World War II. She especially talked of the tales of those who had survived the Bataan death march and the atrocities committed against them. She had great empathy for them and she felt their pain as they told their stories in preparation for possible war crime trials. She was proud of all of those who served in the military, including her brothers, and Glenn, and Beth.

She taught us to adore our grandfather Lowman, who worked as a policeman and retired from the Baltimore City Police Department. During the tough economic years of the depression, many members of the extended family lived with mom’s family when she was growing up, since her father had a government job and steady paycheck. We were raised to believe that families take care of each other. That it was the family’s responsibility – not the government’s – to care for each other.

Mom’s family was a combination of two families – the Lowmans and the Keysers. But we never looked at it that way. There was no such thing as “half-brother” or “half-sister.” We were just family, and we are just family, and that is the way we like it.

But we think her life really began when she met her husband, and our father, Bill. Bill was everything to her. She was especially lucky that Bill’s younger brother married her younger sister. And, they lived next door to each other for many years. In fact, at one point, there were four brothers and sisters living within one block of each other.

After Bill came her boys, Glenn (yes, named after the band leader) and myself, Mark (named after the apostle.) Even after we had grown to adulthood and become parents ourselves, she still called us “my Glenn” and “my Mark.”

Douglas and Heather were the first grandchildren, and Alma was convinced for a long, long time they were going to be her only grandchildren. It is no secret that she was not a big supporter of our decision to adopt a child from China. We think it was generational. It wasn’t just that we were adopting – it was that we were adopting from a foreign country, and China no less. But the first moment she saw Merrilee, she became Merrilee’s biggest fan. There was never a conversation afterward that didn’t include her asking “How’s stink pot?” or “How’s squirt.” The last time Merrilee saw her Nana, she helped her grandmother fold clothes, and then she played with her grandmother’s flashlight, That was her favorite toy, and her grandmother didn’t seem to mind at all – as long as were kept her supplied with batteries.

But Jordan was the true light of her life. He was the only great-grandchild she would ever know. Despite the many challenges Jordan faced as a little boy, he was always a loving and compassionate child…and they shared a special bond. They shared a love for Bob Barker and “The Price is Right,” and for “The Golden Girls.” She looked forward to his phone calls, she enjoyed his visits, and she even cherished his mischievous side. And even when Jordan wanted to hear “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” for the thousandth time, she still looked forward to 1,001.

Mom loved to dance and loved music that spanned decades. From Glenn Miller and “Moonlight Serenade” to Patsy Cline singing “Sweet Dreams,” to any song by Elvis, she just fully enjoyed anything with a good melody, and meaningful lyrics. We never got tired of hearing the stories about her riding streetcars, going to dances with girlfriends, and even Uncle Ollie barging into the drug store with a gun to chase away a suspicious man who was following her.
One of the things we will miss the most is that verbal history of the Lowmans, the Keysers, and the Millers.

When dad died 22 years ago, a piece of mom died with him. She was never quite the same. They truly loved each other. She never had any interest in anyone else – ever. While she went through the motions of living, we all knew how much she missed him, even up until the stroke that took her life. If there is any comfort in mom’s passing, it’s that we know they are, at this very moment, together again, and together forever.

From this day forward, we will we remember so much more about mom. Her generosity, her kindness, her love, and yes, even her stubbornness. There are many parts of her in all of us. Now, she will expect us to depend on each other, and to take care of each other. And by doing that, we will be giving her the greatest gift.

One day Merrilee will ask about her grandmother, and we know Jordan will tell her how kind and loving she was. And we will do the same with Merrilee. And that’s why Alma’s love for family will continue for many more generations, and years to come.

She would want to thank you all for being here today. And, she would want to thank you for being a part of her life, and for making her life so rich, and so full, for 84 wonderful years.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Farewell Grandma

Merrilee's grandmother. Alma Ellen Miller, passed away early Wednesday morning, after suffering a massive stroke over the weekend. She was 84.

Merrilee and Nana Miller

A product of her generation, Alma didn't at first understand our desire to adopt -- especially from China. But the moment she saw Merrilee, all her apprehension disappeared.

In every phone call, she would ask about Merrilee. "How's squirt?" or "How's stinkpot?" she would say.

The last time Merrilee saw her, Merrilee climbed up and sat on the sofa with her and helped her fold clothes. Nana was going blind and often read with a flashlight. It was one of Merrilee's favorite toys when she went to visit Nana.

Our journey to Merrilee took almost four years. All during that time, we were concerned that Nana wouldn't live long enough to meet her newest granddaughter. Not only were we lucky enough that she got to meet her, but they had about seven-and-a-half months of getting to know each other. And they clearly liked each other!

For Christmas, Nana insisted on giving Merrilee a Raggedy Ann doll. Every little girl should have one, she said. We know now it will be a treasured keepsake.

On Tuesday night, when we were saying our goodbyes to Nana, Merrilee had already gone home to sleep. Nana's only great grandson, Jordan, wanted some alone time with Nana. He stood next to Nana's bed and told her, "I love you Nana." And then he told her, "Merrilee loves you Nana." And then, he sang her a little Elvis -- a verse of "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You."

Merrilee and Jordan

Merrilee will likely never remember much about her grandmother, but we hope that everyone who knew Alma will tell Merrilee stories and share memories. Through you, and through the way we will raise her, we hope she will realize what were the best traits about her grandmother.

Farewell Nana. Can you hear the angels singing in your new home?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No Change For Grandma Miller

We know some of you may check here, so we wanted you to know there is no change in Merrilee's Nana's condition.

She is completely paralyzed on the left side. She cannot move her left arm or leg, and she can't open her left eye. She can't speak either. Her biggest problem is she cannot swallow. She hasn't had anything to eat since Friday.

The doctor spoke with us last night and told us she does understand when she is spoken to and can nod her head yes and no. She knows she's had a stroke, and she is adamant that she does not want any feeding tubes or artificial life-sustaining measures.

She is being given an aspirin a day, along with an anti-biotic for an infection. She has a partially collapsed lung, but that does not seem to be a major concern and the doctors are simply monitoring it.

We will try to post updates here when we have them.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Return Of The Fallen

Mommy, Air Force Major Beth Miller, is in the lower right of the picture above, as she was on duty Sunday night at Dover Air Force Base.

From the Associated Press:

The remains of five Army soldiers killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq arrived at Dover Air Force Base, Del., in a quiet ceremony punctuated by the cries of children held by family members.

Five flag-draped transfer cases were unloaded from a jet on a crisp, clear Sunday evening as families watched. The cries, the hum of the aircraft and cameras were the only sounds that broke the quiet of the somber half-hour ceremony.

The five soldiers were killed Friday when a suicide bomber driving a truck detonated a ton of explosives near a police headquarters in the northern city of Mosul. The attack was the deadliest against U.S. troops in more than a year.

Sunday marks the fourth time the media has been allowed to cover the transfer under a new Pentagon policy that requires getting family permission.

All photos above from the Associated Press. An additional story from the A.P. --

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AP) - On a chilly Easter night, two days after his son and four of his fellow soldiers were killed in Iraq, David Pautsch watched their remains arrive on a jumbo jet during a somber, half-hour ceremony.

"You see these five caskets, flag-draped, it's sobering beyond belief," Pautsch told The Associated Press afterward. "There's no music in the background, but just the stark reality of those caskets laying there against the backdrop of this huge 747.

"You're just sobered, and you have to come to grips with the finality of it all. It provides good closure. You realize that this is the end."

The arrival of the five soldiers was the fourth dignified transfer ceremony to be open to the media since the Pentagon ended an 18-year ban on press coverage of the events. Corporal Jason Pautsch's father and two brothers were the first family members of a fallen soldier to speak with media afterward.

White-gloved soldiers and airmen meticulously carried the five flag-draped transfer cases from the jet to a truck, which took them to the military's largest mortuary. The silence was broken only by the cries of children, the hum of the aircraft and the cameras of photographers who were allowed to attend.

The Pautschs' trip to Dover from Davenport, Iowa, and their decision to describe the ceremony were both intended to honor Jason, who they said often felt that soldiers were not properly appreciated for their sacrifices.

"He despised the cowardly attitude of a lot of the politicians that brought into question the value of what they were doing over there," David Pautsch said. "He despised the idea that so many Americans were too gutless to stand up for what they believed."

Pautsch, 20, and the four other soldiers were killed Friday when a suicide bomber driving a truck detonated a ton of explosives near a police headquarters in the northern city of Mosul. It was the deadliest attack against U.S. troops in more than a year.

The U.S. military said the bombers targeted Iraqi police and the Americans were caught up as bystanders. Two Iraqi policemen also were killed in the midmorning blast near the Iraqi National Police headquarters. At least 62 people, including one American soldier and 27 civilians, were wounded, officials said.

The other soldiers killed were: Staff Sgt. Gary L. Woods Jr., 24, of Lebanon Junction, Ky.; Staff Sgt. Bryan E. Hall, 25, of Elk Grove, Calif.; Sgt. Edward W. Forrest Jr., 25, of St. Louis; and Private Second Class Bryce E. Gautier, 22, of Cypress, Calif.

Jason Pautsch's older brother, 23-year-old Jared, said he used his training as a private in the 82nd Airborne Division to keep his emotions in check during the ceremony.

"I wasn't going to stand there and bawl my eyes out," Jared said. "Some people had to be strong. You can shed a couple tears, but in the end, it's still freezing cold out, and you've got to stand there saluting your brother's body as it's going away. There's no time to stand there and break down.

"You have to be able to stand there, know that he died for a reason, and then salute him for that reason."

Jason Pautsch graduated from high school a semester early, blowing off the senior prom and being able to graduate with his friends so he could enlist in the Army, his father and brothers said. He was a thrill-seeker who enjoyed hunting and BMX biking in his spare time.

David Pautsch, who owns an advertising agency in Davenport, had a long phone conversation with his son about 12 hours before he died. The news was a shock, he said, because they had talked so recently. But he said his son, a born-again Christian, wasn't afraid to be killed.

"It's a noble thing to lay down your life for someone else. Basically, when you join the Army, you give the Army a blank check to include your life. And they cashed it," David said. "God is bringing good out of this. And he understood that."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Sad Easter

This was a sad Easter for two reasons.

First, mommy is away in Delaware for the Air Force. She's only been gone one day but it already seems like a week. Merrilee misses her.

And, Merrilee's grandmother, Nana Miller, suffered a massive stroke over the weekend. The doctors think she had the stroke on Friday night, but we didn't find her until Saturday night. She is in the hospital and doctors are not optimistic about her prognosis.

We are glad she got to come to Merrilee's "welcome to America" party last fall. Mommy and daddy never had a conversation with Nana where she didn't ask about Merrilee. Going to visit Nana was something special daddy did with Merrilee. The last time we went together, two weeks ago, Merrilee helped Nana fold laundry. We were going to go visit again today, but it was not to be...

Nana came to visit us on Christmas day, and she watched as Merrilee opened her Christmas gifts. One of her gifts to Merrilee was a Raggedy Ann doll that we know she will cherish forever. Nana clearly loved four things -- her only great grandson, Jordan, and her three grandchildren - Doug, Heather, and Merrilee.

Merrilee wants everyone to keep her Nana in their prayers.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mommy's Pet Was A Star

A number of years ago, the folks at WBAL-TV needed to shoot a Mary Sue Easter Egg commercial. They needed a real bunny for the job. At that time, mommy had a pet bunny named Peter. He got to star in the commercial. Mommy later gave Peter to a friend. We're not sure if he's still living, but if he is, he must be about 150 in bunny years. Enjoy Peter's moment in the sun!


It was such a nice day today. It was about 73 degrees when she got home from school. We walked next door to Emma Sue's house, and Merrilee got on the swing set. Here she is with Aunt Sharon pushing her...

And then, of course, she had to exert her independence and swing by herself.

Snack Time

Today was Good Friday. Daddy got off from work a little early and went to pick up Merrilee from the Goddard School. Today, Merrilee's "Wiggle Worms" class was having an Easter party, and when daddy arrived, the kids were right in the middle of their special snack time. Merrilee didn't want to leave...

Merrilee and her friends were having cupcakes, cookies, and cheese puffs. Merrilee just loves cheese puffs, and she loves her little friends.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Please Pause To Remember

Normally, mommy would host a holiday dinner at the Miller home. We had planned one for this Sunday -- a big Easter get together with the Millers.

But yesterday, we had to cancel it.

As you may know, the Obama administration will now again allow the media to cover and report on the return of dead servicemen and women, when they arrive at Dover Air Force Base. There had been a moratorium on this type of coverage during the Bush years.

Mommy is going on a TDY -- a temporary duty assignment -- for a week at Dover AFB. She'll be assisting the Air Force Public Affairs team there with the expected media onslaught. She'll leave on Saturday, and return on April 19.

We're missing one holiday together. The families of these dead servicemen and women will never have a holiday together again.

We ask that regardless of your faith or religion, you take a special moment at this time of the year. Remember them. Honor them for their service. Honor them for their sacrifice. They have all earned our honor and respect. And, hold their families in your thoughts and prayers.

There are thousands of members of the military in far away lands. We know many people who have served in Iraq. In fact, our friend Billy, who traveled to China with us to pick up his daughter Kassidy, is either on his way to Afghanistan or already there. His tour is supposed to last one year and we all hope and pray he will be safe.

If you have HBO, please check your program listings for the movie "Taking Chance." Based on real-life events, Kevin Bacon plays Lt. Col. Mike Strobl , a volunteer military escort officer, who accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming. Phelps was killed in Action on April 9, 2004.

This was how his death was reported by the AP:

Associated Press -- CHEYENNE, Wyoming — A 19-year-old Marine originally from Dubois was killed Friday while battling insurgents in Iraq, his father said Saturday. Pfc. Chance R. Phelps was shot in the head during fighting in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, according to his father, John Phelps. The family was notified early Saturday of his death. Chance Phelps was deployed to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom 32 days ago as part of the 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division based in California, John Phelps said. His family last heard from him late last week, when he called to tell them he was all right after a round of fierce fighting. "We just weren't quite sure exactly where he was at," John Phelps said. "We called him on Tuesday when 12 were killed in Ramadi … he called home right after that to say he was OK. Then the next morning he was the one on the news." Chance Phelps joined the Marine Corps while still a high schooler in Colorado, where he had lived recently with his mother. Friends said he was proud to serve his country. No funeral services had yet been scheduled. The family was waiting for Phelps' body to be returned from Iraq, Wilkerson said. Phelps is the eighth person with Wyoming ties killed in the line of duty since President Bush declared a war on terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Read more about Phelps HERE and HERE and HERE.

They're not in the headlines as much as they used to be, but they're still out there doing their jobs for all of us.

And some are still making the ultimate sacrifice.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Play Date

It was a beautiful April Sunday in Baltimore. It was sunny and almost 70 degrees. Every lawn is turning green and lots of people have been outdoors cutting grass.

It was an important day for Merrilee. It was her first real "play date." Our friend Angel took her daughter Sam to meet mommy and Merrilee at Long Gate Park.

Merrilee has really taken to Sam. She loves to have her picture taken with Sam. Here's a short video of today's day at the park.

Getting Ready For The Summer

Well Merrilee has been a perfect angel since going back to school on Friday.

On Saturday, Merrilee and mommy went on a lot of errands. They especially liked their visit to Barnes and Noble, where Merrilee bought a bunch of nice books. She bought her books with money that was a gift from Uncle Jim and Aunt Judy. We are very lucky that she loves books. She can entertain herself for hours with books. She likes all kinds of books. Daddy likes the ones that rhyme. He's probably read the phrase "In your house and on your street, how many different feet you meet" at least 200 times. "The Foot Book" is one of Merrilee's favorites. She always has to have a book with her when she's on the potty or in the bath tub.

Now that the good weather is just about here, Merrilee has a good appetite. In just a few minutes, mommy is taking Merrilee on her first official "play date." She's going to meet her friend Sam and Miss Angel at the playground. As Merrilee's cousin Doug likes to say, "That girl eats like eating is her business..."

And it never ceases to amaze us, how with all of her nice toys, Merrilee loves to play with the silliest things. Here, she found another use for the container that her "Happy Meal" came in on Saturday. She turned it into a most fashionable hat...

One of the many things mommy bought for Merrilee on Saturday was a genuine, US Coast Guard approved "Speedo" personal floatation device. We liked it better when they were just called life jackets. We have a pool and we want Merrilee to be very safe. In another few weeks we're hoping to enroll her in a toddler's swimming class. She already has her pink beach chair ready too. For her 2nd birthday, mommy and daddy are taking Merrilee to Disney World. The chair will stay behind, but the life jacket will travel with us.

Looks like she's already to go, doesn't it?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Not Always A Little Angel

Merrilee has issues.

The first week we had her, she bit daddy a couple of times. She quickly learned that was a bad thing to do.

Now she's reverted back to her old self. The really bad part is she only does this at school. We hate picking her up in the afternoon, only to have to sign "incident reports" about her biting her friends at school.

She did it earlier this week. She did it on Tuesday. Wednesday, she was an angel. Then Thursday...two more incident reports.

We're really working hard to teach her right from wrong. We don't want her growing up thinking it's okay to hurt people.

So Thursday night, beside a "time out" on her "time our step," Merrilee had to stand in a corner.

Remember when teachers used to be able to do this? Daddy remembers being made to go stand in the coat closet in elementary school.

Normally, you'd see pictures of Merrilee's smiling face. Today though, you're seeing what we saw last night -- her back!

We think she's getting the message. When she's bad, she doesn't get to watch television or play with her toys. Her favorite thing to watch on TV is "Ni Hao Kai-lan." Let's just saw she hasn't seen much of it this week.

This morning, when she got dropped off at school, Merrilee had to apologize to her teacher. And she had to repeat twice, "I will not bite."

We'll let you know how it goes.