Monday, December 20, 2010

HOME

When you become a military family, you get used to the fact that your service member likely will not be home for the holidays. Well, I guess you are SUPPOSED to get used to it, anyway.

And so it was for me this Christmas. I had resigned myself a long time ago to the fact that LAST Christmas was the last with both of my chicks in the nest for a while.

But on Saturday December 9th, we received word that Blake would indeed be coming home for 3 weeks. He arrived 36 hours later.

That's another thing you get used to with this military stuff - things happen quickly. Or slowly. Or not at all. You just learn to "hurry up and wait." I learned that with my Army sergeant brother a long time ago.

We are fortunate that Blake was assigned to work in the recruiting office here in town, meaning his time at home does not count against his leave time. We are also fortunate that he is great friends with his recruiter and we would hardly call what they are doing......um.....combat conditions. I daresay they are having a little bit of fun.

But if you ask me, they deserve it. Fresh out of boot camp and combat training, Blake deserves to kick back a little. A two time Iraq combat veteran who fought in Fallujah, his recruiter deserves an easy day here and there too. Anybody disagree?

Anybody?

And Me? Well, I don't know what I've done to deserve having both of my children home this Christmas. But I'm not going to question it.

My girl. My boy. Home this year. I don't know what next year will bring but for now our family of four is together for the holidays.

And as the sleet hits our windows right now, our house feels amazingly warm.


*Blake and his recruiter in their dress blues - heading out to work
the Toys for Tots campaign. Gotta love a man in uniform.*

Thursday, December 16, 2010

....SO SUE ME

So.

I am really tired of parents giving up responsibility for their own children.

That is why we have lots (and I mean LOTS) of young adults running around refusing to take responsibility for their own bad behavior.

www.eatocracy.com

If you go to this website, it will lead you to an article about a mother who is suing McDonald's for including toys in their Happy Meals. She claims you can only tell a child NO so many times before you have to give in and with McDonald's getting into her kids' heads, it's just too hard.

Wha....?
I don't....
It's just that.....

WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE THESE DAYS?

Here's what I'm sick of. I am sick of people who are afraid of their children. I am sick o f people who will not tell their children NO because they don't want to make them mad.

Here's what I know. It's real easy to tell your kids NO and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Here's what else I know. It make s kids mad when you tell them NO.

But they get over it. Really. They do. They have to get over it at least long enough to ask you for the next Happy Meal toy.

child: Can we go to McDonald's and get a Happy Meal? I want that new Shrek Toy.
parent: No. Now eat your carrots.
child: UH...why?
parent: I don't have to tell you why.
child: THAT'S NOT FAIR!!!
parent: go to your room. Now daddy gets your dessert.

Period. Done. That's all she wrote. Repeat scene the next day. And the next and the next.




The only way I hope this lawsuit sees the inside of a court room is if it's in front of Judge Judy.

Do you think I'm Stupid? Because I'm not. You, Madam, are STOOO-PID. Now learn to tell your children NO. Ruling for the Golden Arches....

But since frivolous lawsuits tend to be the fad in our country I thought I might cash in on said fad:

1. I intend to sue Duncan Hines AND Betty Crocker because there is no warning on their brownie mixes telling me that eating a whole pan of said baked good will indeed make one fat.

2. I intend to sue all blue jean manufacturers because the new popular SKINNY jeans do not live up to their name. They do not make me skinny.

3. I intend to sue Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Atkins, Nutrisystem and grapefruits. None of their diets work for me.

4. I intend to sue Coach brand purses and leather goods. My daughter wants a Coach purse and, although she doesn't whine and nag me about getting one, I shouldn't have to tell her NO. They should stop making purses.

5. Ditto with the iphone.

6. I intend to sue UGG boots. I went years without buying myself a pair because, frankly, they are not real cute. This year I bought some and they are the warmest, coziest thing to happen to my feet since the womb. UGG should somehow have let me know what I was missing. Three years of my life I will never get back. Three years of cold feet. They should pay.

7. And finally I think I'll sue daylight savings time. That whole "move the clock up and back" thing just bugs me.

Since it is evidently okay to give up self control, accountability and responsibility; who would you sue?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

BATTLE OF THE SEXES - CHRISTMAS STYLE

CHRISTMAS TO DO LIST FOR MOM

-make extensive shopping list for gifts: your parents, his parents, teachers, Sunday school teachers, coaches, neighbors, his secretaries, classmates...oh and your own kids

-shop for said gifts, wrap gifts, hide gifts....forget where you hid gifts. Buy more. Find first gifts in back of closet in March

- make extensive shopping list for food/parties/meals - family party #1, family party #2, Christmas dinner, classroom treats, office treats.....

-shop for perfect family photo clothing

-insist on final approval for husband's photo outfit...

-schedule family Christmas photo - plead, plead, plead with children to smile or at the very least IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY - STOP CRYING!!!

-mail Christmas cards and family photos

-decorate tree, set out all the little doo-dahs that make your children smile. Hang stockings.

- wrap presents

-send correct presents with appropriate family member to school, office, church....

-help with class parties.

-Take Tylenol (lots)

-make sure children see Santa Claus

-put 257 miles on car looking for whatever toy your child (and every other child) can't live without this year

- spend all evening before each party cooking, baking, preparing food that you won't get to eat

-bake cookies

-bake more cookies

-gain 7 pounds in 1 month

-lie awake at night wondering what gift you forgot to buy

-try, try, try to hang on to the Christmas spirit despite that fact that you are nearly in a coma

-promise yourself that next year you will make things easier on yourself.
*****************************************************************************

CHRISTMAS TO-DO LIST FOR DAD

-get approval from wife on photo outfit. Never argue.

-smile for photo

-enter mall at 4:00 pm on December 24th. Forget wife's size and favorite color. Buy gifts anyway.

-assemble toys until 2:00 am

-wake up on Christmas and play with children while telling wife how good all that cooking smells

-eat

-turn on football games

-unsnap pants and fall asleep on couch.

-tell yourself how relaxing the holidays are

Thursday, November 25, 2010

ADOPT A MARINE

Somewhere out near Camp Pendleton California are families who took in some 300 Marines for Thanksgiving dinner today.

They drove to the base, subjected themselves to security checks and drove these servicemen to their homes for a holiday meal.

My son was hosted by a family who lived 15 minutes from the ocean and so he was treated to a nice tour of the amazing beach scenery he had so far only seen while running nearby carrying his 80-pound pack and learning to fight in a battle.

As a mother who just spent her first holiday with one of her children away from home, I am beyond grateful for the families who will take these young men in and give them a taste of home.

I am thankful that since my son could not be with HIS mom today, he was with SOMEBODY'S mom who simply decided to feed some young men and get them out of the monotony of barracks life for even a few hours. He was with a mom who has found a way to serve our country.

But then, who wouldn't want these handsome young men at their holiday table?

Last week, Blake was invited to join another buddy, Alex, for a night away from base. So they joined his buddy's mother for dinner, a movie and a night in a hotel. Alex's mother even treated Blake to his own hotel room. I am blown away by these blessings that people are bestowing on my son.

I wonder if they know. Do they know that when they do these things for my son, there is a mother half way across the country whose heart is so full of peace and contentment that it nearly bursts?

But of course they know. Because they are mothers too.

And so I am left not only with an overwhelming sense of gratitude but an endless question running through my mind:

How will I pay this forward?

Monday, November 22, 2010

WORLD CHOCOLATE CRISIS

A couple of days ago, Michele S over at www.fourtimesthefun.blogspot.com posted about the end of the world. And jelly. Evidently, Fox News had given a doomsday prediction of some kind that I missed.

*sigh* I miss all the important announcements.

Anyway, I think this article goes along well with Michele's story.
http://www.aolnews.com/surge-desk/article/global-chocolate-crisis-looms/19709231

If you don't want to click on it and read it - and I don't blame you if you don't because it is FRIGHTENING - it basically says that within 20 years we may not have chocolate available to us, which might as well be the end of the world, don't you think?

We were at a birthday party recently and somebody brought this up - how she'd seen a news report saying that cocoa beans were just too labor intensive and expensive to cultivate and so the African nations that most export it are likely to stop harvesting them.

Because the company my husband works for actually has a cocoa division, I put him on the research and sure enough he found the above article. The news is not good, people.

Chocolate may become as rare and expensive as caviar.

Interestingly enough we have two tins of caviar at our house right now. No, we didn't buy it. A Russian coworker of Paul's brought it to him after his last trip home and we're just sitting on it until we have an occasion worthy of caviar.

And until we learn how we are supposed to eat it.

Now I'm thinking we might need to save it to trade on the black market for a case of Hershey's kisses.

Ladies, we need to get on this. This is a time where we cannot, MUST NOT, depend on the men. They see no urgency in this situation. After all, they have not been warned that ESPN is about to go the way of the dodo bird. They have not been told that beer will soon be extinct.

They are not going to help us one bit.

So we must be on it.

It doesn't matter how smart you are. You can help. Wait until you are at your most hormonal and then the ideas will come to you.

It will be like the panicked mother who can lift a Buick off her child or fight a grizzly bear with a stick.

We must all channel our hormonal panics into this and find a way to efficiently harvest the cocoa bean.

We can do it. But until we find a way to avert this crisis, I will be stocking up. Our basement cupboards that usually hold extra soup, tuna and ketchup will now be filled with neatly arranged piles of Hershey bars, Dove chocolates and Snickers.

I suggest you do the same.

SAVE THE CHOCOLATE!! THE HUMAN RACE DEPENDS ON IT!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

OPRAH'S FAVORITE THINGS

Kayla and I watched Oprah's Favorite Things Giveaway yesterday.

Before I go on, let me just say; I like Oprah. She went through her tabloid Jerry Springer-like period; she went through her New Age type phase - and I didn't care for either one of those styles. But all in all I like her because I think she's generous. Really generous.

And the neat thing about this episode was that the audience was filled with people who worked for charitable organizations, so obviously she likes to reward generosity. Go Oprah.

Anyway, we were watching the Favorite Things Giveaway and really admiring the gifts we saw her give away:

a fancy camera
cashmere sweater and throw
a cruise (YOU'RE. ALL. GOING. ON. A. CRUISE!!!)
the edge brownie pan (totally want that)
warm up clothes and Nikes
a really fancy television with 3D glasses
some diamond jewelry

Wow, really neat stuff.

But the best part of the whole show? The part that was even better than the presents?

The audience reactions.

I think it's safe to say that dignity and reserve are checked at the door when you enter the Oprah Favorite Things Giveaway dreamland.

I'm not saying I'd act any differently - but sweet mercy - these people were funny.

Oprah even had EMTs on hand in case someone needed medical treatment after receiving her new sweater.

There was hugging. There was kissing. And, no, I do not assume those doing the hugging and kissing knew each other - they were just overtaken by euphoria.

New Nikes!! OH MY GOSH!! I'm going to kiss this stranger.

I'm fairly certain I would just stand frozen to the floor doing the ugly cry if I was one of those lucky audience members, but you never know.

Perhaps I'd be like the woman who pounded herself in the forehead several times with both fists after seeing one of the gifts. She looked as though she was either having a stroke (thus the need for EMTs) or cramming for a chemistry final and could not remember the chemical formula for table salt.

Poor thing.

I do know that there were lots of Christians in the audience.

There must have been because I saw lots of hands reaching to Heaven and mouths that appeared to be saying "Thank You Jesus!!"

Because we all know that Jesus is never nearer than at that one moment when we receive a new brownie pan (WHERE ALL THE BROWNIES HAVE AN EDGE!!!)

It is my guess that these lucky audience members not only had all their material yearnings met during this episode; they also had a deep spiritual experience.

I think it is also safe to say that Kayla and I will be parked in front of the television again on Monday.

The Favorite Things Episode is two parts this year.

Call 911.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

MAD FACE

For the past year or so, my kids have been making fun of my mad face.

I don't know why it took them 15 and 18 years to notice my mad face; I've worn it a lot since they were born.

A. LOT. Poor kids.

Anyway, I think the mad face started when I started having problems with my computer.

Something would go wrong with my computer - it would freeze up or the page would suddenly shrink to 50% - and I'd hear Kayla say "She's doing the mad face..."

"Look, Blake. Mom's wearing her mad face..."

"Ehhhh! Dude - you should see mom's mad face right now."

Sometimes I get no respect.

*sigh*

Anyway, recently something happened that caused my mad face to appear big time.

MAD FACE SUPER SIZED!!

We were at a small party - the three W family members that still reside in our home. My daughter was sitting beside me at a table with people we had only met right there at the party - with the exception of one person.

She told me at the end of the party that the two ADULTS she was sitting by spent much of the luncheon talking about the kids from her school and how they are just a bunch of selfish, rich, lazy kids who smoke pot while their daddies work hard to give them everything they want. This, after having asked her (in their one moment of politeness I guess) where she attended high school.

OH. NO. THEY. DII-N'T. *z-snap*

Okay, here's the thing.

I know that there are lots of kids in any school who are selfish lazy pot smokers. But to sit next to a young friendly teenage girl and disparage her school mates in one feld swoop like that is just plain wrong.

Wrong, I say!

Here my daughter had chosen to spend her Saturday afternoon at a luncheon with a bunch of adults she barely knew. She was a hands on helper with the only baby there. She was poised, polite, and pleasant.

And they slam her school.

You don't slam a teenager's school!!! It is their identity. It is their social setting. It is where they are being molded. It is the birthplace of their friendships.

You just don't do it.

*mad face*

Super sized.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Let Freedom Ring - Dennis Jernigan

November 10th is the birthday of the United States Marine Corps. To all those who serve or are training to serve as one of the Few and The Proud - thank you for your service.

And to my very own Marine - my son, my hero - thank you a thousand times over.

POST PROM

A little over two years ago, I received a phone call from somebody wanting to know if I'd be willing to serve on the Post Prom committee.

Since Blake was a junior at the time and junior parents were responsible for post prom and since I had not done a lot of work for Blake's class in a while, I readily agreed.

I was asked to be on the fundraising and decorating committees. Fundraising was a little outside my comfort zone but decorating was right up my alley so I agreed to serve on both.

I was in a bad mood for the next 8 months.

The first committee meeting was a real eye opener when the committee chair informed us that the previous year's committee had raised $21,000 and spent $18,000 on the post prom event - setting aside $3,000 for the following year as start up money.

*bump....bump....bump....*

I began banging my head on our host's lovely dining room table. Okay not really but....COME ON.....EIGHTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS?

And then? THEN? At one meeting, a woman actually suggested that since she knew somebody who owned a car dealership, she was sure she could get them to donate a car to give away as the mother of all door prizes.

*THUMP*

I fell off my chair.

Okay. Again, not really, but that scenario was better than the one going through my head: the one where I leaped across the table and began solidly strangling this woman for such an asinine (yes I said asinine) suggestion.

WHAT WERE WE DOING HERE? WHAT WERE WE SAYING TO OUR CHILDREN WITH SUCH EXTRAVAGANCE?

So that bad mood I was in for eight months included my constant reminder to Kayla that I was NOT going to be on the post prom committee when she was a junior.

I do enough for your class since you're an officer.
I'm not doing that again.
No way.
I mean it.
Don't even ask.

Last night I hosted the post prom committee in my very own dining room.

*sigh* and *bigger sigh*

WHAT AM I DOING? WHY CAN'T I JUST STOP IT? JUST SAY NO? WHAT. IS. WRONG. WITH. MEEEEEE?

The good news is that, at the beginning of the whole post prom planning season, we all decided that we were going to scale back.

We have decided to plan the party around our budget - not set a budget around the party we think will impress the other parents.

If we raise $5,000 dollars than the party will cost $5,000 including insurance coverage, rental fees, and food. The kids can play Checkers all night for all we care.

And the door prizes? WAAAAAAAAY simpler.

Because as I have been saying for two years (because I am a really, really mean mom) "Um....why, exactly, are we giving our teenagers such elaborate prizes to come to a party that we've worked months to plan and spent thousands of dollars on?"

I mean shouldn't they be giving US gifts for all our hard work?

Look, I think post prom is important. It's a great way to keep our kids safe and allow the fun of prom night to continue without the temptation of drinking and driving and whatever other taboo activities they might want to explore on 'their' night.

We lock the kids in the high school with LOTS of adult supervision and keep them there all night. We keep them entertained every moment they are there - with inflatables, video games, movies, food, a casino room, stage entertainment (like a hypnotist).....they have fun. And might I just say that this year we have some REALLY good things in store for the kids?

So why? Somebody please tell me WHY we have to give them presents on top of all that? Especially since, from all my formal and scientific research (asking kids that come into our kitchen) the kids all say they don't care about the door prizes. It's the parents who seem to want it FOR their kids.

Thankfully post prom is on its way back down to a reasonable level of expense and expectation. Leave it to the 2012 parents to lower the bar. 2012 ROCKS!!!!!!!!

I truly think future committees are going to thank us.

In the mean time, let it he known: I AM NOT SERVING ON ONE MORE POST PROM COMMITTEE after this one.

NO MORE.
I'M DONE.
I MEAN IT.
DON'T EVEN ASK.

Monday, November 08, 2010

YOUR BABY CAN READ!!

My children are 19 and 16 years old.

I consider them to be pretty neat people.

Each of them has a path set before them that he or she seems determined to follow to meet a goal.

And yet, as successful and well rounded as they are, I can't help but wonder:

Would they be even better young adults if I had taught them to read while they sat in their high chairs eating cheerios and drinking apple juice from a sippy cup?

Oh the regrets we have....

You've seen it, haven't you? That info-mercial that convinces us our children can learn to read before they even have teeth?

That stuff fascinates me.

It fascinates me because I can't imagine spending my children's baby years holding flashcards in front of their faces so they could learn words by sight.

ball
dog
flashlight
platypus
drink
baby


It fascinates me because, for the life of me, I can't figure out WHY a baby needs to know how to read.

*thinking....thinking...thinking....*

Are we going to send a baby into the grocery store with mommy's weekly list so that we can sit in the car while baby does the shopping?

Perhaps.

Are we going to hand baby a menu when we go out to dinner so that he can read the night's specials and then order for himself:

"Um....yeth, thith, thalmon here? Can I get that gwilled inthead of pan theared?"

Uh....maybe....I gueth...I mean I guess.

I guess I could have tried to teach my kids to read instead of taking the lazy approach that I did. I actually read TO my kids instead of expecting them to read to me. I read and read and read books every day until my children had had enough.

Books for everyone!! All day long!!!

I also let them sit in front of the television and watch Sesame Street.

I know!!! Can you believe it?

I am the mother who freely admits her children learned their numbers from the remote control.

But you know what? By the end of kindergarten, each of them had begun reading simple books.

Actually, Kayla had begun reading simple words and writing her name when she was 3. Blake, at age 4, was not reading on his own but he was requesting "stories that were true" when we went to the library.

"Excuse me ma'am. Do you have any non-fiction books in your preschool section? He is particularly interested in stories about our presidents and the history of our country. No I am NOT kidding."

Anyway, if we are going to teach our babies to do things that are outside the realm of "normal" for babies, wouldn't we want to teach them things that will save us, their parents, some time - take some of the headache out of raising babies?

Like, changing their own diapers? I mean, we don't want to potty train them at 8 months - that would be unrealistic, after all - but why not teach them to change their own diapers?

Or at the very least to cry for Daddy when they were poopy.

Or how about teaching them to use that blue nasal bulb thing on their own noses?

Maybe we could teach them how to recognize the signs of impending vomit so they don't project the contents of their little tummies all over the living room until they are five.

But teaching them to read?

That's just silly.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

WHY?

As the parents of a new marine, Paul and I have realized we are going to have to get used to questions that parents of new college students simply are not asked.



It's puzzling really.



I'd finally recovered from the disapproving comments made by others when he first decided to enlist:



"How can you let him do that...?
"You should make him join the Air Force....."
"Marines? But they're the ones that kill...."



And the one that continues:



"What made him decide to choose THIS path?"



We really don't know how to answer that question.



We don't know how to answer it because we would never dream of asking it of any other parent.



"Why would he go to THAT college?"

"What made her decide to be a TEACHER?"

"What interests him so much in business that he would choose that path?"

You know. Questions that imply there is something not quite right with that choice.



Regardless of how the question is meant, we HEAR judgement in it. We hear a challenge in it - a challenge for us to justify our child's choice.



For quite a while, Paul had held on to an article from the Wall Street Journal - an article written by a man whose nephew was going to West Point. He was getting these same kind of questions and he had penned a response.



Basically, he wrote that people simply cannot comprehend that a young man with the world at his finger tips - a young man with countless options - would choose a life of military service.



Thankfully we live in an era where the military is a very revered institution; however, it is still one that carries stereotypes. Many people still believe that the military is a last resort.



They believe it is for kids who are in constant trouble and it is their last chance to straighten out their lives. They believe it is for kids who have no family life or loved ones and so they seek out the brotherhood of a military unit. They believe it is for kids who want to go to college but simply don't have the money - and for those kids they can't comprehend why one would not go the ROTC route.



Blake falls under none of those categories.



He simply loves his country and had a desire to serve.

He simply looked at the Marines as a huge challenge that he wanted to push himself to meet.

He simply has some interest in seeking political office one day and believes a military background is a plus for that route, should he choose to pursue it.

He simply decided that he is capable and healthy and there was no reason for his parents to pay for his college tuition when he had a way to work for it himself.



And still, we do not know how to answer the question "why did he choose the military?" in a polite and succinct manner. If we answer with the above options, we sound pompous and boastful.



But believe me, it is getting more and more tempting. It is getting more and more tempting to come back at these people with "why did your daughter choose the path she is on?" "Why is your adult child still at home, not working OR going to school?"

Or:

"Well, while your son is finding his future at the bottom of a beer can, my son is getting up at 4 a.m, pushing his body beyond its limits, taking occasional breaks for first aid and history classes, sleeping in the dirt, and preparing to fight in the mountains of Afghanistan so that you may keep your right to ask me stupid questions. Oh, and all the while he is earning a paycheck AND building up more than $80,000 in education funds. EIGHTY. THOUSAND. DOLLARS. for an education."

Something like that.

But so far, we've said none of that. We've simply stumbled on our words and wondered why people can't simply say something like "well, we wish him luck."

So. How should we answer that question?

Anybody?

Monday, November 01, 2010

PG-13

So I was a little melancholy last night as I told my husband "ya know...this is the first time since we became parents that we've had NEITHER of our children at home for at least part of Halloween."

*sigh*

Turns out the evening was quite nice even without our kids at home.

Mainly because two of Paul's young co-workers (and wives) stopped by with their tiny trick-or-treaters. We got to meet 16-month-old Jonah who made an adorable monkey and 2-month old Vihan who made the most precious little tiger, it nearly made my heart burst.

(Side note: Vihan (pronounced Vee-hawn) lives down the street and his parents are from India. His name means 'first ray of sunlight.' How beautiful is that?)

So anyway, we had a nice visit with the young parents and we enjoyed our little visitors and all of our sweet young trick-or-treaters.

We enjoyed the entire evening.

We enjoyed it so much that at one point, between taps on the door, my husband came up to me, pulled me into a sweet embrace and started kissing me.

It was only kissing. There was no groping. He didn't even get to second base.

It was just a nice sweet kiss between a man and a woman who are happily married and still in love.

However, it probably was the kind of kiss that would make an 8 year old boy want to vomit.

An 8-year-old boy like the one we noticed watching us through our front door - the one with really cute blond hair and adorable wire glasses. He was dressed as a pirate.

*ahem*

That's right. My husband embraced me and started making out with me right in front of the side window of our front door. (It's totally his fault)

So then.

I opened the door and said (with false cheerfulness and fake innocence) "Well, hello there!!"

*crickets*

"Here you go...Happy Halloween!!!" More fake innocence as I put candy into his bucket.

*plop. plop. plop....plop. plop. plop* (I figured he deserved extra...guilt will do that to you)

Here's where it gets a little creepy.

That little boy did not break eye contact with me for one second.

He did not say "Trick-or-treat."

He did not watch the candy go from my basket to his bucket like most children did.

He did not say "thank you."

He just stared at me with...dare I say it...total contempt.

And then he gave me one final glare and turned on his little heel and walked down the front walk to his dad.

I'm telling you; if I could have read his mind, I'm sure he'd have been telling me "YOU. PEOPLE. DISGUST. ME."

Which is fine, because I was totally disgusted with myself at the moment.

Here's the thing. If I'd known this little boy I would have laughed and followed him out to where his dad was standing. And I would have said "Hey, neighbor. Um...yeah...your little fella here saw us kissing through the front window. But rest assured; it was only kissing. That's it. Nothing else. And WE'RE MARRIED!!! So, yeah, no harm done, right? Okay, then. Happy Halloween."

But since I'd never seen the kid before I just shut the door and tried to crawl under our hardwood floors, while imagining what the poor child was telling his dad.

If we were to assign a good news/ bad news label to this I guess it would be as such:

Good news: We have been married 23 1/2 years and still enjoy kissing in the dining room.

Bad news: The village board has insisted we post a sign on our front porch:

THIS RESIDENCE HAS BEEN RATED PG-13. PARENTS STRONGLY CAUTIONED.

Oh, and we had not told our children about this incident so the fact that they are finding out about this on my blog could fall under the "bad news" part as well.

Yeah, sorry kids.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

THE REUNION (MOTO RUN)

So then, after we saw Blake's platoon march past us we had some time to kill; so we headed over to the courtyard to explore the different buildings and await further instructions.



Most people entered the small Marine Corps museum and gift shop, which is why we did NOT enter the Marine Corps museum and gift shop. It was very crowded.



After that, I'm not sure what we did...to be totally honest.



I do remember that at one point we heard somebody make an announcement over the loud speaker - an announcement that asked us to please move into the courtyard so that we could hear further announcements.



So we headed into the courtyard where the drill instructor (who evidently spends his weekend working comedy clubs) told us he was not happy with the way we moved so we were to exit the courtyard and re-enter.



OH. NO. HE. DIDN'T.



This is when we were informed that we were about to get a taste of what our boys had been enduring for the previous 13 weeks.



So the DI continued making us repeat the same thing over and over again - louder and louder. And when I say "us" I mean all the other parents.



Because I didn't like this game.



I did not like it one bit.



And here's why. If I had just sent my son to college, I would have educated myself about the school he had chosen. Because I had sent my son to the Marine Corps, I had educated myself, as much as possible, about the Corps.



For instance I already knew that when the DI yelled "EARS!" recruits were to scream "OPEN, SIR!" And when the DI yelled "EYEBALLS!!" recruits were to scream "CLICK, SIR!!"



And I knew that when a DI started counting down from ten, recruits better be moving, and moving QUICKLY!



I surprised myself at my own reaction to this hazing because I think I have a pretty good sense of humor. I think I can take as well as I give. I can handle being verbally zapped and zinged.



But this? I didn't appreciate it at all.



(And on a side note: Blake later told us that he was in one of the buildings listening to all of this and he told his buddies "Dudes. My mom is not liking this at all." He's always been so astute)



Now where was I?



Oh, yeah - being treated like a new recruit simply was not for me. I had already sent the Marine Corps half of my best; therefore, I kind of expected to be treated with a little reverence.

And believe me, I was not the only mother who felt this way, there were some that were downright pouting. I was at least going through the motions and pretending to be excited.



Finally, we were dismissed to the parking lot and allowed to line up by platoon number so we could watch our sons run by on their final run through base. Of course, we didn't do this right either so we had to go back and do it all over again.



I AM NOT KIDDING.



I am also not kidding when I say I didn't go back. No sir, I did not. I stayed where I was. I mean what are they gonna do, fire my son? Draft me? Nope.



Besides I had found a spot right on the edge of the viewing area - right inside the cones - and I didn't want to lose it.



Turns out I lost it anyway.



Yeah, I turned around for one second to talk to somebody and when I returned to my original position - somebody had cut in front of me.



Uh - huh. Another mom had cut.



SHE CUT!! THERE'S NO CUTTING!! THERE'S NO CUTTING IN THE MARINE CORPS!!!



Not only had she cut but when one of the sergeants respectfully reminded us to please stay behind the cones - SHE MOVED THE CONE UP A FEW INCHES so she'd still be behind it.

SHE MOVED THE CONE!!



So I decided to take the high road and when she turned around and looked at me I gave her the stink eye. REAL BAD. After that she started talking to her husband who was behind us and motioning for him to come stand in front of me too. I have no idea exactly what she said as she was speaking Chinese, I think.



I do know that the stink eye is universal for "don't you dare," because when the husband looked at me and got the same stink eye, he stayed put.



Smart fellow.



So then, as another sergeant was walking in front of the crowd to make sure we were out of the running path, I desperately wanted to nudge the line cutter with my hip and knock her into the road IN FRONT OF THE CONES so she'd get smoked by the DI (see I know the lingo - you do NOT want to be smoked by a DI...)



But I didn't.



Because the Marine Corps is all about honor, courage and commitment.



I wanted to honor my son.



I had already worked up the courage to give her the stink eye.



And I was totally committed to making her sorry for cutting in front of me.



But I didn't do the nudge thing.



I just burned a hole in the back of her blouse with my stink eye.





Moving on.



The Marines started running into the parking lot where we were lined up. They came in by platoon - shouting cadences - running in perfect step with one another - greeted by cheers and banners and rally towels.



Then they stopped right in front of us and stood in formation.



And I saw my son again.



I cannot post pictures of him lined up after the moto run because he doesn't want pictures posted of him in his port holes (military glasses) but let me just say: Sweet merciful heavens! He looked amazing.



AND!! When he found us in the crowd - he gave us a quick wink.



Seriously. How's that for a sweet greeting?



After we got a good look at our marines they continued their run and we were moved to yet another location where we could watch them finish their run. The crowd was so large that we did not see anything at that point. When the marines were dismissed to shower and prepare for the Parade deck, we were invited into the theater building to meet the drill instructors.



We opted out of that due to the crowd again. Instead, we took that opportunity to walk through the Marine Corps museum and buy a couple of things at the gift shop. Then we found a Starbucks on base and had a coffee while we waited for Blake's dismissal for on-base liberty.



After they were dismissed, since the marines had been told to exit the parade deck ASAP, I had to search for a few (long) minutes to find my son. He had followed orders and left the parade deck.



Instead of going to the restaurant that had been designated for the family lunch, Blake asked if we could find a place less crowded and spend the 5 hours just visiting. No touring. No shopping at the PX. Just a simple lunch and visit.



That sounded like a fantastic idea to us.


We ended up in what could best be described as a rec center on base. It had a bowling alley, arcade, televisions....and served hamburgers and hot dogs.



Funny that was one of the best hamburgers I've ever eaten. I guess true bliss does that to ones taste buds.



This is also the point at which we ladies emptied our purses of the junk food Blake had requested we bring to him. So he ate a hamburger and french fries, about $20 worth of junk food and then another hamburger and french fries.



And he entertained us with stories of boot camp. It was amazing to hear this boy of mine - this man of few words - fill us in on the past 13 weeks of his life. The challenges. The triumphs. The humor. The frustration.



It's funny, I went there thinking I was going to come back with tons of USMC items to commemorate our trip and honor our son's career. I came back, instead with one sweatshirt and a Marine Mom lapel pin.



And precious precious memories of spending time with my son who simply wanted to sit and visit with his family for a few hours.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A LITTLE NERVOUS

As you may or may not remember, I did not get to watch my son graduate from High School.

He did graduate. I mean, he got all his credits, completed his classes and received a diploma. But he didn't walk in the ceremony because he was supposed to be at boot camp but then he got sent home due to a paper work error and we had no cap and gown, no announcements, no cake, no party planned.

Nothing.
Nada.
Nil.
Zilch.

So, much to Blake's delight, his completion of high school went virtually unnoticed.

Not so with his completion of boot camp.

And therein lies the problem.

Blake does not like parties at which he is the guest of honor.

HE. DOES. NOT. LIKE. THEM. ONE. BIT.

He told me this week they make him feel like a zoo animal on display.

Now as much as I respect his reserved nature, IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT HIM.

IS IT?

That is why today I am having a Welcome Home From Boot Camp Party for him.

And he is so disappointed.

Not only is there that discomfort of being the center of attention, but he found out that he could be going on a poolee function with his recruiter. A really good poolee function where he was going to get to wear his cammies, carry his pack and hike all day while potential recruits learn what's in store for them. He was going to get to be a real Marine.

And I'm making him stay home to greet family and friends, eat some cake and a few snacks and miss all the real fun.

*sigh*

I keep telling myself that I should not be frightened by the fact that in the last week I've heard hi say things like "Bam! Elbow to the temple!" and "I got to box twice in the crucible because I won my first round!" I keep trying to wipe from my memory the letter in which he wrote that he now knows how to sever limbs with a knife. I am trying to ignore the fact that he spent a day or two playing with telephone poles like he used to play with Lincoln logs. And the bulging biceps and forearms? I'm trying not to focus on those.

For surely, SURELY he would use none of these against his mother simply because I wouldn't let him go play in the mud today. SURELY he knows that motherhood is an American institution that is to be honored - like baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. SURELY the two peanut butter crunch cakes he's inhaled since he's been home count for something - and the daily letters I wrote him through boot camp as well.

SURELY I have enough going for me that this one little, itty bitty, slight will protect me from my one big bad Marine who wants to go out and play war games but is being made to sit in clean clothes and visit friends and relatives.

Right? RIIIIGHT?

And if all that counts for nothing, I think my stink eye is still quite effective, even on him.

Friday, October 22, 2010

JUST A FEW FAVORITES.....

I had found a website on which I could buy t-shirts for Blake's graduation - t-shirts specific to his battalion; however, I didn't order them soon enough and therefore was unable to get our sizes. Failure number 1.

I was, however, able to order rally towels for the moto run.

So I took the rally towels to our local sporting goods store and asked them to copy that emblem onto t-shirts for us.

They did an amazing job.

Blake's biggest cheerleaders - Echo Company Platoon 2108

And the front view - as we wait for the bus. This is about an hour before we were to see him for the first time. The neat thing about this is that Blake liked them so much he asked for one and suggested we have a family snapshot taken in them. I felt like a Terrible Marine Mom (TMM) for not having one made for him. That mistake has been corrected and we will get that snapshot taken this weekend.
There were lots of photos taken that weekend - photos of dress blues, parade formation, Old Glory, pomp and circumstance of all kinds.

But nothing - NOTHING - warms my heart like this photo below.

My marine and his dad. I absolutely loved watching them together all weekend. One man sharing his journey with another.

It is such a simple photo - poorly shot and not at all contest worthy, I know. But oh how it speaks to me.

I'd say each of them was walking a little taller that weekend.

I am in love.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

THE REUNION

We landed in San Diego at about 3:30 Pacific Time, Wednesday October 13th.

As we taxied to the terminal I saw it.

MCRD - Marine Corps Recruit Depot - the place where Blake had spent most of the 13 weeks that comprise boot camp.

Lots of yellow buildings with red roofs.

And in one of those buildings - or around it, at least - my boy was probably hearing our plane land.

How strange it was, to be yards away from his temporary home and yet be unable to see him until the next day.

How odd to catch a shuttle to our hotel, meet up with my in-laws, eat an amazing Mexican dinner and walk around Old Town without him, knowing that he was just a few minutes away by car.

I was a six-year-old on Christmas eve; wondering if sleep would ever come - if the magic of that long awaited gift would ever arrive.

On Thursday morning we all loaded into a shuttle bus and took a quick ride to the Depot where we would wait around for our sons to do their final run - The Moto (motivational) Run.

As we mingled around the parking lot waiting for instructions - but being careful NOT TO STEP ON THE PARADE DECK!!! (for we all had been told in no uncertain terms to stay off that hallowed ground) we noticed a platoon drilling on said parade deck.

Well, that was something we all wanted to see - a platoon of new Marines drilling in their Service Utilities (cammies)before their moto run. But I noticed something extremely exciting for our family. I noticed the Platoon flag.

2108.

It was Blake's platoon.

And they were marching right toward us.

I began snapping photos (which I will post later) as they got closer and closer.

And then I stopped snapping because I didn't want to take any chance of missing my son's face.

Here is where I will make a confession. I did not easily recognize my son while he was in formation. Throughout the whole weekend, from a distance, I could not pick him out of the line up. Because when the Marines say they make everybody the same, they mean it.

So as they march past me, my mind quickly went through a checklist of what I needed to look for:

I knew he was Caucasian.
I knew what little hair was visible would be red.
I knew he was about 5'11".

And then it clicked: GLASSES!!! He's wearing glasses - contacts aren't allowed at boot camp.

And that realization saved me for out of 76 platoon mates only about 15 were wearing 'port holes' (the nickname given to military eye wear because they are so large) They are also known as BCGs or Birth Control Glasses because they are NOT attractive. But they are UNBREAKABLE. Blake said they proved this because one recruit spent an evening trying to break his and they simply. would. not. break.

Anyway, my boy marched right past me - mere inches from me. He did not look at me but I saw him.

"I saw him!" "I saw him!" I continued to whisper to my family (for there's something about being around a drilling platoon that brings on a reverent feeling), as my hands went to my face to cover the ugly cry.

{It was kind of like that day some 19 years ago when I was lying in an operating room saying "it's a boy! It's a boy!" after a c-section.}

And a gentleman who had ridden the shuttle with us walked over to me and said "you saw your son, didn't you? I could tell by your face. I'm happy for you." His boy was in another platoon and he would have to wait a while longer to see his new Marine.

But that's what the whole weekend was - just families and loved ones who were starving for the sights and sounds of our boys - pulling for each other - allowing others' happiness to be our happiness for the time being.

Next up? The Moto run. Seeing my Marine in his PT clothing is when I realized just how huge he'd become (well, huge compared to when he left) The Marines had taken a drinking straw and turned him into a tree trunk simply by adding 25 pounds of new muscle.

THE GOAL....

...has been met.



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MY MARINE

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

WHAT'S MISSING

Last night, after a wonderful but exhausting four days in San Diego, I crawled into my own bed thinking I'd sleep like a rock.

We were home. My children were home.

And I had finally placed my travel weary and worry torn heart into my favorite resting place - my bed.

And yet, I lay there for a while unable to sleep.

My body felt like it was made of jell-o. My eyes were scratchy and raw from fatigue.

And yet sleep wouldn't come.

I had reached the point where I'd become too tired to sleep and I hate that feeling.

So I lay there and asked myself what was wrong and all I could think of was that something was missing.

Something was missing? How could that be? I was in my bed, my head on my own pillow, listening to the hum of my fan - my family all in the house - and I couldn't sleep? Something was missing?

And then it hit me. Worry. Worry was missing.

The worry.

I was lying there waiting for worry to make it's nightly visit into my heart.

Only this time it wasn't going to come.

It's not that I wanted it to come; it's just that it had become such a part of my life for 13 weeks that I had taught myself to lie awake and wait for it. Because night time was when it opened the door and crept in. Always. Always at night when the lights were out and the house was quiet, I'd stare at the ceiling and think of my boy.

And now it is gone - that worry.

For now.

I left it at the curb outside the St. Louis airport as soon as our son climbed into the van.

I know it will return.

It will return when he leaves for combat training and then again when he leaves for his job school. And then again when he is with the fleet. And then again, with horrible force, when he is deployed (for we've been told to prepare ourselves for a deployment).

It will return when my daughter leaves for college.

But for now?

Now it will sit on that curb in St. Louis and I will refuse to pick it up while my boy is home.

And when I realized all of that I closed my eyes and slept with a peace that had, for a few months, been unknown to my heart.

Friday, October 15, 2010

AND NOW....

...he is a Marine.



Ooh-rah and Amen.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

TEST

My son has started his final test. As we slept in the wee hours of this morning, he started out on his journey to conquer The Crucible.

Oh to be so close to a goal and have to push ones body and spirit beyond its limits to achieve it.

But achieve it, they will - with God's hand upon them.

Please Thursday. Come quickly. Come quickly so that I will know my son is safe and proudly wearing his first EGA pin.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRcxqwtUNNE

Sunday, October 03, 2010

LIGHT

Somewhere out on the West Coast is a group of Navy chaplains who work daily to reach through the dirt and grime of boot camp and shine a light of hope, goodness, encouragement, and - well, CHRIST - into the hearts of hundreds of Marine recruits.

And one or more of those chaplains did just that with my son.

We received word yesterday that our son had been baptized during weekly worship services last Sunday.

We did not get to witness this milestone event; but that is what military life is like. We will never meet these particular men who have made it their life's work to lift up young men and women who are in the midst of a hugely difficult time in their own lives.

But that is OK.

Because my son is now my brother.

And the journey before him will be an amazing one - for so many reasons.

Friday, October 01, 2010

FINALLY

We've been waiting weeks to see this video. Let's see if I can lead you to it.

www.devildogs.info



2nd Batallion - Echo company - Platoon 2108.

Third row from the top - third from right. He's the handsome sunburned red head.

And he's two weeks from being a Marine.

And my heart is leaking out of my eyes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

RECRUIT PRAYER

I have found a recruit parent forum that I view a couple times a week. It is for all Marine recruit parents but is broken down very specifically by training base, company, platoon, graduation date, every imaginable category. The parents of platoon 2108 (Blake's platoon) have started a prayer thread for our boys as they enter their final phase of training.

I post mine here, not to lift myself up as anything more than a mother who misses her son and wants desperately to see him; but merely to record it for Blake.
*************************************************

Father, thank you for seeing our sons through this journey so far. We ask your healing hand upon those who are injured in body or in spirit.

Please, Father, surround our sons, Your children, with your angels of love and protection as they enter this final phase. Give them wings of eagles so that they may soar and conquer their final tasks. Protect them from injury as they move through The Crucible.

Thank you father for each one of these young men who has chosen this selfless and sacrificial path in life. Thank you for each mother, father, wife, brother, sister and other loved one who is keeping each one of these boys lifted up as he meets his goal.

Lord, thank you for the men who have trained our boys to be members of this mightiest military force in the world.

Thank you, Lord, for the chaplains who somehow reach through the dirt and grime of boot camp and shine a light - YOUR LIGHT - into our sons' hearts. Because, Lord, my son is one of those who has been reached and has chosen to be baptized in Your name. And for that Dear Father, I am eternally grateful.

Lord, I pray for safe travel for the hundreds of families who will be crossing this nation to finally see our sons. Please allow us all to return safely to our homes and embrace our children for even a brief time.

Lord you have sustained us. You will continue to sustain us and our sons. And for this I praise You and thank You.

*****************
My sweet best friend J sent me some much needed words of encouragement one day and reminded me that Blake would be soaring like an Eagle. And so I keep that image in my mind as I think of him nearing his goal. Thank you Jnet.

Two weeks from today we will board a plane and head to San Diego. We will arrive that evening but not be able to see our son until the next day. Oh, the agony of being less than two miles from our child and not hold his face in my hands.....but we are getting close.

Praise God in Heaven....we are almost there.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

DREAM

For the past ten weeks, I've had a lot of dreams about baby boys. I wouldn't call these dreams disturbing but, like most dreams, they have been bizarre.

One night my dream was about me buckling a baby boy into a car seat and I looked away for one moment. When I looked back, the baby boy was gone but I continued to buckle an empty car seat.

Dreams about a baby boy simply not being there any more. These dreams have not left me fearful; but rather resigned. Resigned that my baby has gone and left in his place a man.

But early this morning? In those moments where I had awakened once but slipped back into that wonderful Saturday morning doze? I had the sweetest dream of my boy.

We were seeing each other for the first time since he left for boot camp.

He was in his dress blues and he was kissing my cheek.

And it was HIS face; not some abstract, non-face that appears in many dreams.

It was my boy's face.

And his arms around me, hugging me tight.

And in the back of my not-quite-awake-yet-not-fully-asleep mind, I was telling myself.

Don't wake up. Don't wake up. Stay asleep and this feeling will last a little longer.

But of course I woke up.

And I lay in bed and basked in that sweetest of dreams - a dream of my boy - now a man who is just a hair's width away from achieving HIS dream.

And I looked at the calendar and was reminded that we are less than three weeks from seeing him. Less than three weeks from seeing our son become a Marine.

And then I walked to the mailbox and opened another sweet letter.

But still, I want to close my eyes for just a moment and picture him in that uniform, feel those arms around me and imagine that boy kissing his mama's cheek.

Sweet dreams indeed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M DOING THIS

My mom sends me lots of e-mail forwards. Most of them are at least slightly humorous, if not worth saving.

The one I received today is just so disturbing I have struggled with my conscience about whether to even create a post about it.

But I finally decided it is going to have such an impact on my life (and probably yours) that I simply had to step outside my comfort zone and post it:






Ladies and gentlemen, please forgive me:


Yes, this woman is at the grocery store without a blouse. And without a bra.
But apparently that is no problem since her breasts fit quite nicely into the waist band of her stretch pants.
I just...
I mean....
wha....
My eyes!! My eyes!! Please, God in Heaven, strike me blind NOW!
When I am not dreaming of pouring bleach into my eyes, the questions simply will not stop swirling around my now permanently scarred brain.
First off; Why? In the name of all that is good and holy WHY? Did this poor woman not have ONE top? NOT. ONE. TOP?
Should we be at all concerned that she's shopping for chicken breasts while hers are tucked into her waist band? What's that about?
Does this super market have no greeter? Because surely anybody with any sense (and hopes of ever sleeping again) would have called security. "Uh...yeah...Barney, we have a situation here. Please bring a blanket."
*And an ice pic so I can gouge my own eyes out.*
Was there not one person who encountered this woman and thought, "hmmm, she has no shirt on. I think I'll try to cover her up?"
And finally, where can I buy the best, most supportive bra EVER?
Because I think I want to take some pre-emptive measures for when I actually lose my last two functioning brain cells....
And now, loyal readers, good luck erasing this image from your brain.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

MORE BLOG POSTS, PLEASE

I've had a couple of people ask me why I have not blogged a lot lately.

And those couple of people happen to be my daughter and her friend, so I should say a couple of IMPORTANT people.

And as with any question posed to me, I've given this one much deep thought and consideration.

*Thinking....thinking....thinking.....tapping chin with finger....*

And this is what I've come up with: while it's true that I ran into a little bit of writer's block a few months ago, now I think my problem is TOO MUCH writing.

First I will blame Facebook, and I intend to get off facebook when my son comes home from boot camp. I returned to it when he left so that I could give near daily posts and ask for prayers and good thoughts on his behalf. Oh and to put some cute pictures of my daughter out there too.

Plus I do like the facebook community; well most of it. There are things about it that I don't care for but I won't get into that now.

I do believe the whole facebook thing is worthy of its own post. After all there is even a movie coming out about it. But I'll move on.

I think the real reason behind my lack of blogging lately is that I write a letter to my son every night. And by the time I've typed no fewer than two pages to my recruit, filling him in on all the family tidbits and small town news, I'm just tired of typing.

And tired of thinking.

But.

If my daughter enjoys my blog enough to ask "did you blog today?" then I should be flattered and try harder to put something out there for her.

I did, after all, start this blog as a legacy for my kids. And I must say I've been validated by both of them regarding my efforts at that. First with Kayla asking me about my posts, and second with a letter from Blake when he told me he felt like my letters to him were the same as reading one of my blog posts written just for him. That was when he assured me that he had indeed read every single post while at home; he just never let me know it.

So, where am I going with all of this?

Um....I have absolutely no idea.

I guess I'm going in the direction of trying harder to record a few words on here as often as I can - for my kids.

And I'm going to do just that when I am done helping with the homecoming float, preparing for the homecoming dance, presenting art lessons to 100 first graders, juggling various appointments, enjoying fall softball games, traveling to San Diego, putting my heart back into my chest after watching my son graduate, planning and hosting a welcome home/graduation open house for 100 family and friends, stuffing my son with homemade desserts and suppers for 10 days, telling him good bye again and putting my heart back into my chest yet again after that good bye.

So yeah. More blog posts are on the horizon.

In my free time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I CHOOSE TODAY

Remember those days when your children were babies? Those days when you thought:

I can't wait until they sleep through the night

I can't wait until they can walk

I can't wait until they can talk

I can't wait until they are out of diapers

(or am I the only one who had those thoughts?)

It seems when my children were little, as much as I cherished my babies, I found myself looking forward to new phases.

How exciting new phases were - and how relieved I sometimes was when those new phases arrived.

The first week of sleeping through the night? Was there anything closer to heaven than my head staying on my pillow for six to eight hours at a time? I think not.

The first happy days after potty training was complete? FREEDOM!!!!

I'll admit I was not one of those moms who sobbed my eyes out when my baby went to kindergarten. I was a little melancholy about missing both of my children but I also looked forward to all of that "free time." And truthfully, I looked forward to my children experiencing the magic of learning - to the world being opened up to them in a whole new way.

But that mysterious free time that comes when all of your children are in school? It took several years for me to actually learn what that felt like, but that's a whole other post.

Like most of you moms who have teenagers or older children, I've blinked my eyes a few times and my kids are practically adults.

My son is at USMC boot camp and I have not seen his face in 8 weeks.

My daughter is a junior in high school and is busy and active and social and in love with life.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

But I realized the other day that I've spent much of my parenting years simply ignoring the beauty of the moment.

When they were babies, I so often let frustration and fatigue win out and I'd wish for them to grow up.

Now that they are growing up I want them to be little again and I dread them growing up even more.

I so enjoy my sweet daughter; and the last couple of months have been especially amazing with her. This girl knows how to make the most of life.

She sparkles.

But sometimes? Sometimes when I watch her with her friends or listen to her laugh, I find myself thinking "only two more years...." When she's working on the homecoming float in our garage, I stand back and watch and think "after this, only one more float." And my heart does a sad little flip flop.

I want to hold on to her and turn back time to the days she wore soft leather MaryJanes and big hair bows. I want to see the hole in her smile that so charmed us during the tooth fairy days. But at the same time I want to see her move deeper and deeper into this wonderful journey of life. I want to watch her experience the joys of prom, graduation, college, lifelong friendships.

And so I once again have a choice to make.

Just as I had to make a choice 15 months ago when my son enlisted in the Marine Corps - the choice to live in faith instead of in fear - now I am making the choice to live in the moment as a mother.

I cannot go back to the joys of those sweet sweet days when my children were little. But I can recognize and be entrenched in the sweet moment of today - the sweetness of a high school girl who lives life with joy and surrounds herself with girls as sweet and fun as she is; and the relief and happiness that comes from knowing my son is healthy and strong enough to endure Marine Boot Camp.

I cannot turn the calendar back; and the calendar will turn itself forward quickly enough without my watching it and dreading it.

So here is my choice.

I choose today.

And all of the blessings it holds.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'M HERE - ALWAYS

I think I might have hit a wall this week - week 6 of my son's absence.

Perhaps it's the new school year and having my sweet girl move to "upper class man" status. Perhaps it's the onslaught of fundraisers and projects that come with each new school year. Perhaps it's the many plans we are making for Blake's graduation, ten day leave, and welcome-home party.

Whatever it is, I've hit the wall of worry and fatigue that comes from missing somebody who is embedded in your heart.

And so today, when I went to the mailbox for the fifth time - and I do mean FIFTH time - to see if the mailman had finally brought me a letter from my boy (I finally discovered he had not) I was brought down by a baby bird.

A baby bird conquered this recruit mama's heart.

It was a tiny little thing - that bird - no more than two inches tall and two inches long. So tiny it probably weighed no more than one of the maple leaves blowing in our tree nearby. This tiny bird was obviously where he wasn't supposed to be. He was in the middle of our driveway. In the sun. Out in the open. No shelter, no shade, no mama nearby.

And he stood still with his mouth open - yet silent - as though he were trying to call for help but had not quite learned how yet.

I came inside to get my camera but the pictures did not turn out. The sun was too bright, the bird was too tiny, and I suspect the mother was too close for me to approach; for I heard her. I heard the same trill coming from our tree. Over and over, the same pattern, the same call. Surely this sweet yet desperate call could only be that of a mother trying to lead her baby home.

I'm here. Here at home. I'm waiting for you. I'm here. Always.

And then I noticed that mixed in with the pleading call of the mother, was a tiny and plaintiff pattern from the baby.

I'm here. I'm here. I'm here and I don't know how to find you. Keep calling me. Keep calling me home.

I came inside to put the camera away (and to give my heart a break) and when I came back out - just a minute later - my tiny feathered worry was gone. The song of the mother was there but coming from a different tree. And the song sounded less sad, less desperate. I could not find the baby in the grass or under our shrubs.

Oh how I hope mama and baby were reunited. I hope somehow those minute wings of that baby bird were able to lift it into its nest where it belonged so that it could hide itself under its mama's wings and escape the hard cement of our driveway and the blazing heat of the sun.


I have one who has left the nest and one who will leave when I blink once, twice, three times.

The one who has gone? I know he misses me, but I don't think he's sad or lonely or scared. I think he is where he was meant to be; he and I both know it. And yet I still hope, with every letter I write him each night before bed, that he can hear my heart say to him "I'm here. Here at home. I'm waiting for you. I'm here. Always."

And the one who has one foot outside the nest? For now I wish I could put her under my wing and keep her out of the hardness and glaring heat of the world. And perhaps I can. But soon - too soon - I will be sending her off and my heart will be singing the same song:

"I'm here. Here at home. I'm waiting for you. I'm here."

Always.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A WHOLE NEW ALPHABET

As a Marine Recruit mom, I'm learning a lot of new things this summer.

I'm learning that, for some reason, I get a little nervous every time the phone rings.

I'm learning that I have a new fondness for our mail carrier and the words to "Please Mr. Postman" keep going through my head.

I'm learning that no news is good news.

And I'm learning lots and lots of alphabet soup. Letters we throw around now as easily as we used to say "formula, diapers, fever, homework, practice, curfew" are now part of our every day conversation as we watch the calendar and mark the days until our recruit is no longer a recruit but a Marine.

USMC

DEP

ASVAB

POOL-E

MEPS

PT

IST

PFT

IT

B-MED

MCRD

MCRD-SD

MCRD-PI

DI

SDI

MCMAP

and finally...EGA.

The EGA - Eagle, Globe and Anchor is the symbol for the United States Marine Corps. Recruits are officially Marines when they are handed their first EGA pin. They earn that at the end of boot camp after surviving the Crucible.

The Crucible is relatively new to Marine Corps Recruit Training - having been added in the 1980's. It is a 54 hour highly intense combat and team building exercise during which the recruits sleep four hours and get two meals.

Four hours sleep and two meals. In fifty four hours.


Those 54 hours are when they learn to depend on each other for success and survival. At the end of the Crucible they are given a Warriors Breakfast where they get to eat as much as they want and actually take time to taste the food.

And then they are given their first EGA.

E. G. A. I suspect in about ten weeks time, those letters are going to be some of the most profound of our son's life.

And mine too.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

A DAY WITH MY GIRL

Thursday night I made a decree that the following day would be Girls Day Out for the W family.

LET IT BE KNOWN - IN THIS LAND AND ALL LANDS THAT MAY HEAR - THAT FRIDAY AUGUST 6 WILL BE A DAY OF ERRANDS AND SHOPPING FOR THE PRINCESS AND QUEEN OF THE W ESTATE. HE WHO OBJECTS (DADDY...) WILL BE SUBJECTED TO THE SMELL OF NAIL POLISH AND A DOUBLE SILENT TREATMENT FOR NO LESS THAN 24 HOURS.

So then.

We first headed to the Walmarts for essentials like nail polish, People Magazine, and donut holes.

We also picked up lettuce, fresh spinach, paper towels and toilet paper.

And, finally, we printed some photos from one of Kayla's summer softball tournaments. See, we had this disc that we got at the tournament and we finally got ourselves out there to choose photos and get them printed.

Now having me stand in front of the photo printers at the Walmarts is like putting me in front of the controls of the Space Shuttle. "oooh! What does this button do....?"

But Kayla knew what she was doing, even though she'd never used those printers before either.

Our troubles came, not from the printers, but from the crabby old woman who was also printing photos. It was obvious she had used the printers often and was quite adept at printing her photos, scanning her receipt and then heading to the counter to sigh deeply and tap her foot when a clerk wasn't available RIGHT NOW!!

She scooted in front of us to scan her receipt, violating every personal space law known to man. She hovered over our shoulders piercing the backs of our heads with disapproving looks as we made our selection and she waited on her order to be "completed soon." She stood behind us in line at the counter and let us know, telepathically, that she was not happy - not happy AT ALL - that we got there first. After all, it appeared she had printed nearly 200 pictures at different times that morning, while we printed a mere 17.

And then. Before I even received my change from the clerk, she stomped up to the counter, placed her pocketbook down, marking her territory, and kind of, like, slid me out of the way, making me fear I was going to receive an elbow to my left cheek if I didn't MOVE OVER NOW!! And she did all of this despite the fact that I had already inched myself as far down the counter as I could to make room for her. I was far enough away from the register by the end of my transaction that the clerk would have been better off tossing my change to me one coin at a time; rather than he and I having to stretch our arms equidistant so that could receive my 76 cents.

I kept looking around for a Personal Space Law Enforcement Agent (a PSLEA) but there was none to be found. And surely, if there is ever need for a PSLEA, it is at the Walmarts.

Am I wrong?

Please, Mr. Walmart, post a nice sign about personal space etiquette in your entry way. Or better yet, have your greeters say "Hello. Welcome to Walmart. Please remember to stay at least 36 inches away from your fellow shoppers at all times. Have a nice day."

Whew! Was it a relief to get out of there. But our enthusiasm was not to be dampened. We headed to Jo-Ann Fabric and bought some thread for friendship bracelets and baskets for my craft room.

Then before finishing off our day with a late lunch of Chinese food, we stopped in at the salon and got our eyebrows waxed. Because we cannot have such a pleasant day without punishing ourselves a little bit.

Balance is important, you know.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

HELP

I have always loved to read.

Always always always. I'm so happy when I have a good book in my hands.

When I was in the first grade, I read a book about a little girl who went shopping with her mom and got red shoes. That year I asked Santa to bring me red shoes for Christmas and he came through for me. From then on I've always had a pair of red shoes in my closet.

And my daughter got her first pair of red Mary Janes for her first Christmas pictures - at age eight months. And, even, if it's just red flip flops from Old Navy, she's always had red shoes in her closet too.

All because of a book.

My biggest weakness with books is that I buy them. I don't check them out from the library. I buy them; much to my husband's chagrin. Seriously, he can't stand that I spend money on books.

I can't help myself. I just want the book to be mine mine mine. I want to fold the pages down to mark my spot when I finally have to go to sleep at night. I want to mark the pages with a highlighter so I have poignant quotes at my finger tips. I want to carry the book to the softball bleachers and not worry if I smudge it with chocolate. If the book is part of a series, I want to collect the whole series and make it mine mine mine as well.

And I want to grab those books off my shelf and read them again. And again and again.

I have also realized I buy books for comfort.

And since my son is leaving (AGAIN) for boot camp in 11 days, I find myself seeking comfort in the shelves of the bookstores.

Which is where I found one of the best books I've read in a long time.

The Help. By Kathryn Stockett.

It's the story of African American domestic helpers (maids) in Mississippi in the 1960s. It's the story of their relationships with their White female employers.

Interestingly, the author (who has not written a novel before this) was raised in Mississippi with Black servants in her home.

This book is so poignant. So compelling. It's sad, humorous, heart wrenching, anger-inducing and worthy of a movie. It is most definitely worthy of a sequel, and I'm already predicting the plot of that sequel that may or may not be written.

The Help is one of those books whose ending I dreaded. I dreaded getting to that last page. And it's one of those books that I can't stop thinking about.

If you are a reader, go. Go now and find this book. You will be so glad you did.

And now I am reading Shanghai Girls by Lisa See.

I'll post a review on it when I'm finished.

Or maybe not.

Friday, July 02, 2010

A MOTHER'S HEART

The thing about being a mother is that our hearts scream at the infliction of pain on another mother's heart.


Because our hearts can feel it. Our hearts can imagine it. Our hearts plead 'no...no....no....' on behalf of our fellow moms when their hearts are being ripped from their chests.


And so it is tonight as I sit paralyzed with sadness at the news that a classmate of Kayla's was killed in a car accident.


Sixteen years old, driving a mere couple of months. On his way to work.


And he is gone.


A mother's precious son is gone.

Her daughter's little brother is gone.

Her husband's boy is gone.


In the blink of an eye, her heart is laid bare to the worst pain a mother can imagine.

And we can feel it, can't we moms? We can feel that desperation to make it not true.

no no no no no....

How will she ever again lift her head off her pillow when she awakes each morning? How will she crawl out from under that weight of grief?

Do you feel it? Do you feel her pain? Is your heart breaking, simply because you know? You know what it means to love so fiercely that to lose that which you love is to have the air that you breathe sucked out of you forever?


If you are the praying sort, I beg of you to pray for this family. You don't need to know their name; God knows. God knows which mother will never be the same. God knows which family has just set out on that crippling journey of grief. God knows which parents have just been called to do that which no parents should ever be called to do....

This. This is beyond our comprehension. This is beyond what we think we can handle. This is a tragedy that will rip through our tiny school district like a hurricane blowing winds of grief, breaking hearts, devastating young lives. Because a precious boy is gone. A life is over far too soon. The foundation of our community has been shaken. And one family? Tonight one family in our midst now has a hole in its heart.

And so what we must do is fight the need to curl into a ball and hide from the pain. We must arm ourselves with the tools necessary to get our young people through this loss. We must show them how to minister to their friend's family. We must gather our strength from each other so that we can give it to our children.

There will be little sleep for me tonight. I daresay most of our community will by lying awake most of the night. As I pray for this grief stricken family I will also be praying that the rest of us can serve them, minister to them, lift them up, carry their burden, carry them.

And I hope you will join me.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

BABY LOVE

Every Thursday in June, I had a long date with my new little boy friend. He's short and pudgy, nearly bald and barely has any teeth.

The thing about my little boyfriend is that I took advantage of him in the most absurd ways. Like one day? After he'd had breakfast and was in a really good mood? I started taking silly photos of him.....

This was an especially exciting photo session. I said to Kayla "Ok. He's fed. He's dry. Strip him down and let's get some patriotic photos." I had to put my camera on the Advanced Sports Action setting; this little guy has quick hands....It was like 'Lucy and Ethel do a Photo Shoot.'

See, my boyfriend's mama was offered a one-day-a-week job and asked if I'd watch him on that day. We both agreed to give it a try through the month of June. On the second week, Mommy came home saying she never wanted to go back to that horrible place again.

But she lived up to her agreement and finished her time, while baby Caden stayed with me.

As is the norm in our house, when a baby comes to visit, the world stands still and all things revolve around said baby.

Caden loves loves loves Kayla.


If Kayla left for a while, when she returned his little baby face lit up like a Christmas tree and he flapped his arms and legs like a pudgy bird trying to leap out of the nest.
Oh sweet Caden. He even won Blake over. And it's a good thing. Caden is the son of Blake's recruiter. Oooh-Rah.



Caden loves Tigger.....


And his own toes.....

Sweet mercy, those legs. Don't you just want to smoosh them forever?


And his thumb.

And those eyes? I think I'm in love
What Caden does not love is sleep but I couldn't hold that against him because neither of my children loved sleep either.
I am so used to sleepless babies it's not even funny.
It's why I have exactly two working brain cells in my head right now.
What Caden's mommy and daddy don't know? When Blake leaves for boot camp, I'm going to put Caden in my back pack and bring him home with me. Shhhh....don't tell.





Sunday, June 20, 2010

PITCHING IN

About a week ago, some guy called Paul and asked if he thought our daughter would be interested in filling in on a travel softball team. One of their main pitchers has been injured and they needed somebody willing to pitch one or two games for a weekend tournament.

The thing is that this other team is from a nearby town and Kayla didn't know anybody on it, except another girl from her school who happens to play because her cousin is on the team.

So.

As a mother, when I hear that my daughter is being invited to join a group of teenage girls - a very close knit group of teenage girls whom she does not know - in a very competitive sport, what I hear is this:

"Yeah, we were wondering if you would hand your precious baby over to us so that we could throw her into a deep dark pit filled with hungry hyenas. Only for one weekend for now. And we'll see if they get hungry again after that."

Because sometimes? Girls can be a little....um....unwelcoming when an "outsider" comes into their midst.

But Kayla was all like "Sure. I'll play a tournament."

Now here's an interesting side note about our family. We are, evidently, athletic mutts.

Our children attend school at the home of the MF Trojans where they wear blue and yellow to support their teams. Our family wears blue and yellow in the spring while we sit on the bleachers to watch Kayla's school softball team.

Blake wrestles for the A/O Bombers and wears a blue and orange singlet. So,in the winter our family wears blue and orange while we sit on the wrestling bleachers.

And now?

Well, now we might be wearing red and black for the rest of the summer while we support Kayla's temporary position with the Mt. Z Braves Travel Softball Team.

I have no idea what we should call ourselves or what color we should be wearing each day......but I do like red.

After the first day of the tournament the coaches asked if Kayla would like to finish the season with this team. It is a huge commitment so she hasn't decided yet. But it is also a huge honor being asked, and we so appreciate the people who suggested her when the coach was calling around asking for a pitcher. Any chance to gain some experience is wonderful; but more importantly, any chance to make new friends is bound to be a great experience.

And as for the girls? I worried for nothing. All of them were very sweet and welcoming to Kayla. They were all very encouraging of each other on the field and off.

And Kayla is getting Facebook friend requests from some of them now. THAT speaks volumes, doesn't it?

I cannot tell you how proud I was of my girl this weekend. We showed up at that tournament and she introduced herself to the coaches, shook their hands and thanked them for inviting her to play. Then she dove right in with the girls and enjoyed herself.

I am proud of her performance on the field, but most of all I am proud of the fact that she spent two very long hot days with a new group of girls and started developing some new friendships. And she didn't seem one bit nervous.

And when one of the team moms - whom I just met this morning - told me that my daughter was "just a real sweetheart?"

Well, it might as well have been mother's day because what mom doesn't love to hear comments like that about their kids?

Sweet Kayla Beth - Dad and I are so proud of you for how you handled yourself all weekend. Great games. Great attitude. GREAT DAUGHTER.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

SEEKING LIGHT

So.

My last post? I deleted it for a couple of different reasons, but not before reading your very sweet comments of encouragement and empathy.

Thank you.

And thank you to those of you who sent e-mails to encourage me and to let me know I was being prayed for.

While I certainly don't intend to take joy in others' sorrows, I found some comfort in learning that some of you have also been through very dark times - or are living in a dark time now. Just knowing that my little stumble into the valley is something others experience - that I'm not a complete weakling for giving in to this - is comforting.

Reading of your experiences has brought a couple of questions to mind:

1. Why are we women so hard on ourselves and insist on walking through the valley alone? I have my own theory on this but I'll keep it to myself for now.

2. Have I sent the women in my life a message that makes them hesitate to seek help from me in their darkest times. Have I sent a message that says I won't be a source of light when they are sitting in darkness? There has to be something that keeps us from seeking help from each other. Am I exhibiting that "something?" I want to examine myself and know if I'm lacking in that area. I want to know if I've passed up an opportunity to minister to a sister. Because there are a lot of people out there who are in a dark place right now. Are they seeking help? Do they wish somebody would notice and nobody has?

I realize that sometimes we don't want help and I'll admit I'm like that. When I'm feeling hopeless and helpless it is very easy for me to turn inward and want to remove myself from the world until the pain passes. Most of the time, at least.

Are you like that? Tell me. Tell me why you think we women are so hard on ourselves and why we don't allow ourselves to ask for help.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

TIGGERIFIC......

…you can either be an Eeyore or a Tigger. Remember them from Winnie the Pooh? Eeyore always has a dark rain cloud hovering nearby while Tigger obliviously bounces on his tail in a overly happy state of mind; Eeyore=gloom and despair, Tigger=a hurricane of happiness. Randy Pausch - The Final Lecture.
***************************************

A few years ago, Kayla's softball coach created The Tigger Award, to be given to the player who exhibited a consistent positive attitude, sportsmanship, and a constant smile regardless of how the game was going.

Tonight at the softball awards night, my girl was given the Tigger Award



She signed her name on Tigger and added the year she received it. Tigger will now reside at our house for a year and then be passed on to the next Tiggerific player at next year's awards night.

During this season, Kayla hit a triple during the same game as she executed a triple play.

Two games later she hit one over the fence for a two-run-homer. And we were so excited at those games and all the others, just to watch her play and do her best.

Obviously there are girls who had better stats than Kayla this year and those girls rightfully won awards for their athletic accomplishments.

But I love the Tigger Award. Even though it's not a shiny trophy or a plaque on which her name is engraved. I love the Tigger Award because it confirms to me what I've suspected all season.

That my girl has let her light shine. On the pitcher's mound. In the batters box as she came up to bat each inning. As she ran the bases. Regardless of the score, regardless of the weather, regardless of the mood of the crowd, my girl was calm, cool and collected.

And smiling.

There were times she'd walk out to the mound and I'd say to Paul "wonder what's made her so happy tonight."

And really, she was usually smiling when she came out of the dugout. Whether it was to bat or to pitch; she was smiling.

May it always be so.

As she finishes her sophomore year and starts the magic days of summer, I wish for her to be swept away in a Hurricane of Happiness.

I have a feeling she will start the joyous breezes blowing all on her own.

Congratulations sweet Kayla Beth. We are so proud of you.