Thursday, November 25, 2010
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
*sigh* I miss all the important announcements.
Anyway, I think this article goes along well with Michele's story.
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
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.
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.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
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.
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.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I MEAN IT.
DON'T EVEN ASK.
Monday, November 08, 2010
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.
It fascinates me because, for the life of me, I can't figure out WHY a baby needs to know how to read.
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?
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
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?"
"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?
Monday, November 01, 2010
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.
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)
I opened the door and said (with false cheerfulness and fake innocence) "Well, hello there!!"
"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.