Monday, March 30, 2009

I love Scrabble, yes I do

Scrabble is a great game for a word hound. I have loved Scrabble since I was in high school. 

For Christmas one year, my parents aka Santa got me a French Scrabble game. I was the only one in my family who could play the game and so I played both sides of the board. Naturally I won and I know it might sound weird but I had a lot of fun. J'aime tous les mots ! (I love words!)While my plebe was home on Spring Break, guess what game he wanted to play with me? 

Here's a very obvious clue. 

"Mom, do you want to play a game of Scrabble with me tomorrow?"

GAAA! Everything else I thought about doing the next day was quickly crossed off the list. My boss was going to call me, who cares? I would gladly and respectfully blew the guy off and I told him so when he called me. I wasn't going to pass up this opportunity. My son, my boy wanted to hang with me! And not only that, he wanted to play the world's best game! Woo hoo!

I stink at most board games. I think Monopoly is fun but I don't like how people try and scheme each other out of all their money. I like Battleship but my heart really sinks when someone destroys my ships. Sorry is a good game too but I'm sorry, that game should be called Spite as far as I'm concerned.

But Scrabble, that's my game. That's money as they say in high school. 

And to crank it up a notch, I told my boy that not only would I play Scrabble with him but I was also going to cream him, basically "own" my OS in the process.

We went out for sushi and I felt like the luckiest girl with my miso soup, unagi (eel) and California roll with Nate.

With our tummies full of tasty delights, we headed back home for the duel.

The game started innocently enough but then the game got personal. Our obvious fondness of each other was replaced with raw competition. 

If you have ever played Scrabble, you know how awful it feels to have a bunch of "bad" letters. But did I let it get me down? A casual Scrabble user might have wanted to quit. I mean, what do you do when you have this? 

Let's face it, 2 u's, 3 o's, one "a" and an "i" is a challenge. But I'm no Scrabble quitter. As I surveyed the board, I spotted a really amazing word. Do you see it? 

I spelled the word LUAU! I didn't get a lot of points but the feeling of accomplishment was pretty stinking incredible.

The game proceeded and we both impressed each other with our word skills. But soon, to my astonishment, I pulled ahead. And I took pictures in the process just to rub it in.

Nate was tired so maybe that's why I beat him. I had my highest score yet. I don't care why I won, it was thrilling to beat my smart OS. 

Final Scores:

Nate: 196
Me: 287

Take a look at the final board at the top of this post and check out all the cool words we used!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Smiles are everywhere

While at West Point for Plebe Parent Weekend, we were continually impressed with the amount of things our son was learning. At this hallowed institution, it's pretty incredible to think that our OS's teachers know him personally and in this case, that's not a bad thing or the exception.

We are on our best behavior as we toured the stately buildings replete with history and patriotism. I mean how can you act the fool when you have statues of Dwight D. Eisenhower, General MacArthur and other distinguished leaders all over the place staring back at you! 

But it was in Nate's barracks, just prior to meeting his gf (and she's quite a young lady!), our favorite plebe revealed a hidden talent, something he had learned from a fellow Soldier. 

Apparently during Beast all plebes learned to roll their socks in tight little balls. Not being content with mediocrity, however a fellow Soldier/prior service plebe showed our OS how to take his socks to the next level.

And that meant to make his socks smile. Even if Nate wasn't able to make his face grin during Beast, his socks looked happy. 

His fellow Soldier/roommate taught him how to roll his t-shirts too. "It looks neater," our plebe beamed. Ok, he didn't exactly beam but we did as he demonstrated his new found talent

As Nate shows off his folding skills, I'm also happy to debut my first iMovie. Hope you enjoy! 

May you and everything in your drawers be deliciously joyous today!   

PS. I have no idea why the movie is yellow. Guess I've got a lot to learn!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Going to church on a sad day isn't really easy but...

So yesterday I went to church. I would have preferred to be holed up in my house having a nice, little feel sorry for me time but I thought that would just be self-serving and non-productive. I also thought it would be a bad example for my children, one of whom was feeling as miserable as I was. 

Dark sunglasses hid my tear-stained eyes as we made our way into the church. With a wad of Kleenex in one hand, I tried to creep in quietly because I wasn't in the mood for small talk. Honestly I don't like banal small talk to begin with as I dislike superficial conversation and yesterday was certainly not a day for idle chit-chat. 

We currently attend a small, start-up church so it's not like we walk into a sanctuary or a fancy building. Our church is actually an elementary school. There is no organ music or choir, our chairs are not pews but just folding chairs. It's fairly modest and it's hard to "disappear" into the crowd.  
But I safely made it into the gymnasium which is where the service is held without really saying anything. Whew! My emotions were very raw and close to the surface and it was all I could do to not bawl my eyes out. Maybe some people thought I was a rock star or something because I kept the sunglasses on as I waited for church to begin. Wait a sec, is that Hannah Montana? No, it's just Cindy the crying West Point mama! HA!

I certainly wasn't giving off an aura of "hey, somebody talk to me." I have always been the kind of person that for some reason doesn't get accosted by the people at the perfume counter. Even though I am rather petite, I guess I give off the impression that I shouldn't be squirted with the latest fragrance. I don't usually have to worry about people approaching me in an unnecessary manner.

But here I was, hurting, crying, sunglasses on, my treasured parka covering my aching mama's soul and suddenly I got blessed.

Someone hugged me.

She took a risk and hugged me. Her tender words reached into my sad heart and made it feel a little better. It surprised me, quite honestly because it was a beautiful single woman. We don't really talk too much although she is a very nice person. Heather didn't know why I was crying, why I was so sad but she took a second and reached out. And I noticed that I hurt a little less.

Then to my horror, the pastor asks everyone to stand and greet each other. "Puh-lease! Today is NOT the day! Can't you see I'm falling apart!," I thought to myself.  I reluctantly stood up because it would have been looked more awkward to remain sitting on my gray, plastic folding chair. I felt sorry for the new guy who shook my hand because he had no idea how to respond to a crying lady in sunglasses but heck, at least he tried.

And then it happened again. 

I got another hug. This time from Jessie, beautiful single woman behind me. In a broken voice, I told her why I was so sad and although she has never had a child, I felt like she sincerely cared. And I noticed that again, I hurt a little less.

Church was over. My sunglasses had come off during the sermon and I was gaining composure but I felt the tears surfacing again as we were leaving the gym. All I wanted to do was bolt for the exit but before I that happened, another woman came up to me.

This time it was Tricia, a mama and she asked if she could give me a hug. I gladly accepted and dutifully deposited some tears on her nice, clean shirt. Yes, I was still sad but something had changed.

So why am I writing this post? Because I want to encourage you, I want to challenge myself, to reach out. I wasn't putting out the welcome sign for any of these women but the love of Christ gave them the unction to see past my exterior. Despite the sunglasses and the withdrawn attitude, these ladies reached out. They weren't full of nice-ities and platitudes, they didn't pat me on my little head and say everything was going to be all right. They didn't placate me and give me some worn-out clique. In fact, they didn't even say they understood what I was feeling but those few seconds it took for them to be nice to me, I'm telling you, it ministered to me in ways they cannot understand.

In my work, I purpose myself to reach out to hurting teenagers. They are everywhere. In every classroom, auditorium where I speak, I can spot them so easily. Their personas can be hard and intimidating. Some have a seemingly inpenetrable attitude and I admit, I can be afraid to extend myself but I try to move beyond my insecurities and touch their heart. Sometimes with a motherly pat on the shoulder, other times with a listening ear. I have been blown off and it hurts but I still must do it. Interestingly, Sunday, I was on the receiving end and three people extended a hand of kindness my way. 

Check out this Scripture found in Matthew 25. Jesus says, "For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was in prison and you came to me." Then he says to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it for me."

The physical hugs from these women lasted a short time but the impact of what they did is still with me. For that, I give great thanks. Go do it, dear friends. 

PS. Shout out to my sister Lorri for letting me use her pics! 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Break Ends

It's hard to say whether I would be this sad if my son were at a different school. He had the opportunity to go to a distinguished university about 45 minutes away. I assume I would have cried when we dropped him off at his dorm and I would have cried when he wasn't home on the weekends.

(the picture is my very poor attempt to artistically depict my state of sadness. I am in the tv room but have superimposed a rollercoaster thus showing you that I am having a rollercoaster of emotions. It is very profound.)

But I think I cry more than I would have and today is devoted, in part, to crying. I am sad. My husband just dropped our son off at the airport and I sit here typing away, with tears in my eyes. I'm on my way to church but I would feel awkward appearing so vulnerable. Not caring if anyone reads this or comments, just using this computer as an outlet for my sadness. 

I know I am not alone. There are West Point mamas all over the country preparing their hearts for the farewell. There are other brothers (and sisters) who are wiping away tears and there are dads who are trying to put on a strong front but inside they are weeping. And then there are families who might be sad because their son or daughter didn't come home for Spring Break and wish they had a week's worth of time with their Soldier. Anyway I look at it, it's emotional. 

I was surprised at the bevy of tears I have shed this time. Memories of last year flooded inside me as I think I alone could have solved our state's drought with the amount of uncontrolled crying jags I incurred. 

It's just that I love this kid. I mean really love this kid. I mean, his name means Gift of God, for goodness sake! I don't even understand how a wretch like me ended up with three amazing sons and I am stupefied how someone like me ended up becoming the proud mama of a Soldier and a West Point cadet. So there we were all sitting around the dinner table last night and the water works started. We made our usual gross jokes about things most courteous people never discuss during mealtime but then it hit me. And I felt the tears stream down my face. Nate remarked, "this is the saddest dinner I've ever had!" What he didn't know is that I was actually staving back the ache in my heart. I could have really let loose!

My precious middle OS, Aaron held my hand as my husband prayed before we ate. He looked at me tenderly and squeezed my hand extra tight. Then he put his arms around me and reassured me, "It's gonna be ok, Mama," he smiled and seemed to understand. 

I'm on my way to church and I'll be bringing Kleenex and I'll be better. Thanks for listening. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

I love a parade!

It has been a long-standing joke in my house that one day before I die, I want a parade for my birthday. So far it hasn't happened and considering my birthday is in January and I don't live in Hawaii, the chances are slim to none that this will ever happen. 

But since becoming a mama of a Soldier, specifically the mother of a son at the United States Military Academy, I have seen more parades than I ever imagined. And I like it. I like it a lot. (said again in my best Jim Carey from Dumb and Dumber voice.) Yes, this is the second time I've recently used this quote in a post. 

So if I can't have a parade on my birthday, I'll settle for the next best thing...seeing my son in a parade. That is cool. Really, really cool. 

During Plebe Parent Weekend (PPW), our OS was in a parade which featured only plebes. You would have never known that these were the same young men and women who arrived at R-Day with that deer in the headlights look, trying to maintain composure as they were whisked away to places and experiences unknown and nearly unbearable. For most plebes, including our OS, these young men and women were relatively new to the parade thing prior to R-Day. But they now appear to be seasoned parade professionals. According to my OS, much to his dismay, they have devoted countless hours spent marching and executing each aspect of the parade. I know everyone in the filled to capacity crowd appreciated their hard work for it made for a very impressive spectacle.

First there was the drill team. My mouth gaped open as I wat- ched the trenchant skill of these young men. I was held in thrall as they effortlessly tossed the rifles back and forth to each other. I was dumbfounded as they performed an entire routine, not forgetting a thing, flipping the rifles in mid-air, grabbing them at varied places on the rifle and without missing a beat. Just when I thought their program was done and I was getting ready to erupt in applause, they'd press on and do another five 
minutes. I can only imagine the hours they poured into this flawless execution. 

Once they finished, I began to watch for my own VIP. My son was a Platoon Leader for his company and Nate was excited because he had a saber for the parade. I peered through the crowd and was surprised to see that indeed our OS marched with a very manly saber by his side but other stuff as well. 

Nate strode out into the field with his company also wearing a very large hat with really big feathers and he was wearing a red sash. If you are not a West Point person, you might be thinking big whoop, a red sash. You might even conjure up thoughts of RuPaul, but friends, shame on you! You would be totally wrong. It's not that kind of sash, y'all! 

Here he was during PPW, out on The Plain, and Nate was wearing the same red sash which previously evoked terror and misery to the new cadets trying to complete Beast in the summer.
The dreaded red sash was an emblem of dread and intimidation until I saw it draped around MY boy's uniform. From afar, the red sash and I had a healing, bonding moment, I guess you could say.

I felt pride and love overwhelm me and I know I was not alone. It was palpable as each person in the crowd peered to see their beloved child. It didn't matter if your kid was right up front easy to spot or somewhere hidden in the middle, seeing 1000 Soldiers march in unison, it felt like we had collectively birthed each one of them.  A universal feeling of delight and appreciation warmed the cool morning air. So although my dreams of having a birthday parade are far-fetched, I have no right to complain on that day when I meet Jesus face to face. He has given me, as usual something above and beyond my wildest dreams. 


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Son's New GF

For those of you who know my son, I'm sure this blog post will elicit a lot of interest. Nathan has a girlfriend? Who is this lucky lady??? Inquiring minds want to know...

Well before I introduce her to you, let me tell you how we first met. We had a tour of the barracks during PPW and Nate showed us his room. He and his two roommates took a lot of pride in the cleanliness of their room. Sparsely decorated unlike a traditional college dorm room, there are no empty beer bottles, posters and personal items filling the cramped quarters. Nate has a picture frame collage we gave him during Beast that has an assortment of pictures of family and friends and that's the only way you'd know it was his space. 

Overlooking Nate's desk is a scenic view of Legion Square which is where the first bat- talion/first regiment is and where, while doing home-work, he can see cadets walking to and from class and other activities. He can also witness crazy cadet antics which add a little levity to the pressure-packed environment. Water bottles jettison between the barracks. Milk cartons become white, liquid missiles catapulting in the late winter night. Fruit-flavored yogurts are hurled with wild abandon.

Sounds like fun!

But in the midst of all this bravado and hi jinks, Nate can sometimes be seen snuggling with his special girl. What?? How can a cadet, let alone a lowly plebe hang out and snuggle with a girlfriend? Well, it's easy when your girlfriend is a blanket. 

Nate's gf is a Green Girl which is a West Point term for the green blanket covering every cadet's bed. 
She is the best girlfriend my OS can have right now. She is always there when he needs her. She's affectionate but not overbearing. She is low-maintenance and never jealous. Based on this picture, I think it's a long-term relationship.

When I met Green Girl, I liked her right away and that's saying a lot as a mom of three sons. I was expecting to have mixed feelings when I met my son's special lady but I didn't. I think this is a sign of my maturation. I knew the day was coming when Nate would have a girlfriend and I must say, I'm doing quite well.  

Don't you think they make a cute couple! We love you Green Girl, welcome to the family!

Next blog post...Smiles...learn an exciting folding technique that will surely revolutionize your life!

Monday, March 16, 2009

PPW - Mess Hall and Poop Deck

I look at my life as a series of blog posts. If you are a blogger, you know what I mean. I scrapbook, although not as often as I'd like and I recall just prior to taking a picture, imagining the scrapbook page I would create. If you are not into that sort of thing, I have already lost your interest. My bad.

But going to Plebe Parent Weekend (PPW) was so bloggable. Poor Nate probably felt 
like it was kindergarten all over again as we took pictures with nearly everyone who cheerfully greeted him including his teachers. I'm glad he indulged me, I don't think he had much of a choice. 

Since he is the first child I've ever had to attend college, I don't know what things are like at other institutions of higher learning but it seems that a lot of famous people drop by West Point. During PPW, we got to hang out at one of the celebrity hot spots...the Mess Hall. 

We enjoyed lunch in the Mess Hall on Saturday and as our OS gave us a tour around the facility, Nate told us that Trace Atkins had stopped by the Mess Hall the other day. Members of the Glee Club sang with him and apparently recorded a video with the Glee Club cadets that will be appearing on the American Country Music Awards show. They will be performing the song "Til the Last Shot's Fired." Click here to see the link. You will also be able to download the song at iTunes and all the proceeds will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. I really appreciate this man's loyalty to the troops and the military. I have never been a fan of country music but I like this guy and might even watch the ACM Awards on Sunday, April 5th

He also said that recently Miss USA visited and gave the cadets a big "huah!" Btw, huah means "I'm pumped!", "wow" and "yes" and is often used as a verbal exclamation mark at West Point. Seeing a pretty girl not in a uniform was a sight for sore eyes. Nate also said her assistant was just as gorgeous as she was! Miss USA was on the Poop Deck. I'll just let that sentence sit with you for a moment... What's a Poop Deck, you ask? It's a balcony area overlooking the Mess Hall and I guess she encouraged the Corps with her beauty and charm. I will soon be blogging about Nate's new gf so stay tuned. You don't want to miss it.

As we sat down for lunch, our Soldier/OS told us about how during Beast, his plate had to be a thumb's distance from the edge of the table. Things are more "chill" (relaxed) now in the Mess Hall and that's a relief for many plebes. 

Nate instructed us also on how the milks all had to line up in a certain fashion. Can you believe it? 

And somehow when the numbers 1-4 flash, it signifies who can get up from the table. I think this light system could have been very useful when my OS were little.  Many moms would be interested in purchasing this light system for their squirmy toddlers. 

He also said it gets frustrating when people don't pass the food around. DUH! This I found particularly interesting because this is the EXACT SAME THING I'VE BEEN TELLING HIM around our family table for years! I can't tell you how many times I have to ask my OS to pass ALL the food around the table. It took my son eating dinners 10 hours away for him to finally figure that out!

West Point feeds about 4,000 cadets breakfast and dinner in less than 25 minutes. 

The famous and the worldly, the popular and the patriotric, the lowly plebes and the revered firsties have dined in this nostalgic place. Wow. 

And on this Saturday afternoon, the United States Military Academy fed us, how humbling. 

We had more time than the average cadet and had lively conversation with everyone around the table. 

We enjoyed a family style lunch with other plebe parents and cadets. We sat at a 10 person table right near the giant mural which depicted many military and historic facts. The history and majesty of it all is impressive and seeing Nate in his element was positively delicious. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

PPW Peer Pressure

I guess technically they call it peer pressure when you do something just because everyone else is doing it. I have devoted a large portion of my life encouraging teenagers to avoid peer pressure but this time, I have to say I joyfully succumbed to the temptation. I was sucked right in and I have no problem with that. 

Sure, you could diss me and say that I had a weak moment when Stacey, my friend and fellow Plebe mom, called and told me she was getting a West Point parka and that I HAD to have one.

Or you could say that you think I deserved it. That I had shown my mettle as a mom having survived leaving her baby at West Point for R-Day aka the proudest and saddest day of my life and that in some small measure, my new coat was a tiny reward for being a WP mom. 

Honestly it doesn't matter to me. I am now the proud owner of a West Point parka, the same kind that the cadets wear and may I say, I like it. I like it a lot (said in the same way as Jim Carey did in Dumb and Dumber). 

Here is a picture of me before I had the parka. You will observe that I was lifeless, bummed out, like there was a hollow place in my heart. Sure I was wearing my West Point Mom sweatshirt and had my Proud Parent of a West Point Cadet canvas bag, but something was still missing. 

This is me seconds after donning the parka with the USMA 2012 patch on the pocket. Suddenly the clouds lifted, angels began singing and stringing their harps, birds began chirping, you get the idea! I was refreshed and invigorated. 

In fact, Stacey and I looked so fly in our parkas that when my husband took the picture, we over-exposed the picture! That's how good we looked!  
It was pretty special seeing so many parents strutting around in their parkas. I saw one dad with his parka and the patches USMA 78 and 2012 which means he graduated from West Point and has a cadet currently enrolled. 

Although I have been eagerly anticipating spring, I confess I want the weather to turn cold for at least a few days. That way I will have an excuse to wear my parka to the grocery store or as I go speaking into schools. 

This heavy, black wool parka itches my bare skin but I will gladly pretend to be comfortable for a little while, in the hopes that someone will notice that I am wearing a West Point, standard issue parka! If you see me up at the Teeter (local grocery store), please gush over my latest purchase! Make a fool of yourself marveling at the craftsmanship and glamour of it all. I can't wait to introduce you to my new coat! Where is snow when a West Point mama needs it!