Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Milestones happen in teenagers too

We usually think of milestones in our children when they are little. They start to roll over and drink from a cup, say their first words. Big whoop. (Said as a mom of kids that are WAYYY over that!) Ok, those things are a big deal but our OS have experienced milestones of their own recently that I just have to share. How ironic (that is, if I believed in irony) that each of my OS would cross a major threshold in their lives at practically the same time. May I have your attention, please? 

Ike became a seventh grader. Woo hoo!
Aaron became a sophomore. Take that you annoying upper class
cue the snare drums...
Nate became a recognized plebe. Taa daa! Crowd goes

No longer are my boys at the bottom of their resp- ective proverbial social heaps of life. (Was that an awkward sentence?) After all the travail and toil, when it seemed as if the day would never arrive, my OS are happy to be movin' on up, just like the Jefferson's, remember those guys???

This means that Ike is eager to try out for basketball and not have annoying eighth graders hogging up the good spots. As long as he keeps his grades up and his tongue in control, my orange-haired fella will be just fine. For Aaron, being a sophomore means the leadership skills he has honed this past year that will serve him well and he is positioned to forge ahead in whatever way the Lord directs.  

But neither of them went through the valley like Nate. Sure, it's tough being a dweeby sixth grader. And no one would dispute that a 9th grader is pretty low on the high school totem pool.

But try being a plebe. Just a few days ago, Nate successfully completed his plebe year. To a large extent, I feel like I also completed my own plebe year as a mom. I need my own badge or pin for surviving! I was counting down the days when Nate would make this transition, he's been more than ready!

As I reflect on this last year, oh, my soul, there were so many days when I just wanted to scoop my baby up and take him home. How could he endure such treatment? Why did they have to be so sassy and mean to MY child? He doesn't have to put up with that! (insert the "that" of your choice, especially if you have a cadet at WP or are a USMA grad!) And while I'm at it, why couldn't the professors understand that my boy was overworked and needed a break? Or had a nasty cold??? Despite my numerous offers to contact the higher-ups and plead his case, Nate never budged. He could handle it. (For the record, if any WP folks are reading this, I would honestly have never done that but I thought about it. Nate would have KILLED me! I would have been disowned as a mama!)

And my OS finished really well. Since I will get in trouble if I say too much, let me say Nate should be very proud of himself. Thanks be to God!

On Thursday, Nate got recognized. It was a day he has been talking about for weeks.  What does getting recognized mean? Well, at West Point, when you have completed your plebe year, there is a special moment, almost divine in nature, when the upper class cadets, acknowledge your existence. Instead of calling you "Cadet Last Name," the cadets extend a hand of fellowship your way. They shake your hand and learn something very wonderful about you. They learn you have a FIRST name! That is a MAJOR event in the life of a plebe! 

Personally I can't even imagine living in a confined place for nearly a year and not having someone call me by my first name. I also couldn't tolerate having to wear my uniform And I wouldn't have lasted a day not being able to talk once I leave the confines of my room.

But Nathan did and the transition from lowly plebe-dom to becoming a Private First Class is something so sweet. He strutted outside his room in cadet casual (khaki pants and shirt) and acknowledged people by their first name. He didn't have to cup his hands or do any of those things that have been the bane of his existence for hte last 11 months. Liberation, exhilaration, jubilation sum up how he felt stepping out as a PFC. 

Lest my awe- some OS become too con- tent, reality will come crashing down on him. Tomorrow, no TODAY,  he begins Air Assault School and rumor has it, it's not a picnic. If you are reading this, please pray for the cadets as they begin a grueling 11 day training school. Nate must pass this in order to come home June 6th. If he doesn't pass, (and apparently many will not), he will automatically be re-enrolled and spend another 11 days there until he passes. 

PS. Ask me about the fancy things on Nate's uniform! Give me an excuse to blog about it!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mother's Day Dancers

This is what happens when three mamas are waiting for their Mother's Day dinner to be finished! 

Friday, May 15, 2009

In Memory and Honor of Mr. Beall, someone I never knew

I never knew Mr. Beall but I have heard a lot about him and tonight I want to honor this teacher who taught my husband a couple of things about how a republic works and a much deeper lesson about caring.

It was 1979 and in typical teenager mode, my DH thought he was fearless and immortal. Perhaps that is why one day he was goofing off after school at Maconaquah High School in Bunker Hill, Indiana. It was before swim practice which was held about 1/2 mile away and I guess, since Mark had nothing better to do and was trying to show off, my DH had a great idea and I use that term loosely. He mused, "How about if I sit on the hood of my buddy's car and have him drive me to swim practice?"

With nary a second thought, the guy agreed and Mark jumped onto the hood of the car, grabbed tightly to back of the hood and said, "Let's go!" Weeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! According to Mark's recollection, the guy cooked along pretty fast about 40-50 mph and they quickly reached their destination. No biggie, no consequence, no nothing, Mark didn't think anything of his antics until the next day.

That's when Mark strode into Mr. Beall's Government class. Everyone sat down, got ready for class and before Mr. Beall started his normal lecture, he announced he had something to read. The stubby little teacher pulled out a newspaper article and without anyone else knowing, glanced intentionally at the cocky and really cute 17 year old swimmer aka my DH who was sitting at a desk.

Mr. Beall proceeded to read a story. He was known for having a file cabinet stuffed with newspaper articles. Long before the Internet, Mr. Beall had an arsenal of facts, stories and notifications. If there was a tidbit or a snippet, Mr. Beall must have had them neatly categorized, waiting for the perfect moment to share. And a perfect moment had arrived about 24 hours ago. 

And so he began to read. Most of the students were clueless as to why he was reading this particular story. But the cocky and really cute 17 year old swimmer aka my DH was keenly aware of what Mr. Beall was doing. The teacher shared with his students a newspaper article about a young man who took a joyride on the front of a car and fell off. He cracked his head on the pavement and died instantly. As Mr. Beall finished the story, he paused, looked at that kid and promptly told his class to open their books for the lesson.

That happened 31 years ago and although Mr. Beall has since passed away, his memory will live on. I can't tell you how many times I have heard that story. I can't tell you how many times our OS have groaned as Mark begins to repeat the "Mr. Beall" story.

But you know what? I love Mr. Beall. And you know what else? This world needs more Mr. Bealls. We have a shortage of people who care and are willing to stick their necks out and risk being mocked or hated when it comes to young people. I am now on my soapbox...

Today I had a Mr. Beall moment, I think. I dropped a friend from my facebook. He was a high school student, someone that had been in one of my classes. A very handsome young man I taught several months ago but lately his language on his facebook has become so curse-laden and offensive, I felt that I had no choice but to delete him as a friend. Before I did that, however, I wrote to him and explained why I was doing this. He in turn, promptly wrote me back and said he could care less whether I was his friend or not. 


I wasn't expecting him to be devastated by losing me as a friend but I have to admit, that hurt my feelings. And that's when good, ole, may he rest in peace, Mr. Beall popped into my mind. Mr. Beall risked popularity and ridicule to try to help someone. I tried to do the same. 

I wasn't trying to be this boy's mama or get in his business. I was sincerely wanting to be his friend in the truest sense of the word. Even though my oldest OS thinks I should have never written to the kid and simply let him go, I thought he deserved more. Like Mr. Beall, I wanted to give that boy something to think about.

I asked Mark, "did you ever tell him thank you?" He thought for a second and said, "I don't know. I'm not sure." I guess that's how my story will have to end also. 

We always have lessons to learn. I am a work in progress and that's an understatement but what would this world be like if someone didn't speak out? 

I'd love to hear your stories and recollections of people who made a difference in your life. Maybe it would help me feel better. I have no regrets about what I did, I just wish his reaction would have been different. Here's to you, Mr. Beall. Thanks for caring enough about that cute and cocky 17 year old kid who is now my precious husband and father to my babies. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

O Happy Day!

Today is a glorious day, a fantabulous day. A day when the sun is shining brighter, the birds are chirping louder, even the dark lines around my eyes seem to be fading away without the use of my trusty Bobbi Brown concealer. Why you ask am I such a cheerful soul? I'm glad you asked...



This afternoon when the younger OS got home, we fluttered around the house.  I wanted everything spic and span, no excuses. It was as if the King of England (is there a King of England??) or of some other foreign country was coming to visit. It struck me as funny because it's not like Nathan has never seen our house messy before. I mean, the guy was an active contributor to the clutter in our home for 19 years but I wanted him to walk in and think that things looked nice, not as if he was a guest but just a treasured member of our family. He's the kind of guy who notices that sort of thing.  I knew it would bless him. 

My oldest OS is home until Sunday and is just days away from becoming a yuk (second year student). A year ago, on this day, I was clutching Kleenex and struggling to breathe out of my mouth because the tears were overwhelming and pretty much non-stop. Our oldest OS was graduating on this day last year and I was wrought with emotion. Sadness, joy, pride, fear, love, excitement...I remember one night my mother visiting and all my feelings bubbling to the surface. I confessed to her, "Mom, I'm not sure I can do this" and I utterly broke down. My precious mom pushed aside her own feelings regarding her first grandchild finishing a chapter of his life and starting a bold new journey and she simply ministered to me and my aching mama's heart. 

Somehow by the grace of God and I say that with all seriousness, I got through the graduation ceremony. And somehow by the grace of God, our family survived R-Day six weeks later including the long 10 hour ride back to our house without our cherished son.

And here I sit in my tidy house and tonight feels peaceful. Like that feeling you get when there's a bad thunderstorm outside and all your babies are safe and at home. Or like when you wake up on Christmas morning and there's presents to open and your kids are all getting along (at least until all the gifts are open). Everything is in its place, all is right with the world. 

I vividly recall those moments when Nate was a baby and I longed for the days when he would be grown and I'd finally have some peace and quiet. When he was on a crying jag or going full throttle on a temper tantrum, I wished he would just hurry up and get older. It annoyed me when older folks would chide me about how fast time passes. Inwardly I rolled my eyes at their comments. And now look at me! Those days are here and I find myself happy and sad. My DH calls me a "complex organism" when I get in one of these moods. Do I smack him or just humbly agree?

Nate's friends will be over at the house soon and the sounds of young men will fill my house. I will live in this moment and find the tranquil beauty of it all. O happy day!

Friday, May 8, 2009

The VCR project

On the Honey-Do list I placed a humdinger of a project for my husband. Convert all of our old VCR tapes to DVDs. Sounds easy, right? HA! I get these crazy ideas and lately I've been on a mission. As I am cleaning out closets and purging the unnecessary, I have uncovered boxes and boxes and boxes of VCRs. They have littered our drawers and now it's time to do something about it. "NOW!" she cheerfully bellows to her doting DH.  Double HA!

We ordered a VCR/DVD converter and after many attempts, my good man has figured it out. In order to preserve our marriage, I told him I wanted nothing to do with this project and have deferred to his good judgment, (most of the time). He has risen to the task and will hopefully be finished sometime before the DVD becomes extinct and I've given him yet another gargantuan chore. 

Completing this job, is not easy to do partially because we made it more complicated thanks to our very stupid video techniques.

I shall now confess... 

I mistook the on and off button and captured hours and hours of nothing. Example - when my brother got married, I lugged the clunky camera to the reception wanting to capture special moments of the happy occasion. Apparently I forgot to turn off the camera. I set the camera down on a chair still in "record" mode and now we have about 45 minutes of compelling close up footage of the upholstery. In addition to hearing all the background sounds of the wedding reception, you can hear the whirl of the video camera as it attempts to try to figure out what in the world it's supposed to be taping! 

In addition, we didn't label most of the VCR tapes. If you like a bit of mystery, this is the way to go. You will never, ever know what you're looking at and that keeps things really exciting! 

And if we labeled a tape, one of us knuckleheads advanced the tape about 30 minutes and then taped new material from oh, say, 5-7 years later. In other words, everything jumps around. You are in a very funky time warp.

As crazy as this process has been, I am relieved to be retrieving old memories.  I'm laughing one minute watching my babies and tingle inside at the sight of their soft faces. Then I hear their squeaky voices and I want to cry. Although I desperately love my big boys now, I could burst into tears at this very minute as I wistfully recall those times. 

The little boy who was  is almost finished with his plebe year at West Point was a toe-headed leader almost from the start. Last weekend, this same child successfully completed an 18 mile ruck and earned a German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency to don on his uniform.

The chunky toddler with a husky voice, is a tender-hearted musician /thespian/athlete. We have footage of him fake karate-chopping his baby brother as he swings innocently in the baby chair. Aaron remains my expressive boy but there's muscle, arm pit hair, a young man is emerging.

And then there's my Orange Love (Ike). In one movie, my youngest OS is sucking on his paci and I'm lugging him around on my hip. He can't say a word but you still knew that Ike needed/demanded/expected something. Oh my, if I could just reach right into the television screen and squeeze him again - 

Dozens and dozens of tapes and memories await. I'm going forward but looking behind, it's a bittersweet journey.