Earth, wind and fire

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I don’t want to deceive anyone and make you think that we are just one big happy family all the time. We fuss and argue, we agitate and frustrate. Try as we might, there are times, far too often, when we even get disappointed in one another and yell. Even on vacation. Apparently I have a certain look, my children know too well where my jaw tightens, my eyes bulge out, it’s quite lovely I’m told. Luckily there are no pictures which have captured such a moment. If there are, I will delete such photos immediately. You will only see this look in person, never on film!

To prove my point, I wanted to share a very W-H moment we had during our trip to the coast. It was a cool summer night on Carolina Beach. There is a long stretch of beach at Carolina Beach where you can camp or make fires. Put this on your list of things to do before you die. It’s really awesome. And it might just be a guy thing but my men like to burn things. So on this crisp July night, Nate, Aaron and Isaac create a mighty bonfire and the hubs and I join them. We gather around the aluminum fire pit that was placed in a hole dug in the sand. (Remember this part).

Ike grabs a reed he had pulled from the sandbar and fashions a skewer for marshmallows. Quite resourceful. Apparently Isaac unwittingly adds extra fiber to the marshmallow which I note upon biting into my gritty summer treat. Then Nathan adds additional sand in my mouth when he kicks up his heels walking past me, not on purpose but whatev. (This might have been a eye-bulging moment.) Thanks, Soldier/Son!

The hubs and I depart and the boys continue their time by the roaring fire. (Remember this part.)

Legend goes that the boys were putting out the fire on the beach, ready to retire for the evening. It’s around 11pm and Aaron says smugly, “I’m just gonna enjoy the hot sand while you guys work.”Aaron holds the flashlight while Nate and Ike pick things up.

It is about this time that Isaac pours sand over his brother’s foot. The sand near the fire was warm and good but the sand Ike dumped on Aaron’s foot had been directly on the coals. It was poker-hot. In Aaron’s vernacular, “insanely hot.” Ike wasn’t trying to hurt his brother but indeed he did, giving him a second degree burn on the top of his foot! While the hubs and I are chilling in the condo, Aaron is screaming on the beach, Nate is getting angry both at Isaac for doing it and Aaron for shrieking, and our 12 year-old, orange-haired, freckle-face Ike is numb. A precious moment? Hardly.

In the middle of the night, Aaron had trouble sleeping because of the pain. We helped him the best we could and in the morning, it was feeling somewhat better. If you ask nicely, Aaron will show you the singed foot hair.

Thankfully, though we were laughing about it by the evening. Aaron might have another scar to add to his collection. Ask him about the scar he obtained while running into a urinal, or hopping up a brick step to our house. He’s quite the conversation piece.

When all is said and done though, it is well with my soul. I still have three OS who when together, still say “I love you” to each other before bedtime. This includes if they are on the phone with friends. How many teenage boys do you know who interrupt a conversation with a buddy just to shout, “I love you” to their annoying kid brother? Yes, I am blessed beyond measure.

Woefully imperfect, etched memories are sometimes burned into our lives forever, pun intended. (This is a picture of our family on a ferry to Southport, days before the charming burning incident.)

I’d love to hear your vacation stories! Got a scar story? Tell me!

Homage to our friend, the stomach


I could blog about the weird dream I had this morning involving me in college where I lived in a dorm building and there was this elevator and for some reason, never explained in a dream sequence, a glass roof was installed in the dormitory building at my college which was poorly constructed with a one-inch gap between the elevator and my dorm room floor and then, out of nowhere, my stepfather magically appears. In the dream, my dorm room was on the top floor and therefore I could see lightning strikes and I wasn’t sure if I could deal with those living conditions. As someone who is afraid of heights, I spent most of the dream terrified about how to negotiate the one-inch gap between the safety of the elevator and the security of the floor and I’m still thinking about it! I awakened this morning scared and in need of a hug which my husband gladly supplied. What the heck did any of that mean? No clue!

OR I could blog about how I visited five medical office buildings today and how my mom’s wrist is doing better following surgery but now she has pneumonia; how my son has a cold/allergies and that there is a good chance I have a micro-fracture on my stupid tooth and might need a crown. 

But instead I’d rather tell you about the best brochure I’ve ever seen about an organ in the digestive system, the stomach. 

And I’d like to brag about the creator of this amazing brochure, my youngest OS, Isaac.

In his sixth grade English class, the students had to create a travel brochure for any part of the digestive tract they had recently studied. Among the choices, Ike could select the esophagus, the stomach, the liver, the mouth, the gall bladder, the small intestine, the large intestine and let us not forget, the anus. (I never thought I’d be writing that word on my blog!) Remind me to tell you something about that word in a minute. But my little, orange-haired OS knew instantly what body part he was going to pick = the stomach. I think this might have been his favorite homework assignment ever and he attacked this project with vigor.

This brochure was so good, I think it should be at every internist’s office. The headline was:

The Stomach – if you like getting dirty and slimy, come have some fun with us!

You open the tri-fold brochure and inside you see an “illustration” of the stomach. Isaac’s teacher thought the diagram was kind of weird because there is no face on the drawing. She said usually you have a face but apparently Ike wanted all eyes on the stomach. I think it worked quite nicely. 

Continue reading the contents of this stomach travel brochure and learn about:

Imports and Exports  – 

Favorite line in this paragraph, “There is only one way into the stomach and two ways out.” All-righty then…

AccomodationsYou can stay in one of the best hotels ever, it is called the Stomach Hotel. This hotel has big beds, big rooms and lots to chow on. You will not be disappointed, trust me!

DangersThe stomach does have some dangers. If the stomach has a virus  you are likely to be shot out of the stick-like tube and out the mouth. Also if you eat too much you may be thrown up. 

Why should I come here?Well, if you have had a long week you can come here and enjoy a nice hot tub and be massaged by the best massagers in the stomach called Peristalsis Massagers.

What happens here?Lots of things happen here. You can get a massage or go in a nice hydrochloric acid hot tub. The possibilities are endless. (I seriously wanted to book a weekend at the Stomach Hotel!) 

If there was any confusion, Ike was gracious enough to include directions in the stomach:

1. Enter the mouth
2. Go down the esophagus for four seconds
3. Then you enter the wonderful stomach

I was delighted to learn that Isaac got a 98%! Yay! There had been no need to pester or prod Isaac to finish this homework and then to see his creativity in high gear and the resulting high marks made me forget that weird nightmare and the rest of my harried day.

Oh, and the thing about that aforementioned word…ahem. Isaac informed me that he had learned that there are actually two sphincters in the human body in class but he didn’t even know the word “sphincter” existed until last year. Ike went bowling with his two older brothers just prior to Nate’s high school graduation. My three awesome OS were enjoying special brother time and at the bowling alley, throwing balls down the lane, when suddenly his oldest brother, the West Point-bound son and role model, Nathan, decided to change Isaac’s name on the electronic score board to “Anal Sphincter.” 

So charming! Let’s all give it up for the Amazing Stomach! Woot! 

What I Can Do For My Sons


Since my son began his 47 month journey at the United States Military Academy, I have heard and read many statements from him.

“Mom, I have thrown a live grenade.”
“Ma, today I went to the gas chamber.”
Madre, (one of his nicknames for me), I flew in a Chinook.”

From each one of those sentences I have needed a minute to recover. Those are awkward statements I never expected to read from a child of mine, especially if you knew my background. Being a mom is an adventure even when I’m not the one rappelling down a mountain or firing a rifle. And in the case of my other two OS, motherhood is equally exciting and I’m even not on the football field, or on stage, or kicking the soccer ball or trying to finish a leaf project. OY!

Lately though I’ve been especially blessed when my oldest OS has reached out and asked me for things. I’m not talking about protein bars and new undies which he has requested and I am happy to send but…

I love the other thing my son has asked for and that is for prayer.

My son had a two minute sparring match in boxing class this week. He was concerned about getting his nose broken. His nose was still sore from the previous class and I guess he likes his nose in the position and shape it’s been in for the last 18 years. While talking to him over the phone, my boy asked if I would pray for him. 

Oh it was my privilege to lift my son up to the Lord! And I took the request seriously! We prayed over the phone; my DH and I prayed for him; I asked for prayer for my son on my facebook; we joined hands in prayer around the dinner table. Let me tell ya, that nose was covered in prayer! Nothing or no one was going to mess with that little nose and I’m thrilled to say that my son’s beautiful nose is still nice and straight although apparently he jacked up the other guy’s neck. I now need to pray for that young man!

Homework is also stressing him out. Last night, we got an email asking for prayer. We again petitioned the Lord to give our son a peace that passes understanding and success in accomplishing all the tasks at hand.

Peter Kreeft, author and professor at Boston College said, “I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those prayers down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power or prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives.” 

Isn’t that an amazing perspective? I have that quote in a special scrapbook I created during a very difficult time in our family. How apropos as I learn to be the mama of a Soldier! I get to pray for my son. NOTHING can stop me. I can’t do his homework or block the punches that will come his way, literally and figuratively but this mama, above all else can pray! My boy can rest in knowing that he comes from a praying family no matter the circumstances or distances which separate us. 

It is so good to know that our God considers all prayers important. I am humbled to trust in a Lord who thinks that prayers for my son’s nose are as precious as prayers for my friend who is fighting a mighty battle against cancer. I find it incredible that the same God who hears my prayers on behalf of my boy for help with homework is listening also to another mom’s prayers for complete healing of her daughter’s heart condition.

Praying is a gift that I receive and give freely. In my work, I have spoken to many hurting teenagers. Often I will tell them after hearing their heavy troubles that tonight there will be five people who hold hands around a kitchen table and lift them up to the Lord. And I mean it. 

Who do you know that needs prayer? Extend that priceless privilege to others and let me know if our family can pray for you. 

Brother Time


Before Nathan went away to West Point, a family friend gave our son an incredible graduation gift. 

Ron, who is a husband and father of two, sent our son a framed copy of a quote by Abraham Lincoln, which by itself was a pretty awesome gift for a guy who loves history. But it was what Ron included in a card that deeply touched my heart. My husband’s high school buddy gave our son $100 cash.  

What 18 year old kid do you know who doesn’t like cold, hard cash? Sah-sweet!
However, this bounty, wasn’t for Nate to spend on himself, according to Ron’s note, the money had one intention. Our son was required to spend that money creating a special time with his brothers. Ron also specified that this was BROTHER TIME, not mom time or dad time. I jokingly offered to hang out with them and Nathan quickly rebuffed that idea. You should have seen the excitement Aaron and Isaac had imagining doing some cool stuff with their oldest bro.

My son received many wonderful and generous gifts from family and friends. I do not want to minimize the kindness and love people poured into them, they are worthy of many blog posts separately. It’s just that I had never heard of anyone, in particular, a guy, thinking about investing in brotherly memories. 

The guys went a movie, Indiana Jones (which wasn’t that great, btw) and out for lunch. Oh, how I would have loved being in a nearby table and watching my three kanuckle heads yukking it up. With the $100 my three sons went fishing and bowling. The guys went to Chick-Fil-A and grabbed some ice cream. As the day crept by when we were going to have to say goodbye to Nate, these moments became lasting treasures.


Forever, I shall remember Ron’s generosity and creativity. I was as blessed as my boys and I didn’t even have a handful of popcorn or a lick of that ice cream. I think it’s every mother’s dream to raise children who sincerely love each other and so far, that is proving true. 

I’ve included a video of their bowling “match” and a few pics of the guys who were together days before Nate reported to the United States Military Academy and when they hung out as brothers on A-Day. 

If you are ever in need of a special high school graduation gift, consider this one, folks!

Ten reasons why it’s better to be a dorky 6th grader than a plebe


1. You are a higher form of life. There is nothing lower than a plebe (well, almost). Note chart.

2. You can enjoy unlimited chews. No one is counting your bites. You can even swirl food around in your mouth and it’s all good.Life Form Chart.v2

3. You can sass at your superiors (although still highly dis- couraged) and not have to do push-ups. You may suffer other unpleasant consequences but not push-ups.

P10300104. You can also pass gas and not have to tell everyone or make noxious fume hand signals in the air to everyone around you.

5. You have a first name and you have heard it said in the last 24 hours.

6. You can say “Hey!” “How’s it going?” “Hello, my friend!” or even make up your own salutation. These are just a sample of myriad greetings available to you as a dorky 6th grader!

7. Your bed can be slightly messy and you can sleep under the covers.

8. You do not have to memorize your mama’s dinner menu six days in advance.

9. You enjoy unlimited time for bodily functions! Woohoo!

10. You shower alone.

Four reasons it’s better to be a plebe than a dorky 6th grader

1. Cool uniforms with your name on them.

2. Better fireworks.

3. Honor, duty, country.

4. Huah. If you need a translation, you just don’t get it.

So which one is your personal favorite? Which one would be the most challenging for you???

Oh happy day – letters after R-Day


P1040208On July 9, 2007 while just exiting a restroom in Lima, Peru, I got mugged. My pricey camera was pulled off my shoulders and back and that was probably one of the most startling events of my life.

Fast forward a year, I’m back home and this July 9 is joyous. Yeah, we have a stomach virus wreaking havoc on our family but it’s all good.

Our son wrote us!

In our mailbox, I discovered not one, not two, not three but FOUR letters from our boy!

There are not enough exclamation points to describe how I feel to read his words and glean his personality. Here are just a few and I’ll try not to be obnoxious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!P1040207

I count it a privilege that our NC (military word for New Cadet) took the precious time to write.

Some parents have yet to hear from their child and I feel for them deeply. I do not take it for granted we have these paper treasures from our soldier and will guard them close to my heart forever.

As we gathered around the family room to read his letters, I thought to myself that this is what it used to be like before email, AIM and facebook.

Writing letters is a forgotten art and in some way, I have enjoyed putting pen to paper. I’m a writer so it comes fairly naturally but my two remaining OS certainly aren’t but what sweet messages have poured from their fingers. Aaron sends funny drawings, Ike sends Scripture.

Aaron writes about the day’s happenings.

Ike shares that he has thrown up.

My DH dashed another letter out to Nathan as soon as he read Nate’s messages. They are so beautiful, I have no choice but to weep.

Without violating his privacy, I think some of you would enjoy knowing a few details but let me tell you the latest on the toe.

Although still purple, his big toe feels much better since he got it drained. Getting a toe drained doesn’t sound like fun but I’m relieved to know he’s ok. I wrote him that he had so many prayers that not only should that toe be healed in Jesus’ name but quite possibly he might have grown a third big toe as a spare!

p1040211Please keep praying not only for our family but for the other cadet families out there eagerly awaiting news from their NC.

It’s tough when no news comes your way.

In a few days, we anticipate phone calls and I can’t wait to hear his voice.  Major props to my homeslice Beth Anne who documented the first few moments when the letters arrived, love you, BA!

Getting letters from your son is better than getting mugged in South America, that’s a fact, Jack! HUAH big time!

Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.”

Feeling better – mama of a soldier presses on…

RDay 063

We are currently experiencing a drought in our part of the country and if I had collected my tears in some type of container, (an incredibly large container), I think I personally could have solved the problem two days ago.

Today is a better day although it was quite painful walking into the house and past my son’s room. 

This picture is of the two OS and me while still at West Point featuring four items of USMA gear along with the jade necklace my friend whose husband is serving in Korea.

The last thing I want to be is maudlin so I’m concentrating on good things. 

I don’t even like the the word maudlin, therefore I’m trying my best to not be characterized as such. 

Instead, I’m going the other extreme by wearing  

– my West Point Mom Class of 2012 t-shirt with
– my West Point Class of 2012 matching canvas bag
– while driving my mini-van with the Proud Parent of West Point Class of 2012 bumper sticker
and reading Absolutely American (an amazing West Point book, highly recommend) and sporting my West Point Class of 2012 baseball cap.

My husband has – 
– a West Point Parent license plate holder
– a West Point Dad Class of 2012 t-shirt

– a West Point golf shirt

P1020552– an Army baseball cap and

– a Proud Parent to be a West Point Cadet’s Parent bumper sticker
along with an Army lapel pin.

Can you notice a theme here? Does it seem just a little over the top? Who cares! 

In some way, it connects us. I might wash my West Point Mom shirt in a couple of days if it starts to stink but I will stay in the laundry room and put it on as soon as it comes out of the dryer. Do you think I’m kidding!? I’m not! 

Despite hundreds of miles that separate us, I am tethered to my child by these small efforts.
Since I like to sew, earlier this spring, I made Isaac a pair of camo-boxer shorts and a camo-pillow case.

My nephew Josiah now has a camo-bib. I also sewed a camo-apron.

Suddenly my favorite colors are either red, white and blue or black, grey and gold. I can’t be there with him while he is learning “knowledge” or doing push-ups or making his bed with incredible speed and execution so in spirit, this is my mama’s way of showing support. 

He doesn’t know it but I do and it makes me feel better = less tears.

I cried so much on Monday that I had salt deposits under my eyes.

My two OS said, “Mom you have this white stuff under your eyes.” I went to the restroom at West Point and it wasn’t Kleenex, it wasn’t makeup, it was dried up tears. Yeah, it was that bad. 

While at the Panera Bread line today, wearing my West Point Mom Class of 2012 t-shirt, a man approached me and said that he used to attend the Sunday night concerts up there by the tip of the Hudson River. I saw that place just a few days ago and it brought me a measure of joy. I felt connected and held back the floodgates.

During this time of transition though I have to share this with you.

I haven’t been able to collect my tears and find a useful purpose for them but someone has.

It is God.

Scripture says in Psalm 56:8 “You number and record my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle–are they not in Your book?”  

I can’t tell you how many times I have clung to that truth. If you know people who are hurting, sad or lonely, share that timeless message with them. God is recording their tears in His bottle, on His scroll.

They matter to Him. And if you see me, for goodness sake, please compliment me on my new USMA fashions, it will help this mama of a soldier!

Go Army, Beat Navy!

Check out how things are going as we now await “the phone call” and a silly way we included our NC into a little family fun!

Link to a newscast about R-Day at West Point, I wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes!

Btw, I love all your comments and stories and want to put them in a future post. They are inspiring even to non-military folks! Keep ’em coming!

Little buddy Monday and Tuesday

An absolutely adorable work in progress

An absolutely adorable work in progress

Well, two of my three children are in trouble.

I hate the term “grounded,” as it conjures up bad memories of my own rebellious adolescence so I will refrain from the terminology.

It could be a long and lonely summer at our house because unfortunately our guys are proving there is great truth in James 3:6

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.”

So instead of being able to use their tongue in conversation with their friends, their punishment is to spend time with me.

It’s funny to consider that I am a form of punishment but it’s true.

Aaron, my middle OS had his iPod, book and electric guitar removed from his possession and it has been replaced with laundry, a vacuum and his Bible.

Everything is fine right now, he has apologized and we’re moving forward, thank goodness but restrictions are a consequence of his actions!

We have work to do and I’m not backing down on raising three godly young men of honor.

That’s my job and I can’t give up, can’t back down, wimp out, no way, ain’t gonna happen, nuh-uh, no way Jose.

With one son preparing to leave our nest and go off to West Point, my prayer is to see the two remaining guys ready to do amazing things in their lives. They don’t have to be cookie cutter fellas but my heart’s cry is for them to glorify the Lord in all they do.

So yesterday Isaac was my companion and today, well, both Aaron and Isaac are by my side. We could be spending a lot of time together if they don’t watch out.

Ike and I did errands and such and despite it being a punishment, I think he had some fun. I called it Little Buddy Monday and it looks like it’s Middle Buddy Tuesday also.

Instead of strumming the guitar or hanging out with friends, the guys went with me to Nate’s final pediatrician visit.

Nate got three shots, a TB test and three vials of blood drawn.

And to his chagrin, I documented a vast majority of it because I knew you would want to see.

Yes, we all looked like goobers but times like this are ending as my oldest OS begins his journey at West Point in a matter of weeks.

I only get one more shot (pardon the pun). I took this picture of the door when the guys and I were politely asked to leave for the more “personal” parts of the exam.

I ended up feeling a little wistful as I realized that my 18-year-old son is grown. He can see the pediatrician up to 21 years of age but who does that? I can so easily remember the days when these doctors were measuring his head circumference, checking for ear infections, etc.

Today Nate didn’t need nor want my hand to hold although when he had a woozy moment, I was able to stroke his peaked head (I think I needed it more than he did).

Now he is venturing off to grown up places and I entered the pediatrician’s office feeling like we were turning another page. I think it was a blessing it was Little Buddy Tuesday after all.

So our summer begins and parts of our life kind of end. Will there be a Little Buddy Wednesday? Probably! Who knows! Stay tuned!

This was Nate enjoying a little Motts Totts juice box to help him not pass out.