Real Soldiers eat salad and I have proof

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Nate and one of his housemates threw a party for the other folks in their troop. It’s weird thinking that my OS is now hosting social functions without my input but it’s also quite awesome thinking that he is doing it so well.

I’m not sure it’s leather but Nate got this find for only $200! Thanks Dave Ramsey!

He is getting settled and learning the nuances of independence. Recently I received a text from him and he was all aflutter (I just had to say that about my Soldier as it conjures up the silliest visual image) about the new leather couch he bought at a yard sale! The other day he bought a washing machine and dryer for only $200. My OS is doing all that he can to make Fort Benning a good place for him until the next season of life rolls around.

I am happy to hear how he’s acclimating but the proudest moment for me was when he told me about one particular dish he served to his nearly 20 guests at his 4th of July bash.

Our Soldiers need to eat well in order to be Army Strong!

When asked about what kind of lettuce he used, my boy said, “Romaine!” He actually said “Romaine!”

Among other things offered at the 4th of July celebration, Nate also served salad. And not just any salad, oh no. That boy remembers his roots and he made his own dressing! And when I inquired about what kind of lettuce he used, I secretly hoped that he wouldn’t answer “iceberg.”  My oldest OS did not disappoint. That amazing young man replied rather matter of factly, “Romaine.” Yes! A feeling a total contentment a washed every fiber of my being and since I eat Romaine lettuce, I have plenty of fiber thank you very much. 😉

Y’all, the Lord could have taken me Home right then and there! But since He didn’t and I’m still alive, it gives me a chance to post the recipe for you. Originally a Rachael Ray recipe, we have since renamed it Hooah Salad. Nate has made this salad in El Salvador for his girlfriend and her family and now he’s taking his culinary skills to Fort Benning in Georgia. I smile thinking of my Soldier stopping by the grocery store in his ACUs just to buy a small jar of tarragon. He might have worn his civies but I like my image better. That’s pretty cool.

I gave this recipe to a newlywed couple recently and asked them to pray for Nate and the troops anytime they make Hooah Salad. If you ever make this, will you do the same? It would mean a lot to this mama of a Soldier.

My Soldier likes salad. Thanks Rachael Ray for a great recipe that is a family favorite!

Here you go, enjoy!

Hooah Salad

The zest and juice of one small navel orange

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 t. Dijon mustard

1 t. dried tarragon (a traditional French spice)

1 t. salt

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

2 bunches romaine lettuce

3 scallions (green onions), chopped

Whisk orange zest (it smells really good), orange juice with garlic, Dijon mustard, tarragon and salt. Stream in extra virgin olive oil and whisk to combine. Chop lettuce and toss with scallions and dressing.

Remember Nate and all those serving as you enjoy!

And oh, here’s the link to ordering that cookbook if you are interested. I know a lot of 2LTs need some good recipes and for under $5, this has a ton!

Blessings!

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Spiritual Commissioning Ceremony

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The Hubs and I workin’ it at West Point, you gotta

Sitting in the hair salon, black smock snapped up around my neck, oh yes, you know it, I was a thing of beauty when my stylist asked me about the West Point graduation. At last distance and perspective are finally allowing me to drink in the enormity of the events. Thank you Julian for a fine haircut and a necessary reflection on life.With the ligature of exhaustion behind me, I’ve summarized that if Graduation Week was a car it would have been a cherry red Maserati with Lindsay Lohan behind the wheel. Fast. Full throttle. Overwhelming.

Hat toss!

We were spent, emotionally, physically and financially. At times, I wasn’t sure I could do one more early morning departure and high intensity event. And although the actual graduation ceremonies were truly epic, they were eclipsed by what happened afterward.

Upon receiving his diploma, Nate went to finalize things back at the barracks. Our gang headed to the Cadet Chapel for an event organized by Officers’ Christian Fellowship.

We were so happy to get something to eat and drink before the ceremony!

After the sponsored lunch reception, we walked into the chapel. For the second time that day, our son’s name was read and this time, he joined the other newly minted officers up to the front of the church. Still mottled with sweat but thanks to ice cold bottled water and a sandwich, I now had a small amount of energy to prepare me for what was next.

Nate and the others were asked to find their families in the chapel. Tom, who is an LTC, a West Point grad and the current OCF coordinator, instructed each of the 2LTs to locate a place where they could be prayed over individually. That’s when Nate knelt down before us. Head bowed and silent, the Hubs and I, followed by his two younger brothers placed our hands over this gift from God. I laid claim to Nate’s freshly shorn head and tenderly held his face in a way he has allowed me to as his mom. He was wearing his dress uniform for the first time in public. So handsome and strong. The Hubs had a firm grasp of one of Nate’s shoulders, Aaron and Ike rested their hands on the other.

Nate had just demonstrated a profound act of service and submission as an Officer in the United States Army and as a Christ follower.

An intimate family moment captured

Somber and reverent, we entered the sacred moment. Nate’s girlfriend and her dad traveled all the away from El Salvador and my stepfather were present and remained seated. I wonder what it must have been like to be an observer, to catch words and facial expressions filling the chapel.

Protuberant pride and unspeakable humility were shared by all even though I heard only the prayers of my clan.

I have been privileged to pray for and with my children. We have prayed for their health, salvation and future, even things like basketball games, grades and friendships. On one hand, you could say we are skilled prayer warriors but I wouldn’t recommend that. Yet despite years of experience, I have never felt so spiritually raw as I did during this moment.

My awesome, exhausted, sweaty and dehydrated olive shoots

What do you adequately say to God when your child has successfully completed this 47 month journey? Are there even words in human language to express to the Lord all the thankfulness a mama can contain for bringing her child thus far? And how you do ask the Author of Life to protect your baby without sounding selfish because you mean it truly from the bottom of your heart for all the other Soldiers everywhere in harm’s way?

So glad someone took this picture of us

So this is when the Hubs and I began to lose it. Tears streaming, hearts open wide, we supplicated and spoke to our Heavenly Father. Oh we were a fright to be sure, stripped of our own energy, but there we were – a daddy praying for his boy, a pink hair-streaked mama inclining the ear of the Lord and two knuckle-headed brothers spiritually lifting up their big brother. Not a traditional Norman Rockwell scene but I hope it was a beautiful picture in God’s sight.

The West Point part of our adventure draws to a close but the memories usher in. A deeper level of faith and trust are now required. Yes, it’s a lot to absorb. If you have read this, you have blessed me and helped me more than you know.

And this is what happened to me at the hair salon in June and on a steamy day in May at West Point. I’m glad Julian asked, I must be ready for this. Lord, let it be so. ❤

We are West Point Moms!

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I could barely eek out a few words before bursting into tears. We had never met and yet there was a bond between us as soon as she answered the phone. We were West Point moms at opposite ends of the 48 month adventure. The warmth in her voice removed the little resolve I had left to keep it all together. I attempted to ask some factual questions but really all I wanted to know is that she survived. Since she was still able to speak in full sentences, I perceived that as a good sign. 

The Hubs made this graph when 
Nate was a new cadet, it’s so true!

Don’t we all want to find kindred spirits, people who can help us along life’s way? I sure do. In many aspects, the desire to be encouraged and embraced is central to feeling a sense of community. Connection is what I’ve found in being a West Point Mom.

WP moms come in all sizes!

Perhaps mothers with children in traditional universities have a bond. As my middle OS begins college at Moody Bible Institute this fall, it would be nice to meet mothers who have children pursuing ministry. Yet I must be honest, my expectations will be high because West Point moms spoil each other with kindness.

Here are just a few examples of what it’s like to be a WP mom.  

This is the cutest Girl Scout delivery 
boy in El Salvador!

Recently my oldest OS went to see his bonita in El Salvador. She likes Girl Scout cookies and Nate couldn’t possibly go there empty-handed! He had bought her tea and nail polish which truly threatened his “Man Card” but Girl Scout cookies was another must-have item. Well, one quick message on facebook and a WP mom, whom Nate has never met, shipped EIGHT, yes EIGHT boxes to my boy, free of charge.

Girl Scout cookies make girlfriends happy!

Nate was hoping to avoid parking fees at the airport while on vacation in El Sal. A simple message to my WP moms and a grandma of a cadet offered Nate to park his car at her home for the week.

A mom asks for prayers and a swarm of WP moms respond with concern. A mom posts a picture of her cadet on the page and we gush as if it were our own bairn.

There is no paucity of concern or compassion. The Scripture passage found in Romans 12:15 is fitting. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” Though most of us haven’t met in person, we understand each other. We don’t all share the same political convictions or spiritual beliefs, some don’t even use soap nuts(!) but nonetheless we are a sisterhood. We realize our cadets will most likely travel in harm’s way. We get it in ways most don’t. Current events and conflicts in foreign lands impact our children’s future. As our cadets return from Spring Break, many weepy moms lamented about missing their cadet. We reassured them and gathered them into the fold cuz that’s how WP mamas roll. 

This is a common WP mom facial
expression. It’s hard to let go!

Now I’m at the other end of this experience. Nate graduates the end of May. I don’t want it to end but I know my cadet is ready to see where life leads him.  The current trajectory is Georgia, Colorado and then possibly Kuwait.  
  

Even if you’re not a WP mom, you will enjoy this video one of my friends created. One day soon your child will embark on new journeys and it will tug on your heart even if your baby isn’t heading to the United States Military Academy. I’ve watched this video many times and I can’t get through it without shedding a tear. A picture of Nate and I at Ring Weekend is found on 00.53 of this link. What a privilege to be part of this long grey line!

Love me, love my soap nuts

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You have to do something BIG for your 50th birthday.
I chose to begin life with soap nuts. 

It was destiny, destiny I tell you that the box of soap nuts arrived on my 50th birthday. I don’t usually air our dirty laundry (horrible pun) but now that it’s getting clean, let me brag for a moment about my new cleansing agent.

Do not be afraid, my friends, these are only soap nuts. 

From the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, several pounds of the dried shells of the sapindus mukorossi trees have found purpose in the suburbs of North Carolina. Oh how I wished I had these nuts when my oldest OS was a lowly plebe just starting at West Point. My olfactory buds have suffered greatly from the mounds of West Point laundry. There have been times when I have nearly driven home from the airport with the windows in my SUV open because Nate smelled really bad. Oddly enough it wasn’t due to poor hygiene, it was his clothing. When I informed Nate that he REEKED, he expressed confusion not knowing whether it was the cheap laundry detergent he was using or the frequently used washing machines on post. I’m still in disbelief that he went to see his bonita in El Salvador with that unpleasant odor attached to his clothing. 

The Soldier and his bonita in El Salvador. He’s going there for Spring Break.
Clean your clothes well before you leave to go see her, Nate!

But perhaps I have found the solution. My chest swelled with pride when Nate came home recently and I introduced him to soap nuts. While he was a bit skeptical about Mom and one of my latest “things,” here’s what I told him about the newest addition to the family. 

This is the equivalent of at least eight loads of laundry
  • Our clothes are cleaner – Imbedded stains have nearly disappeared. Without any additional spot removers or bleach, the soap nuts are kicking stains’  butts. It’s shocking how fresh and bright our clothes and linens have become. 
  • Our clothes feel nicer – Dare I admit I now even enjoy folding clothes again? Please don’t tell anyone else in the family. The texture of our laundry is more authentic. Ungainly t-shirts hold their heads up higher, towels have absorptive confidence. Who’d have thunk?
Soaking them soap nuts

And here’s a really weird thing I’ve noticed 

  • Our clothes even sound better – As someone with sensitive hearing, sounds influence my daily life. The sizzle of popcorn after the kernels have just finished exploding delights but I’m drawn to the brink of insanity by the smacking of lips or the licking of fingers. A very prominent person in my life does the latter so I’m quite familiar with this sound. And while it might sound really strange to most people, I have noticed the laundry sounds different and I never perceived the sound of laundry until my encounter with soap nuts. 

Enjoy this brief “music” clip of my soap nuts. For artistic purposes, I included some almonds in the picture. Do not use almonds in your laundry! 😉

  • No residual odors – Have ever washed your face with a wash cloth that smells like it had cleaned an armpit? It has happened too many times to me and I’m sick of it! Especially frustrating is when I know that the towel was freshly cleaned and still throw it out because the smell has lingered. Well friends, that is a now thing of the past. With soap nuts, there is no funky smell. I cannot detect the body part previously scrubbed with any towel. 
  • Much less lint – the dryer has about a 10th of its previous lint! I guess that’s a good thing, right?
  • No odors – aside from the slight vinegar smell of the soap nuts, my nose detects no chemical odors or perfumes.
  • Fun to use – I just soak about six soap nuts in a small muslin bag, immerse them in warm water during my washing machine and that’s it. After the rinse cycle, I just hang my nuts on the knob on the cabinet until the next time. You can use the soap nuts for about 4-7 times before they are done and then I just toss them in my backyard. They are eco-friendly like that. 
“I’m taking these pants and my mom’s soap 
nuts to college!”
  • Take up less space, weigh nearly nothing – As we prepare for our middle OS to attend Moody Bible Institute in the fall, Aaron will have his own supply of soap nuts quite possibly with a small monogrammed muslin bag. 😉 I might even give them as gifts for his college bound friends. Aaron will surely be the coolest guy pursuing a ministry degree and he will have more room in his dorm. Perhaps he will even wear his homemade bibliophile pajama pants to the laundry room and send the ladies into orbit!

“I think West Point needs soap nuts!” 

Here’s some more information if you are interested in learning more about soap nuts. Many times I have purchased products and been disappointed. My experience with soap nuts (click this to see how they work) has exceeded my expectations. Thanks to my Himalayan Mountain treasures, I can now proclaim, “Bring on the stinky Soldier! Send hither the malodorous minister! Come nigh thy athletic ginger, your mother and her soap nuts await you all with open arms.”

A friend sent me this link, thought I’d pass it along. 

Wednesday remix – no more land tortoises

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So sorry for the Wednesday remix delay. I knew what I wanted to post and it was a matter of scanning the pics, etc. which always takes longer than usual.

Can you say ouch? I can. 

On a side note, I’m having elbow surgery on Wednesday. It’s not major surgery but it might delay some posting since it’s my right arm, my “writing arm.” Time permitting, I might create some advance posts in the interim.


But back to the remix… Tonight I offer my post in honor of my oldest OS who spent two weeks in El Salvador with his bonita and two weeks with the fam this summer. With all that he has accomplished as a young man, Nate has embodied the Romans 8:37 spirit in being “more than a conqueror” in so many ways. By his example, Nathan has shown me how to Do Hard Things. In recognition of our collective swimming accomplishments both past and present, behold my toe-headed boy back in 1995. 

Nearly all known floatation devices were employed. 
The only kid on the swim team with the works. No shame. 
This is sweetest sugar boy I’ve ever seen in the pool!



There is nothing more precious or inspiring than seeing your child doing something you, yourself cannot do. Replete with floaties, nose plugs, swimming goggles and a noodle, that boy persevered. He didn’t worry about how he looked, my OS just wanted to stay alive during the swim meet! Cheering from the pool side, I was crazy proud of him!

As you can see, Nate didn’t inherit his daddy’s natural love of water. At least for a short while, my OS possessed his mama’s land tortoise qualities. 


Go Nate, go! You can doey it! He has come a long way as a cadet at West Point since completing survivor swimming his yuk year. 


Then in a strange twist of genetics, I believe that this summer, I came to inherit his determination. 


Oh and I can barely believe what I’m about to tell you! It’s no coincidence that AT THE SAME POOL, I jumped again into the deep end of the pool with even less forethought. And then although lacking any semblance of finesse, I stepped/jumped off the diving board 15 times yesterday. Here’s the amazing footage and it’s ok if you laugh, just keep it to yourself. Every time I see this video, I feel incredibly embarrassed and joyful. My youngest OS informed me that I “frolicked” off the diving board. Kids these days…

Years separated our victories but we have broken through barriers. Nate was one of my heroes when he was five and will always be as a man, son and Soldier. 

Thank you, dear readers for your messages both public and private. Keep doing your own hard things, if I can do it, so can you by the power of the Lord. 

Wednesday remix – with a pull and a prayer

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Your words of encouragement in regards to my swimming victories are spurring me on! Thank you, friends and family! In subsequent posts, I want to share what I’m learning, less about swimming techniques per se, but the greater aspects of my quest for aquatic magnificence.

They have nothing to do with today’s post
but seriously, aren’t they adorable?

Oh, and love, I want to share glimpses into love between a Soldier and his bonita. But more on that later…


Until then, I came upon something I wrote eight years ago about Aaron and a loose tooth. Still brings a grin to my heart…


Call me a wimp. Call me a baby. Call me the worst mother in the world. I don’t care, I just couldn’t do it. 


Aaron’s loose tooth would have to stay in his mouth until he could pull it. I’m not a good gore person and if you haven’t seen a tooth dangling from your kid’s mouth lately, one day you’ll understand. Strange as it may seem, the Lord used this experience to draw Aaron closer to him in a real and tangible way.


Losing a tooth isn’t an easy thing for the W-H’s. Some families’ teeth casually slip out one day with nary a wiggle. Our OS’s teeth are very stubborn. They like where they live and can be freeloading tenants. Aside from myself, I’ve only assisted one person in losing a tooth.


(Enter 70’s time machine…) One day accidentally on purpose I punched my sister Lorri in the mouth during a fight in the station wagon. While our parents were out of the vehicle, I gave her a knuckle sandwich which consequently sent her tooth flying. 

No knuckle sandwich necessary in this pic!

We searched and searched but never located the tooth and thanks to my natural charm and urgent begging, Mom and Dad never found out.


(Return from time machine…) Our middle OS lost his first two teeth at the dentist’s office. With a few good yanks, the dentist produced two adorable baby teeth which Aaron happily placed under his pillow for the Tooth Fairy.

I don’t recommend Aaron as a dentist
but oh the personality!

Now with budgetary concerns, Aaron’s loose tooth would have to leave the old-fashioned way. Each morning, Aaron showed me how loose his tooth was getting. For two days, my OS lingered in the bathroom, the only tools to expel the tooth being his boyishly dirty fingers and toilet paper which he used as a gripping device. Meanwhile I stood in the hallway clutching my stomach afraid I was going to pass out. He might as well have been giving himself an appendectomy, it grossed me out so much!


With utter determination, Aaron pulled and grabbed his central incisor. Possessing all the courage an eight year old can muster, he shut the bathroom door and with amazing bravery, mightily tore at the remaining root. Free at last, free at last, the battle was won, the tooth was out!


However, that wasn’t the only time Aaron lost that tooth.

I can’t believe we still have this in the house!

At bedtime, he prepared to put it under the pillow. It was the first tooth he had ever personally pulled and suddenly, he could no longer find it. He cried and searched. We combed the house looking for it. Maybe it’s in his pants in the washing machine, I wondered so we jetted downstairs only to find soggy jeans with empty pockets. This tooth was originally placed in a special Tooth Fairy container, where was it now?


That night as Aaron lay on his bed, dejected and forlorn, he asked me to join him in prayer. Aaron led the intercession and though I don’t remember what he said, Someone did. My OS drifted into sleep hoping that God, in His mercy, would locate the missing tooth in time for the Tooth Fairy to make her delivery.

I was even more surprised to find this assortment of 
dental treasures! Why are we saving these? 

In the wee hours of the night (pun intended), I awoke at 1 am and used the bathroom downstairs. Normally I frequent the potty in the master bedroom but for some reason I didn’t and…yep,  

“You found me!”


that’s when I spotted it. Aaron’s Tooth Fairy container and the pearly white  he had misplaced in the downstairs bathroom!

Aaron woke up in the early morning with a huge smile, astonished that the Tooth Fairy had actually arrived. A crisp one-dollar bill magically was found under his pillow. He was delighted but as for me, observing what was placed in Aaron’s heart was more valuable. As I shared in his excitement, my OS told me, “I’m glad I prayed. It actually works. God is real!”



Matthew 18:19 says, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” Aaron humbled himself before the Lord and received his heart’s desire. If I would have yanked that tooth on my own, perhaps he wouldn’t have seen in a very real way how the Lord values all of our supplications.


With a couple of tugs and a simple prayer, Aaron received a true wisdom tooth and a tiny, shiny bright testimony to God’s faithfulness. 


Gotta a tooth story? Ever entered a 70’s time machine? I’d love to hear!

Wednesday remix – staying pure

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I’m a day late on Wednesday remix but the message I’m sharing today is timeless. Love and purity aren’t things bound by time! Come on now!

From April 2009 – when our OS were 12, 14 and 19 years old….
This guy does think about other things besides basketball! 
On a beautiful spring day, my husband and I were going to attend the wedding of a co-worker. While running errands with my orange haired, freckle face OS looked up at the sky and commented, “This is a perfect day to get married.” It was an unexpected but lovely comment from Ike who concerns himself more with perfecting his jump shot than on mushy stuff like love and marriage. While driving with him in the passenger seat, our youngest OS also informed me that he would like a beach wedding. I didn’t know he even thought for a second about such things but my heart burst like the sun that morning.
Aaron makes a covenant with us and the Lord
Then in February, our 14-year-old son participated in a True Love Waits ceremony at our church. My husband and I stood alongside him and slipped the purity ring on his finger. This was our son’s decision, he was not forced or bribed to be a part of this. Aaron had chosen his ring and eagerly anticipated wearing it. Our middle OS went to school the next day and everyone noticed the ring on his finger. When asked about it, Aaron confidently explained the pledge he made to his future bride.  (He still wears it to this day!
We all made a promise to the Lord and each other. 
While meeting his peers at West Point back in 2009, a fellow plebe asked my son to tell him all the things he had done with a girl. 


Without preaching or sounding arrogant, Nate was careful to not speak. He didn’t want to sound hesitant or apologetic with his proceeding answer. My OS recounted to me that he just said nonchalantly,“I’m just chilling on that stuff.” My hunch is this guy doesn’t hear that response too often but according to Nate, he seemed to respect my son’s decision.  

(Fast forward three years and now he’s still holding true to his convictions. Nate is in love with a beautiful young lady, read this post and this one for the sweet story thus far!) 
Nate and Lu…they are so cute together!

During my eight years of working in the field of sexual purity, I heard so many heartbreaking stories. It would be easy to think that there isn’t a single young man with self-control and respect out there. Not true! The Hubs and I are doing our best to raise and prosper three of them! We need to encourage the boys and men in our midst to do as Scripture says in Psalm 119:9, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.”

The beginning of our family started on September 5, 1986.
We never expected the Lord to change our hearts on so many things
and allow us reach for higher standards.
What do these three things have to do with each other? Am I merely writing these words to impress and brag about the precious family the Lord has given me? It’s true I am fiercely proud of my sons but I share this with you to give you parents of daughters a ray of hope too. There are some good guys out there. I share these brief glimpses into my family to tell you parents of sons to esteem the young men in your life and encourage them to prosper in honor and integrity.