Ring, ring!

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If the cliche wasn’t so true, I wouldn’t use it but where has the time gone? Nate is now ring shopping!

Two cuties in El Salvador

If your heart skipped a beat, and you’re like “Wha?????” settle down there! If you imagined our OS searching for a shiny bauble for a Salvadorena beauty, I’m sorry to disappoint you. We’re not there yet.

Nate is ring shopping for himself and deciding about the type of ring he wants as a 2012 graduate of the United States Military Academy.

* June 2008 R-Day, my boy walked by us in the parade and oh how I wanted to run and grab him take him away from all these people yelling! Nate had made his mind up, he was going to West Point and I couldn’t stand in the way.

During an impromptu visit home (which aside from Ike’s flu, made it the best MLK weekend I’ve ever had!) Nate showed us the brochure featuring his ring options.

What a huge ac- complishment for our OS to be on the other side of the 48 month experience known as West Point. I sat beside him on Sunday pondering that the eager, determined teenager who entered West Point on that most notable day is now a competent, strong leader and man.

I like this figurative place as a WP mom.

You see, I’m strategically positioned to be content about all that he has done while not giving too much worry to what he’s going to do AFTER graduation. I can celebrate the cool stuff like my OS getting a ring and block out the “other things” like when and where he will be deployed. Not. going. there.

Let’s just concentrate on jewelry, shall we?

What makes a West Point ring especially significant is the symbolism literally melted in the ring.

Following the death of a West Point grad, some families, upon the bequest of the departed grad or simply to pass on tradition, donate the ring back to West Point. It’s called the Ring Memorial Program.

The ring is then melted and the shavings are used to help create a new ring.

When West Point grads receives their ring, they have a part of the men and women of the Long Gray Line with them.

* This is the march back from Buckner where Beast was held – a momentous event!

The design of the 2012 crest features two swords symbolizing the graduates going from a cadet to an officer. I will stuff my purse with Kleenex as I see this ring on my boy’s finger. Partially because it will be no small feat to get a ring over his¬† gi-normous knuckle and also because I will be bursting with pride.

Next year, the Hubs and I will attend the Ring Weekend. Nate will be on the receiving end of Ring Poop which thankfully has nothing to do with #2!

I will buy an expensive new dress and possibly several new outfits for the event.

The Hubs and I are attending Financial Peace University so I guess I’ll need to start saving up right now because this girl is gonna bring it! ūüėČ I won’t be wearing anything like this.

WOW!

Personally I like matching shoes.

But perhaps something like this?

Hmmm…This might be a little over the top but then again, maybe not!

As the mama of three sons, it’s rare for me to talk bling in this household so I’m going to cherish this moment and not hurry to the next!

June 29th is a curious day

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What is up with these kids of mine? They are all gone as of Monday. And what is up with June 29th? This is the second year in the row that I have bid farewell to one of my OS on that blemished day. When I told my boys that I wanted them to be confident, independent people, I wasn’t thinking they were going to take me seriously! When I told them to go where the Lord wanted them, I still hadn’t finished praying specifically that it was just going to be up the street not far away as in West Point or Guatemala! Zheesh!

How come they listen to me about developing into their own person and following the Lord’s leading but these guys can’t seem to remember to pick their clothes up off the floor?? Kids these days…

The house is now empty. Nate has been gone for two weeks at Camp Buckner until 15 July (I wrote it the Army way ~ huah.) He is doing fun things like shooting stuff, sleeping on rocks and other assorted merriment. Ike, my not so little orange-haired, freckle-faced 12 year old left for Crossroads, a Christian summer camp complete with a tummy ache just prior to leaving. Miss me!

And then there’s my middle OS whose journey-bound to Guatemala. Wasn’t I the one who prodded this kid in the fall? “Aaron, you really should go. Aaron, this trip is made for you ~ you’re gonna love it and it will mess with you (in a good way.) Aaron, I’m tellin‘ ya, you really should pray about doing this…” He listened and now look at me. Waa.

This will be Aaron’s first trip overseas and it’s without us! What was I thinking? I truly believe this is where the Lord wants my boy and I am excited to hear about all that he experiences along the way. I know my OS will have a blast as he uses the talents the Lord has given him to minister to the people he encounters but I am admittedly human and already miss him.


We took the OS to the airport yesterday and I think if it had been possible he could have flapped his wings and flown to Miami all by himself. “I’m pumped!” was the frequently heard sentence for the last two days. I hung onto my OS’s neck and once outside my grasp, Aaron strode confidently to the security gates.


Just like his brother on R-Day, Aaron never turned around and ran back into my arms – my open arms that desperately wanted to hold him back but didn’t because it would have been way wrong.

Here is Aaron – June 29th, 2009

This is Nate – June 29th, 2008 ~ This is a picture I can barely look at, oh the anguish and the pride of that day!

Instead, just like his brother last June 29th on R-Day, Aaron moved forward to his destination and never looked back. I guess those are indications that just like his brother, Aaron was ready to leave. Not because he hates his parents or his life but because it is time. That is a good thing, right??? Somebody tell me “Cindy, this is a good thing!”

Three girls going on the same mission trip were flying out on the same flight. It was delayed by four hours and I distinctly recall talking to Aaron and he said he was having fun with his “friends.” They even all sat together on the plane! We spoke to him later that night and he was giggling and having trouble finishing our conversation. Why? He was having fun with his “buddies” already cracking jokes with the fellas on the trip.


The fourth of July is this week but I think June 29th is fast becoming our family’s Independence Day.

Angels Unaware

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p1040172When my OS began his exploration into attending West Point, so did I.

We were about to embark on an exciting journey and I had no clue what he was getting himself and the entire family into!

I was so clueless about West Point, the United States Military Academy, I had to google search west+point.

Where is West Point anyway?

That’s when I found it is far away. Far away as in New York. Far away as in a 10 hour drive, but about 15 hour of driving time if I’m in the car accounting for potty breaks and not including an overnight stay at a nice hotel. Yes, I am ever so slightly high maintenance.

It just so happened the Lord had placed in our lives a great couple, Gigi and Eric. Eric is a professor at West Point and we met here when he was in our state completing his doctorate degree and attending our church and Sunday School class. When the family left for a two year class assignment to Korea, we thought we would never see them ever again, this side of heaven.

But that was not the Lord’s will and soon, they will return to West Point. We will re-connect with them! When our son was accepted at West Point, Eric called us all the way from Korea and lovingly, honestly explained what R-Day was going to be like for us as parents.

In a word – HARD!

After speaking with him on the phone, I literally collapsed on my carpet, unsure of how I was going to handle parting with my treasured boy. And not only saying goodbye but doing it in under two minutes.

99068-photo250Enjoy this picture I took thanks to my Mac Photo Booth aptly conveying my sentiments last year.Very attractive, huh?

Since then we have pressed on. And we have been blessed. We have met amazing people who have extended themselves in ways I never expected. I see how the Lord’s hand has linked us up with caring families who have been there for us and our OS.

For example, Peggie, a West Point mom whom I never met when I called her because we have a mutual acquaintance. Peggie allowed me to cry on her proverbial shoulder. I barely got one sentence out of my mouth, before the Lacrimal Glands got activated. She was such an encouragement and she listened like a mama who’s been there, done that. And she still spoke in full sentences which gave me hope that I could actually live through this experience with some semblance of sanity.

aa0c5-p1070259Then there have been the Hoffman’s who take Nate out regularly when they visit their plebe at West Point. Patti gives our OS an obligatory hug from me and has loved my boy as if he were her own. This family knows no bounds of kindness. Such a beautiful lady who even did an eyebrow trim for my husband when we were all together at Plebe Parent Weekend! I love these people! How many of your girlfriends can you ask to trim your husband’s eyebrows??? Those friends are few and far between!

p1070333Merrily is a gem too. Although recently faced with the loss of her husband, she is a resilient mama of a very fine plebe. That lady is someone that from the minute she called me on the phone one day after communicating via her husband’s blog, I felt an instant connection to and we ended our first conversation saying, “I love you” and meaning it. 

 

And then there’s Kim. Kim works at West Point and she’s a grad. Very huah but in no way obnoxious. Kim understands what it’s like to be a cadet and she’s a mother which is a perfect combination. 

When Nate’s birthday rolled around on April 12th, Kim dropped off in our son’s room, a bouquet of balloons, a big birthday card and an ice cream party certificate. She has offered to take my OS out for pizza, invited him to an Easter dinner, truly extended herself in ways I could have never imagined. And we have only met once when she recognized me at A-Day. I had a broken foot and a scooter, so I was an easy target and she has been reading my blog for a while. I felt so fancy when she came up and introduced herself! Since then, we have kept in touch and when I have offered to reimburse Kim for her generosity, she quickly rebuffs my offer, saying she does these things gladly and free of charge. Oh, how I am blessed!

 
I am reminded of the Scripture found in Hebrews 13:2 “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” 
 
I reflect on this journey thus far and sometimes can’t believe how fast my son’s plebe year has passed! I praise the Lord because we have survived, occasionally even thrived. We have all learned things about ourselves, our strength, the importance of faith and prayer and developing an extended sense of family. 

 
Y’all, I am meeting angels. Not the fluttering kind with halos and wings but still divine messengers of God who have lighted this path with compassion. I hope you have been meeting some along your way as well, wherever it may be…

I love a parade!

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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.¬†

I LOVE A PARADE!

PPW Peer Pressure

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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!


Oh happy day – letters after R-Day

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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.”

Soldier Boy

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When Nathan turned the corner in the Oath Ceremony,¬†I think I saw a little glimmer of a smile. I think he saw us running after him trying to get a few more pictures. This is a picture of Nate marching with his Company. Doesn’t he look so handsome? It was God’s favor that we were able to see our son fairly easily.This was like the most important parade I’ve ever seen in my whole entire life and trust me, I was desperate to see my child! We were already warned we might not be able to spot him and it was recommended to just simply “adopt” a cadet and start taking pictures. New cadet parents then post them on a website and you might just get a picture of your son/daughter.¬†But oh, what joy it brought to my soul when I saw New Cadet Nathan! He was still hanging in there, praise the Lord! His newly shaved head and BCG’s (otherwise known as glasses), his crisp uniform, my son saluted and seemed to be following orders after a blurry day of instruction. No wavering or hesitation, just a steely eyed forward gaze. There were other people shouting things to their cadets, in particular friends and siblings, as for me, I was simply speechless as the tears poured down my face. Mark yelled something like, “Go, Baby!” but I knew Nathan wouldn’t like it if his mom said something cutesy or strange. I have gotten in trouble numerous times for spontaneous outbursts and I don’t think I want to mess around with a soldier! HA! We were absolutely exhausted so I can only imagine how he felt. While waiting for the ceremony, I finished my letter to him and got it in the mail. I have to write him everyday, that is my promise to myself.



The ride back on our nearly final leg of the journey was quiet. Sniffles could be heard from the back and I had to comfort my two remaining olive shoots who were missing their big brother. We all just want to get back home and resume a new level of normalcy and wear all our newly acquired West Point clothes. I will be wearing something West Point every time I go to the grocery store, Target, anywhere there is a chance someone will see me and realize, “Hey, wait a second, that’s not just an ordinary woman, that’s a mama of a soldier in the aisle, wow she’s a West Point mom!” HA! One door is shut, another one is opening, we’re all adjusting to this new season of life…
if you want to read more about this, click here. Jon Scott, anchor on FOX “News Live” shares his experiences when he dropped his own son off at West Point last year. It is really interesting.

R-Day, 60 seconds

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“You have 60 seconds to say your farewells,” a member of the cadre announced as we all stood and prepared for our goodbyes.

A petite framed cadet whom I really wanted to hate was just doing her job. I don’t envy her of having the task of separating parent and family from child.

It was like every sentence she was saying felt like a Peanuts cartoon where Snoopy just hears, “blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Of course all of us knew it was coming, the mood was solemn as we all filed in and took our seats. I wasn’t the only weepy mom in the bunch so I felt a kindred spirit among us.

Oh I held him so tight. Be strong, be strong, I tried to remind myself.

Oh I held him so tight. Be strong, be strong, I tried to remind myself.

There was such a feeling of love and pride, but we all entered into some private, intimate place in our hearts and hugged our babies for the final time for a long while like we were the only ones in the place. Nate grabbed his meager belongings and confidently strode to the front of the auditorium and never looked back.

That was a good thing because if I had seen his face one more time, I would have taken it as a sign to rush forward to get him. I know he is divinely placed where the Lord wants him to be and this is perhaps the most unselfish thing I have ever done as a mother. We prayed and prayed for the Lord to put him where he was supposed to go. I cannot second guess my Heavenly Father. Saying goodbye and letting my beloved child set forth into a new life, I am filled with tears and pride, both never ending.

I remember child birth being very painful but this is really rough. I was in labor for four hours, and it hurt like crud and this process is much longer. West Point is such an austere and noble place, I am humbled to have a son who is in the class of 2012 and have the hat, t-shirt and matching handbag to prove it. I shall be wearing black, gold and gray for a really long time. There is a dignity and a respect I don’t recall seeing at other college campuses we visited. This is the right place for my son and I am thankful to have met a lot of nice guys Nathan will soon be calling friends. Take a look and click here at this link to see what his first day was like. OY!

We are all entering a new phase in our lives. After saying our farewells, there were two floors of vendors and organizations to greet us. Nearly ever booth had a box of Kleenex. It was reassuring to see that in the midst of all this decorum and granite, they had chiseled out a lot of compassion and concern.

We arrive home tomorrow and I do laundry which will include some of Nathan’s dirty clothes. It will be the saddest load of laundry I have ever done in my life thus far. I found the toe nail clippers he used before we dropped him off at West Point. They were in the hotel bathroom and yep, I cried.

The Hubs and I weren't the only ones struggling.

The Hubs and I weren’t the only ones struggling.

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. I am the mama of a soldier. I am the PROUD mama of a soldier. Go Army, Beat Navy, Huah!

Psalm 63:7- 8

For you have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.

These boots are made for walking

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One of my favorite songs growing up was the Barbara Sinatra’s (Frank’s daughter) song “These boots are made for walking.”

As a little girl, I would put on a pair of boots and strut all over the house singing this song Рfull of attitude and sass.

Now fast forward, nearly 40 years later, that song comes back into my head because over the weekend, we went to Fort Bragg and bought Nathan a pair of combat boots.

It’s been highly recommended that he break them in before reporting to West Point on June 30. Fort Bragg is quite a place.

p1010916If you’re looking for a tattoo, a nudie girl joint or a hot dog, then I’d highly recommend Fort Bragg.

I didn’t find the place especially sophisticated or refined!

For this suburban mama, I was missing some of my creature comforts but at least we were able to get Nate his boots and he’s definitely walking in them.

When in the military recommended going to the mini-mall on base, I thought I could get some cool things at a cheap price. That wasn’t really the case.

We had to get our car inspected, our IDs checked, driver registration confirmed just to get on the base. Pretty serious stuff. I didn’t get anything special at the mini-mall unless of course you count that I got hit on by a little Eastern Indian fella. He started talking to me while I was looking at work-out clothes. It was creepy and I certainly didn’t expect it. At first I couldn’t even believe it was happening. My mom heard me talking to someone and then saw me scooting over to her. Finding love at the commissary definitely wasn’t on my agenda! Just give me the stinkin’ boots!

p1010912Since I was absolutely forbidden to take random photos of Nathan trying on boots, (which I wanted to do for you, my blog friends), I had to be very conservative with my picture-taking.

Nathan took a few of the crew comprised of Isaac, Mom and me. I don’t think any of us are fit for duty. The military isn’t that desperate – YET! Thank goodness!

Now we need to order his dress shoes. The ones without polish because at West Point you polish your shoes to perfection.

My own feet ache thinking about all the walking and running my boy is going to do in just two months. My heart hurts too but that’s for another post…probably a lot more posts.

West Point Mom = me

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p1010889The wait is over. The package arrived.

Our son has been accepted to United States Military Academy – West Point!

We were told that if Nathan was rejected, we would receive a phone call; if he was accepted, he would receive a package.p1010896

Just as I was ready to go and speak in a middle school, my husband calls and says, “Nathan got a package from West Point.”

It must have nearly killed Mark to not open the contents but he resisted temptation. p1010891

p1010905Mark captured the moment on camera. This is a very big deal. Our son will report to West Point bright and early 6:30 AM on June 30!

He will attend six weeks of rigorous training (affectionately known as Beast) and after successful completion, begin his 47 month journey at West Point.

I did not grow up in a military family so this is all so new to me.

New terminology, new people, new experiences for all of us, especially our son.

Our family will take him there and say goodbye and not hear much from him most of the summer.

I am not crying as I type this which shocks me.

I am proud, scared, overjoyed, nervous, excited, thrilled, sad and every feeling in between.

I know the Lord is teaching all of us some lessons and has placed all these pieces together for His glory.

I am the mama of a soldier, whoa.