A name, an identity, a mom and a son…

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fam303When my oldest olive shoot leapt in my womb, I loved thinking about his potential name. I very much like my first name and realized the great responsibility given a parent to pick just the right one. After all, it’s going to stick with them all his/her life, right?

The Hubs and I kicked around a lot of first names before finding the right one for him.

The one thing I knew for sure was that Nathan would have a distinctive last name.

A last name that was hyphenated.

This idea was not met with thunderous applause. In our extended family, my mother-in-law, (may she rest in peace) said some regrettable things about our decision. That only made the woodworm of pride dig deeper in me. Nothing and no one could thwart my resolve.

So on that treasured spring day, my baby entered the world. We signed the birth certificate, sent out birth announcements and we all settled into family life. Two brothers later, 4/5 of our family are known by our special last name. It rarely presented an issue.2013-07-04 07.36.20

But when Nate decided to go to West Point, he began to mention that people were perplexed about what to call him. His first last name? His second last name? The first year, (plebe year) at West Point, NO ONE calls you anything but your last name! This only compounded the issue. The last day of plebe year, there is even a special ceremony where the other cadets actually acknowledge that you even have a first name if you can imagine!

Throughout his time at West Point, Nate noticed that his name was longer on his uniform than others. Eventually he shortened it unofficially because according to him, even the clever-minded cadets just couldn’t figure it out and he was tired of the confusion.

So it wasn’t a surprise to me the day Nate mentioned he wanted to just have one last name. I gulped but understood when he announced that he was going to use only my husband’s/his dad’s last name from now on. Honestly it made sense and I could appreciate the reasons behind his decision.

2013-05-10 13.33.10My maturity about the whole thing has impressed me. As vehement as I was in insisting that he have both of his parents’ last names, I have remained compassionate and impartial. I completely respect his decision. He is a man of honor, integrity and character. He will be married in November. I cannot hold him down nor do I want to impede his life whatsoever.

But here comes the raw part – I’m going to admit something…a new emotion that has risen to the surface a little bit…

2013-05-10 17.14.52When I learned that my OS would be getting a new birth certificate, one with just one last name, it felt like a rope burn to my heart.

Ok, so now I’m crying while typing. There is NOTHING that will ever change my affection for my olive shoots.  Our connection extends far beyond a dumb hyphen. My boy’s decision wasn’t an offense to me as a mom. Still, when the Hubs called me upon returning from the court-house to facilitate Nate’s name change, wow, I suddenly had a hard time. I was fine with Nate changing his name from 2014 and onward but gosh, going backward in time and doing it??? OUCHY!

Thinking of him having a new birth certificate brought sadness. I harkened back to that day in the hospital when we declared his name.

There are lessons to learn through all this. Besides encouraging them to walk with the Lord, my boys deserve respect and support of their decisions. I can do even if it stings a little. Since he is an officer in the Army, Nate has endured endless background checks, mountains of paperwork, and clearances to make this happen. True to Nate’s personality, he has been diligent. It’s the least I can do even if it stings a little. Furthermore, my sweet boy has spoken with tenderness about wrestling with the decision. Maybe he felt like he was betraying the family and what we have stood for. Nate, if you’re reading this, I know you love me and I understand!

299311_10150412030338018_3766445_nHis name is Nathaniel – it means gift of God and though the last name is changing, I am blessed to always be able to call him my son. I can do even if it stings a little. Perhaps I even will get some monogrammed towels for him after deployment to celebrate his decision!

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Floods

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Like all good daughters, I have subscribed a number of MY personal issues onto my mother. Because of my mom, I (fill in the blank)______________. Many of you probably can relate and would admit that the mother/daughter relationship thing can be hard and complicated. Maybe that’s why the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, choose to bless me with three sons! To demonstrate, here is but a small list of the things I have blamed my mother for in the past:


I lack athletic prowess because my mom didn’t stress the value of sports.
I don’t know how to swim because my mom never took me for swimming lessons as a small child.
I am bad with money because my mom didn’t teach me the value of a dollar.

And the list goes on and on…I will stop there as to not further embarrass myself. 

But yesterday, I found myself humbled and blessed. Something that has long been on my “list” needs to be removed.

For decades now I have told people that there are not a lot of photos of me when I was a child. If you and I were in a random conversation and you happened to mention something about pictures of yourself as a kid, I would probably have sighed heavily and told you of my picture woes. (Strum sappy violin music). When I was a girl growing up in Wheaton, Illinois, we had a flood in our basement and it destroyed, among other things, boxes and boxes of pictures. I recall the soggy, blobby paper mess and the dismay I felt in my young girl’s heart as I saw my memories destroyed. Who was to blame for the flood? Well, it honestly didn’t matter, I knew the culprit. I suspect you can guess my prime suspect. Yes, it was my mom. 

This week, following a meeting with my favorite organization consultant, I began the necessary and tedious task of de-cluttering my home. In various closets, possibly in every room there is a box or basket full of pictures. This week I have begun to weed through them, tossing out the bad photos, hanging on to the good ones. Geralin has a theory about pictures which I now claim as my own. She says, “if I don’t look good in the picture, then it goes.” Geralin’s my girl, one of my fab five, as my youngest OS would jest.

I am amazed at the scads of pictures we have EVERYWHERE! The stockpiles of pictures blurred my head as I tossed one photo after another into the trash. It has been freeing to re-claim lost closet space and re-discover sweet pictures of days gone by.

And last night, I believe the Lord healed a part of me because in the frenzied mass of photos, I am finding a lot of pictures of myself. There are many of me as a little girl on random Picture Days, a couple of me walking up the sidewalk for my first day of kindergarten, a few particularly unflattering pics of me blowing out candles on a birthday cake as a pimply teen, you get the idea. 

Oh, dear friends, I have found me. 


My past was not completely destroyed in that basement. There were salvages of my life still preserved, in greater proportion than I ever realized.

And so in the tv room, after everyone was in bed, I held picture after picture of myself in my hands and drifted back to those moments. They are not gone. They are preserved both in these pictures but also within me. Sorting through all the clutter and getting rid of the unnecessary, buried among it all, was Cindy. She hadn’t dissolved away into nothingness. As I make room in my home, I am finding new places in my spirit as well.

I’m learning that I can no longer blame my mom for a lot of things I have done in the past. Honestly, I have been aware of that for about 12 years now since asking Jesus into my heart and looking squarely at my own contrition and culpability. But how immature I have been to blame an act of God like a flood on my poor mother. I mean really. For goodness sake, she had no control over it no matter how much power I think a mama can wield. 

I hesitate for a moment and wonder to myself. Actually, a jab of anxiety wafts over me…what will my OS blame me for? What will be something that they say I should have done differently? Will we just laugh about it or will I carry around grief and guilt. Ew. What salvages of their own shortcomings will they try and attribute to me, their mom who, like my own, is trying the very best she can to make a sweet and wonderful life for them?


That is not something that I can answer. Today I’d rather focus on what I can claim victory over. I found me. I, or rather, remnants of me, weren’t swept away in an unpredictable flood.  And if all the pictures were gone, I now admit it wouldn’t have been my mom’s fault in the first place. 

When we went out for a late-night run to the grocery store to buy dish washing detergent, (doesn’t that sound like a fun outing!?), I decided to release this guilt from her once and for all. She has been staying at my house recovering from surgery on her wrist and a bout of pneumonia. The healing process has been painful and discouraging but last night, I believe both of us got healed in a way we weren’t expecting. We got in the car and I couldn’t wait to tell her my revelation. It wasn’t a gushy moment but I felt a weight off my heart and I noticed she had a look of contentment on her face and it wasn’t because we were going to buy dish washing detergent at 10pm! 
 

Guilt and blame, in all of its forms, are as destructive as a flood. Forgiveness and grace, on the other hand, fellow imperfect mamas of the world, well that can wash over a multitude of sins. 

Hallelujah, grace like rain, washing down on me…


Hmmm

Pajama Day for the Record Books

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The suspense has got to be killing you…so far I have shared that Spirit Week in our family is a BIG deal. We take Spirit Week seriously and bring it, if you know what I mean. But what I haven’t shared is the final result. 

After all the exhaustive effort, the travail, at last Pajama Day was at hand.

I had finished my middle OS’s pajama pants around 11:30pm Sunday night, the costume was ready. 

Before I reveal the actual outfit, you need some background. We have a standing joke in my family that I have yet to grow tired of saying. True, everybody in my family is tired of hearing this joke but that’s beside the point. Here it is…every time my sons eat something healthy, especially if it is green, I tell them something marvelous is going to happen to them in the near future. A very special, VERY manly thing that will leave them eternally gratefully for having me as their mom and for having eaten that healthy, green thing. 

I tell them that thanks to eating that healthy thing and having me as their mom, they are going to grow chest hair. And not just little tufts here and there, my friends. Not just a random hair on a barren land, oh no, we’re talking prolific amounts of chest hair, a veritable yet tasteful explosion of virulity and testorone will arrive shortly. 


Essentially I say the same thing each time but I have a knack for making it sound fresh and new. For example, Ike will be sitting at the dinner table, eating/being forced to eat some salad and I will affirm him by saying, “Isaac, that salad is going to grow a centimeter of hair on your chest one day!” Or recently when they tried/were forced to try brussels sprouts, I encouraged my youngest OS after he ate/choked one of them down with these supportive words, “Oh, Ike just you wait, Man.  You are so gonna grow some chest hair!”  

How does that relate to Pajama Day?…take a look at these pictures, dear friends…

To the untrained eye, this might look like real chest hair. That would be wrong. On one of my million trips to the fabric store, I purchased some fake fur. My expert (HA!) seamstress skills allowed me to sew some “chest hair” onto a ripped t-shirt. I wanted to sew “back hair” also but felt close to exhaustion.  
Aaron played the part to the hilt, from the beginning of the morning at home till the end of school that afternoon, my boy scratched his newly sprouted chest hair to the disgust of all the freshman girls and possibly some of the teachers. I don’t think it is humanly possible to have more fun with chest hair, real or otherwise, than we had that day!

Unless something new develops, I’ll soon blog about the new painting in our house from a talented and aspiring artist, as well as Mr. Grumpy Box of Crayons and The Wiggles AND a certain Cadet of the Quarter I know quite well and the new SNUGLET model who might one day seriously be strutting the cat walk! 😉 Stay tuned and come back soon, love to hear from you if you have enjoyed any of these posts. 

Happy Birthday!

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Here are some fun things we got Ike for his 12th birthday!

I found this simple awesome book, “You Gotta Be Kidding!51Z2k-utL8L” by Randy Horn.

It is a crazy book of “would you” questions.

Would you rather
Turn into a fly
OR
turn into a cockroach?

Would you rather
Have no teeth and try to eat a big bowl of caramel popcorn
OR
try to eat four bagels?

Would you rather
Get poison ivy all over your rear end
OR
between all your fingers and toes?

Out of all the gifts we gave our youngest OS, so far this book seems to be the gift he likes the most.

Ike completely grossed me out as we drove to my nephew Jon’s 3rd birthday party. Anytime a 12 year old can repulse his mom is a good day. Although I can usually keep pace with my three OS in the gross department, I must say You Gotta Be Kidding pushed me to the limit. By the time we arrived, I had more than a day’s worth of disgusting questions about spit and pus. It was fun though, I think it will elicit some interesting dinnertime conversations!

974890_1_ftc_dpThen Ike got a new CD collection of Adventures in Odyssey stories.

You should listen to this wonderful series of radio programs by Focus on the Family. Ike learns Biblical truth in an entertaining and educational way and whenever I join him, I always find a fresh word from the Lord.

They aren’t preachy or lecturing, they are humorous and truly worthwhile. You can also listen to the series on the radio with this link. Ike does this all the time, too!

And I found this Flip-to-Win hangman travel game for Ike. It is a wooden game with an erasable whiteboard and self-storing dry-erase marker. It should be cool to use when we make longer car rides and I’m hoping Ike will let me borrow this for my trip to El Salvador on Nov. 1551i-YcC+PSL._SX342_.

Mark was out of town on Ike’s birthday but being the great daddy he is, he wrote on a card for his boy.

In the card, Mark included a handmade coupon entitling Isaac to his all-time favorite dinner.

Crab legs.

Isaac has been asking for crab legs since the last time he had them. I think if our growing boy actually paid for crab legs, he would ask less often!

So after eating pizza and birthday cake at Jon’s b-day, we went to Sam’s Club and I purchased $47 worth of giant Alaskan king crab legs. We gorged on the ocean’s delectable treasures.

Sounds like a fitting way to celebrate our sweet boy! Psalm 127:3 “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.”

Is your room clean?

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I try to keep an orderly home. Some days it is not easy and it seems like we are all slobs. And then there are bathrooms…If you have read my blog profile you know that one of my goals in life is to raise three young men who love and live for Jesus AND put the toilet seat down after using it. A girl’s gotta aim high while hoping her men just aim, right? We have our good days and our bad days and our home will probably never pass the white glove test.


That is until our oldest OS began attending West Point. He will be home for Thanksgiving and I am so excited! After 18 years, our boy has finally learned to clean his room! And when I say clean, I mean, spotlessly clean!

A few weeks ago, he had a SAMI. For you non-West Point-y types, that means a super duper room inspection. I am often amused at the contrasts between having a child attending a 
military academy versus traditional college and this is a major difference. Our son’s room was going to be inspected and not just spot-checked for cleanliness. Oh no, my friends, every last inch, dare I say, centimeter of his room was going to be examined.

So in uncharacteristic fashion, our son and his roommate (the other one was away visiting family), spent the entire night cleaning their room. Top to bottom. Inside and out. Not a cranny of that room was left with a speck of dirt. A dust bunny didn’t have a chance, these young soldiers killed it instantly. My jaw nearly hit the floor when Nate told us that they had even cleaned in between the door hinges! Who would have thunk? 

This is what his room looked like prior to the SAMI…

And this was after the whirlwind cleaning 

spree…

I was looking forward to my boy being home for
Turkey Day but now, I am overjoyed at this new found skill and what this will mean for our family. What mother wouldn’t long to put her arms around her baby boy and then give him a long list of chores he now can expertly complete? Who cares about him knowing how to throw a grenade or march in procession, at long last, I have a son who can clean! God is good! 
The Friday after Thanksgiving, while many in our country are shopping (hopefully for our economy), my husband and two other OS will be attending a mandatory cleaning class and I expect there to be some big improvements in the house as a result. 


Why just take a look at these pics. My OS slept on the floor the night before his SAMI. He went to bed at 5 in the morning and got one hour of sleep. That boy even starched his sheets! His roommate’s bed was so tight, he received compliments from fellow cadets. 

If this whole West Point thing doesn’t work out, I’m now totally confident our son could easily get a job at the nearest Marriott Hotel. They’d snatch that boy up in a jiffy!

I’m so glad my boy is learning now things! Can’t wait to see those skills put into action. Dust bunnies, you’ve got until Thanksgiving, then watch out, Nate’s coming back with vengeance!

And the winner is…

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Thanks for all your suggestions about blog posts. I am particularly impressed with apeasofmylife and thehokeypokeyplaces challenge to combine all three of my potential posts into one. I appreciate your confidence in my ability but I’m not sure I’ve got it in me. 

 
So I hope you can settle with my post being about…


BRAINS (I will do posts about boxing and beds in the near future, promise!) 

Just as I was finishing up my time with a broken foot, Ike decided to tear some ligaments in his foot! Can you believe it??? Last Sunday, I went to church with my orthopedic boot and Isaac on crutches. People are beginning to get worried about us! With limited mobility and a two week fall break in front of us, I had to do something with my son since running and basketball were out of the question. That’s when I came up with a brilliant idea…let’s make a brain! 

With our oldest OS away at West Point, we could use an extra brain around the house. He’s like the smartest guy in our family and we have been feeling his intellectual absence. Maybe your family thinks they are super duper intelligent, we know we’re not. No sense in trying to pretend. 

You might think brains are made of grey matter but that would be wrong, my friends (said in a John McCain-y kind of voice;).  Bet you didn’t know that brains are actually made of corn starch, gelatin, water and food coloring! And incidentally, they smell kind of icky too.


For Christmas last year we bought our OS a Disgusting Anatomy Brain kit with Bonus Eyeball Kit! It’s been sitting in the closet ever since then and so on a beautiful autumn day, we began to make our disgusting brain. 

Isaac stirred the gelatin into the water then the corn starch and in no time at all, our brain was placed into the mold to congeal overnight. Amidst the fresh produce and condiments, there sat our brand new brain, chilling out.

And it was ready just in time, too. As this video clip demonstrates, suddenly we found a family member in DIRE need of a brain. That sometimes happens with 14 year olds

We sure were glad to have that slimy brain ready for delivery! We performed a minor lobotomy and thank goodness, Aaron has a mind of his own!

(This is part one)
We still have enough stuff to make at least one more brain, give us 24 hours and we can have one ready for you too!  

Mothering is fun! 

Feeling better – mama of a soldier presses on…

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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!