May 31, 2011

A Challenge for Next Memorial Day

We didn't ignore Memorial Day in the House of Boudicca. I just got overrun by Algebra II and didn't have time to sit down and download all my photos.

One of the catalysts to my starting this blog was Memorial Day. I'm in a women's organization that attended a large gathering every year at a local cemetery. There was a wreath laying ceremony where the announcer would announce the organizations who in turn had a representative step forward and place their wreath in front of a large Memorial. There were Patriotic organizations, Nam Knights, various VFWs, Korean Veterans, Officer groups, Enlisted groups, Paratrooper groups... typically 60-80 groups in all.

We had amazing teen aged voices sing the Star Spangled Banner, it was emcee'd by a local broadcaster, the Marines would be there typically shaking the hands of older Marines now wheelchair bound, JROTC units handed out poppies, amazing speakers, hot dogs and cold waters, and we'd all sit under a big white tent with our red white and blue fans, trying to keep off the heat of the day. (I found a link to a flyer!)

Bag pipes started the festivities and... for a few years we had a WWI Veteran.

It was amazing.

I remember sitting there seven years ago thinking, "This... is fantastic. I wish everyone could experience this. I would so blog this..." It was my fourth year in attendance... and I was still amazed.

And hence this blog was born.

A few years ago, the organizer and true gusto of it all passed away. And... everything came to a standstill. A National Veteran's Cemetery opened in a city called Lantana and everything moved there.

It's not that Lantana is too far... but it's too far and the event is so large that you now have to park way out yonder and take a bus to the event. Not only couldn't I bring myself to do it, but the elderly ladies I am friends with are in no shape to make the drive, get on a bus, and then make the hike.

Besides... the Veterans at our old cemetery didn't go anywhere. They were still there... but not with the acknowledgment they used to get... and still deserved.

Last year I was speaking to a girlfriend of mine about this, a retired Navy Commander, mother of two teenagers and kind of my Mom-Mentor. Her son is one year older than my eldest, so I ask her a lot of questions. She told me she had taken the kids to the cemetery we used to go to that past Memorial Day, and they did their own thing.

So last year I started planning with one of my older friends (she's 80) about going to our old haunt (no pun intended) to do our own thing. Three weeks ago we decided to do it on a Saturday (Sundays and Mondays were too difficult for all of them) at 4:00 (after the heat), I'd bring water, chairs and get a wreath, and she would bring silk flowers.

I ended up buying some too... red silk flowers, a bundle at the dollar store was $5, cutting them off the bunch with wire cutters, got us 300 flowers for probably $20.

I went to the florist and explained our situation. Wreaths the size I wanted were $400. I finally said, "I can't spend that much. Let me have this 10" wreath... I'm doing my own personal Memorial Day service at the Cemetery with some friends. One of them is a Retired Army General, he was a Tank Commander under Patton. He can't put flowers on graves... but he can lay a wreath..."

And with that, he said, 'No. Let me see what I can do. You will love what I put together... for the price of what you want a 10" wreath."

I picked it up and it was an ENORMOUS red and white wreath... and he provided the stand so the General wouldn't have to bend and so the flowers wouldn't get crushed.

We arrived... my entire family, my one girlfriend brought scripture, my other girlfriend brought her husband, one son and daughter in law, and her three grandchildren, and my other girlfriend arrived with her husband, the General, and he spoke to us about Memorial Day and what it meant to him.

I had never thought of what Memorial Day meant from HIS perspective, the perspective of a man who had to send young men into battle, on missions, where they would not come back. He told stories about the men he lost, the personal letters he wrote back to their parents, the reactions... the events that happened to him through their families... even 60 years later.

Families do not recover from the loss of a soldier/airman/sailor. When you send your son or daughter off to War, the worst thing imaginable is that they will not come back.

It is the unthinkable.

Yet is happens.

He spoke of visiting Omaha Beach and of grave sites of men who fought under him. He remembered... all their names. All of them. He is in his 90s now... and he remembered... all... of... their... names.

We had the children and grandchildren take the flowers to the marked Veteran's graves. Someone had taken the time to mark the Marines, so I tasked Mr. T with making sure that every Marine's grave was marked while we made our way through the rest of the tombstones.

We didn't have enough flowers.

Next year, I want to make it bigger. We met at the Memorial, had the wreath placed there, listened to an amazing man as he spoke of liberating Ohrdruf, said some prayer, and enjoyed each other's company. To me, it was the perfect Memorial Day celebration.

I challenge others to call their cemeteries next year and find out... What can you do on your own? I'd never thought about it if JD hadn't told me what she did with her kids. If we all took the time... can you imagine?

This is but one grave... the small red flower is what we placed.
Mem day2011.jpg

And another...
Memorial Day4.jpg

In this picture, as we looked out amongst the stones with the flags and single red flowers, my girlfriend said to me, as she took my arm, "Look... look at the difference a small group of people can make."

Memorial Day 2011.jpg

And bigger still... little red flowers next to flags.

Memorial Day5.jpg

This is a picture of my friend and her husband leaving. There will not be many more Memorial Days, although I joked with him that with his recent hip replacement he may be good for another 93 years. He laughed and said, "Just a few more would be good..."

Memorial Day2.jpg

And you know whose memoirs I'd really like to read? Hers. She was with him every step of the way. She tells me stories of having her own uniform (no insignia) and a jeep running through Germany, post-war. She tells me of running escape routes in the event things went bad so she could escape with their children. She is just as fascinating.

We're not just losing our Veterans... we're losing their wives, whose stories are just as amazing.

It was the best Memorial Day Celebration I've ever attended. I think we'll do it again next year... and I want it bigger.

Posted by Boudicca at 06:02 AM | Comments (7)

May 29, 2011

Pie.

We had our big Memorial Day celebration today. Joe's family is in town and it was just a good time.

I was up cooking and baking pretty early on. My eldest stayed home from church to continue studying for finals. (A few prayers said his way is never a bad thing... Just sayin') Anyway, the following conversation ensued to the best of my recollection, remember... it's a conversation with a teenage boy.

Me: I'm struggling. (This is a phrase used often in this house... usually it's "I struggle".) We have 10 people coming, and my apple pie serves 8. Do I make two pies or one?

Ringo: You struggle with this?

Me: I do.

Ringo: Two.

Me: Yeah, but then there is leftover pie.

Ringo: *blink*

Me:

Ringo: And, your problem is?

Me: Oh.

Ringo: It is PIE! You can NEVER have TOO MUCH PIE!

So there is an entire pie leftover. He is happy. In his mind, it is apple therefore it is a fruit. In his mind, if doughnuts work for breakfast, pie should too.

I give this pie two days... at best.

Posted by Boudicca at 09:44 PM | Comments (11)

May 28, 2011

We Feel it for Him

This is the weirdest thing in the world, what I'm about to type. If you've heard of this... feel free to chime in.

It turns out, Joe didn't really lay on the floor for 3 days. It was one. Which still sucks. But is better than 3.

When asked if he knew he was sick, he keeps saying no. When asked if he was in pain, he keeps saying no. None of us have believed him... until today.

When you go see him, he's his normal self. He's cussing every other word, laughing, carrying on.

The man has had his abdomen cut through and had the following things removed: colon, flesh from his stomach and groin, and ALL parts that make a man a man. ALL.OF.THEM.

He's on no pain meds.

He's in no pain.

He coughs and everyone in the room tenses up. He had major abdominal surgery. He looks around like it was just a normal cough.

He is missing body parts AND skin... nothing.

The nurse is puzzled. The doctor is stunned. We're all looking at each other and when you say to him, "Joe, are you in pain?" he shirks his shoulders, shakes his head and gives a half smile and says, 'nah. Not at all. Why?"

We're not sure he understands what's been done to him to save his life. The surgeon keeps saying he's probably going to die. His internist keeps saying he's not. The skin grafts are going to be a tough go, staving off infection, but as his internist said to his niece today, 'Are you kidding? I told you he'd pull through. Look at him and how strong he is. He'll be fine..."

We're wondering what kind of mental toll this will take but Joe has a 'what will be will be attitude', so I actually think he'll be OK with this, although I'm sure the initial shock will be that... shock.

And his great revelation to all this? 'I don't want to die down here in Florida. It's time for me to move back up with family in NJ.'

So I expect if the infection doesn't come back, the grafts take, and he doesn't get pneumonia, that within the next six months he'll be moving to Jersey to be near his sister.

Can you imagine... not feeling pain? Now we understand why he didn't realize he was sick. This lower infection... there was never any fever and he was never in pain.

How odd is that?

Posted by Boudicca at 09:27 PM | Comments (4)

May 27, 2011

Joe

I had a dream a few weeks ago where my father in law came back to life. He was standing there and I was so pissed. I said to him, "You can't be here. YOU are DEAD."

He said, "Nope, I came back to life. I wasn't really dead. Actually."

Me: That's not possible. They embalmed you. Even if you weren't dead, the embalming fluid would have killed you. You'd have died when they drained your blood."

Pop: It wasn't my time. I'm here.

Me, more furious: It's NOT right. You can't do this. You're going to confuse her. Do you know how much time I spent explaining to Olive (my niece) that you're dead and how it works? You're going to confuse her. She won't understand death. Next time someone dies, she'll expect they'll come back to life."

Pop: Not my problem.

I walked away, seriously pissed, and muttering to myself, "Great. I can't believe he's back. Now we have to deal with all his sh** and him all over again. I thought we were done."

Nice, right?

My father in law has been dead 9 months, I have a dream he comes back to life, and I'm pissed because he was such a pain in the a$$ I wanted him to stay dead.

Unlike when my mother in law died, around the same time, I had a dream that I was sleeping on a couch and when I awoke, she stood before me and we had this great conversation. Something was pulling me back to sleep and I knew that when I went back to sleep, she would leave... forever.

So I did everything to stay awake, so she'd not leave me.

And I think even the dullest knives in the drawer can plainly see how I felt about both, how I don't miss him and how I still miss her.

Makes me cry typing this... I miss her so much.

You have read here often of my Pop's best friend, Joe. They were two little old men that hung out together. Two old Italian men, knowing each other since they were kids, arguing, bantering, always together.

They were like an old married couple. They were both widowers and they did everything. When Pop was in the hospital, Joe lived there.

We call Joe all the time. My brother in law is the best about it. He calls Joe every week. We try to get him to go to dinner with us, still come to our homes. Two weeks ago, we finally succeeded and my husband and I picked up Joe and brought him to family dinner.

He cried the entire ride.

He cried with how lonely he is. He cried with how much he missed 'that old man'. He cried that he even missed how difficult he was.

He misses Pop. He is probably grieving Pop more than his wife... which is a whole other weird story of arranged marriages etc. But Pop and he had known each other for 70 years and Joe and been best friends with my mother in law since she was five.

And they're both gone. And he's alone.

Mr. T brought it up to me the other day. It was just he and I in the car when he started the conversation. Focusing in the road, I just kept talking, until I looked over and saw... he was quietly crying in my front seat.

I was horrified. I took his hand and said, "You miss Pop?" and he shook his head, choked up and said, "No. Not at all. But I hurt for Joe. He's so alone and it's so sad."

We cry for Joe.

I told him I felt certain Joe would get through this and to know that Joe probably doesn't have much longer. He is 85 and not in the best health.

And we got the call yesterday that Joe is in ICU, having taken a fall down some stairs after passing out, his body full of some unknown infection and they removed colon, and intestines, and any innard that was expendable to get rid of the infection and skin... so much skin he needs skin grafts. And they thought he'd not live.

But he did.

I lied today and told the nurses at the ICU that I was his niece. They let me in and told me not to stay more than a few minutes. I told them I had no intention of staying more than 2.

Ringo and I went. I hugged his shoulder, told him I loved him and that I'd be back every day. He knew who I was. He was alert and is intubated.

It doesn't look good. But we are hopeful that if he is to live, that it will be a good quality of life because Joe is a good man. He has no children or family in town. He treated us as his.

If Joe dies... for him... we will grieve deeply.

Posted by Boudicca at 09:39 PM | Comments (10)

May 25, 2011

Quite a Condomdrum

And so it goes, that some one entrepreneurial young man decided to sell condoms to his young classmates at... four bucks a pop. Of course, said young men, never having held a condom in their hand, let alone having seen one, were completely game.

After getting as many fellow young men as possible to join in the reindeer games of "Look what I bought! Don't you want one too?" he lowered the price... as to sell... more.

And this took place over a couple months perhaps, although it could have been just weeks as time means nothing to a boy named Bones.

And lining one's pocket the young entrepreneur did... until 'someone snitched on him' and the young man had to meet with the Assistant Principal for 6th grade who not only wanted all the goods turned over, but the names of all the recipients.

To which he readily put forward, being in 6th grade and all, and not really ready to take a fall for his comrades... over condoms.

And Bones name was on the list where he was given the option to either tell his dear sweet Mother or a phone call would be put forth from the Assistant Principal.

Never having seen the contraband, so many questions have been left unanswered; verily I say to thee, that for four bucks he surely should have gotten an extra large lubed glow in the dark ribbed with some sort of tickler.

It is suspect he received small, latex, one size fits most, non-descript.

And said his dear sweet Mother to the boy who had been taken for four bucks and was now out one condom, 'And what exactly did you learn from this?"

The reply came, "That it helps an awful lot if the Assistant Principal likes you..."

Said the Mother, " *blink* Did you not learn that succumbing to peer pressure is not a good thing? To be your own man? To listen to that small voice that may be telling you that something is not a good idea?"

And the small voice from the back gave a lengthy pause and said, "Yeah, I guess" which translates to... "Abso-frickin'-lutely not".

Punishment was not doled out to the seller, other than calling his own dear sweet mother, since no harm was really done, but what I would have paid to see her expression when she found out that her sweet boy was quite the little businessman selling condoms to all his buddies at school for four bucks and then, of course, wondering where the loot was obtained.

I'd surely like to find her blog and read it. I strongly suspect it is far more interesting as will be their Thanksgiving dinner 25 years ago when they reminisce about their childhood antics. "And dear, do you remember the time that Johnny made 60 dollars selling condoms to his 6th grade buddies?"

And of course I had to ask if Bones knew exactly what they were and how they were used, to which he answered to the affirmative. He said he learned it the human growth class they teach.

Which would have been the Public School version this year because I know for a fact the Private School 5th grade one in which he participated covered no such thing... the Catholic Church not being all big on birth control... and all that.

This is going to prove to be an interesting six years. I'm starting to buckle in... it's going to be a bumpy ride...

Posted by Boudicca at 03:11 PM | Comments (10)

May 24, 2011

Stuff

It's just kind of stressful and out of sorts here. This school year needs to end...

Like yesterday.

I've had a house full of teenagers working on a Chemistry project. I'm happy they all love coming over. (My eldest informed me they love coming to our home.) We feed them and tease them and want them to feel welcome.

But it does wear me out.

In six years this house will be empty. I think my husband and I will just work more. Maybe I'll find a job that travels. Maybe I will go back and get my Masters. I've been thinking about that lately...

I've been given my own project at work and it ends in mid July, which means I need to have it complete by 30 June. It's a big project taking a lot of time and focus. It is going to have a big impact on the system I'm working on, so I'm excited about that. But it's kicking my tail.

When my boss asked me if I was up for it, I looked around and realized how many people are looking for jobs. I have teenagers... my expenses are only going up. So I said, "hell yes..."

And as we were getting ready for bed tonight, my husband found a little 3x5 card from Bones. He does that. If something is bothering him, he'll leave us little notes.

So the kid is sleeping and we find a little note telling us that he bought a condom at school.

*blink*

WTF? I can't exactly go wake him up, but the note says he no longer has it, he did it for attention, but then realized that his Mom and Dad would be devastated, so he no longer has it.

Evidently this story will continue. Where does an 11 year old buy a condom? How does he know what one is? What did he do with it? How much did he pay for it? Did he open it? Was it lubed or ribbed?

So many questions... to be answered tomorrow. Good grief.

Posted by Boudicca at 09:47 PM | Comments (5)

May 21, 2011

A Special Post for my Bro and Dad

Dear Dad and TN,

The Boys' Choral Director is constantly trying to find songs that the boys might ENJOY singing. He has them sing fun songs, sometimes very animated. We always wonder what he's going to throw in.

Thursday's performance was no exception. I'm buying the DVD so you can see it in July, but if it gets downloaded onto Youtube I will post it, because YOU would have loved it.

The Choral Director came out dressed as a Pirate, complete with jacket, hat, and... a hook for his hand. He spoke to us in Pirate talk and then all the boys pulled out bandanas and eye patches.

They sang... The Pirate Song and it was hysterical. The best entertaining rendition I have found is below. It's taken from a balcony so it's grainy and tough at times, but the Conductor is a riot, like ours is. You can find others on Youtube, but I just thought this was the funniest. Our group is of course, 10 years younger and 1/4 the size of the Texas All State Men's Choral group... but it was still as dang funny as this.

Enjoy their version.

And I put the words at the bottom so you can read along, since it's tough to understand, especially the part about the parrot. Oh, and when the Conductor turns around and everyone laughs, I think it's because he has a hook on his hand.

Love you!

D.

P.S.

Embiggen the Youtube for the best effect.

I don't why the line, "My pirate comes from Tri- poliiii" cracks me up.

-------------

A pirate sang a song to me.
He sang of life upon the sea.
He sang to me with gravel tones.
He sang to me of Billy Bones.

oo-oo-oo-oo
Pirates make me happy.

A pirate sang a song to me.
He had no leg below his knee.
He sang the song the best he could;
his tongue was also made of wood.

Oo-oo
For romance, find a pirate

Ar, ar,
ar, ar, ar, ar, ar,
ar, ar, ar, ar,
ar, ar, ar, ar, ar, ar

ar, ar,
ar, ar, ar, ar, ar,
ar, ar, ar, ar,
ar, ar, ar, ar, ar, ar

My pirate comes from Tripoli;
my pirate curses saltily.
My pirate is not snooty;
my pirate shakes his booty.
My pirate swabs the deck;
like no one else can swab the deck.

My pirate sang a song to me;
his face was kind of barnacle-y.
He told me that my parrot stank,
and so I made him walk the plank.

oo-oo-oo-oo,
oo-oo-oo-oo,
oo-oo-oo-oo

ar

Posted by Boudicca at 09:46 PM | Comments (4)

May 19, 2011

Voices

Last year was my first experience with a young magnificent voice. My elder son's school is not known for the arts, but he being in band, we attend all performances. Their band is a good band, but not being an art school, it would struggle to compete with true art high schools, like the one Bones hopes to attend.

Last year, attending Ringo's first concert, the chorus got on stage and did their bit. There was one male vocalist, who we could hear had a nice voice, as he sang more harmony to the eight girls.

And then... he was allowed to sing solo. He stepped forward and I was left speechless, not breathing, as I listened to the most magnificent voice travel across the stage, through the auditorium.

There was a hush as we were all mesmerized and when he finished I realized... I had been crying.

Never before have I felt so much emotion hearing someone sing.

Until tonight.

Tonight Bones' school had their performance and I took his Godmother, Son#4's mother. We listened to the girl's younger choir and the boy's choir and then... the top tiered group got up to sing and they traveled down the stage and stood along the walls... surrounding us.

With just 10 kids on the stage and the remaining singers lining the walls, they started to sing a rendition of Ave Maria.

And it was beautiful and we took it all in, but from my left ear I could hear one voice ... that I was drawn to.

To my left stood a young girl in 8th grade, her crazy curly blonde hair pulled back in a loose pony tail, long black gown against her pale beautiful skin, her light eyes moist as she sang... singing from the heart.

She looked like an angel.

And I sat looking at her, drawn to her, listening to the most magnificent sound coming from this young teenager... and I watched her emotion... and I cried.

I realized that I couldn't watch her sing anymore. It had become a full sensory experience. With her standing but four feet from me, her voice surrounding me with the voices around her sounding as a harmony to her beautiful voice, watching her became too much and I had to look away.

Her voice was so magnificent, her song so deep from her soul... it was painful to watch and I had to watch the director... to see and hear was too much.

I focused on other things, watching people, watching the tears well in their eyes as the sound of their voices enveloped us. I watched as people in front of me, turned to find her voice... and I watched as the tears spilled down their faces as well.

My friend and I both cried...

... it may have been one of the most amazing performances I have ever witnessed. It ranks up there with last year's startling performance.

I was blown away.

Posted by Boudicca at 10:10 PM | Comments (1)

May 18, 2011

Boys, boys, boys

In the last month I've chaperoned five 12 year old boys to Islands of Adventure, five 12 year old boys to Wet 'N Wild, seven 12 year old boys and girls to Kennedy Space Center and today, 11 14 year old boys to Islands of Adventure.

There were three moms for the 11 boys so we were able to divide and conquer when needed.

I am, however, absolutely exhausted They completely kicked my a$$. We didn't just get 11 14 year old boys, we got the athletes. Which means they can run. And they have a lot of energy. And they eat a lot.

From the minute they got off the bus they were running and I was running to keep up. They are 14. I am 45. I'm exhausted... and I think they're all probably at home right now eating another dinner, although Mr. T is sleeping.

One of the boys, just could not get full. Everywhere we went, he had to check on the food they had and he literally ate his way through Islands of Adventure.

I have boys that can put away the food, but this 5'10" bean stalk was evidently hollow and never in my life had I seen anything like it.

My mind is still reeling from Mr. T telling me he wants to invite this one kid, with a host of others, to stay for the day. I don't know... if I can make enough food.

Holy cats.

Anyway, I'm toast. I'm in pretty good shape and I'm lean... and these boys ran me ragged. My joints ache and my muscles are saggy.

I just have to make it two more weeks... and school will be over for the year.

We're ready to close this year out. Oh joy.

Posted by Boudicca at 09:48 PM | Comments (1)

May 15, 2011

Flash Mob!

Yesterday, Bones and I participated in a Flash Mob! It took me awhile to convince him to do it with me... well... he is shrewd. I ultimately had to buy him dinner. (My older boys were with Scouts and I made my husband go away for the weekend to decompress with his cousins and to visit his Dad's sister... who is 82 and not been well. No regrets... )

Anyway, the tutorial came out online with the 30 seconds of the dance moves and a girlfriend said to me in a panic, "How are we supposed to learn this dance?"

Ever the mathematician, and never the dancer, I said to her, "Oh, I broke it down. I noticed everything is in beats of four and it's symmetrical. If it's not right then left, it's front then back. We just have to be able to remember those few things we have to do in beats of four..."

She seemed relieved. She also seemed kind of surprised I'd broken it down. For me, life is about patterns. If I can see the pattern, I can usually traverse it.

It's when chaos abounds that I don't function well. And since chaos is my life... well... we won't get into my life and functionality...

Anyway, so this is the Flash Mob and you can see Bones IMMEDIATELY. He took off with his friend. Mr. "I don't want to do this" had an absolute blast and found one of his best friends there.

At the VERY opening, look to the upper left corner and there are two little boys just milling around, one in a green shirt and one in turquoise skinny jeans and a black tshirt. Bones is in... the turquoise skinny jeans.

We were supposed to look like we were blending and doing our thing. That's what Bones is doing.

Yes. I'm in there. I can be seen occasionally, wearing olive green shorts and a black tshirt... I have a white bag in my hand. I was supposed to blend... remember? Sometimes I take things too literally... If I appear, I'm in the lower right, starting around 46 seconds, off and on.

Posted by Boudicca at 09:13 PM | Comments (13)

May 13, 2011

Scouting Out the Man

I've posted here before about my two eldest boys being in Scouts. They are both Star Scouts, just one requirement short of one Eagle badge short of Life Scout. You must be a Life Scout for six months before you can sit for your Eagle Board of Review.

During the six months (or longer) that you wait for your Eagle Board, you have to hold a position in the Troop, finish up any Eagle Merit Badges you have yet to finish, and plan, submit, accomplish, and recap your Eagle Project.

Just a tip for you with boys that are thinking of going the Scout way... if you want your son to succeed, you have to be involved. You can't do it for him... it is something HE must earn, but you have to be involved or it won't happen. In all the years, with all the boys I've witnessed, I have only seen one make it with NO parental support.

ONE.

The rest have parents that help with finances, camp outs, fundraisers, merit badge counseling, etc. Mostly, their parents are there... prodding and focusing.

It is hard to get a kid to be motivated to do much these days. It's easy for them to get caught in the fog of homework, computers, video games, after school sports, band, girls... the beach calls their names way too much if you live in FL.

And we all know the importance of achieving it and sometimes in their small world, the big picture doesn't show them the significance. Their big picture is only as big as 'will I get my license this summer?' 'what kind of car will I be able to drive?' and long term planning consists of 'I wonder if I'll ask that girl to Prom next year...'

It's not to say they don't think about college, jobs, futures... but the details can get lost.

That's where the eyes of the parents come in.

And I think the hardest part of being the parent of a Scout is understanding when to stop bitching about what needs to be done, stepping aside and seeing if they'll actually take off on their own. I'm noticing this happens... around high school. (They join Boy Scouts in 5th grade.)

I've been all over my oldest, "So, what's your plan, because this is what I'm seeing. I see you coming into your Junior year and applying for colleges in June/July/August. I see it would be a REAL feather in your cap to be able to write 'Eagle Scout' because if you don't have it by next summer, you can't put 'Almost Made Eagle Scout'. So what are your plans to achieve this?"

I never answer the question. I just leave it hanging. However, the frequency that this question gets asked... is growing. It used to be once a month... now it's about once a week. I think there is a term for it. It's called... NAGGING.

I've told him, I'll help him map out a plan, but I'm not going to help him accomplish it. That's on his own.

To date, he's shunned any real responsibility in the Troop, signing up for things like Chaplain-Aide and QuarterMaster. He was Patrol Leader once and hated it. He did it so a kid he hated wouldn't be it instead. It was an offensive move, if you will.

So imagine my surprise when he got in the car the other day and said, "I'm calling the Scout Master and telling him I want to be Senior Patrol Leader."

*blink*

That's a position you must run for. It's not a position that is chosen... you run in front of your peers and they decide who their next leader is.

He may not win. I think he's fine with that, but he decided he wanted to try... and that's what blows me away.

He called the Scout Master, a man we adore, and then sat down and planned out what he and Mr. T needed to do to finish up that one last badge over this camping trip so they could have their peer review, Scout Master review, and Board of Review... to make Life.

On his own.

He came to me this afternoon to tell me of his plan. I listened and said, "My only piece of advice is that you be a pain in the neck and continually remind them what your goals are this weekend and how they bought into it. You have to communicate. Don't let them forget. They have things they're doing with the younger kids... don't let them forget YOU, because if you're all quiet and aloof... they will."

It's his gig. It's his job to get Life Scout. I can direct, I can suggest, I can nag... to a degree. But ultimately it's his. And he even told me what he wants to do for his Eagle Project. He's got it in his head...

... more on that later.

Let's see how this weekend pans out. I'm not going and my husband is visiting family out of state. Bones and I will be doing the Flash Mob tomorrow.

I may be slowly watching a boy grow up. Sometimes that's the hardest part, just watching. But it can also be... the most rewarding.

Posted by Boudicca at 01:21 PM | Comments (6)

May 10, 2011

Things That Make Me Gray

I survived Kennedy Space Center with seven 6th graders, in 90 degree heat, for eight hours.

I fell asleep during the IMAX of the Hubble. It was 3:30, I was beat to hell and had been up since 5AM, and it was dark... and cool... and the narrator had a nice voice... and *jerk!* my head popped up and I realized, "Holy crap. I fell asleep!"

And I really really wanted to see it! I kept my eyes pryed open, telling myself, "You've been wanting to see what the Hubble sees with it's new lenses... stay awake... stay awake..."

It was fun. It was. But holy crap, I'm still beat... they flat wore me out.

And for the record, 12 year old girls did NOT look like that when I was growing up...

No.

-------------

Work is taking it's toll on me as of late. Crazy stuff going on. Between my kids' and work, I'm looking really bad.

I walked into the restroom today, walked up to the sink to wash my hands, looked in the mirror and thought, "Oh dear God, I need sleep..." I look washed out and tired.

Some not so great stuff has made it across my desk the last couple days, some things I'm having to work on and fix. Some things I'm not. I was at my Tech Lead's desk yesterday, face in hands, rubbing my eyes, running my fingers through my hair, when I looked up and he said, 'Today is the day we started to groom you for your taking my place...'

He might get a promotion in the next 18 months and if it happens, he wants me in his slot. After today, I'm not sure I'm game. The job is aging me...

... and I absolutely won't do it without more $. I'm totally whoring myself out. Show me the money or find someone else...

---------------

I went to coffee with Bones' vocal teacher the other afternoon and this is the conversation that ensued (she teaches at his school too, but she is not his teacher there... that's a conflict):

VT: Bones is doing so well there. He just seems to fit. He is so popular. I walk down the hall with him and kids out of everywhere yell his name.

Me: He does seem happy! He really does!

VT: And then of course, he had his first kiss.

Me: *face frozen* *eyes wide* *eyebrows raised* *face frozen* *blink* *face frozen*...

VT: OH NO! *gasp!* You didn't know! He didn't tell you!!

Me: *face frozen* *blink* No... I... hunh. Really. This would have been a few months ago...

VT: He was just so nonchalant about it. I picked him up for his after school lesson and we were walking down the hall and I asked him how his day went and he shrugged and said, "Good. I kissed my first girl today..."

Me: He's going to get in trouble... kissing girls at school...

VT: He said he did it to surprise her, a quick kiss...

Me: Good Lord. I can't tell his brothers. His brothers are 16 and 14... and he's the only one who's kissed a girl...

Holy crap...

Posted by Boudicca at 10:02 PM | Comments (4)

May 08, 2011

The Two Sides of Mr. T

My sons have a very dry sense of humor. People laugh hysterically at Bones now because it's kind of unexpected. He looks like a slap stick kind of kid, but he says things now that are very wry and it will take a couple seconds before an adult will realize that it is an adult dryness... and they'll start to laugh, probably harder than if it had been an adult, just because it came from Bones.

I can't remember what it was, but we were at the Band Mixer on Tuesday and Bones said something very dry and humorous to a friend of mine. We both busted out laughing and I said to her, 'I know, I live with him, but I'm still surprised when his sense of humor is so wry...' to which she laughed harder and said, 'Why?! He is YOUR son!"

And my husband is sarcastic and dry and really... it was unavoidable.

But this isn't really about that... but about my second son and how the dry sense of humor, the lines said flatly that are humorous in our hearts, are just one aspect of his personality.

It is when the deeper side comes through... that I realize what is truly in his soul.. something I forget at times.

The Band Mixer was something his new high school puts on in May. All the incoming Freshman come and they sit with their band section, get to know the band students, eat pizza, drink soda, eat dessert... and play music. They have games as ice breakers and by the time it's over, the incoming freshman is relaxed and knows there are 90 kids waiting for him/her on that first day of school... and they have an immediate family.

You aren't a freshman when you are in band. You may be in 9th grade, but you aren't a freshman. You're a member of the band. Period.

So I brought Mr T and he glued himself to Son#4 who is a clarinet player in the band. Ringo hung with his friends, and T hung with Son#4. Son#4 has it all going on... he's making the grades, he's a good looking kid, he's fit, and he has friends. He's a quiet young man, but with T as his wingman, he was pushing T to be active, involved, and had him playing the games and making friends.

By the end, Mr. T knew everyone in the trombone and trumpet section, and had been fully accepted by Son#4 and Ringo's friends. He had a family.

We got in the car and T said to me, "You know what the brass section said? They said I have the same sense of humor as Ringo. They said I have a dry sense of humor that is quiet and funny, but they think I laugh more than he does..."

Ringo replied absent mindedly while texting his buddies, "What did you expect? We're brothers!"

Mr. T is on Yearbook Staff. This being his 8th grade year, they are to pick quotes for under their photo. A little blurb is written about what school they want to go to, what their aspirations are, what superlative they were elected... and a quote.

In the car Sunday, coming back from Mother's Day at the beach I heard him talking to his brothers.

Me: And when do Yearbooks come out?

T: I think next week or so. Not sure. And they didn't let me use my quote.

Bones: You're kidding me. Ahhh, man. For real?

T: Nope.

Ringo: I thought it was funny...

T: ME TOO!

Bones: It was hysterical!

Me: Wait. What was your quote?

T: The beatings will continue until Morale improves.

Me: *blink* You're kidding...

T: Nope. She wouldn't let me put it. So I changed it.

Me: Hunh. *expecting something witty now...* what did you put instead?

T:

Me: Well?

T: I decided if I couldn't be funny, then I needed to be serious. I remembered Tim Tebow and what he tries to convey. I put John 3:16.

Me: You... wrote out John 3:16... as your class quote for graduation?

T: Yeah. It felt right.

And he didn't just put... John 3:16.

He wrote it.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Of my three boys, he has always been the more spiritual one. He is the one that has deep religious discussions with me. He is the one... of great faith.

Do you know how hard it is, in our secular society to be so upfront about your beliefs? This is his 8th grade yearbook. This is the picture everyone will flip to, because we all do it... we all look to see, 'Where are they going? What funny quote did they pick? What was his/her superlative?" All the kindergardners, all the kids he's known until now... they will all look.

And unabashadly, that was the quote he chose. That is his last statement to his school, in print. No shame, no concern of being teased by other kids...

... it was him being him.

I love that.

Posted by Boudicca at 09:24 PM | Comments (8)

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day and I was suprised this morning with doughnuts. I suspect one of my boys put the bug in my husband's ears as I gave up doughnuts in November and have been heard to say more than once, "I love doughnuts. They may very well be my favorite food. I could write poetry about doughnuts...."

It is true.

Doughnuts (I had two!) and roses and funny cards and a gift. A lot of laughter. How can one ask for more?

We went to the beach for supper, something we do often on Mother's or Father's Day. Get sub sandwiches, grab some towels and chairs, and head out for the kids to play in the surf and we eat casually and talk.

We have been parents for 16 years now. I looked at my husband sitting next to me as he video taped our three boys in the water, playing, climbing all over each other, laughing. He is graying and his hair is thinning. The lines are deeper... deeper from the years and the stress that comes with being a father, husband, and owning one's own business. He wears the exact same size clothes a he did 16 years ago... it is as if someone created a painting and just changed the colors and added the lines to show the years.

I looked upon myself. I definitely don't wear the same size, although I'm close. I don't think I laugh as much. I feel more stressed, I struggle to sleep, and I worry much... whether it matters or not, I worry. My hair is short and graying. My face is rounder now and the collagen is wearing as my face is starting to show the sags of a middle aged woman.

We watched the young people with their babies. A young father carried a little girl of 6 months, holding the hand of a 4 year old boy, while his young wife helped their 2 year old daughter make her way through the dried seaweed.

I caught my husband watching them as well, as our three boys tussled in the water. Our three boys, with my eldest and his broad man shoulders, my second with his long torso starting to stretch into his height, and my youngest just starting his first growth spurt. Two voices are deep. One is not.

I leaned over and said, "Where did it go? Wasn't that just us?"

He smiled at the young family and said, 'It didn't take long...'

Sixteen years of being a parent... and it feels like just yesterday when we took my eldest to the beach for our first Father's Day. We were so young.

We have not many more Mother's or Father's Days that we'll be going to the beach. I suspect... we have exactly two where we will have our entire family. In two years, my eldest may very well be away at school, if I don't convince him to stay home for the first two.

But either way, we are limited. And we both know it.

He video taped them laughing. My eldest would pick up my youngest and throw him like a cannon ball into the oncoming surf. My second son would help him up and then it would start again. Piggy back rides and scrambling for the biggest wave.

We called my Mom to wish her a Happy Mother's Day and I think for the first time, it was a two way conversation with all three of them. In the past my two oldest have to be prodded to speak. Today they are more grown up and I hear it was a more fair exchange.

And I like that.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you. And for those with young children, hug them tight. The days come when you realize... Mother's Day will be a phone call.

The dinners on the beach... are not forever.

Posted by Boudicca at 08:57 PM | Comments (7)

May 07, 2011

Keeping Me On My Toes

I haven't posted a picture of Bones lately. He's still into skinny jeans and his frickin' red tennis shoes. I call them his Wizard of Oz shoes; if Dorothy had been a boy, these are the shoes he would wear.

We had to go out today to run an errand and this is how he was dressed. I call him, 'The red crayon' when he dresses like this. The red imp. If it's chilly out, he throws on a red hoody to complete the ensemble.

Yet he is never made fun of in school. It must be that art thang they have going on there...

The Red Crayon.jpg

Meanwhile, I'm chaperoning seven 6th graders to Kennedy Space Center on Monday. There will be 400 kids going. Holy crap...

So he tells me about the group I've been assigned and he tells me they're all good kids. He also informs me that they're always saying, "Bones, is your Mom nice?" That is the extent of the story I hear... other than he said he told them I was cool.

Then tonight, on the ride back from our errands, Bones in the back seat of the car with his brothers, my husband and I hear the following conversation, pretty much Bones just talking to his brothers, nearly a one way conversation:

Bones: So Mom is chaperoning. There 400 kids going, but Mom got me and my six friends.

Ringo: Mom, you need to quit saying yes.

Bones: She's going to have a GREAT time. Right Mom? She had a GREAT time at Universal with my friends.

Ringo: You did?

Me: Yup, I had a blast. Seriously.

Bones: So there are seven of us. All my friends are black except for Max and Matt. Everyone kept asking me, "Is your Mom nice?" and finally I said, "No. She hates black people!" Bwhahahahahahahaha!

Ringo: You did not! Bwhahahahahaha!

Mr. T, finally alert: You did?

I quit breathing.

My husband looked at me and said, "Holy sh--"

Bones: And then I told them I was joking. I thought it was hysterical.

Ringo: Are you SURE you remembered to tell them you were joking? 'Cuz, you'd be the type of person to forget that last part...

Bones: No, I did. I thought it was funny. They laughed.

I looked at my husband and said, "OMG. Only he would do that..."

Good grief.

----------------------------

My eldest son reminds me so much of my brother sometimes. They have the same sense of humor.

For Spanish they had to make a video... I think making something. Given that all his friends love my sandwiches, they decided to do a video of making a sandwich.

In Spanish.

And to do so would require them to go to Publix and buy the food... while narrating... in Spanish.

But to add an extra twist, the boys decided they'd take all the food and place it in places it didn't belong. For instance, they shoved just about everything in the bread section, behind the bread, and then they'd say to the camera, in Spanish, "You need lunch meat" and a boy would reach his hand into the bread and pull out a bag of lunch meat and throw it into the cart.

The funniest was when Ringo was filmed looking at the list and said, "you need a tomato", reached his hand into a huge pile of peanut butter jars, pulled out a tomato, and then chucked it into the cart. (Yes, they bought the tomato.)

Back at my house, they assembled the sandwich. At one point my son had the tomato in his hand and was cutting it, looked at the camera and said in Spanish, "Don't cut off your fingers..."

And it doesn't sound as ridiculous as it was because it is impossible to put on here how absolutely AWFUL their Spanish is. There is absolutely NO Spanish accent, it's all said very slowly so you can hear every syllable, and they're a mess.

I asked him if he was going to put it on youtube. If he does, I'll link it. It's dang funny.

I strongly suggest if any of you are linked to Ringo on FB, you'll find it on there...

Posted by Boudicca at 08:56 PM | Comments (10)

May 06, 2011

Teen Angst

I drew the short straw today and made a kind of phone call I knew I might have to make one day, but hoped to God I'd not have to.

I called a parent because their kid is being rumored in many circles to be doing drugs.

I live in a glass house. I've put that here many times. I don't throw rocks and I don't judge. And if I don't have particular feelings for a family or a kid, I'm not making phone calls, unless my child's life is in danger.

But this kid... I love this kid. And the first time I heard it, it was 2 weeks ago, and it was a gossipy Mom and I don't run in her circles and I blew it off as her being just a busy body rumor spreader.

But I did hear his name and my ears perked. I filed it away.

This evening I received a phone call from a Mom wringing her hands. She loves this particular family as I do. My sons love this kid. I heard details, took mental notes and when she said, "I don't know what to do..." I said, "Do nothing. I'm making a phone call. I have one data point already and I'll use you as data point two, while keeping you and yours completely out of it..."

And so I made the call and this woman is a dear friend and held my father in law's hand while he died and she handled it so much better than I would have handled it and she went to her son with the information and he confessed... it was all true.

Which secretly in my heart I was hoping it was not.

And now there will be discussion and intervention and I know the family and they will do a GREAT job getting to the root cause and doing what they can do. Ultimately, it will all be up to him. It's not the big stuff yet, but he was dipping his toe.

I live in a glass house. I hope someone would call me. And I'll be watching how she handles this... so I'll know what to do when the time comes and I'm on the other end of the phone.

Posted by Boudicca at 07:33 PM | Comments (8)

May 02, 2011

Devils with the Voices of Angels

I'm not going to post on the Osama thing as there are hundreds and thousands of people who do it far more justice than I ever could. Suffice it to say, Happy Endings are great.

I have a girlfriend who's son is in SEAL training as we speak. I said to her today at work, 'Dang! Just one more year more and maybe HE could have been the one to make that shot!" Her reply was, "It takes a hell of a lot longer than a year to graduate and make Seal Team 6!" We laughed about it, but both agreed... can you imagine being the guy who made the shot?

Wow.

Onto boy stuff... the trip.

One of the things I love most about the boys I traveled with is that they're just so dang funny and sweet. Don't get me wrong, what one doesn't think of the other will.

They are boys.

Rambunctious boys.

And it's so funny to see them rehearse. They sing their song and then the fidgeting starts, poking, prodding, trying to push one another off of risers.

When they perform, they're bodies mostly stay still with their energy release through swaying, moving fingers along the hems of their coat jackets, bobbing their heads... tapping an occassional foot as they try so very hard to be what they need to be.

And we arrived for the competition and one of the Moms looked at me and said, "Did you bring tissues?"

Me: No...

Mom#2: We cry when they perform.

Mom#1: Always. So we bring tissues.

Me: I cry too, but for different reasons. I look up at that group of boys and I know who they are. They are devil children, every dang one of them, mischievous devil children, and then they open their mouths and the voice of angels come out, the heavens open and this amazing transformation occurs and it makes me cry. Every time... I see the transformation. It blows me away.

Heh.

This is from last year:

5

My favorite song from that performance is at 6:15. My theme song... Slow Me Down Lord.

Search and you might find their recent performance. I'm not linking it... but it's there.

---------------

Lesson learned for next year...

The boys are fitted for their coats and pants in August. When do boys do their first growth spurt? In middle school.

Next year I'll be bringing a sewing kit. I had to run out and buy one as boys were popping buttons all over the place! I spent an hour sewing buttons on jackets!

Jackets were overstretched and quite a few pairs of pants were high waters and I could not quit laughing. Some of the boys got refitted as they flat did not fit in their uniforms anymore, but everyone tries to make due as there isn't exactly a HUGE closet filled with jackets to just pick and choose and you have to buy your pants.

Funny kids, those boys. Bones is blessed...

It was just funny.

Posted by Boudicca at 07:42 PM | Comments (3)

May 01, 2011

A Near Clean Sweep

In some regards, I feel bad for the groups the show up, not knowing what they've gotten themselves into when our school shows up. Some schools know. For instance, the week before our trip, our vocal director was talking to a vocal director for a school south of us, talking about his group was getting ready to go to Orlando.

Said the vocal director of the school south of us, "Wait. When are you going?"

Replied ours, 'Next week to the Festival'.

To which the response was, "Oh no. We're going. Now I need to tell my kids they aren't going to win...."

Nothing is guaranteed, of course, and our Concert band made a mistake that cost them first overall for bands, but still gave them an A score for Gold. But when you are with a school where kids actually AUDITION, to have the honor to attend, its just not the same world.

And what happens is these other kids see, "Oh. Middle School." They don't understand.

So a brief recap... there were 22 vocal groups coming from 11 schools. (You can enter men's, youth men's, women's, youth women's, traditional chorus. We typically enter all, but only had our youth men's.) For band it was nearly the same, 11 school with probably 20-25 different groups, jazz band, percussion, and various levels of concert band, maybe a 1st and 2nd band.

We stood at the Festival awards ceremony and they break it down into just such tiny categories that it's easy to win 1st in your division. It's when they start rolling it up that the competition is tremendous and when the other schools realize that the group of middle school kids, half of whom have no hair on their bodies and none of whom are shaving with our band girls not even filling out bathing suits, are in fact a tremendous force to contend with.

We won the following:

Gold- Youth Concert band, Youth Jazz band, Youth Percussion, Youth men's vocal.

Adjudicator's Award, for band you must score a 92 or above, for vocal, 95 or above, no distinction made on your age category or school size: Concert band, Jazz Band, Percussion, Vocal.

Special Awards to students that exhibited tremendous talent (10 given out): a young man from the Percussion group, a young man from band, and our vocal soloist. (We won three out of 10.)

Special recognition for a performance in Carnegie Hall: Concert band, Jazz band, Percussion, and Vocal. (We're not going. I guess they get invited all the time and it's very expensive.)

Best All Around Vocal, a wrap up of every vocal group regardless of who they are and what size school- Our Vocal.

Festival Award, must have entered a Vocal group, a Concert Band, and one other group (such as Jazz or Percussion), with a score closest to 300- Our school.

That Festival Award is like a 5 foot trophy. It was insane.

The kids walked out of there with tons of stuff. We were struggling to find a place of it all on the buses. One kid insisted on traveling with the big trophy at his feet. The whole way home he held onto it.

Heady stuff it was. Before the awards ceremony I kept saying, "I'm struggling seeing our little boys beating out these hundreds of high school kids..." and a Mom next to me said, "Yet, we do it."

And we did.

The only thing we didn't win was best Concert Band, because of the pretty major error the kids made, but that showed them all, as good as you are, mistakes are made that can be costly.

And for the record, when the adjudicator stepped forward to talk to them about their performance, a Dr in music from Vanderbilt, a tremendous music school for those not in the know, he said, "First let me tell you what an absolutely outstanding performance that is. My college band is working on it as we speak... and you all were just outstanding..."

He spend time directing them in different parts and I said to the Mom next to me, "I think he was itching to get his hands on these kids..." The tremendous amount of excitement as he guest conducted was palpable throughout the auditorium as he nearly jumped out of his skin with enthusiasm as he brought in bassoons, trumpets, and clarinets... taking them through strands of music so beautifully played, people pay good money for the experience.

It was... an amazing few days. More later...

Posted by Boudicca at 10:12 AM | Comments (6)