Saturday, March 28, 2009

USMA West Point Mom and USMA Plebe Parent Weekend 2009

A friend, who happens to also be a West Point "Old Grad", recently informed me that the term used for those who have everything "West Point" is "Gray Hog". Well...sign my husband up for that club because he practically bought ,not one , but several entire bookstores when we were at West Point for Plebe Parent Weekend 2009!

Grey Hogs
I have to be honest...just call me "Gray Hog2". It is difficult to stop myself because the West Point items are reminders of the son/plebe we have living there. However, I do not have a "West Point Mom" t-shirt or hat. Husband and I made a rule for ourselves that we just wouldn't do the ole "parent" thing in hats, t-shirts, or bumper stickers. Apparently, we perceived ourselves to be "above" that the beginning...before the Gray Hog fever began.

Maybe...One Little Exception
The one exception to our "No Parent Paraphernalia" rule is my "Proud Parent of West Point Cadet" tote bag. A local bank had given the free tote bags to parents on A-Day Weekend, and I do admit to carrying this item with a great sense of pride. Love it when people ask about my Cadet at West Point.

We Have a 'Disease'
Frankly, we are extremely "gray" and very "hoggish"! On our latest weekend at West Point, as were in yet another gift store, I abruptly stopped Jeff from making a purchase by saying,"Do you really need a West Point Zippo?" To my surprise, he listened...whoa.

Reason why Gray Hog1 was right to listen to Gray Hog2 : as it turned out our West Point Class of 2012 Plebe had planned a gift for Dad.

"Here, Dad, this is your Plebe Parent Weekend favor," our son said handing Jeff a small package.

Your guess is correct...a West Point Zippo engraved with "Class of 2012"on the back.

Hmmmmm.... a bit of divine intervention in the Gray Hog1's spending spree.

The Quiet Calls My Name

I can hear the Quiet this morning. A repetitive bird chirps in the back yard. Rhythmic drips from the kitchen faucet. An occasional car noise. Mac the Labradoodle sighs.

Hadn't Been Alone In 20 Years
This is a most unusual morning because I am practically alone. Clayton's birth was twenty years ago; I have not been alone since. On the day when the last boy entered kindergarten, my husband moved his office home. Here and there I will have "alone mornings", but they are rare. Rare...that's what makes them special. I don't want to wish away my family! I'm just hearing the Quiet.
My youngest resident teenager is asleep upstairs. My oldest is hundreds of miles away dead-dog tired from cleaning every particle in his barracks room for the infamous SAMI (Saturday A.M. Inspection). Husband and middle son are flying home from Las Vegas after experiencing Stuart's awesome 18th birthday/graduation gift of seeing the Cirque Du Soleil Beatles show.

Uncomfortable Chair Syndrome
Last February, after having had the flu, I said to Jeff, "Did you know that we don't have one comfortable chair in this entire house?" (A mom can't have the flu in an isolated bedroom, I still had to be out where I could see and command the troops.) So, during my illness, I had been longing for a spot to rest my flu-infested muscles and found none.
"I've been telling you that for years, " was his simple reply.
Seriously, I had never noticed that our family was plagued by UCS (Uncomfortable-Chair Syndrome) because, quite frankly, I am always moving and never sit down. This was my eye-opening epiphany regarding our UCS and, upon my recovery, I re-arranged some furniture and created the Kinleystead's favorite sitting spot enjoyed by family and visitors alike. This place which has also received the Mac the Labradoodle Seal of Approval is my wonderful daybed window seat.

Too Many Choices!!!
What do "quiet" and "UCS" have in common? The simple answer is: The Kinleystead is rarely quiet and I am rarely still, so, I find myself being "lost" in these moments. It's like when I try shopping in a department store; I look at everything and buy nothing. Too many choices paralyze me! I say to myself, "What shall you do with this quiet or with this "free" time?" I find myself frozen in the answer. Not frozen because I am boring or have no interests...frozen because I have too many choices!

Time for Me
This morning the Quiet is calling my name. I hear it, and my response is to do something just for me.

What do you do for 'Me Time'?

Friday, March 20, 2009


I still use "film". Every time I buy a new roll I wonder how long it will be before film passes away like home movie reels and polaroid cameras. If I had digital options, I could pretend that film is uber-cool and superior and artsy but difficult to be plausible when comparing film -produced photos to the digital sisters.

Film Can't Compete
The competitive nature within rises when I know my photos can't compete. Frustration results from the playing field's unevenness. I feel handicapped.
Film is delayed gratification. I remember the day when people had to wait an entire week to get photos back from the drugstore. I also remember taking film to quality developing studios where each photo was hand developed. In today's world, development only takes an hour and even that seems long.
We just returned from an important weekend at West Point. With twenty four pictures on a roll, I took four rolls of film for a total of ninety six photos. Once upon a time, that was considered good documentation. In comparison, a digital photographer would have returned with five hundred pics. Knowing about the luck-factor in photography, the odds are against the film guys.
And another thing: Whenever I say to a random person, "Would you please take our picture?" (and this is done only in the "big" moments), the photo always returns to me with something chopped off or, even with an auto-focus lens, blurry. It's simply a fact on which I can always count.

Always the Photographer
Now I am brought to the present point regarding Plebe Parent Weekend and its photos which returned from Target (and, yes I did wait an entire day for them). Out of the four rolls, there were some keepers. For that I am thankful because I know that is not always the case because there are no re-do's with film. Here's the point: Where am I? Me. The mom part of "parent". Always the photographer, never in the picture. Turns out in the one photo I allowed myself to enter, the ole chopping block syndrome came to visit.

Pictures That Last Forever
When Stuart was small I caught him doing a very strange thing one day. He would put his index finger under his eye and jerk it up and down once at a time very quickly. And, then, he would turn his head slightly and repeat the motion.
"Stuart, what are you doing?" I asked him after observing this several times.
"I'm taking pictures with my mind," was his reply. And he switched to the other eye like it was the most normal thing a kid could do.
"Why did you do that?" I inquired again.
"I ran out of film," he answered with the confidence of a professional photographer.
I believed him then...and I still do. The photographs taken by our minds are superior to both film AND digital.
Guess what? I'm in every one of those pics.

Does anyone else have this problem of never being in the photo?

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Three-Cornered Hat Principle

Clayton was barely six, Stuart was four, and Davis was not quite two when we took a family trip to Williamsburg, Virginia... love the history... top places ever... spent two days of our honeymoon there. Anyway, so we were on this family vacation taking in the history and having a great time walking until our feet hurt. We still had a stroller, and everyone wanted to get in...even me.
As in any tourist destination, there are always "things" that the tourist simply must have. On this particular trip, the "must-have" was the three-cornered hat. Every kid had one! I wanted mine to have one , too.
"It would make the pictures so much cuter," I whined, trying to persuade Jeff to buy one...errr, make that three. Let's just say the ole three-cornered hats times three were going to set us back quite a bit more than had been expected and, so, they did not come to be.
Still,the more we did not have the hats and the more people we saw with the hats, the greater the desire for the hats became. We went about our day. We took tons of pictures. We had lots of fun, but not having the three-cornered hats continued to rear its ugly head.

At the Beach
Fast forward several days to where we were back at our beach house taking in the surf, sand, and shell collecting.
Jeff observed, "You know, the three-cornered hats would really look silly about now." And we laughed at the silliness of how important they had seemed in the "Williamsburg moment".

Plebe Parent Weekend
Fast forward fourteen years into the future. Clayton is only weeks away from being twenty. We are at West Point for Plebe Parent Weekend (PPW).The "must-have" of this trip... the official standard-issue wool parka with the "USMA 12" patch sewn over the heart. It's a parka made by the West Point uniform factory and only Cadets, Old Grads, and parents are allowed to have them. So exclusive.
Jeff had planned in advance to purchase the parka ("Parka" is just not a term we would use in the South. Is it Yankee-ease or traditional WP-ease? I don't know. "Parkas" to a Southern mind are worn only by Eskimos in Alaska, but this one is navy blue thick wool with a zip- down- the- middle hood.), thus, he had not packed a coat knowing that his new official West Point parka would keep him warm. And it was a very cold day to our thin Southern blood.
I simply could not justify the $90.00 X 2, so I unselfishly allowed Jeff to make the parka purchase.

Everyone Had One
However,I still wanted one...REAL badly. When they were stitching on the "USMA 12" patch, I almost caved to the desire. But, I wisely revisited the "Three-Cornered Hat Principle". I pictured both Kinley parents showing up at high school football games both wearing the USMA 12 parkas and I knew it would be like being on the beach with the three-cornered hat and a bathing suit.
On the other hand, I knew if I couldn't wear a USMA 12 parka to an Army football game, then I should probably stay at home. "How many Army football games will you be attending?" I asked myself. (Maybe one...if I am fortunate.)
Many comments throughout the weekend were made by husband as to how warm and toasty he was because of his magical, new parka. Every parent had one...many husbands and wives. They were all I could see.
I held firm.

Parkas Continued to Look Cool at the Airport
At the airport, they still looked awesome as the parkas would distinguish the WP parents from the crowd.
Today, it was 68 degrees in Little Rock. For now, anyway, the parka's magic is fading. But, it looks great in the pictures....

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A "Constant"

Like most residents of Hillcrest, Saturday is another word for "Project Day". I love warm Saturdays when, with windows and doors open, the sounds of hammers and saws can be heard all about my neighborhood.My husband would say that his weekly trip to Kraftco would top his list of Saturday favorites.

Things that Don't Change
Few places are "constants". Kraftco is. There used to be others like the Heights IGA Grocery, but the stuffed monkey that for 40 years sat atop the produce section's banana "tree" was lamely replaced by a Curious George, not the same, so I crossed that place off my list.
But...Kraftco...where the linoleum tiled floors have worn paths down each aisle, and the smell of old-hardware store fills the air. Screws, nails, garden supplies, paint, and hardware of all types pack the aisles from floor to ceiling. Where, upon entering, each customer is led precisely to the exact item needed. Whether it's one screw or a chainsaw, the Kraftco men treat everyone with same amount of care and attention. Wow.
From killing ants to replacing a garbage disposal to patching a roof, the Kraftco sages have guided us through many home repair projects.

Seasonal Fun
A hint of snow in the forecast and out come the wooden "Flyer" sleds. In the summer there are wooden ice cream makers, even the ones with cranks for nostalgic souls.(Personally, I'm not that old or patient for one of those things!)

The Kraftco Sages Know All
My husband enters Kraftco's doors with, "I live in an old house in Hillcrest." Immediately the hardware heroes are smiling, nodding, and tracking with him. I enter with hand gestures similar to charades, and my message is always deciphered.

One Saturday, and I do mean one, my husband returned from his weekly Kraftco run emptyhanded.

"Kraftco didn't have it," he reported with a blank look in his eyes.

"Didn't...have it?" I repeated not believing my own words.

And we stared at one another in silence.