Sunday, May 01, 2016

my buttons ... they poppeth offeth! (the awesome nephew edition)

I've written about my nephew, Tommy, before.

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He's my sister, Eileen's son, and we adore him.   This last week, we received word that after winning various competitions in his platoon, battalion, regiment and brigade ... he won Soldier of the Year for the entire 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

To put it in perspective, that's from a pool of ~25,000 soldiers.   Next up, he'll be competing for the Airborne Corps ... and pending the outcome of that - soldier of the year for the entire Army. 

To say that our family is proud of our Tommy ... and all of our boys in uniform would be a significant understatement!

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This is a photo of William and his cousin - my other awesome nephew, Michael, the 105 and counting Merit Badge Eagle Scout, who flew in to surprise us for my birthday week.  And who went camping with William on his first Camporee, which his troop WON after beating out 10 other troops from the Houston area.   Here, they're practicing knot tying en route to their campsite:  

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We had such a wonderful time with Beth and Michael while they were visiting with us.  One of the highlights of their visit - in my opinion! - was a horseback ride that I took them on.   

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The girls and I have been riding almost every week for the past four months, and it is now one of my favorite things to do with people whenever they visit us in Texas.  Here's my sister Beth, checking out the four-legged inventory and carefully pondering her steed selection. 

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I was so happy and proud of my sister for joining us on this ride!  

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She hadn't been on a horse for over 40 years, but she climbed on and took off, like a pro. 

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We were worried about the flooding with all of the storms in Houston, but there wasn't too much standing water... 

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Well, except this "pond" that had a residency of approximately six alligators. 

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So we were told, once we had safely crossed to the other side. 

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At this point, Beth gave up trying to keep her feet dry. 

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During this ride, Michael was able to work on his horsemanship merit badge. 

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In addition to learning about horse anatomy, grooming, tacking, and care - Michael had to walk, trot and canter.  He did awesome and has expressed an interest in possibly procuring a bomb-proof horse one day that he can take with him when he goes hunting and fishing in the New England wilderness. 

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His favorite thing to do was trot, and I could hear him whispering to his horse, "Trot ... Trot ... Trot!"  When his horse would change gait, Michael would break in to laughter. 

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Going in to this, I really wasn't sure what my 15-year old nephew would think of this experience, but I've never seen him so happy or excited in my life.  And best of all?   There was NO chaffing!   Poor Michael, I told him he'd never live that one down!   :)

As for Tommy, I won't ever let him live down the time I took him to Disney Land - when he was six - and he wanted to ride Space Mountain with me.  We stood in lines twice and made it all the way to loading, only to get out of line twice. Once because he had to use the bathroom; and again because he was going to "frow-up."  Eileen finally stepped in and said, "It's nerves. Let's go to "It's a Small World."  And so we did.  I've been thinking that what I'd really like to give him as a gift of winning the Soldier of the Year, is a trip to Disney so we can finally ride Space Mountain together.  :)

All kidding aside, these two nephews ... I couldn't be prouder of them.  Or more grateful that they are in our children's lives as such outstanding role models.

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Bravo to my sisters, Beth and Eileen for raising such amazing young men!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

fly like an eagle

So while we were in Massachusetts last week (er, earlier this month ... I started this post a few weeks ago), we attended the Eagle Scout Court of Honor for my 15-year-old nephew, Michael.



I suspect that only those in the know of Boy Scouting will understand what a BIG Deal it is to achieve your Eagle Scout.



This is a summary, from Wikipedia - because that's where I get the majority of my information:
Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). The designation "Eagle Scout' has a long history since its founding over 100 years ago.  Only a small percentage of Boy Scouts are granted this rank after a lengthy review process. The requirements necessary to achieve this rank take years to fulfill.   Requirements include earning at least 21 merit badges. The Eagle Scout must demonstrate Scout Spirit an ideal attitude based upon the Scout Oath and Law, service, and leadership.  This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. 
Did you read how the requirements to obtain Eagle include earning at least 21 merit badges?   There are 136 total merit badges offered, and each merit badge is no small feat to obtain.

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Michael has earned 102 merit badges and has every intention of earning the remaining 34 badges, before he turns 18 years old.  At the rate he's been going, he should have obtained all of them by the time he's 17.   Of the more than 2,000,000 boys who have earned their Eagle Scout Award - since the inception of Boy Scouts in 1912 ... only 283 have achieved ALL of their merit badges.

Or approximately 0.01% 

Carolyn and I on the bridge that Michael built for his Eagle Scout project.

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WOULD YOU LOOK AT THIS BRIDGE?!

It's like a miniature version of the rude bridge that arched the flood, their flag to April's breeze unfurled ... here once the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard 'round the world! (Which, FYI, happened exactly 241 years ago today!)



There is no doubt Michael is amazing because he's the one that has done all of this hard work. But I am equally impressed by the dedication and devotion of my sister, Beth, and her husband, Michael who have encouraged him every step of the way.   Behind every Good Scout is a Great Leader.

(And parents!)

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As a sampling of what my sister, Beth, did for Michael ... here's a tiny percentage of the congratulatory letters that he received upon earning his Eagle Rank.

President and First Lady?  CHECK.

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Former President?  CHECK!

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CHECK!

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And CHECK!

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(Bill and Hillary's letters were apparently somewhere in there, too ... I just didn't see them!)

In lieu of the Clinton's ... there were several celebrities including Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon and all of the living James Bond's 007.

And look, Judge Judy weighed in!

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And Chuck Norris!

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As did the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins.

HELLO Major Sports Teams!

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As the mother of a new Boy Scout, who hasn't even achieved his Tender Heart rank ... I know that the road to Eagle is long and extremely time consuming.  It seems that every week, Charlie and William are trotting off to at least one (and more likely two, sometimes three) Boy Scout events.



But the rewards are SO great.  When resumes come across my desk, I can tell you that I specifically flag those that have achieved the rank of Eagle.  To me it symbolizes devotion, dedication, leadership and teamwork - and the ability to set up a tent in snow, tie some serious knots, and start a fire with a piece of flint as a young teenager.

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Tomorrow is my birthday and Saturday is my Dad's birthday.  And seeing as this is the first year that I'll be without my Dad during "our" birthday week, my sister Beth and my nephew, Michael are flying in to Houston to spend the week with us.   

Coincidentally, William will be attending his Camporee, this weekend - which just so happens to be the biggest camping event of his Boy Scout Troop all year long.  And what he doesn't yet know is that his new Eagle Scout superhero cousin Michael will be attending it with him.

Squee, OMG, SQUEE!!

 The kids have no idea that we're having visitors arrive TOMORROW morning.  I'm hopeful they'll learn of this surprise when they return home from school, provided they actually have school tomorrow.  They've been out for the past two days because of the intense rains in Houston and the severe flooding in the area.

One of the things that I miss the most about Virginia - next to the seasons and our friends - are the awesome snow days.  While our hearts have been heavy for those negatively impacted from this severe inclement weather; I've been a smidge grateful for this slight reprieve from the bustle of what seems like a crazy busy life.  With no school - homework - or after school activities, these "rain days" are the southern equivalent of a snow day, and what I'm taking as Mother's Nature's birthday present to me.

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It's now OK for the gift to stop giving.  Michael sent me a text this afternoon, inquiring if I could still give them a ride from the airport tomorrow and I said YES!  The ride, however, might be in a boat since it's supposed to start raining again, tonight.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

time in new england

This past weekend, I flew up to Boston with one of my children.

The child ... who had kept their room the cleanest for the entire month of March!

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That's my new mechanism of determining who should receive preferential treatment:  Keep your room legitimately clean (i.e., clothes not thrown under the bed, or in to random drawers, or the bathtub behind a shower curtain), do your homework without us "reminding" you 10 times, don't instigate fights with your siblings, and you could be ON YOUR WAY to an awesome one-on-one adventure with one of your parents!

In June, I'll be taking another business trip to Puerto Rico, and since the children will be out of school for summer vacation, I'm contemplating bringing someone with me.  I figure if I play my cards just right, I might get breakfast in bed and foot rubs every night for a month.

Oh, I kid.

(But just a little bit.)

So this past Saturday morning, my sweet Carolyn and I flew to Boston.   When we arrived, Carolyn picked out our rental car, and we drove over to visit my Aunt Peggy - my father's youngest sister.   After enjoying a beautiful spread of chocolate covered almonds, and grapes that Aunt Peggy had laid out for us, we walked over to the Museum of Science, which is directly across the street from where Aunt Peggy lives.  We saw hilarious t-shirts, dinosaurs, turtles, and an IMAX on Jerusalem.  Which Carolyn I both fell asleep midway through because we'd been up since 5 AM.

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That evening, we drove back to the airport and picked up my mother and Aunt Grace, and cousin Lisa - and her beautiful daughters, Kathryn and Mary Elizabeth.  The same Kathryn - who thankfully is doing so well - and is on the road to recovery (!!) thanks in large part to so many of the loving prayers that she received in abundance, and continues to receive, from people she may never have the opportunity to meet.   (Thank you, thank you!!) 

On Sunday we made our way to a surprise 90th birthday party for my Aunt Ann.

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Now, if I have the sequence correct, Aunt Ann is the fifth of nine children born to my Nana (Margaret) and Grandpa (Francis) Coleman.  Here's the count:

1. Francis - died at the age of six following a ruptured appendix
2. Edmund
3. Bernard
4. Carolyn - my Carolyn's name sake
5. Ann - husband Paul
6. Bobby - my Godfather (!)
7. Ray - Bobby's twin
8. Grace - 2nd mother to me; husband Bill; namesake to Carolyn GRACE
9. Mary - My beautiful mom

Four of my grandparent's surviving five children were present at Aunt Ann's party:  Ann, Bobby, Grace and Mary.  Uncle Ray and Aunt Ethel were physically in Florida - but were certainly with us in spirit!

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My mom and her two sistahs...

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My Aunt Ann is amazing ... she is the mother of eight children, and has sung at every Coleman family wedding, baptism, funeral, and related gathering that I can recall ... throughout my entire lifetime. 

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In 1967, Aunt Ann was working as a waitress at Boston Symphony Hall and was overheard singing by conductor Harry Ellis Dickson.  Legend has it that Conductor Dickson convinced my Aunt Ann and her beautiful voice to join him on stage and lead the 2,500+ audience in song after song after song.  

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Such a HUGE hit my Aunt Ann was, that she was asked to make several more appearances alongside the Boston Pops.  And so it is, Aunt Ann was famously dubbed "The Boston Pops Singing Waitress" and made it to the front page of the Boston Globe in 1967.

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Last year - in September - her seven surviving children decided that they needed to throw a BIG party in honor of their mother's 90th birthday.

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Over my lifetime, I've been to a lot of parties, but I've NEVER been to a party like this.

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My cousins, Aunt Ann's children, hired a professional and they choreographed the entire event.

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There was singing, and costumes, tambourines, and tap dancing ...

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And a 17-year old grandson of Aunt Ann's flawlessly singing Ave Maria in Italian.

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Across the eight children from my mother's family who survived to adulthood, they introduced 40 grandchildren to the family.  I'm grandchild number 40.   In this photo which captures only 1/2 of our maternal cousin count, I'm trying to make the sign of "40" but could only manage to raise one hand for fear that if I lifted the second hand, I'd lose my balance and face-plant.

Go-Go Irish Catholics!! 

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I laughed - and I cried - and I gave sincere thanks to be alive, part of this awesome clan, and present at this amazing event ... which was a perfect tribute to my beautiful Aunt Ann.   Haywards, you have set the bar ... that is how it's done! 

This is family ... and I'm so darn lucky to call these people mine.