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The Best Read Aloud EVER

Today, after completing a virtual run (more about that in a later post), I arrived home to find something special in the mail…

My heart beat a little faster when I saw THREE letters from Rooster.

Three!!!!

This is the first “real” written communication, other than the postcard that arrived last week, that I’d received since he left two weeks ago.

The Mr. was out shopping, and I texted him the news.  I knew I had to wait until he got home to open the envelopes.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long.

I sat down at the dining room table while the Mr. stood.

Anxious much?

We opened the envelopes and determined the order in which we should read the letters.  Rooster had dated each one.  Thank goodness!

And thus began the best read aloud ever.

The first letter started off with, “I’m doing well.”

Yes, we needed to hear these sentiments.  It was a good way to begin.

He said that he liked his MTIs (military training instructors), and that he’d been sick the first day he was there.  Oh, that was hard to read.  Who likes their babies being sick when we can’t tend to them?

The letter was brief.  We didn’t care.

On to letter #2.  It was even shorter and told us to ask for details from his girl, to whom he’d written much more.  Ahem.  At least he wrote!!

Letter #3 got us in our “feels.”  It was the longest of the three.

He told us that he missed us a lot.

I’m crying even as I write this now, just as I did when I read those words the first time.

He told us about specific things he missed.

The waterworks were on full-blast at this point.  The moments he shared were exactly what we’d been missing too.

He explained why he hadn’t been able to call and when he expected to be able to phone us next.  It won’t be soon enough, let me tell you.

The most precious words he shared were “Love you guys!”

Y’all, I read aloud for a living.  It’s what I do as a reading teacher.

Today, reading my sweet boy’s personally handwritten letters put my fluency skills to the test.

The emotions were raw.

I will tell you one thing that is good about not being able to communicate via the phone.

Writing letters back and forth is forcing us to talk the old-school way.  It’s a lost art form, precious but rare.

The Mr. and I have written our Rooster letters (we each write our own) every single day, starting with the night before he left (we snuck those into his travel bag, which he found his first night).

It’s probably no surprise to you that I find the process cathartic.  I NEED to write to process my feelings.

I look at each letter as a continuous conversation with the son who would sit and chat with me for hours about random stuff.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I will be the happiest mama on earth when he gets his phone back after basic training is over; however, I’m choosing to look for silver linings in my current circumstances…to find joy in the smallest of things.

Seeing my boy’s handwriting, taking note of his excellent grammar (I did something right as a mother and English specialist), and holding pieces of paper that he held three or four days prior lifts my spirits and helps ease the anxiety of not being able to hear his voice whenever I want.

I pray that these special read alouds are repeated…often…hanky in hand…heartstrings pulled taut.  These will be treasured moments, tucked into my heart to be pulled out time and again as I remind myself just how blessed I am.

How We are Coping

Dear Rooster,

While you’re off learning how to wear camo and keep your face clean-shaven, we’re just over here, counting down the days until we get to see you again.

We still have a longgggggggg way to go.

The waiting is exhausting.

If you need us, we’ll just be chillin’…in between letter writing…you know, like sleeping, which is something you’re probably not doing a lot of these days.

We love you and are praying for you, even while we snooze our days away.  Honestly, sleeping helps pass the time until we can be reunited with our boy wonder.

Love,

Mama, Pele, Molly, and Gambit

Little Things

You’ve heard the saying that it’s the little things in life that make a difference.  I can honestly say that it’s been the little things that have made my heart soar and the tears flow lately.

As of today, my Rooster has been gone for one week.  He’s officially in Week 1 of his basic training.  The first week isn’t really counted because of all of the processing that has to be done.  I can’t say that I have found a new normal yet because seemingly small things keep hitting my heart.

Little things like a student whispering, from the back of the room, that she’s praying for me after I broke down in tears last Tuesday morning when her class came in.

Things like pulling up to the house, opening the garage, and seeing Rooster’s car…clean from his last trip to get it detailed.

My heart did a slow dive when, on Thursday, we drove that same car out of the garage and met Super Sis and her hubby and turned the keys over to them for my youngest nephew.

Pulling up to the house every day since then and seeing the empty spot in the garage still makes my heart sad.

A simple thing like the sound of my cell phone going off during my lunch break on Thursday, looking down, and seeing my boy’s name on the caller ID made me jump up like I’d seen a spider.  He was calling to give me his mailing address.

His small, deep chuckle, given at least twice while we chatted, assured me that he was happy.

Who knew that a mere two-minute phone call could stir the heartstrings so much.

There was the sunny afternoon, which I spent part of outside on Saturday while on a lunch break during a school district-sponsored technology expo I attended that day.  Oh word, but my soul was refreshed as I soaked in the warmth and the view.

There’s the grocery shopping, which the Mr. mostly does for us, and the fact that we don’t have things like Cheez-Its and power bars on the list any more, and the two empty chairs around the table…one of which was only recently vacated.

That hit pretty hard on Sunday.

And then today…one small piece of card stock…

A postcard from my boy in the scripted language of his military branch announcing that he’d made it to Basic safely.  On it was his mailing address, which he’d tailored to fit his specific information.

Knowing that he had held this card in his hands only a few days ago…that he wrote my name on that card…these thoughts made my heart rise in joy.

I don’t know that I’ve been one to take things for granted; however, I am especially sensitive to the smallest occurrences in my life right now…evidence of God orchestrating everything, fulfilling His purpose in my life and those I love.

Treasured Moments

A five-minute phone call to my Rooster boy during the break between classes…getting an update about upcoming plans.

A car in the garage when I arrive home from work…evidence that things are, at the moment, the same.

An hour-long conversation with my boy when I enter the house…excitement flowing from his words…brilliant smile on his face.

Late-night chat…evening plans that had led our paths to diverge now ended…a time to reconnect as a family.

Debate-after-the-debate…the boy and his father hashing it out over the Republican candidates.

These are the moments I am treasuring in my heart right now…moments that fill me with an overflowing love…moments that cause my eyes to brim over with tears.

I am grateful for each of these for I know that when spring arrives, so too will changes in this Auburnchick abode.

No Ordinary People

I just got home from a wedding.

The bride…a young lady I’ve had the honor of knowing for about twelve years.  I am not a numbers gal, so let’s go with twelve, give or take a year.

She and Chicky formed an instant friendship when we moved to Podunk, USA way back when Chicky was beginning the seventh grade.

“J” and Chicky attended school and church together, and they were also on the same school and travel soccer teams.  Her parents, the Mr., and I quickly formed a strong bond (those of you who know me personally will get the pun).  🙂

I’m proud to say that it was my family who took J to her first Auburn football game, taught her the fight song on the way up, and nurtured that love…one she carried through her college career when she later attended and graduated from Auburn.

War Eagle, y’all!

J married her “buddy” a few hours ago, and the wedding was Christ-centered and full of fun.

I had known, when I received my Save the Date flyer, that it would be a wonderful evening.

Now that it’s come and gone, I can honestly say that my expectations were more than met.

My heart is full, and I almost want to cry now that it’s ended.

As I saw people arrive for the wedding, I couldn’t wait to hug their necks.  I couldn’t quite yet because the ceremony was about to start, so I eagerly awaited the reception.

You see, these were no ordinary “people.”

They were my fellow soccer parents.

Over the years, we had traveled far and wide together (all over the United States, in fact), rejoiced in victories, and dried tears after losses.

We had agonized over teenage/parent frustrations while cheering our girls from the sidelines.

We’d shared countless adventures together.

Holler if you remember getting lost on back roads in Virginia.

Ahem.

If you’re a sports parent, you know the unique bond that forms in such circumstances.

We had broken bread together at all hours of the day more times than I can remember and at more restaurants that I probably want to recall.  Hello, hotel oatmeal.  heehee

It’s a very good thing that social media wasn’t a thing back in those days.  😀

As the girls got older, we attended their college signings and cheered them on when we heard their names on the news or read about them in the paper or online.

And now…

They are getting older.  Many are either finished with college, almost finished, or in the case of K, the youngest of a LARGE crew, about to embark on a college career.

And then today, there was J’s wedding…

The most recent event to bring us together.

I cried a little when I saw her groom’s eyes fill with tears as he saw her.  It was absolutely precious to behold.

I saw J take a deep breath as she held her father’s arm and passed my aisle…on her way to her groom waiting for her.

She was drop-dead gorgeous, her dress conservative but so feminine with its lace and train.

The ceremony was so sweet – especially because they incorporated promises to forever cheer on Auburn in the vows they wrote for each other.

War Eagle!

After the ceremony, I greeted the other soccer moms with the hugs I’d been holding back.  We talked non-stop as we walked to the reception room.

Chicky, the Mr., and I were seated at the table with our soccer peeps.  Whoever made the seating arrangements, thank you!!

What fun we had describing past times.

Watching J and her guy dance their first dance…well, my goodness…I think we soccer moms all shed a few tears.

And then the dance floor was opened up to everyone.

I am not going to lie.  I danced.

A lot.

I pulled one of my friends, L, to the floor with me, and honey, that girl had moves!

Song after song played, and we parents had as much fun as the kids.  Seriously.

At one point, J’s mom got in the middle of the moms and totally cut loose.  My friend, L, looked at me and said, “I have goosebumps right now.”

You see, after our girls, in their senior year of high school, won the regional playoff game that sent them to the state playoffs, we had stood in the school’s parking lot, and J’s mom had gotten in the middle and danced in celebration.

It felt like deja vu.

We boogied our behinds off and did dances I didn’t know how to do.  I just followed the lead of S, one of the soccer dads, who had, apparently, been taught by his five kids.  🙂

We did the Wobble, which I had learned how to do on the cruise.

I learned that to dance like the young folks, all you have to do is point at someone or something every now and then.

heehee

The night went by too quickly, and before I knew it, the Mr. pried me off of the floor.  He and Chicky were ready to leave.  I could have partied all night.

#teachersonsummervacation

As I hugged L, she said, “I don’t want tonight to end.  I’ll probably be depressed tomorrow.”

I told her to focus on the positive memories, but now, I see what she meant.

We, despite having grown children, have gotten busier (who would have thunk it).

We aren’t required to meet up every few days for practices or tournaments.

Simply put, our lives don’t intersect very often any more.

Because we are family, this makes letting go of each other when we are together even more difficult.

You see, when you’re a soccer [insert your sport of choice] parent, you automatically adopt every player on the team.  You walk away from the experience having parented more children than you originally intended when you signed up for the sport.

Your heart gets bigger at the same rate that your “family” grows.

I’ll forever be grateful to J for including us on her special day.  Not only did we get to watch her marry the man God had planned as her soul mate, we got to do it together…like we always did…from the sidelines but with as much enthusiasm as ever.

I’ll carry these memories in my heart for a very long time and will look forward to the next celebration that reunites us once again.

Weekend Visit

My Chicky is coming home for the weekend!!!

Her room is ready, adorned with her favorite flowers…

The dogs were excited after she phoned at 8am to tell us that she had just hit the road…

Well, okay.  Maybe excited is a little too strong a word to describe the moment captured above.  Rather, they began waking up to a day that was sure to be busy…

Somehow, I suspect that baths were not the dogs’ idea of fun, although they certainly felt good afterward…

Chicky hasn’t actually been home in a year.  We spent Christmas at the in-laws’ house.  It’s in-between our home and Chicky’s, and she didn’t feel like driving all the way here when she’d only be here a day (our school break didn’t allow for much time between the beginning of it and Christmas Eve).

We don’t get to see Chicky as much now that she’s a totally legit teacher and all.  The Mr. and I ate dinner with when she met us at the Cowfish at CityWalk (Universal Studios) during Spring Break.

She’s coming into town to attend the wedding of a childhood friend.  It’s going to be a family affair.  That what these things are when you 1) grow up in the church together, 2) go through puberty together, 3) play travel soccer together, and 4) introduce said friend to the best school ever…Auburn University…by taking her to her first Auburn football game, teaching her the fight song, and listening to her sing it ALL THE WAY there and ALL THE WAY home.

And so Chicky is coming home.

My heart is the happiest it’s been in a long time. ❤

How They Want to be Remembered – Part 2

Yesterday, I started a series of posts in which I’ll be providing snippets from a writing prompt I assigned my students.

Their responses were very revealing and deeply touching.

Today, I present Part 2 of this series.

T is a young man who is heavily involved in sports.  He plays football, runs track, and lifts weights.

How I first wanna be remember is for my kind heart and brains those are my two main things that I feel that every athlete is supposed to obtain.When you’re known as kind hearted you can get better support and more respect as a leader. When you’re a nice to your person and adults you will get a lot further in life. If you start now being kind to people will remember how you treated them , like a first impression. When you make a first impression you want people to have good thoughts about you.

G is another young man who definitely had some struggles this year.  I really, really appreciated his honesty in the following paragraph he wrote.  I also love his sense of humor in the last sentence.

I have ADHD but I can focus without it, it really is not a disorder but some teachers like to rub it in my face which really aggravates me. People that know like to joke but I don’t really take it in a serious way. The other day two girls told me that a guy they know has ADHD, they also said that he is mentally retarded and that people which have this is stupid because they can’t control their own body. I’m listening to all this, and I walk up to them and say not every one that has ADHD is retarded and stupid. I told them I have ADHD, I also told them I can control what I do. If I couldn’t then I would slap both of them up side the head for calling me idiotic and reckless.

L is a young lady who also had challenges to overcome this year.

I know the feeling when you need someone to talk to, and there’s no one there. It feels awful. I’ve had lots of struggles at home and outside of school, but some how they all affected me throughout the school year. I see the struggle in others when I look into their eyes. Observe their actions. Sometimes they even hide it. People always tell me I’m such a happy person. That I have the perfect outlook. That’s what I want them to see. Two and a half years ago, my siblings and I were removed from my mother. I had no clue what to think or who to tell. I was scared, I felt alone. That was the hardest time of my life. I started disrespecting everyone, only because I didn’t know how to deal with anything. My siblings and I got separated. I lived in a group home [original text removed right here] with thirteen other girls and boys. Older and younger. It was horrible. It all made me stronger. I won’t let that define who I am. “The girl who lived in the foster home?”

L went on to say…

I want to be remembered by the girl who overcame all her troubles. The girl who helped others when they wanted to overcome their troubles.

A quickly became a favorite of mine this year.  Hush your mouth.  I can hear you now tsking me for claiming to have a favorite, but we humans naturally gravitate toward kindred spirits, and this young lady certainly was one and earned my respect early on.

The way girls carry themselves, I want to show them that boys aren’t the only ones that can make them feel special, but to get where you want to be can make you feel special; being someone that can help make a difference in someone else’s life.

I see girls today carrying themselves in all kinds of way; to find a girl that has high expectation is very rare because most girls are too focused on getting attention from boys. I want to be that one girl that is known to show girls that they don’t need boys to keep their expectations up.

A went on to share information that helped explain her conservative nature.

I’m that one girl that struggled to fit in because of how I am. I speak a different language, I’m from somewhere poor, but we have money. Yes, we do have most of the things America has, but not all the things. I’m that one girl that gets picked on and I don’t want to be remembered by that. I don’t want to be a bully because of how I’m treated I want to help; I want to show that I care for all the kids that are different, like I am.

As she read her essay to the class, we started getting weepy-eyed when she shared the following…

I want to show that the appearance of the way I dress, my high pitch, loud voice, or even the way I look, where I’m from does not just complete me but also shapes me into who I am. My personality is much more than how I look and how I act because deep down is a hidden smile that will never be released. I  close all doors that show the real me because my hidden smile is more than it appears to be; it’s not just a smile but it’s a part of me that will never be shown. That’s what I don’t want to be remembered as the girl that hides her real personality.

And then the next part…oh my…she started crying, and I went to her, standing beside her until she finished with her presentation…

Besides me I’m the one that’s left out. I get less attention because i’m the middle child and the fact that i’m in America and he [her father] is in Jamaica makes everything even worse. I was really close to my dad but now I have no idea where I stand with him, I wish I had my dad.

I think I’ll end this post right here.  As when A presented, a hush fell over the room, and we had to collect ourselves.

I’ll write Part 3 tomorrow (or soon thereafter).

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