Monday, July 9, 2018

Making the best of a bad situation.

Christi and I went out west for her brother's memorial and while we were there, we got to see her parents and she got the opportunity to re-connect with her siblings, some of whom she had not seen in as much as 10 years.  I flew home to take care of the rest of the family and the house while she remained in California with our daughters Harper and Farryn and our son Vaughn. They took some time for my in-laws to get to know Farryn, as she was born here in Indiana, and then they headed home, making a couple of stops on the way.

They drove like fiends to meet up with Kaylee and the group visited Ruby Falls in Tennessee.
Kaylee, Harper, Farryn and Vaughn at Ruby Falls

From there Kaylee returned to her duty station and Christi and the littles continued on home via the Blue Ridge Parkway seeing some awesome mountain views and taking in the local flavors such as boiled peanuts, venison jerky and bringing home an excellent custom roasted and ground organic coffee for me.  Harper even got in a little bit of driving practice as she now has her learner's permit.

Although it started with a sad occasion, Christi made the most of things by seeing her family and enjoying just a little time on the road and away from the daily grind at home.  I'm very glad she got to go, and amazingly proud of her stepping out of her comfort zone and driving much farther than she ever had on her own before.  I'm a little JELLY and needless to say, I missed her and the kids tremendously, but I'm happy they enjoyed the trip.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Farewell Charles Wesley Sanders Jr.

On June 8th, Christi’s oldest brother, Chuck, passed away.  He was 60 years old when he lost his battle with cancer.  He is survived by 3 children, one of whom turned 40 on the same day his father died.  Chuck was one of those guys who just seemed invincible.  An Army and National Guard veteran, he actually convinced me to join the Guard after I got out of the Marine Corps.  He was a hell of a guy, tough as nails and he loved his family.  Always fun to be around, he loved a good barbecue and the occasional adult beverage.  

Charles Wesley Sanders Jr.

Chuck, you will be missed.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Parris Island and A cabin in the Smokies!

When we last checked in with the intrepid Cason’s, they were preparing to depart for South Carolina to pick up their young Kaylee Rae after her graduation from Marine Corps bootcamp.  The departure went off surprisingly well and they were on the road with their 15 passenger Chevy, a rented 15 passenger Ford (with the weird body-style) and the camera crew consisting of a Belgian journalist, and 2 videographers from Louisiana.  Heading South for the Muncie area to pick up one of the girlfriends and they immediately got separated from the second van as the 20 year-old driver was sure he knew the plan and had relied on the fastest route to the pickup point rather than Mom/Navigator Christi’s plan and the waiting game began.  This foiled the camera crew’s attempt to capture traveling caravan shots at first because it was hurry up and wait.  Soon enough, though, the group was reunited with Molly on board and booking it down the highway. 

Once they arrived at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, they were checked into a lovely foursome of very nice rooms in the Springhill Suites.  The gang all got a pretty good night’s sleep and had some continental buffet and it was off to the races again!  Down and around and down and copious potty stops later and they had arrived in Hilton Head Island South Carolina at the Marriott Surfwatch resort.  The 2 villas there were AWESOME!  The 3 bedroom units had very nicely appointed rooms each one rated to sleep 12.  The next morning the family woke and somehow hustled everyone out the door and into the vans and they were on the road once again, this time traversing the 35 or so miles to MCRD Parris Island.  Once through the gate they found the parking area, but no signage pointing to where they were supposed to meet their Marine.  They eventually found the venue albeit just a few minutes after the official dismissal for family day.  

Needless to say, the reunion was emotional.  Tears were shed, hugs were given, long and lingering and more tears were then shed.  Kaylee showed her family the barracks in which she lived and a little bit around the base.  Mostly they spent the hours enjoying each other’s company, part of the time at a lovely picnic area by the waterside right next to the NCIS office.  When the time came to return her to her platoon, more tears and hugs, but some relief because they would be right back the next day to see her graduate and take her home.  The graduation was incredible.  The ceremony, the dress blues, of which dad was clearly jealous, and the incredible release of emotion in that second they were dismissed….Awesome! 

Fast forward to that evening, the family is now getting closer to their next stop in this trip, the CABIN!  As of this point, Kaylee has no idea that she is not going straight home, still 6-8 hours driving away, nor that waiting for her at the unknown cabin is her sister, Jessica whom she was told could not come.  In cahoots with the camera crew, Jess is waiting for us in the cabin.  Kaylee was blindfolded the last few miles before arrival and walked into the cabin by her girlfriend Cierra.  When the blindfold came off, Kaylee was understandably impressed and happy with the location, but even more priceless was her reaction a minute later when Jessica revealed herself.  The whole thing was captured for posterity by the crew and the numerous cellphones present.
Mom, Dad and kids at the cabin

What followed was two fun-filled days relaxing and enjoying the luxury cabin with it’s hot tub and game room and spectacular views.  With a giant spaghetti dinner, Kaylee’s favorite, to fill the bellies on the last night of the stay.  Topped off by an epic throw-down of flipping and tumbling skills by one of the camera guys, Julian and one of the young men who now live with the Casons, Anthony.  It was like a romper room showdown!  Later that evening, the camera crew bid the Casons adieu and headed off to their next gig.

Christi, Trevor and the crew in the cabin game-room
All in all, the trip was a very memorable way to celebrate Kaylee’s accomplishment and bring her home to her loving family.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Patience of a Saint, my patootie! A nervous Marine Mom freak out!

Our Cookie Rae has done it!  She is a Marine! Now this Momma is gonna go and see her graduate!  Our Cookie Rae has done it!  She is a Marine! Now this Momma is gonna go and see her graduate!  Can’t wait to hold her in my arms again!  All we have to do now is pack up the 15 passenger, rent another 15 passenger because we have all the kids, the girlfriends, boyfriends,  everyone but the SUPER FRIENDS, rent a car for my son, who’s leaving later and pack up a bunch of clothes and I’m freaking out!
We have a film crew showing up today and then they’re filming our morning madness tomorrow.  Getting up at the booty-crack of dawn because there is no way I’m gonna let them film my “get up at normal time” face, sending the kids off to school, cleaning and packing and packing and cleaning.  Getting everything together, then on the road, pick up our extra passengers.  So much to do, not sure even where to start!  I usually can get this together but I’m an emotional wreck!  Can’t wait to see my girl and I know I’m gonna cry like a big old baby, already am at every little thing!  AAAAGH!
Somewhere in the middle of all that, gotta drop Kaylee’s truck, the Trout, at the body shop to get a little dent fixed and haircuts and laundry and more filming and Dave needs some new jeans and there really isn’t enough time to do this and I just know we’re gonna forget something!  I’m so excited to see her and I’m going nuts wondering if I thought of everything and I should be packing but I’m writing a silly blog post.  At least I’m not on Facebook but who am I kidding I’m gonna get on Facebook and post too because I’m doing everything but getting busy packing because, did I mention that I need to pack?  I’d have the kids help but after they “help” I’ll have to spend too much time fixing it all.  Of course they’re helping as much as they can but right now they’re sitting around wondering why mom is busy typing blog posts when she should be packing!!
At least the trip will be good.  We get to see the Carolinas and beautiful Hilton head and the place my baby girl and her dad AND her grandfather earned their eagle, globe and anchors.  Then 2 more days with the whole gang in my dream cabin and I vow that I WILL have coffee while watching the sunrise over the smoky mountains.  It’s on my bucket list!

Did I mention that I have to pack?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Crucible

In just about 2 hours, our Kaylee will begin what is known as the Crucible.  This is the Marine Corps bootcamp final test of the skills that they have learned these last 12 weeks.  This will be a 54 hour test of fire that will include some 48 miles of marching with about 45 lbs of gear and numerous tasks and assault courses where they use their skills and strength to overcome obstacles and solve problems using teamwork and the military tactics they have learned.  When I was there, we had lots of different things we had to do, but no crucible.  Naturally Christi and I are as nervous for her as we are proud of her.  By the time she finishes the Crucible sometime on Saturday, we will be less than a week from seeing our baby girl.  While she will then be a Marine, she will always be my Cookie Rae!  If you are of the praying mind, please include a prayer for Kaylee and all her Parris Island sisters in platoon 4004.  Also in this crucible will be the male recruits and the other female platoons of Golf and November companies.  Pray for them all and pray for the parents who are nervously awaiting word of their kids success in the Crucible.

Semper Fi

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A graduation day surprise!

As many know, our daughter Kaylee is now less than 2 weeks away from completing bootcamp and graduating a United States Marine.  Of course she wants to see us all at the graduation, but she has no idea that we are bringing EVERYBODY!  All 18 kids, 2 grand-kids, one son-in-law, the 3 young men we've taken in who have basically become family and 3 significant others.  We will be renting a second 15 passenger van and hauling a trailer just so that the whole gang can be there.  We have a great trip planned that will be like the ones we used to take, cross-country.  Two days down, staying in 3 great villas in Hilton Head, going to family day and the graduation from there and afterwards, heading north to Gatlinburg to spend 2 nights in a wonderful cabin that can sleep the whole gang!  Not only treating the family to a good time, but crossing off one of Christi’s bucket list items of staying in a cabin in the Smoky mountains.  It will be totally complete when she gets to see the sunrise while having the morning coffee. 

Top that off with a big spaghetti dinner at the cabin (Kaylee’s favorite) and we will have a trip for the books for sure!

Unbeknownst to Kaylee, the whole thing will be filmed for the French TV channel M6 and their show “66 minutes”.  They will be with the family for the whole trip and will capture the whole thing.  It will be part of a special they are doing on large American families.

I can’t give my kids a lot of fancy experiences, but they can always look back to those times when they were on TV and smile.  We always have a good time with the film crews and the kids have a lot of fun trying to out-do each other’s funny.

 I think it will add an extra fun twist to this already awesome event!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What's a little snow between friends?

I used to tell the kids that the old adage about how weathermen were never right was not true.  Apparently, that was only true in southern California, where the weather is sun, hot sun and more sun with a slight chance of partly cloudy with a very brief downpour, which will wash the houses down the Malibu hills since the wildfires burned all the dry vegetation since all they had was sun, sun and sun.
Not the case here in Indiana.  We have had a lovely winter, guessing whether it was going to be in the 50s or start snowing.  The predictions are always 1-3” until it gets here and it’s 5 inches.  

Case in point: This was supposed to be 1-2"...more like 5

Once you’ve thoroughly enjoyed the pretty white snow, they wet it all down with some freezing rain so that you get to slide around a bit when you drive.  That for me is the best part.  Ask my wife, I drift the van on purpose when the road is icy!

Those who know me, know that I used to swear I’d never move to somewhere that has snow more than occasionally, but I really am getting used to it.  And frankly, I don’t miss the 105 degree, no rain, every tree is a desert tree life in southern California.

All in all, I still love it here.