So This Is Band Camp

IMG_8264Back in March I started communicating with Arleigh’s new high school to let them know she would be coming and to please save a spot for her in band. We’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster since. Arleigh wasn’t sure that band was what she wanted. Then she was sure. Then she wasn’t. When we arrived, she was ready. I went into the school to pay the hefty fees for her participation and was told there might not be a spot. Sigh. Moving with kids is not a cakewalk. We scheduled a meeting with the program director. Good news! There is a spot. I filled out the paperwork. Paid the fees and we proceeded to try and prepare for band camp.

Band camp prep included procuring an alto saxophone. This is one more time I want to praise the Hawaii public school system. Arleigh was loaned FREE OF CHARGE an intermediate level alto sax. That is not the case here in Virginia. The school recommended that we purchase or rent one from a local store. The only thing the store would rent was a student level saxophone at the low low price of $70 per month. Arleigh tried soaking her reeds. This morning she was still frustrated because it wasn’t playing the way she is used to. I ordered a new lunch bag from Amazon because she didn’t like the options I found on short notice. Amazon was cheaper anyway. I thought it was fine because all my paperwork said that she would finish up at noon today. WRONG. Today and tomorrow she stays until 5. I’ve also been given multiple notes that we should consider private lessons on top of what she’ll be doing at school for the low low price of $35 per week. I need a job just to pay for band!

Last night I got a phone call. I seriously nearly cried. They asked if they could chalk our driveway so that Arleigh would wake up, see it this morning and be excited about camp. Seriously…watery eyes. I knew that was just what she needed. This morning I woke up like a kid on Christmas morning ready to make Arleigh look out her window. Good thing I checked first. There was no beautiful kid writing welcoming her to band. Sigh. What if she is the only freshman without it?

By the time we got in the car I could tell her nerves were getting the best of her. Before we got out of the ‘hood she was in tears. New is hard. I told her new is always hard and almost always scary but the hardest scariest things that I’ve done have always been worth it. I told her that I was excited that she was going to totally know where she was going on her first day of school. I told her I couldn’t wait to hear all about her new friends. I told her I was sorry about her being uncomfortable with the new sax but I would email the director and together we would figure it out, better now than in the middle of a competition. 

My girl straightened her shoulders and took the news that she would be there all day in stride. I think she knew it was coming. She found her way to the auditorium. I had to walk away. 

The truth is, when you move to a new place, home school starts to look pretty good. I would love to wrap my arms around all four of them and protect their little hearts from mean kids and feeling out of place. I would love to be with them all day with my delusion of grandeur literature studies and history lessons. Then I remember. Math is…well, not my strong suit. Science makes my head hurt most of the time. I am not what is best for them. I am a better Mom when they get home from school. New is hard for me too. When I got home I cried. 

I cried for the friends that they desperately miss. I cried for the teachers that loved them so so much. I cried for the slow island pace. I cried because I know my kids are way the heck out of their comfort zone and there isn’t much I can do to help them navigate. Then I sucked it up. We have a great house, a great school and Arleigh got her spot. I fully expect that today will be great and she’s going to come home telling me about her new friends. I will worry and pray all day though. 

The next few weeks are going to be chock full of new new new for all four. If you think about it, please say a prayer of peace for my little military brats. They are strong. They are friendly. They are kind and compassionate. They can do big great things. They also ache a bit for what they know of as home. 

I had every intention of writing about our lovely summer detour through Kentucky and Illinois today. That will have to wait for a bit. We have bigger fish to fry and other instruments to tune. I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled programming soon. Thanks for the indulgence. 

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The Parenting Minefield

When I was a teenager I think I listened to the song, Love Is A Battlefield about a bazillion times. I think I need to rewrite the lyrics about parenting.

Kids are a Battlefield

We are old
Heartache to heartache we stand
Broken promises, all demands
Kids are a battlefield
We feel weak, they love to tell us we’re wrong
Breakin’ our hearts for so long
Both of us knowing
Kids are a battlefield
You’re beggin’ me for more stuff then breakin’ it right away
Why do you hurt me so bad
It would help me to know
Do I stand in your way, or am I the best thing you’ve had
Believe me, believe me, I can’t tell you why
But I’m trapped by your love and I’m chained to your side
I am old
Heartache to heartache we stand
Broken promises, all demands
Kids are a battlefield
We feel weak, they love to tell us we’re wrong
Breakin’ our hearts for so long
Both of us knowing
Kids are a battlefield…
You get the idea. I have one melting down upstairs right this very second. One was so very helpful this morning, there has to be something she wants. It goes on and on. I’m freaking exhausted. My mother has been gone less than 24 hours and I’m ready to call her and beg her to come back. Ray and I need extra manpower in our united front and logistical strategy. The backup is completely necessary because we are totally outnumbered and I can’t find my bunker to save my life! 
Why all this now? I was thinking about all the battles I lost yesterday. Jack is weeping because he misses his Grandma. Bria is like a bull in a China shop because rain kept us indoors. Arleigh is torn about band, but we finally secured her spot. Funny how that secured spot depended on a big check being written. Then there’s Hanan. I totally messed up the dates of her registration appointment. Sigh. The stress. 
The real battle. The one that I lost before I even realized it was happening… oh it’s a good one. We had an appointment with the band director. I spent the afternoon filling out paperwork in triplicate in case they found a spot for Arleigh that they told us she didn’t have. She’s been pretty excited about the whole 1D concert thing. In an effort to let it spill over I never said a word about the temporary tattoos. It was time to go. She changed into a tank top. I did a double take but it was after office hours. I was sure we would only see the director.
Did you notice the tattoos from the concert?
How could you not?
They were are everywhere including two birds on her chest. All were visible from the tank top. It crossed my mind to say cover it up BUT the meeting WAS after hours. The band director would surely appreciate her devotion to her favorite band. Sigh…. 
I was totally find with it until the brand new assistant freshman principal stopped us and introduced herself. I think I heard the explosion of my lost battle in my head. They are peeling off. Surely she knew they weren’t real? At least that’s what I’m telling myself. She stared but never said a word. I wasn’t offering an explanation. 
The land mines when you are a parent are everywhere. There is a militaristic strategy happening every day in which ones I choose to fight. Social media is the devil. Apparently my girls’ perception of what is appropriate doesn’t always match up with mine and or Ray’s. Sometimes it’s the innocence shining through. Other times it’s…well NOT. The materialism of this country rears it’s ugly head as school is getting ready to start. Sibling rivalry rears it’s ugly head. Are they all being treated fairly because they all need something different. Oh my word. 
After our meeting we went to Costco. A lady talked to Arleigh the entire 10 minutes that we waited in line about her tattoos and 1D and how smart she was to choose only temporary ones. This sweet lady was clearly lonely and in need of conversation. Arleigh engaged her the entire time. She was kind and respectful. She’s not a bad a kid and I love her dearly. Still, excuse me while I go threaten her with the life of her beloved phone while I make her scrub those things off. 
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AIS Pride Night

Graduation is over. Summer has begun. I can’t even talk about it yet. The time is slipping through my fingers way faster than that sands in the hour glass bull I used to hear every day when Gran turned on Days of Our Lives. 

I can talk about Pride Night though because my kids are… well they are FREAKING AWESOME!!! Brace yourselves. The proud Mom post is coming. 

I received separate notes that we really needed to be at Pride Night for both girls this year. This is nothing new. If you are going to receive any award they tell you to come but you have to guess what the award will be. Arleigh was banking on that whole Perfect Attendance thing. More on that later… We got ready and got to the school, I thought early. I (ahem) forgot that food was being served. That means you need to back up your arrival time by at least 15 minutes. No matter. Remember we had that whole Perfect Attendance thing going for us and we knew Hanan was receiving an award for going to the district science fair. 

Did I mention… there was food? The aunties and tutus from the cafeteria prepare a meal and the Stiff Ohana can devour some spaghetti. 

Jack wasn’t even thinking about stopping to take a picture. That whole pile was totally gone including the homemade roll by the time the ukuleles started playing.

Arleigh performed with the band during the dinner hour. The highlight was Uptown Funk and I’m super sorry that I didn’t get a recording. After the band, we got to hear the ukulele club perform. Somewhere around Hotel California I felt the knot that seems to be ever present in my throat. The thought was already forming. I will never again enter a school and hear this many uke’s preform. Sigh. At just the wrong moment, Ray leaned over and made the mistake of asking, “Are you gonna miss it?” The dam broke. It wasn’t quite the ugly cry but it was darn close. Then the chorus stood up singing Elvis. Good freaking gravy!!! I think they were trying to kill me. 

We watched the video club’s clips which were cute and funny and I was finally entering recovery mode. Meanwhile Bria and Jack were wondering who had died as their mother was acting a fool and all they wanted to do was shake their groove thang to the music. Good times I tell you. We got to hear the Improv Club perform. Funny stuff. At this point I was almost breathing regularly. 

The drama teacher stands up to explain that the rest of the evening would be devoted to awards. They gave out a leadership award and an aloha award. Then they were going to give awards to the most outstanding boy and girl in each core. Arleigh told me that there are about 120 students in each core, there are three cores in each grade. She introduces the teachers who have homerooms in 7 C1 and they call, “Hanan Stiff.” Holy cow!!! I was thinking Hanan might get the math award. I was hopeful but I really wasn’t expecting Most Outstanding 7th grader. I was crying so hard, I could barely hold up my phone to take the picture. I promise tears are puddling as I write this.

At this point, she was pretty stoked. My heart was pounding. We clapped and she beamed as they made their way through all the other cores. Arleigh’s core was dead last. She wasn’t sitting with us. She was hanging out with her band buddies. At this point she said she was thinking, “Great. Hanan got outstanding and I’m going to get Perfect Attendance. Awesome.” The last name in the outstanding list was…”Arleigh Stiff.” 

Talk about a proud mom. We made it through the other awards and Hanan even picked up another certificate and a $25 Starbucks gift card for her Science Fair project. It was a good night.

Okay… so cue the tears again. I have every hope that they will continue to do just as well at every other school. I will admit, my heart was so proud and so happy for them and so sad at the same time. They are doing so well here. They have the best friends. I love love love these kids. I can’t tell you how much I love their teachers. So a little bit wonders, why are we changing everything right now? The truth is, on our way out of Memphis, the same thing happened. I have AWESOME kids. They are going to do BIG things no matter where we land. They are military kid strong and know how to bloom wherever they’re planted. It just took me a second to remember that because sometimes, the Beauton Wheeler in me comes out and I wonder and worry about what’s next. 

After our celebration, we got to hang out with another graduate to celebrate. 

Madi graduated from Radford the next night. More happy tears. Life is changing too fast but we are trying to enjoy every last second of it. 

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Purpled Up

Kids to school on time: Check

Kids wearing purple for school: Check

Appropriate footwear for field practice: Check

Lunches: Check

Mom resembling Barney in her purple outfit: Double Check 

Praying that there really aren’t Purple People Eaters…Wait. Were they purple and ate people or did they eat purple people? I give up.

Take a picture of everyone wearing purple: I’ve got nothing. 

April is designated the month of the military child. I have some pretty great ones to hang out with around here. These kids are awesome. They step up to the challenge and roll with the punches EVERY SINGLE TIME. In support of their friends all over the world we put on our purple yesterday. 

Bria was so excited when we got to school. I was thinking on the way over there. My kids are pretty privileged compared to most of the local kids. In fact, we’ve been talking to one child about entitlement and her attitude while consoling another when her friend lashes out because she sees my child as having more. (Parenting is hard. I need a parent’s award. Kids need awards just for surviving each other in middle school. Another blog…I know.) Anyway, I was thinking that it wouldn’t surprise me if there weren’t many local kids wearing purple. As I made my right turn, Bria was squealing. There was purple everywhere. I will admit tears welled up in my eyes. 

It just so happened that we were chatting with Grandma that morning on our drive in to school. I was telling Mom how much it touched me and may have mentioned that I think Bria is the only white child, maybe only military kid in her class. Bria stopped me right there. “No, Mom! There is only one brown kid in my class. Everybody is white. There’s …and she lists off the names.” Oh my word that made me laugh. Bria is the only while child in her class. Every name she listed is either Hawaiian or Asian. I wonder what color she thinks pasty mainland kids are. 

I read an online news feed about military spouses called Spouse Buzz occasionally. A week or so ago I lost my mind. A friend posted an article that I missed in honor of The Month Of The Military Child. It listed 13 ways the Obama girls are like military children. The comparisons were stretched so thin you could see right through them. One of my favorites is that their Dad’s job is dangerous. Um. Yes. He also has a security force surrounding him sworn to protect him at all costs at all times. I don’t think it’s exactly the same when you’re In Country. I was irritated with some of the comparisons but even more irritated when I read it was written by a spouse. I’m sure President Obama’s daughters make huge sacrifices, their privacy is top of the list but they really aren’t the same. We are currently in really nice military housing but it’s not the dang white house and there isn’t a maid. If there is, she needs to be fired which would also be fine with me because does that mean more beach time for me if I’m fired? Anyway why compare the two?

As I pulled into the school I was wondering why on earth we were celebrating my super privileged compared to some of their peers kids. Then I remembered. They give up everything and move a world away from our families. They set up shop in new places and learn to make friends quickly. They are helpers and learn to step up when the military member is away. They savor every moment they get with their grandparents because they know it might be a very long time before they see them again. There are too many things to mention.

I should’ve learned my lesson. There is no comparison between my kids and civilian kids. Each make various sacrifices. I’m totally okay with celebrating mine for all they do. 

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Happy Birthday Arleigh Grace

Love seeing that smile!

Today is Arleigh’s Birthday. I’m in denial that my sweet, beautiful girl is now 14. It seems like yesterday that she was born a little early with lots of excitement. I hate that my kids have to grow up. I love who they are becoming.

Fourteen Things I Love About Arleigh

1. She is passionate. Granted I would sometimes like to direct some of that passion away from things like One Direction toward some other goals but it is a fabulous quality to hold on to. And we are pretty passionate about her. She was soooo tiny!

Just Born2. Arleigh’s love for music. Yes, this is where some of her passion lies. She plays piano and alto saxophone. She’s been selected for honor band. She picks at a guitar every now and then. When she decides she likes a band, she LOVES the band…or the song…or the artist… We get the benefit of hearing her play.

Love seeing that smile!

3. Arleigh’s love of books. She’s introduced me to some pretty great stories. That passion shines through here too.

4. She takes care of her siblings. She’s their other mama. It may not always be ideal, but I can count on her and that makes me proud.

5. She still thinks I’m cool…sometimes.

5. Things don’t always come easy but she works to get it.

6. She helps me almost every night without me having to ask. She’ll clean the kitchen, empty the dishwasher, wipe a counter. I love this girl!

7. Her love of soccer…and even British boys. 

8. I miss the little girl who wanted to talk on the phone ALL THE TIME. Now I have a teen that texts on her phone ALL THE TIME. I appreciate how easily she navigates technology. I love that it’s another way she helps her crazy Mama.

9. I love that she finds her own style. She always has. It’s not always what I would pick but she is comfortable in her own skin.

10. I love that she loves Hawaii. She is ready to move back to the mainland but she’s embracing her last few months on our little island. 

11. I love Arleigh’s friends. I love that they hang out at the house or sneak into a command Christmas party. They are great kids. 

6th Grade Banquet Picture

12. I love that Arleigh literally has friends all over the world. I didn’t have that. She talks to people in many different time zones and cares deeply for all of them.

13. Arleigh is filled with compassion for others and demonstrates it daily.

14. I get to be your Mama! What a huge blessing it is to watch you grow up into the beautiful woman you’re becoming. I mess up a lot and you bounce back from all of it. I love you Arleigh Grace! Happy Birthday!!!

Hanan 002 Girls 102 Tye3 panda2 P000791 Girls with Santa party28 IMG_0445 Disney World 104 Disney World 020 IMG_0478 Uncle Mike's visit 013 IMG_0642 Winter 03 113 Virginia Beach 026 Move 003_3 ZooSept1 076 Grandmas Visit 073 ChristmasCard04 021 Circus 011 Grandma Tye Winery Zoo 045 DS17 Disney2005 122 Aubrey and Tia 001 KY Summer 044 First day school hanan 023 Thanksgiving stiff x-mas 05 006 camping 021 Soccer Weekend 023 June2006 050 July06 010 Halloween06 009 Pets 008 SouthwestGetaway 027 SouthwestGetaway 165 Bria Faith 073 Halloween 007 Christmas Pics 029-1 New Years Eve 2007 052 Easter 011 Spring Break 003 Memorial Weekend 022 Vbs 052 IMG_6286 IMG_0859 IMG_0357 IMG_0896 IMG_1069 IMG_1447 IMG_1698 IMG_1743 IMG_1843 IMG_1875 IMG_2149 IMG_4606 IMG_5386 IMG_5447 IMG_5869 IMG_6053 IMG_6720 IMG_7099 IMG_9377 IMG_9879 IMG_1413 IMG_1644


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My Musician

It seems like yesterday that I was living on another much colder island with only one very cute little girl.



She has always been silly and funny and ready to sick her tongue out in a picture.

Hanan 015IMG_2757












When exactly did my super compliant Ariel loving, soccer playing always ready to talk on the phone daughter turn into a dauntless always texting teen ready to take on the world? I think I only blinked and here we are. It seems like yesterday stray puppies came to Grandma’s house and she was crying, begging to bring one home. I refused to do that to Kiera. We brought home cats instead. That’s right, I said cats. Could you say no to this?

KY Summer 082


Apparently I still can’t.

Arleigh is growing into a beautiful young lady who is courageous and compassionate and a very talented musician. I’m clearly very proud of her. 

This week, Arleigh was selected to participate in the CDBF Parade of Honor Bands. She was chosen to play with a group from 7 schools across the island under the baton of Robert Feller, Head of Winds and Percussion at Biola University Conservatory of Music and a Disney clinician and Grant Okamura, retired Director of Bands at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She is very excited about this opportunity. 

Never in a million years would I have ever thought I’d be a band mom. Here I am. Every Saturday for a while, she’ll need to be at the school at 6:45 in the morning. Poor Ray. Just kidding…maybe. He really is the morning person of our parenting team. 

Arleigh we’re super proud of you. It’s so much fun watching you pursue music whether it’s piano, sax or guitar. I can’t wait for the CDBF Parade!


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