Resources for Veterans

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Flu Shots, Mom Dinners, BTHOtennessee

Howdy Moms!

The football season is getting real! Tennessee heads to Kyle Field this upcoming Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff. It's gonna be a mean game -- both Tennessee and the Aggies have had a spotty past couple of years. And Tennessee is looking sharp -- and lucky. Did you see that pass/catch that Tennessee executed with 4 seconds left in game? What's even more incredible is that Georgia (arch rivals with Tennessee) went ahead with 30 seconds left in the game. I'm telling you the SEC is not a football division for those with weak stomachs.
Religion -- err -- football returns to Kyle Field this weekend. 

(As an SEC girl, pretty much all the original 10 SEC teams are arch rivals -- Tennessee also is arch-rivals with Vanderbilt and Kentucky; Kentucky is arch-rivals with Tennessee, and to a lesser extent Vandy. Then there is Ol' Miss and Mississippi State, and LSU and Ol' Miss. And everyone has always hated Alabama and LSU -- it's a big ol' family mess.)

Football tickets are always available -- it's just the question of what you want to pay. If you'd like to be on campus, but not pay to go into the stadium, you can watch the game for free in the Flag Room of MSC or the Association of Former Students building, somewhat near the Quad. (At the alumni center, you also may purchase adult beverages, always an enticing plus.)
Sanity has returned to Kyle Field -- Boot Line has been invited back
onto the field. We still have the flag girls, but at least Boot Line is back.

All the Texas A&M home football game rules apply -- don't forget your sunscreen and hat, be prepared for long lines everywhere in College Station, have a plan on where to park, get to campus well before you think would be reasonable (as in hours early) and be considerate of your cadet's time. As much fun as football games are for the fans, for cadets they also are part-work.

Grades: Yup, your cadets are in the middle of tests, and knows the reality of what his/her grades are shaping up to be. If your cadet is in grade trouble (and cadets should be well aware of how they're doing), there is lots of free and paid tutoring help available. If your cadet does not know this, your cadet has not been paying attention. Outfits and upperclassmen do just about everything short of stapling it to cadets foreheads that grades matter and tutoring help is available.

The thing that makes the Corps special is that everything matters -- grades, showing up for formation, marching into football games, attending early morning PT. The Corps is not an organization that accepts "I can't keep up, I need a break." It's all about time management. It's a skill and I guarantee you, there is not a kid who walks on that Quad who's ever had time management issues in high school like they face in the Corps.
Campus libraries: Your cadet's home away from home.

Mom Dinners: We have several set up for the near future:
  • Fort Worth/Tarrant County Corps Mom Dinners: They will be the following Thursdays -- Oct.13, Nov. 10 and Dec. 8. All will be at Jason's Deli, 2217 Midtown Ln/Rosedale beginning at 6:30 p.m.. 
  • Dallas/Collin County Moms: Tuesday, Oct. 25, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Central Market, Coit Road just north of the George Bush Tollway. Get some dinner and meet us in the cafe.
  • Houston Area Aggie Corps Family Group (this group meets with the entire family, rather than just moms): Thursday, October 13 at 6:30 p.m., Guadalajara Hacienda Restaurant, 9799 Katy Freeway. 
  • College Station/Bryan Corps Moms: Monday, Oct. 10, at 6 p.m. at Cafe Excell. Meet in bar area which is to the left when you walk in. November's date will be on Monday, Nov. 7th, 6 pm  at Mad Taco.  
Quad Moms: If you still are looking for a group that meets your Corps mom needs (and especially if you are far away from the College Station action), consider joining Quad Moms, a 501(c)-3 organization that has its own (closed) Facebook page, website (public), sells Finals Buckets tailored for cadets and generally is just a great group of dedicated women. Look under the Forms link on the website, or fill in the contact us box and someone will be in touch. 

Flu Shots: The short answer, as you probably all realize by now, is cadets just need to do it. The longer answer is free flu shots are available to students with their TAMU ID today and tomorrow (Oct. 5-6) pretty much all over campus. Once the free 5,500 doses are administered, it's $24 for a shot or your student can get one for $24 at a later date at Beutel. Your student should already know these shots are available as TAMU social media has been blasting students for the past couple days about their availability. ALSO, many of you who have your student on your health policy probably are eligible for free flu shots, regardless. I'm no expert on health insurance, but the way I read this page is that my student (who is eligible for free flu shots under my health plan) would get a free shot at Beutel as well. 

Have a great week, moms, and really enjoy this weekend. It should be something close to a perfect Aggie Football Weekend.

Gig 'Em!


Monday, September 19, 2016

Corps Trip and BTHOarkansas, Taking the Train in Texas

Howdy Moms!

The first round of academic tests is getting ready to happen -- about three weeks into the year. Some classes won't have a test until midterms. But for fish and pissheads, most of the classes will start with tests either this week or in the very near future. This isn't sink or swim yet -- but it's a good time to check how the currents are flowing.

Corps Trip!! I know fish moms are probably pretty flipped out by this point in time. It looks like nothing has been planned, no one knows what's going on and you're pretty certain someone is going to forget some critical piece of equipment, directions, uniform -- something. There seem to be NO.ADULTS.IN.CHARGE.

Police lead off the parade through Fort Worth.
It all works out. I'm not exactly sure how -- but it happens. In the seven years I had the joy of watching cadets figure out how to get from CStat to Dallas and back again, it just always worked out. I always had way too much food on hand and too little time with the cadets. But I loved every precious minute the cadets were in my house.  

I'm totally out of the loop on what is/is not expected of cadets, but if you are so lucky as to be a host home, I imagine these few things haven't changed. In the meantime, tickets for you to attend the game (not your cadet -- all cadets already have tickets) are available in the normal places (StubHub, Flash Seats, Aggieland Tickets, etc), and, last I checked, on the 12th Man ticket portal. Now, regarding your cadets:
  • Don't have any preconceived notion of when cadets will/won't be at your home. Flexibility is the key for this weekend. Just enjoy them to the fullest when they are in your care and love them all like you were their momma.
  • If you have a clothes rack, get that out for uniforms. Uniforms will need to be hung up somewhere in your house.
  • Step-off for parade is 10 a.m. Saturday. For going to parade, my advice is to arrive in Fort Worth at least an hour before first call. Parking in downtown FW is horrific on parade day. (The good news is TCU and SMU play Friday night in Dallas -- so TCU traffic will be light/non-existant.) Send cadets in the car w/water or juice bottles and granola bars, apples, etc. I always made breakfast sandwiches to go (egg, muffin, cheeses, slice of ham wrapped in foil) so cadets could get that very last drop of sleep. They ate on the road to FW.
  • Have a lot of bath towels ready. They always seem to forget towels and pillows.
  • Don't forget $$ to park at Cowboys Stadium. It's expensive. Plan on $40 per car and be happy if it's less. My cadets always pooled their money to pay for parking. It would be really nice if your cadet doesn't stick the driver with the parking fee. 
  • Again, give them food to stash in the car that they can eat on the way home after the game. Cadets hate being at Cowboys Stadium and being hungry at the same time because food is SOOOOO expensive, they typically don’t eat during the game. 
Have fun, host families, and take lots of photos. These days are precious!

Hazlewood Hearing: This could be a cautionary tale to politicians about what a program will actually cost. When Texas lawmakers passed what's commonly known as the Hazlewood Act in 2009, they thought beneficiaries would top off at about 800 students. They were off by at least 17,800 students -- and counting. Again, I'm not in favor of raising tuition for any student -- and I'm still awaiting a call from state lawmakers who might be interested in my ideas to fix this issue.
Brisket -- it's what's healthy for dinner.

We Knew This Already: I know you health-conscious, hippie types out there want to take away our beloved tailgate brisket. Back off! Brisket is healthy and we have a good ol' Aggie scientist out there with the logic to prove it. Fire up those grills, people.

Sisterhood Soap: For those of us who want to make our dollars count double, this is another group that is empowering women in war-torn Middle Eastern nations. The way to peace, I really believe, is to offer people a chance to lead lives of hard work and self-determination. Maybe buying some soap will help. (Just FYI -- some of us at our church are getting together to make a large purchase.) Why should you care? Because your cadets -- or your cadets' buddies and friends -- will be in this battle soon enough. Let's make it as easy on them as possible.

High Speed Rail: I'm a public transportation geek sooooo of course I went to the Dallas public meeting held by Texas Central to give a status report on the state's high speed rail. Here, in no order of relevance, are some take-aways:
  • The corporate owners of Texas Central are bound and determined to start construction by the end of 2017. 
  • Why this is interesting for TAMU (and SHSU) parents and students: There will be three stops on the "bullet" train -- Dallas, somewhere between SHSU and TAMU campuses, and Houston. (Too bad so sad, Austin.) Those campuses will have to figure out transport between the station and their respective campuses.
  • Land acquisition has begun with the 1,800 landowners along the route.
  • Passengers should be riding by 2022. (I asked about this speedy timeline and was assured that yes, it was an aggressive timeline but owners were committed to it.)
  • The big obstacle in the past (1990s) was Southwest Airlines, which wanted to preserve its Dallas-Houston route but with the lifting of the Wright Amendment, that concern has been basically erased. 
  • Rail cars will be built in the U.S. (OK -- this is truly a novel statement. I'm not sure I believe this.)
  • Each of the little towns and cities along the route will get new fire trucks and ambulances donated by Texas Central, in case of a rail crash, which officials say can't possibly happen. The idea is these towns need to be prepared -- and maybe it's a little bit to sweeten the pot. That last comment about sweetening the pot is my personal speculation.
  • Tickets will cost about the same as airfare between Dallas and Houston.
  • Security will be somewhere between current airport security and current Greyhound bus security. As one representative told me: "Even if you wanted to hijack the train, the only place it could go would be the next station."   
Stressed Moms, Just for You: Here you go, your daily reminder that things work out.

Mom Dinners: Dallas/ Collin Counties: Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. in the dining area of Central Market, Coit Road, Plano, one long block north of the George Bush Tollway. Get your food, join us to talk, laugh and generally get together. There's a lot of random wisdom shared at these dinners. We had a lively group show up in August. We suspect there will be lots of moms excited to talk about the slumber party at their house this weekend.

Okey dokey moms! Enjoy this weekend if you are a host home -- watch the Aggies BTHOarkansas if you'll be at home by your lonesome.

Gig 'Em!


Monday, September 12, 2016

Hazlewood Hearings, The "Softer, Gentler" Corps, Arkansas Tickets

Prairie View A&M University drum line.
Howdy Moms!

It's another great week to be an Aggie. The weather has cooled off, fish have gotten two opportunities thus far to dunk Yell Leaders in Fish Pond, the Aggies are 2-0 and, yay! The Fightin' Texas Aggie Band again won halftime against Prairie View A&M, although it was close. I wasn't at the game, but watched the show on Periscope, A couple observations:

  • The crowd that watched PVAMU at Kyle Field probably was bigger than the total band viewership over the rest of PVAMU's season. 
  • I was so happy to see Aggies extend the "we respect the band" attitude to PVAMU. Someone posted a pix on Twitter of the empty concession stands during the band performances. (hahaha) And Aggies CHEERED, including lots and lots of Aggies who probably don't even know what an HBCU is.
  • If you'll notice in the HBCU link, PVAMU is ranked #32 among HBCUs. This is unacceptable in a system where its flagship school regularly is in Top 10 of any and all university-ranking metrics. And, to take it a step farther, the state of Texas needs every single college graduate to be at the top of his/her game. I have read that part of the reason for this match-up was to spotlight PVAMU and try to get alumni engaged in development of that campus. I hope it works. 
  • It's not our beloved Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, but there's
    a lot of talent in the Marching Storm too.
  • THOSE are dancing/flag girls. Texas A&M will never go there -- so we just might as well give up on the Flag Girls. Really -- either go big or go home. 
I was a little dismayed by the run-up of the score but good friends who were at the game assured me the Aggies did just about everything except crawl down the field with the ball. And PVAMU walked out with $450,000 for its athletic program. And the players got to play at a phenomenal venue.

Hazlewood: If you are eligible, you know what a great benefit this is. If you are a university, this underfunded benefit is hugely expensive. I will never argue to make college more expensive for anyone. There's a way to handle this issue to the benefit of both parties. I can be reached, Texas Legislature, if you'd like my input.

Starbucks -- It's not #Tradition: Yes, the Starbucks on the Quad is making state news. And there is other other mind-blowing news, such as: "Upperclassmen are now encouraged to scream less at the freshmen. More time is devoted to school and sleep." Really, you need to read the story. I simply cannot do this story justice.

Innovation, Aggie Style: This is a kind of interesting story for those of us fascinated with all issues related to transportation (yes, guilty geek here). Also, it appears Texas Tribune reporters found out there's another university in the state besides its neighboring t.u.

Ring Day: It's this coming Friday and it's an AWESOME day to be an Aggie. Best.Day.Ever. I've done Ring Day with two sons. My daughter, now in grad school at Texas A&M, swears she'll be eligible next year at this time. (Cute private story: my sons have promised my daughter they will buy her that ring. Makes this Aggie momma proud.) If you're wondering, my kids' parental units have shown up in business casual (lots of photos!) and we have always headed out for a nice dinner somewhere in town afterwards.

There's a Scholarship for That: Did you know Corps of Cadets Mothers have established an endowed Ring Scholarship especially for cadets? Last year, more than 4,000 students applied for a ring scholarship and less than 100 were awarded money. You may make a tax-deductible donation to the Corps of Cadets Mothers Endowed Aggie Ring Scholarship -- and that donation can be matched by your employer. Make sure to put AGGIE CORPS MOTHERS RING SCHOLARSHIP in the comments section at the bottom of the donation page. Donations are accepted in any amount at $5 or above. This is doable, moms!

Game Against Arkansas: Apparently the TV gods are predicting a good game as the 2016 Southwest Classic vs. Arkansas at Jerry World (AKA AT&T Stadium in Arlington) is at 8 p.m. on Sept. 24. This will allow a nice long day in the DFW area for cadets and families before "first call" outside the stadium somewhere around 6 p.m. (If you watched this past weekend's TCU v Arkansas game, you'll know the Arkansas team is a contender.) Tickets for everyone are on sale. Also make sure to check other outlets like StubHub and FlashSeats as sometimes those tickets are cheaper. (Cadets already have tickets -- DO NOT buy your cadet a ticket.)

Bonfire cut began this past Sunday. #Tradition
For those of us with dead zips, we just might need to have a watch party here in the Dallas area. Fish parents, your kids will be taken care of. It'll be a little haphazard getting the details nailed down, but it will happen. It does every year and as of yet, there has not been a fish forgotten at the stadium. Or in Fort Worth -- or at least not forgotten for very long.

Mom Get-Togethers: 

College Station/Bryan moms: These ladies are getting together beginning 5 p.m. today. Text Kayla (979-229-9009) or Angie (979-229-0159) to get specific information. They will first be meeting at a local high school to cook for Taylor's Place and then later at a local restaurant for drinks/food.

Dallas/Collin Counties: Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. in the dining area of Central Market, Coit Road, Plano, one long block north of the George Bush Tollway. Get your food, join us to talk, laugh and generally get together. There's a lot of random wisdom shared at these dinners.

9/11 Videos: There have been so many good videos made of that horrific day. A couple that approach the tragedy from different positions include this one from Budweiser (it's been around for awhile) and this one from a base in the USAF. The interesting bit about the last video is most of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines now doing the bulk of the computer-assisting, satellite-monitoring, fuel-loading, payload-checking, plane-flying, gear-transporting, health-ensuring, equipment-maintaining and otherwise executing the smooth operations of the U.S. military, were in elementary school and high school on 9/11. Class of 2016 -- now commissioned and off defending our freedom -- were second graders on 9/11. Godspeed to them all.

OK moms, that's it. Enjoy this away-game weekend, although there's mandatory ESPN game-watching 6 p.m. Saturday as Aggies #BTHOauburn. Our Ags will need all the mojo they can get for this one.

Gig 'Em!


Monday, August 29, 2016

Videos; Dallas/ Collin and Houston Mom Dinners; Game Day Info

Howdy Moms!
If you get a chance to see Parsons Mounted Cavalry,
 it's so much fun. They"post up" in Spence Park after
they ride to campus before a game.

Fish moms -- warning -- everything you heard about how tough FOW is mostly is probably true. What you most likely haven't heard is how tough the first week of school is. This first week of academics and the Corps is not for the weak-kneed.

My dead zip was listing off to me all the extra time he'll have now that he's off the Quad -- no more weekly (or more) haircuts, no dry cleaner visits, no shoe polishing, no formations, no outfit activities (varies by year in the Corps), no more mandatory football game-day stuff. The list is pretty long. Add to that list the academic pressures of fish year and it's like your fish are looking through a glass of Dr Pepper. You can sort of see light on the other side -- but not really.

My dead zip said all he needs to do this year is focus on classes. Imagine. (I told him I'm expecting stellar grades this year.)

Football Tickets: It isn't as hard to buy football tickets as you would think. Two easy sources are Flash Seats  and Aggielandtickets. You should also check out Stubhub. For low-interest games, I'm a gambler and wait til the week of the game. Typically prices will drop on these secondary markets (I saw somewhere the Prairie View A&M game at Kyle Field on Sept. 10 has tickets as low as $20 each.) If your goal is to get in to see the pageantry of Kyle Field, any game will do, but night games are the most awe-inspiring. If you're going to watch great football, this might not be the year for any game with our dear ol' Ags sometimes looking a little less than stellar. I've been wrong before but the preseason has not been bearing gifts of hope.
There will be some happy happy pissheads this weekend!

Gameday Info: There are a couple places to go for information about home game football Saturdays. The most important revolve around your cadet. Make sure you follow the Corps of Cadets Facebook page, which on occasion does post last-minute changes. Remember the Corps parade calculus: Step-off starts 90 minutes before kick-off. So kick-off for the UCLA game is 2:30 p.m., step-off will be 1 p.m., your cadet will have to be dressed and ready to form up by about 12:30 p.m. which means you probably won't see him/her after about 11:30 a.m. or noon. If all you can make is the formation and march-in this Saturday, try to go. Your fish cadet (and the older ones too) are all very excited to be showing off their new uniforms.

  • Watching -- but not in Kyle Field: Generally, you can watch the game for free in the alumni center and Flag Room of MSC. The upside is that these two venues are air conditioned, although this week probably won't be as critical as some of the steamier that you-know-what weekends I've experienced.
  • Parking on Gameday: It's a hassle and it's expensive. Here's a primer if you plan to drive to campus. Do everyone a favor and wear comfortable shoes. 
  • Outfit BBQs: There is no "one way" outfits do BBQs. Given it's a 2:30 p.m. game, and given that it's the first fish game, I'm wondering if outfits will do BBQs before this game -- probably not. Which means after the game -- at like 5:30 p.m. That, too, presents its own set of issues, not the least of which is cadets will be exhausted. No answer for you parents. Just stay flexible. 

Ag Majors, Take Note: It appears that if you have any expertise in food safety, there is a job waiting for you. "The stakes are high since a serious recall could put a company out of business, and brand loyalty is hard to win back once it’s been tarnished," this story says.

Helicopter Parents: I saw this on my FB feed the other day. The one and only case where being called a helicopter parent is OK:  "Since our son flies helicopters for the Navy, is it a good thing for Becky and me to be helicopter parents?" Yes. Yes it is.
Fish parents -- let's hope for your cadets' sake there's a big
W at the end of the game on Saturday.

Sure, Why Note: Vera Bradley and maroon -- expensive but prob just the thing for a WAG's gift. Just remember, no purses in Kyle Field this year and female cadets also cannot carry anything "cute." Nice for the weekends however.

Videos of Note

MTTB Video: Because who doesn't want to watch cadets march. And who doesn't want to stress parents out trying to find/identify their cadet? Doesn't this look like fun??

First Woman to be Corps Commander: ICYMI here's the video that launched  the career of Alyssa Michalke'16, last year's Corps commander.

Related But Different: Texas A&M's Bush School of Government and Public Service has found a statistical link between the health and food security of women and the national peace and security of a nation. This is kind of a no-duh result (think of women's opportunities in nations like Yemen, Ivory Coast or Syria and you can draw the link yourself), but until statistics are put in place, no one will support initiatives for women's education or healthcare, for instance. (Disclaimer: My daughter is working on her master's degree at Bush School.)

Never Forgetting: Another sweet video of today's sailors still caring for those generations older than they are.

Art Matters: These are truly remarkable sculptures -- even if you're a lifelong Aggie and think high art begins and ends with the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band. (Note: This has no tie to Aggieland -- it's just beautiful to watch.)

You Need To Know About These Cadets: The final video entry for this week is about Delta Company members. These are the cadets who have really accomplished something.

In Other News:

College Costs Real $$: All I'm going to say is this is nuts, IMHO. Statistics (if you believe in statistics) show that every dollar spent on education is repaid in higher earnings and tax revenue. (Google "does college education pay?" and then be prepared to see lots of charts that show tax revenues between high school v college-educated citizens.) I've paid full freight for three college students and personally, I want my kids working and living in a community with more college-educated adults, not fewer. [Stepping of my soap box.]

Keeping Austin Weird: For those of you faint of heart, don't open this link. Your eyes will see something you cannot unsee. It's about that t.u. group -- Cocks not Glocks. And yes, Austin remains weird yet another day.

More STAAR Turmoil Over Texas: This New Jersey company, Education Testing Service, needs to be at minimum taken out back of the wood shed in Texas. This is the same company the runs the GRE and TOEFL and Praxis, which tests teacher "competency." It also owns a bunch of other companies. And it pays its officials really, really well.  ETS also operates (but does not own) SAT testing. It's another one of those corporate conglomerate kinda things.

Mom Dinners: Two are being held this week. These are the only ones I know of so far. Check the Facebook pages of the various Corps Moms groups. (These are all closed FB pages -- you will be required to prove you're a Corps mom to get accepted.) RSVPs are not required. All meals are on your own. No one cares if you come late. Corps moms only, unless otherwise noted.

  • Dallas/Collin Counties -- 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30 (TONIGHT) at Central Market on Coit Road, Plano, Texas
  • Houston -- This is a family dinner -- 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1 at Palazzo's Trattoria 10455 Briar Forest, Houston, Texas
OK mommas! Go hug your cadets -- and their buddies. It'll be another great weekend in Aggieland!

Gig 'Em!


Monday, August 22, 2016

Fish Review, Quad Moms, Corps Mom Dinners, Other Random Stuff

Howdy Moms!

This past week, I "did" FOW drop-off for the third time -- I've done it with two cadets (one of those times I was doing double duty as mom of an outfit CO assuring fish moms everything would be grand and then as a second-time fish mom); and last week as part of the Quad Moms organization. I've shed a tear or two at each FOW. When my two sons were dropped off, it wasn't until I was in the car, on the way back to Dallas. When my son was starting his year as CO, it was while I was talking to fish moms about how much I'd seen my son mature in three short years (I'm pretty every zip mom has had this experience) and then, gaaah, I actually started tearing up on Wednesday when a zip mom and I were talking to a fish mom, who was in tears (whose fish was off starting his Corps experience). All three of us were a happy mommy mess. Someone once told me you should never be ashamed of tears -- they are God's way of pointing out a tender heart.
In honor of my dead zip -- whose hair is almost as long as it was
in this photo four years ago. Of the 17 in the photo, 9 completed
all four years in the same outfit. (Others moved around, punched or
generally weren't present on Final Review of zip year.)

Well, mine apparently is pretty tender.

Photos: I'm sure you're spending way too much time on Facebook looking for photos of your fish, pisshead, butt or zip. The way I could pick out my boys typically was by what they were wearing or how they were wearing it. My younger son is 6'7" -- I still had trouble picking him out of the crowd at fish review.

Facebook photo tip: If you are downloading photos from Facebook, do this to get the largest file available. Click on photo, once it's large on your screen, go to the bottom and click on "OPTIONS." Then, click on DOWNLOAD. I've been told this will retrieve the largest file available. Now, what to do with it? Again, this is what works for me: I take my 5 minute Facebook break and download away. Then, I go to my "Downloads" file, click on all the photos and then move them all at once to a separate photo folder called -- whatever works for you -- Fish Year; Fish Fall 2016; etc. Don't worry about everyone's names. At some point you remember them all. I think it was well into butt year before I could reliably name off my sons' buddies.
"Old" Corps Moms: What is wrong with this photo? 

Gig 'Em Week: Sorry, not for cadets. Only non-regs get the opportunity to act like immature college students. On the other hand, I can't tell you how many students or former students have told me: "I really wished I'd done the Corps." No sympathy from me. You could have frogged in -- and still done Gig 'Em Week.

Fish Review, Part 1: It's 9 a.m. Saturday. Start by finding your cadet's outfit in the lineup, which is supposed to be in the center of the beautifully renovated Quad. Once the entire Corps is lined up, they march over to Simpson Drill Field. Typically lineup is about 30 minutes before step-off. (Step-off is when the first people in the Corps parade start marching.) Most important rule is this: Being a Corps parent requires you be flexible. If you aren't up to the task of plans changing, having a child in the Corps is going to be a tough journey for you.

OK -- back to Saturday morning: Once you find the outfit, you next need to find your cadet. This will be tougher than you think.

Then, don't say anything -- no calling out your special pet name for your cadet: "Punkin Face -- over here! Smile so I can get your photo of you in that uniform." Or, better yet, go ahead and call out to your Punkin Face. Your cadet will die a thousand deaths inside but won't be able to say a thing. Revenge of parents is absolute!

Fish Review, Part 2: Now that you've seen your fish step off and not trip on the cadet in front of him/her, you must race over to Simpson Drill Field (or just follow the Corps and the crowds) and try like the dickens to find a place to see your speck-of-a-cadet off in the distance. Don't worry. You'll be immensely proud that your cadet is out there with all those sharp-looking upperclassmen.

Quad Moms: If you haven't joined yet, there is still plenty of time. Go to the Quad Moms website and download the membership form. Just follow directions -- I know you can figure it out. Several pages on the website are for members only and are password protected. Once you join, you will get a password to those pages.
This is Spence Park with cadets running around. Cadets spend quite
a bit of time running around Spence Park. Mostly people love
Spence Park for the awesome Aggie tailgates on football gameday.

Quad Moms will have a pop-up tent at Spence Park selling Quad Mom T-shirts and car decals. This is a much better way to get a T-shirt or car decal than ordering online. You should have plenty of time on Saturday to swing by Spence Park.

Spence Park: For reasons known only to Texas A&M University mapmakers, Spence Park is not labeled on any TAMU map. I cannot even fathom a guess as to why that is. Here's where Spence Park is: Stand in the Quad and look west toward Kyle Field. You'll walk past buildings and across streets. The huge grassy area with a drainage ditch running its length before you get to Kyle Field is Spence Park. Spence Park runs from the parking structure across the street from Sanders Corps Center and Museum south to Bush Drive. On game days, it is the hallowed ground of Aggie tailgaters from across the nation and across generations.

Outfit Reactivation: Two more outfits are coming online this week with the Reactivation Ceremonies in front of the Sanders Corps Center on Friday, August 26. Squadron 5's ceremony will be at 10 a.m., G-1's at 2 p.m. Typically Old Ags from the outfits' earlier days attend these ceremonies. It's a lot of goodwill and slaps on the backs and how have you been doing. Let's hope for NO RAIN.

Mom Dinners: We're getting back in the groove. Here we go -- the only two I know about thus far. Check the Facebook pages of the various Corps Moms groups. (These are all closed FB pages -- you will be required to prove you're a Corps mom to get accepted.) RSVPs are not required. All meals are on your own. No one cares if you come late. Corps moms only, unless otherwise noted.

  • Dallas/Collin Counties -- 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30 at Central Market on Coit Road, Plano, Texas
  • Houston -- This is a family dinner -- 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1 at Palazzo's Trattoria 10455 Briar Forest, Houston, Texas
There's a ton more stuff going on, but I don't quite want to bore you to tears yet -- that will come later!

Gig 'Em!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Things I've Learned in 7 Years as a Corps Mom (and some other stuff)

Ah, those fish, in their white T-shirts and jeans. It will change to
uniforms soon enough.
Howdy Moms!

We're back with barely a week to go before FOW 2016. It's a happy time for everyone -- cadets returning to the Quad, fish swimming their way to College Station, fish parents excited (and a bit anxious) about dropping their precious cargo off and doing it right. If you shed a tear or two in front of your cadet, rest assured you will not be the first (or the last) parent to do so. Get in that extra hug, maybe a word about remembering to wear that retainer (hahahaha) or calling home (hahahaha) or whatever it is you think your fish might forget that is essential to his/her survival.

And then get gone.

As in, leave campus. Leave College Station. Go. Go. Go.

Welcome to the exhausting year of being able to do NOTHING for your kid. NOTHING. (Well, that's an over-statement -- there's a lot you can do -- bake cookies, show up randomly to take your cadet to dinner and pray -- lots and lots of praying.)

But really, it's exhausting not being able to fix things. I dropped my first son off in August 2009; my second in August 2012. I clearly remember driving home to Dallas both times wondering if my kid "had what it takes." What I should have been asking is, "Do I have what it takes to be a Corps mom?"

Honestly, I ended up learning just as much as they did their fish years. Maybe more. Mostly, I learned to trust them.

I have two great sons -- one's a dead zip, living off campus this year as he finishes up his engineering degree; the other is in the USAF. Could I have scripted this? No -- they had much bigger dreams for themselves than I had for them.

So, ground rules if you're new to this blog. This is me, all me. No one -- not my husband, my kids or Texas A&M -- approves what I write. You aren't required to read this blog -- or believe what I write. So, now that you understand that piece of business, I have some observations after seven years as a Corps mom. I'm not saying these observations are true for everyone, but they probably are true for a lot more parents than want to admit it.

Playing football after a hard day of being a fish.
1. Your student is wonderful. Your student is highly accomplished. This is true by default. Getting into Texas A&M requires "highly accomplished" as a bare minimum.

2. Your student/cadet is going to fail. Often. It's part of growing up. Your job as a parent is to love your student through the failures. It might be an academic challenge, or a social challenge or something else. College life is full of challenges -- the Corps even more so.

3. This is your child's journey. Not yours. Back off.

4. The Corps is not for everyone. Everyone gets a star for trying, those who stay all four years get boots.

5. Pride goeth before the fall. Just sayin' ... (And in seven years, I've seen a lot of pride fall flat on its face.)

6. In the end, you probably can't do anything to fix it.

7. Overlook the ribbons. A lot of butts and zips wear lots of stuff on their uniform. Do not automatically equate the number of ribbons, cords, pins or patches with the cadet. There's a lot of bling on that Quad. It's a small indication of the character of a cadet -- and meaningless if the person wearing it is a jerk or unreliable to his/her buddies and/or outfit. (One of my son's best buddies was a "no one" -- no ribbons, no special units, nothing. He made sure every fish passed chemistry and he now monitors satellite systems -- or that's my best guess as what he does now is all classified. The point is it's the quality of character that counts.)
Cadets in the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band have a special
spot in all Aggie hearts. It's tough work with a lotta
love at the end of the day.

8. The exception to #7 is the veterans who are in Corps veteran outfits. They've earned every scrap of ribbon they wear. You should be standing and applauding each and every time they walk by.

9. Hug your cadet often. Hug your cadet's buddies often. There is nothing that says "I care about you" like a hug.

10. Academics are the bomb. Getting accepted to TAMU is meaningless if your cadet  doesn't make grades. Put money aside for off-campus (paid) tutoring. I don't care what anyone tells you about free, on-campus tutoring. At some point many (most?) cadets need paid, off-campus help. Pay it and then just move forward. (The alternative is to Q-drop or fail the class and then have to retake the class. And how expensive is that?)

Midnight Yell is at midnight before a home football game.
If you've never been, you need to go at least once. It's
one of the best Aggie football traditions. All fish cadets go.
11. Not all military branches do things the same way. Just because U.S. Army does it one way, that doesn't mean U.S. Navy does it the same way.

12. Four-year college is expensive. Your cadet should take as many classes at community college as he/she can. It will save a ton of money. (For Texas residents, the cost of three community college classes -- or 9 hours -- is less than the cost of one 3-hour class at TAMU.)

13. Young men do stupid stuff. Don't equate stupid guy stuff with moral failing. Or a chargeable offense.

14. On the other hand, make sure you have made clear to your male student that sex without consent is NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER excusable. Not because you're drunk or she's drunk or she said it was OK last week or earlier today or 10 minutes ago. If you just can't talk to your son about this then share this video with them. Watch them watch it.

15. I know your child has never had alcohol. And swears it won't happen. Stranger things have happened than a 18-year-old out with buddies and a bottle of Jack Daniels on a Friday night. Talk to your kid about drinking.

16. Guns can and will be on campus. Guns and alcohol don't mix. Again, if you haven't had the conversation about guns, stupid guys and alcohol, now would be the time to do it.

Outfit BBQs before a football game are a Quad tradition.
17. Women have a special journey in the Corps. I can't pretend to know what it's like. But they have my utmost admiration. Most of them do a great job of threading the "hangin' with the dudes" needle while maintaining their female decorum.

18. Women are not men. They are not meant to be men. They have different skill sets than men. These are skill sets the U.S. military embraces and takes advantage of in each and every branch. Women will not ruin the Corps, Congress, the military or life in general. Quit worrying about women carrying their weight. If a woman is good enough to make it through fish year, she's probably good enough to be with your son in a Corps outfit or in the military. Let.It.Go.

19. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's hazing.

20. Social media is just that -- it's social. And media by definition means spreading the word. If you post it, someone can take a screen shot of it and figure out who you are talking about. And then share it. Because -- (duh) it's social. (I don't know why this is so hard for people to understand.)

21.  Your cadet loves you, even if he/she doesn't call you. Phone calls home do not equal love.

22. Your cadet is going to be stressed. (It's different than being stressed as a nonreg. They get stressed, too.) Your cadet is also going to be exhausted. Not tired. Exhausted. So "quality family time" generally means "cadet asleep on the sofa while family has quality time."

23. Sometimes buddies suck. Get over it. Your cadet probably already has.

24. Your cadet doesn't have to have friends in the Corps. But your cadet does need buddies. Your cadet can find friends at one of the ba-zillion clubs and organizations on campus. And dates. Amazing how that works.

Buddies are for life. Each fall, buddies make it a point to return
to campus for at least one or two football games and BBQ with their
old outfits.
25. Buddies aren't always friends. But they're always buddies. When they quit being buddies is when your cadet should think about changing outfits. But your cadet already knows this better than you do. (In my experience, moms spend waaaay too much time worrying about the whole buddy dynamic. Reread #3, above.)

26. Follow the 10-10-10 rule: Before you do or say anything to/about anyone (including your cadet), how will you feel about this in 10 hours, 10 months, 10 years?

27. There is not an academic adviser in the world who can salvage bad grades in November. Or April.

28. The Corps is not a religious organization. If your cadet gets in someone's face about beliefs, don't call it religious intolerance if your cadet gets called out about it or, gasp, ridiculed. This is an opportunity for your cadet to figure out social/work/religion boundaries. Again, go to #3 above. You aren't part of the equation.

29. College professors teach at Texas A&M, not high school teachers. There's a difference. They really don't want excuses. That said, they are people, too. They would love visits from their students at times other than when the wheels are coming off. And sometimes, if they know your student, they might make exceptions.

30. Fish year is a beating. Celebrate little stuff -- the A on a biology test should be worth a Subway gift card or a funny card in the mail. Go to a couple football Saturdays during fish year -- even if it's just to watch the march-in, see your fish's hole, take a few photos, go out for a cheap burger after the game. Don't worry about grand gestures -- if you can, drive to campus one day with your family dog. You'll be the most popular mom on the Quad.

Quad Moms: If you've made it this far, you are a dedicated fish mom! Good for you! Now there is a special "place" for Corps of Cadets moms to meet. This mother's club is focused on service to the Corps as a whole. If this interests you, hop over to the Quad Moms website and look for them on Facebook. Note that you must be a member to see certain pages or remain in the Facebook group after the start of FOW. Membership is $25 per year and follows the academic calendar.

Meet Quad Moms at FOW: The group will have a tent set up in Spence Park during FOW for parents to ask mom-type questions, fill out a membership form, buy a T-shirt and generally say hello. If you don't know where Spence Park is, ask someone in a Corps uniform. They'll be able to tell you!

Corps Mom Dinners: We are ramping up again moms to eat dinner together. I know the Dallas/Collin county moms will be meeting/eating on Tuesday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. at the Central Market on Coit Road, just north of George Bush Turnpike. Wear your Aggie shirt (or something maroon), grab some dinner and come find us in the dining area. Remember, we've all been there!

Safe travels as you head to College Station. I know many moms have already said goodbye to their kids, who are trickling into town, preparing to make this the best FOW ever.

Gig 'Em!


Thursday, June 23, 2016

College Station: We Have a Quad Moms Group!

Howdy Moms!

The power of many gathering as one is limitless. This past week, in a remarkably historic move, the 165 paid members of the new Corps of Cadets Mothers Club (known informally as Quad Moms) became reality with the election of its first officers. These women represent the breadth and depth of the Corps -- and how times have changed since the first Dallas County Mothers Club was formed in 1928. Back then, all TAMC students were male, all were in the Corps and all were headed to a role in the military.

Official Election Results (posted June 18, 2016)

President: Elizabeth Ralyn Holle
1st Vice President: Shannon Hughes
2nd Vice President: Cathy McClaugherty
Treasurer: Pamela Loupot Brummett
Secretary: Andrea M Greenwald
Historian: Brenda Worth

Committee Chairs (appointed by the president) for 2016-2017 are as follows:

Membership: Rebecca Halbert Mohr
Donations: Amy Ashley Nichols
Goody Bags: Brenda Worth
Newsletter: (open)
Scholarship: (open)
Boutique and other sales: Kippie Barnwell Hartcraft
Webpage Manager: Jeanne Spreier
Aggies in Need: Sally Coale Kehrberg and Robin Kunz Golden
Holiday on the Quad: Elizabeth Ralyn Holle
Scrapbook: Lynn Willis-Tenczar
Chaplain: Karin Zander

As of now, Quad Moms is not aligned with the Federation of Texas A&M University Mothers Clubs. And I know Quad Moms leadership does not see this organization as a replacement to all those fine mothers' clubs across the state. You may join both -- and, in fact, you should. Both offer a different perspective of an Aggie student's journey -- and a mother's support for that journey.

If you are looking for Quad Moms, check this Facebook page. Just let the admin know you'll be having a fish, if you're the mom of an incoming cadet. We do have our Pinterest page up (of course) -- and anyone is free to follow those boards. Look for On The Quad when you search Pinterest. Website, Twitter and Instagram soon to be launched!

There will be events in College Station for moms and families to meet each other. And there will be bling to purchase. To what extent those things happen is still up in the air. If you are an out-of-state mom, the Quad Moms will work especially hard to make you feel like you're part of campus. "There's a spirit that ne'er be told ..." is more than a song. Texas A&M is a campus different that most others. I was told to never use the word "unique" when writing about anything because nothing is really one-of-a-kind, but I would wager that the Aggie spirit truly is unique.

Fashionable Clear Bags? Ladies, you need to figure out how to hide all your unmentionables in a clear bag if you plan to attend any Aggie football games this fall. Most of us either had heard elsewhere or suspected for some time the clock was running out on all those darling Gig 'Em purses we so eagerly take out of the closet each Friday before a game. But I'm sure the crafty moms of Aggieland are coming up with about a dozen variations of a clear bag. (BTW -- the logo size is limited as well.) Anyway, if all of this makes you a little sad, go ahead and pack your stuff in a 1-gallon Ziplock bag. That's OK, too.

How Time Flies: I really don't think 1990 was that long ago -- but take a look at this video, shot from a train passing through College Station. The place is barely recognizable. Kyle Field looks -- quaint.

D-Day at Omaha Beach: You may have already seen this link on Facebook. But if you haven't watched this brief video, it's worth it. These were terrible times and our military -- America's young men -- performed valiantly.

Tough as Nails: The newly crowned Miss USA is a 26-year-old Army officer from the District of Columbia. "As a woman in the United States Army, I think ... we are just as tough as men. As a commander of my unit, I'm powerful, I am dedicated," said Deshauna Barber." Gender does not limit us in the United States." As the winner of Sunday's 2016 Miss USA competition held in Las Vegas, Barber will go on to compete in the Miss Universe contest.
1LT Deshauna Barber

Barber, who enlisted out of high school, is now a 1LT in Army reserve logistics.

More WWII Memories: 72 years ago, James Earl Rudder led his Rangers up the cliffs at Pointe Du Hoc, leading to a successful invasion of Normandy on D-Day. General Rudder, Class of 1932, after graduation from Texas A&M, was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry. After being called into active duty in 1941, Rudder took part in the D-Day landings as commanding officer of the United States Army's 2nd Ranger Battalion. He would later become the 16th president of Texas A&M.

Lest you think he was an Old Army traditionalist, here's part of his legacy at TAMU: While president of Texas A&M, Rudder is credited for transforming it from a small, all-male land-grant college to the renowned university it is today -- he made membership in the Corps of Cadets optional, allowed women to attend, and led efforts to integrate the campus. Needless to say, these changes were hugely unpopular with Old Ags. His legacy is part of the cadets' Campusology.
Pointe Du Hoc

The First Home Game: It's against UCLA and it's gonna be a blistering, aren't you lovin' this Texas summer hot kickoff at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 3. Wondering what the football schedule looks like? Go the the 12th Man page. If you're a newbie, for the most part you'll be able to buy tickets on the secondary market for all except the most popular games. Don't sweat it.

LSU -- You've Shown Your Colors: Well, last November Fightin' Texas Aggie Band couldn't play at the Thanksgiving weekend SEC season closing game at Death Valley because apparently LSU had crammed too much stuff into the half time. Then came news that LSU wasn't going to let any college band play in Death Valley during the 2016 season and forever more. THEN, LSU says, well, maybe we misspoke. (This is another way of saying that was stupid, we've changed our mind.) This is reminiscent of the t.u. decision last year to charge visiting bands for tickets to games at the t.u. stadium.  In the horrific PR blowup that followed, t.u. said, "Hey, they started it!" pointing to Tech. (Personally, I think this was to sell tickets during these schools' recent abysmal stadium-empty seasons.)

I dunno. I wanna believe this is just LSU being the Tech of the SEC, but something tells me these athletic departments can't resist wringing out another dime or two from students. Hiss on all of them.

Selective Service: Another first for any possible future military draft in the U.S. The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a $602 billion defense bill a week ago that included an amendment that would require women to register for the draft — also known as the selective service — for the first time in history. The National Defense Authorization Act passed 85-13.
Those cadets have spread out around the globe and many of
them are longing to return to the familiar smell of Whataburger.

Diversity at Texas A&M: The short version of the story is that although t.u. uses affirmative action in its enrollment decisions and TAMU does not, both have about the same number of minorities among their respective student bodies -- at 23 percent. The goal, TAMU leaders say, is that each and every student on campus needs to know that all students were admitted based on personal merit. The difference between t.u. and TAMU's policy, according to TAMU, is that it has heavily recruited the best students from groups that would provide diversity on campus. Thus, no one is getting any special favors to be at Texas A&M. All students are there because they earned it. BTW, this policy apparently was put in place by Robert Gates. He, along with Rudder, may go down as one of the great Aggie presidents.

I hope all your cadets are safely traveling near and far, learning what they can, doing good to the best of their ability. Cadets seem to have a plan for each summer -- it may not be making a lot of money, but I don't hear about cadets still needing something to occupy their summer days. Our cadets know the value of work -- even if sometimes that work looks like fun.

Enjoy these hot days -- 71 days until Aggie football!

Gig 'Em!