Saturday, April 30, 2011

Trey's First Violin Solo Competition

Are you familiar with the song "Go Tell Aunt Rhody?" It is permanently ingrained in my head after my 5th grader chose it for his first solo violin competition. I lost count of how many times I've heard it played during his rehearsals, but I am so proud of how hard he has worked on it.

We took him up to Harker Heights High School this morning at his designated time. Dozens of string-players were in various stages of tuning and rehearsing and the culminating sound was somewhat overwhelming. Trey got his violin tuned then sat to play through his song a few last times before seeing the judge.

When he was called in, he walked in with confidence and got ready to play. He had been told he could sit or stand during the competition and had chosen to rehearse while sitting down. The judge wouldn't allow that, explaining that concerts are always conducted standing up and he should learn to play standing. Gulp.

Yes, I am THAT mom, taking photos through the door window!

He recovered quickly and played his song very well. When he came out of the judge's room, his face was flushed and he said he felt like large birds were flapping inside his ribcage.

While we waited the results (I learned that a "1" is the best score meaning 'Superior' and a "2" is 'Excellent' and a "3" is -- in Trey's terms -- 'Needs Way More Work"), Trey nervously watched the 'runners' as they arrived with score sheets and wrote the new scores on the Results pages taped to the hallway wall.

Trey peeking over the shoulder of the score runner.
When his score was posted, he was thrilled to have received a score of "1"!!

Trey receives a score of "1" ... the highest you can get!
We are so very proud of him and encouraged that he has tangible evidence that hard work does pay off!  We look forward to seeing where his musical interest takes him in the future.

Black Jack Brigade Ball

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team "Black Jack" ball was last night and we had such a great time. It was especially nice to attend a ball having not planned a thing and not worried about anything. =)

Each battalion did provide their own table centerpieces but that turned out to be a fairly simple task for our seven tables of ten. Love my Red Dragon ladies!

The dinner was good, the speaker (a former commander of the brigade, now a general officer) was very entertaining, and the evening was a fun, relaxing time that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Red Dragon ladies at the Black Jack Brigade Ball
Lots of fun dancing ... this is the "Copperhead Road" line dance.
With my honey at the ball
My 'do for the ball

Brigade Ball Table Decorations

Since each battalion was responsible for providing their own table centerpieces for the brigade ball, I had to take a look at all the creative masterpieces.  The tables all looked amazing and it was fun to see the different ideas.


And, for fun, here are our wonderful battalion ladies pre-hair, pre-makeup, pre-ball ready. Love these ladies!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Month of the Military Child

Because this month is the Month of the Military Child (as well as Volunteer Appreciation Month!), we also wanted to do something for the children of our Red Dragon Soldiers.  They are true heroes for the resilience and courage they show on a daily basis.  It's not easy to say goodbye to your Soldier dad or mom, whether it's for a field training exercise, a month-long training rotation, or an overseas deployment.

After brainstorming options, and realizing that our unit schedule is already pretty full, we decided to incorporate our kids into the upcoming "Family Day."  The battalion leadership handed out these water bottles to all the children at Family Day and provided water fill-ups at all the stations.  It was fun to see the kids with their water bottles and I hope they felt a small sense of the appreciation we have for them and their sacrifices as Army kids.

These kids are enjoying the afternoon and putting their new water bottles to good use.
The battalion XO's son models his field gear and his new water bottle.  How cute is he!?
Water bottles for Red Dragon kids

Volunteer Appreciation Month

April is Volunteer Appreciation Month and there's no volunteer like an Army volunteer! Our unit has an fabulous group of volunteers that are always available to lend a helping hand.  They do amazing things and work hard at keeping our unit Families informed and supported.  Off the top of my head, here are a few of the many things they do ...

At any given time, a volunteer in our unit could be:
  • making phone calls to unit Families
  • planning meetings to keep Families in the information loop
  • decorating for unit events
  • wrapping gifts at the PX during the holidays
  • putting together baby bags for the babies in the battalion
  • baking goodies to sell at bake sales or just to give to Soldiers for their birthday
  • taking all the training required to be able to bake goodies to sell
  • organizing fundraisers
  • taking and posting photos of unit events
  • updating their unit Facebook page
  • completing all required training for leaders in the FRG
  • attending optional but beneficial training to ensure they know of the best resources
  • managing unit funds
  • recruiting other volunteers to join in the fun
  • sending emails filled with resources for Families
  • serving as a point of contact when a Family needs assistance
  • gathering and organizing beneficial resources for Families
  • planning social events to build comraderie in the unit
  • maintaining contact information to make sure they can help Families when needed
  • volunteering to serve on a CARE Team, to care for Families in emergency situations
The list could go on and on, but these are just a few of the wonderful things our volunteers have been doing over the past month and continue to do. 

To show them how much we appreciate them, we hosted a Volunteer Appreciation Social just after our Family Day.  The commanders served ice cream and other tasty goodies and each volunteer received a Certificate of Appreciation and a small gift.  It seems like such a small things for the HUGE things they are doing, but it was necessary to at least let them know how much they are needed and noticed.  They make a big positive impact in the lives of our Soldiers and Families and we can never say thank you enough.
Our female volunteers received a charm bracelet with our unit crest on it.  Our male volunteers received a silver coffee mug engraved with the brigade crest.
Nate and me with some volunteer appreciation gifts.
Nate, Elena, and I hand out volunteer gifts and certificates.  This volunteer, like so many, is always ready to help out!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Family Day, Part IV: M240B Machine Gun Range

Our final station for Family Day was the M240B machine gun range.  We were given a safety briefing and demonstration of the weapon, then proceeded with our one-on-one safety guide to the range.  Everyone was provided ear protection and we shot 100 rounds at the really small target in front of us. 

The Soldier that accompanied me to the range was a consummate professional and helped me get myself organized to shoot.  After a little advice on readjusting my aim, I was able to successfully hit the target!  I was thrilled and was happy to keep my target as we wrapped up our last station.  Hooah!

The M240B Range
Soldiers in the control tower keep us on track.
Demonstration of the M240B machine gun.
Bringing in the rounds
Love the dichotomy of the pink tutu and the automatic weapon!
This is a friend's daughter and it's my favorite photo of the day!
This is MY target!  Hooah!

Family Day, Part III: Warrior Skills Trainer

The Warrior Skills Trainer, part three of our Family Day, is one of the coolest things I've done.  It is a simulated convoy of four HMMWVs with surrounding screens that show the scenery of a middle eastern village. 

We were able to fill the spots in a mounted patrol and work together to drive through the village.  I was in the turret and the rest of my family was scattered throughout the other vehicles.  It was amazing to get a glimpse of what our Soldiers do regularly and by the end, my shoulders were in knots from the tension of looking for insurgents in the simulation.  What a great way to gain a little more appreciation for the hard work our Soldiers do!

We're ready for patrol!  Kristin, Ariel, Athena, me, and Sharon
In the turret of the HMMWV
My mom is ready to go!
My stepdad is behind me all the way!
Trey at the wheel!
Jacob in the simulator.
My sister-in-law is a natural!

Family Day, Part II: Engagement Skills Trainer

Part Two of our Family Day fun was conducted in the Engagement Skills Trainer.  We were able to try out a variety of weapons in a simulated environment ... and to keep things family-friendly, we shot at turkeys instead of people.  It was cool, though, that the turkeys burned up into little baked birds when you got a shot.  So fun!

Three cute boys ready for the Engagement Skills Trainer!
There's nothing quite like seeing your 11-year-old with a large deadly weapon.
Jacob is ready to open fire while his mommy looks on.

Family Day, Part I: The Iraqi Village

The battalion Family Day is, by far, my favorite event in the unit thus far. Our Soldiers planned an amazing day of learning more about what they do on deployment and we had a great time. We met at the 1st Cavalry Division Museum's gazebo and were greeted by my (very handsome) husband.

Each battery then boarded a bus to go to one of four stations. Our battery started at the Iraqi training village where we conducted a dismounted patrol through the village. We were briefed on Iraqi culture and given tips on how to interact with the locals there (and more importantly, how not to offend them). Broken into squads, we were given four different questions to ask and answer. It was such a fun experience and the Soldiers playing the roles of the Iraqis were fabulous. Here's how it went ...

Nate welcomes Red Dragon Families and Friends
This boy loves his daddy!
Brian and Leandra on the bus heading to the Iraqi village.
We receive a briefing on our way to the training village.
Receiving our mission
Playing soccer with the "Iraqi locals" (Soldiers).  The Iraqis greeted us with, "Americans!  Good times!"  My sons developed a (quick) relationship with the Iraqis and were able to find out one of the four questions we were trying to answer ... Who is the most famous soccer player in Iraq?
Charles, talking with the local sheik, discovered the answer to our second question ... Who is the local mayor and where does he live?
My squad (and family!) talking with Iraqi locals about the greatest need in their village ... question number three.
Turns out the shopowner could answer the question we missed ... Who are the 'bad guys' and where do they live?  Kind of an important one, doncha think?  Oops.