February 26, 2015

the ceremony...

As soon as the pianist played the introduction I knew I was done for. Why, why, had I thought it was a good idea for Laura to sing on Camden's big day?  As her voice sang And He will raise you up on eagle's wings the salty tears rolled and I had to gain control.  Two beautiful happenings for both of my kids?  It was overwhelming for this mother's heart.  But by the time she finished {beautifully} singing Cam's favorite hymn, I had regrouped and was smiling again.

Camden was escorted to the front by his troop-mates and fellow Eagle Scouts, and I could sit back and enjoy.  Even though we had written the ceremony and read {and re-read!} it several times, to hear our friends actually speak the words was so meaningful.

Earning the Eagle Scout Award represents another step forward by the Scout toward the BSA’s goals of developing citizenship, of imparting character development and enhancing personal fitness, and the achievement of Eagle Scout is indeed the highest honor that a Scout may achieve.

Of any 100 boys who become Scouts, it must be confessed that 30 will drop out in their first year... Each of the 100 will learn something from Scouting. Almost all will develop hobbies that will add interest throughout the rest of their lives... Four of the 100 will reach the rank of Eagle, and at least one will later say that he values his Eagle badge above his college degree.

He stood tall when taking his Eagle Oath, being reminded of the promises he had made in scouting before, and accepting the new challenge and promise before him.  

The important thing to remember—and this applies to all of us—is that we shouldn’t forget the promises we’ve made before just because we’re making a new promise now. It’s still important to do our best, to help other people, and give goodwill, to be prepared, and to do a good turn daily.

And then came the moment when Eric and I joined Camden, and he received his actual Eagle Award. I love that Boy Scouts honors the parent's {especially the mother's} involvement along the trail to success... and I was truly honored to pin Camden's award above his heart.  I may have teared up during this moment, but instead, my hand let the pin backs tumble to the carpet... grace.

I enjoyed the ceremony so much.  It all came together as we planned, and moved right along.  A representative from the Marine Corps League presented Cam with a good citizen award and a beautiful challenge coin.  George, the amazing volunteer from CREW (where Cam's project took place) read a letter singing Cam's praises and presented him with a certificate. Camden had a turn to speak, too.  He thanked everyone for coming, and he presented the Eagle Scout Mentor pin to George. At this point I realized that oh no! Just as I was having the time of my life, I was up next!

I had spent weeks playing with the words in my head and heart, knowing that I wanted to express how significant this event was to Camden and to us, but the words would come and go.  I must have six documents started on my computer. I cut and pasted from one to another, deleted this, and added something completely different. Saturday night, as we were gathered around the table, so ready for bed, I finally hit print.

I stood at the lectern with Camden beside me, and Eric just behind me.  I took a deep breath, and then another. I could hardly begin.  One more breath. My voice wavered, but I shared how I wondered if Cam had been born with a patriotic soul, or if it had been born in him with the events of 9/11.  I wanted our friends and family to know that while Eric's deployments took him away from us, and Camden's scouting, that it also gave me a gift I cherished- being a Cub Scout Mom.  I wouldn't trade those years for the world. Scouting was, at times, our whole life... and we loved it. I shared how Camden likes to hold the door, and our guests laughed, as I hoped, when I went on to say for the whole marching band.  There is a kindness about him that sets him apart, and I love how he loves to be different, not to stand out, but to stand up for what he believes. I had already noticed my Mom was a mess of tears in the front row... but I had to go on and share how our parents have always been our cheerleaders- for our kids, too.  And that they had created a legacy of service in our family. I almost did not make it through that part... but I knew I was almost done!

I think my saving grace was knowing that I didn't have to wind up all my words into a WOW ending... because we had been keeping a secret from Camden that was all the WOW we needed.  We had asked the Jesus Painter for a congratulations letter for Camden, because meeting him and watching his art come alive was Camden's favorite part of the National Youth Gathering we attended in 2013.  He ended up sending more than a letter though...

On the back of the canvas he had written Congrats Camden!!! You've proven your self a hard working dedicated person. Use that to honor God and serve others.   Camden is so humbled and honored to have received this work of art as a gift.

I was happy to finally sit back down, breathe, and enjoy the last bits of the ceremony.  Our pastor spoke about Camden before he closed with a prayer... and then just like that, it was over.  People flooded up to Camden, hugging and congratulating him.  With every hug, we thanked our friends for coming... and they shared how honored they were to attend, and also that I made them cry.  Suzanne laughed and told me how she could. not. make eye contact with Eric while I was speaking, because he was on the verge of tears.  I laughed, too... because I had no idea. I thought my Mom was the only one crying...

It was a beautiful day.
We had planned on celebrating Camden, but in the end, we felt just as celebrated. I will count this day, in fact the whole weekend, as one of my most treasured memories.

February 24, 2015

how to plan an eagle court of honor...

He was a Cub Scout for five years, and earned his Arrow of Light, the highest honor in Cub Scouting. He climbed the ranks as a  Boy Scout from Tenderfoot to Life Scout, and then made the decision he was going to earn Eagle Scout.  Twelve years, and hours and hours of time and effort is something to make a big deal about.  A really big deal...

Step One:  Choose the date for the Court of Honor, and the venue, then check with all of your important people to see if it will work.  Hooray! Everyone said it was PERFECT!  Then, re-schedule it for the next day, because there is a chance your son will have to interview for a scholarship in a different state on the day you thought was perfect.  Now you can create your invitations.  After a disappointment at a certain drugstore that offered "premium paper" {thank you for not making me take these!} I created my own in photoshop, ordered from Mpix and was delighted!

Step Two: Start looking through pictures to find all of those adorable Cub Scout moments!  This of course, can turn into a huge job... especially if your pictures are on two different computers, several flash drives, and an external hard drive that may or may not have been dropped.  Oh, and then there are the years before I had a digital camera, but had the photos put on CD.  This might turn into the best time to organize all of your photos... or at least begin.  Once you find all of the pictures you thought were missing, you can try to finish the scrapbook you started ten years ago. Don't forget to put your absolute favorites in a different folder so you can make a power-point presentation that will make you cry your eyes out and wonder where the time has gone!  {Disclaimer- this step might have to be worked on through every other step of the process, until you finally decide it must be finished the night before the Court of Honor. And... your husband might gripe that he made everyone else turn in their completed presentations three days before the ceremony!} 

Step Three: Decide what you want to eat after the ceremony.  We decided to have a cake and punch reception, and thought about making the cake ourselves... until we had the super-fancy-and-delicious cake at another Eagle Scout ceremony!  We went to the bakery, Cam tasted some white chocolate mousse filling, and we asked the advice of the very experienced bakery how much cake should we order? We were very happy with their advice and and recommendations... and then we second guessed them and changed our order to include a larger cake.  I also ordered some very special, beautiful cookies that I just had to have.  As for punch, I didn't want red... so I tweaked our favorite lemon/lime refresher punch recipe to include strawberries and lemon sherbet.  You might have to change up the punch recipe in the grocery store when you discover that they don't sell lemon sherbet. And if you are just not sure how much to buy?  Throw a few extra bottles of lemon/lime soda... you might need it to wash down all of the leftover cake!

Step Four: Send away for letters of commendation.  There are Boy Scout sites that have lists of addresses- there are some you can even do online!  And you can even have a flag flown over the Capitol Building to honor your scout!  We took the note to go for quality over quantity, and chose to request from people that would mean something to Camden.  The president, George W. Bush, JK Rowling, Dale Jr.  It takes a while to get these, and Cam is actually still receiving some. You might even receive a letter that will take your breath away and have you keeping a secret for months...

Step Five: Write the ceremony. You can check out the Boy Scout sites again, and there are books, too, that have sample scripts.  Of course, don't forget Pinterest!  You can pick & choose, cut & paste and rewrite to your heart's desire. Some are flowery, others are very formal.  If your guests don't know as much about scouting as you think they should, choose some segments that will make it come alive for them.  Make it meaningful. And... if you have a way with words, be brave and write from your heart, then take a deep breath and decide to read the words in front of your family and friends. They may say they hate you afterwards, but it is probably only because your made them ruin their mascara.

Step Six: Plan your decor.  This step makes me giddy.  I had all kinds of pie-in-the-sky ideas {thanks to Pinterest, of course} and moms who had already had their ceremony offered me whatever they had left over.  But I am me, and I had my own ideas... which turned out to be very simple and easy. I wasn't trying to out-do anyone.  Glass vases, American Flags, clear plates, cups and forks with flag napkins for accent.  Fresh flowers from church.  Tablecloths I already had (plus a borrowed one or two.)  A few curtain sheers that somehow were arranged to look like the Eagle Award.  The only crafty things I made were two paper banners to decorate the fronts of tables, and one of those was re-purposed from Christmas.  But if you are still working on Step Two while you are figuring out Step Six, your son might have a few words for you.  He might say I think you are over-doing the pictures, in which case, you decide not to add a photo to the flag vases that will go on each table.

Step Seven (which is kind of a continuation of Step Six, and closely related to Step Two):  Put all of your memorabilia together so that it can be displayed.  His Cub Scout shirt and hats.  Pinewood Derby cars and trophies. Patches and awards.  There are some great examples of scout shadow boxes online (ahem, Pinterest) and if you can find all the pieces you are looking for in the first trip through the boxes on the top shelf of the closet, you might be able to replicate one.  Or... as you admire them online, you might find that the WEBELOS Compass with the earned points might be among the missing... along with the American Heritage Award, and Tiger Cub bead-y thing-y. You could still manage to make a beautiful shadow box, or you could just lay it all out on the table willy-nilly and give people the opportunity to be able to admire and pick up the patches and... see what they feel like?

Step Eight: Make a program. Or not. I did, but only because I like to know what is coming when I am sitting in the audience, and I wanted some of the scouts to have a job to do at the ceremony.  The truth is, most people won't keep the program... even though it has a really great picture of your son on the front.  I made ours in Publisher, and it didn't print exactly as I had planned... but I put those imperfect pieces at the bottom of the stack and moved on.  Done is better than perfect. And if my mother happens to get one of the icky ones?  She will still think it was beautiful... because it has a great picture of her grandson on the front.

Step Nine: Recruit help.  Friends and family will offer to help... say yes.  Write out a set-up plan (with sketches if need be!) and let them follow your instructions.  Recruit a few someones to cut the cake and maybe someone else would offer to mix the punch.  And if you are your family photographer, hire a high school student who has a nice camera and loves to take pictures.  I couldn't ask anyone to live this once-in-a-lifetime-moment through the camera!

Step Ten: Breathe. Tell your son how proud you are of him. Sit back and enjoy the day... even if that means wiping away the tears as his sweet little face slides by in the power-point and then again when his Scoutmaster recounts the years that brought him to this moment.  Bask in the glow... because anytime your child is shining, it also reflects on you. Smile, visit with your guests... and hope that no one asks for that punch recipe...

More Eagle festivities to come...


February 23, 2015

four, two, five, two, twelve...

Saturday we celebrated Camden's friend John...the final boy in our group of four to have his Eagle Scout Court of Honor.  I am happily exhausted... there has been much joy in this "season." I can't begin to tell you how proud of them I am... these {young} men have worked so hard, overcome, and risen to the top...

And these two? {I can't hardly think it without tearing up}
In 2008 they embarked on an journey with their own sons, not knowing the work they would put in, the patience it would require, or if they even had the right tools to get the kids to Eagle.  But they just kept keeping on, walking along side of them for years, offering all they had, and then a little bit more. Along the way, the leadership grew.  I am so incredibly thankful for these great men.

Camden & John joined Cub Scouts in the first grade, and became fast friends. It has been one of the best adventures of our life...

Eric spoke during John's ceremony, and tears rolled down my face.  So many memories, so many friendships.  I was kind of okay until he talked about the friendship between John & Camden, because he hit it right on the money.  They couldn't be more different... hobbies, personalities, career goals... and yet?  They can hang out for hours on end just being friends. Truly two of the best teenage guys I know!  And while I may be a little biased, that they both had elementary and high school teachers come out to celebrate them, says that I may not be the only one who feels this way.

More Eagle festivities to come...