Sunday, September 12, 2010

52 Blessings—Fun Weekend

I could have called it laughing, I could have called it family, I could have called it generosity, I could have called today's blessing a thousand things. Instead, I’ll sum it up with fun weekend.

A week ago we went to see Ty for parents’ weekend at the United States Air Force Academy. It was an incredible weekend.

Ty picked us up at the Denver airport on Thursday night (Cali flew in a few minutes before we did and helped him craft a paper towel banner). We hurried to the Academy for a squadron Knowledge Bowl. While we drove he had me read aloud an assignment due the next day. It was not your typical Mrs. Pigglewiggle read aloud.

Ty's friend from Sri Lanka

On Friday we ate breakfast at the mess hall and then went to classes with Ty. One of the things I have loved about the boys attending the armed forces academies is the cross section of America represented. Each state senator and representative has a certain number of academy slots to fill so all states are fairly represented. Even other countries send cadets to our academies. All social, economical, race, and religious classes are represented. The common denominator is that they have all met the same stringent requirements and have a desire to protect and serve fellow Americans. On parents’ weekend when the families join their cadets it’s revitalizing to be among so many people with various experiences and backgrounds that are united in purpose.

We loved attending classes with Ty. My favorite two classes were military strategy and English. In the military class we learned about alliances and coalitions. We were briefed on a world crisis, assigned a country and told to make an alliance with the US in order to meet the emergency. Each country had limitations so the US didn’t necessarily want us in their coalition forces. I learned a lot in that class, including where Turkmenistan is.

English was a wonderful experience. The instructor began class by telling us he had the most important job at the academy. I thought his enthusiasm perhaps a bit bloated until he explained that each soldier would be forced into situations that would try his soul. The instructor stated that it was his job to prepare those cadets to be prepared to not only pull the trigger or drop the bomb but to deal with the consequences after it. He had each cadet recite a poem that dealt with war and then write a personal essay putting himself in the poem. My goodness, the essays were moving and the cadets were good. Calvin had tears in his eyes during each recitation. I choked a couple of times myself. I came away convinced that the English teacher did indeed have the most important job at the academy for he made those cadets feel.

the first 600 and counting

Friday was also the military parade. I never get tired of a soldier marching to the beat of a drum. I’m always a bit amazed that 4,000 people can move in unison with such precision and order.

A parade at the Air Force Academy also means a good portion of the time your head is looking skyward to see the paratroopers, bombers, jets, air acrobatics and . . . the falcon (which got sidetracked and went after a mouse and didn’t come back to his trainer. Calvin whispered, Birds—1, People—0 when he flew off. And when the second falcon goofed up on his maneuver the birds were up by two).

me, Calvin, Ty, Michelle

Saturday we went to one half of Michelle’s brother’s football game and then to the squadron tailgate party and Air Force football game. It was a great day.

And even though the Air Force game was plagued with lots of injuries, a lopsided score, and heat (the crowd cheered loudest when the sun went behind the clouds), we had a good time.

Matt thinking about what his is like

We stopped and ate at Chipotle’s on the way home and then played a fun game back in our motel room: What’s yours like? Oh ho. It’s a quick way to laugh and get up close and personal. After What’s yours like? we had a family talentless show. I don’t know who started it; all I know is peer pressure made each of us perform.

Cali sang Silent Night. Cali has taken one of the most reverent, sweetest songs in Christendom and made it so . . . so . . . well, so funny. Her sincerity has something to do with that, along with her ability to laugh at herself, and her having a hard time making her voice do what her brain hears.

Calvin told some jingles for his part.

Michelle did a trick with her stomach which is only matched by her tricks with her nose. We made her do them again and again and again. She reminded me of a performing seal at Sea World for each trick required a piece of candy.

I did a cheer. I wish, I wish, I wish I had never told the kids I was a cheerleader. Once. One year was all it took to get a cheer stuck in my muscle memory and then in a moment of foolishness I showed it to the kids when they were little. Now they request that stupid cheer whenever they want me to make a fool of myself in front of their friends. They insist they’re laughing with me, but I know what feeling laughed at feels like and that toe-touch attempt at the end of the cheer is an at-me laugh. This time I jumped off the hotel bed to get some air and as I climbed up to jump off, Ty begged me not to, “You might break a hip, Mom. Please don’t.” What? When did I get to be jump-off-the-bed-hip-breaking age? I jumped off twice just to prove I wasn’t.

Gace did a cheer, too. She won the award for the funniest part. For starters, her cheer begins with “Hip-hop lollipop” and it just gets better from there. Seeing Grace perform that cheer is so funny that the next day in church (during a very quiet and peaceful time of worship) I started to shoulder-shake laugh when I thought of it. I suggested to Grace, Cali, and Michelle that all the girls in our family should learn that cheer. Grace agreed as long as she could be the head-cheerleader.

Ty ended the evening by solemnly reciting the poem he did for his English class. My. Like salt after sweet, it was the perfect touch to a wonderful evening.

Ty and Justin

Ty has a friend named Justin in his ward. He is Justin’s hometeacher, too. Justin is convinced that Ty is his brother and therefore Cali is his sister (unless of course Ray dies, in that case Cali will be his girlfriend). The LDS cadet choir sang for Sacrament meeting and Ty invited Justin to join them and be an honorary member. After the meeting I mentioned to Ty how much I enjoyed watching him include and take care of Justin during the songs and he said, “Well, it’s not that great of a thing. Justin has been bugging me to sing a musical number in church with him. I suggested he sing with us so we wouldn’t have to sing a duet.” That confession doesn’t change my opinion of Ty and Justin’s friendship one bit, especially when after the meeting Ty pulled out a sheet of stickers from his pocket for Justin to use to mark off his goals.  Justin is but one more blessing of Ty's experience at the Academy for which I am grateful.

It was fast and testimony meeting and different cadets stood and bore their testimony of the spiritual truths they know to be true. At one point during the church service, Calvin whispered to me, “Remember five years ago when we first came to parents’ weekend and Ty was a fourth-class cadet and we heard all of those first-class cadets stand and speak? Remember how mature they were? They were home from their missions and they were so confident, focused, and impressive? Remember when they all had their fiancées with them? Hard to believe Ty’s in that spot now, isn’t it?” It felt good to see the circle completed and to know Ty was helping future cadets like those former cadets had done for him.

Kathy Page, Grace, Eliza Green, Jayna Page

Sunday afternoon we went over to the Pages (Michelle’s family) for a barbecue. The Greens, Ty’s sponsor family (and the one who set Ty and Michelle up), came also. Have I mentioned yet that the weekend was incredible? We had such a great time with the Pages and Greens. What fun families. What kind families. What a blessing those families have been to Ty and consequently to us. In the evening we gathered around the piano and Michelle’s brother, Josh, played song after song after song that he composed. Michelle and Grace sang a few duets for us, too. It was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful in the words of Lawrence Welk. When we went back to the motel Ty, Cali, Grace, Calvin, and I stayed up and visited until well past midnight. Family truly is heaven on earth. Even though several of us were missing, it felt good to be together.

Michelle, Cali, Ty, Grace

Dallin and Josh Page

Jayna, Grace, Brian, and Kathy

Monday morning we got up early to attend the balloon festival with the Page family and then went on a hike to Seven Bridges. The Pages are warm, engaging, welcoming, and fun.

There’s a perfect dose of yellow personality sprinkled in the family and you can’t help but have a good time with them. It’s also fun to see Michelle and Ty so much in love.

chess players on 16th Street

After we dropped Cali off at the airport, we went down to 16th Street in Denver to pass the time till Grace, Calvin, Michelle, and I had to fly out. Words that came to mind while we were there: Disturbing. Interesting. Cold. Sad. Affluenza. A homeless man sat next to me on a park bench and after he sold his cigarette to another man for 46 cents we began to visit. He said, “Denver is having an identity crisis. They can’t decide what kind of a city they are.” 16th Street does feel like a seaboard city street, albeit dry-locked at 5,280 feet in the middle of the country.

One thing about 16th Street that I loved was the street pianos. Michelle sang and played for us. We also loved the Maggiano’s Italian restaurant and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Sometimes my faith wanes and I worry my happiest days might be behind me. Because my vision is limited (and because I have already had some pretty incredible days thus far in life) I worry I’ve used up my happy day allotment. That is claptrap – a ploy to keep me fearful and disheartened .  This fun weekend dispelled that bunk once again, there are lots of happy days ahead.  For that blessing, as well as the rejuvinating fun, family, and friends, I am grateful.


Marie said...

Wow. A fun weekend indeed. Where do I even begin to comment?

I know that I want to see a youtube video of you doing your cheer and jumping off the bed (with no breaking of hips!). If I send you pompoms would you post a video?

I thought your reflections on the diversity and unity of the academy were wonderful. It is great to see so many different people joined in one great purpose.

Michelle sounds like a great lady. I can't wait to 'get to know her' through your posts more as time goes on.

Glad your back, Jane!

Deanna/Mimi said...

Your closing paragraph on your exceptional posting was just what I was thinking about you and your family. You have such incredible times together and you have been blessed with having such a good and great life. Sometimes we think our bubble will burst and there will be no more...but the Lord just keeps giving you blessing upon blessing. I love reading about your family, your worship, your Payne ways. It is food for my soul. Thank you for sharing the things that make your family so unique, wonderful and already a celestial family having togetherness now. Hugs, Deanna

Myca said...

This post made me seriously laugh out loud. The talent show! So funny!
Watching Grace get to spend so much time with you all as a family and having your support while her husband is gone so reminds me of the time while my husband was deployed. I literally LIVED at my in-laws and loved it. I feel so lucky to LOVE my in laws like I do. I can see that she has it just as good. :) She is so lucky to have you guys. I know...totally random, but seeing Grace (without her hubby) in all these post just reminded me of that time.

Julie said...

I'm so glad to see you posting again. The thing I missed most as I was reading this and seeing the pictures was that we were not there! I miss you visiting us in Colorado Springs but I'm so glad you have the Green's and Page's. They are wonderful families! I loved seeing all the pictures of your fun time and can't wait to be back in Colorado Springs. (I especially liked the one of Josh Page...he was in my seminary class and I haven't seen him since before his mission). You always have such a fun time as a family, you are truly blessed. ps. I want to learn the cheer too. Mostly I just want to see you do it!

michelle said...

I just have to quote Deanna/Mimi here: "I love reading about your family, your worship, your Payne ways. It is food for my soul." That pretty much sums it up for me as well. Your Payne ways, especially.

You Paynes really know how to pack in the fun! This seems like much more than a weekend. I too would love to see you jumping off the bed to do your cheer, and Grace's cheer as well.

On a selfish note, so glad you're back!

Ande Payne said...

Thanks for letting me be part of it via your blog! It sounds like it was so great. I missed you guys that weekend.

Jill said...

I always want to be adopted into your family when I read posts like this! You guys seem to have the most fun with each other, and have a great balance of silly and sentimental. It's touching really.

I can't imagine you feeling like your best days may be behind you. Your kids and their spouses are incredible!

Cali said...


Do you want to post the video of you doing the cheer? I have it, and if you want it... or maybe I'll just sneak in and post it for you.


Have a great day at seminary today

Susan said...

What an awesome post Jane!! I was getting worried about you, but Megan says you are still at seminary, so I try not to worry.

I love all the plain ole fun your family has! The fun just gravitates to you! Love it.

I love that Calvin looked back and saw the growth in Ty and others like him. I love to do that, and then I can think, we're making it. We're making it.

Love you Jane!

Lucy said...

I love your family, Jane. See your joy from spending time with them is reassuring to me that life is good.

Chandra said...

I want to see that video of your mom's cheer. I think next time I sub for her I need to ask the class if they have seen her cheer.

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

Cali, don't you dare!

Carolyn said...

Cali, DO IT! Or, you could post it on YOUR blog, that way your mom can't get mad. :)

Michelle said...

I say it's only fair that if Cali posts the cheer, her rendition of Silent Night should also be publicly available. ;-)

melanie said...

I like Michelle and the way she thinks! :)

This post is full of so much happiness. I can learn from you around every corner, so many of them here! Even cheerleading ones, ha!

What a good feeling to know the good/best days are not behind you. Love your blog....and you!

Becky said...

Wow, wow, wow...if I wasn't so tired I'm sure I could be more eloquent!