Autumn in Vermont

IMG_0127Last week in San Jose, next week in Singapore – where to spend the weekend? Underhill, of course! I was happy to find that while I didn’t make the fall foliage at its height, there was still a lot of leafy color to be seen, as well as a bit of alpenglow on the slopes of Mt Mansfield. This view is from our front porch. The one below is the house on the day I arrived. A week earlier and it would have been more spectacular, but I’m not complaining.IMG_0117

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gaba_plebe_fdbA proud father being almost a egotism trope, I’m trying not to post too many pictures of Carl. But since this is the first time we’ve seen him in Full Dress Blues, I really didn’t have a choice, did I?

Dress for the job you want, they say. (This is the Navy, so what’s up with the rifle?) I know the classic Richard Gere An Officer and a Gentleman look is all about the dress whites, and the mids do seem to put a little extra work into simply looking good. But there’s just no getting away from how good they do look!

When she saw this picture, even the continually nonchalant and permanently  unimpressed Nellie said “Whoah, that is pretty cool.”

In any case, here’s a prediction from me: Over time, the rifle and even full dress blues will become less important, and Carl’s future in the Navy will be more about this largely overlooked announcement.

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Breakfast of Champions

The best morning meal is oatmeal. I don’t want a discussion or debate in the comments, we’ve had enough of those already. Whine on about your Eggs Florentine with the hand-crafted Hollandaise, or your free-range Huevos Rancheros with tortillas stone-ground by yo’ mama, or even your chicken congee or 粥 (our Chinese friends will surely get the Zhou-ke!) I love all of these, but if we’re talking about the finest combination of texture, taste, simplicity, healthiness, honor and sincerity – well, there’s really no contest. Steel-cut Oatmeal wins, hands-down. And the steel-cut part matters a lot.

Bowl_of_dry_steel-cut_oats_with_full_spoonWhen our friends, many of whom have had the pleasures of breakfast at our house, have asked me how to prepare the One True Oatmeal, I usually put them off. Fact is, while they’re nice folks, they must figure it out for themselves. It’s a bit like the Daoist’s uncarved block – when they find themselves doing it, they will know it’s the right way. So it goes with oatmeal.

But recently a good friend who stayed over made, between mouthfuls, the usual inquiry. I thought “this poor guy is going to take a million years just to begin asking the right questions” and decided to take pity on him.  So I’ve posted the recipe to allow the rest of mankind to benefit, not by my efforts, but simply by eating more excellent oatmeal. It’s a little like that Eat More Kale guy, just slightly less annoying and definitely better tasting. And you don’t need to massage anything.

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Kubota Power

kubotaI’m happy to report that after a lifetime of wanting my own tractor (I’m not talking about a riding mower here folks,) I finally have my own Kubota B2920. Bucket on the front, replaced by a snowblower in the winter of course. Brush hog in the back, laying waste to all in its path. Hydrostatic transmission! Three-point hitch! Two PTOs! Green Acres, we are there!

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Plebe Summer Never Ends

midn_gabaThat’s what they say around the yard, anyway. Silly us, we thought that Parents’ Weekend would mark the transition to the academic year, but in fact there’s still a week or so of obstacle courses, PEP and drilling before the Brigade Reforms (that is, the upperclassmen return) and classes begin in earnest on the 20th. But that didn’t matter to Patty, Nellie, me, or even to Plebe Carl, all of whom experienced a long-anticipated reunion this weekend in Annapolis. It was just good to have the family back together, a little like we were in the old days. Like six weeks ago.

That’s not to say that there were no transitions – or rather transformations – to be had. We saw Carl for the first time in his Echo rig with a real hat (combo cover, for you pedants or Navy people,) and as anticipated he (and the thousand or so other plebes milling around with their families) looked like a different animal entirely than the pimply adolescents we left at I-day. Continue reading

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Nellie’s Plebe Summer

IMG_3312IMG_0745Okay, not really, or not yet at least. But Nell is having a pretty active and awesome summer herself, only with less marching and more cousins.

Last Monday, she flew from Vermont to Chicago to meet Jesse, Tom, Kal and Wes. They’re driving the scenic route back to the Andrews home South of Denver, stopping in South Dakota and other points West, to see Mount Rushmore, ride horses, shoot various types of projectiles from various types of armaments, and generally have fun. I understand a water park will be involved at some point, too.

Wow, we’re looking at the end of the summer soon. After we see Carl in Annapolis next weekend, Nellie and Patty will have only a few days in Vermont before heading back to Beijing. Nellie’s first day at school is only 2 1/2 weeks away. Aiya!

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The Word from the Yard: 2nd Call from Annapolis is really becoming the Carl show, isn’t it? Well, why not? What have any of us done lately to compare with what he’s up to?

In the picture to the left, you’ll see one tired-looking plebe (of the 80 or so in the uncropped picture) in running shoes. Guess who? From his letter a few days later, we learned he had a minor sprain or fracture and had been forbidden to wear boots for a while.

But yesterday we had our second plebe summer phone call with him, and were happy to learn that he’s all healed and cleared for more boot-enhanced fun. As I wrote below, it seems almost everyone gets hit with something or other during the summer. We noticed on yesterday’s call that Carl has also developed a nice “plebe hack” (a dry cough endemic to the 4th-class regiment almost every year.) Anything to fit in! Continue reading

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Update from Annapolis

gaba pushupWe spoke with Carl yesterday, for the first time since I-day two weeks ago, on the first of only two phone calls he is allowed during plebe summer. In summary, he said:

  • Everyone is giving 100% all the time, but the overwhelming attitude is one of teamwork and peer support. The detailers are tough but clearly invested in the plebes’ success. He’s making friends really fast.
  • The hardest things for him are rooms (room/bed/uniform neatness and speed) and rates (tons of memorization, e.g. every day knowing the detailed menu of each meal, to recite on demand.)
  • The physical stuff is unbelievably difficult, but he’s doing okay. The Marine who leads their PEP (morning exercise) sounds straight out of Full Metal Jacket. There have been a few dislocated shoulders, bayonet accidents (!) and concussions while drilling etc, but he’s escaped injury so far. He’s feeling strong and happy.
  • He qualified as Marksman on both the M16 rifle and the M11 pistol. Sharpshooter eluded him by just a few points. Not bad for a guy who’s barely held a gun before.
  • Regarding boxing: “Hitting is fun, and getting hit isn’t really that tough!”
  • Although they eat in silence, staring at the face of the plebe opposite them, the food is great and he’s not hungry. He’s received lots of care packages.

Patty and I had steeled ourselves for a call that began with “Get me outta here!” but I had hoped to hear again the voice of a Carl I have known all his life: The Carl that loves dealing with a big challenge and kicking its ass. The tone of voice in his very first words made it immediately clear that this is the Carl who is running the show. One of the last things he said was “Sometimes the day seems endless, and you’re barely getting through, but when you finally get into your bed it almost feels like you had fun all day.”

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I-Day for the Class of 2018


Yesterday Carl joined 1196 other candidates and took the oath of office as an incoming 4th-class midshipman or plebe at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland. As I wrote here, the USNA is one of the most highly-rated universities in the US for many good reasons, and it’s a unique institution in many other ways too. So yesterday was really a special day for him and for us, albeit for different reasons.

For Carl, it was an extremely busy day of being “processed” and beginning to learn the ropes of a system he’ll be working in for the next four years. You can see many plebe’s-eye view pictures on the USNA Flickr feed or on their Facebook page. We were allowed to visit with Carl for an hour after the conclusion of the Oath of Office ceremony, and he was tired, excited, amazed, happy, and of course a little freaked by what he had just undertaken. He’s also got to contend with Plebe Summer until classes really start in late August. Continue reading

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Speech Day

English Schools like Harrow have a peculiar institution called Speech Day, which consists of well, mostly speeches. It’s the final part of “leaving,” which itself is a poor cousin to graduating, something that doesn’t happen at the end of an English Secondary education. All students are meant to attend Speech Day, and most do. This year’s promised to be more interesting than most, since Carl and Jackie were HISB Head Boy and Head Girl this year. These leadership positions allow them to make speeches, and they both delivered their own compelling, rousing, farewells.


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