Thursday, September 25, 2008

Zach's Address

Here is Zach's Address:

Niedfeldt, Zachary D.
1st BN Alpha Co. Platoon 1003
39001 Midway Ave.
MCRD San Diego, CA 92140-1003

Rules for sending mail

  • No Packages
  • Plain White evelopes with nothing but the address written on the outside
  • Pictures can be sent but no bigger than 4x6 inches and no porn.
  • no sending of anything other than nice paper letters
  • no perfumes or scented things.
  • Nothing that a drill Instructor could focus on and make his life miserable by highlighting your letter to the whole group.

So There ya go. There is no personal message from Zach yet. Just a form letter with Mom & Dad written on the top and another letter from his Drill Instructor also a form letter with Zach having written in Mr. & Mrs. Timothy Niedfeldt. It was his handwriting so he is indeed alive.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Weekend Update

Sort of a strange weekend. It definately felt weird to not have 10-20 teenagers camping in my house at some point during the weekend. It has been so long since we've had a full weekend where Z's crew did not come over and hang out that it was almost disconcerting. The other thing I notice is that the house stays a lot cleaner without Z around. No taco bell wrappers, Mountain Dew cans, socks, shoes, towels, shirts in the living room. No bread, peanut butter, and jelly laying out on the counter. No empty bowls hiding around the house....and no I don't miss any of that.

Friday I went to Kt's CC meet. It was their meet that has all the big prominent state teams at it and Wisco did well. Kt's time drastically improved. It was a very tough course so overall the times were slow. After the meet we headed up to West Bend for the Wisco Football game. Wisco won but it was a wakeup call victory. West Bend East nearly came back to win from being down 33-7 at the half. Their quarterback just passed his way to happyland and our pass coverage was very poor. On the upside we won because they could do little to stop the run.

Saturday Ike had his Football game. Can we say, "2nd verse same as the first..?" This game was a lot like the week before. The first half sucked and the second half they came out and kept them scoreless. However there was a noticeable difference. The offensive line and defensive line are starting to hit more. Ike started at running back this time and he got the 1st 1st down and actually had positive yards. He still got bashed a lot by the defense due to poor blocking but he had some good runs. For awhile he played defense too and got a couple of tackles. Definite improvement for the whole team.

Sunday was church. Ike and Karen went to St. Marcus and Kt and I went to Victory. Ike had to sing for his school at church. Karen mentioned that the music quality, complexity and volume were astounding compared to STP in Muskego. 50-60 Middle schoolers including the boys sang 3 parts , the boys could be heard and even had some bass going on. It was a great spirit to behold from what I heard. The United Voices of Praise Choir was also there.

After church I took on Zach's "Fish Slum". His fish have not had their tank cleaned in ...a really long time. Even the catfish could not keep up with the algae and fish poop. They still have grown a lot larger. Well I got a new filter since the old one broke and cleaned up the tank and redid the rocks and such. Finally we got the fish back in there. His 5 glasscats died by the evening. They are fragile fish and don't adapt to change that well. Taking them from their oxygen depleted green fish poop water and putting them in clean, oxygenated , environment was just too much. All the other fish who are tougher breeds did just fine.

Later that night I watched the Packer attentions soon drifted back to watching the fish...weekend over.

Boot Camp Update

I don't have any more word about Zach yet. I'm guessing we will get our postcard telling us his address by Monday. However there is a bulletin board that does a fine job of listing out what is happening in greater detail. Here is an entry

Friday SEPT 19TH, is the day that theyh really began on a new adventure. The following is just a little info that I have picked up from the boards. Each company at SD is a little different in the way they do things. Today they will meet their Drill Instructors, and the company chain of command. They call this Black Friday. They leave the receiving barracks and move all of their stuff into the house(barracks) where they will spend all of phase 1.The stress begins after this move is made, and it will be a very long day for them, with a lot of information being given to them rapid fire. They will have to learn a lot in a very short period of time, the volume is turned up, everything is a yell from them and the DI's. This is where the transition from recruit to marine begins, this day. Some of them will look back on this and say it was bad, and others will think it was fun, but none of them will think it was fun on Saturday morning.Over the Weekend they will learn how to set up their lockers, how to fold and hanger their clothes. Find out just how long they have in the mornings to shower and shave, how to wear their uniforms, and start with the language of the marine Corps, they will learn what a hatch is, what the quarterdeck is and what happens on it, most will get first hand knowledge of Incentive training or IT, and that is some thing that they will try very hard to stay away from. They will learn how to clean the house and make the beds the marine corps way.

Week 1

Monday is part of pick up week and they are still being taught in house procedures, forming for chow, and today they will be issued their weapons. Drill during the first weeks is a constant item being taught, the proper way to stand at attention, at ease, and rest. How to march and change directions while standing still and marching.

Training day 1 (T-1)

Interior Guard; they will be taught how to stand a guard post and what general orders are and what the special orders are for the post they are guarding. Interior guard is the guard performed inside of an installation. Like the fire guard they will do every night, or guarding a building. Exterior guard is the guard they perform in the field like an observation post or listing post in a tactical environment. This is taught with a classroom lecture and then some hands on training.

T-2 First Aid

This is classroom and hands on training, they will be taught CPR, how to stop bleeding set fractured bones, and to identify heat injuries. A long day in the class room for them Drill will make up part of this day also.

T-3 Intro to Mcmaps

this is the MARINE CORPS MARTIAL ARTS PROGRAM. This is the marines hand to hand fighting, mixed with some martial arts, wrestling. They will be learning how to strike and counter strike, chokes and holds. This training will continue through out boot camp and they will have to demonstrate how to do all of the things they are taught in MCMAPS, one of the graduation requirements.

T4 Marine Corps history

this is the first of many classes on Marine Corps history. They will take it from Tunn Tavern where every recruit got a pint for enlisting. . They will learn of famous people like Smedley butler who won 2 medals of Honor and first introduced the bull dog as the official mascot of the Marine Corps. They will learn where the term devil dog came from, and what it means to be a US Marine. The marines have a history older than the nation, and they are very proud of.

T5 Sprints

Main event for today is sprints, if you have watched foot ball training camps you know very well what this is, physical training will be done every day, and it will be different each day working on their strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardio.

Every free minute that they DI's have they will be teaching them something, 12 weeks may sound like a long time but it is not with all of the training that they have to learn, and perform. So they will be busy, and they will be rushed and they will be put under the stress, and it will be hard, and it will be a challenge. But it will all be worth it for them.

A typical Sunday...

Usually they get to sleep in a little bit, probably to about 6:00 in the morning, but most will be wide awake in their racks by then, lol. Then they will get up and go to morning chow, come back and clean the house for about 10-20 minutes then turn to a free time. A Sunday free time usually lasts about 4-5 hours and is a recruits time to attend services, read and write letters, square away their footlockers, and just plain relax and talk for a little bit. It usually wraps up in time for noon chow, and then they carry on with the drill instructor's plan for the rest of the day. Usually on Sunday is a field day, which means the whole squad bay is thoroughly cleaned (all the racks are moved to one side while the other is cleaned, and then it’s flip-flopped). They do this on Sunday night because inspection is Monday morning. From my experience, Sunday was the best time to read and write letters because free time during the week was so unpredictable. Of course, that may not be the same for every platoon, it all depends on the Senior Drill Instructor how much time they get on Sundays, but a good average of 3-5 hours. Of course, don't always expect them to write on a Sunday either because that 4-5 is a very good time to do laundry, square away their possessions, and carry out any tasks the DIs need done. Even if you don't receive mail...send it. Mail call is the best part of a recruit's day, and the more mail he gets, the happier he will be.

Marine Corps Terms

  • Head: Grape, Brain-Housing Group
  • Glasses: Portholes
  • Wall: Bulkhead
  • Door: Hatch
  • Floor: Deck
  • Ceiling: Overhead
  • Pen: Ink stick
  • Pencil: Lead stick
  • Tent: Hooch
  • Food: Chow
  • Mop: Swab
  • Bathroom: Head
  • Bed: Rack
  • Canteen: Water bowl
  • To Drink: Hydrate
  • Hat/cap: Cover
  • Scuzz Brush: Scrub-brush
  • Foxtail: a small brush with a handle used to sweep up piles of dirt into dustpans.
  • Whiskey Locker: Storage area for cleaning supplies, and extra gear such as hygiene gear.
  • To hygiene: to take a shower, shave, brush teeth, trim nails if needed
  • To hump: to hike with heavy pack filled with stuff you probably wont use anyways
  • Double-Time: Running
  • Quick-Time: Marching
  • Port: left
  • Starboard: right

    A 'field day' is an extra thorough cleaning of an area or room, more thorough than normal anyways.

    To 'square away' something is to organize it, or at least make it look presentable.

    While in defensive positions, Marines do not use foxholes, they are in fighting holes.

    Lights! - What the DIs would shout repeatedly and rapidly to get everyone up in the didn't want to be the last one out of the rack.

    Taps - Song played in memory of fallen marines to signify the end of the day. Marines no matter what they are doing will stop and come to attention, even if they are already in their racks, they will lay there at attention.

    Colors - The raising and lowering of the flag in the morning and evening.

    Cadence - Verbal rhythm that marine formations run to: You will see this at the Moto Run.

    If writing our Marine or Marine Corps, they are always capitalized. It's not an 'EGA' - it's an "Eagle, Globe, and Anchor" said out in full. We are NOT soldiers, we are Marines....never call a Marine a soldier...that’s 'bad joo joo', or a bad thing, bad luck, something like that...Drill Instructors are Drill Instructors, not Drill Sergeants, lol...that’s the army.

    if you suddenly get the idea to go in their room at 5:00 in the morning, flip on the lights and shout 'Lights! Lights! Lights!' while they are back on boot leave; you didn't get the idea from me okay?

The Lead Series / Follow Series separation is all but done. They will be competing as a whole company this time around so there may not be any delineation between the series like in all previous training companies from this point on.

Anytime the recruits are in BDU's, they move around the base with all their gear (rifle, hard cover, etc...& sometimes packs). When they go to chow, they take their rifle. When they go to class, they take their rifle. Basically, everywhere they go, they take their rifle. The only time they don't take their rifle with them is morning PT. When they go to the "O"courses, they do them with hard covers on & sometimes with their rifles. This is something Gen. James T. Conway came up with to help reform basic training & get these kids more physically fit & use to moving around in combat gear.

There is not much drill time on the daily schedules so they work in drill movements every time they move from place to place & since they have their rifles, they are able do practice in small amounts several times daily.

Another thing is the class work. They have discussion time during the class where instead of just being talked to by the instructor, the recruits are encouraged to interact more during the class. Basically they are given time to comment on what they are learning instead of just sitting there like a sponge & absorbing it all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Call

Got "the call" from Zach at about 3:00am that he arrived at Boot Camp. I had managed to figure out which flight he was on and accounting for the 3 hour bus ride from the airport he called us about 30 minutes after he arrived at the MCRD. They have about 1:00 to talk and have a scripted part they have to say about when to expect a letter and such. He got enough time to say its going well so far. Stubbed his toe. "How is mom?"

That call is it for 3 months. The only communication from now on will be after he sends the first letter and we get the complete address. They give you the basic address information but until he is processed they leave out the specific squad number or some such thing. Once we have that information we can mail him too.

Karen has moments of sadness but in general is doing much better. I have to admit there are about 25 times I've wanted to text him to ask him this or that. Well so far so good anyways.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Weekend Update

So Zach is off. He hasn't left for San Diego yet, but he will tonight. He went to the Hampton Inn Suites downtown after his recruiter picked him up. Today he does some paperwork at the local MEPS and flies out tonight to arrive very early in the morning on Tuesday. Then he gets on a bus from the airport to the MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot). The bus ride is 3 hours long. The MCRD is only 10 minutes from the airport though. The stress levels are induced even before you arrive on the yellow feet.

K had a hard time yesterday. Lots of emotions connected to the first child leaving the nest. I even felt a bit sick in my stomach for awhile. I think feasting on a delicious array of appetizers and food at Kenny's 50th birthday party the night before, combined with some internalized stress almost made me puke. However watching the complete banality of Gremlins 2 while waiting for the recruiter calmed my stomach. Kt and Ike were good too. Kt cried when he was about to leave and if you could appreciate that I'm not sure Z has ever told Kt he loved her but he did and he gave her a hug. That is not normal behavior for Z and it meant a lot to Kt. I'm pretty sure it will be strange to be a 4 person family now.

Kt's Cross Country meet was cancelled on Saturday from the rain. How lame is that. If there is a foot of standing water in a run through it. There is nothing cooler than drenched muddied CC runners. Well except when they are sitting in your car. So that only left me with Ike's football game.

The football game was very interesting. The score was almost exactly the same as last week however there was a significant change. The first half was very much a repeat of last week. The O-line was on estrogen and we only had negative yardage. The second half however..whatever they said seemed to inspire the troops. It was like the defense went wild and was getting sacks and awesome stops. Ike got two tackles. The defense kept Sussex scoreless the second half. But most significantly the O-line started to block some. Next important was that Ike was in at running back and was given the ball and was the first back with positive yardage. In our first possession he got 3 yards, then 5 yards and then scored on a 30 yard run. He also scored the extra point with a run in. In the next posession we had, he also got the first 1st down of the game for the Vikings. In two of his carries he had 5 guys on him but he never went down. So after the "no offense for being late" situation last week, he came out pretty strong in his first showing at running back. If he had played offense the first half of the game though I'm not sure he would have been so successful. You still need a hole to go through and an O-line to create it. So I think the team learned some good lessons. They won the second half of the game by being aggressive. Lets see if that can carry through to next week against Waukesha North. I think what really helped was all the good Lutheran parents yelling at the team to kill, maim, and hurt.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Odds and Ends

Zach leaves for Marine Boot Camp in San Diego on Sunday evening. We had his going away party this last Saturday. We had 25 relatives and family friends come over to our tiny house but fortunately we could be outside on a great day. Just about when the last family members left, about 20 of Z's closest friends came over to hang out in our garage and eventually sleep all over every floor and couch space. That doesn't even count the ones who have already taken off for college too far away to return.

Katie and Ike's sports seasons have commenced. Katie had her first CC meet on Friday. The varsity team for boys took 1st and the girls took 2nd. Kt was not pleased with her performance but also realizes her lack of summer conditioning is now rearing its ugly head. Since the girls team took 2nd in State last year apparently the coach is stepping it up a notch this year as well with more draconian CC workouts and rules. Seems to be taking a little of the fun out of it. I have to admit that not allowing the girls to go to football games on the Friday nights before Saturday meets is rediculous. There is more to High School than such hardcore social restrictions.

Ike's first football game was Saturday. It was interesting to say the least. Unfortunately due to my son's poor communication skills I did not know he needed to be there at 9:45am so he instead got there at 10:00am. This caused his coach to pull him as the starting running back and he was not on offense the entire game. However in retrospect, that was not a bad thing. Offense needs lots of help. The o-line was apparently made of swiss cheese because I didn't see much stopping the Waukesha West defense from getting through it. So I saved ike from being pummeled. Either that or perhaps he could have displayed an amazing ability to break tackles. The QB threw a number of interceptions. Most of Waukesha's 36 points was from turnovers. So really the defense did pretty well and held Waukesha back. There were a few breakouts and scores but they were harder won for sure. Ike got a couple of tackles in there. The Vikings did score though in the last quarter. The 70 or so yard drive almost made up the total negative yardage for the game the offense had. It was also the only time we had a 1st down. I've decided that Lutherans are too nice. Those kids need to learn to be aggressive. This is not touch football.

I'm scoping out replacement vehicles for the bmw. There are two candidates. One I could get on Friday if the 1st bidder falls through. It would be the more preferable of the two. It is Zach's best friend, Ricky's, car. Ricky is departing with Zach on Sunday to Boot Camp. A nice 4 cylinder Toyota Celica (30mpg). The other is Pat's truck, a 35 year old Chevy 1/2 ton (15mpg). It has been restored and is barely used. It would be fine for local driving during winter and such. They are each about the same price and I know the history of both cars. All I would want out of them is about a year's life. I have discovered that if I buy a used car from a source I know life goes pretty well. It has only been the cars from unknown sellers and advertisements that have ended up sucking. Pat is farther away from buying his replacement truck though so if Ricky's planned sale goes through and I can't buy it then I may have to wait a couple of months for Pat's.

Karen's brother and Sister-in-law had a "Thanksgiving in September" for Zach on Sunday. It was excellent and I stuffed myself on the food. I must say that I had the most fun with their children. We played together for a long time and they are real smart cookies. I spent the day being a poor role model and showing them how to horseplay. They are 3.5 years old and usually are afraid of me because I'm a weird person. But I think they got over that and we had a blast. My favorite part was when I asked them how they liked school. Emma said to me matter-of-factly, "Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't." Now that sums up life pretty well for almost anyone.
I think that covers life for awhile.

Lily and Emma my nieces and play buddies.

Ike my 14 year old on the 3 year old's trike.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

St. Marcus

This year we moved Ike to St. Marcus Lutheran in downtown Milwaukee from St. Paul's, Muskego. I have heard the question many times now, "Why would you do that?" So I thought I would answer that. Thankfully for you I have been able to refine my answer to be shorter now than it used to be. What is encouraging after only two weeks of school is that the reasons we moved Ike are being proven out in a very visible and gratifying way. For those of you who don't know St. Marcus all that well it would traditionally be called an inner city black school. St. Paul's, Muskego would be your totally white suburban school. So when we say the differences are black and white...we mean it.

Reason #1 was for the academics. Although St. Paul's has good academics St. Marcus turns it up a notch in three ways..and they are the three ways that address Ike's needs the most.
First, they have a great support network for those with diverse educational backgrounds and special needs. They target problem areas and give you lots of resources for addressing them. They have "power hours" in the morning and after school for getting extra tutoring and help from your teacher in any subject you need it.

Second is the "No excuses" policy. They make the teachers available 24/7 to be called if you need help on an assignment or need to know what an assignment is. They have a weekly homework list and daily signatures in the assignment notebooks for parents and teachers required. There is just no reason you could offer for not completing your work and having it done well because sloppy work is considered incomplete (One of Ike's tendencies).
Third, They have a great accelerated Math and Reading program. Ike will struggle this year because although he is in the same math series as at St. Paul's he just jumped a whole book to the Algebra book in 7th grade. He'll be catching up a little for sure.
third.5 They crank on the english..Ike is diagramming sentences. Karen and I were in heaven.
As I said St. Paul's has good academics but you will not see the same level of accountability pushed on the kids. Ike needs that structure because if he stays focused he does great work...however given too much rope he will hang himself. If he had to choose between slopping some rediculous answers on a worksheet to make it looked filled in so he could go out for recess or to get his homework finished at home so he could watch TV ...he would. Now he can't do that anymore. We have noticed that he just comes home and starts his homework right away and he does it neatly. It makes our jaws drop still.

Reason #2 After a number of years of listening to shall we say "suburban" attitudes at St. Paul's about such things as the "bad people" at Wisco or any other rhetoric when St. Pauls would play the inner city schools for sports, it grew very wearysome. The mother of one of Ike's friends was very nervous just being parked on the street in our neighborhood (very mixed neighborhood of hispanic, serbian, black, and white) Its sad that people are still so afraid, paranoid, and some just plain racist. It is hard to listen too. Kids need to get out of that shell and learn about diversity and be able to handle life in an ever growing diverse world.

Well Ike seems to have made some friends pretty quickly and enjoys the kids and teachers at St. Marcus a lot. I think he likes that many of the kids are a bit older, or at least life's situations have made them more self reliant and street smart. With Ike being 14 and many of his classmates being 12 and turning 13 this year it makes a difference socially in these awkward years. At St. Pauls many if not all of his friends had barely even started puberty. Their interests are not at all where Ike's are (music and girls). Ike was an early bloomer on top of being two years older than his class. It would seem that the St. Marcus class has a different dynamic with a decent number of kids who are 13 going on 14 and also are well into puberty. I think I saw at least 4 guys over 5'7" in his class. I think many of their life situations force them to be "older" than probably they even should be but Ike appreciates it.

Reason #3 The fact that St. Marcus uses its school as a mission outreach into the community fits very well with the goal of Victory of the Lamb as well and I want Ike to see that the mission of church can be applied at school too where 80% of the students are unchurched. I think all congregations should use their schools as an outreach tool instead of just a service for its members. I guess its okay if that's what they want to do but seems a waste to me. However being a mission tool means putting up the money. You need the resources to handle educational diversity and student diversity. Honestly St. Paul's is wayyyy too uptight to handle that. Any kind of kid that falls outside the aberhollistereagle prep standard is going to endure some scrutiny. Its hard to pinpoint exacly but the feeling you get there is that in general the school is in a cocoon and a little out of touch with the reality of people's lives. For all the structure of St. Marcus it seems that they at least have some perspective on what are the important things to address in behavior and what is just sillyness.

Reason #4 School uniforms...awesome!!!

Reason #5 I save the entire amount of tuition by not driving out to Muskego and not having to pay for extended care. I can drop him off at 6:30am and pick him up at 5pm without Ike needing to go to Extended care where he actually should have been paid for helping babysit the little kids but instead we had to pay for it. On top of it Ike gets two power hours to get his work done and get help from teachers...he's not just sitting around after school.

Reason #6 Martial Arts as an elective in the curriculum.

So far Ike has been happy, been more respectful, more diligent in his homework and the quality of his work, and generally happy as he leaves school. So far I'm happy we made the right decision.

Buddy Jesus Pics

I figured since there are some people I know who love taking things out of context that I would provide 4 pictures that can be taken out of context in any way you see fit. Its like whispering something in someone's ear, passing it down the line of people and seeing how it comes back to you. Fun stuff!!

The First Time

So yesterday was my daughter's first car accident. She was on her way to drop off Ike at St. Marcus and she started off from a stop sign and didn't see a minivan approaching. The corners of the two vehicles came together. Katie and Ike were fine but Moby Dick lost an eye. I was on the far north side just about to pick up Zach from the Marines Recruiting Station when I got the call. Its the first one I've gotten about an accident. When I think of how many similar calls my parents have gotten from us 4 boys, I have to admire their fortitude. However we definately were a little less hysterical. I knew the moment I answered the phone what had happened but I didn't understand a word she said for 5 minutes. I'm surprised she didn't pass out from hyperventilating. By the end of the day she was in good shape and over it. I think it helped that I installed Skype and she was able to talk to her new friends from Chile on the "phone".

Moby Dick