One morning at camp drop-off, I saw Ryan’s buddy Joshua point to their matching camouflage backpacks and explain to their counselor that they were the “army guys.” A few days later, this same kid fully forgot to mention ALL DAY at camp that it was his sixth birthday. I’m a perceptive fly-on-the wall and here’s what I noticed: army guys are cool, maybe even cooler than birthdays.
Gabe, the third musketeer-turned-army guy, just asked his mom for a camo backpack too (really, it is too bad Ryan’s is peeling and smelly and we are moving on).
I’ve got nothing against little boys admiring army guys, except that I suspect that, like their admiration for policeman, it has more to do with guns and getting bad guys than with national pride or the protection of freedom. I’ve let Ryan know what impresses me about soldiers: the sacrifices they make and the risks they take to keep us safe. Ryan has also been very impressed with his teacher’s grandson, Perry, now on his first tour in Afghanistan, so I’m hoping he has a healthy sense of the role our military plays in the world.
Now tested in my house, it turns out to be a perfect tool to nurture reading and writing in “army guys.” I’m hoping I’ve learned enough of this alphabet that when Ryan next asks me how to spell something, say ARMY, that instead of giving my canned annoying response (“What do you think?”), I can code the answer: Alpha – Romeo – Mike – Yankee. That’s kind of like answering a question with a question, but I’m pretty sure Ryan will think I’ve given him the answer.
I made the “army guys” t-shirts with their names in “army code” using a bleach pen and a plastic sheet of stencils.
It was kind of a big hit. Ryan didn’t take his off for 48 hours. Gabe’s mom reported lots of oohs and ahhs about his shirt and said Gabe wore it twice in three days. My three-year old wants one. Joshua, we tried to deliver yours twice, but both times, you were off-base.
Here’s how I did it. Well, here’s how I did it when I finally got it right. You see, just like my mother in law politely tried to tell me five or six times, no matter how neat I stenciled, how much I saturated the shirt or how long I let the bleach sit, old bleach just doesn’t work. It may look like the letters are whitening a bit, but a quick spin in the wash will erase all your effort. I let this happen to me, twice, before I splurged on a new Clorox bleach gel pen (available anywhere detergents are sold). Don’t bother with that old pen in your laundry basket; you’ll definitely lose your audience.
At least I got to explain the old adage to Ryan: the third time’s the charm. With a fresh bleach pen, the color started to change within minutes of applying the bleach.
You can really make this work with any color shirt (these are soft cotton and $3.97 from Walmart) and any design – hand drawn or stenciled. Just remember to use a fresh bleach pen, and put a cookie sheet between the front and back of your t-shirt so it doesn’t run through. The pens are pretty neat and not too leaky, so kids can help, as long as you are outside for ventilation.
Yes, that is actually a hole in Ryan’s shirt. I decided to cut off the tape instead of peeling it.
See ya Monday at oh – seven hundred,
Juliet – Oscar – Delta -India – Echo