Robert turns 30!!!

August 2, 2012

Yes, it was a sneak visit up to Alabama to help Robert celebrate his 30th birthday. Dad, Mom, and Anne made the trip up on August 2nd, and with the help of Natalie, surprised Robert at a local restaurant.

Also, Natalie went out - in secret - to Robert's friends and relatives to create a memories book, and that turned out to be very, very nice. Some of those memories are listed after the pictures.

Happy Birthday Son!
Before I tell you about the evening you were born, I need to tell you about the great lengths your Dad went to be at your birth. Your scheduled due date was mid July, I was never to believe exact dates, since all your sisters were born past their due dates, but when I went to the Doctors first week in July, the Doctor informed me the mid-July was probably a good estimate. He also said that you would be a big baby. Needless to say, I became concerned since your Dad was in Germany on a military exercise. I immediately contacted Dad, and Dad started to make preparations to return to the states, which turned out to be quite a lengthy adventure. It took Dad over 24 hours in airports and on airplanes. Dad finally arrived home only to wait another two+ weeks before you were born.

The night you were born, G-Ma, Dad, and I were playing scrabble. G-Ma went to bed, but I knew we needed to leave for the hospital, so we woke G-Ma (or Gigi as she was fondly called) and drove to the hospital in Hopkinsville, KY. It was about a 20 minute ride from our quarters at Fort Campbell. You were born that evening at 11:58pm. The second you were born the Doctor announced that Allison (the name we had selected for you) would not work. Dad and I were thrilled!! After spending most of the night with you and calling everyone, Dad went home and he tied a ribbon around our little tree outside our quarters, He then went inside to tell G-Ma, Karen, Sandra, and Anne. Dad brought Karen, Sandra, Anne and G-Ma to the hospital to help us all celebrate!

Since I couldn’t climb stairs, you spent the first two weeks of your life sleeping in a doll bed in the family room.

Robert the Tomato
Once when you were skiing in Austria skiing, you got a really bad sunburn. At the hotel the elevators had mirrors on the walls. You looked at yourself and exclaimed, “I look like a Chinese tomato.”

Robert Flies the Military Plane
Once the Braden Family was flying home from Germany by “catching a hop” on a military aircraft. After the plane was in the air for a while, a crew member came by and asked Robert if he would like to visit the cockpit. Sure!! Well, he went up to the front of the plane and it turned out that the plane was on autopilot, and there was no one in the pilot or copilot seat. Robert asked where the pilot was and Robert was told he was asleep and did he want to see where the pilot was sleeping. Robert shook his head no and then they asked Robert if he wanted to sit in the pilot’s seat. Robert, too young to understand the concept of setting a plane on autopilot, just has one vision: THEY WANT HIM TO FLY THE PLANE!!! He was out of there like he was jet propelled.

Robert and his Stomach Aches
When Robert was in elementary school, he had this thing about using the "facilities" at the school. This naturally resulted in a quite a bit of discomfort, and he'd eventually report a "stomach ache" to his teacher. No problem. The teacher would take him to the School Nurse. The School Nurse would call home. Mom would come pick him up. He'd go home and "do his business." Mom would take him back to school. How's that for true love?

Robert Loved the Dentist
Kids hate to go to the dentist – right? Well, Robert was the exception. On Dentist Day Mom would pick him up from school and they’d go shopping and buy him something on the way. Then there would be the dentist, and we had a good one. After the dentist there was the trip back to school, that always involved buying more stuff for Robert please a couple of stops for treats and snacks. Yep, absent from school for four hours for his dentist appointment – and returning usually just in time for Mom to drive him home for the day. Robert loved the dentist.

Keeping the Kids Happy
When Robert was in elementary school he had a favorite pair of pants that he liked to wear every day. The only problem was that one knee was ripped out. Now most Moms would say, “You’re not leaving the house looking like that!” But, no, not Bonnie. She didn’t say a thing. If going to school in ripped knee pants made Robert comfortable then that was good enough for her. By the way, if you ever see his class picture from that school you’ll see his hands over his knee. They were not there as a “pose” but to cover his bare knee sticking out from his ripped pants.

Robert the Little League Pitcher
We had just moved to Tallahassee, and Robert was trying out for Little League. For those reading this with close experience with Little league, you will recall that it can be a pretty tight community, with the coaches all knowing each other and knowing all the players because they all grew up together. So here is Robert, one of the new kids. He goes through the fielding, throwing, and catching drills, doing okay but not spectacular. Then they ask all the boys who are interested in pitching to form a line. They each get five pitches, while the coaches look on. Each of the boys gets about two out of five across the plate, which is probably about average for Little League. Then comes Robert. I recall five straight strikes. Then it was funny watching all the coaches talking to each other, all asking the same question. “Who is this boy?”

Robert the Criminal
When we lived in Tallahassee, Robert had a number of friends and they did a lot of things together. One thing they liked to do was to toilet paper (TP) the houses of other friends, and there were many days when the Braden large oak tree in the front yard was completely TP’d. So then there was the time when Robert was spending the night with a friend and we got the call at about 11 p.m. from the local police. Guess who had be caught in the act of TPing a friend’s house? As we recall, we got the second call from the police officer; the first call having gone to the parents of his fellow criminal also caught in the act. When the cop asked, “Do you know where your son is?” they replied that he was probably out TPing someone’s house and asked the policeman to perhaps recall his youth. Well, that didn’t result in forgiveness, but the kids did get off with a warning and they did promise not to be TPing people’s houses anymore. However the TPing didn’t stop. And many times when we came home from vacation it wasn’t surprising to find hot water heaters, signs and many other sundry items in our yard.

Robert Learns to Drive
Well. That time comes for all kids. So Robert had to get the Braden Family Driving Lessons. They were given after school hours in the parking lot of the local elementary school. And they were given on a car with a stick shift (Heck, anyone can drive an automatic). Dad took his orange cones with him, and the lesson always culminated with an exercise in being able to drive a figure eight through the cones in less than 60 seconds – backwards (Heck, anyone can drive forwards). Well, Robert must have passed and we were taking two cars back homem with Robert driving the “stick” 1962 VW and Dad driving the family Saturn. Robert was following Dad back into our Ox Bottom Manor community, and that included driving up a fairly steep hill that led into our community. Dad, in the lead, slowed and slowed, coming to a stop in the middle of the hill. That left Robert with the problem of starting a stick on a hill. Let’s see. Depress clutch, shift into first, add gas – some but not too much or you’ll stall it. Six tries to get up the hill. Dad, you were mean!!! Yes, Robert can drive a stick.

Robert Downs Cream Soda . . . and Vice Versa
One day at our home on Meadow Ridge Drive in Tallahassee, Robert was enjoying one of his favorite beverages: cream soda. However, one second Robert was tossing back the cold drink and the next he had fainted dead away and we were picking him up off the floor. Scary – yes! What happened? "It could be caused by any soft drink," explained Dr. Brian Olshansky of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. It's not exactly 'the pause that refreshes' -- according to his report, drinking cold, carbonated beverages can trigger fainting spells caused by a condition known as 'deglutition syncope.'

"It seems that carbonation and ice-cold beverages...'tickle' the nerves," Olshansky explained. This stimulus can, in rare cases, trigger slowdowns in heart rate accompanied by a quick drop in blood pressure, culminating in dizziness or fainting. Wow, Robert, you scared us.

Robert's Georgia Tech Admissions Essay
Getting admitted to Georgia tech is not that easy. And Robert, despite two tries at his SAT, wasn’t breaking any records in his scores. In fact they went down on the second time after an SAT prep class. Yes, it happens. So how did he get in? We think it was his Admissions Essay. You read it and be the judge.

    My Greatest Achievement
    Usually, the man is the head of the house, but not in my case. My household is led by estrogen - lots of it. I am the only boy in a family with three sisters. Ever wonder what three sisters can do to you over the course of your childhood? TRAUMA. I spent my entire childhood dealing with all the issues that they went through--from guys, to hair, to clothes, to dating. I know anything any guy would want to know, and more, even the things I could live my whole life without knowing.

    When a boy grows up, he looks back and remembers all of his personal accomplishments. Mine range from graduating Magna Cum Laude, to leader of a small group at my church, to being number one on my high school tennis team. However, my greatest achievement had nothing to do with any ability or area of expertise I have. My greatest achievement was growing up with three sisters and surviving to tell about it.

    I have found a few rules in surviving with three sisters. They seem to work; I am still normal.

    1. Do not think the bathroom is yours. The only time the bathroom belongs to you personally is from 11 p.m. - 5 a.m. Any other time you have to wait. How long am I supposed to hold it? I am only human. I'm glad God equipped us guys to take it outside.
    2. When one of your sisters asks you how she looks, lie. It works every time. Even if she knows that her hair or makeup is messed up, tell her it looks great. Once a negative remark comes out of your mouth, you will never hear the end of it. My philosophy: the safe way is the sure way.
    3. Spend the night at a friend's house when one of your sisters has a sleep over. The only thing worse than three sisters telling you what to do is three sisters AND their friends telling you what to do.
    4. Never leave the toilet seat up! (I still am not sure about this one area. Why do I need to put the toilet seat down when I am going to use it the next time?) And never, I mean never, pee on the toilet seat. It's good for a few laughs; then it's time to hide.
    5. Don't think you can dress yourself. You only thought the 30-point inspection was for your car. You never met my sisters. The only 30-point inspection they know of is for what I am wearing. They would inspect me every time I would leave the house. I was never allowed to wear my favorite pants. You know the ones -mine were the black sweatpants with a neon green stripe down both legs. They were cool. (So I thought).
    6. Never bring a date home when three sisters are present. Schedule to bring your date to the house when no more than one sister is at home. If they are all there, they will break out the scrapbooks to show how they used to play dress up with you. They would always seem to know where those pictures were showing me dressed up as a girl. It is as if they plan to embarrass me when I bring a date over.
    7. What is the worst part of summer? Not going back to school - going back-to-school shopping. School shopping was not just a day-long event with girls; it lasts all of August. I can buy all the clothes I ever need before lunch. My sisters spend an entire day in the mall going from store to store and not finding anything. The only good thing about shopping is that I am not shy anymore. While in the stores, I would sit at the couches and talk to all the other guys whose girlfriends and mothers brought them along shopping. So try as hard as you can to avoid this heart-ache. Hardly any good can come out of it.
    8. Whenever you plan to go somewhere with a girl, plan ahead. My sisters would say, "I'll be ready in five minutes." Guys know what that means. Five minutes to a girl is like a guy's five minutes of football, which doesn't take into consideration timeouts, penalties, commercials, and injuries. If they say five minutes, get comfortable.
    9. Television. Ahhh, the best invention ever. During elementary school, that's all kids talked about. Who won the football game, or did you see that catch? I was saying, "Did you see that episode of General Hospital?" Not exactly popular with the guys if you catch my drift. Learn early and learn quickly. It's a woman's world. You're just in the back seat along for the ride. You can't change this fact, nor will you ever. Savor the little things in life -- football, father-son time, standing up to pee -- they help keep your sanity.

Robert Struggles at Georgia Tech
Hey, the good news is that despite all the sixth year seniors running around the Georgia Tech campus, Robert broke the mold and graduated in just four years!! Of course between the first day of classes and – four years later – the last days of classes, there were a number of anxious moments. And the word anxious does quite describe it – you had to have been there. The first challenge was making it through the first semester. First year engineering courses are rugged, and probably designed to weed out students from the program. Mom and Dad Braden in Tallahassee cringed as one or the other would answer the phone and announce, “It’s Robert.” That meant, “It’s Robert and his latest academic crisis.” But with tutors, friends, prayers, and experience, he made it! Along the way he came up with some good thoughts that are given below. By the way, he not only made it academically, but made the Gold Key Honor Society leaving his siblings to call him, “Wolf Boy” for all the panic calls he’d made.

Robert's Rules of Order      (at Georgia Tech)

  • On grades. Bad is not necessarily when you score low; bad is only when your grade is lower than the class average. Translated, this can mean that a 52 isn't bad at all.
  • On studying. Massive amounts of studying are required, demanding all of your time. Unless a note comes over Instant Messenger that the 2nd floor of our residence hall is about to take on the first floor on a video game (they are all linked on a LAN - Local Area Network). This challenge demands a five hour commitment to maintain 2nd floor dominance and bragging rights. Then studying can continue ... unless you are too tired or don't want to.
  • On dating. Start dating any girl in your class early because, at Georgia Tech, all ladies will look beautiful at some point.
  • On hacking and pirating material off the Internet. Isn't that part of computer engineering?
  • On personal hygiene. Underwear and socks often can be worn inside out to stretch the time between visits to the washers and dryers.
  • On intramural sports. Winning the flag football tournament is a lot more manly than getting a B in Calculus.
  • On manliness. The person with the largest hard drive and the fastest processing speed is "THE MAN."
  • On Georgia Tech Football. Great, except for FSU and NC State.
  • On getting dressed up for class and other major events. What?
  • On tips to keep your dorm room looking neat and clean. What?
  • On how professors demonstrate special care and understanding for each and every one of the 300 freshman in the lecture. What?
  • On establishing a regular schedule that includes getting up by 8 a.m. each morning for breakfast, additional studying, and calm reflections. What?
  • On finding a way to use the Internet to call home long distance and avoid all phone charges. Of course. Parents should get some break from the giant fees they pay to keep students having a never-ending party called college.

    Robert Loves Back Rubs
    We, most of us do. Of course the objective is to find someone willing to give you one. Robert never had any problems with this. You’d be sitting somewhere and Robert would slide up to you, pull up his shirt, and expose his back for your attention.

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