A USNA-themed Christmas list

I was talking with a friend the other day and told them I was going to put together a USNA-themed Christmas list for my blog.

“Seriously?” They said. “Don’t you have enough Naval Academy stuff already?”

Me: “I can’t believe you said ‘enough’ and ‘Naval Academy’ in the same sentence.”

So here it is, a non-comprehensive list of ideas to consider for the people on your holiday list who love (or should love) the United States Naval Academy (full disclosure: I’m a part of the Amazon affiliate program, so if you buy something on Amazon through one of the links here, I may earn a buck though it won’t cost you anything. It’s the kind of spare change that allows me to pay for the blog’s hosting and buy my wife something nice when she starts asking about why I spend time doing stuff like this. 🙂 )

First, the obvious stop – the Academy’s official online shop. You name it, they’ve got it. Seriously. Everything from a knot tying game to a yoga mat to USNA-themed Jenga (oh, excuse me, “tumble tower”) to bandanas for your pet. I can happily admit a fair amount of my wardrobe came from the Mid Store and you can find a lot of that here, too.

Speaking of official, if you want a real keepsake, consider checking out the items they are creating out of the old chapel dome. Talk about owning a piece of history. Every time I’ve walked (or driven through) The Yard, I can’t help but take a moment to steal a glance of the chapel. While I’m excited to see how the new dome looks when it’s finished, I’m also thrilled that our Mid bestowed a small bit of history upon us. You can check out the challenge coins, ornaments, and other keepsakes on the official website.

Third stop, Easel On Stribling.

It’s no secret that I love Kristin Cronic’s work and have adored it since I found her on Instagram, which led to one of my favorite blog posts of all time where she shared her USNA journey. Since then, she’s also been a part of my two most-recent podcasts – the Plebe Summer Playlist and the Herndon Climb playlist for the climb that never happened. 😦

I had been coveting all the amazing items available on her website but couldn’t make a choice. Thankfully, my Mid did it for me, purchasing this amazing print for Mid Mom’s birthday. We love it and still have it sitting on the dining room table in a place of honor until we get it framed and find an appropriate permanent spot.

It looks even more awesome up close! But even if you aren’t big on prints or paintings, Kristin has created a lot of great items to place under the tree or in a (blue & gold) stocking:

Her set of Plebe Summer notecards are the perfect thing to have stashed away in your desk. I write A LOT of cards and find having creative versions a nice change from the ones I pick up at the dollar store. Her pack of 10 includes five clever (and well-executed) designs, two copies of each. If you have a Plebe, why not buy a package, address them to yourself and affix a stamp to make it just a little bit easier for them to write you? And by now they will totally relate to the images and messages.

I have regularly and openly expressed that I am in awe of Kristin’s seemingly endless creativity (that includes her non-Academy work, which is a whole other story). When she released her Naval Academy coloring book, all I could think was, “She did it again.” The cover says “for kids at heart ages 2-100” and it is exactly that. It’s a great way to introduce the Academy to kids, but if you’re one of the many adults that finds coloring a way to relax and unwind (say, during a pandemic lockdown or something), this would be a great gift for yourself or someone like you. And not to sound like a cheapskate or anything, but it’s less than $10.

OK just one more and we’ll move on, I promise.

Be a part of one of the longest running debates in Academy history – who had the last real Plebe Summer? Now, with COVID turning this year’s edition upside, some will say 2019 was the last one. But you will not get a unanimous decision there. Customize this mug (there are also travel mugs) with your Mid’s year and use it among a group of Academy friends, family, and alum, then just watch the debate unfold.

Next, introduce more people to our favorite Academy rodent, Chester Midshipmouse.

I have met so many wonderful people during my Naval Academy parent experience and am humbled to name Susan Weisberg among them. I would call her a fellow USNA author, but when I compare the creative masterpiece she has bestowed upon the Academy family with my work, it’s clear I’m not in her league. But that’s OK with me, because reading about Chester’s Plebe Summer exploits is such a joy. If you’re an Academy family, you will be amazed at not only how Susan brings to life the realities of Plebe Summer, but that she does it with a mouse for whom you will be cheering by the third page. Here’s an added bonus for putting this book under several trees this year – Susan is “this close” to finishing up the second book in the series (I’ve had a sneak peek and it’s an amazing sequel) so that makes getting subsequent gifts that much easier – the recipient will need a complete set, after all. Hey, you’re welcome. I’m here to help.

Speaking of creativity, let’s talk about the work of AN Shine that you will see on display on her Etsy page. Among them:

This is an easy one – beautiful charm bracelets. What you see here is only one of many varieties available so if you know someone who likes charm bracelets, you will probably find one that would be treasured for years to come. Her Etsy page also includes bangles (no, not the 80s girl band) and earrings.

I first stumbled upon this creative Mid Mom through her Mid pins. I love their playful simplicity and am amazed at the variety of uniform and skin tone options available. Because as we all know, the Mids may all wear the same uniform, but no two Mids are the same. They can also be personalized, which is a nice touch. The one thing that makes me laugh is the field on the page that says “hair color (female only)” because all the guys have the same hair color – buzzed. 😀

Finally, there is her book: A USNA Mom’s Journal: Plebe Summer through Commissioning and Beyond! What You Need to Know. I have recounted many times how numerous “veteran” parents carried me through the dark days of my Mid’s Plebe Summer and Plebe Year. Some of them reached out to me privately and struck up conversations that really helped me through some very difficult times and for that I will always be grateful. That’s the kind of stuff that’s in this book – like each Mid, each USNA parent has a unique journey through the four years at Annapolis, but there are so many commonalities that bring us all together. So while some see Induction Day as the greatest day ever and some of us filed under “Worst Day As A Parent,” we all went through it in our own way. And this book is sure to be a great resource for any parent with an aspiring Mid.

I should mention, too, that Annie was a part of the two aforementioned podcasts – her contributions will give you a flavor of what the book includes.

What about my favorite USNA tradition? Gotcha covered.

There were many great moments during our time at the Academy – Plebe Parents Weekend, my son contributing to the sprint football team’s league title – but for me few compare to the Herndon Climb. It was the literal turning point in my Mid’s time at the Academy and a milestone we had been longing for since they closed the Bancroft doors on Induction Day. I’ve celebrated the event with four podcasts, but this book provides the whole story. How good is it? Former Superintendent Ted Carter said: “The Herndon Climb is the first comprehensive book to tell the full story about the history and legacy of the ultimate USNA Class event. In my five years as Superintendent, every Herndon climb was a unique and lasting memory to celebrate ‘Plebes No More’!” High praise from a great man. If you want an added bonus, one of the co-authors is Rear Admiral James R. McNeal, who still coaches special teams for the sprint football team and is a excellent example of the great men the academy produces.

If you’re a USNA parent and use Facebook, you have no doubt come across Bob Peterson’s amazing photography. He has a website to display his offerings, include beautiful prints of his stunning photos, a calendar (yes, the 2021 edition is available now – who can’t wait to toss 2020 in the trash?), and a book, The Yard. The latter is thoughtfully dedicated to the memory of Midshipman Duke Carrillo who passed away suddenly in February of this year. For each book sold, $5 will be donated to the Duke Carrillo Foundation and $5 will be donated to Midshipman’s Activities Fund in support of the Brigade of Midshipmen. 

Of course, at the risk of sounding selfish, if you know someone with a short attention span that should know more about the Naval Academy, I humbly recommend my book, Anchored In Tradition. I put it together in such a way that you can open it up to any page and spend as much or as little time as you have learning about the big and little things that make the Academy great. The jokes fit my Dad Joke style, too.

These are just my suggestions, of course. My greatest hope is that we have a peaceful holiday season, one that runs counter to all that we have endured this year. In a perfect world, your Christmas list be filled with things that scream “Beat Army!”

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